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Elections in America: Midterms – What’s It About?

Elections in America: Midterms – What’s It About?

Status: 02.11.2022 06:39 am

In the middle of a US president’s term, come the “midterms” – traditionally where the ruling party loses. Who and what is elected – why does it matter?

By Nina Barth, ARD Studio Washington

In 76 years there has been only one midterm election — the “midterms” in the United States — in which the current president’s party has won seats in the entire Congress, namely the Senate and the House of Representatives. Because traditionally many voters use midterm elections to settle scores with the president and his party, in this case with Joe Biden and the Democrats, even though Biden isn’t even on the ballot. An overview of upcoming elections.

Nina Bart
ARD Studio Washington


The US Congress has two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. All members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are elected biennially. Democrats currently hold narrow majorities in both houses of Congress.

In the 100-seat Senate, both Democrats and Republicans hold 50 seats. In the event of a tie, Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, will cast the casting vote. In the by-election, 35 of the 100 MEPs will now be re-elected. Biden’s Democrats could get a narrow majority.

Incidentally, each state has two senators in the Senate, regardless of how many residents there are. It’s different for members of the House of Representatives: the more residents, the more members of a state. In the by-election, all 435 representatives in the House of Representatives are up for re-election. Here too the narrow majority of the Democrats is on the edge.

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State Governors and Secretaries

The governors of the federal states are comparable to the prime ministers of the federal states in Germany. Governors are elected in midterm elections in 36 of the 50 US states.

“Secretaries of State” are directly elected in many states. They are like Home Secretaries and Chief Election Commissioner in a state. In many states, there are officials who can order a recount after an election and refuse to confirm the election result.

This is why the job is so popular with many Republicans: because many of the candidates say the 2020 presidential victory was stolen from former President Donald Trump. Many Republicans want to block that next time — and push their agenda.

Why are midterms important?

Voter turnout in midterm elections is generally significantly lower than in presidential elections. Many are telling themselves that this election is not that important, it is not about the president. But: For Democrats, the question is whether Biden can continue to implement his policies with Democratic majorities in both chambers of the U.S. Congress — or whether he will become a “lame duck.” That is the goal of the Republican Party.

If Republicans hold a majority in either chamber, they can block proposed legislation or force compromises. Biden would have only executive powers — that is, instead of working through laws through presidential decrees, which would, however, lose their effect at the end of his term.