Guide to understanding the US legislative elections

The United States celebrates 8 legislative elections next day, elections that will determine the composition of Congress and the last two years of the mandate of the president, Joe Biden.

This is a quick guide to those elections in ten keys.

1. WHAT IS VOTED ON?

The renewal of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, where the deputies serve a two-year term, and 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate, where the position is for six years. They are also at stake the governors of 36 states and a host of state officials and local, such as the Secretaries of State, important for their role in supervising elections.

2. HOW OFTEN DO YOU VOTE?

Every two years. This means that on some occasions the legislative ones coincide in a year of presidential elections, as in 2020, and that on others, like this one, they take place mid-term, so they are also seen as an endorsement of the presidential work until then.

3. WHO HOLDS THE LEGISLATIVE POWER?

The Senate has two seats from each of the country’s 50 states and is currently split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans. The tie-breaking vote is in the hands of the vice president, Kamala Harris.

In the Lower House, the number of representatives per state depends on its number of inhabitants. The Democrats also have the majority with 220 of their 435 seats, compared to 212 for the Republicans.

4. WHAT IMPACT CAN THE RESULT HAVE?

The legislative determines which political party will control the Senate and the House of Representatives the following two years, in this case from January 3. The current political polarization makes it difficult for a formation to pass new laws unless it holds the presidency of the country and the leadership of each chamber, so if the Republicans regain legislative power they could hinder the attempts of the Democratic administration of the US president, Joe Biden, to carry out new proposals.

Republicans have warned that they plan to use their potential majority to promote an avalanche of investigations, including one into the reasons for the search of the Florida mansion of former President Donald Trump (2017-2021) in August, and even consider the impeachment trial against Biden.

5. WHAT DO THE SURVEYS POINT?

Traditionally, the party in the White House is penalized in mid-term elections. After an optimistic start to the campaign for the Democratic side, the balance has increasingly tipped in favor of the Republicans. The weighted average of polls compiled by the FiveThirtyEight website gives Democrats a 45% chance of maintaining their lead in the Senate and only a 16% chance of doing so in the House of Representatives.

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6. WHAT ARE THE KEY STATES?

In the majority, the vote has a clear candidate, so attention is concentrated on those few where the duel is tighter. Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, Ohio and Arizona currently have the weight of decanting the power of the Senate towards one side or the other.

7. WHAT ISSUES HAVE BEEN IMPORTANT IN THE CAMPAIGN?

Democrats have played the trump card of their recent legislative victories, such as the Inflation Reduction Act or the one that promotes the manufacture of microchips, and have argued that Republicans can endanger democracy. Republicans warn of an increase in violence and inflation in the country under Democratic leadership and if they regain legislative power, they plan, among other things, to impose a veto on abortion at the general level.

8. WHAT OTHER ISSUES WILL BE DECIDED AT THE POLLS?

Americans will also speak out in various states on the right to abortion, the legalization of marijuana, the right to possess and carry a weapon, or the prohibition of "imposed easement" as punishment, a point that affects people in prison and the work they sometimes do in prison without pay in return.

9. HOW MANY PEOPLE VOTE?

The US has a total of 333.26 million inhabitants, according to the latest census figures. In these elections, 8.3 million young people will be able to vote for the first time. Of these, about 4.5 million are white, another two million are Latino and 1.2 million black, according to data from the Information and Research Center on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

In the 2020 presidential elections, according to the Pew research center, more than 158.4 million people went to the polls, a figure equivalent to 62.8% of citizens of voting age. In the 2018 legislative elections, this percentage stood at 47.5%.

10. PRESIDENTIAL APPETIZER OF 2024?

Neither Biden nor Trump have officially said they will run for president again, but their hints and prominence this campaign have offered a sequel to their previous showdown at the polls, in 2020, and a foretaste of what could be a new electoral duel in two years. The composition of Congress will determine the strengths of each one and will open a dance of names in which in all probability not only Biden and Trump will be present. And from Wednesday a new period will begin with a single date in mind: the presidential elections of November 5, 2024.

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