Every Vote Counts: Why It is Important to Focus on Smaller Elections

by The Cowl Editor on September 17, 2020


While great emphasis is often placed on voting in the upcoming presidential election, the importance of voting in state and local elections is often overlooked. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy of Chile.

Every Vote Counts: Why It is Important to Focus on Smaller Elections

by Julia McCoy ’22

There is no doubt that this year will be defined by politics and governmental elections. Much of the attention in the media and conversation is focused on the presidential race that is to come on Nov. 3. While this is obviously a significant election, it is not the only ticket on the ballot. State and local elections, as well as congressional races, are just as impactful as the presidential election in terms of the effect they have on policy and law.

Though these smaller elections are always important, the recent events shaping today’s political climate have heightened the need for more media attention. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement has organized protests in large cities across the country. It is within the jurisdiction of state and local governments to determine how to deal with these protests. Responding to and meeting the demands of the protests falls within the jurisdiction of state and local governments, and they have the ability to create real change on this front.

In some states this year, President Trump chose to deploy the National Guard as a way to “protect” cities from protests that he personally deemed too violent. Since the policing of the protests was happening on a local level, governors were able to effectively reject this deployment and continue to handle the situation on their own.

When considering the ongoing stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember the unique nature of states and the fact that they are often quite different from one another. COVID-19 was more prevalent in some areas of the country than in others, and it affected local economies differently. In this case, it is more rational to look at state and local-level guidance than to turn immediately to the national stage.

With these pressing issues in mind, it is important to remember to stay involved and attentive regarding state and local elections. The people on those ballots are the most likely to directly impact the state or locality in which you live.

In addition, some congressional seats are up for election this year. On a national level, Congress controls the debate and passage of every single law that goes through Washington, D.C. Though bills  must ultimately be signed into law by the President, this avenue is incredibly important and often shapes the language of our laws.

Currently, there is a Republican-run Senate and a Democrat-run House of Representatives. Oftentimes this leads to endless debates and little room for compromise. 35 out of 50 seats in the Senate and all 435 House seats are up for election come November. If more voters participate and pay attention to these elections, the landscape of the Capitol could drastically change, regardless of which party takes control.

These elections are incredibly significant when considered alongside the Presidential election. The current congressional situation is split, but one race could change it to be in favor of one party or the other. Because the White House is also in an election year, there is always a possibility that one party emerges victorious with control of both the legislative and executive branches.

It is, of course, important to remain focused on the issues surrounding a presidential election. Presidential elections only happen once every four years and they certainly have an effect on the landscape of our country and our political climate. The presidency, however, is not the only elected office that can impact the laws of our government. To stay up to date on smaller elections, which often have a direct impact on our lives, we must stay involved, be informed, and vote locally.