Here's everything you actually need to know about the upcoming US midterm elections
They could be the most important elections in recent history
Even though it might feel like we’ve been living in the ‘Trump-bad news vortex’ for, like, a decade or more, it’s actually only been about two years since the new president entered the Oval Office.
And next month, Americans will have their first chance since the 2016 presidential election to vote on the issues that matter to them – and to voice their support (or horrified disgust) for Donald Trump.
Here’s everything you could ever possibly want to know about the upcoming US midterm elections.
Midterm elections: When are they?
The elections are on Tuesday, 6 November – but many people will have already cast their ballot before then thanks to early voting.
Midterm elections: What are they?
The midterm elections, held two years either side of a presidential election, determine who controls Congress (which is made up of the lower house - the House of Representatives - and the upper house - The Senate).
Representatives serve two-year terms, so they constantly have to keep fundraising for their next election, while Senators serve six-year terms.
This means that all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be voted on and 35 seats in the 100-member Senate will be up for grabs on 6 November.
The new 116th Congress will then convene on 3 January.
There are also races for governor in 36 states, as well elections for mayors and state governments across the country.
Some states will also be holding referendums on issues like abortion, healthcare and marijuana legalisation.
Voter turnout is expected to be higher this time because of general anti-Trump fervour - but some Republican-controlled states have brought in controversial voter suppression laws that effectively make it more difficult for young people, poor people and minority groups to vote.
Midterm elections: What’s probably going to happen?
There are three possible outcomes in the upcoming Congressional elections:
1. Democrats take back control of the Senate and House of Representatives
This is the worst-case scenario for Donald Trump – and it would make passing legislation almost impossible. Polling, however, suggests this scenario isn’t too likely.
2. The Republicans retain control of the Senate and the House of Representatives
This scenario, while not impossible, is unlikely considering the fact the president’s party historically loses seats during a midterm election. But, of course, Trump’s win didn’t seem possible, so another unlikely result cannot be ruled out.
3. The Republicans retain control of the Senate and Democrats take control of the House of Representatives
The scenario, based on analysis from the polling site 538, is considered to be the most likely option. Democrats are expected to sweep back control of the House, which has many more competitive races, but in the Senate the Dems face an uphill battle to simultaneously defend 26 of the 35 seats being contested while also trying pick up seats from Republicans, who currently hold a narrow 51-49 majority.
Midterm elections: What are the biggest issues?
A survey from CNN earlier this year found that the biggest concerns for American voters are health care, the economy and immigration.
And the US economy has been growing well in the past two years, with unemployment falling, largely because of progress made during Obama’s presidency - naturally, however, these numbers have been seized on by Trump and claimed as the product of his own work.
But who’s really benefited from this economic expansion? Certainly, the rich have gotten much richer thanks to Trump’s massive tax cut for the wealthiest 1% of Americans in 2017.
Meanwhile, Trump has been keen to whip up fears about immigration before the midterms by constantly drawing attention to the Central American ‘migrant caravan’ and choosing to add fuel to a host of conspiracy theories about its origin, size and composition.
Of course, this election will also been seen as a referendum on the president himself.
Midterm elections: What are the big races to look out for?
In reality, the vast majority of races aren’t actually that competitive in Congressional elections. But there are some key Senate battlegrounds that could determine control of the upper chamber, including Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, West Virginia, and North Dakota.
This election is also being seen as a potential tidal wave vote for women, minority groups and left-wing candidates who have been motivated to run because of the Trump presidency.
These are some of the stand-out, left-wing candidates who’ve drawn attention on social media:
- Beto O’Rourke: A progressive candidate running for Senate in Texas against the much-reviled porn-fan Ted Cruz.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: A former cocktail waitress and Bernie Sanders supporter running for Congress in New York who unexpectedly defeated a high-ranking Democratic party official in her primary.
- Stacey Abrams: Running for Georgia governor and would become the first black woman to lead an American state if she wins (plus, Oprah is campaigning for her).
- Andrew Gillum: A progressive candidate running for the Florida governorship whose impressive debate performance went viral.
Midterm elections: Could Trump be impeached if Democrats take control of Congress?
If the Democrats take back control of the House of Representatives they could begin impeachment proceedings against the president, especially if Robert Mueller’s investigation finds definitive proof of collusion with Russia.
However, even if a Democrat-controlled House votes to impeach the president, it is ultimately up to the Senate to hold a trial and elect to remove him. And in the Senate, Democrats would need a two-thirds majority to do this, which means Trump is unlikely to be kicked out of office.
Midterm elections: What could the results mean for Trump and US laws?
1. If Democrats win control of both the House and the Senate
If they retake control of the House, the Dems will have powers to subpoena members of the Trump administration and to investigate his activities, which would make his life much more difficult.
And if they somehow manage to retake the Senate, the Democrats will be able block Trump’s judicial appointments, including to the Supreme Court.
They’ll also be able to prevent him from passing legislation such as his plan to end so-called birthright citizenship.
2. If Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress
The relationship between Trump and the Republican Congressional leadership has definitely not been an easy one – and they’ve so far failed to overturn Obamacare or to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
But if Republicans maintain control of Congress, it will give them room to pass more legislation such as the proposed ‘tax cuts for middle-class families in 2019’.
The Republicans will also be able to approve more candidates like Justice Kavanaugh if any more Supreme Court positions become available.
3. If Democrats win the House and Republicans retain the Senate
In this scenario, there would essentially be a stalemate in which basically no legislation passed through Congress because laws need to be approved by both chambers before moving to the White House for presidential approval.
There is potentially some common ground, however, between the Democrats and the president in terms of boosting government spending for infrastructure and this is potentially one area where both sides might work together.
Midterm elections: What could the results mean for 2020?
If left-wing candidates do well in November, this could mean the Democrats will choose a more progressive, Bernie-type candidate in 2020.
However, if Trump’s party does relatively well there could be calls to plump for a more moderate candidate.
The leading contenders so far include former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, and - somewhat bizarrely - Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti.
Whoever the Democrats go for, they’re going to have to have a skin as thick as steel to face off against mudslinger-in-chief Donald Trump.