Yes, this November is the Presidential election, and choosing the President of the United States is a big deal. But it’s just as important to vote for every candidate and initiative on your ballot. The races and issues are different in each state and county and to understand which way you want to vote might take a bit of research—but it’s worth it.
Because the person in power shapes your community
The elected candidates on your ballot have a big impact in your community, especially the ones closest to you…but these races are often overlooked. For example, voters elect district attorneys who oversee the criminal justice system. They then decide who to charge with crimes and, in some states, call for the death penalty—a flawed and failed system that disproportionately impacts People of Color and has executed innocent people. These elected prosecutors also decide whether to hold police accountable, and their decisions directly relate to criminalization, incarceration rates and the broken system of policing.
The candidates running this election are already making history. According to the Center for American Women in Politics , at least 61 Black, 75 Latina, 41 Asian American and Pacific Islander, 16 Middle Eastern or North African and 18 Native American women are running for office in 2020. Meaning that, among other advancements, 2020 far surpasses the previous record of 41 Black women on the ballot for Congress set in 2018 .
Aimee Allison, founder of She the People , a Lush Charity Pot partner, brings together a national network of women of color—voters, organizers, movement builders, elected leaders—to transform democracy. She notes that from Senate to local elections, diverse representation is thriving .
“These down-ballot races are what will motivate women of color voters—the largest growing voter bloc than any other group in the country—because we know that women of color candidates are ready to lead on issues we most care about: social justice, immigration policies, equity in health care and education, police accountability.”
Because issues matter, too
Ballot initiatives are also called ballot measures or propositions, depending on whether you are in one of the 24 states that allow issues to be brought forward for decision by eligible voters. Once on the ballot, these initiatives call for a proposed statute or constitutional amendment and your vote will decide if they pass or not. Wide-ranging issues are addressed through ballot initiatives such as LGBTQ2+ rights and protections, taxpayer spending and marijuana decriminalization.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is watching several important initiatives on ballots this year:
- In Nebraska, voters can decide to reduce predatory payday lending loan annual interest rates from 400 percent to a maximum of 36 percent.
- Coloradans will vote to protect reproductive freedom by voting no on Proposition 115 , a back-door ban that would criminalize abortion at 22 weeks.
- In Oklahoma, voters can cast their ballot for State Question 805 , a common-sense criminal justice reform that will limit extreme sentences for nonviolent crimes and save Oklahoma taxpayers $186 million.
The power is in your hands. Whether you are voting by mail, early in-person or on election day —the choices you mark on your ballot will determine the results. This is how democracy works, and it’s your chance to make a difference. To learn more about how to exercise your voting rights, resist voter intimidation efforts and access disability-related accommodations and language assistance at the polls, the ACLU has a great resource hub . For help at the polls, call the non-partisan Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.