Here is Why Your Vote Counts: The Importance of Voting Every Election Cycle

Protesters demonstrate in support of voting rights on Tuesday in Washington.Credit...Shuran Huang for The New York Times

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

Introduction
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

8 Comments

  1. I completely agree with the importance of voting in midterm elections and local elections. It is a shame more Americans do not exercise their right to vote when it comes to their own communities. School levies, city council elections, and local judge elections are where citizens can make the most difference with their vote. The smaller the election, the more your individual vote counts. I also really like some of the resources that were included at the end of this article, especially the guide to running for a local elected position!

  2. This is really important to read since I didn’t really think about the reasons to vote or making sure that I always vote. Voting can be really important to get your voice heard and to make sure that your opinion is being valued. If you don’t vote you cannot complain about the outcome considering you did not try to get what you were hoping for. It is important to make sure if you’re old enough that you vote and encourage others to vote as well. I may not seem too important but can benefit everyone in the area including you and your family or friends.

  3. The first thing I learned about this is what an off-year election is. I did not know an off-year was when neither a presidential election I haven’t nor happens. I loved reading this article because it helps me inform others about how it is important to vote in local elections. I was having a conversation during this past election season with a friend trying to convince them to go vote. It is too often I hear it’s not important my vote doesn’t matter from my peers. Every vote matters, especially in the local actions. I really find local elections so important because it is where you can see the most change around you and the influence because they are people in your community. In this way, you are experiencing the change firsthand in your community. I really appreciate how this re-published article from 2019 talked in a non-bias was how it is important as well.

  4. It is true that when people think about voting they usually only think about participating in the national presidential election. A lot of people don’t realize how important it is to vote off election year because the local elections effect the lives of the average citizens the most like 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, marijuana laws, and many more aspects of our daily lives. And that’s why it is very important that every American citizen educates themselves on the candidates and votes intelligently.

  5. The article stresses the importance of voting and highlights the importance of midterm elections. I like to think of the presidential election as the Super Bowl of voting. It gets the biggest bang, but the local elections drive the NFL organization, which would be the community, cities, and states. It is vital to vote for midterm elections because it has instant ramifications such as school funding, property taxes, zoning, law enforcement, and health care. It’s essential to stay educated on the candidates, how long the term is, their advancement in office, and constantly voting and active!

  6. This article brings up a great point, most people only consider the presidential election when they think about voting. I certainly know that this is how I thought of the elections when I turned 18 and registered to vote. I would like to say I was shocked that “50-60% of people that vote tend to not participate in the election until a national presidential contest comes along”, but I wasn’t. I think that one reason that people think this way is because it can be overwhelming to stay up-to-date and informed about every little detail of a local ballot. However, I agree with the article that local level ballots determine so many important things such as mayor, governor, local judges, city council, etc. I think that as voters mature and come to an age where they are homeowners, parents, and possibly even teachers, these local positions and decisions will become of more value to us. For example, as a Kindergarten parent and student teacher, school levees have become very important for me to vote on. It is important that we take an active role in the voting process if we expect to see the positive changes that we desire in our community. I’d say that age, maturity, and involvement in the community greatly determine one’s motivation to vote on local ballots. In addition, I think that it is important to have researched the ballot before voting, to make informed decisions that you will not regret.

  7. This article brings up a really important point. Get out and vote. It was not until I was older when I saw the importance of my vote. I feel that in today’s world we look at the political party and nothing else. That is very dangerous in the long run. Voting for the president is very important, but what about the local government? We look for how things might affect us and in the long run the local government might hit us harder than federal. Voting is very important and needs to be talked about more. This is our right as American citizens. We need to get out and vote and talk about how important this is for everyone!

  8. This article does a good job of informing readers that every time they vote is important. While often it can feel like our votes don’t mean anything, voting in local elections is more likely going to allow us to see our vote in action. Voting is important, but it is also necessary to educate yourself on each candidate and what they stand for.

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