Some of us in the United States may not be aware of this, but next Tuesday is Election Day! It is a day where we are supposed to go to polls and vote people into office.
However, the reality is that many of us who are eligible to vote don’t vote, for a variety of reasons. Some of us don’t vote because our work and/or school schedules simply don’t allow us the time to vote. Others need absentee ballots and don’t get them on time; I infamously got a damaged envelope for an election in 2013, and I felt quite angry because it meant that I was unable to vote. Some of us don’t vote because we think the election is a foregone conclusion, though in light of Trump’s victory in 2016 after most people thought Clinton had it in the bag, I hope that’s not a reason people use for not voting. Some of us don’t vote because we just hate all the candidates on the ballot. And then some of us just don’t vote because we don’t care.
I am here to say that everyone should care about Election Day, even though this is a so-called “off year.”
Some of you may be asking what an “off year” is, and why we should care about elections in an off year.
An off year is a year when there are no regularly-scheduled federal elections. So, given the fact that even-numbered years are years when we have federal elections in the United States, odd-numbered years, like 2017, are off years.
However, while there is relatively little we could do about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. this year, given the fact that this is an off year until we get to vote for Congress in 2018 (special elections like Alabama’s U.S. Senate race notwithstanding), there are elections in many parts of the country this year, and elections where we can vote in people who make the places we live in more just. There are people many of us could vote for—people who would keep or increase protections for immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, minorities, women, and more within our municipalities and/or states.
Some people may be skeptical and think: “How can a person from my little hometown or state have a difference?” Actually, in some cases, even the smallest of elections could make a major difference in how just our municipalities, states, and country are.
For example, because of the choices that people in the City of Seattle made at the polls, they ended up with a city council that unanimously voted for city employees to have twelve weeks of paid parental leave. This change allows the mother more time to recover physically from childbirth, and allows both parents to spend time with the child after its birth. This was clearly a case where people in Seattle voted in city council members who made their city a more just place to live, by virtue of the parental leave policy for city employees.
This, of course, is an extreme example. But there are other yet equally important examples, such as the fact that local and state elected officials in New York can and often do set the tone on issues such as housing, homelessness, police treatment of minority communities, and a greater inclusion of people with disabilities.
So, while I understand that there are circumstances which may keep readers from voting on Election Day, I hope that people can at least care enough to recognize the benefits and consequences of who gets voted into office, even at the local and state levels. Just because it’s an off year doesn’t mean that we should refrain from voting, because we should not refrain from the opportunity to vote for people who make our municipalities or states more just than they currently are.