It’s four in the afternoon and you’re in your dorm room just starting your Psychology of Millennials essay that’s due at midnight, when someone knocks on your door and shoves a piece of paper in your face. ‘Pennsylvania Voter Registration Application’ it says. You remember midterm elections are coming up but you don’t really know what those words mean so you shut the door in this random person’s face and you go back to your essay. But at the back of your mind you’re wondering, what are the midterm elections and why should I bother voting? And why did I never take an intro to government class?
The midterm elections occur every four years, halfway between presidential elections. Elections for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives occur every two years, while only one-third of the Senate is up for election because members of the Senate serve staggered six-year terms. Currently, the Republican Party holds the majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate with 51 seats needed for control of the Senate and 218 needed for the House.
In the Pennsylvania midterms, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Lou Barletta are running for the Senate while Democrat Susan Wild and Republican Marty Nothstein are running for the 7th District House seat. These are the people Muhlenberg students will be voting for, if they decide to cast their ballot on campus.
Voter turnout for elections that aren’t presidential are often disappointing, but people seem to be more engaged with this year’s midterms than they usually are. Turnout has surged in the states that have held their congressional primaries with a four percent increase (six percent of registered voters to 10.1 percent) in ballots cast for the Democratic House primaries and a 0.9 percent increase (from seven percent to 7.9%) for the Republican House primaries. This spike in voter participation is indicative of the high stakes in this upcoming election.
The outcome of the election will be significant for both parties, desperate to win control of Congress. With a Democrat majority in the Senate, Judge Kavanaugh and other Supreme Court nominees could be blocked from confirmation. If Republicans maintain control of Congress, some of President Trump’s key legislative agendas, like repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), could be revived. However, with a Democrat majority, legislation against the party’s agendas can be prevented from passing. Perhaps most importantly, if the Democrats were to gain a House majority, it would allow them to launch impeachment proceedings against the President.
Younger generations make up a majority of the electorate, but they are not the majority of those actually voting, with those aged 18 to 35 continuing to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. “Every vote counts” is an old and tired expression but with every election it rings truer and louder.
In March, Pennsylvania held a special election for a seat in the House of Representatives with Democrat Conor Lamb winning by only 750 votes in a Republican-held district. This was largely seen as a herald for the midterms, with both parties vying for control of Congress, it’s likely the results will be just as close as the special election. With 18 seats in the House being contended for in Pennsylvania, the outcome of major key policies could very well depend on us as a generation and our decision to be active or passive participants in our future.
Deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 9. The congressional elections will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6.