Politics, Americas

US midterm elections Nov. 8: What you need to know

Midterms crucial to Biden administration, as Republicans, Democrats vie for power in Congress

Darren Lyn  | 22.10.2022 - Update : 24.10.2022
US midterm elections Nov. 8: What you need to know

HOUSTON, United States

US President Joe Biden has enjoyed the comfort of having a Democrat-controlled Congress during his first two years in office, but that could change come to the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Midterm elections are crucial to maintaining control of the US House of Representatives and the Senate when it comes to introducing and passing new legislation.

As Americans head to the polls in a few weeks, their votes could affect the final two years of the Biden administration as Republicans and Democrats vie for control of both houses.

Here is a look at what the midterms are and what is at stake when voters cast their ballots.

What are midterm elections?

The elections take place midway through a US president's four-year term, hence, midterms.

Two years after a presidential election, midterms offer voters an opportunity to go to the polls and shake up the political makeup of Congress.

Historically, the party of the president loses congressional seats in the midterms, so Biden’s Democrats face an uphill battle.

All 435 seats in the House are up for grabs because all members are elected to two-year terms.

House seats are distributed to states based on their populations.

The biggest states have the most: California (53), Texas (36), Florida (27), New York (27), Illinois (18), Pennsylvania (18), and Ohio (16).

The smallest and least populous have the fewest seats: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming all have just one House seat apiece.

Just over one-third of seats in the 100-member Senate are up for re-election. Senators are elected to six-year terms.

There are two senators per state regardless of size.

Midterms also affect state and local governments, with most governors races taking place, in addition to state legislative contests, mayoral races, and elections for local councils and school boards.

What does political field look like for the House?

With all 435 House seats up for election during midterms, it may seem like a wide-open field, but in reality, it is not.

"In about 350 of 435 districts there are no real elections because there's usually a lock on the candidate in those districts, whether Democrat or Republican," said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston. "There are only about 50 to 80 House races where there is any real competition."

Democrats currently hold a slim majority in the House, with 220 members to 212 Republican members. Currently, there are three vacant seats.

That makes the 2022 midterm elections extremely important to the power structure of the House when the dust settles.

"The midterm elections are all important to the House of Representatives this year because 30 or 40 seats will determine whether control of the US House will flip from Democratic control to Republican control," Jones told Anadolu Agency.

What about the Senate?

A total of 35 of the 100 seats are up for election during the 2022 midterms: 12 Democratic-held seats, and 23 Republican-held seats.

"Right now, the Democrats and Republicans are split 50-50 in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tiebreaker (51st) vote in favor of Democrats," said Jones.

That means Democrats must win 12 seats during the midterms to maintain control of the Senate.

Is Biden on the ballot?

Biden's name will not be on the ballots because US presidential elections are every four years.

But that does not lessen the importance of the elections to the current president.

The Biden administration's perceived success hangs in the balance as Democrats fight to keep control of the House and Senate, so even though Biden's name may not be on the ballots, his reputation may hang on the results.

"From President Biden's perspective, he can kiss any part of his legislative agenda goodbye for the rest of his term if he loses the House, and it could get worse if Republicans also take control of the Senate," said Jones.

If Republicans gain control of one or both houses of Congress, they have also pledged to pursue hostile investigations into the Biden administration, or even seek impeachment of Biden or other top members of his team.

What are this year’s key issues?

There is a wide array of issues that Americans are weighing as they head to the polls to cast their ballots: inflation, gas prices, abortion, gun control, and immigration are the most prominent ones.

Jones said when it comes to the bottom line, voters will make their choice based on what affects their wallets.

"Inflation is the biggest issue because we are experiencing record inflation rates that we have not seen since the 1980s," said Jones. "Inflation and the economy are the most important because in the end, that's what drives voters, that's what affects people's daily lives.

"People are reminded of inflation every day, not the end of Roe v. Wade (1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide), gun control, crime, and public safety or immigration and border patrols," he said.

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