Overall, I feel hopeful about this year’s midterm elections. With a clear increase in young people voting, there are signs that the younger generation will become more involved in the election process.

According to US News and World Report, 31 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 voted in the midterm elections, which was 10 percent higher than in 2014.

Given the approximately 75.4 million millennials in the United States (minus a few since the term millennials also include adults born as early as 1981), 31 percent of 75.4 million is still a lot of people, which is good in encouraging the younger generation to vote, especially since they will be the ones in control of the nation’s future.

Even more, preliminary results showed that voters aged 18 to 29 made up approximately 13 percent of the total electorate, which was up 11 percent from 2014.

Although 13 percent still sounds small, it is still a substantial increase from 2 percent of the total electorate. Also, the percentage of 18-29 year olds who participated in early voting in 2014 significantly increased in many states across the country, such as Georgia (415 percent), Texas (448 percent), and Tennessee (767 percent).

With the help of a greater voter turnout, there have been many changes that took place on the political scene.

US Capitol Building Washington DC 2017.
The U.S. House of Representatives changed party control in the 2018 midterm election. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

First, the Democrats gained back a majority in the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, the Republicans kept a majority in the Senate, meaning that they can keep confirming conservative appointees of Trump, disrupt the power balance in the judicial branch and possibly cause another controversy like Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing.

However, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives still means that the Democrats can challenge the policies of the Trump administration and even call for investigations into certain issues such as Trump’s tax returns, policy decisions and more.

New Demographics

In addition, there were major changes and records made in terms of the demographics of politicians, such as the youngest woman elected to Congress, the first two Native-American women elected to Congress, the first Muslim women elected as representatives, and the first openly gay man elected as a state governor.

Something that this election also proved to me was that every vote really does count. Two days after the midterm elections, I saw an article in Honolulu Civil Beat mentioning that incumbent Trevor Ozawa earned 22 votes over Tommy Waters for the City Council, giving Ozawa the victory. If Waters were to win the City Council, this would have allowed Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s allies to be “back in power.”

However, due to a narrow victory, Caldwell is likely to be challenged more with Ozawa, a strong critic of the mayor, in the City Council seat.

With that said, there are always ways to improve voter turnout. Although there was a greater movement to get everyone out to vote, Hawaii should focus on educating voters about ways that they can register to vote and increase access to voting.

First, the Office of Elections should partner with other companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to further promote the free or discounted rides to the polls since that was something I personally heard more through word-of-mouth rather than through the website or even social media.

Hawaii should focus on educating voters about ways that they can register to vote and increase access to voting.

In addition, although people can register online, the State Office of Elections should also consider an option to vote online since, despite the opportunities for voting, some people are still too busy or lazy to head to the polls.

For example, although I kept bothering and texting my roommate to vote in the midterm elections, she ended up not voting since she did not participate in absentee voting, was “busy in the morning,” and “ended up taking a nap the whole afternoon.” For people like my roommate, this would provide a quick and efficient way for people to vote from home.

Another option could be what Kauai might implement in 2020, which is all-mail balloting. According to a Honolulu Civil Beat article, if the measure proves successful, the rest of the state may follow suit within a couple years after Kauai. This would allow no excuse for people to say that they are too busy or lazy to physically go to the polls and provide a more efficient way of getting the ballot to voters.

Still, I feel overall hopeful for the future of the United States democracy.On election day, seeing the phrase “I voted” trending on many of my friends and classmates’ stories was encouraging to see that the younger generation has become more involved in the election process.

Earlier on during the election, I volunteered at the Emerge Conference, a leadership conference for high school students held by the Center for Tomorrow’s Leader. They had a board asking students to put a dot to represent whether they sided with David Ige or Andria Tupola for Hawaii governor.

Seeing that there were hundreds of colorful dots was reassuring to see that the future would be in the hands of an engaged and informed generation eager to make a change.

Even the other college students I was volunteering with put their dot on the board, and even though they had different opinions on who to vote for, I was still able to tell that they were actively engaging with the political process.

The theme of the conference I volunteered with was “Taking on Tomorrow,” meaning that the students will confront the problems and challenges ahead of them and use their leadership skills to find solutions to better their community.

The thought behind having the conference on election day was that while the adults are voting for our political leaders, such as our senators, representatives, and governors, the high school students are learning what it takes to become one of those future leaders and solve the issues plaguing our current society.

After witnessing the large number of high school students eager to “take on tomorrow,” hearing about the record voter turnout among the younger generation, and seeing many minority groups elected to Congress, there is more hope that the United States will return to the democracy it once was.

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