Every four years, America holds a presidential election. Political ads and voter registration efforts dominate the news. The presidential election is one of our country’s most important votes, but it is not the only one. Elections at the city, state, and national levels are crucial, and their results can impact American lives more than presidential elections.
We also have midterm elections, which take place halfway between each presidential election – this means the U.S. holds major votes every two years. Midterm elections involve electing members of Congress and voting on local issues.
Presidential and Midterm Votes
Elections are broken down by the term limits for politicians in the country. Politicians in the House of Representatives can serve an unlimited number of two-year terms, while those in the Senate can serve unlimited six-year terms. Representatives are all up for re-election every two years, while elections for the Senate are staggered so that only about one-third are competing at a time.
Each state has its own rules for elections. For Congress, states have primaries that nominate candidates, who then face off in a general election. Most states see Democrats, Republicans, and Independents end up on the final ballot to win a seat in Congress.
City, county, and state initiatives often go up for a vote during midterm elections.
According to data from the U.S. Census, voter turnout during presidential election years is higher than during the midterm election years. Until recently, midterm elections were not given so much importance compared to the presidential election. In 2018, midterm voter turnout was at its highest since 1914 at 53.4% – though the 2016 presidential election still saw more attention with a 61.4% voter turnout.
Historically, politicians running for re-election have better chances of winning votes. Modern history also shows that it’s rare for one political party to dominate both the presidency and Congress for a long period of time, with the balance of power constantly shifting.