This page covers information regarding sustainability and voting terms. To return to the main about page, click here.


If you found this website, it means you have a varying degree of interest in sustainability and “green” practices, either in your everyday life or in the world of politics. Here’s a quick recap of why you should be concerned with how your politicians are voting when it comes to sustainable energy and greener options for corporations and consumers:

1. Without Congressional and governmental help, many corporations will continue to use methods of production that are harmful to the environment, even when other sustainable options are available. Voting someone into Congress that cares about the environment and sustainable practices means that our country has a better chance of remaining economically and ecologically vibrant.

2. Although it’s great that you recycle and wear second-hand clothes and are simply A HUGE FAN of Seventh Generation products, without regulation, corporations will continue to do the bare minimum necessary to adhere to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. (Even if these guidelines are a start, they aren’t nearly stringent enough to create the kind of necessary impact to reduce pollution and curate a corporate interest in sustainable energy.) And let’s be real, these are (mainly) the real causes of pollution and rampant consumerism in America (and worldwide). Again, voting helps put someone into office that, minimally, supports the EPA, and maximally, wants America to succeed and expand into the world of sustainable energy and the opportunities it provides.

3. Sustainable energy is a new source of barely explored potential energy. The jobs it could (and already has – pdf download) created would begin to show in our economy and employment rates. Our environment would begin to help us survive and thrive, without us destroying it. Imagine not having to see heartbreaking ads about starving polar bears anymore.

Terms you should know

If you’re familiar with voting/political lingo, you can skip down to the next section! If you can’t quite remember why the congressional midterms are important, stick around and let us help you out.

U.S. Congress is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Elections are held in each state and each congressional county within each state, to decide who is in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. Unlike the president, members of Congress do not have a limit on how many terms they can serve.

U.S. House of Representatives has 435 members that are elected from each congressional county within each state. They serve a 2-year term and run for reelection every 2 years. Talk about a lot in campaign funds! The House of Representatives is important because it represents a more broken-down portion of each state, as opposed to the Senate. If you don’t know what Congressional district you’re in, you should be able to find it on your voter’s registration card, or you can find it via your zip code here.

U.S. Senate only has 100 members, 2 for each state. They serve for 6 years on rotating terms. This means that the country as a whole only elects one-third of the Senate every midterm election, and a state will only elect a maximum of one U.S. Senator per midterm election. (Some states don’t elect any at all!) The Senate is cool because it divides its members into committees. A Committee is basically a small group of people who seem to know a lot about a specific subject, and they create legislation for Congress, as a whole, to vote on. Sometimes Senators are voted onto committees by their peers, and sometimes they just join.

State House of Representatives – We aren’t focusing on the State House of Representatives, but they are loosely structured in the same way as the Federal House of Representatives, just for your state instead. (And you should still vote in for a candidate!)

State Senate – Same thing as the State House of Representatives except with the Senate.

Congressional Primary elections are when voters get to decide which candidates they want to pit against each other down the road in the general Congressional elections (or midterm elections). Basically what happens in a primary election is that a voter decides which party they will want to vote for (Democrat, Republican, etc.) and then they will pick a candidate from within that party to eventually run against a candidate from the other parties (in most cases and in most states). There are different ways to vote in primary and general congressional elections in each state, but we will get to that later.

Midterm elections – Maybe you’ve watched House of Cards and kinda know what the Midterms are. Or you just have an idea of why they’re important if you follow politics closely. But any way you slice it, the Midterms are important for a few reasons.

First, a definition: The midterm elections are what the U.S. calls the congressional elections that happen halfway through a President’s term in office. They are important because 1.) They’re a good indication of how the country feels towards the current president and his party, therefore giving people an idea about how reelection will go, and 2.) They are a prediction of how much a President will be able to get done while in Office. Without a sympathetic or, in some cases, manipulable Congress, the President won’t be able to get laws or bills passed, and then he won’t be able to deliver on his campaign promises. So, midterm elections are not just important for the country, but for the President as well.

A runoff is another election that happens after the primary elections. Only some states hold a runoff in the event that a candidate has not been selected according to a state’s policy. For example, North Carolina requires its candidates to have 40% of the votes plus one in order to move on to the midterm elections in November. If not, the state holds a runoff election between the top candidates in order to narrow it down to one per party. We will be sure to notify you if your state has a similar policy.

An incumbent is just a fancy way to say someone’s already sitting in an elected office in government somewhere.

Poll types are different for each state and can even differ between the parties of each state. Most states have one poll type, but because some states allow their parties to choose a poll type, there are states with multiple types. Use our map to find your state’s poll type.

Open: Basically an open primary means that a voter can choose in which primary they want to vote in. A little confusing, but when you go vote in the primaries, you’re not just choosing to vote for one person against another person of the opposing party. Instead, you’re selecting which candidate from a specific party you want to run in the midterm elections against whichever candidate the other party(s) elects. For open polls, a voter decides which party they want to help narrow the candidate selection down for. This means that voters can choose whichever party they want, and they don’t even have to vote for their selected candidate in the general elections if they end up liking a different candidate more. Note that you can only vote for one candidate in one party.

Semi-closed: This type of poll is similar to an open poll, except that only unaffiliated voters can cross party lines. So if a voter is registered as a Democrat, they can’t vote in a Republican primary, even if the poll is on the same physical piece of paper, at the same time, in the same place. No can do. Only registered voters with no party affiliation can choose to vote in either primary. (They can’t vote in both, though. Still gotta pick just one.)

Closed: A closed type caters specifically to party lines. This type only allows voters who are registered with a specific party to vote, and then they can only vote in their own party’s primary (even if they decide that they want to cross party lines this election). Naturally, unaffiliated voters can’t vote in closed primaries, so if you live in a state that has closed polls, it may be wise to look into which party you most closely identify with, and register so that you can actually vote.

Top-Two: This poll lets people vote for whoever they want, despite party lines, like an open-poll. The two candidates with the most votes run against each other in the general election, even if they are in the same party. So if two democratic Senator candidates come out of the primaries with the top two amounts of votes, they will be running against each other. Same goes if it’s Republicans, or a Democrat and a Republican, or a member of the Green party, or a write-in or…. You get the idea.

Mixed: This is not an official poll type, but many states have multiple systems. Some state legislatures allow individual political parties to decide whether or not they want to let unaffiliated voters vote in their primary. It can change from year to year, and gives the party some leeway if they think that their opposing party has a strong registered voter presence. In this case, it’s still a gamble on whether or not you should register with a party, because in some cases you may only be able to vote for a specific party or not at all. Because this is extra confusing, we’ve done a little breakdown for each mixed state based on recent trends.

  • Alabama – Closed: Democrat. Open: Republican.
  • Alaska – Closed: Republican. Open: Democrat, Libertarian, and Alaskan Independence parties.
  • Oklahoma – Closed: Republican, Libertarian. Semi-open: Democrat.
  • South Dakota – Closed: Republican, Libertarian, and Constitution parties. Semi-closed: Democrat.

The following is a list of states that can have mixed poll types due to their legislature but have mostly stuck to just one in the past.

  • Idaho – Semi-closed
  • Main – Closed
  • Maryland – Closed
  • West Virginia – Semi-closed

Sources: Link 1 | Link 2