US Midterm Elections – What they are and why are they so important?

It’s been a wild ride this week! This past Tuesday, November 8th, was election night for the US Midterm Elections 2022. While some races were able to be definitively called that night, others are still waiting for votes to be counted and even though it’s been five days since the polls closed, we might not know the results of those races for another week.

Originally, I wanted to dive into this article and start doing a deep analysis of some of the races that were officially decided and try to speculate what will be next as a result. There is a lot to unpack.

But it occurred to me that there might be plenty of people who are just now getting involved in politics and perhaps you don’t know a lot about what the Midterm elections are in the first place.

If that’s the case, don’t worry. I’m going to answer those questions today! Like, what are the US Midterm Elections? Who do we, as Americans, vote for in the Midterms, and finally, why are the Midterms so important?

So, let’s get to it!

What are the U.S. Midterm Elections?

U.S. Midterm elections are elections that are held at the middle point of any given U.S. President’s term.

Since the U.S. President serves four-year terms, that means the midterm will be held two years into their term, thus the name “Midterm Election.”

What is the date for the US Midterm Elections?

Election day for the US midterms falls on the Tuesday, after the first Monday in November.

Who or what are people voting for during the U.S Midterm Elections?

Picture of the U.S. Capitol in Winter - What are they and why are they so important?
U.S. Capitol in Winter. The picture was taken on 12 April 2014. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Most people and media companies focus on control of the two houses of congress. So, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

However, there are usually several other positions on the same ballot, like the Governor of a state, as well as statewide and local initiatives. Let me break all of this down for you.

Why are the Congressional races so important?

The reason that so many people and media companies, like CNN, MSNBC, and others focus on congressional elections is that this election will determine what party controls congress.

The reason that’s important is that the party that controls congress, controls what legislation and party policies are pushed forward and made into law.

Essentially, the party in power will control which direction the country will go.

Furthermore, the party in control can either work with the President of the United States to push his or her agenda forward or work against him to make sure that his agenda and policies go nowhere.

Effectively, cutting his or her term off at the knees, that’s why these races are so important generally speaking and why the media companies pay especially close attention to them.

What members of congress are people voting for in the US Midterms?

Starting with the lower house of Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives, Representatives serve two-year terms, so voters are voting for all 435 members of the house during the midterms.

Most of the members of the House will be running a reelection campaign, other candidates will be running to unseat those members, and finally, in the case that a member of the house is retiring and therefore relinquishing their seat.

Two or more candidates will run for that seat in their district to control that seat.

Moving on to the U.S. Senate, Senators serve six-year staggered terms. There are 100 seats in the Senate, so 100 U.S. Senators. In the midterms about a third of those seats are up for election.

Roughly, 33 to 34 of those senators will be running for reelection or someone will run to unseat the incumbent (the person currently in office), or again, as mentioned above, a Senator is retiring from Congress and therefore a whole new set of candidates will run to fill their seat.

What other government positions are people voting for in the US Midterms?

Picture of a sign that says vote here - U.S. Midterm Elections - What they are and why are they so important?
A ‘vote here’ sign in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Taken by Laurie Shaull. Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0.

Aside from the congressional positions on the ballot, there are several other roles that are at stake as well. 36 of 50 U.S. Governors will be elected to four-year terms during the midterm elections.

While their wins may not have an effect on federal policies, the more governors that can win within a given party shows where the American electorate stands with a party’s policies, and ideals.

For example, let’s just say, for instance, that the Presidency was held by a Democrat and then during the midterms, the Democrats won both chambers of Congress and all 36 Governors elected were also democrats, plus other elections went blue too, well, I’m sure the GOP would be shaking in their boots!

But moving back to the Gubenortial elections. Those candidates who win will have an effect, within their given states, on how the majority party’s policies play out in their states and how federal initiatives are carried out there as well.

Other state positions that can be on the ballot are positions like the Secretary of State.

The secretary of state has some big responsibilities in their state.

They are second in line to the Governor, so if the Governor cannot serve, the Secretary of State will step in to fill the role.

So, essentially serving the role of a Lieutenant Governor or a Vice president, for comparison.

They’re also in charge of ensuring fair elections in their state.

While in past years that may have garnered a simple shoulder shrug from folks, with the big lie in play, those people running for that office could have a huge effect on elections in their state.

From local ones all the way to the Presidency!

For example, one of the big races in 2022 was the Secretary of State race in Arizona.

The race was between Adrian Fontes, a former Marine, and Democrat, and March Fincham, a far-right Republican and election denier or a big lie believer.

Now, so far Adrian Fontes is projected to win this race but if had gone the other way, it would have been really worrying given the power this position has on elections for the state of Arizona.

So, an important election in its own right, wouldn’t you say?

I’ll dive into that election in another article later but for this article, I wanted to highlight the types of positions electable in a midterm election and show how important they can be.

Finally, some of the other things that voters can and will be voting on are ballot initiatives and sometimes even mayoral elections!

For example, here in my state of Virginia, in the district where I voted recently, there were initiatives on the ballot on how taxpayer funds should be used for local needs.

Specifically, whether or not funds should be used on local infrastructure etc. In other states, slavery was on the ballot, while in others abortion issues were on the ballot, and so on.

Every state and municipality had something on the ballot that they wanted voters to consider.

While turnout for midterms is historically lower than that of the Presidency, it gets even lower for local elections.

So, it makes sense for these localities to include things like infrastructure measures on the ballot to piggyback off of the popularity of the other elections being held.

The Midterms in a nutshell

So, there you have it, the U.S. Midterms are a general election held roughly at the midpoint of the U.S. President’s four-year term.

Voters will elect all members of the House of Representatives, and about a third of the members of the U.S. Senate.

And finally, they’ll cast a vote for over 30 state governors and a whole host of state positions and local initiatives!

It’s a lot and in my opinion almost more important than voting for the Presidency.

Don’t get me wrong, I think every election is important and we should get out and vote for all of them but the midterms can have a much bigger set of consequences than just casting a ballot for the man or woman that resides on Pennsylvania Ave if you ask me.

I hope you got to vote in this last cycle but if you didn’t, no worries, but I hope I’ve motivated you to vote in the next midterms!


Featured Image by: Photo by Edmond Dantès

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