This election year, don’t forget to stay updated on local elections happening in your district. Some may be sooner than you realize! For example, among other municipal elections, this year is Maryland’s Gubernatorial Election. Primary elections are on June 28th, 2022, with early voting from June 16th to June 23rd.
Every year, across the United States, numerous counties across the country held municipal elections to determine candidates for local offices and determine influential politics in a voter’s district. In the 2020 elections, over 35 states had at least one municipal election. These local elections go beyond Congressional races. Voters elect the candidates that will fill seats for local Boards of Education and Judicial positions. In some cases, local ballots include a series of ballot questions -- yes, questions, not candidates-- for voters to decide. The 2020 Montgomery County ballot in Maryland included a series of six ballot questions, asking voters to make decisions relating to the issues including the state budget, property taxes, and number of Councilmembers. In many cases, these local elections determine the issues that matter most to voters’ daily lives, from local taxes to the types of education policies in local public schools, and even the people in charge of voters’ courts. In 2021, numerous states held special elections for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Gubernatorial elections, or other municipal elections, and 2022 will be no different.
Yet, many voters are often left uninformed about these local elections -- resulting in random guessing on the ballot. In the 2020 election, a national poll found that when voters were asked how confident they were that they had the information needed to make an informed decision about local and state offices, only 35% and 45%, respectively, of voters felt very confident pre-election, compared to the nearly double, 77%, of voters who felt very confident about the Presidential election (1). As a result, research shows that with these elections, candidates that are simply listed first can receive up to 5 percent more votes than candidates that are listed lower on the ballot (2).
The lack of awareness around local elections is surprising, considering the amount of influence these elections can have, and the opportunity for voters to be better informed and well represented.
Local elections, whether we decide to talk about them or not, occur across the country every year. So, looking ahead to the more popular 2022 Midterm elections, and even beyond that, to the 2023 elections, for example, how do voters get the information they need to be informed and prepared when it comes time to go to the ballot box?
Many resources are readily accessible. Voters should refer to their local Board of Elections website, which should have resources for voter registration, polling locations, and often, sample ballots. The Montgomery County Board of Elections website provides sample ballots where voters can consider each candidate in advance of casting their votes. There are also national government databases that can direct you to your state election resources, organizations that can help you check your voter status, and grassroots movements like @MyBallotMatters on Instagram, that can provide easily digestible information and resources on local elections.
Jones, J. (2020, December 7). In Election 2020, how did the media, electoral process fare? Republicans, Democrats disagree. Knight Foundation.
Axelrod, D., & Murphy, M. (n.d.). More than 30 percent of voters fail to complete their ballots. Don't be one of them. Vox Media.