THE MIDTERMS ARE COMING!!!

I bet you’ve seen the signs, and maybe the commercials and mailers, so hopefully you are aware that our Midterm elections are taking place on Tuesday, November 6. These Midterms are some of the most important elections of our day and age, with the potential to change the federal government’s powers significantly.

Disclaimer: If you’re exhausted with all of politics and the fighting and the infighting and the media and the ugliness, as we all are, it’s important to remember that just because you may choose to not pay attention, it’s still going on. You may not notice it immediately, but the train doesn’t stop. I realize that this is a lot of information, and keeping up with politics is not for the faint of heart, but becoming informed to vote with your values and best interests is important for your future. It’s often hard to grasp the large abstract issues, and it’s too easy to get stuck on one issue, but this is your only chance to weigh in on the current state of affairs.

Regardless of your political affiliation, it is vital to take part in the patriotic act of voting. A lot of Americans don’t think their vote matters. Voting is extremely powerful, and it’s a privilege that we have an opportunity to influence change in our community. Without the use of an electoral college during Midterms, every vote counts. There’s a lot at stake during this election, and there’s no reason to talk yourself out of voting or assume that your vote doesn’t matter. TO BE HEARD, YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP AND VOTE.

Voter turnout in the United States is terrible, plain and simple. Turnout for a Presidential election typically hovers around 50%, while turnout for midterms is often half that. There are a variety of reasons why people don’t turn out, whether they are uninformed, are unable to get off of work, are without access to transportation, etc. Low voter turnout makes every vote more important, because often these elections are decided by a handful of votes, despite the outcome affecting everyone. Millennial voting in the last presidential election was 49% and in the last primary in 2014 it was 22%. Unacceptable. Make sure you vote.

Making a Voting Plan & Sample Ballot

Do you have a voting plan? Do you know WHERE your polling place is? (Find out here if you’re in WV and here if you’re in OH). Do you know what time they close? Have you set a reminder in your phone? Are you going alone or with friends or family?

Once you have a concrete plan, you have to figure out who you’re going to vote for. This is where sample ballots come in. Each county and precinct provides a sample ballot online so you know exactly what to expect and plan accordingly. There is no excuse to not take time to research these candidates and ballot measures to vote as best you can. Millennials are much less likely to not vote if they are unaware of the issue or candidate’s views, while Baby Boomers will vote regardless – this matters because if you are a Millennial, you have to live with the repercussions for a lot longer.

Find your sample WV ballot here and your sample OH ballot here. Vote Save America has bipartisan voter guides on their website found here, where you can type in your address, see the biggest elections in your district, read about each candidate, create a sample ballot and email or print so you can take it to the poll.

So what’s at stake?

Currently Republicans control all three branches of government, and both houses of Congress.

US SENATE

The Senate is made up of 100 seats, and is currently comprised of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. (If you don’t know, each state has 2 seats.) There are 35 seats up for grabs during this election, with 26 being Democratic. The majority party represented on the Senate will flip if the Democratic Party defends all seats and gains two.

US HOUSE

The House is made up of 435 seats. (This is the branch where seats are given out based on population). West Virginia has 3 seats while Ohio has 16. ALL of these seats are up in 2018. As of now, the Republicans hold 235 seats, while the Democrats hold 193 seats. Seven seats are currently vacant. If the Democratic Party wants to have a majority representation in the House, 23 additional seats need to be gained.

One of the hottest Congressional races is in the 3rd District of West Virginia with Richard Ojeda (D) running against Carol Miller (R). To learn more about this race, click here.

STATE RACES

In this year’s midterms there are 36 gubernatorial elections, including Ohio, that will have large implications for the 2020 census. Who cares about governor’s seats in other states, right? You should. Governors typically have veto power over gerrymandering attempts, thus it is important to vote for someone who aligns with your values to ensure representation both within and outside of your state of residence.

DeWine (R) is the current Attorney General of Ohio and is running on his experience and track record in state government. Cordray (D) has most recently worked as the Director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In 2010 these two ran for the Attorney General position, where DeWine won by 49,000 votes, and where he’s held the post since. You can read more about each of their platforms here.

BALLOT MEASURES

In addition to federal, state, and municipal choices up for a vote, the midterms are when state legislatures attempt to pass ballot measures. Ballot measures include Constitutional Amendments, also called Initiatives. Both West Virginia and Ohio have ballot measures to consider this midterm. These initiatives can have a significant effect on your life, and the life for those in your state. Ballot Measures are written by state legislatures and are often very difficult to read in plain English. They tend to be confusing, thus it is more important to do your research. Ohio and West Virginia, we did that for you.  (The following ballot measure information came from votesaveamerica.com)

Ohio has one Initiative on the ballot and it reads as follows:

Issue 1: Drug and Criminal Justice Policies Initiative

This initiative would amend the state constitution to reduce drug penalties and send fewer people to prison.

This amendment could do the following:

  • Reduce the charge for those caught using or possessing drugs from a fourth- or fifth-degree felony, which could lead to serious prison time, to a misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to 6 months in county jail.
  • Prohibit courts from sending people on probation for felonies back to jail for non-criminal probation violations
  • Create a sentence credits program for inmates’ participation in rehabilitative, work, or educational programs
  • Require Ohio to spend savings from a reduction of inmates on drug treatment, crime victim, and rehabilitation programs
  • Make it more difficult to prosecute drug traffickers.
  • Take away available resources  from the court for rehabilitation and remove judges’ ability to use incarceration when it’s necessary.

This measure would not reduce penalties for drug dealers, who typically possess enough drugs to be charged with a first, second, or third degree felony. That’s drug trafficking, not drug possession. Also, under this measure, probation violations — like missing a meeting with a probation officer or not paying money owed to victims — would no longer mean prison time. According to Policy Matters Ohio, Issue 1 would reduce the prison population by more than 10,000 people, saving taxpayers about $136 million a year.

One criticism from opponents is that this proposed constitutional amendment does not provide adequate funding for treatment infrastructure nor treatment itself.  Another concern is that while Issue 1 would reduce penalties for fourth- and fifth-degree offenses that were on the books as of Jan. 1, 2018, at that time, fentanyl wasn’t labeled as one of the state’s most dangerous drugs. So anyone caught with less than 20 grams of fentanyl would face a misdemeanor instead of prison time. A lethal dose of fentanyl can be as small as 2 milligrams. That means 20 grams could kill as many as 10,000 people. Ohio law also defined third-degree possession of fentanyl as “five times the maximum daily dose in the usual dose range specified in a standard pharmaceutical reference manual.” That would be much less than 20 grams of fentanyl.

Vote YES if you want to amend the state constitution to reduce drug penalties and send fewer people to prison and vote NO if you do not want to amend the state constitution to reduce drug penalties and send fewer people to prison.

West Virginia has two constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Amendment 1: No Right to Abortion in Constitution

The amendment would change the constitution to explicitly state that it doesn’t protect a woman’s right to have an abortion. In other words, if Roe V. Wade were to be overturned, this language would make it constitutionally impossible to allow abortion in West Virginia.

What’s that mean, you may ask? This amendment would add language to the constitution that says “Nothing in this constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” The President of West Virginians for Life said this language was included “to make clear that the state constitution isn’t going to be addressing the abortion issue.” (One might argue that updating to the state constitution to explicitly say it will never secure or protect a right to an abortion is, in fact, addressing the abortion issue pretty hard.) Here’s the bottom line with this one: While adding this language wouldn’t immediately outlaw a women’s right to choose to have an abortion in West Virginia (which is still protected by Roe v. Wade, at least for the time being), it does explicitly remove all protections of that right from the West Virginia constitution.

If you vote YES, you support altering the West Virginia constitution to explicitly say that the it doesn’t secure or protect a woman’s right to have an abortion, or fund an abortion. If you vote NO, you do not support altering the West Virginia constitution to explicitly say that the it doesn’t secure or protect a woman’s right to have an abortion, or fund an abortion.

Amendment 2: Legislative Authority Over Budgeting for State Judiciary Amendment

This resolution would amend the state constitution to give control of the West Virginia Supreme Court’s budget to the state legislature — allowing them to cut it by as much as 15 percent.

What’s that mean?

Currently, the state judiciary controls its own budget. If this amendment passes, the West Virginia State legislature would be able to cut the state judiciary budget, or any item in it, by as much as 15%. It would also mean that Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals would have to appear before the legislature to answer questions about the budget, if requested, and would allow the chief justice to appear at hearings voluntarily. It’s worth noting that state legislatures in all 49 other states have control over the budgets of their state judiciaries. A little background: While proponents of this amendment claim that it’s been in the works for a long time, it was almost certainly helped along by last year’s allegations that the West Virginia Supreme Court misused funds on courthouse office renovations, which apparently included a $32,000 couch for the former Chief Justice. Those against the amendment argue that the Court has put oversight measure in place to make sure that doesn’t happen again — and that giving the state legislature this kind of control would upset the balance of power, putting lawmakers in a position to use budget cuts to “punish” the Court for rulings they don’t like.

If you vote YES you support giving the WV State Legislature control of the WV Supreme Court’s budget. If you vote NO you do not support giving the WV State Legislature control of the WV Supreme Court’s Budget.

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