Choose Your Own Adventure: Midterm Elections 2014

Did you know there are midterm elections coming up on Tuesday, November 4th?  Based on the fact that most Americans don’t participate, it’s a fair question to ask. Perhaps it’s because it’s not as splashy as the presidential elections, or we don’t recognize the importance of our local state officials. Americans just don’t seem to care about the midterms.

But you should care, because the people who are up for reelection are directly representing you. Do you know who they are? Do they share your interests? I want to make it as easy as possible for you to get your learning on and participate in an election that is very significant. My goal is, that after you read my article and do some internet legwork, the only thing left for you to do is get to your polling station and push some buttons.

Step #1 is identifying your district, especially since sneaky politicians have been re-zoning districts as of late. Go directly to GovTrack.us and as soon as the page loads a little box will pop up asking for your state and then home address. Fill it in and the site will find your district and reveal your local representatives to you. Take your gingko biloba and remember this useful information. GovTrack.us also gives you voting records for your representatives, but it’s in that government speak that makes your eyes glaze over.

Remember, I promised I would make it easy to get your information. The next two websites are where we find the real dirt.

Step #2 is figuring out if these people actually represent you. OnTheIssues.org is a database that tracks every politician and every vote they’ve cast in an easy-to-read red and blue format. This, my friends, is the meat and potatoes. Select your state from the map and since you remember your politicians’ names, find them and click to reveal what they’ve been up to recently.

If you’re looking for extra credit, you can dig a little deeper and check out Project Vote Smart. This website also tells you about your favorite (or least favorite) politician, but it goes one step further in revealing who is bankrolling them. Type in your politician’s name or your zip code and choose the far right folder labeled “Funding.”

Are they truly representing your interests? No? Then the midterm elections on November 4th is for you! If the answer is yes and you and your politician are a match, November 4th is just as important — your vote will make sure they keep their job for the next two years.

Step #3 is our last step, and it’s finding your polling station courtesy of Vote411.org. After all, the two above websites have already provided you with plenty of information to take to the polls and make the best decision you can. It’s now up to you and you alone to complete your Midterm Election Adventure.

Here are a few additional websites to help:

Ballotpedia.org has the information if you aren’t exactly sure which elections are taking place in your state. Ballotpedia will also tell you if your state is one of the 13 that hold Closed Primary elections. This means if you’re not registered as Democrat or Republican, you can’t vote in this election.

During your valiant search if you are prompted to enter the last 4 digits of your zipcode and have no idea what that means, the USPS will save you. You may be asked for those numbers while searching for your district. If you’ve been re-zoned like I have, those four numbers are important.

Congratulations, you are now armed with valuable information and considered highly dangerous. Midterm elections are not popular and are considered boring, but they are not as irrelevant as you think. These elections are about you, dear voter, because you are electing who you want to represent your interests in your government for the next two years.

If you don’t exercise your voice at the polls, then who knows who you’re allowing to speak for you.

 

Alexis Oliver
Alexis has been writing on and off since she was a kid. Her first submission was to Highlights Magazine, and though they passed on her in-depth analysis of falling leaves in winter, she continued to be a loyal reader. She is most passionate about animals, conservation, and trying to convince her county to allow backyard chickens. Alexis currently works full time in Hospitality and lives outside of Pittsburgh with her boyfriend and three cats.