We typically think of the presidential election years (2016, 2020) as the big ones, with the in-between congressional races (2014, 2018) as the midterm or “off” years. The odd-numbered years, like this year, get so little attention that it’s easy to forget we have an election at all.
For the most part, there are no senators, representatives, or governors up for election in 2017. Turnout is going to be abysmally low. So why should we care?
Several reasons …
1. Turnout is going to be abysmally low.
I don’t have numbers on this, but I doubt I need research to convince you that not many of your fellow citizens will be heading to the polls in a month. That’s unfortunate, but it’s also an opportunity. The fewer people that vote, the more each individual vote counts. If turnout is, say, half of what it was in 2016, your vote literally counts twice as much.
Usually, ×2 power-ups are the kind of thing you only find in video games. Here’s one in real life. Why not grab it?
But more importantly …
2. Local stuff matters.
City council members. Local judges. County taxes. And, in many cases, statewide issues as well. (My state, Ohio, has two issues to vote on, conveniently numbered Issue 1 and Issue 2.) This stuff matters for your community, and again, your vote counts much more (compared to national votes) because there are far fewer voters.
And beyond that — local issues don’t just matter for their own sake, they also have a sort of “trickle-up” effect on national matters. Ever hear the saying, “All politics is local”? Senators and presidents get their power from the little people, and their advisers — if they’re smart — pay attention to which way the wind is blowing. Votes don’t just make decisions, they also send messages.
Speaking of which …
3. Votes matter even when you know you’ll lose.
Say you’re a left-leaning voter in a deep-red county. (A completely hypothetical scenario, in no way associated with my own life. Ahem.) Often, you can be almost certain that you’ll lose, even before you cast your vote. So what’s the point?
Think of it this way. Let’s say you’re dissuaded from going to vote whenever you expect to lose by 20 percentage points or more. (I know there’s not a specific number, we’re just talking roughly.) You go to vote if you think you might lose by 15 percentage points, because you figure there’s a chance; but not if you expect to lose by 25 points.
Well, everyone’s threshold is different. Some people are more optimistic (or dutiful, or whatever) and will go vote if they expect to lose by 30 points or less; others will only go if it’s fairly close, say, 10 points or less. Again, speaking very loosely.
Here’s the thing, though. You, Mr. 20-pointer, get to that 20-point expectation largely because of people like Miss 30-pointer, who voted last time when the odds were even more grim. And, in turn, your vote helps encourage Mrs. 10-pointer, who votes only when things look rosy. So again — it’s not just about making this particular decision. It’s about sending a message to other voters. It’s about blazing a trail.
Besides, don’t forget …
4. You get to feel smug and superior.
And really, isn’t that what democracy is all about?
You can learn about the candidates and issues at Ballotpedia, in your state and local news, and lots of other places. You can verify your registration, find your polling place, and get other info at Can I Vote.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
Wait — what’s that you say? Your main reason for voting is to spite President Trump? Trust me on this …
5. Voting in local elections will annoy Trump.
Partly because it’s a chance to oppose his vision for the country, even in a small way. But mostly because local elections aren’t really about him at all — and the idea of millions of Americans casting ballots that aren’t stamped with his name, has to drive him absolutely crazy.
Do it for civic pride, or do it for spite. Best of all, do it for both. Just, y’know. Get it done.
Unless you’re not American. Then you can, I dunno, do whatever it is non-Americans do on a Tuesday afternoon. Cricket, I guess?