The midterm elections were held on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Voter turnout increased in this year’s election, especially on Lehigh's campus. (Laney Delaney/B&W Staff)

Midterm election trends show increasing political awareness

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The midterm elections on Nov. 6 were by far the most anticipated midterms in recent history.

The Democrats won control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years — and with it, earned the ability to put a check on President Trump’s power. Republicans performed strongly in the Senate in this year’s midterms to expand their majority. The president previously enjoyed a unified Republican government, with the GOP controlling both chambers in Congress following the 2016 election.

Trump presumably will now have to compromise with Democrats to pass bills through Congress. Democrats also now possess subpoena power, which will allow them to more thoroughly scrutinize the executive branch.

Voter turnout in this year’s election reached the highest level of any midterm election in over a century. According to the United States Elections Project, 49.3 percent of the eligible population went out and voted in comparison to 2014, when turnout was 36.7 percent. Furthermore, voter turnout at the Litzenberger House, where many Lehigh students go to vote, increased by over four times compared to the previous midterm election.

Christelle Chemaly, ’22, a first-time voter, was excited to cast her ballot.

“I definitely think that the Democrats managed to win the House because so many young people went out to vote this election,” Chemaly said.

Chemaly said the country is becoming more self-aware and she plans to take a more active role in politics in the future.

Teresa Cusumano, a professor of English, said this election caused her to vote in opposition to her party preferences. Though a registered Republican, she said she did not vote Republican in this midterm election.

Cusumano believes that there are many Republicans like her, especially women, who voted across party lines with the president in mind.

“The biggest thing that swayed me this time was I don’t like (Trump’s) rhetoric, so I don’t agree with some of his tactics, and to see kids being separated was too much for me,” Cusumano said. “My background — especially teaching writing, teaching research, teaching facts and logical fallacies, makes me aware of how much of the stuff Trump says is wrong.”

Though Cusmano doesn’t like the direction America is heading, she said there were a lot of positives to take out of the election, especially young voter turnout.

“I have a 19-year-old daughter, and this was her first time to vote, and she got out and voted and her friends were out voting,” Cusumano said. “I can remember for a long time teaching here at Lehigh, at community colleges in the area, that students kind of had this mentality that my vote really doesn’t count, and I think this time people changed.”

Marilyn Nguyen, ’20, followed politics extensively in the lead up to the election and researched the candidates on the ballot before casting her vote.

“I really think voting is important because just because I have a voice and even if it may seem small, if every single person thought the same, there will be a huge change,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen believes there was so much excitement about these midterms because the country is so divided on partisanship.

Nguyen said she feels more optimistic after the election, and believes more young people will become more engaged with politics in the future.

“I think more conservative people are not afraid of speaking out but I also think there is much more activism now,” Nguyen said. “More people are now willing to take a stance on things they believe in, and there are fewer people who are choosing to be apathetic.”

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