The fast-approaching midterm elections next month count as one of the most consequential in a lifetime, according to political scholar Norman Ornstein.
And the folks at AARP say not only do they “wholeheartedly agree,” but they’ve now put their words into action.
The organization, founded in 1958 guided by the principles of promoting independence, dignity and purpose for older persons, has launched “Be the Difference. Vote” aimed at encouraging the largest possible turnout of older voters to the polls during the midterm elections Nov. 6.
“[It’s] a non-partisan campaign to mobilize African Americans and all voters 50 and older to use their power and vote,” said Edna Kane-Williams, AARP’s senior vice president of multicultural leadership.
“Critical issues like Medicare, Social Security, prescription drugs and family caregiving are on the line and older voters need to show up and protect what they’ve earned,” Kane-Williams said.
AARP doesn’t endorse candidates or parties, focusing instead on policies that affect older adults. Launched in May, the “Be the Difference. Vote,” campaign relies on studies that show voters 50 and older as among the most reliable — supported by census data from the 2012 general election during which 68 percent of U.S. citizens ages 45-64 voted, compared to 57 percent for those 25-44.
Among African Americans, 65 percent of individuals between 25 and 44 voted, compared to 72 percent between the ages of 45 and 64.
“African Americans will be a deciding voting bloc in key races across the country, especially in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and other swing states,” Kane-Williams said, again citing published data.
However, statistics also reveal Black voter dropout as a potentially serious issue.
In 2016, the Black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6 percent after reaching a record high of 66.6 percent in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center.
“We are at a moment in which important decisions need to be made on matters key to the lives of older Americans,” AARP editors noted in the organization’s October 2018 magazine.
“Some are obvious, like the future funding and structure of Medicare and our health care system,” the editors wrote in a cover story for the magazine. “At the same time, many states are grappling with issues related to worker discrimination, retirement savings, underfunded pensions, Medicaid, caregiving and more. Those we put into office could shape the resolutions of these issues for decades to come.”
In a colorful graph for the magazine, AARP editors outlined what’s at stake: 35 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats; all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives; 36 of 50 states that will elect the governor; 300 state appellate judges, including 71 state Supreme Court justices; 25 of America’s 100 largest cities that will elect mayors; and 82 percent of state legislator positions totaling 6,070 seats in 87 legislative chambers up for grabs.
AARP has used its website as a one-stop portal for voters to get information about the elections, including issue briefings, polling results and voter guides and they’ve pledged to conduct polls of voters over 50 across the country and in battleground states, tracking sentiment on key issues — even alerting members about local events, tele-town halls and candidate forums.
“AARP encourages all voters, regardless of their ages, to take part in the ‘Be the Difference. Vote’ campaign by signing AARP’s pledge to vote and using the voting tool to ensure they have the information they need to vote and learn where the candidates stand on issues that matter to them and their families,” Kane-Williams said.
Voters can sign the pledge at aarp.org/vote.