What to Look for in the Midterm Elections

GRACE KNUTSEN

The United States midterm elections are an opportunity for Americans to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the administration’s political landscape, and are held during the middle of a president’s term. This year, they will take place on Tuesday, November 6th.

During midterm elections, all 435 seats of the United States House of Representatives are up for grabs, with 35 seats of the United States Senate up for election this year. At the state level, 36 gubernatorial seats are open for election, in addition to various other seats at the state and local level.  

Some important questions to ask during this year’s midterm elections:

Will this year’s voter turnout follow past trends? Historically, there’s a smaller voter turnout during non-presidential election years as compared to presidential election years. According to http://www.fairvote.org, 40% of American voters turnout during midterm elections, as compared to a 60% turnout during a presidential election year. That being said, will America’s growing culture of partisan animosity lend to higher mid-term turnouts?

Will a record number of female candidates push for progressive change? According to the results from this year’s primaries, American voters seek to challenge the establishment by sending more women to Congress, where men currently outnumber women 5:1. While some political analysts are casting aside this midterm’s “pink wave” as an after-effect of the #MeToo movement, others see it as a revolution heralding a new age of feminism. No matter the explanation, the fact remains that an unprecedented number of female candidates are running during this year’s midterm elections.

Will Democrats eyeing a 2020 presidential bid begin auditioning on the national stage?

Oval Office contenders use midterm elections as an opportunity to rally support for their party, while also using it as a litmus test to explore hot topic issues, test key policy ideas, and experiment with catchphrases. This year’s midterms are no exception, with Americans getting their first glimpse of presidential contenders vying for the Democratic nomination for 2020 in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections.

Will Democrats flip control of the House or Senate during midterms? The biggest question looming ahead of this year’s midterms is whether the House or Senate majority will flip, such that Democrats take control of one, if not both, houses currently under Republican control. A total of 218 seats are needed for majority control of the House (236-193 Republican majority, with 6 vacancies), while 51 seats are needed for majority control of the Senate (51-49 Republican majority).

Ultimately, the political party controlling Congress will control the legislative agenda. If Republicans hold control of Congress, the current administration’s agenda will have a greater chance of approval, whereas if Democrats gain control of the House or Senate, the administration’s agenda for the remainder of the presidential term may be thwarted, and will certainly face more scrutiny.

In general, midterm elections are a unique opportunity for Americans to re-shape the legislative body responsible for making or breaking an administration’s agenda. In 2018, the midterm outcome will be significant for the future of Donald Trump’s presidency, and for Republican and Democratic legislative agendas alike.

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