Reflections on the 2018 Midterms


The 2018 U.S. midterms took place on November 6th of this year. They were held in the middle of President Donald Trump’s first term, with 35 of the 100 Senate seats and all 435 of the seats in the House of Representatives up for election.

The United States has two major national elections—the presidential election, which happens every four years, and the midterms, which happens every two. Since members of the House of Representatives serve 2-year terms and members of the Senate serve 6-year terms, the midterms address the makeup of Congress and can even lead to a change in party control of the legislature. On top of this, the midterms is also a time for state-level elections, such as voting for governor and ballot measures.

Historically, midterm elections have seen a considerably smaller voter turnout. According to The Nation, presidential elections average about 50 to 65 percent of eligible voters, and midterm elections average between 25 and 45. However, this midterm saw a record-breaking 47% voter turnout, with the 2014 midterm only seeing 36%. The last time the country saw figures like that was in 1966, with a turnout of 49%. Some states even had near-presidential election levels—Oregon was one of them, with a whopping 61% of eligible voters.

During this midterm, Oregon had a total of five ballot measures, only one of which passed. Measure 102, allowing for cities and counties to independently fund affordable housing projects, passed with a 56% majority. Traditionally, housing projects had to be fully owned by the government. Now, counties and cities and use bond revenue to fund their construction without government control. Two of the arguably more contentious ballot measures were Measure 105 and Measure 106. Measure 105’s purpose was to repeal the sanctuary law established in Oregon in 1987, which prevented state agencies (law enforcement) from detaining immigrants on the basis of their immigration status alone. Measure 106 would have prevented the use of public funding for abortions, except when medically necessary. Both failed with over 60% majorities voting no.

Oregon saw a fairly heavy lean towards the Democratic party during this election. Kate Brown continues to serve as governor, defeating runner-up Republican candidate Knute Buehler with a larger than expected lead. Furthermore, of the five congressional districts of Oregon, four elected Democratic members for the U.S. House. Most of Benton County lies within the 4th district, which has chosen Peter DeFazio to continue his 31-year status as representative. District 2—which encompassing about two-thirds of eastern Oregon—chose Republican party Greg Walden, entering his 19th year in the position. On a nationwide level, control over the House of Representatives was flipped to Democrat after two years of Republican control. Republicans also continued to hold control over the Senate, with Democrats losing some seats.

In the wake of the powerful 2016 presidential election, it does not come as much of a surprise that America displayed a much more political attitude at the polls this month than we’ve seen in recent years. The 2018 midterms have also shown a rapidly diversifying government, with many ‘firsts’ being elected-the first Muslim and Native American women in Congress, first openly gay governor, and many more. Whether this trend of political hyperactivity will continue into the 2020 presidential election and beyond is a difficult question, and only time will provide the answer.

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