The midterm elections are coming up fast. We’re willing to bet that most of you have already heard a lot about the big-name candidates in the big-time races—but did you know there’s much more than that on the ballot? The right to learn and to read the books we want to read is on the ballot. Free and fair elections are on the ballot—democracy itself is on the ballot! And we haven’t even gotten to other critical issues yet, like reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ rights.
The truth is that some of our most fundamental freedoms are under threat, and lesser-known down-ballot races, like those for local school board or secretary of state, are key to protecting them.
Inspired by our friends at the ACLU, we put together this handy guide that matches critical issues with the races that have the biggest impact on them. Take a look, then use your vote to protect your rights!
Issue: The Right to Learn
Who Decides: School Boards
Because school boards can issue rules restricting classroom discussions about race, gender, sex education, and identity—or they can protect the rights of teachers and students to talk and learn about these issues.
Dark money is pouring in from groups determined to pursue a racist and anti-LGBTQ+ agenda in our classrooms. A record number of books have already been banned this year by school districts—and most of these books deal with race and LGBTQ+ issues. Enough is enough. Make sure your school board reflects your values.
Issue: Elections and Voting Rights
Who Decides: Secretary of State
It’s very possible that you haven’t ever given much thought to who the secretary of state is in your state. We totally understand! As with school-board elections, races for secretary of state have traditionally been relatively low-key and uncontroversial affairs. But that has changed.
The truth is that secretaries of state are critically important when it comes to running elections and expanding, or restricting, access to voting. In California, for example, the secretary of state pushed to make voting easier—implementing automatic voter registration before the 2020 election increased voter registration by 25%! But during that same election, Georgia’s secretary of state did all he could to ensure that fewer people, especially fewer people of color, were able to vote.
Secretary of state is an elected position in 35 states. If your state is one of them, use your vote to protect free and fair elections!
Issue: LGBTQ+ Rights
Who Decides: Governor
At the state level, there’s no more powerful elected position than governor. With the stroke of their pen, a governor can sign legislation into law (or sign an executive order) that protects LGBTQ+ people in their states. Of course, it’s also true that a governor can block that legislation, or sign off on unjust and discriminatory legislation.
The role of governors is especially important right now because there’s a record number of anti-LGTBQ+ bills currently circulating in state legislatures. (Most of these laws appear to be targeting trans people, especially trans youth.) According to the ACLU, 21 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have already been signed into law.
On Election Day, vote for the gubernatorial candidate who will protect LGBTQ+ rights.
Issue: Reproductive Freedom
Who Decides: State Supreme Court Judges
When the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping people in our country of a constitutional right for the first time in generations, the fight for abortion rights was thrown to the states, where many legislatures are working to restrict reproductive freedom and ban abortion altogether. (Only a few states, so far, have acted to protect reproductive rights and increase access to abortion.)
Based on Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion, overturning Roe could be just the opening act in an all-out effort to strike down other cherished rights, like the right to marriage between people of different races, the right to marriage between people of the same sex, the right to sexual intimacy between people of the same sex, and the right to contraception!
Judges are elected in most states, so get out there and vote! State supreme courts could decide the fate of reproductive freedom, and so much more, where you live.
Issue: Ballot Measures
Who Decides: Voters
It isn’t just politicians on the November ballot. Many states allow voters to make their voice heard on important policies through ballot measures.
From protecting reproductive freedom to legalizing cannabis, more than 130 ballot measures have been introduced this year. Here are a few that might face voters:
Our home state of Vermont has two ballot measures for voters this year: An amendment to the state constitution that would establish a right to personal reproductive freedom, and another amendment that would formally prohibit slavery and indentured servitude.
A Michigan ballot measure would amend the state constitution to affirm that every Michigan resident has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom.
A ballot measure in Oklahoma would legalize recreational cannabis, work to reduce arrests, and allow people to have cannabis arrests expunged from their records.
What’s on the ballot in your state? One thing to be careful about when it comes to ballot measures, though: Their wording is often intentionally misleading. Make sure you read very carefully before voting yes or no!
Be a Voter!
From the Supreme Court restricting access to abortion to school boards banning books, politicians at every level of government are attacking our fundamental rights.
If you’re sick of leaders prying into your private life and telling you what you can and cannot do, then vote for your rights this November!