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TFK Explains: The Midterm Elections

VOTING EARLY Voters in Atlanta, Georgia, cast their ballots on October 17. MEGAN VARNER—GETTY IMAGES

On November 8, Americans will vote in the midterms. Here’s why these elections are important.

What is a midterm election?

Midterms are held almost halfway through a president’s four-year term. They elect members of the United States Congress. This year, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs. So are 35 of 100 Senate seats. There are also many state and local elections. Governors will be chosen in 36 states.

What’s at stake in this election?

Midterm elections decide which political party has the majority in Congress. In the elections of 2020, Democrats held the majority in the House of Representatives. They split the Senate 50–50 with Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris is the tiebreaking vote. That gives Democrats the advantage.

Most forecasts say Republicans will win a House majority this year. If so, they can block policies that President Joe Biden, a Democrat, tries to pass.

How many people will vote?

Many observers expect a record number of voters. Some polls suggest that more than 50% of registered voters will cast a ballot. In the 2018 midterms, turnout was more than 53%. It reached nearly 67% in the 2020 presidential election.

What is early voting?

Election Day is November 8. In most states, people can vote before then.

What are the big issues in the 2022 midterm elections?

In a recent New York Times/Siena poll, 44% of likely voters said the economy was a top concern.

What about the local races?

Governors’ races are important. These races don’t affect the balance of power in Congress. But a governor runs a state’s government. He or she can enact state laws. Some of these can be different from what the majority of those in Congress want.

Stop and Think! What numbers do you see in this article? How do numbers help us understand elections? Which other numbers would you like to see?