What’s at stake in US elections?

2010-11-02 07:47

US voters head to the polls today for key elections that will decide whether President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies or his Republican foes will control the Congress until 2012.

All 435 House of Representatives seats, 37 Senate spots, and three dozen governorships are up for grabs, as well as control over state legislatures.

Republicans, who need a net gain of 39 seats to retake the House and 10 seats to capture the Senate, are expected to swamp Democrats in a tidal wave of voter anger at the sour US economy and unemployment hovering near 10%.

The House currently comprises 255 Democrats, 178 Republicans, and two vacancies, while the Senate includes 57 Democrats, two Independents who typically vote with them, and 41 Republicans.

Seizing even one chamber would give Republicans broad control over what legislation comes to a vote, and when, likely bringing Obama’s remaining big-ticket agenda items to a grinding halt or forcing major compromises.

It would also give Republicans committee chairmanships and with them sweeping powers to investigate the Obama administration.

It is a mid-term election and the president is not on the ballot.

If Republicans take the House, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – the first female speaker of the House and technically the third-highest US elected official – would lose her post to a Republican, most likely House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Historically, sitting US presidents have seen their party lose seats in elections halfway through their first term, though George W Bush defied that trend in 2002.

Key governorships up for grabs include California, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Winning governorships and state legislatures carries a special prize this year, as states redraw their political maps in response to the one-a-decade US population census wrapped up earlier this year.

The process can be used for partisan aims, changing the political composition of districts to shape election outcomes, or in some cases erasing a district entirely.?

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