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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

2018 Midterm Election, Step One: The Primaries

An Update from the NCIL Voting Rights Subcommittee

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingNow that we’re on our way into 2018, mainstream media is focusing intensely on the 2018 midterm elections, and voting rights organizations across the country are buzzing about the importance of showing up to the polls in November. However, civic participation isn’t just a once-every-other-November event; unfortunately, many Americans don’t understand that they can and should engage in voting-related activities prior to November elections. Furthermore, many people focus solely on the national-level election and don’t pay attention to local and state elections. Here are four ways you or your organization can become informed about civic participation outside of the November general election.

1. Learn about your state’s primary elections. Primary elections are elections held before the fall general election, and they tend to have lower turnout than general elections. These elections vary state-to-state in how they operate, but they help to narrow down the list of candidates that will appear on the ballot in the November general election for each party. Some of these primaries are “closed,” meaning that voters can only participate if they have declared a party affiliation, and they can only vote for the parties with which they are affiliated. In open primaries, voters do not have to declare a party affiliation. To find out more about your state’s primaries, how they operate, and when they will be held, visit the National Conference of State Legislators

2. Learn about midterm elections:This year is the 2018 midterm election, which means that there will be elections at all levels of government, but there will not be a Presidential election this year. Historically, midterms have lower voter turnout due to being non-Presidential election years, and so many voters may consider them unimportant. However, midterm elections are still extremely important. There are almost 520,000 elected officials in the United States besides the President. The entire House of Representatives will be up for election, as will one third of the Senate. There may also be many state and local offices on the ballot (these vary by your state and locality). Midterm elections are incredibly important, so make sure to learn what will be on your ballot in November.

3. Register to vote! Voter registration is an extremely important part of civic engagement. After all, if you aren’t registered to vote, you won’t be able to participate! Make sure that you are registered and that your registration is updated. The American Association of People with Disabilities has an online voter registration tool that will help you to register to vote in your state either online, or help you generate the forms necessary for you to submit if your state doesn’t have online voter registration.

4. Voter engagement involves not only registration and casting your vote, but also voter education. If you work for a Center for Independent Living (CIL), you may not know how you can encourage voter participation as a non-profit organization. Nonprofit VOTE is an organization that helps nonprofits learn how they can participate in voter education and participation. They host free webinars and have resources available on how your nonprofit can encourage its consumers to participate in the voting process.

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