MAYOR, CITY COUNCIL, GOVERNOR, LEGISLATURE. With the 2020 elections approaching so rapidly, it’s easy for voters to disregard the even more imminent elections of this year. According to FairVote, voter turnout in the United States is lower than 40% for off-year elections (years when there are no presidential or midterm elections), and this needs to change. With many unpredictable outcomes, this year’s outcome should certainly be more important and more provocative than what we’re used to. Donors, activists, lobbyists, and more officials are tuning in to more than just the invisible (‘money’) primaries that are ongoing for Democrats. The party and nation hold in store a lot more than meets the eye.
The 2019 elections will be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. Off-year elections like this year include gubernatorial elections in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Virginia; Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, and the New Jersey General Assembly holding State legislative elections; and 16 major cities holding mayoral elections. Beyond this, special elections for the United States Congress and Mayoral candidates will take place in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona. Lastly, the 2020 invisible primaries, the time between potential presidential candidates announcing their running plan and the legitimate primaries, is in full speed.
In the gubernatorial elections this year, serious changes could be made. Kentucky one-term governor Matt Bevin won with a victory margin of only 83 votes, but since his election, has been extremely unpopular, with a “25-point drop in net approval,” according to Morning Consult. With two well-known Democrats in the field vying against him, it seems a blue victory could run its course.
Louisiana is currently hosting a Democratic governor, largely (if not exclusively) due to a massive campaign failure of unsuccessful presidential candidate Bobby Jindal. Current governor John Bel Edwards, harboring an approval rate of 47/34, could be another blue-victory, though it will be tough for him to overcome the partisanship of his state.
Finally, Mississippi’s Republican governor Phil Bryant is term-limited and ineligible for reelection this year, so unlikely Democrat Jim Hood has stepped up to the plate. This Attorney General is currently the only Democrat holding statewide elected office in Mississippi and has the potential to turn this red state momentarily blue, if just for the time being.
On the State level, this year’s elections will have an impact on the 2020 Census redistricting plans. Many states use governors and legislators to determine the new boundaries for state legislative and Congressional districts. Republicans, who are holding control of the governorship and the state legislature (a ‘trifecta’), in Kentucky and Mississippi, will intend to maintain that control, while Democrats who have the same intention for their trifecta in New Jersey, Louisiana, and Virginia, the other states holding electors, have divided governments, which increases the potential for more blue victories.
Many major cities are electing mayors this year with term limits rendering Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, and Tampa current mayors ineligible. 10 of the 16 cities have Democratic mayors eligible and running, so it’s important for Democratic voters to tune into their city’s campaigns this year to promote a blue wave.
A legislative special election in Phoenix, Arizona will be held in March of 2019, in which two Democrats will be running, seeing as no candidate won a majority in the November 2018 election. On top of this, two Republican officials in congressional districts will be replaced. Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district representative, Tom Marino has resigned, though the district has a Republican partisan index. Republican Walter B. Jones Jr., a representative of North Carolina’s 3rd congressional district, which also is a red PVI, died on February 10, and will be reelected at a date to be determined.
Of course, it’s impossible to know how the Trump administration will deal with its personnel turnover issues and how those will impact other special elections. What we do know, however, is that the voter turnout issue of the off-year elections needs to dramatically changed if Democrats legitimately care about reaching more blue victories. CIRCLE estimated that roughly 31% of voters ages 18–29 voted in the 2018 midterm elections. Only 17% of voters between the ages of 18 in this age group voted in the 2014 midterm election, according to the Census. In the past twenty-five years, this is the highest level of young voter participation. In the United States currently, voter turnout is much lower than it is in most established democracies, and the 2018 midterm elections had a turnout of 49.6%, the largest number for over a century. However, speaking on an international level, voter turnout is still low. Young political activists can change that.
Members of High School Democrats of America can work to increase voter turnout this year. It’s up to us to change the voter turnout and ensure blue victories for the nation. In multiple states with upcoming elections this year, elections are taking place in areas that are no longer protected by Voting Rights Acts. This means that it’s up to the activists of the country to make a difference. To make sure that everyone in their community has a place to vote, a way to vote, a registration to vote, and a motive to vote. The youth of the United States need to make sure that they are being informed about elections, and more importantly, get their families and communities informed about elections. Encouraging voter turnout in these off-year elections could make the difference in the state of our nation.