This November, Americans will be voting in the midterm elections.
Midterms are general elections that take place the two years after a presidential election. They focus on seats in Congress (both House and Senate), governor races, and other various state and local offices.
Voter turnout for midterm elections — especially local races — is notorously low, despite the importance. Where 60% of the voting populationt typically turns up for presidential elections, that number drops to 40% for midterms. That 40% is also made up of mostly older, conservative voters.
There’s a hope that diverse voting blocks — young people, women of color, LGBTQ people — will come out in droves to make their voices heard.
I spoke to Geoff Berman, Executive Director of the New York Democrats, about the importance of this year, as well as diverse voters and candidates.
A wave of discontentment
Midterms have a tendency to unseat the president’s party — in this case, Donald Trump and the Republicans.
Berman compares it to 2006, when Democrats took back Congress while George W. Bush was in office. This year could be even bigger, though.
‘This year is more analogous to that [the 2006 midterms] than other years. There is a wave of upsetness and disappointment,’ he posits. ‘But I think it surpasses that year.
‘People see what’s coming out of Washington, and ever since the Inauguration, the Women’s March, you see unparalleled levels of activism.’
When he goes to meetings now, even in the dead of winter in New York City, five times the normal amount of people show up.
Elections have real consequences
Berman knows it’s easy to be cynical about politics. ‘With good reason,’ he adds.
‘Nevertheless, elections have real consequences. People may say there’s not much difference between the two candidates, but often times there is.’
It matters, he says, whether or not people elect leaders who are inclusive and supportive of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and beyond. Or else people will feel the destruction in their schools, workplaces, and communities.
‘The midterm elections allow us to fight back against what’s coming out of Washington. The fastest and surest way to curb the Trump administration is to flip the House.’
Currently, Republicans have the majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate.
A more progressive future
It’s important for LGBTQ people to vote because of these consequences.
‘To have a future where a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity don’t affect their opportunities, they need to vote,’ Berman says.
However, it’s not just voting. Numerous LGBTQ politicians running for office this year — more than ever before.
‘Last year,’ Berman explains. ‘There were huge numbers of first-time candidates that didn’t fit the typical bill [like Danica Roem of Viginia]. They not only ran, but won. They didn’t fit the demographics that conventional wisdom says will win in red or purple states, but they did anyway.
‘The important thing is to have authentic candidates who can connect with their communities. People will consider them and give them a chance.’
Voting is cool, as Billy Eichner explains. ‘We’re gonna turn the midterms into the hottest, sexiest event.’
And Berman is grateful for this, because he knows politicians aren’t always as cool and appealing.
The midterm elections are on 6 November.