I don’t know what’s going to happen.
That’s a phrase I can use with confidence in regards to the upcoming midterm elections, the political and sociological aftermath of said election, and every time I bend over to tie my shoe. Despite our technological advances, 40,000 polling entities and political-based opinion waiting behind every door, we just don’t know what’s actually going to happen on election day until the votes are counted.
And then, some of them will be counted again. And then, there will be claims of voter fraud. And then, once the dust finally settles and everyone either moves back into their former seat or takes over a newly-won position, the entire election process starts once again.
It’s like baseball. Within seven minutes of the Boston Red Sox celebrating their most recent, and wholly obnoxious, World Series victory, people on Twitter started posting how many days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Of course, it’s different from baseball in that baseball players go on vacations with their families, and enlist nutritionists and personal trainers to get their bodies in peak form before the next season starts. Politicians, on the other hand, well... they do what politicians do while they’re waiting for the next election cycle.
Play solitaire? Get wined and dined by lobbyists? Count how many days are left until spring training?
Of course, this midterm season just feels different from those in the past, doesn’t it? It’s always been an interesting study of how our citizens feel the country is performing, particularly when we find ourselves two years into a new presidency. Those voters whose candidate came up short in the election two years earlier seem to rally together and get out to vote, while the winning side is perhaps somewhat satisfied and maybe doesn’t share the same motivation.
Or, our independents change their minds two years into an administration and flip to the other party. Or, there is a natural predisposition of our populace to checks and balances, so the deisre is to elect people to Congress with different views than the country’s top executive. Or, I honestly have no idea what I’m talking about, so I just keep throwing out ideas by starting sentences with “Or,” and I hope that one strikes a nerve with somebody, who then thinks I really have my act together to understand so much that...
But I digress.
I know nothing. Would anybody be surprised if the Democrats take control of the House, while Republicans keep their edge in the Senate? Would it be entirely shocking if the Republicans maintained their advantage in both chambers? Could someone make an informed argument that if things break a certain way the Democrats could seize both the House and Senate?
Sure. And none of those outcomes would truly astonish me. Most of the polls I’ve seen indeed have the Democrats taking the House, and the Republicans extending their advantage in the Senate. Of course, most of the polls I saw two years ago said that Hillary Clinton was going to be the President of the United States, and we see how that went down, so I think I’ll just wait to see the results before proclaiming any polls as scientific fact.
What I will state as a pretty-informed prediction is that when the dust settles, and all the votes are counted, we’re going to be once-again disappointed by how many eligible voters actually went out and, you know, voted.
Approximately 55 percent of voting-age citizens cast their ballots during the 2016 election, according to an article I found on CNN’s website from the week after the election. Now, consider that they use the language “voting age” and not “registered voters” or “eligible voters,” so the numbers might be slightly off in terms of real turnout, but that number was the lowest they tracked in a presidential election since 1996, and nearly 19 million votes less than in 2008, when nearly 64 percent of voting-age citizens voted.
So, same metrics, but wildly different numbers.
Now, obviously not every voting-age citizen is even eligible to vote. We don’t allow people who are in jail to vote, or those with disqualifying felonies in their past or people who have been deemed to be not mentally comptetent, so the percentages cited above are not precise. But it should be enough to make us shake our collective head.
Let’s say that 70 percent of eligible voters get out to vote next Tuesday. Shoot, let’s say 80 percent. In a nation where roughly 99.7 percent of the population considers itself political experts and passionate followers of all the things happening in Washington, why is this number below, say, 95 percent?
In 2005 Iraq, where insurgents were actively targeting polling locations, they had a 70-percent turnout. In the Dahuk province, 86.9 percent of voters turned out — and this was their Dec. 15 election, their third election of that year.
Use your vote. Back up your words. Play your part.