• Liza Martin

Voting Trump Out Isn't Enough, Down-Ballot Elections are Crucial in 2020

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

Just weeks away from the November 3rd election, anticipation of the presidential contest between Biden and Trump is almost all-consuming. However, many state and local officials are also running for office in November. Remaining aware and voting in these contests may have equal, if not larger, consequences for our daily lives than the results of the presidential election.

Currently, Republicans control 61 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers (1). Women hold just 25% of seats in state legislatures and 24% of state executive positions (2). This translates to devastating laws targeting women and families. But progressive victories in down-ballot primaries this summer have placed scores of Democratic women and young people on local ballots, and they have big ideas for change (3).

Some of the women running in 2020

With all of the focus on the Biden-Trump race, it’s easy to forget about local elections. But voting at the local level is particularly important this year.

While the Trump administration’s leadership throughout the current health crisis has faltered, Mayors and Governors have played crucial roles in keeping their communities safe, demonstrating the local relevance and importance of their positions. Moreover, as we navigate reopening schools for the imminent academic year, local school boards are tasked with working with families and making the difficult decisions to implement safe solutions to an unprecedented challenge (4).

This summer, unrest over police violence and has received national attention through ongoing protests demanding law enforcement reform. Most of the policies and decisions that protect law enforcement officers and set police budgets are made at the state and local levels, and therefore determined by state, county, and city voters. Local judges and prosecutors hold a tremendous amount of power in our criminal justice system, deciding who goes to jail and for how long.

This fall, there will be more than 2,000 prosecutor and sheriff elections (5). Voting for candidates that call to defund/restructure policing and reform criminal justice will empower Black lives and demonstrate the power of protests in swiftly challenging the status quo.

The next congressional redistricting will take place in 2021, and will be led by state legislators. This redistricting process, which is based on the results of the 2020 Census, will set boundaries for congressional and legislative districts for the next decade. For context, most city council members, mayors, state senators, and governors serve four year terms (6)(7).

Redistricting can influence how political power is distributed, which communities are given more representation, and, ultimately, which legislation is passed (8). By voting blue at the state level, we can work to ensure that district lines get drawn fairly, rather than based on partisanship in order to manipulate future elections (1).

While a disproportionate amount of media attention is directed towards national stories, local elections empower voters by allowing them to feel the impact of their vote in a more direct and personal way. And, a many groups, like Women to Win and Sister District, are working to raise awareness about down ballot candidates. Find out who is running in your state and municipality by checking your local Department of Elections.

And, don’t forget to register! Most state's registration deadlines are early October.

Photo: Shiraz Ahmed/WDET


  1. https://www.emilyslist.org/focus-2020

  2. https://www.emilyslist.org/news/entry/the-wave-of-women-running-for-office-is-now-20000-strong-growing

  3. https://theintercept.com/2020/06/03/june-primary-elections-corporate-democrats-progressives/

  4. https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2020/05/local-races

  5. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/06/25/criminal-justice-prison-conditions-on-the-2020-ballot-315460

  6. https://www.nlc.org/mayors-term

  7. https://ballotpedia.org/Length_of_terms_of_state_senators

  8. https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/gerrymandering-fair-representation/redistricting/redistricting-2021

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