Explainer: The US midterm polls; how they work and what is at stake

Written By: Shivani Kumar WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Updated: Nov 07, 2018, 07:16 AM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

US voters are just few days away from casting the ballot in the mid-term elections which are often seen as a referendum on the president and his policies. The results of these elections decide how much more or less power the President will have in Washington by the end of the election day.

What is the midterm election?

President in the United States serves four-year term, the election in between is called a midterm election which is a race for the House of Representatives and the US Senate. 

Midterm elections sometimes change the political landscape of US as there is always a lot at stake for the President. The party that may end up in control of Congress can make the President's life either a breeze or a nightmare during the last two years of his term.

Historically, the president's party almost always loses seats in both houses of Congress, the loss sometimes changes the party in control of the legislature which can have an effect on President Donald Trump's ability to pursue his agenda during the remaining years.

Right now Republicans hold the presidency and majority in both the houses-- House of Representatives and the Senate.

On Tuesday, all 435 seats in the House are up for grabs while 35 seats in the 100-member Senate are at stake. Americans will vote for governor in 36 states.

Republicans have a slim 51-49 hold on the Senate, whereas Democrats have a tough hill to climb with 26 Democratic seats on the ballot and only nine Republican seats.

Democrats need a gain of 23 seats to take control of the House they lost in 2010 and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi boldly predicted this week they would do so.

Now if Democrats retake either the House, they will be able to block policies they disagree with. For example, the massive Republican overhaul of the US tax system that passed late last year would not be possible, neither would any rollback of Obamacare.

Democrats would also be able to legislate their own policies. Though President has to sign off on bills for them to become law but there will be a chance that Democrats and President Trump could work together on some issues.

Winning control of the Congress will also give Democrats the power to launch an investigation into President Donald Trump and to subpoena documents and witnesses. In an extreme situation, they may also be able to impeach Trump. 

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon has also said in one of his recent address that if Democrats come into power they will try to impeach him by using Robert Mueller report as a blueprint.

What are the key issues in this year’s election?

Birth-right citizenship: Donald Trump in an attempt to sway voters, announced recently that he would issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for everyone born in the US in a bid to prevent babies born to undocumented immigrants from being automatically American citizens. 

Referred as birthright citizenship in the US, it is ensured by the 14th amendment to the constitution which added after the Civil War with an intention to give constitutional protections to former slaves.

But some Republicans, including Trump, has been saying that it creates an incentive for people to enter the country illegally to have children.

Immigration: Just like it was in 2016, this time as well Immigration issue is a big driver for Republican voters.  Recent sensationalism over caravans of migrants heading towards the Mexican-American border has also put this on a full display.

Gender Rights: Following Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as Supreme Court Justice, despite the multiple sexual assault allegations against him,  supporters of female rights have become increasingly worried about what the Court's new conservative majority means for their cause. 

Healthcare: The Republican Party has been trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare -- since Trump took office. While they have not been able to fully accomplish this but there is a possibility that big wins in the midterms may seal the deal.

Tighter gun laws: Multiple surveys released since the Florida shootings, including one by Quinnipiac University, have found that about two-thirds of voters support tighter gun laws. From Florida to Republican-leaning Southern California, Democratic candidates are campaigning on gun control in the race critical for their takeover of Congress.

The Democrats in their campaign have also shown confidence that with growing public support for stricter gun measures, it will help them win votes in these states.

How this may affect the world politics

As the country is divided into pro-Trump and anti-Trump, the results will likely change the way how President Trump is perceived by other world leaders. The winning for Republicans would give the impression that President Trump still has a firm grip on his country, making the President and his "America First" agenda look reaffirmed on the world stage. After which Trump can work more forcefully for the changes on how the US deals with the European Union and NATO allies. He also might challenge the Chinese more forcefully on economic trade issues or territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

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