December 4, 2022

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Issues Voters Will Consider Heading into 2021’s Off-Year Elections

Photo by Tiffany Tertipes

After a year like 2020, it’s normal to want to take a political breather. Most of us spend election years overdosing on news, politics, and candidates so that we can then exhale when the election is over. However, the cycle doesn’t stop. Although federal elections do not take place in off-years, city and state elections may occur depending on election schedules or whether a representative has left office. Off-year elections are just as important to participate in, and arguably more impactful because they affect what is close to home. They have the power to impact a voter’s day-to-day life and set the trajectory for upcoming midterm and general election cycles.

With the exception of some special elections, off-year elections happen on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, just like the normal election cycle. That makes 2021’s election date, November 2nd. While hundreds of local elections will take place across the country, 10 elections are statewide, 2 of those are gubernatorial, and 1 of those is for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Key Races to Watch

Virginia Gubernatorial Election

Virginia’s race for Governor is a high-profile one, replacing term-limited Governor Ralph Northam. Currently, the state is entirely controlled by Democrats and could potentially stay that way if Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe secures the governorship. However, he is running against popular Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, who is known for supporting President Trump while also trying to maintain appeal to the state’s more moderate voters. According to recent polls, this election could be very close and is certainly one to watch.

Issues Virginia Voters Will Consider

Since securing control of the state House of Delegates, Senate, and Governorship, Virginia Democrats have made several strides in policy reform, primarily expanding voter access. The state has become one of the easiest to vote in, making the issue of voter rights versus election integrity a topic of debate in this race for governor. Early in his campaign, Younkin expressed concern for election integrity and called for creating “election integrity commissions.” McAuliffe’s campaign has addressed the issue as well, asserting that the current audit procedure is enough to ensure election integrity.

Following the 2020 presidential election, a Politico poll found that 70% of Republicans believed the election was not free and fair. Being that this has become a national conversation, Virginia voters are sure to consider this issue when heading to the polls.

Ohio Special Election for the U.S. House of Representatives

The race for the Ohio’s 15th district will be a competitive one, as the district is rather split by party lines. While Ohio is typically a red state, the 15th district is known to be less conservative. Trump endorsed candidate, Mike Carey, will be running against Democrat Allison Russo. While winning this seat will not change the party control of the House, it will indicate what to expect from Ohio in the 2022 midterms.

It’s an uphill battle for Russo, but she and other Democrats are referencing the 2018 win for Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in the 15th district for hope. Anything is possible and both parties view this race as opportunity to create momentum heading into ’22 midterms.

Issues Ohio Voters Will Consider

Republican Carey’s platform highlights controversial topics such as critical race theory and abortion. Both topics are highly topical given the 2020 protests against police brutality, and the recent abortion laws sweeping the states. He’s also advertised his Trump endorsement, referencing it throughout his campaign and on his merchandise. These tactics are proving the influence President Trump has over Republicans, however, may hinder him with more moderate voters in the district.

Pennsylvania Judicial Elections

States across the country will elect state judges who yield the power to interpret the law. While these elections tend to get less media coverage, they have the influence to change the course of a state’s legislation. The judges either overturn or set precedent with every case they face. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Superior Court, and Commonwealth Court all have vacant seats that will be filled on November 2nd.

Pennsylvania’s judicial races are high profile because their courts played influential roles following the 2020 presidential election. The Commonwealth Court was the first to address lawsuits from the Trump campaign, contesting the state’s election proceedings. The seven Republican judges sided with President Trump, one decision confirming no-excuse vote-by-mail violated the state’s constitution. As these cases made their way to the state’s Supreme Court, they were then overturned. These decisions impacted the results of a presidential election, proving the judicial branches’ immense power even at the state level.

Issues Pennsylvania Voters Will Consider

The Pennsylvania courts have been controversial in recent years. Between decisions regarding gerrymandering, voter laws, and the Trump campaign lawsuits, voters are keeping the future of elections in mind.

Boston Mayoral Election

No matter the outcome, the Boston mayoral race is guaranteed to be historic. If either candidate were to win, they would be the first woman and first person of color to be elected mayor of Boston. Although they are both Democrats, Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George have gone head to head regarding many topics. The race has grown competitive as some have called it a “progressive-versus-moderate clash.” Wu is currently the frontrunner who is labeled as more progressive, while Essaibi George has claimed the moderate approach.

Issues Boston Voters Will Consider

One of the largest issues Wu and Essaibi George have debated is police reform. Essaibi George set herself apart from all other candidates by rejecting the idea of cutting down on police funding. Rather, she advocates for the hiring of a more diverse team of officers to solve the issue of police brutality. Wu denounces this effort, clearly stating her support for the defunding of police forces. They’ve also debated hot topics like rent control, school and test procedures, climate change, and public transportation. Again, although they are of the same party, they have shown stark differences in their approach to solving each problem.

Issues Voters Across the Country Will Consider

While some races gain more traction, there are hundreds of others at the local level taking place on November 2nd. Given national conversations along with Pew Research election surveys and Google trends data, it is clear that the following issues are on a voter’s mind when heading to the polls this year.

  • Abortion
  • Budgets
  • Climate Change
  • COVID Regulations
  • Criminal Justice
  • Election Reform
  • Health Care
  • Housing
  • Medicaid
  • Pensions
  • Policing
  • Racism
  • Redistricting
  • Transportation

Find Out Where Candidates Stand on the Issues You Care About

With Voterly’s newest Issues feature, you can go on a politician’s profile and see where they stand on up to 30 different issues, including many of those listed above! Search the candidates on your ballot using our browse politicians tool and view their profile to find what issues matter most to them. From there, you can click on each, individual issue to see the politicians’ stance based on a calculation of interest group ratings.

To learn more about our most interactive feature, check out our previous blog explaining it all in-depth. Happy voting!


Issues Voters Will Consider Heading into 2021’s Off-Year Elections was originally published in Voterly on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.