The most consequential races on Tuesday's ballot are likely the ones where you don't recognize the names. They are the elections for state legislators — and they absolutely matter.
Little legislation gets passed these days in DC, and that's not expected to change after tomorrow. But statehouses are furious hubs of activity, churning out thousands of new laws annually, covering everything from the availability of abortion to how much is spent on education to whether or not to participate in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. That puts a lot at stake in tomorrow's election.
The last midterm election was a sea change for state legislatures. Republicans picked up more than 675 seats across the country. Prior to the 2010 election, Republicans controlled 14 legislatures. Afterwards, they ran 26 — and that meant they could easily pass policies that might have had difficulty moving forward in the past.
One issue where you see this clearly is abortion. After the 2010 election, Republicans could easily pass more restrictive policies that faltered in previously-split legislatures. States passed 205 abortion regulations between 2010 and 2013, more than the 30 previous years combined.
The abortion laws that passed post-2010 were more restrictive than ones passed before then. Some states banned abortions after 20 weeks, earlier than any state had drawn the line before. Many barred insurance plans sold on Obamacare's new exchanges from offering coverage for abortion. The reduction in access has contributed to the closure of some clinics.
Similarly, legislatures in 26 states opted not to sign onto Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, something that could be reversed depending on Tuesday's results. These decisions will effect an estimated 4.8 million low-income Americans who do not have access to affordable insurance coverage. These legislators will decide whether its worth spending slightly more on Medicaid in order to get those people covered.
State legislatures can decide whether to reject the new Common Core standards (many have explored this type of legislation) — and decide how much money is spent on public schools in the first place. Since 2008, state spending on education has fallen by an average of 23 percent, or about $2,026 per student, because of budgets crafted and approved by legislators.
If these are the type of issues that you care about, then you have every reason to vote in Tuesday's election. There are 6,015 state legislative seats up for election this year, quite possibly including ones you can vote on. This tool from the League of Women Voter's is arguably the best resource available to learn about the particular candidates you'll see on your ballot tomorrow. Yes, learning about them is a bit of extra work, but it's almost certainly worth the effort given the amount of influence these soon-to-be-elected legislators will hold.