Is everyone voting in the midterm elections tomorrow? The stakes are sky high with abortion rights, inflation, gun safety, and other critical issues on the ballot. “On Tuesday, let’s make sure our country doesn’t get set back 50 years,” said former President Barack Obama. Here’s what to know…
[Ed. note: All NYTimes and Washington Post links in this post are gift links, so please feel free to click through.]
Why do we have midterm elections?
Midterm elections take place midway through a U.S. president’s four-year term — so, two years after a presidential election. Midterms give the people a chance to go to the polls and potentially shake up the control of Congress. Typically, the party of the president loses some congressional seats in the midterms, so right now Democrats are fighting to keep control.
Why does this midterm election matter more than ever?
This single election season has the power to reshape the country. The politicians who take control of Congress, as well as local and state offices, will have a huge impact on the everyday lives of Americans. “Some elected officials at the local, state, and national level are rolling back rights that we thought were fundamental. They’re incarcerating women who have abortions, making it harder for communities of color to vote, banning books about diversity from schools, and making weapons of war more accessible to wreak havoc on our communities,” says the NAACP. Here are some of the big issues that will be affected by the officials who are elected: abortion rights, including for victims of rape and incest; inflation and the economy; gas prices; gun violence control; voting rights; immigration; and more.
Where should I vote?
You can easily check your voter registration here and find your voting place here. If you need a ride, you can request one from CarpoolVote; and if you’re taking a Lyft, you can preload the code VOTE22 for a 50% discount that gets applied to your ride on November 8th.
What should I bring?
In some states (like California and New York), you usually don’t need ID; other states require ID. You can check your state’s requirements here. If you’re taking care of kids, you are allowed to bring minors with you into the voting booth in every state in the country.
What are my voting rights?
If the polls close while you’re still in line, stay in line – you have the right to vote. If you make a mistake on your ballot, ask for a new one. Under federal law, voters who have difficulty reading or writing English may receive in-person assistance at the polls from a family member, friend, or other person of your choice (fyi, this person just can’t be your employer, or an agent of your employer or union). If you feel harassed, intimidated or turned away at the polls, or are just having trouble overall, don’t hesitate to call a voter protection hotline, like 866-OUR-VOTE. They’re made for that exact reason, and people want to help.
Can I see my ballot before I go to vote?
Yes! Ballotpedia and BallotReady show you all the candidates on your particular ballot, what they support and who endorses them. Both tools are super helpful and easy to use.
What’s happening with Congress?
A quick reminder of how Congress works: Congress has two chambers — the Senate and House of Representatives. Before laws are passed, both the Senate and House must pass the bill by majority vote. Then the bill is sent to the President for his or her signature.
The Senate has 100 members. Right now, the Senate has 50-50 deadlock between Democrats and Republications, but it’s controlled by Democrats since Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote. This year, there are 34 seats up for re-election, and winners serve six-year terms. The race for the Senate is very close.
The House has 435 voting members. Right now, there are 222 Democrats to 213 Republicans, but all 435 seats are up for election. Winners serve two-year terms. These midterm elections are extremely important to the power structure of the House.
Could Democrats lose control of Congress?
Yes. That’s the big question: Will Biden keep a Democratic-controlled Congress for the rest of his term? Or will Republicans take control of the House and/or the Senate and be able to block Biden’s agenda? Historically, the party of the president loses congressional seats in the midterms, so right now Democrats are fighting to keep control. Polls currently say that the Republicans are likely to gain a majority. Let’s vote to decide!
If you’re a Democrat, like me, let this vision motivate you: If Democrats grow their majority in the Senate, they will have enough votes to break through the filibuster on key issues for their party, from voting rights to gun control. “They might also move to codify abortion rights and same-sex marriage into federal law. ‘If you give me two more senators in the United States Senate,’ Biden said recently, ‘I promise you, I promise you, we’re going to codify Roe and once again make Roe the law of the land,’” says the Washington Post.
What if I’m not 100% aligned with any candidate?
That’s okay. You can and should still vote for them if they’re the best overall option for you. “Voting isn’t marriage, it’s public transport,” tweeted writer Debbie Moon. “You’re not waiting for ‘the one’ who’s absolutely perfect: you’re getting the bus, and if there isn’t one to your destination, you don’t not travel — you take the one going closest.” Another great way of thinking about it? “A vote is not a valentine. You are not confessing your love for the candidate. It’s a chess move for the world you want to live in,” said activist and writer Rebecca Solnit. Think about your core values and issues — reproductive rights? common-sense gun safety laws? — and vote for the leaders who will fight to uphold them.
I also turned to my friend and thought leader LaTonya Yvette for her thoughts on voting. Here’s what she said:
Like many New Yorkers, I took advantage of our city’s option to vote early. When I think about growing up in New York City, I often think of my grandmother’s efforts in outreach to her community — which consisted of the local public school, her church, the park, and the Brooklyn Museum — and of the many years she stood on corners handing out leaflets and pins, reminding folks to vote.
There is no shortage of big-picture things on the ballot this midterm election. In my case, the conversations with my daughter on periods, abortion and post-pandemic labor is fuel enough. Here are three things to remember:
Knowledge Is Power
Yesterday, while standing near one of our local voting sites, I ran into a dear friend who said, “Quick, LaTonya, am I voting yes on the ballot questions?” That friend was speaking of three key racial justice proposals on New York’s ballot this midterm election. It felt wonderful to offer her a quick well-informed answer. Please ask a friend, a neighbor, or do some digging for yourself when it comes to who and what to vote for this election day. It matters so much! (And my answer was YES to all proposals on New York’s ballot.)
Listen to the Experts
When stuck in my feelings, I turn to experts I trust. Last week, in Washington, D.C., a group of doctors from across the U.S. stood together and asked to be allowed to do their jobs as #doctorsforabortionaccess. I enjoyed listening to Stacey Abrams speak about the importance of Georgia’s governor’s race. Finally, I was moved by Angela Davis’s speech in Berlin a few weeks back. She spoke of liberation and Black women (see: Abrams) historically leading the way and the clear importance (especially right now in the United States) of voting.
Expand Your Community
Of course, I’m very engaged in what’s happening within our 10-block radius, but I’m equally inspired by my Brazilian friends and their success at re-electing Lula, and with it, quite literally, returning some breath to the Amazon, which impacts us the whole world.
Thank you, LaTonya!
Thoughts? What other questions do you have? Do you have advice to share? LET’S DO THIS.
P.S. Why we need common-sense gun safety laws, and talking about sexual harassment.
(Top photo by LaTonya Yvette/Instagram. Poem by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre.)