2022 midterm election: understanding the jargon
This midterm cycle will see 34 states hold Senate elections. Seven states are open races that are now represented by Republicans or Democrats who are not seeking reelection: Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
What is a flipped seat or pickup?
A flipped seat or pickup is one in the House or Senate that voters take from one party to another. Because of redistricting, nine House seats – including seven new seats where there is no incumbent and two where two incumbents are running against each other – cannot be classified as pickups for either party.
Why does the number of gubernatorial races fluctuate every cycle?
Depending on the state, governors are treated a little differently.
Forty-eight out of 50 US states elects governors to four-year terms.
Two states elect governors on two-year terms.
36 states hold their governor elections in midterms election years.
Three states elect governors in off-year elections before a presidential election.
And two states elect governors in off-year elections after a presidential election.
What is an incumbent?
An incumbent is a lawmaker or elected official running for reelection.
What is a special election?
When a senator leaves office before their term ends (such as retirement or death) the state’s governor usually appoints a placeholder to fill the seat.
Then at the next election, voters can usually have their say. Both Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia were first elected in 2020 in special elections and why in 2022 both men are running for a full six-year term.
The 2022 elections will see special Senate elections in Oklahoma, where Republican Sen. James Inhofe will be resigning next year and in California, where Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla is running to remain in the post.
House members cannot be appointed, so when a House seat becomes vacant there needs to be a special election to fill it. 2022 will see a special election in Indiana to serve the final few months of Rep. Jackie Walorski’s term – (she died in August).
What is ranked-choice voting?
Some cities and states are experimenting with ways to give voters more access to the political process and potentially depolarise politics.
Ranked-choice voting is a system in place where voters rank their choices in order of preference instead of picking a single candidate.
If no candidate gets more than 50% of the first-place votes, the bottom candidate is dropped and the second choice of the voters who selected that candidate gets those votes. That process repeats until a winner emerges.
Single-winner ranked voting is used to elect national-level politicians from the states of Maine and Alaska in the United States.
What is estimated vote?
An estimated vote is based on data including turnout in previous elections, pre-election ballots cast or requested and pre-election polling to help predict about how many votes are expected.
What are exit polls?
Exit polls are large-scale polls conducted by a consortium of news organizations among early and absentee voters and voters on Election Day. They are conducted as voters leave polling stations, on Election Day and in many states at early voting locations, and also by telephone or online ahead of Election Day to account for mail-in and early voting.
What does down ballot mean?
The top of the ticket is the race that the largest number of people in a state will see on their ballot. In a presidential year, those candidates are at the top of the ticket. Candidates in more local races are down ballot. A candidate for the House, for example, is down ballot from a presidential candidate. A mayoral candidate is down ballot from a House candidate.
What is the balance of power?
Both Democrats and Republicans want to control the House and the Senate – as the party that controls either or both have more power.
For a party to control the House or Senate (or both) they have to win a majority of seats in that chamber.
The party in power controls committees that write legislation and decides which measures will get a vote on the floor.
In the House, the party with at least 218 seats has the majority and, assuming it can unite behind one candidate, selects the Speaker of the House. In the Senate, the party with 51 votes has the majority.
How does the vice president tiebreaker work in the Senate?
The vice president’s official duty is to serve as president of the Senate. In votes where there is a tie, the vice president can cast a tiebreaking vote.
In the current Senate, where there is an even split of Republican and Democratic votes (two independents currently in the Senate usually side with Democrats), the vice president’s tiebreaking vote also gives Democrats control of the chamber.
Will we know who wins on Election Day?
It’s unlikely that we’ll get all the results on election night, due to early voting and by mail.
The margins of power in both the House and Senate are close enough that it could take days to know who will have a majority of seats.