2002 Elections Critical in Congress ASHA Launches Year-Long Get-Out-the-Vote Campaign Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   February 01, 2002
2002 Elections Critical in Congress
Author Notes
  • Stefanie Reeves, is ASHA’s director of political advocacy
    Stefanie Reeves, is ASHA’s director of political advocacy×
  • Linda Lucas, is ASHA’s director of grassroots advocacy
    Linda Lucas, is ASHA’s director of grassroots advocacy×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   February 01, 2002
2002 Elections Critical in Congress
The ASHA Leader, February 2002, Vol. 7, 1-10. doi:10.1044/leader.PA1.07032002.1
The ASHA Leader, February 2002, Vol. 7, 1-10. doi:10.1044/leader.PA1.07032002.1
In 2001, the United States faced two challenges unprecedented in our national experience. One—the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11—needs no elaboration. The other—the razor-thin margin of the 2000 presidential election—also had important implications for our democracy beyond butterfly ballots and Florida politics.
Later this year, the country will hold a critical national election for members of Congress, and a key question is: How many Americans will cast their ballots on Nov. 5?
This year, it matters. With 103,000-plus members, ASHA has a strong voice on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of speech-language pathology and audiology. But the future of the professions depends in part on who the members of Congress are—and where they stand on issues. ASHA members have a responsibility to the professions and to people with communication disorders to vote on Nov. 5 according to their conscience. Your vote can make a difference—in 2002, more than ever.
If you’re doubtful, consider the following factors affecting these "midterm" elections (so called because they occur at the midpoint of a presidential term).
A House (and Senate) Divided
Currently, both chambers of Congress are more narrowly divided between the two parties than ever before in the nation’s history. In the House of Representatives, Republicans now hold a narrow six-seat majority. And since all House members serve two-year terms, all 435 members of the House are up for reelection in November.
The Senate has 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and one Independent aligned with Democrats. This gives the Democrats a single-seat majority in the Senate. Senators serve six-year terms, with about one-third of the 100 Senate seats up for reelection every two years. Elections will be held this year in 34 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Midterm Advantage—But Maybe Not This Year
Historically, the party in the White House tends to lose congressional seats during midterm elections regardless of the domestic or international situation. However, this year may be a different story. With nine months to go before the elections, political analysts are predicting a very close election. The outcome cannot be predicted—which is another reason why voter turnout will be important this year.
The political landscape of 2002 has also been affected by redistricting. Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau determines the population of each congressional district. With those statistics in hand, a state legislature or an independent state commission must revise the geographic boundaries of districts. Although both Republicans and Democrats had hoped to gain a large number of seats due to redistricting, it appears that there will be only modest changes from the redistricting process.
Why Vote?
Given the current mood of the country and the unpredictable state of events in November, voters may base their voting decisions on the perceived condition of their lives. Recent polls indicate that the economy and terrorism are Americans’ primary concerns. If the economy improves and Americans feel safer, legislators who are perceived to have had an influence on this will benefit.
During the last midterm congressional elections in 1998, only 42% of Americans cast their votes, according to Census Bureau statistics. ASHA, recognizing that members lead very busy lives, has organized a get-out-the-vote campaign, entitled "Let Your Voice Be Heard: Vote!" Members can learn about the voting process in their states, learn candidates’ positions on issues, volunteer for a campaign, or contribute to their favorite candidates, among other things. Visit the Legislative Action section of ASHA’s Web site for a wealth of information on professional issues and how to get involved in ASHA’s grassroots efforts or the political action committee (ASHA-PAC). Or visit the special get-out-the-vote section.
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February 2002
Volume 7, Issue 3