Carroll County Times

Zirpoli: Breaking down the midterm elections

My primary questions regarding the midterm elections had to do with control of Congress, the young vote, and the number of elected women to Congress. But, first, a note about turnout.

I understand that there is excitement about a record 113 million people who voted last week. However, that number represents only 49 percent of eligible voters. This is an improvement from the 36 percent participation in 2014. But isn’t 36 percent a low bar? How can America remain a beacon of democracy in the world if less than half of eligible voters bother to vote?


For the Senate, one race in Florida is too close to call and is currently in a recount. A second Senate race in Mississippi is heading for a Nov. 27 runoff because none of the candidates received 50 percent of the vote. If, as expected, both Florida and Mississippi elect Republican senators, Republicans will net two additional seats in the Senate. Meanwhile, Democrats will take control of the House. Nine of the 13 undecided House races are on the West Coast and, according to, are favored by Democrats. If these predictions hold, predicts that Democrats will net 38 House seats.

Two governor races are undecided. The Florida governor race is in a recount, and the Georgia governor race is still too close to call. Republicans are expected to win both. Democrats, meanwhile, have picked up governorships previously held by Republicans in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.


Young people increased their participation in this year’s midterms compared to 2014 when only 21 percent of them voted. estimated that “31 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 cast ballots in the 2018 midterms.” In some states, the increase was even more significant. For example, The Atlantic reported a “fivefold increase” from 2014 to 2018 for voters ages 18 to 29 in Texas and Nevada.

The Washington Post reported that 67 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 voted for Democratic candidates compared with 32 percent who supported Republicans. Support from young voters made the difference in many House and the Senate races. For example, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana won re-election by less than 6,000 votes. He won young voters by 67 percent to 28 percent for his Republican opponent. Without this advantage, Tester would have likely lost.

The midterms also gave us more women in Congress. With some races still undecided, Emily Peck of Huffington Post counted a record 123 women elected to the 116th Congress. Most, 104, are Democrats, and 19 are Republicans. The next Congress will also include a record number of women of color, the first two Native-American women (Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico) and the first two Muslim women (Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota). The increased number of women, who represent 51 percent of Americans, is great. However, there are 535 members of Congress and 123 women equal only 23 percent.

Speaking of women, the gender gap continues to grow. According to Pew Research Center, 59 percent of women voted for House Democrats and 40 percent for House Republicans, “a record margin of 19 points — nearly double the margin by which they voted for Democrats in 2016.” Fifty-one percent of men voted for Republicans and 47 percent for Democrats.

What were the major shifts in voting from 2016 to 2018? Nate Silver of calculated that if you took the total House votes from each state, those for Democrats and those for Republicans, and translated them into Electoral College votes used during presidential elections, it would have equated to 314 electoral votes for Democrats and 224 for Republicans. Why the swing from the 2016 Electoral College that gave candidate Donald Trump the presidency? Because Democrats won the national popular vote in these midterms by about 7 percentage points, including the majority of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, “the three states that essentially won Trump the election” in 2016, according to Silver. Silver found that for the midterms, “Democrats won the popular vote in Michigan by 7 percentage points, Wisconsin by 8 points and Pennsylvania by 10 points.”

The counting of mail-in, absentee, and provisional ballots continues in many states. In close elections, these tabulations are critical to the final status of several House, Senate, and governor races. Let every vote be counted.