With the glitz and glam of the presidential election heating up for the final push to November, it is easy to forget that there will be more than one question to answer in the voting booth.
In addition to casting a vote for the next president, voters will need to elect representatives to Congress, and some will elect governors as well.
It’s easy to get distracted by the idea of the United States President, the head of state, the commander in chief and so many other roles. This person will receive much media attention and will be held personally accountable for much of the country’s actions for the next 4 years.
But if measurable change is the goal, voters should cast their attention away from the shining lights. The Senate and House are an important part of government that doesn’t receive as much attention during presidential election years.
Currently, both the Senate and the House are controlled by the Republican party. The Senate election poses the bigger threat to Republican control. 34 seats are up for re-election in the senate. To gain control, Democrats would need only to keep their ten seats that are up and gain five more.
Predicting the outcome of the House elections is a little more complicated, though. Republicans hold their largest majority in the House since 1928, according to ballotpedia.org. Democrats would need to gain 30 seats to take control.
It seems unlikely that this could happen, though, for a number of reasons. Primarily, incumbents tend to get re-elected to office and only 39 out of 435 incumbents are not seeking re-election.
Or at least that’s what traditional knowledge would tell us. While in previous years, the question of whether a large number of seats would move to another party could be easily answered, Americans’ attitudes toward Congress have changed in recent years.
For the longest time Gallup polls showed that Americans did not approve of Congress but did approve of their own Congressmen. In a 2015 Gallup poll, however, nearly half of respondents said their own representative was out of touch. Nearly a third said their own member was corrupt in the same poll.
Both of these were new records.
Perhaps this means that incumbents will have a harder time getting re-elected in November and that Democrats could have a better chance at taking over both the Senate and the House.
Either way, knowing the options one will be given in the voting booth in relation to all elections is important. House, Senate, and gubernatorial elections are difficult for mass media outlets to cover because of their specificity to each region. Voters must take active steps to educate themselves on these elections.
One resource available to those interested in seeing what and who will be on their ballot on Election Day is Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup. This tool uses your home address to provide you with an interactive guide to your ballot, making researching candidates much easier.
Though they lack the Hollywood-esque attention and drama of the presidential election, it is crucial that voters pay attention to congressional elections. Changes in control of the House and Senate deeply affect how our country is run, and knowing who is on the ballot for these smaller elections gives voters another way to influence the future.