Midterms are not half elections

Election Day is Tuesday. Statistics say most of us will ignore the media coverage and the never-ending campaign commercials and stay home that day. After all, it’s not a real election, just a midterm, right? No. Midterms are just as important as other elections.First, there are 109 seats in play in the House and 19 seats in play in the Senate, according to the New York Times, meaning polls are too close to predict in those races. This means on election night, Democrats could make an even stronger majority in the legislature, or Republicans could take over like in 1994.

Based on predictions, the Republicans stand a good chance of regaining control, especially in the House. Shifting from a Democrat president and Democrat-controlled legislature to a Democrat president and Republican-controlled legislature would dramatically affect how government would operate and what issues would become priorities.

Second, there is a gubernatorial race going on in Tennessee. For Tennesseans, this should be just as important as a presidential election, except your vote counts more here, and whatever policies the new governor implements will be affecting you closer to home.

In fact, Tennessee is one of 37 states holding a gubernatorial race this election cycle. The midterms will not only affect national government, but state and local governments all across the country.

Third, there is a Constitutional amendment proposed on the Tennessee ballot this year.

The amendment would guarantee that “The citizens of this state shall have the personal right to hunt and fish, subject to reasonable regulations and restrictions prescribed by law.”

Though hunting and fishing haven’t been a large divisive issue in the state, changing the state Constitution for this amendment is a big step on which all voters should decide.

In 2008, the youth vote (18-29 year-old voters) made news. Young adults aren’t particularly known for their voter turnout, but 2008 was different. It could be argued that the youth vote is what got Obama elected first in the primaries and then in the presidential race.

But was 2008 a sign of a new civic awareness from young adults, or was it a historical fluke?

If the youth are known not to vote much in presidential elections, their reputations in midterm elections are even worse. Only half of youth who voted in the 2004 election voted in the 2006 midterm.

In contrast, voters older than 75 only had a 7 percent dip in voter turnout between the same elections. By not voting, youth hand over their democratic power to voters who are not likely to have the same interests and priorities as young voters.

Youth make up about a fifth of the eligible voting population. By 2015, the same group could constitute a third of the electorate. Youth votes should be able to make or break elections. Candidates should be catering to us. But when older demographics are more likely to actually cast their ballots, young voter needs are overlooked.

Fortunately, voting trends indicate that the youth turnout in 2008 wasn’t an anomaly but part of an increase in youth voting. However, this doesn’t change that youth turnout for midterms is way below the turnout for presidential elections.

To believe that the presidential election is the only election that matters is to greatly misunderstand democracy. Your senators and congressional representatives are much more likely to serve your interests. Together, Congress has the power to create and shape the policies that run the country.

Regardless of political beliefs, you should use your vote every chance you have, not just once every four years. Election Day is Nov. 2. Be accountable, and be counted.