Since assuming power following the 2016 general election, the current administration has chosen to roll back a significant number of U.S. environmental protections and commitments. The decision to opt out of the Paris Climate Agreement and remove the requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emission leaks are just two of many changes made since 2016.
These moves run counter to the priorities of most Americans, according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center which found that 74 percent of Americans believe that the country should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. Despite the majority of Americans sharing this sentiment, a much smaller proportion vote to ensure that the government prioritizes environmental protection.
During the last midterm election in 2014, only 19.9 percent of voters age 18-29 turned out to vote. It’s not uncommon for younger Americans to decide not to vote because they feel like their vote won’t make a difference. But recent primary elections across the country that were decided by a small number of votes demonstrate just how much every single vote matters. If every eligible voter uses the voice granted to them, it can help avoid situations where the policies enacted by elected officials don't reflect the will of the majority of the people.
With all of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 35 out of 100 seats in the Senate being contested in the upcoming midterm elections, the stakes this November are extremely high. Regardless of where one stands on the issues, their vote matters. If someone is fine with how the government is running the country, then they need to vote to ensure it remains that way. If they want laws and policies to change, then they also need to vote.
Last month, the Public Policy Institute of California reported that 53 percent of California voters surveyed said that candidates’ positions on environmental issues are an important factor in determining who they will vote for during the midterm election.
But even in California, which is known for its progressive environmental efforts, passage of environmental policies isn’t inevitable if voters don’t turn out. For example, the plastic bag ban on the ballot during the 2014 general election only passed by a narrow margin. About 53 percent of voters were in favor of the ban, while about 47 percent voted against it. If a small number of environmentally-minded voters had decided to sit the election out, the measure might not have passed at all.
During his tenure, California Governor Jerry Brown pushed an aggressive environmental agenda, but Brown’s term is coming to an end and voters will be selecting a new governor in this midterm election as well. If eligible voters are hoping to maintain California’s leadership in environmental policies, then it’s important to elect a new Governor who shares the same priorities.
Even though the current Presidential administration is generally made up of climate change skeptics, according to a survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 70 percent of Americans believe that climate change is a very real issue. If these same people vote in the midterm elections on November 6, seats in the House of Representatives and Senate could go to elected leaders who share their concern about addressing climate change.
While national elections are important, participating in local elections is just as critical. Unfortunately, the voter turnout for local elections is extremely low even in major cities like Los Angeles. Local elections have direct impacts on the daily lives of residents. They can lead to changes in public transit, school quality, and local recycling programs. So even if the federal government isn’t making positive change, the local government can, which is why it’s so important to vote in local elections.
If you have not yet registered to vote in the November 6 midterm elections, you must do so by October 22. You can register and get more information about candidates and ballot measures by visiting the California Secretary of State’s website.
Those looking to get more involved in their community can contact their local representative to find out about volunteer opportunities. Local representatives can be found at the House of Representatives website.