id you know that in our film canon exists a 1998 political satire co-written, co-produced, directed by and starring Warren Beatty called Bulworth? I can’t tell you if it’s good because I have never seen it, but I can tell you that the breakout hit from said film’s soundtrack — “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)” — is pretty fantastic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are the important political messages Pras, ODB and Mya manage to weave into the melody of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream,” remixed for a hip-hop audience (yes that’s why the song sounds so familiar).
And speaking of political messages, I come to you with one today: Midterm elections are fast approaching, and we all need to vote. I know this and I’m sure you do, too, but if you’re anything like me, you may not know exactly what you need to know besides that simple fact. “Midterm” is one word, for example. Sharing this bit because even though I’m an editor, my fingers have insisted on typing “mid term” as two words about 17 times so far and we may as well ease into this endeavor. Of course, there are more important things to know before participating in the midterm (one word) elections, and I was thinking that maybe we could figure some of that out together. Shall we?
When is Election Day?
What Do Midterm Elections Determine?
Midterm elections are often seen, to some extent, as a referendum on the sitting president, current administration and party in power. In that sense, midterms can “determine” how the body politic “feels” about our current political climate (but ONLY if we get out and vote).
Going into the 2018 midterms, Republicans have control of both houses of Congress, but Democrats are hoping that if they win a few critical seats, they will be able to shift the balance of power in one or both houses. The outcome of our midterm elections will determine whether this happens.
All of the House of Representatives’ 435 seats are up for election this cycle. Democrats need a net gain of at least 23 seats in order to take control of the House. It’s important to note here that there are some seats currently held by Dems that the Republicans have been eyeing — particularly in Missouri, North Dakota and Florida.
Thirty-five Senate seats are up for election this cycle, too. Democrats are defending 26 seats (including two held by independents); Republicans are defending nine. Republicans hold a 51-seat Senate majority and, according to Ballotpedia (a SUPER valuable resource for all things elections and politics), the Democratic Party is at a disadvantage relative to the Republican Party regardless of political climate.
ALSO!!!!! There are 6,665 seats at stake outside of D.C. These include governorships (36 states will elect governors this year), state legislative seats and a ton of other non-federal offices down to the municipal level.
What Are the Battleground States?
Seventy-nine of the House races are considered battlegrounds, meaning it’s not clear whether they’ll go Democrat or Republican. House districts in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin are all in this category. If you live in one of these states, it’s really important to determine if your district is a battleground district; you can do that here.
Sixteen of the 35 Senate races are general election battlegrounds. Battleground states are Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia. If you live in one of these states, do your civic duty by reading up on why these particular races are so important.
How and Where to Vote
If you need help figuring out how to register or vote in your state, Democracy Works provides a very easy-to-use online guide with summaries of voter registration and voting rules for all 50 states and DC. Need to know what’s up with absentee ballots or if your state offers online voter registration? Curious about how to request a ballot by mail? This is the resource for you.
The tool also provides information on how to find your specific polling place, but here is another resource that can help you check your registration status AND find your polling place, just in case. You can never be too careful, especially not where conservatives getting their hands on your ovaries is concerned!
Not sure if the deadline to register has already passed in your state? Here’s a resource you can use to check coupled with instructions on how to register in each state.
Who To Vote For
I can’t exactly tell you that because of ethics or whatever and also because I don’t know all the ins and outs of who’s running for what and where, which is why this build your ballot tool via The Skimm is REALLY useful.
Just enter your address and boom, receive a personalized ballot cheat sheet. You’ll see exactly what’s at stake for your state, which races are on the ballot in your district, what those roles entail, and any key races to watch. Very important content.
Some Final Words
Statistics show that voter turnout is significantly lower for midterm elections than presidential ones, which impacts the overall election results. Only 37% of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2014 midterm elections; the lowest voter turnout since WWII. You know what I’m going to say next: Please, get out and vote. On the heels and in the midst of so much tragedy in this country, this is one important way we can change the course of history. Mark your calendars, cancel your meetings, make it happen.
You can also defend our rights to make ourselves heard by signing up to help Rock the Vote engage voters here, and volunteer to support The Last Weekend — a campaign to “give it everything we’ve got, on the last weekend before the midterm elections” — here. Carpool Vote connects volunteer drivers with anybody who needs a ride to claim their vote — a much needed resource and way to actively resist voter suppression which is warping democracy and disproportionately affects communities of color all over the United States. Sign up to offer or request a ride here.
We’re giving some love to this post originally published 10.30.2018 because today is the day to get out the vote! – Nora
Illustration by Liana Jegers.