Young Voters and Midterm Elections: What’s the Connection?
Over the past three months, political ads have flooded the media, whether it was via YouTube, the evening news, or even pop-up ads, signifying the arrival of midterms. Tuesday, November 8, 2022, marked the midterm elections for numerous officeholders, with most candidates having started their campaigns months in advance. Midterm elections happen two years in between the quadrennial presidential elections, in which different members of Congress must run for re-election at the end of their terms. Due to the House of Representatives and the Senate having different term lengths–two and six years, respectively–members of both chambers run during midterms. However, only thirty-five seats in the Senate are up for election due to the longer term lengths. The results of these elections determine the political makeup of both chambers, which can be the deciding point for the following two years’ legislative agenda.
This practice started in the 19th century with the 1858 midterms, four years after the formation of the Republican Party. Since their inception, midterm elections have showcased a trend of the sitting president’s party losing a significant number–usually double-digits–of congressional seats in the races. In 1858, the Republican Party was only four years old but managed to gain twenty-six seats, while incumbent President Buchanan’s party, the Democrats, lost forty-nine seats. This is a common trend because the public has had time to view the current administration’s policies and use their vote to express their dissatisfaction. However, this year’s midterms have broken that cycle, with Democrats, President Biden’s party, only losing the House of Representatives by a slim margin. In total, the Democratic Party lost nine seats in the House of Representatives and gained one seat in the Senate.
Historically, midterm elections have had low voter turnout, especially compared to presidential elections, but that does not lessen their importance. In recent years, an increasingly contentious political climate has led to skyrocketing voter turnouts, defying all expectations. Why does it matter? It is essential because it gives people a way to communicate to their congressional representatives what is important to them and their communities. Voting and elections are what are known as linkage institutions, organizations that allow civilians to express their voice to their government, and young voters are taking advantage of them. Since the 2016 elections, more citizens have turned 18 and can legally vote, leading to greater voter turnout for ages 18-29.
In this year’s midterms, young voters have been the key difference between one winner and another, so keep that in mind for all turning 18 because your vote could shape the future of the country, which is a huge responsibility. Make a habit of voting, start young, and pay attention to the surrounding world because increased involvement can lead to more record-breaking elections.
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