I’ve been having nightmares all week. This is unusual for me; I’ve never been one to recall my dreams. But these jolt me awake and make me scared to fall back to sleep, and I would like them to stop.
I suppose this is understandable. As if we needed an additional reminder, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid bare how high the stakes are for American women. Whomever replaces RBG will undoubtedly be focused on undoing her formidable legacy and send us spiralling back to a potentially very dark place.
Barring the unforeseen, there’s very little we can do to prevent the Republican-controlled Senate from appointing a new justice before the end of the year.
But that doesn’t mean we’re helpless. It means it’s all that much more imperative that we vote, and that we vote for every candidate on our ballot who will advance the goal of creating a more equitable society for all.
Most of the energy and attention in a presidential election cycle goes to the top of the ticket. We probably don’t need to recite here all the reasons a continuation of the current administration for another four years might not be the best choice for America.
So what else is up for grabs this year? According to Ballotpedia.com:
- All 435 House seats
- 30 Senate seats
- Control 44 state legislatures and five territories
- 11 governors’ seats
- 7 Secretaries of State
- 10 state attorneys general
- 29 major city mayors
- 278 state appellate court justices
- 2,300 sheriffs and prosecutors
….Not to mention 120 statewide referendums on issues ranging from anti-gerrymandering legislation to marijuana legalization.
In all, the League of Women Voters says there are 14,740 races involving 27,561 candidates across all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia this election cycle.
Here’s the thing: too many people, too often, leave too many little ovals and checkboxes blank. In 2016, around 30 of voters did not complete their full ballot. In a more recent study, voters completed almost 20% less of their ballot “when they possess low levels of information about the candidates involved.”
“The unspoken truth is that faced with a long ballot, unfamiliar names, and strange offices, most voters will simply guess — or leave portions of their ballot blank,” David Axelrod and Mike Murphy wrote for Vox in 2016.
And multiple studies have shown that — since not every candidate in every position is listed by party affiliation — when people guess, they tend to pick the first name on the list.
Failure to mindfully fill out every little bubble on the ballot doesn’t nullify your vote…but every time you leave a blank, you give up an opportunity to elect someone who can protect your interests.
Fortunately, this is 100% avoidable.
With several weeks left until Election Day, now is a great time to take a look at your ballot. You’ve probably heard enough about the guys at the top of the ticket, and you’ve likely gotten up to speed on your Senate and House candidates. Now keep going.
Learn a little something about each name on the list. Ask yourself how (or if) they align with your views. Fuzzy on what your Secretary of State does? (They differ a bit from state to state, so check your state government website for their exact role in your neck of the wood.) Spend a few minutes learning about any referendums on your ballot and what they actually mean beyond the stilted language of the proposal.
It’s easy to do, and speaking from experience, it makes you feel much more powerful when you walk into your polling place. Not to mention the envy of your friends in those “I don’t know who I’m going to vote for” conversations you’ll be having in the next few weeks.
Don’t know what’s on your ballot? Just go to Vote411 and they’ll hook you up.
Remember: Every race is an opportunity to flip the odds a little more in favor of the world RBG hoped to create.