Are midterm elections more important than presidential elections?

Here’s a fact I bet you didn’t know: in early American history, more people used to vote in midterm elections than bothered to vote during presidential election years!

This is because voters saw congress, with its lawmaking abilities, as more important than just the White House. This historical turnout gap is even more striking when you realize that back then the Constitution didn’t allow for the direct election of US senators (until 1913, Senators were elected by each state’s legislature instead of its citizens). In effect, Americans used to be more fired up about voting for the House of Representatives than anything else.

In recent elections, the exact opposite has been true

Americans don’t turnout to vote much in midterm elections these days. Take a look at this chart. In the last presidential election, 60% of eligible Americans voted. But in the last midterm election in 2014 turnout was the lowest in 70 years: just 36% of those capable of voting bothered to do so.

Why should you bother to vote in midterm congressional elections?

It’s true that presidents aren’t on the ballot in midterm election years and less people these days turn out as a result. But in part, the reason why it’s so important to vote in midterm elections is precisely because turnout is so much lower. This means that mathematically with less people voting, your individual vote counts quite a lot more than it does during a presidential voting year. And in midterm elections there’s no Electoral College filter either, so one person actually does equal one vote.

Midterm elections can be INCREDIBLY close

“two men running on field with people on side cheering for them” by Victoire Joncheray on Unsplash

Because there are way fewer people voting in the midterm elections, one person’s individual vote is worth a lot more. If you want real political influence, voting in midterm elections packs way more bang for your buck. For instance, a midterm election in Connecticut a few years ago was decided by just 83 votes!

In another off-year election, a race was tied, and officials ended up choosing the winner of a Virginia House of Delegates race — by drawing a name out of a hat, which is not very good if you’re someone who cares about democracy. And that one race ended up determining the control of Virginia’s entire state legislature, which had previously been tied, so it was enormously consequential. If one extra person had voted in that race, that outcome wouldn’t have been left to chance.

Midterm congressional elections are this incredibly important opportunity that only comes around once every four years

They’re a moment where each of us gets to say whether we approve of the president or not, by voting for or against their political party. It’s like an opinion poll that actually matters — and they have the power to fundamentally change the trajectory of entire presidencies.

The only mistake you can make, is to waste your chance to speak up. Register to vote in the midterm elections today. You can do so here.


My name is Arlen Parsa, and the goal I set for myself this year was to make 12 videos — one each month. You can subscribe to this YouTube channel to watch my next video.

Check out some of my other videos:

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The Impossibly Great Power of Rejections

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