Midterms! When most people think of midterms, they may think about being back in high school or college and taking midterm exams. It’s usually a very stressful time full of sleepless nights and cramming study sessions. The only thing more dreadful than midterms, is finals. Well, what if I told you that midterms don’t end after graduation? What if I told you, that midterms would be one of the most important things you could participate in your adult life?
I’m talking about midterm elections, a topic that has been coming up a lot as of late. The importance of the midterm elections is immense, however, not many people show up and participate in them. If you’re politically ignorant like me, you may not even know that they are happening, but they are inherently vital to our democracy. Midterm elections may possibly be more important than the actual presidential election, but for some reason, they don’t seem to be covered as much. When I was younger, and by younger I mean like two years ago when I would’ve been old enough to know but willfully ignorant enough not to care, I had no idea what a midterm election was. To my knowledge, no one in my family ever participated in a midterm election so, to me, it just didn’t apply.
It wasn’t until this year that I realized the vital importance of midterm elections actually are. All elections are important and while general elections are, of course, important in terms of choosing who will be the representation of America as our president, the midterm elections are more important because that is where we choose the people who surround the president. These are the policy makers and influential leaders that work side by side with the president, making some of the most important decisions that will affect the public directly.
Midterm elections decide our House Representatives and Senate leaders will be. There are 435 House seats and 33 State Senate seats, and all of them are up for election. Why this is so important, the House and the Senate are the ones who actually draft the bills that could eventually become law. They are the leaders who are supposed to legislate on behalf of the American people, vote amongst themselves which portions of the bill they agree on, present it to the president where he can sign off on it and make it law.
Ok, so I think I’ve made my point, midterms are very important. And yet, despite the gravity of this election cycle, voter turnout for midterms is significantly lacking. According to an article on the University of Virginia Center for Politics website, from data that they collected from United States Elections Project, they have estimated the vast difference in voter turnout for midterm elections compared to presidential elections. On average, over 56% of the eligible voting population participate in presidential election while just short of 40% vote in midterms. I was shocked to see that both numbers seem to be drastically low, but the difference between the two is evident.
It makes sense, I guess. With increasing worry of voter fraud and reports of people literally being turned away at the polls, it’s no wonder people don’t want to show up. The general consensus is that all the elections are rigged, and I can see why they would think that way. It is very hard to have faith in our election system. And the fact that many people are uneducated about politics makes it easy for corruption to seep in and prove the skeptics right. I’m not going to get into how dark money in politics influences politicians on the post because it would be 10 pages long (i’ll save it for another time). But it is important to understand that our votes are still what matters most.
What’s even more important that the general midterm and presidential elections are the primary elections. The best way I know how to explain this is – a whole bunch of candidates from one party (let’s say democrats) put in their bid to run for office. Only one person can make it to the general election to run campaign against the other party (republicans). So what the primaries do is basically act like a chopping block and ultimately, one will come out on top, in a sense.
Turnout for primary elections is even less than turnout for the midterms because, again, no one knows about them. I sure as hell didn’t. Prior to this year, I just thought politicians just shot off corny attach ads and waited for scandals to surface until one person was left. Turns out, that’s not entirely the case. The majority of people that participate in primary elections are older people, retirees who have nothing but time to watch continuous news cycles and actually follow politics more closely. Younger people, like myself, either don’t know, don’t have time or don’t care to do so. So when it’s time for a general election and we finally do come out to participate, we are stuck choosing between two candidates that we feel doesn’t represent us. Basically, we are stuck with choosing the lesser of two evils.
It may seem like a(nother) full time job to follow politics and it may seem like a hopeless effort, but it is the only way to make sure that the people in office actually represent you. With the recent resurgence of the debate on gun violence (which really shouldn’t be a frickin’ debate – go see my last post), many young people are starting to realize the value of their vote in these elections. This years midterm elections will be one November 6, and significantly higher number of young voters are expected to participate, mainly due to the issue of gun control brought up by the most recent school shooting (massacre) in Parkland. To ensure that we get politicians that will actually and actively work on legislation regarding gun control, we need to show up for the primaries. We cannot let one side of the viewpoint be the only ones to show up otherwise we will keep getting stuck with the same sorry decisions.
So, with this, I urge you, please go out and vote. Follow this link to see when primary elections are in your state so you can have a better chance of securing your candidate in the general election. Research your local candidates, find out whose views and policies you agree with and whose you don’t. And please, vote on November 6, don’t lose hope in our democracy yet. Democracy fails when the people don’t use their voice so go out and use yours. Whatever your views may be, whether you are Republican or Democrat or Independent (like me), make sure that you are counted, make sure that you are truly being represented. We can create change I swear it, we just have to stand up. Don’t lose hope.