Election_2014Voter turnout during midterm elections tends to be about 15% less than that for presidential elections, a huge drop-off. That’s partly understandable. Midterms don’t resonate* with Americans as much as presidential elections because it’s harder to feel that everyone has something at stake, and midterm elections don’t usually offer the ability to cast ballots for something that will clearly effect the whole country. [*resonate is to have particular meaning or importance for someone]

Except, of course, when they do, as is the case in 2014. Americans across the country will vote for 36 senators, 36 governors and a bunch of policies, but everyone will have their eyes on who wins each race for Senate, as Republicans have a good chance of wresting control of that house of Congress from the Democrats.

Since the GOP [Republican party] already controls the House of Representatives, Republican control of the Senate would make it virtually impossible for President Obama to push any contentious issues through Congress.

Below, we’ve listed some of the bigger reasons why the midterm elections are worth keeping tabs on:

1 – Control of the Senate (Currently, there are 36 Senate seats to be decided in November 2014, 21 of those now held by members of the Democratic Party and 15 by members of the Republican Party.)

The main thing to remember here is that Republicans, depending on what poll you look at, have around a 65% chance of having more Senate seats than Democrats after Nov. 4. A 65% chance, of course, doesn’t guarantee that it will happen. But if it does, Republicans would control both houses of Congress, [giving them the ability to oppose] President Obama’s policies. President Obama would become even more of a lame duck president, unable to pass just about any legislation other than what he can do through executive actions [a practice he has used to implement  some of his controversial policies that he could not enact even with a Democrat majority in the Senate].

[USA Today reports:  If Republicans win control of both the House and the Senate, Obama’s protective shield in Congress would be gone. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (assuming he wins re-election) say the GOP would move immediately on some priorities that have been stymied. That includes proposals to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which Obama has delayed acting on, and revising the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

If that happens, Obama would still have the presidential veto, of course, but he would be forced to take time and effort to defy the Republicans on a whole new range of issues rather than focusing on his own priorities.]

The President would also probably be able to appoint far fewer justices around the nation, as judges require a simple Senate majority for approval.

Also important: More Republican senators now means that whoever is elected in November will be around for six years, including the entirety of the next president’s first term.  (See “Background” below the questions for an IB Times report on some close Senate races.)

2 – Outcome of the 36 governors’ races will demonstrate how voters currently view liberals and conservatives 

A governor’s policies, of course, mainly affect only the people in his or her state. But the outcomes of these gubernatorial races provide a good gauge of how the country feels toward each political party, and that could be somewhat indicative of what happens in future elections. This year, an estimated 21 states could go Democrat or Republican. (There are currently 29 Republican and 21 Democratic governors.)

And for a gubernatorial election with potential to resonate beyond 2014, look at the battle for governor of Wisconsin. Current Republican Gov. Scott Walker is talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 2016 or beyond, but he’s facing a challenge from Democrat Mary Burke that polls estimate is a toss up at this point.  (For a previous article on 12 important gubernatorial races, go to: studentnewsdaily.com/daily-news-article/the-12-governors-races-you-need-to-watch-this-fall)

3 – Ballot measures: pot, abortion and the minimum wage

Most midterm elections coverage focuses on individual races or politicians, but three other topics that deserve attention are marijuana legalization, abortion issues and raising the minimum wage.

Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota – all states controlled by Republicans – have ballot initiatives that would raise the minimum wage in those states and all seem to have a good shot at passing. In fact, every state initiative to increase minimum wage has passed since 2002. (For info: ballotpedia.org/Minimum_wage_on_the_ballot)

Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. will vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana. They could join Colorado and Washington on the side of legalization, making the United States home to four states (and a capital) that allow the use of recreational marijuana after Nov. 4. Floridians will also vote on whether to legalize medical marijuana, which has become a high-profile issue in the state.

Colorado and North Dakota both have initiatives up for vote that, if passed, would legally define life as beginning at conception, which would move those states to the right on abortion.

The issue has come up in Colorado, where Democrat incumbent Mark Udall has tried to portray his opponent, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, as right-wing on abortion issues, though Gardner has edged away from supporting measures like the one Coloradans will vote on. Abortion has also become a top voter topic in Tennessee, where the law is more vague, and simply states that a new measure would allow legislators to introduce or change legislation on abortion.

See ballotpedia for: Colorado at:  ballotpedia.org/Colorado_Definition_of_%22Personhood%22_Initiative,_Amendment_67_(2014)

North Dakota at: ballotpedia.org/North_Dakota_%22Life_Begins_at_Conception%22_Amendment,_Measure_1_(2014)

Tennessee at: ballotpedia.org/Tennessee_Legislative_Powers_Regarding_Abortion,_Amendment_1_(2014)

Adapted from an Oct. 27 Mashable article. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from mashable .com


1. a) How much lower than the presidential elections is voter turnout expected to be for the 2014 midterm elections next week?
b) Why is this so?

2. a) Why are the 2014 Senate races so important?
b) What effect will the outcome have on the last 2 years of President Obama’s term as well as on the first term of the next president? Be specific.

3. a) Currently, how many Democratic and Republican governors are there in the U.S.?
b) What will the overall outcome of gubernatorial elections indicate about voters and about future elections?

4. List the three issues mentioned in the article that have state ballot measures in this year’s election. For each, list the states where voters will be deciding these issues.

5. Visit the StudentNewsDaily “Election Resources” page at: studentnewsdaily.com/election-resources-for-teachers and find the link for “State Election Websites,”
and go to Ballotpedia at: ballotpedia.org/Main_Page.

a) List the national and state races, as well as the ballot measures for your state.
b) Discuss with a parent how he/she is voting in your state’s elections and to explain his/her choices.
NOTE: Many people prefer to keep their voting choices private. This answer is not for class discussion.


Midterm Election 2014 Polls Show Republican Senate Candidates Poised to Win in Battleground Races: 

Republicans would take control of the U.S. Senate if the 2014 midterm elections were held now, according to a series of polls released Sunday of five of the most closely contested races. But the GOP leads are less than the polls’ margins of error, meaning a Republican takeover of Congress is far from certain.

  • The GOP gained the most ground in North Carolina, where an NBC News/Marist Poll showed Republican candidate Thom Tillis tied with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. Other polls conducted last week showed Hagan with a three-point lead over Tillis, according to Real Clear Politics.  “Up until this point, incumbent Hagan has been considered the strongest Democrat among the so-called Democratic firewall states in this election cycle,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion. “Now, this is a contest that could go either way, and the outcome may determine control of the Senate.”

Republicans need to defend all their Senate seats and flip six Democratic seats to gain control of the Senate. (Vice President Joe Biden, as president of the Senate, would keep the Democrats in control in the event of 50-50 tie.) And if they lose any seats they currently hold, like Georgia, Kentucky or Kansas, they’ll need to win more Democratic seats.

  • In Colorado, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner has a one-point lead over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, 46 percent to 45 percent, according to an NBC News/Marist Poll. Gardner had a 12-point advantage over Udall among early voters. Polls conducted over the last month show Gardner with an average 2.8 percent lead, according to Real Clear Politics. “To seal up the potential crack in the Democratic firewall for the U.S. Senate, Udall needs a big ground game,” Miringoff said. “He trails among those who have already voted by 12 points.”
  • In Iowa, the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin remains tight, with Republican Joni Ernst with a three-point advantage over Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley, 49 percent to 46 percent. An NBC News/Marist Poll from September showed Ernst with a two-point lead, 46 percent to 44 percent. The race is listed as a tossup on Real Clear Politics, which reports Ernst has an average lead over Braley of 2.2 percent in the six most recent polls on the Iowa Senate race.  Miringoff said, “The GOP is chomping at the bit over the prospect of picking up a Senate seat the Democrats have held for 30 years in a state President Obama carried twice.”
  • Republicans also have a lead in Arkansas, where GOP Rep. Tom Cotton has a two-point lead over Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor, 45 percent to 43 percent. The NBC News/Marist Poll also found Cotton’s favorability rating rose to 46 percent from 44 percent in September while Pryor’s negatives climbed seven percentage points — from 42 percent last month to 49 percent. “The good news for the Democrats is that incumbent Mark Pryor remains competitive in a state Mitt Romney carried by 24 points,” Miringoff said. “But, twice the number of Pryor’s backers, compared  with Cotton’s supporters, say they might vote differently, and Pryor has higher negatives than Cotton. In fact, Pryor’s rating, unlike Cotton’s, is upside down.”
  • In Kansas, Democrats’ hope of flipping a Republican seat is dimming after an NBC News/Marist Poll found independent Greg Orman’s 10-point lead over incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts slipping to a 1 percent advantage. The latest poll, conducted between Oct. 18 and Oct. 22, showed Orman leading Roberts, 45 percent to 44 percent. Orman has said he would caucus with whichever party holds the majority after the 2014 midterm elections. “There’s nothing like the possibility of a U.S. senator from Kansas caucusing with the Democrats to make some voters rethink their choice for Senate,” Miringoff said. “Orman’s initial double-digit lead over Roberts has evaporated, and the contest is now a tossup.”  Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932. (from an IBTimes .com report)
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