In November, the United States will host a general election allowing voters to choose who represents them on a local, state and national level. One-third of all U.S. senators and all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be up for re-election or removal.
According to FairVote, only 40 percent of eligible voters participated in midterm elections in 2016. According to Lori Klein, associate professor of political science and public administration, the importance of the midterm election is underestimated.
“The entire House is elected every two years, so you’ve got the chance to completely change the makeup of the House and a third of the Senate,” Klein said. “If you’re really upset about where your government is going, you have the chance to change that.”
Both the House and Senate currently represent a Republican majority. Democrats need 24 seats in the House to gain the majority, and according to a recent study by the University of Virginia, the upcoming November elections could change that. Democrats must only defend 22 seats in the House while Republicans will be forced to fight for 41. With President Trump’s approval rating hovering in the lower 40th percentile, Democrats are becoming a new ‘soft favorite’ to carry the House majority.
According to Arkansas District 46 State Representative Les Eaves, the president’s party typically loses congressional seats.
“At stake is the second arm of government, the legislative branch. Midterm elections are seen as a referendum on the performance of the president,” Eaves said.
Klein echoed Eaves’ statement, emphasizing that, historically, the midterm election process was used to determine the remainder of the sitting president’s term.
“A lot of times presidents will come in and then, at the midterm election, his opposition will gain a little strength, or in some places, a lot of strength,” Klein said.
Searcy Mayor David Morris spoke to the importance of participation in local midterm elections as well, noting that citizens have the easiest access to their city governments.
“Local elected officials’ decisions directly affect the citizens of Searcy in their daily lives,” Morris said. “Local officials have a strong amount of influence over decisions that are made at the state level.”
Morris encouraged Harding students to attend city council meetings and to register to vote in Searcy.
“Your vote is sacred. It’s something that is given to you, and people have fought and died … so that you have the right to exercise your vote,” Morris said.
Eaves encouraged students to get involved on campus by joining political clubs and engaging in political conversation.
“College is the perfect time to evolve your own political ideas as well as express these ideas to your classmates. You will be more knowledgeable of politics by being involved,” Eaves said. “Voting is one of the most fundamental rights we share in this country. Too many take it for granted because they think their vote won’t make a difference.”
Klein spoke to Eaves’ statement that many believe their vote won’t make a difference.
“People with a great deal of power, some of those people would like you to completely check out. They want you to feel like your vote doesn’t count and your voice doesn’t matter because they don’t want anything to change,” Klein said. “This is your opportunity to express yourself politically. And you should take advantage of that opportunity.”