November 8, 2018
What an election! All across the country, Americans came out in record numbers and and voted for unity, diversity, justice, and fairness.
A few races remain too close to call. Ballots are still being counted in some districts. But the overall message is clear: Americans stood together, in elementary-school gymnasiums, church rec rooms, and town offices in communities from coast to coast, in red states and blue, and rejected the politics of division and hate. Let’s take a look at some of the most uplifting results.
Typically, midterm elections do not attract a lot of voters to the polls. Just four years ago, in 2014, turnout was at a 72-year low.
This year, things were different. Very different. The final numbers won’t be known for a while, but initial estimates suggest that something like 114 million votes were cast, which is a huge number for any non-presidential election year. In some ways, though, it’s not a surprise: the early-voting turnout was huge too, with an estimated 36 million people avoiding the Election Day crunch by marking their ballots early. The early-voting surge was particularly pronounced among young voters, ages 18-29: 3.3 million came out before Election Day, up 188% from 2014.
Obviously, this was not a normal election. But we loved seeing the engagement and the enthusiasm, we loved all the energy activists and citizens alike put into getting out the vote. We need to make this the new normal. The more people engaged in the political process, the stronger and more representative our democracy will become and the less influence big money will have.
A diverse electorate is a good and powerful and necessary thing. But what marked this year as special was the remarkable diversity among the candidates. In fact, a record number of Muslim Americans, Native Americans, and women ran for office. The best news of all? A lot of them won! Here are some highlights:
* First Native American congresswomen: Sharice Davids of Kansas and Debra Haaland of New Mexico
* First Muslim congresswomen: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan
* Youngest woman ever elected to Congress: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York
* First openly gay man elected governor: Jared Polis of Colorado
Every Election Day people vote on more than just candidates. In 2018, there were a number of important items on statewide ballots.
Florida said yes to second chances and voted to support Amendment 4, restoring the eligibility to vote to people with a prior felony conviction. Thanks to the 64% of Floridians who voted yes, as well as the years and years of hard work put in by our friend Desmond Meade and so many others at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), now an additional 1.4 million Florida citizens can vote. This is a huge win for Florida, and a huge win for democracy.
Florida wasn’t alone in making history. Massachusetts became the first state to vote to protect transgender people from discrimination. Question 3 asked voters if they backed a law that forbids discrimination based on gender identity in public places. The voters said yes, overwhelmingly. Here’s to ensuring that everyone everywhere feels safe being exactly who they are supposed to be.
Finally, voters in two states showed that they support making voter registration easier. Michigan (Proposal 3) and Nevada (Question 5) both passed automatic voter registration (AVR) measures, ensuring that people will be automatically registered to vote whenever they get or renew their driver’s license. They join an increasingly long list of states making it easier to register to vote and cast a ballot. Isn’t it about time that every state gets on board?
We’re feeling hopeful and inspired today, America! Voters came out in record numbers to support a record-breaking roster of diverse candidates from coast to coast. They also voted yes on measures guaranteed to get even more people out to the polls during future elections. Our strength is in our diversity. This Election Day proved that the change we seek is already on its way.
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