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U.S. Midterm Elections

Importance of the vote

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  • Congressional midterm elections ("midterms") occur at the midpoint of a president’s four-year term.
  • Congressional elections determine who represents your state in Congress. [USAGov]
  • Midterms determine political party will control each chamber of Congress for the next two years. [TIME]
  • The legislative branch of the U.S. federal government (the U.S. Congress) is responsible for passing laws. [The White House]
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Congress is broken into two "chambers":

(1) the House of Representatives and,

(2) the Senate.

  • Congress controls what legislation or bills arrive on the president's desk for action. [USAGov

  • To turn a bill into law, the House of Representatives and the Senate have to both pass a majority vote.
  • A bill can "die" in either house, meaning it no longer is up for consideration. [USAGov]
  • If a president or political party wants specific legislation passed, it becomes more difficult if a split Congress is present.
  • Of the estimated 25,000 bills introduced in each term of Congress, only 10% become law. [The Washington Post]


[USAGov] [Ballotpedia]


House of Representatives

All 435 seats

The Senate

Approximately one-third of all U.S. Senators



36 state governors

Over 6000 state legislature seats

City mayors

A myriad of local elections



CIVICS: Voting is the most powerful, nonviolent tool citizens have in restoring or changing power. 


SOCIAL: Many believe the midterms signal the popularity of the president’s national agenda; if the opposition party retakes both chambers, it likely means that Americans want change.


The Constitution

In line with the deliberate system of checks and balances on those in power, midterms are a result of specified term limits outlined in the U.S. Constitution. [National Constitution Center]


The House of Representatives and the Senate have different term limits. This balance prevents any singular branch of government from becoming tyrannical. [TIME]



House of Representatives

Representatives serve two-years in the House before constitutionally required to be re-elected or forced out. Representatives can serve an unlimited amount of terms. [Article 1, section 2, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution]


Many believe shorter terms require Representatives to stay in touch with the policy desires of their base.



The Senate

Senators’ can serve six-year terms in the Senate before constitutionally required to be re-elected or forced out. Senators can serve an unlimited amount of terms. [Article I, section 3, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution]


Many believe longer terms allow Senators to get work done without worrying about re-election a year into their term.




Election rules are outlined by state and local laws. [The Washington Post]


All representatives are elected by popular vote. [USAGov]


Election Day in the U.S. is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. This year, election day was November 6. [USAGov]




On average, 40% of the eligible voting population cast a vote. By international standards, U.S. voter turn out is low. [Pew Research Center]


“Competitive” races happen when the incumbent (the sitting representative) and his/her challenger are close in the polls. [Vox]


Ballot initiatives give Americans a chance to vote for certain policies. [Ballotpedia]


Each state has different absentee, mail-in, drop-off, or early voting structures. [National Conference of State Legislatures]


Due to strict voter registration requirements, there is little to no proven voter fraud in the U.S. 


The 2018 Midterms



The 116th United States Congress was decided by the November 6, 2018 midterm election.



House of Representatives

Democrats gained 35 seats and control of the House of Representatives. [The New York Times]

The Senate

Republicans maintained the majority and control of the Senate. [The New York Times]

Governor’s races

Across the country, Democrats gained 7 governorships. [The New York Times]



Ballot initiatives


Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah voted to pass the Medicaid Expansion which will insure 300,000 more Americans. [Vox]



Florida voted to give 1.5 million ex-felons the right to vote. [NPR]


Arkansas and North Carolina voted to change voter ID laws. [Vox]


Minimum wage:

Arkansas and Missouri voted to increase the minimum wage. [The Washington Post]



Michigan fully legalized marijuana.Utah and Missouri legalized medical marijuana. North Dakota voted no on legalization to legalize. [Vox]


  • Early estimates put voter turnout at 49.2%, a significant increase from the usual 40%. [United States Elections Project]

  • For the first time, the Trump administration will now deal with a split Congress. [The Washington Post]

  • The newly Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will propose voting on a bill that attacks corruption in Washington and expands voter registration. [NPR]

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  • Will the two-party system in America remain intact? Read an opinion.

  • Read more about how the 2018 midterms could have ended.

  • Should Congress have hard term limits? Read 5 reasons why one believes they should.

  • See how Congress has changed leadership since 1988.

  • How does gerrymandering play into midterms? Read more here or watch below.

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This article is aligned with Purple for Democracy, a movement to support democracy through non-partisan, non-political content. 


Learn more about the Purple movement here


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