Voter Turnout Underwhelms in Midterm Elections
By the time election results started to roll in late Tuesday, November 6, one verdict was already clear: voter turnout in the midterm elections was projected at an all-time high. Perhaps spurred by the political controversies and tragic headlines that have defined the last two years of the Trump administration, voters turned out to the polls in record-setting numbers for a midterm election on Tuesday.
Over 113 million Americans participated in the 2018 midterm elections, making this midterm the first in U.S. history to surpass 100 million votes. Voters mobilized in droves, with significant increases in Democratic turnout across the country, representing 38 percent of total votes. Republicans accounted for 32 percent of the vote, and independent voters made up the remaining 30 percent. Compared with election statistics from four years ago, this election saw a noticeable shift towards the Democrats, gaining a two percent increase, while the Republicans lost five percent of the overall vote according to ABC News.
Yet despite the forecast of a subversive “blue wave,” progressives lost in key elections. Andrew Gillum failed to net more votes than conservative Ron DeSantis for Governor of Florida; Beto O’Rourke failed to defeat incumbent Ted Cruz for senator in Texas. As this paper went to press, Democrat Stacey Abrams was still trailing Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the too-close-to-call Georgia gubernatorial race. Nationally, the Democrats lost two seats in the Senate.
While the effort to shift Congress to a Democratic majority was somewhat successful with the gain of 27 seats in the House, many constituents nonetheless felt disappointed. For many Americans, the results of Tuesday’s midterm offered no surprises. And if they did, many are still disenchanted with the political system that enables politicians to systematically oppress minorities.
Sophomore Tania Jaramillo relates this to their own experience both in the U.S. and abroad. “Fundamentally, the United States of America is a colonialist project for the accumulation of capital built upon the domination of its black, brown and indigenous subjects,” they said. “This is clear to me as a Latinx person, as a Puerto Rican, as someone who spent most of my childhood in the Middle East. The blatant commodification of the Latinx vote by the Democratic party only underscores this for me. Vote if you want, but recognize the intense privilege of feeling represented by a colonial project and the ability to ignore the violence it intently enacts within its borders, its territories and as an occupying force."
Many reports of attempted voter suppression cast light on the continuing struggle to represent marginalized groups. Instances of voter intimidation and suppression were reported in voting districts comprised of poor and minority voters. However, in response to these intimidation tactics, voting actually increased among some underrepresented demographics in this year’s midterm. Galvanized, and focused on garnering support for candidates able to support the interests of the oppressed, the percentage of candidates who identify with marginalized groups represented in the polls this year was another widely recognized achievement.
One instance of this attempt to stifle marginalized voices was a new voter ID law in North Dakota, which mandated that voters displayed identification with a street address instead of just a post office box. The law disproportionately affected Native Americans in the state. In response to this arguably unconstitutional law, however, voter turnout in Sioux County was higher than it has been since 2008.
Oregon Election Results
In Oregon, voter turnout hit an all-time high for a midterm election. As of 1:00 p.m. on November 7, 1.87 million Oregonians voted — 67.8 percent of those eligible. In comparison, only 50.9 percent of eligible Oregonians voted in the 2014 midterms.
Incumbent Governor Kate Brown was narrowly re-elected, winning 49.5 percent of the vote as of 8:00 p.m. on November 7. Incumbents also won in all House races in Oregon, maintaining the state’s balance of four Democratic and one Republican representatives.
Of the five statewide measures on the November ballot, only one, Measure 102, passed. Measure 102 was for bonds to build affordable housing in Oregon. Measure 103, which did not pass, would have prohibited municipalities from implementing their own grocery taxes. Measure 104, which also failed to pass, would have required a two-thirds majority in state legislature to pass any bills to raise revenue through changes in tax exemptions. Measure 105 also failed — this measure would have repealed Oregon’s status as a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants. Finally, Measure 106 did not pass either. It would have banned the use of public funds for abortions.
A record number of women were elected to the House. Over 270 women ran for Congress and governor and 119 were elected, the majority of which were Democrats. 44 women of color were elected, making history both nationally and in their respective states. Texas elected two Latinas, Veronica Escobar (D) and Sylvia Garcia (D), to Congress for the first time in Texas history. Ayanna Pressley (D) became the first black woman from the state of Massachusetts to be elected to Congress. Ilhan Omar (D) and Rashida Tlaib (D) were the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress, and Debra Haaland (D) became the first Native American woman to be elected to Congress. New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) was the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress at the age of 29. Finally, with Gretchen Whitmer (D) as Michigan’s new Governor, the Flint Water Crisis is much more likely to end within the next few years.