Sometimes it’s hard to get excited about “off year” elections. That’s one of those terms we use to describe an election that’s not a presidential or mid-term Congressional election. So… basically, we might chalk it up to being an election that’s not as important.
Voter turnout for off year elections is usually pitifully low. Often, those who do take the time to vote simply vote across party lines or for whichever candidate sounds the most familiar–admit it, you’ve done it. I’m guilty as charged too.
We might be familiar with our President and Senator’s names, but in these “off year” elections it’s usually all about your local officials. Does anyone even know who those people are? What do they even do and how will their jobs affect you? Unless you’re super up to par on your local news, you may not hear much about them until the next election. So, why even bother?
It’s often these local issues that you’ll see more of an every day impact than federal issues. Want a city or county park cleaned up? Those local officials can get the ball rolling. Need funds for a certain education initiative? Or does a city road need improved? These are all issues that are up your local officials ally.
One journalist put it this way, “Think of voting in an off-year election as giving the mayor and your local council member a piece of your mind. That way, when you see them in public you can tell them you voted for them, so they should put a bike rack on your corner and plant two more trees on your block already.”
A big chunk of what local government does is implement state and federal mandated programs. What does that mean? Those services include social services, public and mental health, campaign finance, education, law enforcement, veteran’s affairs, etc. Often it’s the local officials who decide exactly where these funds will go and how they will be implemented. We had an issue in my state of South Dakota regarding education and how the budget was being spent a couple years ago. Voters finally got fed up with our School Board and kicked the incumbents out of office. How’s that for speaking up in an “off year” election?!
Do Your Research
Wherever you live, you can make a difference. Do your research. Find out what each candidate stands for, what each initiative means. If you are passionate about a specific candidate or an issue, get behind it. Volunteer your time or at the very least let your voice be heard. A good friend of mine (Hi Millicent Bahr!), has done amazing research, attended local meetings and spoken out on her local mayor’s race because she knows the outcome will directly affect her community. She does all that with three small children. Don’t make excuses, make a difference instead.
Is My State Having An Off-Year Election?
Not every state has an off-year election. My own state of South Dakota doesn’t have one this year. Andrea’s state of Washington has one, they are a mail-in only vote. Every state is different.
To find out if your state is holding an off-year election, where to vote, and if you’re registered, visit nass.org/can-i-vote. If your state/county is having an election, that same link should direct you to a local source to find out what’s on your ballot.
Former White House and Capitol Hill staffer, wife, and mom.