Polls begin to open as US midterm elections kick off

Polls have begun opening in the US on Tuesday, with voting booths across the East Coast beginning to open their doors to millions of people who will help decide the fate of Congress.

This year, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives as well as 35 seats in the 100-member Senate are being contested. Most analysts are predicting that Republicans will gain control of the House, but the fate of the Senate remains a topic of intense speculation.

Several key races remain neck-and-neck in polls done close to Election Day.

In Pennsylvania, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and state Lt. Gov. John Fetterman are locked in a tooth-and-nail fight for an open Senate seat, with an average of polling compiled by the RealClearPolitics website finding Oz ahead by a razor-thin 0.1%.

With such a narrow margin, it is anyone's guess which candidate will emerge victorious.

In a sign of the importance of the race for the Senate's future, three current and former presidents came to the Keystone State over the weekend, including President Joe Biden and former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, in bids to bolster the candidates in the final days of the campaign.

In Silver Spring, Maryland, voters told Anadolu Agency they were keenly focused on ensuring Democrats maintain congressional control.

"Keeping the House is very important, and I worry a little bit about that watching, because we’re in a little bit of a bubble here in the DC area," said Jennifer Manguera, a 53 year-old resident of the deeply blue suburb just outside of the nation's capital. "It is concerning that we will lose the House.”

James Andrew, 37, said the loss of Democratic control of the federal legislature could spell longer-term problems for the US, including a return to years of uncertainty about the national budget and potential government shutdowns.

"For me, I’d like to see the Democrats hold Congress, and I think about having a Congress split with a Democrat in office for president, and the idea of that and nothing getting done, no budget getting passed for another two years" is daunting, he said. "I like what President Biden is doing, and I’d like to see what Democrats can do in the next two years."

Results may be long in coming

There are about 10 Senate races across the country that could prove pivotal in determining whether Republicans or Democrats lay claim to the chamber, including in Georgia, where incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock is trailing his Republican opponent, former American football star Herschel Walker, by 0.6%, according to RealClearPolitics.

In the US, states control the running of elections, and each will set its rules and regulations in line with federal law.

Most will open polls around 7 a.m. local time (1200 GMT), though the earliest is 6 a.m., and will begin closing at 7 p.m. (0000GMT) or later. People are likely to continue voting after the official closure time if they get in line before polls are scheduled to shutter, or perhaps if there are significant glitches with the voting machines.

High voter turnout could result in long lines of people waiting to cast ballots at polling stations even after the official closure time comes and goes.

Results in any number of races are unlikely to be known on Election Day, and tightly watched races such as those in Georgia and Pennsylvania could take days to determine, given how tight they are. Pennsylvania in particular has sought to throw cold water on expectations for a quick result, saying it could take days to tabulate the expected deluge of votes.

Some states also have a significant backlog of absentee or mail-in votes which, depending on the local rules, cannot begin to be counted before Election Day.

While international attention will remain focused on top-line congressional races, further down the ballot, voters will weigh in on a series of state and local campaigns, from governors' races to ballot initiatives such as marijuana legalization, and more mundane but nonetheless important races for local offices.

Source: Anadolu Agency