US midterm elections: Americans to decide fate of Senate, Congress

35 Senate seats and all 435 House of Representatives seats are on the ballot, with Republicans favored to pick up the five seats needed to control the House.

 Voting and campaign signs are displayed during the 2022 US midterm elections, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, November 8, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/QUINN GABLICKI)
Voting and campaign signs are displayed during the 2022 US midterm elections, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, November 8, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/QUINN GABLICKI)

Americans on Tuesday cast the final ballots in the US midterm elections that will determine whether Democrats lose control of Congress, and with it the ability to push forward on US President Joe Biden's agenda in the next two years.

The party that controls the White House typically loses seats in midterm elections. Nonpartisan forecasts suggest Tuesday's results will be no exception, as concerns about high inflation and crime outweigh the end of national abortion rights and the violent Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol in voters' minds.

35 Senate seats and all 435 House of Representatives seats are on the ballot. Republicans are widely favored to pick up the five seats they need to control the House, while the Senate - currently split 50-50 with Democrats holding the tie-breaking vote - could come down to a quartet of toss-up races in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona.

But even before the midterm elections were completed, the 2024 presidential election was taking shape. Former president Donald Trump on Monday night sent his strongest hint yet that he would be kicking off his third consecutive White House campaign soon, telling supporters in Ohio that he would be making a "big announcement" on Nov. 15. He did not specify what that would be, but he has been telegraphing plans to run again since shortly after losing his 2020 reelection bid to Biden.

 Former US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania walk outside a polling station during midterm election in Palm Beach, Florida, US November 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/RICARDO ARDUENGO) Former US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania walk outside a polling station during midterm election in Palm Beach, Florida, US November 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/RICARDO ARDUENGO)

More than 42 million Americans voted ahead of Election Day, either by mail or in person, according to data from the US Election Project. State election officials caution that full results may not be known for days as they count ballots in close races - with control of the Senate perhaps not known until a potential December 6 runoff in Georgia.

The right to vote

In Kemp Mill, Maryland, one of the largest Jewish Orthodox communities on the East Coast south of Baltimore, dozens of voters arrived to vote in person on Tuesday morning.

Gary Eisen, a local resident, said that his top issues were Israel, the economy, and crime. “Some people talk about defunding or reducing funding for the police,” he said. “I think that's very unrealistic and have the opposite effect.”

Nancy James, who lives in the neighborhood, arrived at the polling station with her husband Bruce. “The reason to vote is because it's not only is it a right and a privilege, it's a duty. I feel as if we have to vote,” she said. “Israel is important, but it's not my sole reason to vote. I want to make sure that we defend democracy.”

“I'm worried about antisemitism, and I see that racial issues affect us because if people are going turn against a certain race, they can also turn against us. Right now, it is becoming big again,” she added.

“I'm not a one-issue voter,” said Bruce James. “Israel's important, but of course it's, there's a lot of different opinions in Israel, so how to support Israel is different for different people.”

Yitzhak, a delivery driver who asked not to be identified by his last name, said that the two most important issues for him were the economy and crime. "Hopefully, things will get better," he said. I don't have a lot of hopes, for this county, it's a very liberal county, so we'll see how it goes. But I don't have a huge amount of hopes."

“There is a great deal of concern about the future for Jews in America,” said Marilyn Fine, a Kemp Mill resident. “The threat that came out [in New Jersey] was so scary. So I think that that's a huge concern. And I do think that that goes hand in hand with the other issues such as the survival of democracy, which ensures free speech, but also freedom and safety for all people regardless of what you believe.”

“I certainly care about the Middle East,” she added. “I have two daughters and four grandchildren in Israel, so I certainly care about the US-Israel relationship.”

In Washington, a steady stream of voters arrived at the Lamond Riggs polling station.Shane Brown, a native Washingtonian, said that he believed voting was important regardless of political position. “Based on my history with being able to vote, regardless of whether I'm Democrat or Republican, you understand that the right to vote is important,” he said. “There are other countries that don't have the right to vote don't live in a democracy. So even though we have our flaws, even though DC is predominantly Democrat - I'm an independent, but I usually vote Democrat - I feel it's important to vote."

Edwina Davis, a Washington resident, said that the top two issues for her in these elections were democracy and crime. “I think it's systemic and that the government can only do so much,” she said about the rising crime numbers.

“In my generation, people are very serious about voting,” Davis said. “It's the younger generation I'm concerned about. I grew up in an era where we had to struggle to get to vote. So, to me, in my generation, it is our obligation to vote. These, some of these younger people, they just, take it for granted.”

A final push

Biden and former president Barack Obama, still the party's biggest luminary, have crisscrossed the country over the past week, urging supporters to vote in hopes of stemming Democrats' losses. Trump has done the same as he lays the groundwork for another run at the presidency.

However, some Democrats in tough races have deliberately distanced themselves from the White House as Biden's popularity languishes. On Monday, the final day of campaigning, Biden headed to the politically safe turf of Democratic-leaning Maryland, rather than a swing state.

"It’s Election Day, America. Make your voice heard today. Vote," Biden, who previously cast his ballot in early voting in Delaware, said in a post on Twitter Tuesday morning.

Trump is scheduled to vote in Florida later on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court's June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that had established a nationwide right to abortion, had galvanized Democratic voters around the country, temporarily raising Democrats' hopes they could defy history.

But in the closing weeks of the campaign, forecasters have grown more confident that Republicans will win a majority in the House, perhaps flipping 20 seats or more.

Despite one of the strongest job markets in memory, stubbornly rising prices have left voters dissatisfied, helped along by relentless attacks from Republicans over gas and food prices, as well as crime.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Monday showed more than two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, with just 39% approving of the way Biden has done his job. Trump's polling is similarly low, with just 41% of respondents to a separate recent Reuters/Ipsos poll saying they viewed him favorably.

The increasingly grim prognosis has left some Democrats questioning the party's campaign message, which centered on protecting abortion rights and American democracy.