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Everything else on your ballot, explained

On November 8, Americans will head to the polls. In addition to electing a president, voters will be deciding down-ballot races that could have a major impact on national politics for years to come.

Most notably, candidates for both House and Senate will be running in contested races throughout the country. Importantly, the outcome of these races will determine which party controls Congress during the next president’s first years in office. Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, his leadership has been restricted by a Republican Congress; however, Democrats are threatening to regain control this year. If that were to happen, the political landscape of our country could shift significantly.

In addition to federal elections, voters will also decide state contests for both House and Senate seats. Crucially, state legislatures will redraw US congressional district boundaries in 2021. At that time, whoever controls the states will have a huge impact on national politics for years to come. Make sure to watch our video on gerrymandering to see how that works.

Besides electing officials, voters also have the chance to decide on major policy proposals. In states like California, Maine, and others, people have the chance to vote on measures concerning gun control, marijuana legalization, health care, and minimum wage. These ballot measures are an opportunity for citizens to vote directly on legislation, and the outcomes can have a major impact on the national policy. If California were to approve recreational marijuana, for instance, that would be a major victory for decriminalization advocates and a signal that federal legalization might not be that far off.

Even farther down the ballot, voters will find judicial elections. Throughout the country, special interest groups are targeting these contests in order to elect judges that decide in their favor. In the video above, we demonstrate that dynamic by examining the Supreme Court retention vote in Kansas, but similar elections are being held throughout the country.

Beyond these contests, there are even more races to be found at the bottom of the ballot. Down there, the races are mostly about local politics and concern municipal governance issues. To learn more, make sure to watch the video and visit Ballotpedia to find out what will be on your ballot.