The US Midterm Elections Explained

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The US midterm elections will take place on November 8, 2022 (Credit: GPA photo archive/ CCO)

Election season is in full swing in the United States. On November 8, 2022, millions of Americans will head to the polls to vote for their favorite candidates at this year's midterm elections. As the name indicates, the elections occur halfway through a US president's four-year term. Midterms do not receive the same attention as presidential elections. But they can have just as significant an impact on the country's direction.

The US Legislative Process

How a bill becomes a law in the US (Credit: worldvision.org)

Congress — the lawmaking branch of the US government — consists of two chambers. They are the House of Representatives (House) and the Senate. The House is made up of no more than 435 members. The number of representatives allocated to each state depends on the state's population. For example, California — the most populous state — has 52 representatives. Meanwhile, Wyoming — the least populous state — has just one. The Senate comprises just two elected officials from each state for a total of 100 members.

The House and Senate are both essential for the legislative process. The House decides on which bills should be put to the vote. The Senate either approves or blocks these bills. The bills approved by the Senate are vetoed or signed into law by the US President. The success of the measures usually depends on which political party — Republican or Democrat — has the majority members in each chamber.

What happens during midterm elections?

House members are elected for just two years. This means that all 435 House seats will be up for grabs at the November 8, 2022 election. Senators serve six-year terms. However, their terms are staggered such that about a third of the 100 seats are on the ballot at each midterm election. This year, 35 senators are up for election across 34 states.

Why are the 2022 midterm elections important for both parties?

Currently, the House comprises 220 Democrats and 212 Republicans. The slim majority allows Democrats to approve their bills easily. The Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties. However, the Democrats have a slight edge because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote. But the results of the midterms could shift the party balance in one or even both chambers. If that happens, the Republicans will have the upper hand.

The outcome of the midterm elections could impact the direction of the country (Credit: Ballotpedia.org)

Many state and local officials may also be on the midterm ballots. In 2022, 36 state governors will be up for election. Voters will also have the opportunity to vote on various measures to change state and local policies. The results may not seem as significant as congressional races. But they should not be overlooked since most lawmaking in the US happens at the state and local levels.

Resources: USembassy.gov, USAtoday.com, BBC.com

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