Thirty-five U.S. Senate seats will be up for grabs this November, two of which will be contested in special elections.
One of those 35 seats belongs to Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly. Donnelly is a Democrat running as an incumbent this fall against Republican candidate Mike Braun and Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton.
Jennifer Culp is a Republican running for state representative in Indiana’s House district 36, in which Anderson is located. Culp says it’s important for college students to vote because it allows them to contribute to society and form their own opinions.
“I think voting is a step towards becoming a vital part of society, and it’s one of the easiest steps to becoming an adult,” she said.
“When you take steps to be informed outside of your parents’ control, you start finding out what is important to you, what beliefs you align with and why. You don’t have to blindly accept what your parents tell you. You can really think about those decisions and why they’re important to you.”
The U.S. is currently under a unified government, with the Republican Party controlling both the executive and legislative branches. Though Republicans have a majority in the Senate, it is a narrow one. With two vacant seats, the Senate is comprised of 51 Republicans and 47 Democrats.
Such a narrow majority means that Republican control of the Senate could be lost and the unified government broken, making this November’s midterm elections crucial.
Indiana’s Senate election, as well as Senate elections in Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and West Virginia, will be particularly important. Although the open seats in those states are currently held by Democrats, President Trump won those states in the 2016 presidential election. This means that there is a high likelihood that those seats could be taken by Republican candidates.
Culp says that with such high stakes, voter participation in this year’s midterm elections is critical.
“I think this midterm is vitally important,” she said. “If you are a Republican, it’s a matter of continuing to hold control of the House and the Senate or to make that control even stronger. Republican control is a little bit flimsy right now. It’s not as heavy as people think it is.
“If you’re a Democrat it’s important because you want to gain back control.”
In the U.S., voter turnout for midterm elections has been historically low compared to turnout for presidential elections. The percentage of the voting-eligible population that turns out to vote in midterm elections is typically between 15 and 20 percent lower than that of presidential elections.
The last midterm elections were held in the fall of 2014, followed by the 2016 presidential election. In the 2014 midterms, turnout was approximately 36 percent compared to 60 percent in the presidential election of 2016.
“Voting in general is important because it’s the only way that you have a voice,” said Culp. “It’s how our entire political system is run. It’s how the people state what they want, who they want and how they want it. It’s how they give voice to their opinions. You always hear people say that if you don’t vote you can’t complain.”
Connor Todd, a junior mechanical engineering major, is a member of AU’s College Republicans who believes Americans should take advantage of the opportunity to vote, especially in midterm elections.
“Voting is not just a right, it’s a privilege,” said Todd. “A lot of other countries don’t get to vote. We have the choice to pick a leader who we think will be effective.
“Midterm elections are important because the people are choosing which party will control the House and the Senate,” he said. “It’s obviously your choice whether you vote or not, but midterms are just as important as presidential elections, so I encourage people to take that into consideration.”
Olivia Winslow, a sophomore marketing major, leans Democrat and believes that “midterms give people an opportunity to voice their opinions about local political issues.”
“We can’t see a change in our government and in our world if we don’t speak up and make the change,” said Winslow. “So many young voters don’t vote, and they’re losing out on their chance to make a change in the world. Why whine about problems when you could change things yourself?”
Based on primary election and early voting data, turnout for midterm elections this November is expected to be much higher than usual. Many experts have predicted that turnout could reach between 45 and 50 percent this year. This would be the highest midterm turnout in 50 years.