What’s on the ballot during the 2022 midterm elections?

Sebastian Squire, News Reporter

With Democrats currently holding on to a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives and Senate, the outcome of the 2022 midterms may be decided in a handful of toss-up elections. Several of these important elections are taking place in Walla Walla.

While young voters have been a historically underrepresented demographic during elections — especially midterms — students across the country and at Whitman have rallied to get their peers out to vote. 

Sophomore Kate Moe is a member of the Whitman Votes club, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on voter rights and education. 

The goal of Whitman Votes is to encourage voter education. We are not in the mindset that everyone should be voting in Walla Walla if they think their vote would count more in their hometown. We want to ensure that everyone knows how to vote and what it means to vote where they vote,” Moe said. 

According to Moe, in the 2020 presidential election, 85 percent of Whitman students voted. This is high compared to the national average of 51.4 percent for voters in the 18-24 age range. 

With the recent overruling of Roe V. Wade, abortion access has become a central issue on the ballot for many students at Whitman. Whitman’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) club, a branch of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, supports abortion rights at the local and national level.

Senior Kaitlynne Jensen is a member of PPGA and is concerned with reproductive health and abortion access.

“I believe that more women-identifying voters are going to be out at the polls. We’ve already seen this happening actually,” Jensen said. 

Associate Professor of Politics Susanne Beechey noted how voter participation almost always declines in the midterm elections compared to the general election. According to Beechey, political parties target issues that affect voters’ lives to increase turnout, such as inflation and abortion access.

“Republicans are focusing on inflation, in part because they think that’s where they have a case against the Democrats,” Beechey said. “In the United States, there is a kind of myth that the president controls the economy. The Democrats do it to the Republicans, and this is the Republicans doing it to the Democrats.”

While Washington has been a safe blue state for Senate seats for the past 30 years, Democrat incumbent Sen. Patty Murray has been locked in a close race with Republican Tiffany Smiley.

Murray has been a senator for Washington State since 1988 and was the first woman to serve on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee; she currently chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Murray’s platform includes federal abortion rights, climate change, support for unions and increased access to health care through the Affordable Care Act and the American Rescue Plan.

Republican Tiffany Smiley is running on an outsider platform, decrying government bureaucracy and posturing herself as a new face in politics. Her policy priorities are supporting law enforcement, keeping the pandemic-era Title 42 in place (which restricts immigration into the United States), increasing American energy independence by increasing oil production, expanding school choice to promote equal access and banning the removal of the Snake River dams.

Both candidates list controlling the record inflation facing voters as a key legislative priority. 

Also on the ballot is Democrat Natasha Hill, who is running against incumbent Republican congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. McMorris Rodgers has served as the fifth district representative since 2004. This race has centered around issues of abortion, inflation and crime.

Hill has staged her campaign around codifying abortion protections into federal law, increasing health care and education funding, fighting inflation through infrastructure investment and pursuing more equitable judicial policies through more police accountability.

Rodgers has focused on increasing domestic energy production by keeping Snake River dams in place and increasing law enforcement’s ability to seize fentanyl.

With a 50-50 tie in the Senate only broken by Democratic vice president Kamala Harris and the Democrats only holding onto the House by a handful of seats, the 2022 midterms will dictate President Joe Biden’s ability to legislate as he enters the second half of his four-year term.