An overcast sky over Jersey City left the day a dull, muted gray as it blocked out the sun’s rays, but a dim light of democracy was burning for a brief hour on the Saint Peter’s University campus last Monday.
The event was to bring awareness of the upcoming Midterm elections and to help students with the voter registration process. It was organized by the school’s Political Science Department. Professor Alain Sanders, J.D., an associate professor with the department and an expert in American politics also spoke about the upcoming elections at the event.
“A midterm election is the election that comes in the middle of a president's term, and in that election we elect members of Congress,” said Dr. Sanders. “In this particular election, we will be electing all 435 members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate.”
Timothy Stoldt, a member of the class of 2014 with one semester left to finish his double major in Political Science and History, was a volunteer at the event and says that about 15 students signed up to vote that day. Stoldt considers himself a “right-leaning Republican.”
“I think the event went well,” says Stoldt. “I wasn’t so involved in the planning, but I think it was a nice turnout for our campus.”
Stoldt thinks that voting is an important right for college students to practice and when asked why, he responded, “In 20 years we’ll be in our professors’ shoes and we’ll need to be educated and make the right decisions and if we don’t vote now we will not guide the country to benefit us, we’ll be letting others choose for us and we won’t have the future that we want.”
Jennifer Liriano, a junior at Saint Peter’s and a Political Science major with a minor in Women’s Studies, was one of the people registering to vote as a Democrat and agrees with Stoldt’s sentiment about the importance of voting for college students. Liriano believes that the upcoming elections can be the start of a “new era” that she wants to be a part of.
“I do believe that it is important for students to vote,” said Liriano in an email interview. “We along side single women, mothers and minorities are next in line to be affected by changing laws and policy. We are a very large population and in between the four years we are experiencing the change both negative and positive within our social groups and the workforce.”
Fr. Dave Stump, a member of the Saint Peter’s University Jesuit community and of the progressive advocacy group Moveon.org, also agrees that right to vote is important. In fact he sees it as “Christian duty” to do so.
“It’s important for everybody to vote,” said Stump. “If too many people don’t vote, it’s not a democracy anymore.”
Nicholas Chiaravalloti, J.D. Executive Director of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership, uses his non-partisan organization to help bring awareness of politics and elections to the Saint Peter’s University community.
The youth vote has proven to be a powerful force in past elections. According to the Pew Research Center, the youth vote (people under the age of 30) was a big part of President Barack Obama’s presidential victories in both 2008 and 2012.
According to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), it was the youth vote, people between the ages of 18 and 44, that kept states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania from going red for Romney in 2012 and keeping Obama in the White House.
And Chiaravalloti thinks that the trend of the youth vote’s importance will continue.
“I absolutely think that the youth vote is going to be a major segment of the electorate, both on the national elections and on local elections,” said Chiaravalloti.
Despite the fact that a Republican, a Democrat, a Jesuit, and a Juris Doctor all agree that voting is an important right, turnouts among all voters is dramatically less during Midterm elections.
According to Sanders, the demographics that have the most trouble coming out for Midterm elections are single women, young people, and minorities. There can be several contributing to factors as to why this is.
Stump thinks that one of the factors can because of an inability to take time off from work and school to make it to the polls.
Chiaravalloti adds that the lower amount of tension and national media attention can also contribute to a lack of interest.
Here is what the current political climate looks like and how it can be affected by the upcoming Midterm elections.
“The Presidential party almost always loses seat in the midterm elections,” said Sanders. “The average loss is 27 to 28 House seats and three to four Senate seats.”
New Jersey will be deciding one of its two senatorial seats. The main Democratic candidate is Senator Cory Booker, who has held the position since October 31, 2013 after a special election to fill the position left empty by the late Frank Lautenberg.
Booker’s main Republican contender is Jeff Bell, a U.S. army veteran and former Policy Director of the American Principles Project.
However, Bell’s chances do not look so great. Separate polls from Richard Stockton College, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and CBS News/New York Times all favor Booker for the elections.
The Senate at this time is mainly Democratic, which matches the party of President Obama and the Executive branch. It currently consists of “53 Democrats and 45 Republicans and two Independents who caucus with the democrats,” according to Sanders.
Depending on the election, the Senate can go any other three ways: (1) It can stay Democratic; (2) There can be a 50-50 split between Republicans and the Democrats and Independents that caucus together; (3) Republicans can claim majority and poise themselves to block legislation from the Executive branch.
Midterm Elections will also decide the new representatives in all of New Jersey’s twelve congressional districts. Jersey City and the rest of Hudson County is located in the 8th district.
Albio Sires, the democratic candidate and incumbent, is up against Republican Jude Anthony Tiscornia and two Independent candidates. Sires won reelection in 2012 with 78% of the vote according to the New Jersey Secretary of State.
Sires seems likely to win the seat for the fifth time since he has raised $416,359 compared to his competitors who have raised $0, according to OpenSecrets.org.
“In the house there is already a Republican majority,” said Sanders. “There are 233 Republicans and 199 Democrats and 3 vacancies.”
Sanders continued, “The predictions of all the pundits is that the Republicans will retain their majority and they will gain anywhere from five to ten seats.”
Everyone has predictions about what will happen this election, but nobody will know for sure until all the votes are counted. Just remember that you have a voice in it.