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U.S. midterm elections: What they are, how they work and why they matter – National




Millions of Americans will head to the polls to cast their votes in the country’s midterm elections on Nov. 6.

While midterm elections have no bearing on who the head of state is, they could have a significant impact on President Donald Trump‘s ability to impose his mandate and the Democratic Party’s hopes of scuttling his policy agenda and pushing through its own measures.

What are the midterm elections?

As the name suggests, midterm elections are held in the middle of the presidential term.

Up for grabs in the 2018 elections are 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the Senate and 36 governors’ positions; there are also legislative races in 46 states and six territories.

U.S. midterm elections: What you need to know

Murat Usubaliev/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The midterm elections allow American voters to re-assess the state of power, and elect representatives who can check the president’s agenda.

“You’re going to have different assessments of public opinion in a president’s term,” said University of Toronto political science professor Ryan Hurl. “It’s much more difficult for a president to maintain an agenda if that agenda – in practice – is not supported by a majority of the populations.”

House of Representatives

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives, which forms the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress, are up for grabs every midterm election cycle, with representatives serving two-year terms.

The seats are drawn from congressional districts drawn up in each of the 50 states based on their populations. California currently has the most seats at 53; the lower-populated states of Montana, Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota and South Dakota only hold one seat each.

A total of 218 seats are required for a party to wrest control of the House. The Republican Party currently has 235 seats, and so enjoys a majority.

WATCH: U.S. could elect it’s first Somali-American Congresswoman in 2018 midterms

The Democrats have to net 23 seats to take the House — recent analyses from political forecasting groups suggest they’re in a good position to achieve that.

The odds of a Democratic victory have increased in 48 of the 65 races seen as competitive or leaning in favour of the Democrats, according to at least one of the three political forecasting groups: Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, according to a Reuters analysis.

Democrats have an 86.4 per cent chance of winning control of the House, according to a forecast by FiveThirtyEight.


While all seats of the House of Representatives go up for grabs each midterm cycle, only around one-third of Senate seats will be voted on — that’s because senators serve six-year terms.

Comprising the upper chamber of Congress, the Senate comprises 100 seats, meaning that a total of 51 seats are needed for a party to take control. The Republicans, with 51 senators, currently control the Senate.

Winning the Senate is poised to be a more difficult task for the Democrats, who are defending 26 of the 35 seats being contested.

That means there’s little margin for error if the Democrats want to take the Senate — they’d likely need to retain all 26 seats that they currently hold, as well as defeat a couple of Republicans.

To make things even more complicated for the Democrats, 10 of the seats they currently hold are in states that Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election.

WATCH: Trump says he’s confident about upcoming U.S. midterms

Few states exemplify the challenge facing the Democrats better than West Virginia, a state that elected a Democratic senator in Joe Manchin but also delivered Trump his most resounding victory in 2016, with 68 per cent of the vote.

As of last month, Trump enjoyed a 62 per cent approval rating in West Virginia, the highest of any state, according to Morning Consult.

Two other key Democrat-held states, Missouri and Indiana, are also at serious risk of flipping red, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan election analysis project based in the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

READ MORE: On the eve of the midterms, America’s heartland is as divided as ever

“At this point, Republicans are in a better position than Democrats to go into the next Congress holding more seats than they hold now (51), and Democrats’ chances to win the overall majority are tiny,” wrote Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

FiveThirtyEight forecasts that the Republican Party has an 85.2 per cent chance of maintaining and possibly consolidating control of the Senate.

Governors’ races

If Democrats have little margin for error in Senate races, the same applies to Republicans in the gubernatorial races — the GOP is defending 26 states to the Democrats’ nine.

Among the most-watched races is Florida, where African-American Democratic candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is running against Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis, who served in the House of Representatives until last month.

The governorships matter to political parties because they could affect the way elections for the House of Representatives pan out for years to come.

In 2022, congressional districts will be redrawn based on the results of the 2020 census, explained Denise Barber, managing director of the National Institute on Money in Politics, on WNYC Studios’ “The Takeaway” podcast.

In most states, the party in power can redraw congressional and legislative districts to its advantage, a tactic known as gerrymandering.

Both parties play the gerrymandering game but the Republicans have done a better job of it in recent times, according to the Washington Post,

What’s the likely outcome?

For the two major political parties, the holy grail of midterm elections is to win a majority in both the House and the Senate, thereby seizing total legislative control.

However, most analysts and forecasters agree that the most likely scenario is that the Republicans keep control of the Senate, while the Democrats take the House.

Historically, the party of the sitting president has nearly always lost seats in the House. The Cook Political Report points out that this has occurred in 35 of the 38 midterm elections held since the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865.

Barack Obama’s Democrats lost 63 House seats during the first midterm in 2010, while the Republicans lost 30 seats during George W. Bush’s second term in 2006.

READ MORE: Trump begins rally blitz attacking media, stoking immigration fears

However, President Trump suggested that he’s not concerned by the burden of historical patterns.

“I feel very good about the Senate,” Trump told ABC News in an interview before a Wednesday rally in Estero, Fla. “And frankly I think we feel pretty good about the House.”

Barry Burden, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, characterized the rival political parties as “a Democratic Party that’s enthused and active” and a Republican Party “who are playing defense and hoping to hold on to what they have.”

What’s at stake?

Losing the House would represent a setback for the Republicans, as they would no longer be able to pass bills with Republican votes alone. That means much of Trump’s legislative agenda would largely be dead on arrival — meaning no border wall, no cuts to welfare and social security, and no further tax cuts.

It could also lead to a re-examination of immigration reform, which could mean revisiting the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that shielded young people who came to the U.S. illegally with their parents from deportation.

A Democrat takeover of the House would also leave Trump exposed to more aggressive investigations on issues such as Russian collusion and election meddling.

“They are going to be able to set up select committees on the investigation into the Trump administration,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Centre For Politics.

WATCH: Trump insider talks midterm strategy on The West Block

The importance of the midterm elections has not been lost on President Trump. He’s in the midst of a blitz of rallies, and will have held 30 rallies between Labor Day on Sept. 3 and Election Day on Nov. 6, according to the White House.

Rally locations aren’t drawn out of a hat. Most of Trump’s events are being held in battleground House districts and in states with competitive Senate and gubernatorial races.

Speaking at a rally in Mosinee, Wis. on Oct. 24, Trump told crowds, “If you vote Republican this November, we will continue to cut your taxes, cut your regulations and raise your income.”

READ MORE: Trump supporters chant ‘Lock her up!’ at rally, hours after bomb mailed to Hillary Clinton

Just a couple hundred kilometres away, in Milwaukee, Obama dropped the gloves at a Democratic rally, delivering arguably his most stinging rebuke of Trump yet.

He accused Trump of blatantly “making stuff up,” and said that the president hadn’t made good on his promise to “drain the swamp.”

Obama plans to campaign for a number of Senate candidates, as Democrats look to pull off a shock Senate takeover.

WATCH: Obama slams Trump, Republicans at Wisconsin rally


Presidents and former presidents aside, regular Americans also appear to be more invested in the midterm elections than they have been in a long time.

Over 32 million ballots have already been cast in advance polls according to the U.S. Elections Project, which predicts that the 2018 midterms are on course to draw one of the highest turnout rates in midterm elections history.

Youth vote could be crucial

The 2018 midterms mark a demographic turning point: millennials will, for the first time, surpass baby boomers as the largest voting-eligible generation.

There were 8 million young people who weren’t old enough to vote when Trump was elected. Now, they can cast a ballot.

READ MORE: Elderly, rich, white Trump supporters taunt non-voting young people in satirical video

Young voters traditionally have a miserable track record when it comes to voting in midterm elections, but a slew of get-out-the-vote campaigns have pushed youth voter registration in some states to levels usually only seen during presidential campaigns.

WATCH: Surge in voter registration among young adults prompts push to get youth to vote in 2018 U.S. midterms

“I just turned 18 so I was super excited to be able to vote,” University of Wisconsin-Madison student Sophie Yarosh told Global News’ Washington bureau chief Jackson Proskow.

“Brett Kavanaugh and the Parkland shooting have shown us what’s at stake in this country,” said Nada Elmikashfi, chair of the university’s chapter of NextGen America, one of the organizations working to mobilize young and first-time voters.

“We’re the ones growing up in it, so that has motivated everyone to get out and vote.”

— With files from Jackson Proskow, Andrew Russell and the Associated Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali



Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu

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Harris accepts VP nomination



Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself



Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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