Every four years the presidential election inspires Americans to get out and vote; lesser followed are the Congressional races that happen every two years, and are especially contentious this election cycle. It has probably been a while since you sat in Civics 101, and if you are wondering who votes in Congressional elections and why they are such a hot-button issue, read on.
On Nov. 8, you will not only be casting a vote for the future president of the United States, but your state's senator (elected every six years) and your congressional district's representative (elected every two years) as well. Unlike the President, who is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College, representatives are directly elected by the constituents of their district. Depending how things shake out this November, the balance of the House and the Senate could flip. While the president may be America's figurehead, a Republican or Democratic majority in either of the two houses can greatly affect the extent of their impact.
With Trump's failing polls and time running out, Republicans are concerned that the presidential nominee might drag down his fellow Republican candidates. It is feared that Republicans who typically vote down-ticket may hesitate this year, or not show up to the polls at all. With the 2014 elections Republicans gained control of both houses, and the 114th Congress started with the largest Republican majority since 1928. If Clinton should win, there is a distinct possibility that Trump could cost his party the House or the Senate.
The Republicans currently hold an eight-seat majority in the Senate; but if Clinton should be victorious, with Tim Kaine as Vice President, Democrats would only need four seats to effectively control the Senate. With the introduction of Trump's Access Hollywood tape, the top of the ticket could have a catastrophic impact for Republicans, and Democrats are fighting hard for those vulnerable Republican seats. Republicans have spent years gerrymandering districts for favorable demographic results, which makes it extremely difficult for Democrats to gain a majority in either house once it's been lost. The decisions of those voting in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, where the races for Senate seats held by Republicans are hotly contested, will have a major impact on the next few years.
Republicans hold a 59-seat majority in the House, and though it was thought more secure than the Senate, there may be hope for Democrats, yet. According to Talking Points Memo, some Republican Reps are concerned about the Trump-effect, including Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV). "We never thought that the House was in jeopardy, that we could lose 30 seats in the House," Heck said in a recording from a private fundraiser. "If the current trajectory continues that becomes a possibility."
This year, be sure to find out exactly who is on the ballot in your district before heading to the polls. This year, there is no question that every vote counts.