Here is a quick guide to the US Midterm elections, how they work and why they matter.
Who is up for election?
The US Congress has two legislative bodies – the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The 435 House members are elected every two years. This allows the people more immediate and direct control of their government. The House is seen as the part of the federal government closest to the people.
Senators, however, are elected every six years on a staggered basis. About one third of the Senate will be up for election every 2 years on a rotating basis – this year 35 Senate seats are up for grabs.
Some state governors are up for grabs in 2022. Out of 50, 48 states elect governors to four year terms. Two states, New Hampshire and Vermont, elect governors to two year terms.
Most states, 36, elect their governors on off years to a presidential election, or what are called midterm elections. Some states elect governors during presidential elections while others are staggered in between the midterms and a presidential election.
At the state level, in addition to gubernatorial elections, attorneys general, secretaries of state and the vast majority of state legislatures (state congresses) will be decided in 2022.
How do parties gain control?
To control the House of Representatives, one party will need to hold at least 218 seats to have a majority. Recently, polls have predicted big Republican wins in the House, however, the polls have been wrong before so it isn’t a sure thing for the GOP.
Whichever party wins the House will choose the Speaker of the House and can control the committees in which legislation is written. The party will also be able to decide which legislation is brought to the floor for a vote.
In the Senate, a party needs 51 out of 100 seats to control the upper house. Currently, the Democrats have a de facto majority as the Senate is split 50 – 50 with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast a tie breaking vote.
Who can vote?
Every US citizen 18 years of age or older can vote in the midterm elections. Many Americans can also vote early in person or by mail.
Some states allow everyone to vote by mail while others may require an excuse for doing so. Most states allow some form of early voting, 42 million ballots have already been cast before polls even open on Tuesday.
Some states also require citizens to register before voting while others make exceptions to those convicted of a felony.
How will we know who wins?
Some races are likely to be called shortly after polls close, while others could take days or even weeks to be called. Georgia’s Senate race might not be decided until December if neither candidate gets 50 percent of the vote (which will trigger a runoff election).
With the huge amount of early and mail in voting as well as so many close elections it could take days before we know the balance of power in the House and the Senate.
If it is a blowout for one party or another, this becomes less likely. Some early races to watch out for include Representative Jennifer Wexton (D) in the blue suburbs of Washington, DC. If she loses, it could be an early sign of a red wave.
Similarly, if Karoline Leavitt (R), a 25-year-old former press aide for Trump, wins in New Hampshire it could be a sign things aren’t looking good for the Dems.
Conversely, if Democrats hold districts in Republican areas, including, for example, Matt Cartwright (D) of Pennsylvania and Tom Malinowski (D) of New Jersey, it could be a sign that the President’s party will do better than expected.