Voter turnout skyrocketed this past Tuesday in the midterm elections. The New York Times has estimated that 114 million ballots were cast for this year’s midterms, whereas only 81 million were cast in the 2014 midterms. The exact number and percentage will not be reported for some time due to the recount in Florida and the general slowness of counting ballots across America. However, it is safe to say that voter turnout definitely improved in almost every state.
The question from before the midterms of whether or not voter turnout would increase now becomes why. Why now? The estimates of this year are higher than any turnout in a midterm election since 1970. Many speculate that this high turnout is a result of the increase in spending on campaigns, especially by Democrats. Others argue that the increase in competitive elections between new candidates and lack of incumbents running caused the spike. Most argue that President Trump himself caused the increase, as he remains an extremely polarizing figure.
Democrats came out to diminsih his influence and take back Congress, while others came out to show their never-ending support for the President. While I think all of these changes in the political atmosphere certainly did contribute to the increase, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to another reason we could be seeing the change we are.
Grassroots campaigns and organizations that focused on informing the public of their voting options, like Project Vote, Vote.org and Rock the Vote, are the unsung heroes of the 2018 midterm elections. These groups made countless phone calls, knocked on doors, sent text messages and posted on social media to ensure that people were registered to vote, knew how to register, knew when and where to vote and had a plan to do so. They did not promote a particular candidate, party or issue. Instead, they made sure that college students knew where to find an application for an absentee ballot.
One organization sent a letter to my home over the summer, encouraging me to vote and providing instructions on how to apply for a vote by mail ballot. I received texts from Vote.org while I was at school, reminding me when election day was and when the deadline to send in my absentee ballot was. These efforts paid off. They helped a lot of people who wanted to participate in the election, but did not know how, do so.
Some congressional campaigns contributed to these efforts, too, in addition to promoting a specific candidate. Last summer, I volunteered for Mikie Sherrill’s congressional campaign in New Jersey and saw this first hand. My task was to knock on doors around my hometown and remind people of their polling location and the time the polls would be open. I did not necessarily encourage them to vote for Mikie Sherrill. Instead I encouraged them to vote regardless of who they were voting for. Campaigns like these really make a difference.
I hope more campaigns in the future will consider this tactic in addition to their other efforts. I hope in future elections, people continue to remind some and help others learn how to vote. Simple things like that are easy and effective. Efforts like that can ensure that more voices are heard and represented in America. I thank all those who did their part in this year’s midterms, including the politically active students at Villanova.