2018 Midterm Elections

How These Elections Could Change Democratic Voice in the Trump Administration

Azusa Lippit and Willa Frank

With midterm elections right around the corner, citizens of Cambridge are raising questions about the midterm elections’ effects on their lives. The midterms this year specifically have the potential to change the majority in Congress and give one party a larger voice in government. The Democratic Party’s chance to flip the U.S. Congress is causing tensions to rise. 35 of the 100 Senate seats are up for election this year, 26 of which are held by Democrats. Currently, in the Senate, there are 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and two independents. To flip the Senate, Democrats need to keep all of their seats and flip two of the current Republican seats. In the House of Representatives, there are 238 Republicans, 197 Democrats, and six vacant seats (a total of 435 seats). To flip the House, Democrats need at least 24 seats that are currently held by Republicans. 48 House seats are thought to be “toss-up” or “leaning” seats that could go either way (41 of which are currently representing Republican-held districts) while the other 387 are likely to firmly hold their current party.

As for potential female victories this November, the number of seats held by women is expected to increase due to female candidates who would like to represent an opposing voice to our current president (and their large groups of support). This year, a record number of 19 women won their primaries for the Senate from both parties, though mainly Democratic. Women currently hold 84 out of 435 seats in the house, 23 out of 100 seats in the Senate, and six out of 50 governorships. The six female governors have no guarantee that they will remain in office after the election, as they are all either running for re-election against a man or have served the maximum two terms. While equal representation is unfortunately not a goal that will be achieved this year due to the already massive number of male senators and representatives, there is hope for the many female candidates. In the House races, 40 women are running unopposed, and in the Senate, ten women are not up for reelection and six are running against a female opponent. Regardless of whether their political hopeful is male, female, Democratic, or Republican, Cambridge citizens registered to vote can vote early until November 2nd, and absentee voting ends November 5th. All citizens can vote on Voting Day, November 6th, from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM at their district’s polling location.

On the ballot in the Massachusetts midterm election are three ballot questions about nursing, the electoral system, and gender discrimination. Question one asks Massachusetts voters if there should be a limit to the number of patients assigned to each nurse in Massachusetts hospitals. There is an existing limit, but only in intensive care units (ICUs). The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) is the main voice of support behind the question, and the ones who have been lobbying the most for the limit. They argue that answering “yes” (and therefore limiting patients assigned to nurses) would allow more time for patients to develop meaningful relationships and trust their caregivers, which are necessary elements of the healing process. The MNA also argues that a lower limit would reduce the risk of medical errors in prescription and dosage. The opposition to the initiative has come mainly from the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association. They think that the bill would increase hospital wait times and cause hospitals to close, especially those serving vulnerable communities, due to the financial impact (around 47 million extra per year, a small fraction for most hospitals) caused by the potential new law. They also believe that there aren’t enough nurses—at least, not experienced, well-trained nurses—to fill the new positions that the law would demand. The only other state to attempt an initiative of this kind is California. The question passed and was a relative success. California did not experience the problems that the MHHA is concerned about, but their bill was slightly more flexible and gradual. On a local level, Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge is opposed to the limit, saying that the new legislation would cost them 13 million dollars that they can not afford to lose.

Question two asks Massachusetts voters if there should be a 15-member citizen committee that can recommend constitutional amendments at a national level. In particular, the question offers a chance for a citizen committee to examine the way election campaigns are funded, and potentially overturn the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations’ donations to election campaigns could not be limited. Overturning this ruling would potentially help level the playing field for candidates running for positions such as Senators, Representatives, and especially Presidents.

Question three asks whether Massachusetts should uphold the current law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender in places of public accommodation, such as parks or restaurants. Counterintuitively, a “no” vote repeals the law, which especially affects transgender individuals. Those who support the repeal don’t necessarily want to discriminate against transgender people but are concerned that the law allows cisgender people to access single gender areas (such as bathrooms) that are intended for the opposite sex, and that this access would increase the occurrence of sexual crimes. This concern is common across the United States, but is largely unsupported, especially in Massachusetts. In fact, 47% transgender individuals reported that they had been sexually harassed at some point in their lives, according to a 2015 study, while 27% of the general American population reports being sexually harassed. The repeal is supported by Keep MA Safe and Massachusetts Family Institute, while opposition to the repeal is mainly being pushed for by Freedom for All Massachusetts. To be clear, voting “yes” keeps the law, and voting “no” repeals it.

The varying questions and candidates on the ballot present many upcoming opportunities for Cambridge and Massachusetts residents. Candidates to watch include Ayanna Pressley, running to be the first African-American female representative of Massachusetts in Congress, and Elizabeth Warren, running against Geoff Diehl to be re-elected as a female senator for Massachusetts. These candidates are crucial for a democratic win—so, if you can, go forth and vote!


A reduced version of this piece also appears in our October 2018 print edition.