Democrats Win Big in Pennsylvania Amidst Midterm Elections

Tatiana Kent

Last week, millions of Americans stuffed themselves into voting booths – or mailed in their ballots – to make their voices heard in this year’s midterm elections. This year, certain House and Senate seats were contested, and most states voted on governors. Here at Ursinus College, students and Collegeville residents alike made their voices heard at the Schellhase Commons. Members of the Ursinus Votes club have worked throughout the semester to help register eligible students. Student engagement has been rising steadily throughout the past decade – 81% of registered Ursinus students voted in 2020, compared to 66% at academic institutions nationwide, according to an article posted on the Ursinus College website.

Here in Pennsylvania, Democrats won both the Senatorial and Gubernatorial races. John Fetterman defeated Mehmet Oz in the race for the Senate by a few hundred thousand votes, becoming the first Democrat to hold this position since 1962. Formerly Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, Fetterman advocates for criminal justice reform, Medicare for All, and cannabis legalization. He also supports implementing a wealth tax and barring Congress members from trading stocks.

Josh Shapiro beat Doug Mastriano in the governor’s race by a significantly larger margin. Shapiro, formerly Pennsylvania’s attorney general, promises to protect abortion access, cut the commonwealth’s corporate tax from 10% to 4%, and create a gas tax refund for passenger vehicles. Shapiro also supports unions, abolishing the death penalty, and investing in clean energy. Both winning candidates have proved popular with young voters, who favor their progressive policies. A CNN exit poll noted that most male voters and white voters without college degrees supported Oz, while most female voters, voters of color, and white voters with college degrees supported Fetterman.

Nationwide, it appears that Republicans will maintain control of the House, while Democrats hope to make up the majority in the Senate. The GOP expected to benefit from skyrocketing inflation, a problem often blamed on Democrat President Joe Biden, and new district lines following last year’s redistricting.

Voters also had decisions to make on numerous hot-button issues. Vermont, California, and Michigan residents approved constitutional amendments securing the right to an abortion. Following the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the issue of reproductive rights was once again returned to the states, many of which have already banned it. Recreational marjiuana was legalized in Maryland and Missouri, but failed to pass in Arkansas and North Dakota. Most states have legalized marjiuana for medical purposes with nineteen allowing recreational use. In recent years, the movement to decriminalize cannabis and expunge past offenses has gained nationwide traction. Last month, President Biden pardoned all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. He’s also asked the Department of Health and Human Services to review its classification as a Schedule One substance. Schedule One substances are classified by the DEA as having no known medical purpose and a high potential for abuse. For reference, cocaine and methamphetamine are Schedule Two Drugs.

Alabama, Tennessee, and Vermont all passed ballot initiatives restricting forced prison labor; a similar initiative lost in Louisiana. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, but contained an exception for “a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” This clause has been used to pay prisoners just cents per hour, with some states not paying a wage at all. Washington, D.C. residents approved a measure to increase tipped workers’ minimum wage from $5.35 to $16.10. The federal minimum wage – $7.25 an hour – has not been raised since 2009.

If you didn’t or couldn’t vote this year, there’s still time to make your voice heard in the 2024 presidential election. Being able to choose who represents you is a right not everyone in the world has – so make sure your voice is heard in the years to come!