Ahead of Midterm Elections, Anti-Kavanaugh Protesters Make their Voting Power Heard
By Kelly Kimball
Today, a flurry of protesters flooded the Supreme Court steps and Capitol Building grounds to express both discontent and faith in the electoral system ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Among those protesting the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as the newest Supreme Court Justice were Washington, D.C., locals whose frustrations were particularly palpable.
“I’m literally screaming into the void. I have no place to call and hold my government accountable,” said Katie Shepherd, a District resident, as she held a protest sign that read, “My vote doesn’t matter.”
“Being on social media the past couple of weeks has been especially triggering because all of the action is around calling your senators and calling the people who are supposed to be your representative voice,” she said.
While the U.S. Constitution grants states the right to House and Senate representation, the fact that DC is a federal district means that residents do not have congressional representation, leaving many locals like Shepherd at a loss.
Shepherd, originally from the area, identified the dual threat of gerrymandering and voter suppression in today’s electoral system.
“I think there is a broader issue playing out here about the unfairness in this system and how certain voices do not have equal representation. I think this is an unprecedented threat to democracy. ”
Mindi D’Angelo, a Women's March DC Chapter organizer and District local, is familiar with the plight of DC voters, so much that she has organized a group of local activists to affect elections in the District by campaigning, phone banking, and canvassing for women who are “running against white Republican men in flippable districts.”
“We don’t have a vote, so every single House representative represents us, every single senator represents us, so I’m gonna have my say in their elections,” she said.
Among the locals were out-of-state protesters who collectively expressed empowerment, hope, and rage:
Alethea Shapiro, a mother of four from Long Island, raised over $4,000 on GoFundMe to finance the travel expenses of fellow protesters within her Long Island, Queens, and national network. For weeks, Shapiro has been volunteering with social justice organizations such as the Women’s March, Ultraviolet, and the Center for Popular Democracy to protest the Kavanaugh confirmation and encourage New York constituents to vote in the upcoming midterm election.
“I’m voting Democrat in New York. I vote every presidential election, and this year will be my first midterm election. This is the most important election of our lifetime. Everything is relying on whether we win back the House and the Senate,” she said.
Later that afternoon, she would attempt to storm an elevator occupied by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine with other protesters and document the arrests of dozens of protesters outside the Capitol building on her Instagram account.
Shapiro strongly advocates that, no matter what election is at hand, “every vote counts.”
Her state senator, Elaine Phillips, who won against her opponent in 2016 by a 51% to 49% margin, is the swing district for New York. Shapiro noted that the representative had won only because “nobody was paying attention.”
“I’m actually working very hard to turn the New York state senate blue. Eventually, if New York turns blue then hopefully other states will follow course. I feel like that’s a very big way that my voice can matter,” she said.
Ithaca College Environmental Studies professor, Sandra Steingraber, said she feels similarly about her voting power and the means through which New Yorkers like her can influence lawmakers. In fact, she has been speaking to her elected officials for years about the science of climate change and about toxic chemical reform.
According to Steingraber, she was just coming back from a lecture in Colorado the previous day when her plane changed in Dulles International Airport.
“As soon as we were wheels-down, I turned on my phone and saw that Susan Collins had just delivered the defining vote [to seal Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation], so I abandoned my connecting flight to Ithaca and came right into the capital,” she said.
Steingraber felt compelled to be present for the protests in the wake of midterm elections not only because she is a sexual assault survivor, but because she felt strongly that Kavanaugh “is a dishonest Justice who will bring illegitimacy to the court, which we in the environmental community rely on greatly.”
“I am 59 years old and I vote in every single election. Part of what I do is bring the science to our elected officials and help turn that into meaningful, science-based policy. It’s been very traumatic for all of us who are in environmental sciences to watch the rules and regulations that we helped provide — good science — being undone.”
At that moment, she looks to the ACLU phone number she had etched in black marker on her left arm — a reminder for her to call their legal hotline in the event that she got arrested by Capitol Police.
“It’s like watching a house we helped build have a wrecking ball smashed into it over and over,” she said.