Mid-term elections 2018: Polls open on East Coast

Voters in Leesburg, Virginia, on 6 November 2018

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Americans have begun voting in nationwide elections that are being seen as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency.

Polling stations opened on the East Coast amid a battle by both Republicans and Democrats to take control of the two houses of Congress.

Governor posts and seats in state legislatures are also up for grabs.

The mid-term elections come half way through Mr Trump’s four years in office and follow a divisive campaign.

Mr Trump attended three rallies on the final day of campaigning, telling his supporters: “Everything we have achieved is at stake tomorrow.”

Barack Obama – on the campaign trail for the Democratic party – said “the character of our country is on the ballot”. The former president tweeted the vote “might be the most important of our lifetimes”.

Voter turnout is expected to be high.

Polls opened first in the East Coast states of Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.

What is at stake?

Americans are voting for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of 100 seats in the Senate – the two bodies that make up Congress. Governors are also being chosen in 36 out of 50 states.

If Republicans maintain their hold on both the Senate and the House of Representatives, they could build on their agenda and that of President Trump.

But if the Democrats wrest control of one or both chambers, they could stymie or even reverse Mr Trump’s plans.

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Former President Barack Obama has said the vote on Tuesday could be “the most important of our lifetimes”

Pollsters suggest Democrats may win the 23 seats they need to take over the House of Representatives, and possibly 15 or so extra seats.

However, the Democrats are expected to fall short of the two seats they need to win control of the Senate.


Trump’s invincible, but for how much longer?

Analysis by Jon Sopel, BBC North America Editor

Presidents have always commanded attention. Theodore Roosevelt called the White House his “bully pulpit” – the place from which he could demand attention and advance his agenda.

But Donald Trump has his own bully pulpit, 55 million Twitter followers and a penchant for saying the outrageous.

You feel that everything in American life is a reaction to what Donald Trump has said: his followers adoring it, his opponents deploring it and the candidates actually on the ballot trying to get a word in edgeways.

And this has generated real excitement in these elections – both for and against him.

Read the rest of Jon’s analysis here.


What happens on election day?

After months of campaigning, speculation, and billions of dollars spent on adverts, leaflets and bumper stickers, voters finally have their say.

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People have been voting early both in person and by post

Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives have raised $649m (£500m) from individual donors, more than double the $312m tally for the Republicans.

Democrats are hoping to achieve a “mid-term wave” – a sweeping victory that changes the shape of the political map in the US.

Some 34.3 million people have cast early ballots and the real number is probably higher, according to the US Elections Project, a University of Florida-based information source. That figure in 2014 was just 27.5 million.

In Texas, early voting has exceeded the entire turnout in 2014.

However, thunderstorms are forecast for Tuesday along the eastern coast, as well as snowstorms in the Midwest, which could affect turnout.


What you need to know about mid-terms:


Five races to watch

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Kentucky’s 6th district

The first polls close at 18:00 EST (23:00 GMT) in Kentucky, and the state could provide some early indications of where the night is heading.

The race for the 6th district is between third-term Republican Rep Andy Barr and retired Marine fighter pilot Democrat Amy McGrath.

Mr Trump won here comfortably two years ago, so a Democrat victory would be a worrying sign for Republicans.

Florida’s governorship

A left-wing progressive and a Trumpist conservative are battling to become Florida’s governor.

The race is tight in a state that is usually evenly divided, so the result will also be looked at as a sign of things to come.

Georgia’s governorship

Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams will become the first female African-American governor in the US if she wins.

Republican opponent Brian Kemp’s office has been accused of voter suppression, one of the hot-button issues this year.

The race has been divisive, and you can read more about how it developed here.

Media captionCan liberal Beto O’Rourke end the Democratic drought in conservative Texas?

Texas Senate

This contest has received national media attention, with high-profile Republican Ted Cruz being closely challenged by Democrat Beto O’Rourke.

Mr O’Rourke is viewed as a rising star in the party and could become the first Democratic senator in Texas for more than two decades if he wins.

Arizona Senate

This race is as close as they come.

Martha McSally, a two-term Republican representative from Arizona, is running against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

Whoever wins will make history by becoming the first woman to represent the state in the Senate.


What are the key issues?

During his final campaign rallies in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, Mr Trump returned to his key campaign issues, insisting that Democrats would damage the economy and allow more illegal immigration.

Democratic candidates, meanwhile, have tended to avoid directly confronting the president, focusing instead on so-called “kitchen table” issues, such as healthcare and economic inequality.

The party hopes younger voters, suburban moderates and minorities will be drawn to the polls to react against the president’s rhetoric.

Mr Trump has faced widespread criticism for his divisive language.

On Monday, Facebook, NBC and even Mr Trump’s favourite network, Fox News, announced they would stop broadcasting a 30-second ad paid for by his campaign, which featured an undocumented Mexican immigrant.

In an interview with ABC on Monday, the president said he wished he had taken “a much softer tone” throughout his presidency.

“I feel, to a certain extent, I have no choice, but maybe I do, and maybe I could have been softer from that standpoint.”

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Mid-term elections 2018: Polls open on East Coast

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