Partial mid-term results may not be enough to draw firm conclusions about these elections. A Q & A briefing hosted by (EMS)Ethnic Media Services experts analyze the voting trends among Latino, AAPI, and Black voters, election security issues, and the impact of gerrymandered maps on voters of color.
EMS Moderator Pilar Marrero:
The surprising midterm elections results have become the most atypical in decades. Historically midterm elections are a sweep for the party not in the White House. For the last four presidents, a midterm meant losing dozens of House seats and sweeping defeats. It happened to Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton Etc. but not this time! Currently with the senate at play and even though Republicans have an advantage in the House and maybe take a majority their gains could be the smallest in a generation and not large enough to give them a mandate of any kind. Why didn’t it happen and what voters had a hand in stopping this so-called red wave that never materialized? How did voters of color and women vote and what motivated them and how did re-districting, voting access, and disinformation play a role?
Q & A
Sergio I. García-Rios, Assistant Professor, Associate Director for Research, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, the University of Texas at Austin.
EMS: Much was said about a red wave that was supposed to happen. We’ve heard some explanations, some spin, and some estimates, based on your research who were the voters that stopped the red wave?
Every mid-cycle and midterm election the party that occupies the White House loses votes, and this is a natural trend historically and there’s been a few exceptions, we also had an unpopular president and an economy that is struggling. More accurately the inflation and metrics that voters might not fully understand, I have a degree in economics and I don’t fully understand inflation, I don’t know if all voters understand inflation but what I do understand is the prices at the supermarket and gas station and affordability was an issue. All of that made for a perfect combination that would lead to a red wave. The polling we did with Univision showed that voters were across the country; we did four polls, 1 in Nevada 1 and Arizona, 1 in Florida, and 1 in Texas. All of these showed that everyone, people of color and non-Hispanic whites were very concerned about the economy. The first thing that they were concerned about, the priority that they thought congress and local elected officials should address was the economy, but then when you go down the scale that is when you start to see where things chip in because the logic was that Republicans were going to convince voters they have the answer for the economy and then Democrats presented another option, the option of democracy is at risk and then and then abortion is also an important issue. What all polls show was that people were much more concerned about the economy but I don’t think most experts really captured that people had other concerns and voters and particularly voters of color were very concerned about the state of their lives beyond the economy. The second concern in all of our polls was gun safety and mass shootings and also security along the borders, crime but not necessarily about immigration or border control. All these issues were so complex that they don’t align with one party or the other and I think Biden’s strategy of saving democracy played an important role. I think voters of color were sending a message saying, “really we are disappointed with both parties but we think we need to stop extremism” and that helped in the aggregate probably, Democrats to stop the red wave but not necessarily a referendum on the Democrats. I think it is a referendum on voters being tired.
Christine Chen, Executive Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Vote | APIAVote
EMS: What’s your take on the results of the AAPI votes?
We know that in 2020, the most preferred way of voting was either by mail or early vote, three out of four Asian voters cast their ballot in that manner and according to Target Smart even before Tuesday, they showed that national early voting across demographics had increased by 6% since 2018 but early voting in AAPI had increased by 24% so we were at we are actually very confident in terms of overall turnout would actually go ahead either meet or surpass the 2018 numbers in itself. Unfortunately, there is not as much polling that has been conducted in language for Asian-American voters but what we have seen at least by the national polls looks like that Democrats are still gaining the majority of support but they is some slippage with that, we also know that it also varies according to the Asian ethnicity, when you look at the 2022 Asian American voter survey that we conducted early on we had noticed that there’s an increasing number of independent voters among the Asian American electorate, 35% overall and the Chinese actually have the largest percentage of Independence at 47%. Even the Vietnamese who support Republicans at a higher rate than any other Asian ethnic group are losing party identification to Independence and you can maybe account for that as we see gen Z and Millennials leaning in and registering and voting and coming of age that will also change the demographics of the overall API electorate which tends to be a little bit older at this point.
Karma Cottman, Executive Officer of Ujima Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community
EMS: What is your take especially for black voters?
The midterms for black women voters were I think and underscoring that NO we are one very important constituency regardless of party, that we have very deep and complex concerns, we are concerned about our families, we are concerned about our safety, safety for us as women, safety for us as members of the black community, over layered with what safety looks like in terms of physical and financial safety. Are we able to take care of our families physically and also are we able to feed ourselves and our children? One huge mistake that has been made as we look at the black community, black women, and black men, has been assuming that we are a monolith and that any party can just simply count on our vote, and part of the challenge has been that both parties have approached our community as if you don’t necessarily have to speak to our unique needs rather you can sort of use rhetoric to engage with us and so I think what you saw in the midterms and you saw in the last presidential election is that no, you need to speak to the unique needs of our communities, the unique and diverse needs of our communities, you have to speak to them in a way that’s complex so that we see that not only will you speak to them but there will be an action that follows. So what you have seen in the past couple of months, student loans, you’ve seen a response to the issues of abortion and for women not wanting the state to control our bodies, you’ve seen folks in the midterms, you not only have to look at what happened with congressional seats but what happened with local elections, what happened with state elections, that we were voting up and down ballot black women. And so the complexity of issues showed up for our community in so many different ways and then lastly what I say is there’s also this assumption that when you engage the community that we will either shift from Democrat to Republican or Republican to Democrat which is not the way that voting works. People tend to vote in their party or not vote at all because they just completely feel disengaged by politics and so really a part of what you saw in the black community for black women etc. was mobilizing to get out the vote. What that meant was going into the community, actually figuring out how to mobilize and how to ensure that our issues with were represented at the polls.
Gowri Ramachandran, Senior Counsel, Brennan Center’s Elections & Government Program
EMS: There were many fears and a lot of talk about what would happen at the polls in terms of threats against election workers and voters, there was a lot of disinformation about potential fraud. As you know we’re seeing now the candidate for Governor in Arizona who is losing and is already saying that there’s fraud. There was a lot of disinformation going around about Maricopa County with some machine malfunction but there was no massive problem with the election. What did you guys see?
From my perspective, I was monitoring the election for much of the day on Election Day and of course in the weeks leading up to the election and there was a reason for people to be concerned about intimidation or dis-information, about the results and the understandable reason is primarily what we saw in the aftermath of the 2020 election right so it’s understandable for people to be concerned that there might be a repeat of some of those efforts especially efforts to undermine free and fair results. But there was also a sort of growing a sort of election denier movement of people going out and trying to convince citizens that there is widespread fraud going on even though there’s really no evidence to support that or encourage citizens to do things like surveil ballots drop boxes where people were dropping off ballots, so there were definitely a lot of reasons to be concerned. We also at the Brennan Center conducted a poll in the spring of this year and found that 1 in 6 election officials local election officials had themselves been personally threatened over this kind of behavior, many of them were very worried about poll worker recruitment and staff recruitment in the face of all those threats. So lots of reasons to be concerned but I think what we saw is that a lot of effort was put in to keep the system safe and keep it resilient and ensure that people could vote with confidence. We had law enforcement leaders in some communities coming out and saying, ‘look, intimidation of voters and of election workers is not going to be tolerated,’ so we had some of the law enforcement officials in Arizona making that statement which is really helpful when you have that strong support from law enforcement that they’re going to be there to help election officials carry things out, and we had all kinds of resiliency methods in place to push back on that disinformation so the Maricopa incident you mentioned where some of the machines were not accepting the ballots, there was already a resiliency measure in place which is that there is a slot on the side of the machine where the voters can place and it will secure their ballot and then that later or it can be taken out and fed into a scanner that’s going to accept it and count it at the end of the day. So those resiliency measures being in place for over the past I’d say 4 to 5 years. Election officials have put a lot of effort into that, and that’s also part of what helps push back on the disinformation.
Kathay Feng, Common Cause, Director of Redistricting and Representation
EMS: We had a whole redistricting process that we covered for the last 2 years. In .,m-032many states many communities of color participated in redistricting for the first time, and several states had citizens redistricting commissions for the first time, how did candidates of color fair in those state elections where there was activism and achievements the in the area of redistricting?
I want to start by just identifying that there are about seven states that have some kind of a relatively independent commission and then another six states that have advisory commissions, so we’re talking about 13 states or so. Of those that have some kind of independent commissions, there are three states where they were drawn by truly independent non-politician commissions that were not chosen by politicians in the state. Those three states were California, Colorado, and Michigan. There are other states that help politicians commissions or advisory commissions like Alaska, and New Mexico. Across the board, we saw many improvements. Two examples, in Colorado, Latino groups and, Common Cause advocated for more Latina-influenced districts and in fact, the citizens redistricting commission which was convened for the very first time drew a district eighth congressional district that included much of the northern Denver suburbs as well parts of Wells County. And that District, Congressional 8 elected for the first time a Latina representative to be part of the Congressional Colorado delegation. That district has 40% of the Latina population. In Michigan where voters passed a measure in 2018, like Colorado to create an independent redistricting commission, Common Cause also helped develop the language of that, and in those new commission-drawn districts, Michigan house districts so that at the state level were drawn based on significant influence and feedback from the black community and those districts are poised to be able to make state representative Joe Tate the first black speaker of the Michigan house. And then additionally if we look at the Congressional level, I just want to highlight two districts both that are centered on Detroit but also include some of the suburbs around Detroit, the Congressional 13th was an open seat configured that way for the first time and the choice was between a Democrat an Indian American entrepreneur and current state representative and Republican Martel Bivens an African-American. Democrat won in this district and he is going to be representing this district for the first time which includes parts of Detroit and Downriver communities like Lincoln Park, Taylor, Wyandotte, and Romulus. And then in district 12 well-known incumbent Democrat, Rashida Tlaib who is Palestinian-American is now representing this newly configured District that includes major portions of Detroit. It’s significant to note that in each of these states there has been tremendous participation by communities of color to come out and talk about where those communities are, and their growth and to make sure that the lines are truly reflective of those communities. You don’t see that in states where unfortunately the redistricting is controlled by incumbents and politicians where despite a tremendous growth of Latino populations in states like Texas or the significant black population in Florida, those communities were sliced and diced up so that the growth was not represented or the historic representation was essentially dismantled. So we see a significant difference between the states that have commissions of some form or another and those that do not.
Swati Joshi – They See Blue
You were hearing women talk about how they needed to go out to vote and have been telling other people to vote. Tell us what you heard from the ground.
I spoke with a lot of women in Texas and I spoke with a lot of women who shared that it was about Roe Versus Wade and then gun legislation because of Uvalde which is very scary for moms to send their kids off to school and be very worried about “will they see them again”. Gun legislation drove women to the polls as well as roe vs wade. I have a daughter, and I am concerned about her future and also her friends’ futures because you know we’re so used to all the freedoms that we’ve had over the last 50 years but they don’t, they won’t have the same now with the dissolution of Roe versus Wade and so the women that I spoke with you know were expressing the same thing and they were almost at will telling their daughters, giving them guidelines on how to deal with things in this new world that we’re suddenly living. So we had a forum just a couple of weeks ago, and it was a lot of women, it was a women’s voting forum, and we wanted to bring them out and discuss the key issues and these were the two top key issues along with climate change that was the third issue. Women are concerned about their children’s futures, and their daughters’ futures as well based on those two things of Roe versus Wade and gun legislation.
EMS: Latino impact, are they a monolith? There was a lot of talk about Latinos going toward the Republicans. Well in Florida that did happen but the Latinos in Florida are very different in national origin, different issues, and different experiences, can you tell us if you know about these different Latinos and if are Latinos moving to Republicans?
Sergio I. García-Rios
Exactly this is a fascinating question and one that we share a lot coming up the election that there was going to be the shift of Latinos towards Republicans. We cannot deny that there are demographic changes within the percentage of Latinos who are now the third, or fourth generation. If you remove Florida Latinos the reality is that the Latino vote used to be very strongly Democrat. But our community is not a monolith and painting Latinos as one homogenous group is a very inaccurate description of what Latinos are.
The briefing concluded with all participants sharing a common sentiment that while polls may be great for gauging where Americans are on some issues they cannot be relied upon for all issues and certainly the mid-terms proved that.