Historical Firsts and Abortion Rights During the Midterm Elections

By Hannah Lee

During this year’s midterm elections, many predicted a “red wave” in which many Republicans would be elected to positions of political power. Historically, the president’s party has generally lost elections at the state and national levels in midterms. This year, however, many Democrats won over states and positions and kept their control over the Senate. There were also many historical firsts for those elected to these positions. Many attribute these results to a higher Gen Z voting turnout.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, 27% of voters between the ages of 18-29 cast a vote during the 2022 midterms. CIRCLE also concluded that the 2022 midterms had the second-highest voter turnout among voters under 30 for the past 3 decades, the highest being in 2018. Youth turnout was also significantly higher in ‘battleground states’ like Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; turnout was about 31% for those states. The youth vote preferred Democrats over Republicans by a 28-point margin and influenced key elections in said battleground states.

There were many firsts in regard to the governor position in several states. Governor Kathy Hochul is the first woman elected governor in New York following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation amid sexual harassment allegations. Maura Healey was also the first woman governor elected in Vermont and the first openly lesbian governor in the nation. Wes Moore is the first Black governor to be elected in Maryland and the third black man overall to be elected governor in the United States. Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders was the first woman elected governor in the state of Arkansas, formerly serving as President Trump’s press secretary.

There were many firsts in congressional races as well. At 25, Maxwell Frost is the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress. Frost will represent Florida’s 10th congressional district. In Pennsylvania, Summer Lee will be the first black woman to represent her state in Congress. With Becca Balint’s win in Vermont, all 50 states have now sent a woman to represent their state in Congress. She is also the first openly lesbian woman to represent Vermont in Congress. James Roesener is the first out transgender man to be elected to Congress, representing New Hampshire’s 22nd district in the House of Representatives.

One of the major issues on voters’ minds during this election was abortion rights. With the recent overturning of Roe v Wade, endangering abortion rights for people with uteri in several states, abortion was an issue that helped Democratic candidates win elections. For example, in Pennsylvania and Michigan, voters ranked the issue of abortion higher in importance than inflation, which helped John Fetterman win his senate seat in Pennsylvania, allowing Democrats control of the Senate. In Michigan, Democrats were able to reelect Gretchen Whitmer as governor, as well as electing a Democratic majority to their state house and senate, giving Democrats control of the Michigan government. They also were able to pass a measure to protect abortion in Michigan. Ballot measures regarding abortion were proposed in California, Vermont, Kentucky, and Montana. They were passed in California and Vermont, and in Kentucky and Montana voters rejected measures that would have further restricted abortion.