The halfway point in ourcurrent presidential term is approaching, which means that midterm elections will be taking place on Nov. 6. These elections are held for members of local, state and congressional office, but they may be more exciting than you think, even without a presidential nod at the finish line.
The upcoming midterm elections are garnering particular attention because they could lead to a major power shift in the federal government. Currently, there are 236 Republicans, 193 Democrats and with six vacancies making up the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate is comprised of 51 members of the president’s party and 49 Democratic members. However, there a number of toss-up districts that may potentially shift the power within the United States legislative branch. Just a handful of Democratic wins in the U.S. House of Representatives could spell trouble for President Trump by making it more difficult for the president to carry out his judicial and legislative agenda leading up to 2020.
Another area of concern in the midterms is redistricting. Redistricting refers to the process in which states draw new electoral boundaries based on U.S. Census data, with the number of representatives per state and per congressional district based on population. This means that every 10 years, political power is redistributed. State legislators, who are responsible for redistricting, are also elected in the midterms. Thus, the increased potential for gerrymandering – or redistricting with partisan motives – makes these interim elections critical. Representatives are the closest thing that American people have to a voice in the federal government, and all 435 seats in the U.S. House, as well as one-third of Senate seats, will be up for grabs. Each state is represented by two senators, who each serve a six-year term. In such a potentially pivotal midterm election, it is crucial that voters turn out to have their voices heard.
Midterm elections tend to have a much smaller voter turnout than presidential elections. Voters may feel as though these elections are inconsequential and sometimes forget about them or elect to simply stay home. While presidential elections usually attract about 50 to 60 percent of eligible voters, midterms only garner about 40 percent. Admittedly, presidential elections tend to have greater media coverage and a larger amount of hype than the midterms. This doesn’t, however lessen the importance of midterm elections. These positions are meant to serve the voice of the American people and have the power to change the course of the next presidential election.
Historically known as a time in which the American people voice their opinions on the current president’s term in office, the midterm elections have caused trouble for most presidents. If the nation is unhappy with the president, they will likely elect the opposing party into congressional seats in hopes of limiting the president’s agenda.Presidents such asFDR, Trumanand Obama all fell defenseless to midterm elections. The American people disagreed with these presidents’ strategies, such as those covering war and healthcare, costing them hundreds of seats essential to successful policy implementation. Several other presidents, however, such as President Clinton in 1998 and President George W. Bush in 2002, have not fallen victim to a midterm election “shellacking” and were able to bring their policies to fruition.
This story was originally published in our October 2018 issue.