Nov. 6, 2018: a day students gathered in suspense, anxiously watching the clock and waiting for midterm election results to start rolling in. Viewings across campus ranged from students spectating from the comfort of their dorms to the student government-sponsored watch party in Geddes Hall.
The election was especially nerve-wracking for those who chose to volunteer their time for national and regional campaigns. Junior Sheila Gregory was tasked with recruiting volunteers from College Democrats, a left-leaning political organization on campus, to canvass in support of the Joe Donnelly campaign in St. Joseph County. Gregory was impressed with the dedication and number of Notre Dame students willing to volunteer, especially since most are not from South Bend themselves, saying it “speaks to a larger picture of really impressive civic engagement among this generation.”
The results started rolling in late Tuesday night. Students learned that the Democratic Party gained control of the House of Representatives after filling more than 218 of the 435 voting seats, seizing the majority. The Republican Party, however, made further gains in the Senate and comfortably retained their majority by winning 51 of the 100 Senate seats. The midterm election results divided Congress with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans dominating the Senate.
There were many close races in swing states such as Florida and Texas. Democrat Beto O’Rourke effectively turned Texas purple, winning a substantial 48.3 percent of votes. Despite O’Rourke’s unprecedented gains and voter support, Republican incumbent Senator Ted Cruz maintained his seat within the Senate with 51 percent of the vote. Similarly, the results of Florida’s race for governor were even tighter, with Republican Ron DeSantis beating Democrat Andrew Gillum 49.8 percent to 49.2 percent with less than a 35,000-vote margin.
In Indiana, incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly conceded his seat to Republican Mike Braun after winning only 43.3 percent of the vote. According to ABC News, Donnelly’s loss could be attributed to the so-called “Kavanaugh Effect,” as Donnelly voted against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court; 53 percent of Indiana voters cited Donnelly’s decision as an important factor in their voting decision. Republican candidates in Indiana won seven of the nine seats in the House of Representatives.
This election season made history, ushering a record number of women into office. Prior to the election, media outlets had projected that over 100 women might win seats in Congress due to the increased number of women running for congressional positions. A record-breaking 100 women, surpassing the previous record of 84 female House members, were elected on Nov. 6. Twelve additional women were elected to the Senate, resulting in a new high of 112 women in Congress.
Additionally, there were other extraordinary strides in diversifying the demographic makeup of congressional representatives. For the first time in history, two Native American women, Democrats Sharice Davids of traditionally red state Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico, were elected to the House of Representatives. Davids’ win is even more significant considering she is the first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress from Kansas. For the first time, two Muslim women were elected to the House as well: Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar. New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at only 29 years old. Additionally, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis is the first openly gay governor. These elections results give the marginalized hope for the future as the 2020 presidential election steadily approaches.
National voter turnout increased dramatically, with an estimated 31 million more voters this year than in the 2014 midterm election. Additionally, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to ex-felons in Florida (excluding those charged with murder or sex felonies) as long as they complete their sentence in full. This will grant 1 million people, and more than 400,000 black residents, the right to vote again.
“The hope for the future is that everyone is able to be engaged in the political process and express their beliefs at the ballot box, but preserve civility and respect throughout the process.”
- Sarah Brown and Jared Pino
In light of so many close congressional races, voters across America feel invigorated by the knowledge that their votes matter and impact electoral results. President Sarah Brown and Vice President Jared Pino of BridgeND, a student organization aimed at bridging the partisan divide, feel that though more people being mobilized to vote on both sides “can be dangerous for polarization intensification, it is also an amazing thing, because it shows that people care. The hope for the future is that everyone is able to be engaged in the political process and express their beliefs at the ballot box, but preserve civility and respect throughout the process.”
Politics can sometimes be overwhelming and disheartening, but, at their best, remain encouraging. When individuals choose to educate themselves and become involved in the process, then anyone and everyone can truly make a difference.