When you spend time looking into the term “down-ballot”, you'll find varying results.
Some people call it a “new” term, but others point out that it has been around for a few decades. This term has a big place in politics, especially in local politics. Below, the various uses will be reviewed.
Getting to Know the Down-Ballot
Down-ballot and down-ticket are words that are used to describe the offices, and those people running for those offices, that fall below the most important race candidates on the ballot. The “important” candidates are those that are national, like the president. The down-ballot nominees (and more) are state and local choices.
The outcomes of down-ballot votes are influenced mostly by how many people come out to vote in the local area. They aren't controlled by things like the electoral college.
Why Down-Ballot Voting Is Important
When you go in to vote, you should fill out the entire card, but as you do - are you paying attention to the people you're voting for? Do you recognize the names of the people on the ballot that are running for the senate or the house of representatives in your state?
A lot of people don't research many of the candidates on the down-ballot, for one reason or another.
Maybe you don't think that it's important to know who's running for your
county's Board of Education because you don't have any kids in school.
The fact is that these down-ballot candidates are the ones that will be writing and altering local policies, many of the things that will affect you and your family directly. Some people think it's OK to just vote for anyone (or not to vote at all), especially during mid-term elections.
Another reason why it's important that you pay attention to this part of the ballot is that you aren't going to have as many outlets feeding you info on them as the national elections. You need to take the time to look up your local ballot options before the actual election, and then do some research on your own.
While news channels may discuss these candidates from time to time, you can't be ensured that you're getting unbiased info.
Common Down-Ballot Votes
There are many important seats that you'll find on the down-ballot. Just because you don't feel like these positions make an impact doesn't mean they aren't doing major things behind the scenes. Looking at the roles of these candidates in your government may help you better understand why being an informed voter is so important.
State governors don't seem to get noticed a lot until they do something wrong. Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder is the main scapegoat for the Flint
water crisis but was also seen to do some good in bringing more money in for the state.
It's also important to understand that each political affiliation will sometimes see a difference in success or failure for the same candidate. An example may be that while Republicans might think Snyder has done good things for the state of Michigan (like bring in more money), Democrats may find it hard to pinpoint one good thing he's done with his time in office.
The role of the governor in each state is to deal with bills that have been passed by legislature. This person will either sign them, and make them into laws, or veto them. The governor is also the commander-in-chief of statewide military forces.
Secretaries of State
The individual secretaries of state who are elected per individual state are not to be confused with the main secretary of state who is appointed directly by the president. Of course, secretaries of state are only voted in by the public in 35 states.
They are only officials in 47 of the 50 states, and in the other 12 states with this position, they are appointed by state legislature or directly by the governor, rather than voted into their position.
One of the most controversial jobs the secretary of the state has is proceeding over presidential candidate recounts during election years – a tough job. They get to do this job because they are the ones appointed to oversee elections.
They have other minor duties, and the representative of each state may have different responsibilities than the secretary of the state in another location.
One of the often most overlooked sections of the down-ballot has absolutely nothing to do with electing individuals into office. Ballot measures are legislative proposals that are looking for your approval or rejections.
Whether you should choose to vote yes or no on them is sometimes confusing because of wording. This confusion over wording is one of the reasons why it is extremely important to be knowledgeable of when these are on a ballot and what each of them is doing.
While most laws are passed by elected officials, you sometimes get to make the choice. Common things that are seen in ballot measures can include changing whether or not same-sex marriages are legal in your state, whether or not marijuana is legal in your state, and it can even be used to affect the money that schools, zoos,and other institutions get in your state.
Speaking of state legislators, these are the people that will create the bills that will potentially become laws in your state. Their job also includes processing bills, reading and debating those bills, as well as reading and debating amendments.
By knowing who you're putting into this position, you will have a better knowledge of what state laws will be added, changed, or affected.
State Senate and House of Representatives
The people sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives are the ones that will have a say in which federal laws pass, and they are the ones creating these laws. That means that you want to know who is getting elected into this position if you want the right laws to come into play.
The house and the senate make of the government's legislative branch. The senate writes and passes laws, they ratify treaties made with other countries, and they do so much more. They do all of these things working together, but many senate members also have individual jobs as well.
How to Prepare for Down-Ballot Voting
Now that you have a better understanding about some of the different people and things you'll find on the down ballot when it comes to election time, you should know how to prepare yourself to vote on this portion of the ballot.
It's important that you don't just go in their blindly marking whichever name strikes your fancy. Be an informed voter.
Where you find information on the individual elections on your ballot can vary by state. The best way to learn who and what will be on your ballot for each November election is to Google “what's on my ballot.” Then add your state to that search as well to get the most accurate information.
While it can be time-consuming to research each and every candidate and proposal on your ballot, it's less so if you pick a few candidates that represent your preferred party affiliation. Whether you tend to side with one of the big two or you're someone that prefers to vote for third-party candidates in a hope for change, pick the people that represent your needs and beliefs.
Take your time and look over ballot proposals. Learn how to read and understand them. These can directly affect you, your community, and your future.
The more you know about each item on your ballet, the better your vote will be. Don't think that your vote didn't matter just because the people you vote for aren't elected.
You can also volunteer for the party of your choice, where you'll get a hands-on view of how running for office works, how voting works, and you'll learn more about the candidates that are being supported by your “team.”
Final Thoughts on Down-Ballot Voting
Don't be an uninformed voter, and don't miss your chance to exercise your right to vote just because you chose to stay uneducated about what's on the ballot.
With easy access to the internet in so many ways (utilize the free internet at your local library if you don't have internet or a computer at home), there is no excuse not to bean informed voter. You just need to take a little time to pay attention and do some research.