Our midterm election reflections

This week the SM+I team is reflecting on what the midterms brought up for us:

Sujatha: In moments of crisis/opportunity like these elections, I find myself looking for lessons learned and taking the long view. I was thrilled to see how much we won, despite gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a booming economy. The force feels strong, despite the odds stacked against us, especially amongst the women of color who are heading to Congress and who won locally. And, as I ponder the lessons, I wonder what we can learn from Georgia, Florida, and Texas about progressive organizing and making an appeal to a broader base of voters— all juicy questions to be unpacked and iterated. Let the celebrations and debriefing begin, and let’s start imagining what’s next!

Judy: My dad was 21 years old when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Growing up, I witnessed how seriously he took going to the polls to cast his vote during each election. He voted not only in political elections, but was also an active and proud member of his Teamsters Local #592. It was at his funeral four years ago that I learned he was one of five Black men to integrate his union in the 1970s. I’m thinking of my father, my people, and my ancestors this week.

Shanelle: This midterm, I voted for the first time in my new home state of New York. When I registered, I received a letter from the New York Board of Elections requesting a copy of my ID. I mailed it but didn’t hear back. Up until Saturday, November 3, I had no confirmation of my voting status—and for the first time in my voting life, I felt the choking fear of potentially not being able to make civic decisions for myself and the people I care about. Eventually, I received my approval and confirmation with my polling station address, but my partner, who underwent the same process, did not. He was unable to vote, and we don’t know why. I managed my expectations for the results and share the palpable fear other people are expressing about what values drive people’s election choices. I’m also celebrating the hard-won victories of people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Amendment 4 in Florida. I’m remembering that elections are important, and so is year-round organizing.

Charlene: Voting yesterday made me feel really connected to my country and fellow citizens in a way that I don't always appreciate or remember to. It wasn't just that we were all doing our civic duty, but also that we were invested in changing our future. For a long time now, I think I've felt despondent and untethered, maybe even apathetic. But in the booth at the community center, I remembered what it felt like to be part of this country. I was able to feel the mix of fear and anxiety, but also joy and excitement to see different people coming together. It was nice to feel more than just anger around politics.

Abi: While looking up information on the ballot measures and New York Supreme Court Justice, I found myself increasingly frustrated at the lack of information available to citizens. I scanned the Internet for hours trying to at least find a biography for the candidates and only found bios for a few people. Whomever we choose to be New York Supreme Court Justices has a profound impact on the everyday lives of New York citizens, especially low-income folks and people of color. During this election cycle, the lack of information felt especially infuriating because of the constant “You better vote! If you don’t, you’re what’s wrong with society!!” messaging on social media. Encouraging people to get out to the polls is only one step in the electoral process. We also need to arm folks with the knowledge to make informed decisions that will better their communities. Right now, I’m feeling the fire to re-involve myself with voting rights expansion and making information more available to all citizens.

Amanda: I’ve lived in the U.S. for the past two years. During my first semester here, Trump won the presidential election. I was surprised that he did, that it was a possibility. The more I learned about U.S. politics and heard more of Trump's rhetoric, the more I began to hear the same speech being imitated in my country, Chile, as well as in countries around the world. Something that struck me was how much political power Americans have without realizing it. Voting here is not just about this nation’s government, but how that reverberates all over the globe. We watch how the U.S. approaches politics, and thereby, how it influences our own view of our governments and political systems. The midterm elections will affect the U.S. today and us tomorrow.

Kathryn: Waking up this Tuesday morning, I was thinking about a young friend of mine who just became eligible to vote this year. Amidst all of the misinformation and intentional confusion surrounding voter registration and eligibility, I am ultimately grateful that each year brings new voters who have greater access to the necessary voting information that is circulated on social media and beyond. Regardless, this week I have been thinking about the structure, logistics, and scheduling of election day and how we might start to think about reimagining the process to allow for more equal and open access to democratic participation.