Midterm elections might not determine the next president of the United States, but the upcoming elections still have a lot at stake for voters everywhere.
According to recent data on voter turnout, presidential elections typically experience more voter participation than midterm elections. Differences in voter representation also occur within a single election based on education, gender, race and ethnicity, age and socioeconomic status, among other factors. These imbalances emphasize the importance of civic engagement — especially for the preservation of a representative government.
While some people might have distantly relevant political text messages flooding their inboxes, others may already be grappling with potential aftermaths of a proposition’s outcome. But both demographics, though different in perspective, benefit from learning more about what exactly the 2022 midterm election’s ballot entails for voters in Berkeley.
Understanding begins with distinguishing two primary categories: statewide and local matters.
California Supreme Court, the House of Representatives and the Senate
Democrats currently control both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. This midterm election could change that.
The California Supreme Court consists of seven judgeships, and on the current ballot, California voters must decide whether or not to reelect four of the current judges. If these votes lead to vacant seats in the state court, replacements will need to be determined.
Since each state has its own supreme court, voters in all states will need to decide similarly on their respective ballots which judges to reelect. These decisions on a broader scale contribute to which party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate.
All seats for the House are open and 35 Senate seats must be filled. One should also know the capacity for appointing judges at the federal level relies on a party’s control of the Senate.
Republicans need one more seat in the Senate and 218 seats in the House to gain control of Congress. This means that the decisions from these midterms can impact the government beyond state boundaries — determining the fates of citizens on a national scale.
This year’s California ballot has the fewest propositions in more than a century. The topics at hand, however, are crucial matters including abortion, climate change, education and healthcare.
Following the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, voters must decide for Proposition 1 whether or not to allow state interference in “reproductive freedoms” — which include rights to abortion and contraception. Given the recent overturning of almost 50 years of precedent protecting rights to abortion, Proposition 1 reaffirms the necessity of voting.
Propositions 26 and 27 pertain to legalization of sports betting, with more than $350 million in spending going toward advertisements both for and against. Except for horse racing, sports betting is currently illegal in California. Proposition 26 would legalize sports betting at casinos, and Proposition 27 would legalize sports betting online. The two propositions present some conflicts regarding matters of business and money.
Other initiatives on the ballot include Proposition 28, which supports an annual source of funding for K-12 arts and music programs; Proposition 29, which would require dialysis clinics to have at least one qualified medical personnel on site and Proposition 30, which supports increasing taxes for those with income exceeding $2 million to help fund zero-emission innovation and wildfire prevention.
The final proposition, Proposition 31, asks voters to decide on upholding contested laws banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.
Local matters: Measures L, M and N
Outside of state matters, local elections are important and often have the greatest direct impact on residents.
Specific to the city of Berkeley, Measure L addresses housing and infrastructure. A “yes” supports issuing $650 million in bonds to fund city street and sidewalk repairs, increased affordable housing and engagement in other infrastructure developments.
Measure M proposes a $3,000 tax on vacant residential property, which would increase incrementally each subsequent year.
Finally, Measure N involves affordable housing. By voting “yes,” one supports establishing 3,000 units of low-rent housing by any federal, state or local entity.
City Council and board directors
While some candidates are running unopposed, tensions arise with other local decisions.
Housing affordability stands at the forefront of debate for City Council District 1. Incumbent Rashi Kesarwani is running for reelection, but candidates Tamar Michai Freeman and Elisa Mikiten could take the seat.
As Councilmember Lori Droste chose not to pursue reelection, four other candidates have entered the ballot. Leading candidates include attorney Mark Humbert, who has Droste’s endorsement and similar views on housing and policing, and Mari Mendonca , who plans to reduce police funding and shift focus to community welfare.
Voters have an especially involved decision when it comes to Berkeley’s school board, rent board and AC Transit Board of Directors. Ka’Dijah Brown is the only incumbent running for reelection against five other candidates for the position of School Board Director. Five seats are open for the Rent Stabilization Board, and voters must choose from the eight candidates who they want to oversee rent in the city — especially important considering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and affordable housing crisis.
For Berkeley’s AC Transit Board of Directors, voters must choose between incumbent Joel Young and city planning commissioner Alfred Twu, who both hold differing views on mask mandates and financial decisions.
With outcomes for the city, state and nation, voting in the midterm election may feel like a maze. Staying informed can help minimize stress and maximize informed choices. And once you’ve made your decisions, make sure to send in your ballot by Nov. 8 to make your vote count.