While many Americans may feel that they are left out of the political process, 45 percent of adults did not even vote in the 2016 presidential election. The number of adults that will not cast a ballot in non-presidential elections is even higher (63.6% in 2014). In fact, non-presidential elections—when we vote for the U.S. Congress as well as state and local officials and ballot measures—are much more important than most people think.

Why People Do Not Vote

Many argue that if an election does not include the highly-visible presidential contest, it loses its “wow factor.” Voters do not see the act of casting a ballot as very exciting if they are not choosing the next leader of America. Many people also feel that a president has more power than any other politician or legislation they may vote for and view voting for anything else as a waste of time.

Learn about all of your rights as an Ohioan at our Vote Center.

Off-Year Elections Affect Everyone

It is a common misconception that voting in these less glamorous elections makes no difference in our government. In many cases, non-presidential elections have a larger impact than presidential ones. Your governor, state legislators, county council, mayor and school board have enormous power over your everyday experience, power that even the President lacks. Midterm elections deal with a wide array of local issues including funding for transportation and public schools, zoning, and tax levies. These choices will affect the roads you drive on, the education your child receives, and where your taxes go.

By remaining silent, a non-voter accomplishes two things. First, they make it clear that they are content with their government and that no changes need to be made. Second, they allow legislation and politicians that they support be voted down. Therefore, if someone is not happy with the way their city, or county, or state, or country is being run, it would benefit them to cast a ballot in all elections to make their opinion clear. If an eligible voter is content with the way their government is being run, it would still be to their advantage to go to the polls and keep their government running the way it is.

You can check your registration and register to vote with the Ohio Secretary of State.

What Now?

Registration for the May 2 primary/special election closed recently but if you are unregistered, you have until October 10 to register for November 7, when Cleveland and Cincinnati will select mayors, and for the 2018 general election, when half of the Ohio Senate is up for reelection, as is the entire Ohio House of Representatives.

Franklin D. Roosevelt tells us that suffrage in our country is something that must be practiced, not taken for granted. “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves—and the only way they could do that is by not voting at all.” If you want a democratic nation, show your support by casting your vote on May 2 and at every chance you get.