What are the midterm elections and why are they important?

(Tiếng Việt)

Much effort and resources have been devoted in the Vietnamese community towards understanding the importance of the presidential elections in controlling the U.S. government’s agenda. However, the midterm elections are just as important, if not more important, in determining the everyday policies that directly affect Vietnamese Americans, such as jobs and the economy, inflation, education, and healthcare. 

How does the government work?

To ensure a balanced separation of powers, the U.S. Federal Government is made up of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.  

The executive branch includes the President and Vice President and is responsible for carrying out federal law and international diplomacy. The President is elected every four years in the general elections. The legislative branch, known as the U.S. Congress, establishes federal laws and is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Finally, the judicial branch evaluates the laws passed by Congress and is made up of the Supreme Court and other lower courts. 

To ensure the government is effective and its citizens’ rights are protected, citizens can directly determine the balance of power by voting in the midterm elections, which occur two years into a president’s term and are centered on the two chambers of Congress: the U.S. Senate, which is comprised of 100 senators, two for each state, and the House of Representatives whose seats are allocated to each state based on population. Senators are elected to six-year terms, which are staggered so that only a third of Senators are up for reelection at a time. Members of the House are elected for two-year terms. 

When are the midterm elections?

This year, the midterms will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, across all 50 states. Currently, 34 Senate seats and 435 seats of the House of Representatives will be determined by direct elections. These elections are extremely important because it determines which political party, Democrats or Republicans, control Congress. Whoever controls Congress will eventually control the agenda and will establish laws that directly affect the economy, national security, education, and healthcare. 

Though the midterms are primarily focused on federal elections, many more critical gubernatorial, mayoral, and legislative races at the state and local level will be decided on Nov. 8th, as well. These races are arguably much more important than the federal races as government policies more directly impact citizens at the state and local level. Legislation on the economy, education and healthcare can greatly differ by state, so allowing citizens to determine which candidates will lead the charge in their city and state is critical to reinforcing democracy at every level of government. 36 states will conduct elections for the governor seat, while many cities will elect new mayors. 

Though midterm elections have a greater influence on the direction of how the government is run, voter turnout has unfortunately been significantly lower than in the general presidential elections. Presidential elections have historically garnered 50% to 60% of voter turnout. That percentage drops down to 40% to 50% in midterm elections. That means that people who vote in local elections have a greater impact on policies that affect them every day. 

2022 could be a year of record voter turnout with Asian Americans leading the charge. As the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., growing by 35.5% in the last decade, Asian Americans are contributing to higher voter participation. In fact, in 2020, 58% of Asian American adults voted in the Presidential Election. Furthermore, Vietnamese Americans make up the fourth-largest Asian ethnic group, making up about 10% of the total Asian population. Though they make up a smaller portion of the Asian population, Vietnamese Americans in California, Texas, Washington state, and Georgia can greatly sway policies that influence job creation, education, and healthcare at the state and local level. For instance, Vietnamese American voters in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Georgia can vote for a new governor. 

At the same time, baseless allegations of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential elections have caused 21 states to enact policies making it more challenging to vote. For instance, in Texas, only certain people can vote by mail, such as those over 65 years old. This makes it harder for many people who cannot vote in person to cast their ballot. As a result, it is very important to make a plan to vote now. Visit VietAmVote.org for instructions on how to register to vote in your state, how to request a ballot, and how to vote.