There’s no way to get away from the constant rat-tat-tat of news stories about the upcoming midterm elections Tuesday, November 6. News about candidates campaigning, to voter registration purging, to Trump’s latest acerbic and bombastic tweets, followed by partisan dissection and analysis, pundits big and small, important and inconsequential across the political spectrum, have been weighing in on the elections’ implications. And, of course besides the news stories, are the never-ending panel discussions on CNN, MSNBC and others.
So, what are student journalists writing and opining about November 6? Several Googling attempts failed to reveal answers to that question and similar ones. Nevertheless, several staffers of the WORD were interviewed for their views, and their responses pretty much reflect the discourse and attitudes of many students on this New York City urban campus. The interviews took place in the journalism lab of the Department of Film and Media Studies.
“I haven’t looked at who’s running, really,” said WORD staffer Eileen Cruz, and with dozens of names on the ballot, who can really blame her? Cruz did state, however, that she will be voting for Democrats. “I do look at the platforms, but I typically vote Democrat because it helps things I support, like LGBT, people of color, and women’s rights.” Dressed in a superhero shirt, black jeans, and boots, the 20 year old from the Bronx summed up her views on the elections concisely when she said,” The Republicans are in power, but we want the Democrats back in power.”
The media studies and theater double major also said she had noticed “an emphasis on getting college kids to vote.”
Addison Gettenberg, 21, a senior from Long Island majoring in media studies with a concentration in journalism, expressed apprehension. Dressed in a floral button down and skinny jeans with Beats headphones wrapped around her neck, she said, “I don’t think there will be a change in how things are being run. A few months after Trump was elected, I thought there would be more of a push for change in this midterm, but now I am not too sure.”
Senior, Liza Satar, 21, majoring in media studies, immigrated here from Afghanistan. She’s not legible to vote. Dressed in a brown jacket and black shirt and pants, Satar opened up about what it’s like witnessing this election with fresh eyes. “For me, it is something new, I want to learn more about it,” she said. “When I get my citizenship, then maybe I will vote.”
Vanessa Guardado, a 21-year-old senior, said this midterm election is important for a Democrat like herself. “Right now, it is especially important for Democrats to go out and vote to have their voices heard,” said Guardado, wearing a green flannel, white shirt and black jeans. She lives in Hell Kitchen but grew up in Long Island. For registered Democrats like Guardado, their hope may be in reach. In the House of Representatives, 435 seats are up for election. According to ABC news, Democrats only need a net gain of 23 seats to take control of the House. For the Senate, out of the 35 seats available, Democrats would need a net gain of two seats to take control.
Cruz, who whose family has roots in the Dominican Republican, said as a woman of color, she feels pressure in these intense times. “I want more policies and more values for people like me because we are not really being represented at all with Trump’s agenda,” said Cruz. “If you actually do care and you want to see some sort of change then I’d say you should vote,” said Cruz. “It shouldn’t take celebrities and advertisements to get people to vote, you should want to see change.”
Civic duty is not well reflected in voting. According to Fair Vote, during presidential elections, only about 60 percent of the eligible populace go to the polls, and during midterm elections that rate drops below 40 percent. In the 2014 midterm election, New York State’s voter turnout rate was a dismal 29 percent, and the state was ranked as 48 out of the 50 states behind Mississippi (28.9 percent) and Texas (28.3 percent).
Low voter turnout during midterms has no connection to the importance of the elections, however. For example, the New York Governor’s office oversees nearly 20 million people, and incumbent Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is engaged in partisan combat with main challenger Marcus Molinaro, Republican, to retain that power. Further, incumbent U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, is competing with Chele Farley, a Republican, for her seat, and, in the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation, a seat in the U.S. Senate cannot be taken for granted.
Other offices up for election include the New York Attorney General, New York Lieutenant Governor, and New York Comptroller. Seats within the U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly, State Supreme Court and State Civil Court are also up for election, though candidates vary by district. Check here for more information.
This emphasis has come with an inundation of ads and celebrity endorsements aimed at millennial voters. One successful program has been Resistbot, a software originally designed to help citizens contact their representatives, but which is also helping people check their voter registration in the lead up to November 6. Further, an ad released by Acronym with its Knock The Vote campaign used elderly American characters to mock young voters for not showing up at the polls.
Besides low turnout possibilities, another obstacle in the way of voting is recent voter registration purges and strategies to purge voters. Lack of information is just as bad as misinformation as was witnessed earlier this week when 400,000 New Yorkers received letters telling them their voter registration was inactive, even if it actually was. This occurred after the national deadline to register, and while Mayor De Blasio said the letter was actually intended to encourage voting, it left many people confused. Many saw it as an act of voter suppression, according to a New York Times article, as it is believed that people who received the letter would be discourage from going to the polls.
WORD staffer Rakeem Nelson, 24, however, stated with certainty that he will not be stopped from voting. “I’m plotting when to go vote and still make it to work,” said the senior who is studying English and media studies and has to commute to Hempstead, Long Island, to cast his vote. The distance will not dissuade him, and he remarked that picking the right candidates will be a challenge.
Asked about specific candidates, Nelson said, who is aware of the partisan mobilization to make November 6 a referendum on Trump, said, “I know next to almost nothing besides the date is November 6.” Dressed in a grey hoodie, black pants, and slip on Vans, the senior then showed that he knew much more than he had let on, as he criticized Republicans and said that he believed “third party (candidacy) is stupid.” Though he will be voting blue, he also was firm that there is “no ideal Democrat.”
There may not be ideal candidates, but imperfection is not justification for staying home. The midterm elections are November 6 and polls are open from from 6 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Voter suppression. Republicans are engaged in an aggressive effort to prevent Americans from voting:
• In Georgia, Ohio and elsewhere, Republican officials are purging the voter rolls — taking away people’s registration, often for no good reason.
• In Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere, Republicans have closed polling places.
• In Arkansas, Iowa and North Dakota, Republicans have added onerous new identification requirements.
• And in Florida, Iowa and Kentucky, Republicans have tried to make it even harder for people previously convicted of felonies to vote.
WORD Senior Writer Breffni Neary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other WORD staffers contributing to this article: Eileen Cruz, Addison Gettenberg, Liza Satar, Vanessa Guardado, Rakeem Nelson.