Did you know that “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November” is not the only day that you can vote? Voting for state and local elections, along with special elections for federal, state, and local offices, can happen throughout the year. These elections are often off-the-radar for many people: while national turnout is around 60% for presidential elections and 40% for midterm elections, the turnout can be much, much lower for state and local elections. To give an example from the town of Natick, Massachusetts, the voter turnout for the November 2022 midterm elections, which elected federal and state officials, was a robust 67%. However, for the state office primary election in September 2022, the turnout was only about 25%, and for the town elections in March 2022, the turnout averaged less than 14%. Here’s why you should be one of the people turning up to vote for your state and local elections.
We should not infer from the low turnout numbers that state and local elections are unimportant. Quite the contrary: The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enshrines federalism by noting that the states reserve all powers that are not expressly given to the federal government. Because of federalism, your state (and often, your city or town) has a lot of power over areas that affect you every day, such as education, transportation, the police force, health care, housing, employment, and even how the elections are run! This means that it is very important to pay attention to your state, county, and local politics, including participating in the elections to choose your representatives and the policies they will enact on your behalf.
I’ve previously written about the importance of focusing on state and local issues if you want to make a political difference in this world. Take climate change for example: often the most meaningful improvements occur on the city and state levels! Political science research shows that local communities, whether they are local government, neighborhoods, or even businesses, can better share and protect environmental resources than far-away entities. And considering how few people actually show up to vote in these elections — your vote really can make a difference.
So take a moment to check your registration on Vote.gov, and make a plan to vote with TurboVote, BallotReady, or your local town website (just google “[town name] voting and elections” and your official local government website will pop up). And enjoy being a part of local democracy in action!
Where the magic happens… the Official Ballot Drop Box!