Control of US Congress at stake as polls open in midterm elections | 2022 US Midterm Elections

The first polling stations opened in Midterm elections in the United Statesthat will determine the composition of the next Congress and set the tone for the remainder of President Joe Biden’s term in the White House.

Tuesday’s vote comes as Americans grapple with sky-high inflation and cost of living, and the economy has become the main concern among supporters of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Democrats currently maintain a narrow majority in Congress, and they have focused much of the campaign on defend reproductive rights and the strengthening of democratic institutions, which they say are under threat in the country.

But as the ruling party, the Democrats are expected to lose ground to the Republicans, who have captured immigration and economic issues with the aim of gaining support at the polls.

“There are countervailing pressures on the economy: unemployment remains relatively low at 3.5%, consumer confidence is still quite high,” said Thomas Gift, director of the Center on US Politics at University College London. , to Al Jazeera, “but inflation hits everyone, and the majority (party) – fair or not – will become a scapegoat.

The 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives are to win, as well as 34 in the Senate. Governorates, state legislatures, local councils and school boards are also contested.

Washington, DC reporter Kimberly Halkett of Al Jazeera said President Joe Biden admitted hours before polls opened that it was going to be “tough” for Democrats to hold the House.

“It’s really a referendum on the last two years of his presidency. His legacy is at stake and right now his approval rating is hovering around 40%, his disapproval rating is over 50%,” she said, “and historically when a president has a of approval above 50%, his party does not. really hang on to the House in the midterm parliamentary elections.”

According a count by the US Elections Project at the University of Florida.

Polling firm Gallup said earlier this month that 41% of eligible U.S. voters intended to vote early, up from 34% in 2018. Fifty-four percent of Democrats said they would vote by Tuesday, against 32% of Republicans, the same poll found.

Vermont was the first US state to open polls Tuesday at 5 a.m. ET (10 a.m. GMT). Voting sites were to be open in all US states by 1 p.m. ET (6 p.m. GMT). Among the East Coast states to open in-person voting for the first time early Tuesday were Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Florida, home to closely watched Senate races that could decide which party controls the Senate.

“It’s election day! Go vote,” Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock tweeted as polls opened in Georgia. Warnock takes on Republican challenger Herschel Walker in what is expected to be one of the closest races in the nation.

While turnout is generally lower for midterm elections than for presidential elections in the United States, the last midterm contest in 2018 saw the “highest midterm turnout in four decades” at 53%, according to the US Census Bureau.

In addition to immigration, reproductive rights and the economy, American voters said public safety, gun control and the climate crisis were among the main problems in their minds when they vote.

Meanwhile, some observers have raised concerns heading into Tuesday about barriers to votingparticularly in states with large African American populations and other historically marginalized populations, as several US states have passed restrictions in recent years.

Reports of intimidation of voters and a recent attack at the California home of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who left her husband in hospital also raised the prospect of election-related violence.

More than 100 lawsuits were also filed ahead of the poll, with challenges stretching into Election Day.

That includes Pennsylvania Democrats seeking to prevent undated mail-in ballots from being thrown out by election officials, Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo reported from Pittsburgh.

“We already have a bit of a controversy, John Fetterman, the Democrat running for the Senate seat here, his campaign filed a lawsuit overnight asking that federal authorities strike down a state court that said the ballots mail-in ballots that weren’t dated were thrown out,” he said.

“Clearly this could be a very long night in Pennsylvania,” he added, “a lot of officials are saying the vote count will continue through Tuesday night, maybe Wednesday, maybe even Thursday”.

Much of the American population – notably Republican voters – also continues to believe that the 2020 presidential election was marred by widespread fraud, a false claim that the former Republican president Donald Trump still champion.

Lisa Bryant, professor of political science at California State University, Fresno, recently told Al Jazeera that election denial could lead to an erosion of trust in the democratic process.

“If you don’t consider the government to be legitimate, then do you consider the laws it creates to be legitimate? And so, are you bound to follow them? she says.

Although President Biden’s name will not appear on any ballot, his administration’s background could influence Tuesday’s vote, experts said. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Nov. 1 found 40% of Americans approved of Biden’s performance so far.

Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, said if Republicans take over Congress, or if the House and Senate are split between Republican and Democratic control, observers can expect a Legislative blockage in Washington.

“I would say that, at least for now, it seems likely that the Republicans could take over the House while the Democrats maintain a moderate advantage to retain the Senate,” Abramowitz said. told Al Jazeera last month.

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