Voter apathy, suppression could lead to wave of Republican wins in elections to the dismay of Democrats

Several too-close-to-call key races around the nation that will determine the balance of power in Congress.

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No matter the outcome of this year’s midterm election cycle, it is expected to produce, at the very least, some inconvenient truths for Americans not ready to accept the results after the polls close on Nov. 8. 

US President Joe Biden and US Vice President Kamala Harris wave to supporters during the Democratic Party’s Independence Dinner on October 28, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Election Day will be held on November 8. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Democrats, who have pitched that their party is the only choice to protect democracy and the middle class, are bracing for an anticipated red wave of Republican wins led by the ideology of the twice-impeached former President Donald J. Trump. And Republicans, who are hoping to shore up victories with their message that Democratic policies are driving current inflation, are poised in some parts of the country to deny the outcome if Democrats should win. 

Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, told theGrio, ”Put more bluntly, I hope and pray nobody gets hurt. And I hope people turn out and turn up, with energy and excitement about being stakeholders in this important part of American democracy.”

With several too-close-to-call key races around the nation that will determine the balance of power in Congress, kingmaker and now political tastemaker, Oprah Winfrey, hosted a virtual event, “OWN Your Vote,” intended to ensure strong voter turnout in this year’s election contests. During the lengthy conversation with civic and community organization leaders, Winfrey told the approximately 7,000 participants that she was “very, very, very concerned” just days before the elections.

Winfrey’s outreach to voters and stakeholders comes as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris (and their spouses), former President Barack Obama crisscrossed around the country to hit the campaign trail in hopes of energizing voters in crucial states and congressional districts.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to supporters of Pennsylvania Democratic candidate for Senate John Fetterman at Schenley Plaza, on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, on November 5, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Hewitt participated on the call with Winfrey, offering information about how to report voter intimidation and other suppression tactics. However intense this voting cycle has become, Hewitt said, “My hope is that our people, and all people, can navigate the gauntlet of obstacles — restrictions, misinformation, and lies — to vote safely and free of intimidation and that their vote is counted and remains counted.”

Winfrey offered a checklist and voter information for those who might encounter trouble at the polls, including the election protection hotline – 866-OUR-VOTE. The media mogul also emphasized other resources like how to find out what’s on your ballot (Ballotpedia.org) and how to check what your state’s voter ID rules are (Voteriders.org).

Winfrey last convened the “OWN Your Vote” event during the 2020 election cycle. On Thursday’s virtual call, she acknowledged, “together we all had a real impact,” referring to voters ejecting Donald Trump from the White House and electing Joe Biden. However, Winfrey said, “what we didn’t know then and what we know now [is that] the results of the election we all fought for would be rejected and denied by millions of people in 2021 led by the former president who lost and tried to take the country down with him.”

Just days away from Election Day, poll watchers are predicting Republicans will see major wins, causing a shift of power in the United State House of Representatives, the United States Senate and governorships around the country. This midterm election, 36 governor races, 35 senate seats, and all 435 House seats are on the ballot. 

In this screengrab, Oprah Winfrey speaks during the GCAPP EmPOWER Party & 25th Anniversary Virtual Event on November 12, 2020 in UNSPECIFIED, United States. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for GCAPP)

Val Demings, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Florida, was among the candidates endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. She also endorsed Mandela Barnes, a Democrat, for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin and incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia. Winfrey also made headlines for her notable endorsement of Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for the U.S. Senate. While she did not mention the name of Fetterman’s opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, it was a direct rebuke of the famous TV doctor she single-handedly made famous on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Winfrey said democracy was “on the brink,” and that if Americans did not “get fired up to vote” Republican politicians would have the power to “make decisions over our bodies, how we care for our kids, what books your children can read, who gets protected by police, and who gets targeted.” She also sent a message to anyone intending to sit out the election. 

“[If you] remove your own voice from the process, others will be speaking for us … and may even remove our rights from having a say in the future. The question now is what are we going to do?” said Winfrey.

Voter apathy is a real concern in the American electoral system. During the 2020 general elections, 62.8% of voting-aged people cast their ballots, according to a Pew Research Center poll. While turnout two years ago was a significant increase from decades prior, it still trails other developed nations around the world.

A Maryland voter who drives Uber in the Baltimore area, and wished not to be identified, told theGrio that she doesn’t believe anything will come of voting for either Democrats or Republicans. The Jamaican immigrant said she does not plan to vote. 

Voters cast early ballots at the Western Government Center in Henrico County, Va., October 29, 2022. (Parker Michels-Boyce for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“[Minorities] don’t get anything as far as money or help from the government … I just feel like we’re just like on the bottom,” said the female voter who identified as a Jamaican immigrant. “We should be able to get things as far as houses, businesses … even if we do have a business account, they don’t grant us anything because of our credit being bad.”

Hewitt of the Lawyers’ Committee said messages like that from Black voters is “hard to hear,” adding, “It’s exactly what ‘they’ want.”

He continued: “Voter suppression isn’t just about the hurdles they put in front of us — it’s also about the collateral effect of those who get dispirited and don’t try to get over the hurdle at all. The vote suppressors and election deniers sit back laughing.” Hewitt added, “It’s why we try so hard to normalize Black folks as stakeholders in this democracy.”

The Uber driver shared that while she is happy for her mother who votes regularly, the probability of her voting on Nov. 8 is unlikely. “If I can walk into a bank and I could get a couple of millions just to make my own business flourish [for] me and my children and my family,” she said, “That’s the only way I’ll vote.”

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