Do you know the candidates running for Maryland Senate? How about the nominees running in your district for the House of Representatives? Are you familiar with the candidates vying for a position on your county’s Board of Education?
If your answers to those questions are “no,” then you make up the vast majority of Americans.
Down-ballot candidates have become seemingly obscured in the media’s shifting dispersion of limelight, concentrated exclusively on the presidential race. This phenomenon could have negative impacts in the future for a multitude of reasons.
For one, down-ballot votes are important. The candidates running for these positions, if elected into office, will be able to write and interpret legislation that could affect you in the near future. Senators and representatives in the United States Congress have the power to pass or reject legislation that would become legal code for all 50 states. State governments are responsible for making laws concerning public safety, health, taxes, minimum wage rates and other areas of concern.
A key example is that federal, state and local legislators have a say in defining what “sexual assault” entails and how it is investigated in colleges across the nation.
The point is that these candidates matter. And for millennials, that could be a problem.
According to a Pew Research Center study conducted last year, 61 percent of Millenials receive their news through Facebook. And unsurprisingly, only 37 percent acquire their news through local television.
The articles seen in social media timelines are predominantly posted by media giants such as The Huffington Post, CNN, FOX, etc. These publications are not going to produce content based on local elections simply because such content is not “viral.”
However, down-ballot elections are discussed on local news networks. The problem is that this is the place where only roughly one-third of millennials go to obtain information.
It may seem that social media is becoming the hub of all communication, but it is worth mentioning that social media is simply a construct built upon what the users share, like and post. That is the foundation of any successful social media site– they are merely platforms of expression in various forms.
Instead of blaming the media giants for only focusing on the presidential election, we should reflect on what we have the power to do. Local television networks and newspapers have pages on social media sites. Perhaps share an article or two written about a down-ballot candidate, or contribute to the comment section of one.
Becoming engaged and cultured with down-ballot elections will make the media aware that we do care about those elections. It will result in fairer elections with the most qualified candidates prevailing. Voters will be more likely select a down-ballot candidate come election day as opposed to leaving the particular section blank.
Many of us show up at the polls on November 8 solely to vote for president. That is a waste. The amount of votes cast for president vastly outnumber those cast for down-ballot candidates, meaning votes for down-ballot candidates have more weight.
If you really want to make your vote mean something this November, become engaged in the political process outside of the presidential election. Elected down-ballot positions have responsibilities that are worthy of our commitment to learning about the individuals who pursue them. Show the media and your friends that you are interested in other elections. We have the power to control our news.