A Recap Of The Midterm Elections

 

(Ballotpedia, 2018)

You may or may not have heard that the Midterm elections recently happened on November 6th. There are some majorly significant trends that we can see from these elections, and I’ll try my best to break it down for you from as neutral a perspective as I can. While nonpolitical nerds might not be super interested in this graph, it illustrates an important factor to help understand the significance of the most recent midterm election. This graph shows voter turnout for the last 16 years. Even if you’re not good at statistics, you can see a very very very consistent trend. Presidential election years usually see around 60 percent of registered voters turn out, while midterms see around 40 percent voter participation. 2018 has completely reshaped this graph, so let's break down what it all means.

 

Bear with me, because this is about to be a little bit numbers heavy for a minute. Overall voter turnout in for the US this year was over 48 percent, a full 12 percent higher than the last midterm elections. Virginia’s voter turnout was over 54 percent, this is almost 20 percent higher than the 2014 midterm participation (US Election Project, 2018). This year saw comparable participation to most presidential elections in Virginia, but what does all of this mean?

 

There’s been some buzz around “The Trump Effect,” while conservative pundits label this as the turnout of previously disengaged rural voters who tend not to show up in pre-election polls, it seems that the Trump Effect is much bigger. Not only did the 2016 election bring out voters who were not previously engaged, but it also energized people on both sides of the aisle. Since the 2016 election, we have seen increased political activity on both sides, whether through rallies, protests, or through get out the vote initiatives. The frenzy of media activity hasn’t died down either. Pundits and activists on both sides of the aisle have continued to encourage supporters to participate, which is likely why this election had unprecedented turnout.  

 

Now let's get down to some of the results of that turnout. While some of the elections have not yet been called, due to the need for a recount or runoff, we can see some important trends. On the left, there was substantial talk of a “Blue Wave” leading up to this election. Most recognized the Blue Wave as the democratic party flipping all or the majority of seats in the House and Senate previously held by Republican legislators. A full one-third of the Senate was up for reelection and all of the seats in the 438 congressional seats were in play.

 

Prior to this election, Republicans controlled both the House and had a very slim majority in the Senate. Democrats were hoping the Blue Wave would help them gain control of both houses. They had some precedent to hope for this since the Democrats controlled both the House and Senate after President Obama’s first election and control was subsequently flipped during the following midterm election. However, the outcome wasn’t quite what they had hoped for.

 

After this election, it looks like the Republicans will retain control of the Senate and Democrats will take control of the House. Republicans picked up at least one seat in the Senate, and after recounts and runoffs, will likely pick up two more seats, increasing their majority. They also retain the majority of governorships by either picking up or retaining them. Democrats now control 225 seats in the House, giving them the majority, although 13 seats are yet to be officially declared. In both parties, this election has seen a record number of women and minority candidates running, which has resulted in some historic wins.

 

So what does this mean? A lot of people viewed this election as a report card for the Trump Administration. A full swing of the legislature would have indicated a general dissatisfaction with the Administration’s current policies. This didn’t happen. Results somewhat reflect the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election, with the President winning states and thus electoral college votes, but not the popular vote, which indicates regional popularity. Republicans retaining control of the Senate and even picking up seats indicates that they are still capable of winning statewide votes, however, they are suffering in regional (Congressional) elections. This trend is especially true in urban and suburban Congressional districts. Overall, it seems that support for the Administration has been retained since the 2016 election even sustaining voter turnout.

 

These results also have a huge impact on public policy for the next few years. First, since the Democrats have picked up control of the House, they will be responsible for appointing the chairperson for each committee. These committees control how legislation is heard and what amendments are added to new bills, but more importantly, they control the power to open investigations. Just as Republicans investigated perceived misconduct in the Obama Administration (i.e. Benghazi) and have chosen not to do so in many cases under the Trump Administration (i.e. Russian election meddling), the Democrats will now have the power to do this.

 

Second, Republicans will retain the power to confirm presidential nominations. Additionally, they have picked up more seats in the Senate, making confirmations even easier. This is significant since confirmation has been a slow and difficult process for Republicans to wade through in the last two years. This may allow them to make substantial and potentially permanent changes since the Supreme Court has many aging justices who could potentially vacate in the next few years.

 

Overall, this election was a huge outlier from previous years and is significant both due to sheer turnout and do to the implications it will have on public policy for the next several years and potentially beyond. As always, I encourage everyone to continue following the results of this election as they play out in public policy. Get to know your legislators and see which ones have changed. Understand what they believe in or their voting records and make sure you know how to contact them. Stay informed, stay active, and let’s help ensure increased participation is the new norm.

 

For more info on voting turnout and results:

https://ballotpedia.org/Voter_turnout_in_United_States_elections

http://www.electproject.org/2018g

https://www.cnn.com/election/2018/results/governor

https://apnews.com/