Polls seem to suggest that Republicans will gain control, with members of the GOP predicting a massive red wave as Democrats defend their narrow majorities in Congress while struggling to overcome pervasive concerns about the economy, crime and President Joe Biden’s leadership.
The unknown level of backlash against the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v Wade may be a factor that could save some of the Democrat vote, but many are still predicting a red wave – but will it be a red mirage?
History is not on the side of Joe Biden, in the past, the party that occupies the White House has suffered significant losses in nearly every president’s first midterm election for more than a century – with many using the vote as a protest against the current president.
But with allegations of voter suppression, disenfranchisement and restrictions on mail in voting, we take a look at when we can expect a clear picture of the US midterm results and how the state of the nation will look. Here’s everything you need to know.
What do Republicans need to win a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate?
All signs point to Republicans making significant gains during the midterm elections. But whether it is a red ripple or a tsunami remains to be seen. Voters are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the direction of the country as inflation surges and political divisions explode. And history suggests that voters will take out their frustrations on the party in power.
It appears likely that the GOP will control at least one chamber of Congress once the dust settles on these midterm elections. In order to do so Republicans need to pick up five seats to take a majority in the House and just one to control the Senate. Polls suggest Republicans have a very strong chance of winning a House of Representatives majority.
A massive wave of Republican support could lead to declarations of victory hours after polls close – but with postal ballots, differing rules on when they are opened and counted, and dozens of close races expected, key states such as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could once again determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential contest.
Key states like Pennsylvania have already warned it could take days to count every ballot with pollsters suggesting that it is likely that Americans will go to bed on election night without knowing who won.
Latest polls US midterms
The majority of polls suggest that the Republicans are slightly favoured to win the Senate, and strong favourites to win the House. Based on polling on voting intentions from fivethirtyeight, 57 of 100 models predicted Republicans winning both. The midterm forecast found 27 in 100 models showed Democrats winning the Senate and Republicans winning the House.
US midterm results: Will there be a red tide? Or a blue mirage? Why Postal Votes could give an indication
Democrats are vote by mail more often than Republicans, with some states having slightly more relaxed rules about when ballots can be unpacked and counted. In states that count mail ballots, big Democratic are expected early on but they could evaporate as vote counters work through piles of Republican-leaning ballots cast on the day.
This has led to the term “blue mirage states” being cast around by news outlets, with states Florida and North Carolina which allow officials to remove mail ballots before Election Day and load them in vote counting machines, expected to show a “blue mirage” with early Democrat votes on the board. On the other hand, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin don't allow officials to open the envelopes until Election Day, which some analysists expecting a "red mirage" with non postal Republican-leaning Election Day ballots reported earlier.
What time will US midterm results be announced?
The first tallies of votes can be expected around midnight in the UK - and will give an indication of whether the Republican wave will be a tsunami or a trickle. A bell weather for the nation could whether the races expected to be close, like Virginia's 7th congressional district, turn out to be routs.
By around 3am an hour after polls in the Midwest close, it is possible that projections for control of the House could be formed.
West coast votes could well decide the House, but indications of who controls such states could take days. If they vote across the nation is particularly tight, then such states could be vitally important.
California typically takes weeks to count all its ballots, in part because it counts ballots postmarked by November 8th even if they arrive days afterward. Nevada and Washington state also allow late ballots if postmarked by Election Day, meaning that the final result could take days to be determined.
When would runoffs take place?
Final control of the Senate may take longer if current polling is to be believed, with close contests in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia likely to determine final control. In the event that no candidate receives 50 per cent of the vote in Georgia’s Senate race, then a run-off election would take place on December 6.
When is the new congress inaugurated?
The new Congress is set to be inaugurated on January 3rd, 2023.