America’s endless election: How the midterms work - and when will we have a result?

Midterm elections in the US begin on Tuesday. Credit: AP

Words by ITV News DC Producer Fred Dimbleby

America’s nonstop election cycle, where national representatives are elected every two years, may seem frantic and exhausting.

No sooner than a politician’s name plaque is fixed to their office door, they are thinking about their re-election strategy.

The system allows voters to make their views heard more regularly than in the UK, but the constant campaigning and the apathy it causes can keep those same voters at home.

The effect is especially pronounced during midterm elections, which fall in the middle of a presidential term.

In 2018, only 50% of those eligible to vote chose to do so and that was a 40 year high.

During the 2014 election, held in the middle of president Barack Obama’s second term, a measly 37% turned out.

And these are not minor elections either. Every two years, America elects a completely new House of Representatives and a third of the Senate.

Not to mention, many states also vote for their governor and local representatives.

Think about voting for a whole new House of Commons every two years and you can only imagine the problems that could result in.

The balance of power shifts so constantly in America that long term political projects are either rushed through, often at the expense of proper scrutiny, or fall victim to an election loss.

And this sense in America of never ending elections - the year round presence of posters from hopeful candidates - has been exacerbated by increasing early voting.

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While Tuesday is officially election day in America, many millions will have voted before the polling stations.

According to Gallup, four in 10 voters plan to vote early in this election - an increase from previous midterm polls.

It means that, despite the ramping up of campaigning during the final days of an election, the day itself has become somewhat less important for both candidates and voters.

In many states, election day is now election week or even election month.

The process is elongated further still by the time it takes to count results.

Many will recall how long it took to call the 2020 presidential election, with the vacuum left by the lack of a result allowing president Donald Trump’s unfounded election conspiracies to fill the void.

We have covered two elections in the past fortnight - in Brazil it took three hours to name the winner, in America it may take days.

Joe Biden and the Democrats are expected to lose control of the House of Representatives after the midterms. Credit: AP

We are likely to have a good idea of the country's views by the early hours of Wednesday, but voters in key states like Nevada, Pennsylvania and Arizona may have to wait patiently while their votes are tallied.

Trumpian candidates are already, without evidence, doubting the results of this election and the wait for results will only exacerbate the power of those claims.

And just when you thought it was all over, there is yet more delay!

While those winning seats in the House of Commons usually become MPs within the days following the result, in America it takes far longer.

Eager, newly elected politicians for Congress will have to wait until January 3 2023 to be sworn in and begin their work.

The midterm election will finally be over. But its end will mark the starting gun for the 2024 general election.

America’s endless election continues.