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Image / Editorial

Here’s what you need to know about the US Midterm Elections

by Jennifer McShane
06th Nov 2018

There has never been a more important time to harness the power of your right to vote. A vote can dramatically change how a country is shaped; alter the way of life for its people – it can mean a different future. With the power of a ballot card, a huge responsibility lies with those of us who have one. On Irish shores, we passed a landmark vote on the legalising of same-sex marriage and more recently Repealed the Eighth, leaving the women of Ireland with the legal right to choose. The results of both referendums changed us a nation, helped us progress to a more unified vision of fairness, empathy, respect and togetherness.

Over on US soil, two years after the shocking era of Trump began, ballot cards have had the opposite effect; a dark shadow cast over the country and its citizens. Tuesday, November 6th, sees an opportunity to try to shift the political landscape and perhaps see a different outcome to some of the controversial issues that have touched generations across the 50 states. With a leader like Donald Trump, never before have we seen a nation so divided, nor so many waves of protest and cries for change.

But what exactly are the US Midterm Elections? The second most searched question on Google about the elections is “What is the midterms?” so here are the main points of what you need to know as voting continues throughout the night:

What are the Midterms?

The midterm elections are are they sound;  held at the halfway point of a presidential term. Voters are asked to cast their ballot for their preferred member of Congress (the part of the US Federal Government that makes laws), as well as for governors in 36 out of 50 states. In some states, mayors and other local public offices are also on the ballot. Congress is made up of two chambers called the House of Representatives and the Senate – all members are elected by the people. 35 senate seats are up for election.

Basically, the easiest way to keep track of things is by looking at the “generic ballot.” This is when ask voters are simply asked whether they prefer Democrats or Republicans to win control of Congress.


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Points of note this year?

Record number of women running

This year has led to a record surge in women running for office, so it could be a key chance to close the gender gap that persists in all levels of political office. Women make up 51% of the American population, yet only about 20% of elected officials across the different levels of government are women. 2018 has seen a surge in candidates who are immigrants, people of colour, and first-time candidates  —  a record 262 women could win a seat in Congress and 16 of them could become governors.

Huge voting turnout

Voter turnout is usually generally low for midterm elections, however, this year, record numbers of people are set to cast a vote. Some unpredictable factors have caused a bump in numbers, for example, there was reportedly 65,000 registrations in 24 hours after singer Taylor Swift posted a statement about the election after long remaining silent on her political stance.


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What impact could the results have?

One reason you’re hearing a lot about the midterms this year is that many political observers think that Democrats could win enough districts now represented by Republicans (Trumps’ party) to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans currently control the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and the White House. If the Democrats get the majority in either chamber, in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, they have the opportunity to potentially block key elements of the Republican, and Donald Trump’s, political agenda. If both chambers turn this year’s midterm elections could potentially be the most consequential in many years.

When will we know the results?

Most polls close at midnight or after, Irish time, so results will slowly trickle out over the next number of days.  The results will define the remainder of Trump’s presidency so the impact of them will, if nothing else, make for a fascinating watch.

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