Does My Vote Count? The Importance of Voting in Off-Year Elections

Informing Your Conscience in “Off-Year” Elections

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

What is an off-year election? An off-year election is a general election that is held when neither a presidential election nor a midterm election takes place. Sometimes the term is also used to refer to midterm election years. When people in the United States think of voting they often think of participating in the national presidential election. However, the city, county and state elections, as well as congressional races can be just as important as presidential elections. The local races in small townships, villages or cities are often determined by just a few votes. So yes, your vote does count. It is true that your vote may have less of an impact in the general presidential election; but it can have a very large and more direct affect in the local or county elections.

Your Vote Greatly Influences Local Elections
There are many other elected positions on various levels that affect the everyday lives of the American people, but all too often many Americans sit on the sidelines during midterm or off-year elections. Important contests such as state governor and mayoral races to city council and school board have a major impact on the day to day lives of average citizen. Local elections can affect school funding, property taxes, zoning, law enforcement, educational curriculum, city parks and recreation, local businesses, waste collection, sports arenas, public health, charity and benevolence, religious centers, abortion debates, adult business zoning, marijuana laws, and many more aspects of our daily lives. Thus, it is very important that every American citizen educate themselves on the candidates and vote intelligently. This is a major component of a democratic society, an essential component of a successful democracy.

Previous Democracy and Me Articles on Elections
As we have said, with the upcoming election season it is important that people understand the important role informed citizens play  when exercising their right to vote. In light of it being election season I would like to draw the reader’s attention to previous articles we have done on the Democracy and Me site around the topic of elections and voting.
Two such articles are entitled Congressional, State, and  Local Elections Voting in a Democracy- Lessons on Voter Suppression and What are the Midterm Elections All About? A resource that also offers good information about local elected offices is Who Runs the Show? Understanding Your Local Government.

Research Your Options and Vote
It is important that people get out to vote and not simply wait for the presidential election. Here is a good resource to find important information about voting and upcoming elections in your hometown. Also, below I have included some resources on elections and voting that can help voters better understand the issues and also receive some general information about the democratic process. I will also provide resources for teachers to use to inform students about voting in their classrooms.

Off Year Election Resources
So, You Want To Run For Local Office
Off-Year Elections
United States Midterm Election
Understanding Congressional, State, and Local Elections
Off-Year Election Preview: Is It All About Partisanship?
What is an Off-Year Election?

Voting Lesson Plans
Off-year Election Lessons
Elections and Civics Lesson Plan
Citizen Advocacy Center
Ten Ways to Teach About Election Day
Mini-lesson: Midterm Elections (HS)
Do the midterm elections matter? – Worksheet
Seven Ways to Teach the Midterms With The New York Times


  1. I thought you brought up a good point when you explained that too many people sit on the sidelines when the midterm elections come around. If I were to guess, many people probably don’t vote because they don’t know much about the candidates. I think it would be important to do a lot of research on a candidate, including visiting their personal website, before making a decision.

  2. I think that this article dose a good job on pointing out the importance of voting in local elections as well as national elections. All American Citizens have the responsibility to vote in elections to ensure that the best possible candidate enters office, and that a small majority of the population dose not control the government. Furthermore, local elections affect the everyday lives of citizens more than national elections. Though national elections are often more dramatic and publicized, local elections are just as if not more important than national ones, and as a result, every citizen should vote in them.

  3. Sometimes i catch myself saying that my vote doesn’t count. There are many people voting so why does 1 vote count? All votes matter and count towards whatever candidate you stand behind. It is important to first, do your research on what party you support and the candidates that you want to be elected. Secondly, it is important to get out and vote. I feel it is important because your candidate needs your votes and your vote could certainly benefit your candidate in a great way.

  4. Voting in off year elections can be just as important as voting in the presidential elections and it is important for students to understand that. I often hear people say that they don’t vote in the off year elections because they don’t feel the issues are important enough but students need to understand that any issue that ends up on a ballot is important and should be taken seriously. While voting is something that social studies classes typically glaze over, they may spend the few days around election day talking about it but that’s it, it is important that students understand process and why it’s important. Maybe letting them know that their votes in off year elections hold more importance because its a smaller group of people voting, it would keep them invested and make them want to research the candidates and the topics they support. By engaging them and letting them know that their vote truly does matter, we can create a next generation of engaged and educated voters who want what’s best for the country.

  5. I have just recently, since the Trump administration has come to office, began participating in off-year elections. I see how electing local offices can affect my daily life, and possibly influence the outcome of future, larger elections, in a sort of “butterfly-effect” kind of way. Not only can exercising your right to vote during off-year elections influence significant change around your community, it is good practice to get into the habit of researching candidates and identifying with whom you want to vote for. I plan to continue to always vote every year, not just primary and presidential elections.

  6. Every vote does count! I also hope that people who do participate in voting do their research before going to the polls. As future educators, it is important that we relay this message because a lot of local elections will affect our school’s funding and resources. High school teachers should well-educate the importance of voting to their students, because they are the future of our country. If everyone thought that their vote didn’t matter, the results would not show the truth. We need to be educated on the importance of voting and what/who we are voting for.

  7. When we think of voting, we typically think of presidential elections. When voting in an off-year election, our votes can still play a large role in the outcome. Especially when it is a local election. I always thought that it was only important to vote in the presidential election, but it is even more important to vote in local elections. Voting is part of being an active citizen and a way for our voices to be heard.

  8. Voting on off-year elections is just as important as major election years. Off-year elections are overlooked a lot, but people dont realize that local elections can have a big affect on them as well. For many years, my family has personally been in politics due to my dad being the mayor of my hometown. Just seeing all the hard that goes into running a city is so important for citizens to see and realize. I have always thought it was important to to vote in off-year elections because we have the right to vote, not only that, but local elections can have a direct impact on a lot of important things in our communities such as our schools (which is super important to us as future educators). I really enjoyed this article and think voting is so important in all elections.

  9. I clicked on this article because the off-year elections are something I honestly don’t know too much about, and I wanted to learn more. I was not able to vote during the last presidential election and often times when I think of voting I only think of the presidential election. I think this article just helped me realize that I need to do some research and learn more about my local candidates. I think as an educator these elections are especially important because some of them have a direct impact on our schools and our communities. This article helped me learn more about the off-year elections and I will look into some of the other articles about elections and voting as well.

  10. This article serves as a great reminder of the importance of off-year elections. Local elections have such a big impact on the daily lives of citizens since these elections can affect school funding, educational curriculum, law enforcement, public health and many more aspects. Voting in these elections is so imperative given that the local races are often determined by just a few votes. As citizens, it is crucial that we educate ourselves on the candidates and exercise our right to vote to ensure a successful democracy.

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