This week we celebrate one year since America elected Donald Trump President of the United States. Happy Anniversary.
Are you pleased with the way things are going? No? Well, you can do something about it, because it’s also one year until Americans go to the polls again—not to elect a President, but for an election that could have just as much impact. A lot of people underestimate the importance of non-presidential elections (aka “midterm elections”), but they have a huge impact.
In 1994, Newt Gingrich orchestrated a Republican revolution that turned the House red for the first time in 40 years. That political earthquake ushered in a new aggressive conservative agenda that has had major ramifications for the last 20 years.
In 2010, mid-way through President Obama’s first term, control of the House again switched from Democratic to Republican and the Republican minority in the Senate picked up six seats, setting the stage for obstruction and defeats of Obama’s and the Democrat’s agenda for the rest of his term.
The 2018 election has the potential to be just as important: on November 6, 2018 every single seat in the House of Representatives and one-third of the seats in the Senate will be on the ballot. This election has the potential to alter the course of the Trump presidency and could be the most important mid-term election in your lifetime.
The 2018 elections are a referendum on the Trump Presidency and on the Republican response to it, but they are more than just that. As long as the Republicans hold on to their 45 seat majority in the House and their slim majority in the Senate, there is no stopping Donald Trump; we will just get more excuses for the President’s erratic, dangerous, uninformed and possibly illegal behavior and his disgraceful and debasing tweets and speeches. Although three Senators have spoken out against him, they have done so only after announcing that they will not seek reelection. The Republican Party cannot or will not make any move to impeach Donald Trump no matter how incompetent or irrational his behavior is, because as much as one half of their base still supports him.
But as I have said before, everything rests on the Democrats winning control in the House. A Democratic majority will make all the difference. Only a Democratic-controlled House will take the steps necessary to impeach. Only a Democratic majority in the House will change the dynamic of every single issue that is important to you: health care, tax reform, immigration, gun control, LGBT rights, women’s issues, climate change and more.
Let this past year of frustration, stress and heartburn motivate you to make this next year count. You can march and tweet and make signs, but in the end, it’s all just shouting into the wind. In the long run, the only thing that matters is your vote.
So, from today, we have one year to marshal our forces and get ready to make our voices heard. Republicans win when voter turn out is low. We need to make sure that voter turn out is high.
What can you do?
The most important thing is to make sure that you (and your friends and family) can vote. That means:
- know the voting requirements in your state
- know your polling place and times
If you’re not sure whether you’re registered, you can find out at Can I Vote, a website of the National Association of Secretaries of State. If you’re not registered, then get registered. Thirty-one states allow online registration. If you live in a state that doesn’t allow online registration, then you will need to register by mail or in person. Do you need to update your address or your name? You can find information for your state by clicking on the map at the US Election Assistance Commission.
(One note about relying on online information: it is possible that the administration may remove this helpful information from their websites or take down these sites altogether. As you probably know, there have been reports and more reports that departments have been ordered to delete from their websites information that has been deemed contrary to Trump policies. For example the Department of Education deleted information regarding resources available to parents of children with disabilities. Coupled with intense effort by the “Voter Fraud Commission” to push bogus claims of voter fraud in an attempt to justify stricter voter ID laws, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for them to delete this information. So take advantage of it while it is still available.)
Register to vote now. DO NOT wait until the last minute.
voter ID requirements
Next, find out what the ID requirements are for voting in your state.
Thirty-four states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show identification at the polls. Know the voter ID laws in your jurisdiction. Do you have the appropriate ID? Is it up-to-date or do you need to update your address or other information? You can see a list of requirements here.
If you need to get or update your identification, don’t put off doing it, because some localities have made it very restrictive and difficult to get the required ID. You may have to drive a long way, take time off of work, or wait in long lines. Alabama recently closed 31 drivers license facilities and those that remain open have very limited hours, meaning that in some areas the office is effectively only open one day a month. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you will not be able to get or update your ID in time to vote.
DO NOT rely on your ability to cast a provisional ballot if you don’t have the proper ID. Often, you must return with proper ID with 5 days of voting or your provisional ballot will not count, and you may not be able to get back in time. Many provisional votes end up not being counted at all.
polling places and times
Find out where you have to go to vote, and know the times it will be open. Will you have to take time off or work in order to vote? If so, make sure that you make arrangements to do so in plenty of time. Will you be around on voting day, or will you be somewhere else—away at school, or on vacation or a business trip? Or are you disabled an unable to get to your polling place. In any of these cases, you can request an “absentee ballot” be sent to you. Find out what is required to get an absentee ballot and make arrangements to return or mail the ballot in time for it to be counted.
Be aware of potential changes to your polling place or polling times. Be alert to the fact that there might be long lines, and make arrangements for child care, pet sitting or whatever else you may need if your wait is longer than expected.
Money in politics may be a big part of the problem, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be part of the solution too. Your donations, no matter how small, can make an impact on races, especially at the local level. But even at the national level, small donations from lots of people can add up to real money, and additionally, they send a signal to candidates where support lies.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s opponent, Randy Bryce, is getting donations from all over the country, because even though only residents of Wisconsin’s 1st District can vote in that race, who wins that election will have national implications. The nation, and Paul Ryan, have taken notice.
other things you can do
- Identify people who aren’t registered or who haven’t voted recently and remind them that their vote really does matter. More eligible voters stayed home last November than voted for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. If they had voted, it would have made a world of difference. Don’t accept the argument that their vote doesn’t count, or that both parties are the same. This past year is proof that they aren’t. It’s true, the parties both have problems, and no candidate is perfect, but this year has been off the charts.
- If you know someone who needs help registering or getting the proper ID or updating their information, help them: drive them, help them navigate the online forms or offer whatever help they need.
- Volunteer to register voters. Check with Rock the Vote and League of Women Voters to get involved.
- Be aware of voter suppression tactics. Voter suppression is real and it works: Laws that require voter ID have the effect of keeping people from voting.
The bottom line is this: The 2018 elections may not have all the excitement of a presidential election year, but everything is riding on it, and if you have felt angry or frustrated for the past year or more, this is your time to speak out.
Your VOTE is your VOICE. Make your voice heard.