Your Vote Counts: It is Time to Turn The Tide

American politics has been on shaky ground for a long time, but the past few months have been particularly tumultuous. From watching Dr. Ford’s brave testimony of her sexual assault by now-Supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh, to a New York times investigation revealing more of Trump’s tax evasion, the news often feels like an emotional rollercoaster. It can be easy to get overwhelmed. But, while it is definitely important to be cognizant of your mental health, paying attention to what is happening in our government is more essential now more than ever. The easiest way to make a difference? Vote.

Lately, it seems like the midterm elections are all anyone is talking about on campus, and on your timeline. But what exactly are they? Midterm elections occur every two years, between presidential elections. At minimum, they involve the reelection of all 435 members of the House of Representatives, and one third of the members of the Senate, but can also include races at the state and local levels. If it’s been a bit since you’ve taken a government class, the House of Representatives is based on state population, and representatives serve for two years. The Senate is made up of two senators from each state, who typically serve for six-year terms. Together, the House of Representatives and the Senate make up Congress.

But even though we vote for these people to representing us in D.C, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are an accurate representation of the actual U.S. population. Though the 115th Congress is technically the most diverse, there is still a lot of progress to be made. Here’s a quick breakdown of the diversity of Congress* compared with the rest of the U.S.

  • Only 19% of Congress is nonwhite (African American, Hispanic, Asian American/Pacific Islanders, and Native American), compared to 34% of the nation.
  • White men make up 76% of Congress, but only 31% of the U.S. population
  • Women make up 21% of Congress, compared to 51% of our population
  • Around 51% of Congress are millionaires, compared to America’s 5% of millionaires
  • In terms of education, 98% of Congress has at least a 4-year degree, but as of 2015, only 33% of Americans 25 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree.

*Source: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/02/the-changing-face-of-congress-in-5-charts/, https://www.good.is/infographics/infographic-what-congress-would-look-like-if-it-really-represented-america, https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-10-24/despite-diverse-demographics-most-politicians-are-still-white-men

Besides making Congress more reflective of our population, here are some other issues your vote will impact:

1) Women’s Healthcare- Last year alone, 19 states passed new laws limiting abortion access. Republican-governed states are cutting funding and access to other important resources for women’s healthcare, including Planned Parenthood. Kavanagh’s confirmation also has many people worried about the potential repeal of Roe v. Wade.

2) The Environment- The U.N. just released a report saying that the world has 12 years to reduce greenhouse gases, before we see serious effects of climate change (like droughts, floods, and extreme heat, which could lead to food shortages and poverty). The Trump Administration has already proposed rolling back major environmental legislation—like weakening methane standards and repealing the Clean Power Plan.

3)  LGBTQ rights: Lately, many red states have introduced bills that restrict LGBTQ rights, while blue states are pushing to expand these rights. Representation at the state level will have a big impact on the direction of future rights for the LGBTQ community.

4) Gun Policy- The conversation around gun control has been an ongoing one, but the February shooting in Parkland, Florida sparked the biggest activism movement yet. Some states are starting to pass more restrictive gun laws, but there is still a long way to go. The representatives we vote into office now will have a significant impact on how future gun policy is shaped.

These are just a few of the issues at stake, but you can learn about all of them right here. No matter what happens, the impact of this election will be felt for decades to come.

Before you head to the polls, make sure that you know where your  polling location is, and that you have the appropriate forms of ID. For ideas about how to talk to your friends about these issues, check out this guide.

Even though our political climate can be exhausting, now is the time to make your voice heard. After all, in the immortal words of the Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”