The voting is done, the ballots are being counted. Some victories have been declared and some are still too close to call. We’re all on pins and needles to see how everything finally resolves, and the Better Utah staff took a moment to reflect on the 2018 midterms.
As of this writing, it looks like Proposition 2 and 3 have passed, and 4 is close. At least four, maybe more (votes are still being counted), state legislative seats have been flipped by the minority party. Ben McAdams hasn’t won the election in the 4th congressional district yet, but it’s quite possible he will.
I live in a fairly blue neighborhood, and the sense I get when speaking with my neighbors, my family, my friends, and activists in Utah is that they feel–and have felt for years–unheard. Unheard by their legislators, unheard by the state, unheard by their neighbors, and unheard by our members of Congress. This results in an apathetic attitude toward civic engagement, and many people don’t show up to vote or engage in the process because it feels futile. But there was something special about this year–more people in my precinct voted this year than in the last two elections. This wasn’t unique to my precinct either–massive turnout was seen throughout the state. More people showed up, and as a result, we passed two (maybe three) propositions and flipped seats.
The success of the Prop 2 and Prop 3 campaigns, and the results of various state-level races give me hope for the future. I’m optimistic not just because I believe in the importance of the propositions and the policies that our new legislators will likely put forward, but because 1.) Progressive or left-leaning Utahns might feel, some of them for the first time, that they’re being heard and their voices matter. 2.) Excuses like “my vote doesn’t matter” are now invalid. They’ve always been invalid, but now we have recent events to point to as proof. Utah progressives can say definitively that when they show up to the polls, they can make a difference.
Both on a national and local level, there’s a lot to be happy about. Overall, Tuesday was a solid step in the right direction both for the country and for Utah.
Nationally, the best things that happened include:
- Democrats taking control of the U.S. House. This will allow Congress to check– and hopefully, correct–the Trumpian legislative agenda we have been living with for the past two years.
- Florida passed a constitutional amendment in restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions after they complete the terms of their sentence. This is a wonderful thing for democracy, and will allow 1.4 million people the ability to vote again.
- Fresh faces for the progressive movement drove both voter registration and turnout. Voters found candidates who they felt were symbolic of a greater cause. It’s a good thing: idealism is an essential part of a healthy democracy.
Statewide, the best things that happened include:
- Utah’s voter turnout jumped more than 50% since the last midterm elections in 2014, and ballots are still coming in. Previously, Utah has had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation (39th out of 50) so this is a big improvement for the state. In addition to national GOTV public sentiment, Utah’s increased voter rates can be attributed to the expansion of mail-in ballots and election day voter registration.
- Propositions 2 and 3 passed, which will allow hundreds of thousands of patients statewide to have increased access to the healthcare they need. We applaud the work of those campaigns and their commitment to relieve suffering.
- Local news coverage increased its scrutiny of county clerks. County clerks are crucial but often unnoticed players to ensuring that everyone can fairly exercise their right to vote. The ACLU of Utah also made efforts to get county clerks up to speed for election day.
Utah hasn’t been without its share of county clerk shenanigans. This year, San Juan County clerk John David Nielson improperly kicked a candidate off the ballot (who has since been reinstated and won the election), and Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson failed to count hundreds of ballot initiative signatures and failed to properly plan for election day, leaving voters waiting in lines for more than four hours.
Tuesday was remarkable. As I watched election returns that evening and over the past two days, I am struck by the ways in which Utahns used their votes to effect change.
After years of inaction by our state legislature, we allowed suffering Utahns to use cannabis for medical treatment and expanded Medicaid to cover those without healthcare. We elected progressive representatives and senators who will fight for a fair economy, affordable healthcare, increased education funding, a healthy environment, and more.
Tens of thousands of Utahns registered and voted for the first time. Even before polls were open, the totals for mail-in-ballots and early voting were surpassing recent midterm election totals. Turnout was so impressive that hundreds of thousands of ballots still have to be counted. Although we may not know the final outcome until later this month, I continue to have high hopes for the fates of Proposition 4 and the 4th Congressional District.
The election is over and we can now turn on our televisions and radios without being bombarded by political advertisements. But unlike the many campaigns shuttering their offices, our work at Better Utah continues. The 2019 Legislative Session is only two months away and we are preparing to push for progressive policies while defending the recently-passed initiatives from legislative attacks. We are monitoring elected officials across the state and will hold them accountable when necessary. And even though it pains me to say this, we are already planning for the 2020 election that is just around the corner.
We accomplished a lot on Tuesday but we have so much more to do. Let’s get to work!