While most of the nation focuses on the 2016 presidential election, many voters across the United States may be unaware of the important local and state elections that are taking place this fall. On Saturday, October 24, Louisiana held its gubernatorial primary election and only had 38.5% voter turnout. A similarly low turnout is expected as voters head to the polls throughout the country on Tuesday, November 3. In the 2014 election cycle, we saw the lowest voter turnout since 1942, with just over 36% of eligible voters casting ballots in the midterm election. As we gear up for the 2016 presidential election, we will hear a lot about increasing voter participation, but voters need to remember that the Fall 2015 elections, and every election, matter.
So why do Fall 2015 elections matter? Fall 2015 is a critical year for voters in states such as Louisiana and Mississippi where the general election includes the chance to vote for governor, state legislators and other statewide offices including attorney general and secretary of state. Kentucky has seven state executive offices up for election, including governor, and voters in New Jersey and Virginia have the opportunity to elect new state legislators. Many major cities across the country from Boston, Massachusetts and Charlotte, North Carolina to Houston, Texas and Tucson, Arizona will elect new mayors and city council members. Major school districts like in Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado and Fairfax County, Virginia will be electing school board members, and Pennsylvanians will be electing state Supreme Court justices. Additionally, 28 ballot measures will appear in nine states, giving voters the opportunity to make their voice heard on issues like protecting a child’s right to public education in Mississippi or setting up a bipartisan redistricting commission in Ohio.
These elections go largely unnoticed, but they greatly impact the livelihood of the citizens of our country, particularly on the local level. These elections will affect the economic stability of our communities, our children’s futures, how police departments are run or whether housing will be fair and affordable. The people elected to office could determine whether you have representatives that reflect and understand your concerns and those of your community. This election could influence you and your family’s future.
As you head to the polls this fall, remember that Election Protection is here to help! The Lawyers’ Committee is proud to lead the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition to make sure that all eligible voters have an equal opportunity to vote. The 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) hotline will be answered live by volunteers from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST on November 3. If you have questions about your polling location or encounter any problems when casting a ballot, Election Protection is just a phone call away. Additionally, Election Protection coalition partners NALEO Educational Fund, APIAVote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice–AAJC will provide assistance to voters who speak other languages. Voters who speak Spanish will receive bilingual assistance at 888-VE-Y-VOTA and Asian language-speaking voters will receive multilingual assistance (English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Korean and Vietnamese) at 888-API-VOTE. Election Protection volunteers will be at the polls in Northern Virginia to provide assistance on site.
So remember: Your vote is your voice–use it at the polls this November and every election.