Many people living in the U.S. are anxiously awaiting the results of our Nov. 3 election on both national and local levels. They are not alone; as the election draws near, the scientific, political, and academic communities find themselves battling a swirling storm of rumors, doubts, and misleading information in their struggle to determine right from wrong, good from bad. Tomorrow will go down in American history as, perhaps, one of the most prominent — and dreaded — elections since Washington was unanimously voted into office in 1789. The state of our democracy is undoubtedly on the line, and it is the duty of journalists everywhere to make pivotal, accurate information available to the public.
That’s what I’m here for, to relay and contextualize information regarding the elections, as well as to make informed predictions and provide sources for readers like you to draw conclusions from. With that said, let’s start dissecting the congressional elections — but first, let’s go through a short refresher.
Our Congress consists of two groups: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate provides each of the 50 states with two representatives; it acts as a space where every state has equal representation in parliament, regardless of size and population. Thus, the Senate consists of 100 representatives. Each senator serves a six-year term and, as is the same for the House of Representatives, no limits on re-election (unlike the presidency, where there is a two-term limit). The House of Representatives stands for equitable representation and has 435 seats (although this may change after the 2020 census is finished), and each member holds a two-year term. The number of representatives assigned to each state is population-based — Montana, for instance, has only one seat in the House for its 1.07 million residents, and California, with over 39.5 million residents, has 53 seats. Every state must have at least one seat in the House, regardless of how small it may be.
On Nov. 3, 2020, the polls will open for voters to cast their choices on 35 Senate and all 435 House seats. The 2018 midterm elections gave the Republican party control of the Senate as they laid claim to 53 seats (Democrats had 45; Independents had 2), but tomorrow’s round of voting could change this. Of the 35 seats up for election, 23 are currently Republican, and only 12 are Democratic. What does this mean? Well, the Republicans have plenty to lose, and the Democrats have everything to gain. Of the 35 seats opening up in 2021, there are 16 that are widely considered to be battleground states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia (listed twice), Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. Four of these states went to Democrats when the previous elections occurred in 2014, and twelve of them went to Republicans.
Image Source: Courtesy of Ballotpedia
Twelve of the sixteen states that could easily swing between parties are Republican. Because of that, Democrats only have four battleground states to defend and have better opportunities to pick up more states. If the Democratic Party were to maintain their current hold on four battleground states and win over four of the (currently) Republican ones, they would lay claim to control of the Senate. With all of this in mind, I believe the Democrats have a good chance of taking over the Senate, though that is not definite. For different perspectives, more information, and statistical analysis of polling results, I recommend checking out this FiveThirtyEight page and this Guardian article.
The House of Representatives
As for the House of Representatives, the other half of our legislative branch, I anticipate that the Democrats will maintain their status as the majority party. The 2018 general elections resulted in them taking the lead with 232 seats to the Republican party’s 197 after winning a total of 40 new seats (46 seats changed party hands; 6 of those went from Democrats to Republicans). 41 seats are considered battlegrounds — 20 belong to Democrats, 20 to Republicans, and one to Libertarians. Of these three national elections, the House has the most predictable outcome, that being that Democrats keep control.
There is a lot of tension surrounding the presidential race right now, and it only grows as we approach election day. While there are countless alternative ways this election can go, let’s stick to who is most likely to win the actual election. I believe that Biden will take this victory. As for whether I think we will enter 2021 with him as our president, that’s a different discussion altogether.
First and foremost, I want to remind you that, although Trump decisively won the electoral college in 2016, he lost the popular vote by almost three million votes. To put this in perspective, the entire state of Nevada has approximately the same number of residents as votes that Hillary gained over Trump. Secondly, the reason why we were so caught off-guard by Trump’s victory in 2016 is that the polls we relied on were incredibly inaccurate. These issues were addressed and taken into account in the 2020 polling methods; our understanding of public opinion is much more accurate now than then. This time around, the polls tell us that Biden has a solid lead and a strong chance for victory.
We also have the electoral college on our side. Twelve states have been identified as battlegrounds: Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Of these 12 states, only Minnesota and New Hampshire voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Like I said earlier about the Senate, Trump has to defend more states than Biden as they battle over 10 red and two previously blue states. The voting demographics have also changed. Texas, for example, could be a major toss up — three million more people have registered to vote after the 2016 elections.
Millions of people, including myself, seem to be drowning in anxiety and doubt as our worst fears or most hopeful dreams come to reality in the weeks to come — the most important thing any person can do right now is, if they are eligible to, vote. For those who already have or who are unable to do so, all we can do is wait and stand ready to defend our democracy.