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Americans Suck at Voting, But Local Elections Could Make Up For It

Your guide to what’s working with local voter registration, what’s not and what you can do about it.

Impact  Staff

Impact Staff

Photo via WIkimedia Commons

It's a fact: Americans suck at voting, and young people are the worst. We're apparently not shy about voicing our frustration and discontent online, but when it comes to the fundamental American activity of selecting leadership that has a direct influence on the course of our lives, we fall far behind many other developed nations.

Consider that in 2016, only 55 percent of registered voters cast a ballot that and only 69 percent of eligible Americans are even registered to vote. Millennials make up as many votes as Baby Boomers, but have the lowest turnout of any age group.

Too many Americans just think of presidential elections as the only time worth getting out the vote (and we're not even great at that four-year exercise) but the reality is that many decisions that influence most people on a day-to-day level are being decided in city halls and statehouses across the country, and these local outlets of democracy are happening constantly.

Locally elected officials make immediate decisions about your health care, paycheck, civil rights, immigration status, school funding and environment which is why it's so important to vote in local elections in addition to national ones. Several large cities that are home to millions of people will be selecting new mayors between now and the end of 2017, and these elections will surely influence the 2018 midterms and next presidential election in 2020. New York City, for example, has a mayoral election this November, and the deadline to register is coming up this week.

There's a lot at stake in individual races around the country and it's up to everyone—no matter your political persuasion or party— to weigh in if you want your voice and perspective heard.

Here are some of the local elections coming up and chances are there's an important race going down in your neck of the woods sooner than later. And keep in mind that in most states voting is not automatic. You need to register, and often way before election day.

Utah Special Election: On November 7, Utah residents will have to vote to replace Jason Chaffetz, who resigned from his position as representative for the Third Congressional District on June 30. Chaffetz was a Republican, but that doesn't mean the district will necessarily swing right. Here's how you can find out more information about the candidates.
  • Registration deadline: October 31
New Jersey Governor Election: The citizens of New Jersey will decide on a new governor on November 7. Current governor and once Republican presidential nominee hopeful, Chris Christie, is ineligible after completing his final term in office. The top contenders are Democrat Phil Murphy and Kim Guadagno to fill Christie's role. Take some time to learn more about the candidates.
  • Registration deadline: October 17
Virginia Governor Election: Virginians have three gubernatorial candidates to choose between on November 7. Given the state's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, it's imperative that state residents are at the polls to have a say in who's leading the state. If you're looking for information about the candidates, here's where you can learn more.
  • Registration deadline: October 16

New York Mayoral Election, City Council and Municipal Offices Election and Statewide referendum: There's a lot at play for New York City residents, with a packed ballot for several positions on November 7. Also, all of New York state will have a say in a referendum that could impact the state constitution, public officer pensions and preservation of forestlands. Here's where you can get informed before election day.

  • Registration deadline: October 13

Maine Statewide Question: On November 7, Mainers will make a decision about expanding Medicaid coverage that could impact thousands of state residents.

  • Registration deadline: October 17, but same-day voter registration in-person is also available on election day.
Ohio Statewide Ballot Measure: November 7, Ohioans will decide on lowering pricing for medications. The proponents of the proposed legislation, Issue 2, say that it's important to make medications more affordable, but critics think it will cost the state too much money. Here's where you can find more facts to get informed on voting day.
  • Registration deadline: October 10, but registered voters should still participate.
Atlanta Mayoral Election: On November 7, city residents will elect a new mayor and currently nine candidates are in the running for the position. Make sure you're informed on election day.
  • Registration deadline: October 10, but registered voters should still participate.
Alabama Special Election: State residents will have to choose a new senator to replace now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions whose vacancy has a left a power vacuum in Alabama. In this election, women's rights and LGBTQ rights will be severely impacted, especially since GOP candidate Roy Moore has been extremely vocal about his anti-LGBTQ stance. Here's where you can get the rundown on the candidates and their platforms.

What you can do:

If you want to make sure you have a say in the policies that will affect you and generations to come then voting is imperative. VICE Impact has partnered with Democracy Works on their TurboVote initiative, which makes registering to vote incredibly easy. Get registered today to have an impact on days yet to come.

And then some:

Voting in America is an imperfect system, and for many, the right to vote has been a hard-fought battle. Issues like gerrymandering and voter suppression are major impediments that make it seem like every vote doesn't count—but each one does. Consider that in the United States 6.1 million people can't vote because of prior felony convictions,

But efforts are underway to do better. The ACLU's Let People Vote campaign aims to knock down barriers to voting across the country and is focusing on states like Florida where around 1.5 million voters have been disenfranchised from voting

Sign-up here to find out to get involved in an effort in your town or state to ensure this basic American right