Dr. David Childs, D.D. Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
A poll worker hands out “I Voted Today” stickers in Washington, D.C., in 2012. Journalist Ari Berman says a 2013 Supreme Court ruling opened the door for new voting restrictions that disproportionately affect poor people, young people and people of color.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
In the US when the average person thinks about voting, their focus is often on the presidential election that happens every four years. In other words the 50-60% of people that vote tend to not participate in the election until a national presidential contest comes along. While the presidential election is very important, midterm and local elections are arguably just as important and in some cases more important. With an election upon us there will be many important contests across the country at the local level, including mayor and governor races, voting for a local judge or opportunities to vote for those filling a city council seat. We are republishing an article from 2019 that addresses the importance of even the smaller contests during election season. The article also provides many classroom resources to help students understand democratic processes and voting.
Originally Published November 4, 2019
Does My Vote Count? The Importance of Voting in Off-Year Elections
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
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
Dr. David Childs, D.D. Ph.D.