With just more than a week to go until the presidential election, the United States is in full-fledged election mode. If you live in a state like North Carolina, Ohio or Florida, chances are you can not go one commercial break without hearing or seeing Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Even here in Mississippi, which is expected to be a red state on election night, I have seen ads for Clinton and Trump during the past few months.
It is easy to become caught up in the presidential race, and the 24-hour news cycle and constant barrage of information plays into its favor.
While the presidential election holds important implications for the future of the country, too many people have forgotten the importance of House, Senate and state legislative elections. These races do not contain the same amount of media fanfare and only a fraction of the spending on the national election.
This makes it more difficult for voters to recognize the candidates, and find information about what they stand for. Often times, people make their decision based off of if they see the word “Republican” or “Democrat” above their names on the ballot.
These races are extremely important, sometimes even more so than the presidential election.
For Republicans, if Clinton ends up winning, control of the Senate will be imperative to blocking her favored Supreme Court nominees. For Democrats, if Trump proves victorious, the Senate will be a check on what would surely be a nontraditional way of doing business in Washington, D.C.
Though the House is more likely to stay in Republican hands, even a small increase or decrease in seats held by either party could make a large impact on what bills are able to be passed starting next January.
If you are outside Mississippi, chances are that you also have state legislative races on the ballot as well. These hyper-local elections are also underestimated in the minds of many voters, but they are often the easiest way to seek out and interact with your elected officials.
According to Gallup research surveys, more than 90 percent of people know Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. However, though there is no credible research to prove this, I would predict that less than 90 percent of Americans could name their state’s two senators, and even less could remember their district’s congressman or congresswoman.
Democracy might be a three-ring circus, but in order to function properly, the audience needs to be aware of all of the rings. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or an Independent, seek out information about the other offices on the ballot next week. Just like the presidency, they will determine what the future of our country will be.
Patrick Waters is a sophomore accounting major from St. Louis, Missouri.