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
Here is Why Your Vote Counts: The Importance of Voting Every Election Cycle
Dr. David Childs, D.D. Ph.D.
The authored explored the need for citizens to vote not just during the presidential election but also during local and midterm elections. I believe good governance matters not just at the top levels but also at the local offices and accountable and ready to serve the people should be voted for. One thing I love about America is the vote does count unlike Nigeria, we just had election is march and it was not democratic. Nigerians have been made to believe votes don’t count and so they don’t come out and vote on election and the official will rigged and declare themselves winners but 2023, the youths are the majority voters, they wanted to take the country and vote for the candidate of their choice, they came out in their numbers and voted but their wasn’t counted and the election officials announced their own winner and he will be inaugurated next Monday. Do you think people will come out and vote next election? I don’t think so because they’ve proved that our votes don’t count, and they can’t do whatever they want without consequence but in America that is not the case. I feel like Americans focus more the presidential election because they want to vote for who will represent them to the rest of the world and they probably feel like he will impact their lives more than any offices. To be sincere, the presidential election gets a lot of attention than any other election and after that, you barely hear of any state election.
This article does a great job summarizing the need to vote, especially in midterm and local elections. It was a little shocking to hear majority of people do not vote outside of the presidential elections, particularly since voting locally is where you can make the most impact. I appreciated the inclusion of all of the things locally that our vote impacts, like regional funding, taxes, laws, public health, etc. It can sometimes be hard to articulate all of the impacts one individual vote can make, so I am glad to now have this article to call upon when encouraging others to vote! Being informed about your community and the changes you wish to see, and electing officials that have the same goals and perspectives is the first step to participating in the democratic process and having your voice heard. I will definitely be sharing this resource during the next election.