What’s at stake in US midterm elections

Americans head to the polls on Tuesday for midterm elections with President Donald Trump’s Republican party seeking to retain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Midterm elections are often seen as a referendum on the president and there is no shortage of opinions this time around about the current occupant of the White House.

Turnout for midterm elections is traditionally lower than in presidential years, but the results could have dramatic implications for the United States, and in particular for Trump’s legislative agenda.

Republicans are bracing for a likely loss of seats in the House of Representatives but are favoured to hold on to the Senate.

House of Representatives

The House has 435 members with states represented on the basis of population. There are currently 236 Republicans, 193 Democrats and six vacancies.


All seats are contested every two years. The new congressional term begins in January 2019.

Republicans have controlled the House since the conservative Tea Party movement propelled the GOP to a wave election in November 2010.

The speaker of the House is Republican Paul Ryan, who is not seeking reelection from his home state of Wisconsin. Democrat and former speaker Nancy Pelosi serves as House minority leader.

Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to take control of the House.

Likely House outcome: Democrats take control.

Senate

The Senate consists of 100 members, two from each state. It is currently made up of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.

With terms of six years, about a third of the Senate is up for election every two years. Thirty-five seats are in play in Tuesday’s election.

Of the 35 seats up for grabs, 26 are held by Democrats and nine by Republicans.

The Senate majority leader is Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Likely Senate outcome: Republicans hold on to the Senate.

Governor races

Thirty-six of the 50 US states elect governors this year, including about 10 considered toss-ups.

Republicans currently control 29 governorships to 21 for the Democrats.

Two races which are of particular interest are Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams is seeking to become the first black woman to become governor of a US state, and Florida, where Democrat Andrew Gillum is locked in a bitter battle with Republican and Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis.

Ballot measures

In addition to electing their lawmakers, Americans in several states will vote on ballot measures.

Among the notable initiatives:

  • Five states are considering the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana.
  • Minimum wage increases are on the ballot in two states.
  • Access to abortion and abortion funding is on the ballot in three states.

The stakes

Besides stymieing the Trump agenda, a Democratic victory in the House could allow Democrats to launch multiple committee investigations of the Trump administration and possibly even impeachment proceedings.

Voter turnout

Around 37% of eligible voters took part in the 2014 midterm elections, down from 42% in 2010.

More than 60% of eligible voters took part in the 2016 vote, when the presidential race was on the ballot.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Agency
External source

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories

R2.3bn VBS trial expected to only begin in 2022

The state is expected to request a 16 week-long trial, as delays stymie progress in the saga.

Spy boss tells how agency was used to detain Zuma’s...

Day two of State Security Agency testimony at the Zondo commission birthed more revelations that point to the former head of state and agents breaking the law

Covax will take excess doses of Covid vaccines off the...

The global initiative plans to deliver two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to developing nations

Eastern Cape citizens don’t have to visit the labour department...

This measure, aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, may shortly be introduced in other regions.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…