Staff Editorial

STAFF EDITORIAL: Midterm Elections: You Can’t Afford to Sit This One Out

Mary Chappell | The Phoenix

Midterm elections don’t get the credit they deserve. While presidential elections have usually drawn the biggest voter turnout numbers, midterms have always proven to be just as consequential — yet their turnout numbers are dismal.

That should change. The truth is midterms, while featuring a huge swath of candidates across hundreds of races at every conceivable government level, are often simplified to be a referendum on the party — and president — in charge.

With all 435 House seats in the U.S. Congress in play this year, as well as numerous state and local elections, there’s definitely an issue or candidate out there for everyone.

College-aged students have always been a vocal group when it comes to politics, but turnout has often been less promising. Yet the direction the country goes from here will have more of an effect on us than anybody else. Low youth turnout can’t be tolerated.

This year, the midterms are a tug-of-war between two visions for the country — the “Keep America Great” crowd which supports President Donald Trump and his agenda and a radical shift from that toward the left, marked by several upsets by progressive Democrats against their more moderate primary opponents.

Primary elections for midterm races this year have shown promising turnout numbers for both parties, Pew Research Center numbers revealed. Still, voting in primaries is often low and that doesn’t mean midterms will automatically see high turnout.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Get registered and go vote. There’s never an excuse to sit out midterms — they’re too important.

The Tea Party Movement, the anti-tax and anti-government spending movement that grew within the Republican Party during former President Barack Obama’s first term, upended 60 Democratic House seats in the 2010 midterms, made significant gains in the Senate that year and captured ten governorships.

Turnout overall that year was only 41 percent, according to the United States Election Project.

Yet that seismic shift in congressional control resulted in President Obama’s agenda being stalled and blocked at every juncture by his Republican opponents.
In 2014, midterm turnout was just under 36 percent — the lowest it’d been since World War II.

The identities that skew Democratic — minority voters, poorer voters and younger voters — seem to sit out these crucial races.

A Pew Research Center study determined that drop-off voters, those who voted in 2012 and 2016, but skipped the 2014 midterms, were largely voters under 50. In that same poll, only six percent of consistent voters were between 22-29 years old.

At what could arguably be called the craziest political climate of a college student’s brief life, these midterms present a crucial opportunity to have your voice heard. That’s an especially big voice, as millennials have become the largest voting age population in the last few years.

Love President Donald Trump and agree with the direction he and his Republican Party are steering the country? Vote.

Hate Trump and want to vote in Democrats that’d provide a check to his power? Vote.

We penned an editorial earlier this year calling on students to take opportunities to make their voices heard seriously. Now, it’s time to step up.

Speaking at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s campus Sept. 7, former President Obama urged college students not to sit out.

“Just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different, the stakes really are higher, the consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire,” Obama said.

That’s why Loyola has set up great resources for students searching for how to complete their civic duty to get them registered and urge them to the polls.

Loyola Votes 2018 is the name of the university-wide effort to encourage students to vote this year. The group held a registration drive as students dropped by Centennial Forum in Mertz Residence Hall to pick up their university-sponsored CTA passes in August. Nearly 500 students signed up.

But that’s not enough.

Students can register to vote in the Damen Den Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. The Information Commons will host a voter registration table from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 25. Loyola Votes is also hosting tables at Arrupe College Oct. 1 and in Lewis Library at the Water Tower Campus Oct. 3.

In Illinois, the deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9, but the state offers a grace period through election day.

If you’re an out-of-state college student here at Loyola, obtaining an absentee ballot that you can fill out and mail home is extremely easy — easier than you might think.

Sign up here and your application for an absentee ballot will be emailed to you. Print that out, fill it out and send it off to receive your ballot in the mail.

Obama said in his speech voting has always been the way the nation has progressed and gradually gotten better — more often from grassroots movements than from those at the top.

“As a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president, but as a fellow citizen,” he said to the crowd of fired up college students. “I am here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote because our democracy depends on it.”

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