The Environmental Case for Voting in the 2020 Election


By: Jen Walling, Executive Director

People often ask for advice on ways that the everyday person can actually make a difference for our environment. Voting always makes my top five list. Here’s why: Elections deeply impact environmental policy. So I hope that you have already voted or plan to cast your vote before the polls close tomorrow. 

With Election Day right around the corner, I want to take the time to remind you that your vote matters. I understand that some people have grown skeptical of this premise, but let me offer a bit of proof for why I know this to be true.

In 2014–just six years ago–a resolution denying climate change, supporting coal, and opposing the federal Clean Power Plan passed the Illinois House with a vote of 66-32. Environmentalists fought hard to defeat this resolution, but ultimately, the majority of the General Assembly voted in favor of denying climate change.

Fast forward to last year, when a vote to repeal the Kyoto Protocol Act, a law prohibiting Illinois from regulating carbon emissions, passed with a vote of 66-44. This was likely the first bill to ever solely address climate change in the Illinois General Assembly. 

It’s safe to say that now, just six years after the crushing passage of the 2014 House resolution denying climate change, a majority of the 101st General Assembly recognizes climate change and supports action to address it.

How did that happen? People voted their environmental values in an election that turned the tide in our General Assembly. The difference in support for taking action on our climate crisis between 2014 and 2019 came from new elected officials. In other words, your vote can change A LOT in a short amount of time.

While IEC educates incumbent and incoming lawmakers on environmental issues, education sometimes isn’t enough. There are some lawmakers with deeply held beliefs that don’t understand or prioritize the science of environmental issues. They need to be replaced with new public servants who do.

This year, IEC introduced a brand new initiative to help educate and mobilize voters with environmental values. In our 2020 Election Center, you’ll find tools to help you register to vote, find your polling location, look up candidates and issues on your ballot and more. All of it is quickly and easily accessible at your fingertips–personalized to you.

Know your legislators’ track records before you cast your vote. Don’t forget about our 2020 Lifetime Environmental Scorecard! Look up the lawmakers representing you to determine if they’ve acted on behalf of the people, plants, animals and ecosystems that rely on their protection.

While this election is possibly the most important of our lifetime, we believe that participating in our democratic systems by voting in every election is critical to our work of building power for people and the environment. It should be prioritized in our culture and in our workplaces. We live that value at IEC. Our offices are closed on Election Day and we encourage our staff to sign up as election judges and be part of the process.

Voting alone won’t solve all of our problems, but it is a critical step that you can take to protect the environment. Make your voice heard before polls close on Tuesday, and then join us for Virtual Clean Energy Lobby Day on November 12 to push lawmakers to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act before year’s end. Lobby Day is free and no prior lobbying experience is required. We’ll teach you everything you need to know! Click here to register.

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