Why We Should Care About Elections in an “Off Year”

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.

10 Replies to “Why We Should Care About Elections in an “Off Year””

    1. Voter apathy also allows for situations where it only takes a few thousand votes to represent well over 100,000 people. I remember a primary last year for a district in New York of 130,000 people being won with all of about 2,000 votes (maybe a bit more).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah…and it’s really frustrating because it’s the local and state people who often have the most control over what can happen in our daily lives (like mass transit, for example, in New York).

        In terms of third parties, I personally think of them as a double-edged sword. On one hand they take away votes from candidates we might support (which speaks to your frustration), but on the other hand effective third parties can also keep major parties honest on important issues (like the Green Party keeping Democrats honest on environmental issues) or win on causes even if they don’t win many seats (arguably the most famous example is the Prohibition Party and the 18th Amendment).

        One of the more famous examples of this in recent years happened at a debate for Governor of New York years ago. In this debate, a single-issue candidate competing on the “Rent is Too Damn High” line pushed then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo enough on the rent issue to get him to say, “You’re right Jimmy, the rent is too damn high.” The video link I have here may give you a good laugh, but it also provides an example of how a third party candidate can push a major party candidate (Cuomo) on a major issue (rent): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofapp9FkapI

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I LOVED this clip! Thank you for sharing that! Yes, you’re right that sometimes the third party candidates can make a difference, at the least by shining a light on issues that might otherwise be lost in the shuffle. I wish that third parties had a better opportunity in our system, and then they could accomplish more. As it is, they must poll at a certain level to be allowed to participate in debates or even get their names on the ballots in each state. I think democracy is better served when there are more viable options, but under our system, they are more just for show, as they have no real chance at winning. It is probably time for some changes to our system, but change comes very slowly and painfully … Thanks again for the clip … my first laugh of the day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad the clip gave you a good laugh! I was laughing a ton while watching the debate that night. I definitely share your wishes, both for more viable third parties and for changes in our system. Now hopefully the changes wouldn’t result in a UKIP-like party in the U.S., and based on reading your posts, I don’t think you would want that either.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, we certainly do not need a Nigel Farage … although Trump ‘suggested’ to the UK that they name him ambassador to the U.S.!!! One thing I would really like to see, though, is an end to the electoral college system, for it failed last year, and did precisely what it was intended to prevent! Time for it to go … it is part of the reason for voter apathy, too, when people see that their candidate received the majority of the popular votes, but still lost the election, they tend to shrug and say, “why did I even bother?”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aargh! I didn’t hear that about Farage. Anyway, yeah there is the electoral college system as well. Though with that, you’re also talking about how a vote in one state “counts” more towards the Electoral College than a vote in another state (which isn’t really just if we want everyone to be truly equal and have all votes count equally).

        Liked by 1 person

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