US midterm elections kick off amid historic turnout expectations

WASHINGTON – US voters are heading to the polls for midterm elections on Tuesday with turnout expected to reach levels not seen in half a century as Republican control of Congress hangs in the balance.

Republicans are vying to keep control over the House and Senate, as Democrats hope for a ‘blue wave’ comeback.

At a polling station in Arlington, Virginia, dozens of voters weathered the cold to line up before the doors opened.

The elections will determine which candidates fill 35 Senate seats and all 435 of the House seats in the next Congress, and likely draw the trajectory of US politics for the next two years.

The Republican Party now holds a majority in both chambers of Congress. Most polls projected the Democratic Party to take the House while the Republicans keep control of the Senate, but an abundance of neck and neck races make the final result difficult to predict.

If the Republican Party manages to hold on to the majority in both chambers, it will bolster the current administration’s legislative agenda. If the Democratic Party wins a majority in either the House or the Senate, it can greatly undermine the current administration’s policy efforts in the next two years.

The first ballots will be cast on the east coast where most locations open at 6:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. EST (1100-1200 GMT) although some in the state of Vermont open as early as 5:00 a.m. Most polling stations on the West Coast will close by 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. EST (0300-0400 GMT on Wednesday).

Yet with so many races and high expectations for high voter turnout, it is uncertain when the definitive results will be known with respect to who controls Congress.

In the final six days before the vote, Trump launched an intense push to help fellow Republicans prevail in the midterms with a breakneck pace of campaigning across about a dozen states. Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama has crisscrossed the country to participate in rallies in an attempt to mobilize Democratic voters, while exchanging jabs with Trump along the way.

The biggest issues that voters are concerned about the most include healthcare, the economy, and immigration, according to a Gallup poll released on November 2.

Among registered US voters, some 70 percent say they are highly interested in the 2018 midterm elections, according to a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday, about 10 percent higher than the previous midterm. 80 percent of respondents told ABC/Washington Post pollsters that they are “certain to vote” or had already voted.

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