Before voters head to the polls to decide the fate of Congress on Tuesday night, let's lay everything out on the table. If you're still unsure who to vote for, why your vote matters, or what's at stake, we're here to help. Or, if you're just spectating from the sidelines but want to follow along on election night, we'll tell you where to watch the action. This question-and-answer guide will tell you everything you need to know about the 2014 midterm elections.
Before we even get into the larger implications of voting or where to follow midterm election coverage, let's talk logistics. Did you put off registering but would still like to vote? (No judgment here about procrastinating, and good for you for still going through with it.) Or maybe you're not sure if you're registered? And if you are sure you're registered to vote, do you even know where you're going tonight? And what kind of ID should you bring? We answer all of those very practical questions in this comprehensive logistical guide to the midterm elections.
OK, now that you're all set on your voting plans, let's tackle the larger issues. Don't just vote because a celebrity on TV told you to or a volunteer stopped you on the street and practically guilted you into it. Do it with the understanding that your vote matters, and that there's a lot at stake — like, for example, the direction of American politics for the foreseeable future. Here, we'll guide you through one question at a time.
What will the midterm elections decide?
The midterm elections will select the members of Congress (made up of two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate). This year, voters will decide all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 (out of the total 100) members of the Senate. This year's midterm elections will also choose 36 state governors in the gubernatorial races.
Who is likely to win in the House and Senate?
Currently, Republicans have a majority number in the House with 233 seats and, according to experts, they will likely hold on to that majority after this election. What's really at stake is the Senate, which is currently controlled by the Democrats, who have a majority of 53 seats. Pundits, forecasters, and election models all say that Republicans will win the Senate after this year's elections.
How will the outcome change American politics?
If the GOP has control of Congress, then the last two years of President Obama's term will undoubtedly see a lot of frustration and political stalemate. Everything on Obama's agenda, from bills to judicial candidates will see a lot more resistance from a GOP-dominated Congress. Not to mention, the outcome will also determine each individual state's ballot measures, which include everything from abortion laws to gun control.
How does Obama affect the midterm elections?
Speaking of Obama, his record low approval rating will certainly influence the GOP-leaning vote this year. His unpopularity has been the central theme among Republican candidates, who are collectively using the president as the principle issue in an election shaped by few actual issues.
When was the last time there was a Democratic president in a GOP-controlled Congress?
The last Democratic president who had to face a Republican-held Congress was Bill Clinton, who worked alongside three GOP Congresses (104th-106th) between 1995 to 2001 for almost the entire duration of his two terms.
Do all the state Senate races matter?
Not really. According to experts, there are two states that are most crucial in the Senate race. The fate of the Senate will come down to a few close races in the South, including North Carolina, which Obama won in 2008 but lost in 2012, and is shaping up to be the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history.
The other state is Iowa, which experts say Republicans can possibly use as an insurance policy if they slip up in red states. The highly competitive race between Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst currently sees Ernst ahead by as many as seven points in some polls.
Who usually votes in the midterm elections?
The midterm elections see a significantly smaller turnout than presidential elections, and according to the Pew Research Center, only 15 percent of Americans followed the midterm elections closely this year. Who actually end up showing up to vote in the midterms are older, white men who tend to favor Republicans, because they make up the core group of Americans who follow politics beyond the presidential race.
How will the midterm elections affect women's rights?
The midterm elections can affect women in numerous ways, including Amendment 67 in Colorado, which would redefine "person" in the criminal code and could see women convicted if they have an abortion. North Dakota has introduced a similar personhood amendment that could make the state the first to define life as beginning at conception, which could criminalize miscarriage and ban birth control.
Where can I watch the midterm elections tonight?
There are many ways to follow the action tonight, from cable and broadcast TV to the Internet. Just follow our handy Election Night coverage guide.
Will we know the results tonight?
Maybe, if we're lucky. The earliest we'll know the fate of the important Senate races will be about 9 p.m., when polls close in eight of the 10 crucial states. If enough votes on either side are tallied, then that's it, game's over. Or we could be forced to wait on certain states whose polls close later, such as Alaska, which closes voting at 1 a.m. ET.
However, several stipulations could delay results for not hours, but weeks. For example, in Georgia and Louisiana, a runoff election is required a week later if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote.
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