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Study Notes

Congressional Elections

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Congressional Elections are elections that are held across the United States in order to elect both Representatives and Senators. Unlike Presidential elections, elections to Congress occur every 2 years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Elections to the House of Representatives

Members of the House of Representatives are up for election every two years, down to their two year term length. This therefore means that all 435 members are up for election across all states in the US. This means that every voter in the US has to opportunity to vote at least every two years.

Elections to the US Senate

In a similar fashion to the House, elections to the Senate occur every two years also. However, where it differs is that only one third of Senators are up for election at any one time, down to their six year term length. Senators are divided into classes (I, II, III) and face elections every two years. It is designed so that no state will ever elect two Senators at the same time.

Turnout in Congressional Elections

The turnout in Congressional Elections varies depending predominantly on other elections taking place at the same time. As congressional elections take place every 2 years, it is inevitable that some elections will coincide with the elections for the Presidency. As a result of this, congressional elections that do coincide, experience a higher turnout figure than those that do not. The difference can be anywhere between 10 and 20% in turnout figures. The chart below shows the turnout in Midterms (elections not in a Presidential year) and Presidential election years. The difference is quite stark.

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