You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that there is a presidential election going on. And you’ve probably seen countless TV ads from members of Congress asking for your votes. But did you know that in 46 states, state legislators are on the ballot, too? And in 23 states, the entire legislature – every single seat in the state legislature – is up for election.
|Click here to view interactive map on what's at stake on your ballot this year.|
State legislative races don’t normally get much attention, but they should. Laws passed in our state legislatures have an enormous impact on our daily lives. Think about Arizona’s SB 1070: it’s one of the nation’s most controversial anti-immigrant laws that targets Latinos and anyone else who may look or sound “foreign.” This single piece of discriminatory legislation inspired a wave of copycat bills introduced in legislatures across the country.
And what about the state-led effort to restrict voting? Since 2011, 18 state legislatures have passed voting restrictions that make it harder for Americans to vote, many of them African-Americans, seniors, students and people with disabilities.
And don’t get me started on how state legislatures across the country have gone after a woman’s right to access the full spectrum of reproductive health services. This year, Georgia and Arizona banned abortion just at the point of pregnancy when a woman could find out that something has gone seriously wrong. Legislators in Mississippi gloated over passing a bill that could effectively put an end to safe, legal abortion in the state.
Don’t get me wrong. State legislatures aren’t only a place for discrimination and harm. They can also be a force for good – state legislatures can be leaders in the fight to protect our civil liberties. This year, the Maryland and Washington state legislatures passed historic legislation granting lesbian and gay couples the freedom to marry. In April, the Connecticut legislature repealed the death penalty, and over the last five years, legislatures in New Mexico, Illinois, and New Jersey have done the same.
State legislatures are a battleground for our rights and liberties. And it’s up to us to choose who will represent our interests at the State Capitol. So find out who is up for election in your state legislature, educate yourself about where they stand on issues that are important to you, and vote your values on Election Day. When your state legislature starts to debate the issues of our generation, make sure that you’ve elected lawmakers who will defend our fundamental freedoms.