Government officials should reflect the US demographic

With midterm elections approaching and recent polarizing activity in government, the Northern Star Editorial Board implores readers to begin educating themselves on the current composition of those in elected bodies.

Midterm election voting is held Nov. 6, contesting all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, as well as 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate. In Illinois, all 18 seats in the United States House of Representatives will be up for voting as well as executive officers, including governor.

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Political Science Chair Scot Schraufnagel said midterm elections rarely see large voter turnout rates, especially in younger age demographics. The importance of midterm elections is sometimes understated, but they provide one of the more direct contributions voters can make when trying to impact politics on a larger scale.

“The midterm elections are important because they determine the partisan control of Congress, and [with good voter turnout] midterm elections could get new majorities in the House [of Representatives] and Senate,” Schraufnagel said.

Republicans currently have control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. We would like to encourage readers to think past the bipartisan party lines, however, and consider candidates’ backgrounds rather than party affiliations.

While the current makeup of Congress is unproportionately white in comparison to the U.S. population, it is also the most ethnically diverse, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center analysis. Just because it is the most racially diverse body we have seen in America, it does not mean we should stop striving for a representative body.

We also encourage voters to look beyond ethnic minorities and consider the age of candidates when filling out their ballot. The average age of a current member of the House of Representatives is 57, and the average of Senators is 61, according to a report filed by the Congressional Research Service. Schraufnagel said research also shows a greater voter turnout when candidates represent a younger age demographic.

Senior computer science major Aaron Jones, who is also president of Young Americans for Liberty, warned that voters should shift their focus from party biases to actual policy and politics when considering candidates. Junior political science major Ian Pearson, who is also president of the College Democrats, said the nation should strive for a more gender-representative Congress.

“We need more female representation and more minority representation,” Pearson said. “Decisions being made [in Congress] do not reflect the majority’s opinion, and part of that is because Congress does not accurately represent the country.”

Do not be fooled by the statistics claiming the diversity of Congress is representative when 81 percent of Congress is white, a much higher representation than the 62 percent of the U.S. population made up by the demographic group, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.