Voters Heading To The Polls

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Polls start closing at 6 p.m. in Kentucky. But things will really get rolling at 7 p.m., when polls close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia. Another wave of numbers will begin coming in after 7:30 p.m. from North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. A big chunk of data will come after 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. when states such as Texas, New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania begin reporting. The 11 p.m. batch of states includes California, home to several competitive congressional races. Alaska, where polls close at 1 a.m. Wednesday, will end the night.

Much of America has already voted. Based on reports from 49 states, through Monday, at least 36.4 million people voted in the midterms before Election Day. And in a sign of the growing influence of early voting, 30 states reported exceeding their total number of mail and in-person votes cast ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.

A big question: Does it mean a higher turnout?

Turnout in midterm elections is typically near 40 percent, much lower than presidential elections, where turnout has hit around 60 percent in recent cycles. University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who studies voting patterns, estimated recently that about 45 percent of eligible voters could cast ballots this year, a turnout level that hasn't been seen in nearly a half century.

Republicans have had control of the House since the tea party helped sweep them into power in the 2010 midterms. Nearly a decade later, the GOP is trying to avoid a "blue wave" that returns Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to the majority.

Control of the House is expected to be determined by a few dozen districts , many of them in the nation's suburbs. Democrats need a net increase of 23 seats to win back control — a number that many GOP officials concede is a very possible outcome.

Republicans hold a narrow Senate majority, 51-49, but have a huge advantage in these contests because the battle for control runs mostly through states that Trump won in 2016.

To put it simply: Democrats are on defense. Of the 35 Senate races, 10 involve Democratic incumbents seeking re-election in states won by Trump, often by large margins. Democrats' hopes of recapturing the Senate hinge on all their incumbents winning — a difficult task — and on flipping seats in Nevada, won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, and a few states that lean Republican, most notably Arizona, Tennessee and Texas.

Trump has coveted seats held by several red-state Democrats, including Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Strategists from both parties consider Heitkamp the most vulnerable Democrat but say the Senate makeup could be shaped by a number of narrowly contested races, including Arizona, Missouri, Indiana and Montana.

Another epic clash to watch: a race involving Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump's one-time GOP presidential rival, against Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who hauled in a massive $70 million during the campaign. Cruz is still considered the favorite — Texas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate in 30 years.