Midterm elections in the US: Tons of ballot papers

Midterm elections in the US: Tons of ballot papers

Election day in the USA: The so-called midterms take place. But what is actually chosen? And what results can be expected? An overview.

Republican candidate Doug Mastriano in a red flat cap and smiling victoriously.  In the foreground a security officer

Running in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial election: Republican Doug Mastriano Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters

The Midterms will take place in the USA on November 8th. But then what is chosen?

On the one hand, the composition of the 118th US Congress. Congress consists of 100 senators – two from each US state – and 435 members in the House of Representatives. There is no second vote like in Germany, which determines the party share among the seats – only direct elections take place.

There are also gubernatorial elections in 36 states and 3 overseas territories – as well as various elections for state legislatures, city councils and state and local posts, from sheriff to school board.

A total of 132 referendums will also be voted on in 37 states. As a result, voters often receive a huge pile of very long ballots.

How will the next US Congress be composed?

According to history and statistics, Democrats will lose their majority in both houses of Congress. Since 1934, midterm elections, halfway through a president’s first term, have always penalized the party that controls the White House. On average, this party loses 3 seats in the Senate and 22 seats in the House of Representatives. There is currently a 50-50 stalemate in the Senate – only the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris gives the Democrats a majority and Senator Chuck Schumer from New York the post of Senate leader.

So if Republicans win a single seat, that post goes to Republican leader Mitch McConnell. The House of Representatives currently has 220 Democrats versus 212 Republicans (3 recently retired). It is therefore more than likely that in the future it will no longer be Democrat Nancy Pelosi but minority leader Kevin McCarthy who will take on the role of Speaker of the House.

What exactly is it about?
s in the Senate?

Every two years, a third of the 100 senators are re-elected for a six-year term, that’s actually 33 and every six years 34 seats – such a year is 2022. Of these 34 seats, 14 are currently held by Democrats and 20 by held by Republicans.

Five Republicans whose terms are up will not run again. There is also an extra Senate election in Oklahoma, where Republican incumbent Jim Inhofe, who was actually elected until 2027, announced his retirement at the end of the 117th Congress. In a special election, a successor is elected for the remaining four years. Actually, this constellation would be extremely favorable for the Democrats: In six Republican Senate elections there is no incumbent bonus.

But despite this constellation: Who will really win the Senate?

Probably the Republicans anyway, who only have to win one seat. While the polls do not give hope for a gain for the Democrats in any state, they could lose in Georgia, Arizona and above all Nevada, i.e. give up up to 3 seats to the Republicans.

When are the results known? Already Wednesday morning?

Not necessarily. Many thousands of Americans have already cast their ballots by mail – but in many states these votes can only be counted after the polling stations have closed. In addition, votes that arrive days later still count, provided they bear the postmark of election day.

So the count can take a few days if the result is reasonably close. However, if the Senate majority were to depend on the outcome of the election in Georgia, it would take even longer: According to Georgia’s electoral law, if no one gets more than 50 percent of the votes cast right away, there is a runoff between the top two candidates. Both candidates – by the way, with Herschel Walker as the Republican challenger to the Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock alongside Florida, one of two Senate elections with black candidates on both sides – are in the polls at around 47 percent. The runoff would be on December 6th.

And what about the House of Representatives?

A miracle would have to happen if Republicans didn’t win a clear majority in the chamber. The polls suggest gains of between 20 and 50 seats.

Why are state elections even important at the national level?

Governors and parliaments decide on the shape of the constituencies – and this so-called gerrymandering by the majority determines the chances of the minority party to be able to win seats according to their share of the vote. In addition, the so-called Secretary of State, who is responsible for conducting the elections in the state, will be newly elected in 27 states.

This position only really became apparent in the course of the 2020 elections, than the voted-out Donald Trump tried everything to put pressure on the Secretaries of State to tip the results in his favor. On the Republican side, there are a number of candidates who publicly support Trump’s lie about the stolen election. What it means for the security of elections when such people are responsible for conducting them is not yet foreseeable.

Can a landslide also be expected in the gubernatorial election?

Rather not. Especially since gubernatorial elections are often determined by very regional issues and the personalities of the candidates. For example, the Republican governor Phil Scott has ruled in the rather progressive Vermont since 2016, and he should now win his re-election with a large majority.

The topic of referendums remains: What is it about?

There is a wide range of topics to be decided on. Four states are concerned with the right to abortion: while California, Michigan and Vermont are attempting to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution in this way, the opposite is to be included in Kentucky: the explicit formulation that it is such a right does not exist.

In five other states, the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes is pending a decision – which is already legal in 19 states.

In five states, namely Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont, a revision of the constitution is on the voting list: In these states – and also 15 others, which do not seem to want to change that at the moment – the constitutional text still allows for the enslavement of people as punishment or to pay off debts. Admittedly, this has not been used for a long time.

How did the election campaign go overall?

Above all, it was expensive. According to the NGO OpenSecrets 16.7 billion US dollars were spent on all campaigns combined – a new spending record for midterm elections. The most expensive election campaign was the 243 million US dollars Senate election in Pennsylvania, where Democrats were hoping to capture the vacant seat after Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s departure, followed by the Georgia Senate election, which spent $245 million. This is followed by the Senate elections in Arizona, Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada.

Not much has changed in the way of campaigning: so-called negative ads, So commercials that primarily make the other side bad are still in the foreground. For the Democrats, this meant warning against the Republicans and their attack on women’s rights qua abortion ban and their unclear relationship to democracy and the integrity of elections.

Conversely, Republicans have invoked the threat of open borders, erupting socialism or communism, and blamed the Joe Biden government for inflation and middle-class woes. Accompanied by appearances by ex-President Donald Trump – who had become more involved in the election campaign than any national political leader before him – the respectful handling of different opinions and the objective debate were rather the exception.

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