By Philip Passantino, Guest Writer
The results of Election Day on Nov. 4 will determine the path of the United States for the next two years, which is why it’s so important to vote.
Some might not know that there’s an upcoming election.The U.S. Constitution mandates that elections for the House of Representatives and for about one-third of the Senate be held every two years.
The last congressional election was held in 2012, at the same time as the presidential election, which means the next congressional election will be held this year. There will also be state and local races on the ballot, but I’m going to focus on what’s at stake on the federal level.
Currently, members of the Republican Party control the House of Representatives, while members of the Democratic Party control the Senate. This has led to legislative deadlock where few bills are agreed upon by both houses. When there’s a deadline for Congress to act, a compromise bill is often passed at the last minute or even after the deadline, evidenced by last year’s government shutdown.
This isn’t a fault of the system, because it makes it difficult for one group to completely control the government and abuse its power. If members of the same party controlled both houses of Congress, though, they’d be able to get along more easily than they do now. The House isn’t likely to switch party control this year. This has to do with numerous factors such as gerrymandered congressional districts, according to Larry Sabato, the director for the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Regardless, it’s still important to vote in House elections.
“The reason to vote is not because of a big issue, it is an act of citizenship,” said Michael Halvorson, Pacific Lutheran University associate history professor.
The big issue for Senate elections is that Republicans can gain the majority. The Republican Party needs a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate. There are seven states holding Senate elections currently represented by a Democrat, but were won by Governor Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.
A Republican in each of these states has a realistic chance of defeating the Democratic incumbent or winning an open seat that a Democratic senator currently holds. It’s even a possibility that Republicans can defeat Democrats in states that President Obama won in the last presidential election.
If Republicans take control of the Senate, they’ll make sure President Obama does not overstep his authority by using the Senate’s committees to investigate abuses of power, according to David Nather from POLITICO.
It’s entirely possible that President Obama and congressional Republicans are able to compromise and get things done, like President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans did in the 1990s, but there’s also a chance that they’ll be unable to get along and few things will get done legislatively.
If Democrats maintain control of the Senate they’ll focus on raising the federal minimum wage, even though Senate Republicans will block them because they believe it’ll burden businesses and lead to layoffs. The difference between a Republican Senate and a Democratic Senate will determine what issues Congress tackles for the next two years.
It’s true that one vote will almost certainly not make a difference in a federal race, but if thousands of people think like that and do not vote, that’ll make a difference. Many brave Americans have died protecting our freedoms. It’d be a shame if we didn’t take advantage of our freedom.
PLU LuteVote is a project branched from ASPLU that encourages students to vote and increase civic participation.
Visit their website here to register to vote!