Recently, you have probably heard about the midterm elections around school, seen “I Voted” stickers floating around, and noticed celebrities spreading the importance of voting in the midterms all over social media. But no one has really explained what the midterm elections are…so what are they?
Midterm elections are held in November at the midpoint of a president’s four-year term in office. The members of the United States Congress are up for election which includes all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 35 out of 100 seats in the United States Senate. Furthermore, 36 governors are elected during midterm elections as well as some officers in the state legislature, mayors, and other local public offices.
On Tuesday, November 6th, the 2018 midterm election turnout reached an all new high with an estimated 113 million voters who cast their ballot, making it the first year that the midterms exceeded 100 million votes. According to the United States Election Project, “nearly 48% of eligible voters exercised their right in these midterms, compared to almost 39% in the 2014 election.” This is huge for the U.S. because more voters means that more Americans are exercising their right to have a say in who is elected to the House of Representatives, the Senate, and state governor.
One of the most highly anticipated aspects of this election was the promised “Blue Wave,” a movement Democrats were hoping for because it would have allowed their party to gain more power in the federal government, something that has been a challenge with a Republican president. Though there is still debate over whether or not the elections results were dramatic enough to declare a “Blue Wave,” Democrats took the House of Representatives back from the Republicans by securing the 218 seats they needed to gain control of it. On the other hand, the Republicans reclaimed their place in the Senate and even spread to the majority within it. As a result, Donald Trump tweeted, “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!”
Besides the two big wins for each political party, the midterm elections were a substantial victory for women, racial minorities, and the LGBT+ community, with record-breaking wins for each demographic. In the 116th Congress, there will be 23 senators and more than 100 women in the House of Representatives, meaning that at least 23% of the seats in Congress will be women. In addition, Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Republican Marsha Blackburn became Tennessee’s first female senator. Democrats Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids became the first Native American women elected to Congress. Republican Kristi Noem became South Dakota’s first female governor. Jared Polis became the first openly gay man elected governor in Colorado. These are only a few of many historic candidates and winners in the midterm elections.
However, no election comes without its controversial issues. In Florida, there has been an unprecedented three statewide machine and hand recounts ordered for state governor, senator and a cabinet position after the closely fought midterm election in the state. The recount was required by law because unofficial results in both races had fallen within a margin of 0.5%; after hearing this news, Donald Trump accused Democrats of trying to steal the election saying in a tweet, “Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!”. Then the state ordered a recount by hand because the machine recount showed a 0.25% or less between the candidates. Two weeks after the midterm elections, the results finally came in on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 for Florida with Republican Ron DeSantis defeating Andrew Gillum for governor, Republican Rick Scott defeated Democrat former senator Bill Nelson for the Senate, and for the cabinet position of agriculture commissioner, Democrat Nikki Fried defeated Republican Matt Caldwell.
This election proved to be one for the history books and showed an example for generations to come about the importance of voting. Look out for the presidential election in 2020 and the next midterm election in 2022!