Americans Elect Diverse Representatives

The next Congress will be more diverse than ever before.

Ellen Wuibaux

The next Congress will be more diverse than ever before.

In 2016, many people were preparing to celebrate the United States’ first female president, Hillary Clinton. Similarly, pollsters predicted Democrats to win a majority in the Senate this year. At the moment, however, people’s predictions are up in the air. 

Prior to this year’s election, Democrats held a majority in the House while Republicans controlled the Senate. After the election, Democrats now hold a 220-seat majority in the House, seven fewer seats than before, while Republicans hold 203 seats. Some of the House seats remain uncalled and majority control of the Senate also remains undecided. Republicans currently hold 50 Senate seats and Democrats hold 48, with two run-off elections in Georgia set to decide the remaining seats. 

Two Senate seats were up for grabs in Georgia this year. The election for one seat pitted incumbent Republican David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff. Another special election for a seat currently held by Republican Kelly Loeffler, pitted twenty candidates against each other. 

Georgia’s guidelines state that candidates must receive more than 50% of the vote to win an election. Otherwise, the two leading candidates advance to a one-on-one run-off. Although Perdue led Ossoff by two percentage points, the presence of a third-party candidate in the race ensured that he failed to cross the 50% threshold. In the special election, no candidate received anywhere near 50% of the vote, so the two front-runners, Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock, advanced to a January run-off. 

Currently, Democrats will have to win both run-offs in Georgia to gain 50 seats in the Senate. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. 

Leading up to the election, pollsters expected Democrats to win a majority in the Senate. For example, the final Emerson College poll before the election predicted that Democrat Sarah Gideon would defeat incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins in by six points Maine, but Collins ended up winning re-election with a margin of eight points. 

North Carolina was another state with an incumbent Senator, Thom Tillis, that Democrats hoped to replace. Pre-election polling showed Cal Cunningham, the Democratic challenger, with a lead. However, Democrats also failed to flip the North Carolina seat, destroying their fantasy of a down-ballot “blue wave.” Mark Kelly and John Hickenlooper were able to flip seats in Arizona and Colorado respectively, but Republicans managed to flip Democrat Doug Jones’ senate seat in Alabama, leaving Democrats with a net gain of 1 seat. 

Those elected this year represent a trend of increasing diversity in government. In Delaware, Sarah McBride became the first transgender woman to be elected to a state legislature. Her victory came as a surprise to many, as she earned 73% of the vote in a traditionally conservative district. After her victory, she tweeted, “I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too.”

McBride became the first transgender woman to be elected to a state legislature. (Sarah McBride)

In New York’s 15th and 17th Congressional District, respectively, Ritchie Torris and Mondaire Jones were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority of votes, becoming the first openly-gay Black men in Congress. “These new identities in Congress give me hope for America’s future,” said Annie Dong ’23. 

Republican Madison Cawthorn, U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district, is the youngest elected member of Congress at age 25. Partially paraylzed from a car accident, Cawthorn uses a wheelchair. His campaign was marred by accusations of sexual assault from several women and concerns about his potential sympathies for white nationalism.

With the Democrats holding the White House and a majority in the House, the Georgia run-offs will decide if one party will dominate all three branches of government. According to The Guardian, the Democratic candidates in Georgia have 35.7% support in total, while the Republican candidates lead with 45.8%. The percentage difference currently makes it unlikely for the Democrats to sweep both seats in the Senate. 

Though control of the Senate still hangs in the balance, the next Congress will be more diverse than ever, among Democrats and Republicans alike. The run-off elections in Georgia will take place in January.