As we all know by now, the 2020 presidential election was hotly contested, or at least it was by one party. Many far-right Republicans (including the former president himself) still maintain that Donald Trump won reelection, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It was arguably the least peaceful presidential transfer of power in history, during which many of us believe that Donald Trump incited an insurrection on the nation’s Capitol, launching an ongoing investigation about his involvement in the riot that cost lives. With some Republicans across the country decrying election fraud and questioning the sanctity of our democracy, next week’s midterm election is more critical than ever.

The U.S. Senate could flip to Republicans; reproductive rights, among many others (same-sex marriage, contraception and voting rights, to name a few), are at risk. The question of whether to guarantee abortion rights in Vermont’s Constitution is on the ballot. And Vermonters have our first contested Senate and Congressional elections in years. With longstanding Senator Patrick Leahy retiring after 48 years in office, Congressman Peter Welch is running for his seat, challenged by Republican and political newcomer Gerald Malloy.

Democratic state Senator Becca Balint and Republican nominee Liam Madden are vying for Welch’s seat in the House. The legality of Madden’s campaign financing has recently been brought into question after he admitted to funneling money to his campaign from his wife’s business through allegedly illegal contributions “by” his 3-year-old son and other family members in order to qualify for debates. If Balint wins, we would finally have our first woman in Congress, not to mention the first openly gay Congresswoman. And locally, Representative Maxine Grad is retiring after 22 years with four candidates running for two Washington-2 seats (Dems Kari Dolan and Dara Torre and Independents Rebecca Baruzzi and Gene Bifano).

In short, this election really matters. It could sway the future of our Valley, our state, and our country. At a time when many Americans no longer believe in free and fair elections, it couldn’t be more important to get out there and vote. The midterm election is on Tuesday, November 8, and local polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. You can also drop off ballots at the town offices.