2018 Midterms: What Voters Said About Our Democracy

Statement of Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn

Voters sent several strong messages last night. Democracy is about people, and President Trump’s power must be checked.

Democrats won the gavel in the House of Representatives, despite significant structural disadvantages posed by gerrymandering that limited the number of seats they won. With the majority comes a significant responsibility to hold the Trump Administration accountable and uphold Congress’s oversight responsibilities. Common Cause will stand true to its mission of holding power — no matter the political party — accountable.

There were many major victories when it comes to ballot measures, too. Democracy issues including reining in partisan gerrymandering, expanding the franchise to more eligible Americans, and upholding strong ethical standards in government passed overwhelmingly in many states.

While both political parties can find reasons to celebrate and recalibrate based on the 2018 midterm results, all Americans celebrate big steps forward we took together in our democracy and we must resolve right now, today, to solve the problems the huge turnout laid bare for all to see.

This election proved that the American people want a 21st Century democracy that works for all of us, but in many places they stood in hours-long lines caused by antiquated and malfunctioning machines. Common Cause recruited more than 6,500 volunteers for its nonpartisan Election Protection efforts yesterday, highlighting the best of the American spirit, neighbor helping neighbor so every voice is heard and vote counted.

We must prioritize the modernization of our election infrastructure — for the security and integrity of our elections. We must end this systemic barrier that prevents many more Americans from participating. Out of respect for each and every eligible American, and for the convenience of many hard-working families who want to cast a ballot to have their say in the future of our country, we can and must do better.

Casting a ballot should not be an endurance sport. We need the new Congress to prioritize bi-partisan legislation providing the necessary funds to states and establish standards to bolster the resiliency of our election infrastructure.   Resources should be distributed equitably because all Americans have a right to secure and accessible elections.

The 2018 midterms highlight another structural barrier the people demand we fix — gerrymandering.

Listening to people who stood in line for up to five hours, it was clear that many voters felt a were determined to send a message from their state or district to the rest of the country. But because of the rigging of the system through unprecedented levels of gerrymandering, that message was muted.

In the 2010 election (the last midterm before redistricting), Americans gave Republican candidates for Congress a 6.7 percent advantage when all votes were aggregated and gained a whopping 63 seats in the Congress. In the 2018 midterm, Democratic candidates won a 7 percent advantage in the aggregated Congressional vote and won (as results currently stand) fewer than 30 seats. The pattern of more votes for fewer seats undermines people’s faith in democracy and results in a governing minority that does not reflect, nor work for, all Americans.

We need to look no further than democracy ballot initiatives in the 2018 Midterms for proof. Voters in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Long Beach, California established independent commissions to end gerrymandering. Now five of the ten largest cities in California have added local impartial commissions to that state’s pioneering statewide law passed in 2008. The politicians who oppose changing these laws need to tell their constituents why their partisan power is more important that every eligible American’s vote.

The democracy ballot initiatives that won in 2018 are the start of a trend of people taking up the cause of democracy for the second consecutive election cycle, nearly doubling the number on this year’s ballot as 2016’s — almost all of them winning with high levels of public support.

With a record turnout, record numbers of women and people of color running and winning — even in a system that is stacked against them — and with Americans voting to strengthen and modernize our democracy — we must seize this moment and prioritize fixing our system so that our elections are secure, every eligible American knows their votes count and will be counted fairly, and that those we elect t represent us to reflect the rich and beautiful diversity of the American people. These reforms should unite voters of every political party, just as they did in this election.  Working together, we can and will build a 21st Century democracy that works for all of us.