Pew Research Center recently published a very interesting poll. More than 50 percent of eligible voters voted in the 2018 midterm elections (In 2014, turnout was 41.9 percent). Last year saw the highest turnout rate for a midterm election since 1978. Notably, the increased voter turnout was most significant in the Hispanic and Asian communities. Their combined turnout rate increased about 40 percent. In addition, the black turnout rate increased 10.8 percent from 2014. The conclusion of the Pew report was that the 2018 midterm election was the most racially and ethnically diverse midterm ever. It should also be noted that the white turnout rate also increased (by 3.8%); however, as stated, the increase from the Latino and Asian population was significantly higher than the white U.S.-born turnout rate increase. To sum it up, Hispanic, Asian and black voters accounted for a record 25 percent voter increase in the midterm election.
This brings me to my confusion. Why was the media coverage after the midterm election filled with vitriol about widespread voter suppression, especially against minorities? Clearly demonstrated, statistically verified and factually accurate, there was no basis for this conclusion, yet it was one of the most widely criticized topics after the midterm election by the media. Doesn’t anyone remember that but me? Has there been any retraction or discussion by the media about their false narrative?
I am not suggesting that there were not inconsistencies around the country or at random polls. However, the widespread voter trend showed a significantly favorable increase in minority participation, which should be applauded and commended, not demonized. Those who inaccurately described voter turnout and spoke out prematurely should accept their responsibility for misleading America with their opinion, spewed forth as factual commentary.
A Center for American Progress article with comments from Danielle Root and Aadam Barclay is one random example. Messages should be retracted such as “when voter suppression occurs, election results may be less reflective of constituents’ actual will.” More voters turned out. More minority voters turned out. This midterm election reflects “constituents’ will” more than any other since 1978. Yes, if we can get even more voter turnout, this will be even more true, but the trend is in the direction these writers are aiming and they are outright dismissing the facts. More importantly, they are specifically misleading their readers. (That is you and me).
Again, I am not dismissing the fact that in some states and in some polling locations there were unacceptable barriers to voting and/or registration. This is a problem that should be continually addressed until it is completely solved. Clearly, however, this past midterm election saw movement in the right direction; and, clearly, we were woefully misinformed.
In the same vein, although much more debatable and contentious, we should not confuse appropriate voter registration requirements with barriers. Obviously, some barriers have come down, that partly explains why minority voter turnout has increased. Not all requirements are barriers.
Most people know there are requirements to getting a driver’s license. Obtaining a driver’s license includes waiting in line during working hours, testing, identification and other prerequisites. None of this process is particularly enjoyable, but it has been proven appropriate and acceptable. In another example, we wait in line at our favorite restaurant and crazy enough, sometimes have to show an ID to pay for our meal or purchase an alcoholic drink.
Driving and voting take a little work on our part, and rightfully so. Obstacles to any of these actions should not be insurmountable. But suggesting there be no restrictions to driving, voting, using a credit card (or a myriad of other everyday occurrences) is unrealistic as well. Just because voting is a constitutional right – unlike driving, access to healthcare or obtaining a credit card – does not mean our government should disregard accuracy, accountability, due process and respect.
There is a continental divide between widespread voter suppression and isolated incidents. I am weary of the media obfuscating real issues with opinions and real obstacles with appropriate safeguards.