Plenty of people felt defeated and hopeless after the 2016 election. But many have kept their spirits up by holding onto a glimmer of hope — that perhaps we can make a difference in the 2018 midterm elections.
But while there will certainly be many high-stakes races next year, a really important election is actually happening before that. On Tuesday (November 7), 100 million Americans will have a chance to cast their votes in a way that could make all the difference for the future of their states, as well as the country at large.
Why Voting In 2017 Matters
When it comes to elections, our country undoubtedly focuses the most on the race for the Presidency. But state races matter, too. Catherine Vaughan, CEO of the progressive organization Flippable, broke down some of the reasons why:
State elections influence all other elections.
"States pass all of the laws that make it easier or harder for young people to vote — like restrictions on where you can register if you’re a college student," Vaughan told MTV News, explaining that voting rights and voter suppression legislation is passed at the state level. Also important to note she said, "States are where the district lines are drawn for congressional districts as well as for state districts."
States make laws that directly affect your life.
"Laws that affect your life — from healthcare, to reproductive rights, to LGBTQ discrimination, or gun control laws — are all passed by states rather than the federal government," Vaughan pointed out.
State elections create a pathway for future leaders.
Take Barack Obama for example, Vaughan said. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate, where he pushed through important legislation. That experience led him to win a seat in the U.S. Senate, which helped him build a platform to run for President in 2008.
Young people can make a big difference at the state level.
Because campaigns at the state level are relatively cheap to run, they're ideal for young people to get involved with. Your donation of $5 or $10 could actually make a difference and go further in a state race than it might in a congressional or presidential race. The same goes for phone banking for an hour for a candidate of your choice.
"By making your voice heard you can make sure our system benefits the vulnerable and make sure that our government is actually responsive to everyone’s voices"
The Most Crucial Race Happening On Tuesday Is In Virgina
To understand why this race is so critical, it’s first important to understand partisan gerrymandering, or the way state legislators have recently drawn their congressional maps in a way that has given Republicans an advantage. One of the biggest examples of gerrymandering happened during the 2012 election in Wisconsin: although Democrats won the majority of the votes in the states, Republicans still ended up winning 60 of 99 Assembly seats just because of the way the maps were drawn. This is such a big problem that the Supreme Court court has agreed to take it on by hearing the case Gill v. Whitford.
Similar to Wisconsin, Virginia districts were also re-drawn to help Republicans win the majority of seats in the state’s legislature. In fact, the Supreme Court confirmed this in a recent court ruling. Both the governor and several legislature seats are up for election in Virginia on Tuesday. These are the very people who have the power to make these maps fair again.
In addition to securing fair elections in the future, electing democratic legislators would help Virginians take on other issues, like defending women’s reproductive rights. In the last 7 years, Virginia’s legislature has introduced 80 anti-choice bills and passed 4, according to NARAL. Healthcare is also a major issue at stake: The GOP-controlled Virginia state legislature has been fighting a Medicaid expansion that could help give 400,000 more Virginians health-care coverage.
Luckily, there are plenty of legislative candidates who want to change these things, including Jennifer Carroll Foy, Elizabeth Guzman (who would be the first Hispanic female representative in the Virginia House of Delegates), Kathy Tran, and more.
For more information on voting in Virginia on Tuesday, visit their Department of Elections website.
Your Vote Really Does Count.
There is reason to be hopeful but we all have to get out and actually vote. As Vaughan put it, voter turnout “shows representatives that they need to be accountable to their constituents. The same way we’ve been protesting and showing up to town halls and making calls all year, we have to do that same thing at the ballot box.
“If you care about making a difference and want meaning in your life, consider the way power works in our country and use it for good,” Vaughan added. “By making your voice heard you can make sure our system benefits the vulnerable and make sure that our government is actually responsive to everyone’s voices.”