According to Wikipedia, midterm elections in the United States are the general elections that are held near the midpoint of a president’s four-year term of office on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The 2022 midterm polls were held on November 8, 2022. Federal offices that were up for election include all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate, i.e. 35 seats out of 100. In addition, 34 of the 50 U.S. states elect their governors for a four-year term during midterm elections, while Vermont and New Hampshire elect governors for a two-year term in both midterm and presidential elections. Thus, 36 governors are elected during midterm elections. Many states also elect officers to their state legislatures in midterm years. There are also elections held at the municipal level. On the ballot are many mayors, other local public offices, and a wide variety of citizen initiatives.
Historically, midterm elections often see the President’s party lose seats in Congress, and also frequently see the President’s opposite-party opponents gain control of one or both houses of Congress. According to TIME of November 12, 2022, “While not all of the Election Day 2022 races have been called, one trend is clear: It is not the big red wave that Republicans and some polls predicted. Recent history shows that the party that does not hold the presidency makes big gains in the midterms. Low approval ratings for President Joe Biden, decade-high inflation, worries about a recession, and crime that spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic all pointed to a wipeout for the Democrats Party. While it’s increasingly clear that Republicans will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, they will likely have only a very small margin.” According to Cable News Network, the Democratic Party has been able to hold to a slim majority in the US Senate. Democrats were able to maintain control of the Senate after winning the Nevada Senate seat. Unlike the 2020 General Elections in the US that was held during the COVID-19 pandemic, the midterm was post COVID.
Voters in 2022 went to the polls following two history-making events: The U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade, and a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in June 2022; and the January 6, 2021 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. Ironically, while the Republican candidates who were endorsed and campaigned for by former President Donald Trump performed poorly at the poll, those campaigned for by President Biden and his wife Jill, as well as former President Barrack Obama did well at the election. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the redistricting exercise carried out in New York by the Democratic Party led to a heavy loss of four House of Representatives seats in the “blue state.”
One of the few pleasant surprises in the 2022 US midterm was the arrival of Generation Z popularly called Gen Z into the US Congress. A 25-year-old Democrat, Maxwell Frost, is the first member of Gen Z and the first Afro-Cuban elected to Congress, winning the open seat for Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Another historic win took place in Nevada as Democrat Senator Catherine Masto defeated Republican Secretary of State Adam Laxalt by a close margin of 0.7 percentage points, according to The Associated Press. The win of Masto marked the first Latina elected to the Senate. Furthermore, Maryland Democrat Wes Moore becomes the first Black person elected governor in the state’s history and only the third Black governor elected in US history. Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey and Oregon Democrat Tina Kotek are both USA’s first LGBTQ women elected governors.
Interestingly, more than 42 million Americans voted ahead of the November 8, 2022 midterm elections, casting their votes through mail-in ballots or by heading to in-person early voting centres. Unfortunately, Nigeria does not have provision for these voting methods in our electoral laws. Unlike in Nigeria where campaigns end 24 hours to election, my experience observing the November 2, 2010 US midterm in Washington DC and Maryland showed that candidates campaign even on the day of election in some states. Also, the deadline to register to vote in midterm elections varies by state. Unlike Nigeria where elections are held for six hours, in the US, elections take place for between 12 and 13 hours. For example, while in Florida elections holds from 7am to 7pm, in some states such as Virginia, polling hours are from 6:00am to 7:00pm.
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Some of the unique features of the US electoral system are that there is no Electoral Act for the country, neither is there any centralised electoral management body such as our own Independent National Electoral Commission. Each state has its own Department of Elections that is run by a partisan Secretary of State. The voters directly elect the Secretary of State in 35 states. In the other 12, the secretary is appointed by either the governor or the state legislature. It is noteworthy that US electoral system allows for independent candidates and there are actually two independent senators right now in US who caucus with the Democratic Party. Nigeria still looks forward to the restoration of this provision in our electoral law since it was discarded after the January 15, 1966 military coup that ended the country’s First Republic. As I observed on this page in my column last week, the Republican and Democratic parties are only dominant political parties in the United States. According to Ballotpedia, “As of December 2021, there were 209 state-level ballot-qualified political party affiliates in the United States.” Going into 2023 General Elections from the Olympian 91 political parties that contested the 2019 General Elections, INEC’s deregistration of 73 of them leaves the registered political parties in Nigeria at 18.
Interestingly, Nigeria was a stakeholder in the 2022 US midterm elections as eight of her citizens won in the “God’s Own Country.” Last Wednesday, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), extended the warmest congratulations to the Nigerian-Americans on their victory in the US midterm elections. A statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity), Femi Adesina, informed that in Georgia State, Segun Adeyina, Gabe Okoye, Solomon Adesanya, Tish Naghise, and Phil Olaleye won their legislative seats as state representatives in their districts. Similarly, Carol Kazeem won the Pennsylvania State Representative in District 159, Esther Agbaje was re-elected as Minnesota State Representative in District 59B, while Dr. Oye Owolewa was re-elected to the US House of Representatives (Shadow Representative) in Washington D.C.
Some of the great lessons from the just concluded US midterm polls are as follows: Multiple voting techniques, gender parity, peaceful campaigns and credible elections, no lockdown or shutdown of US economy and country because of election are some of the great lessons from the just concluded US midterm poll. Others include the high infusion of technology with electronic balloting available vis a vis paper balloting, use of cutting-edge technology by the American media to be able to make precise call of winners of the election even before the final tally of the votes by the election managers, and lastly the less involvement of the judiciary, nay courts, in the determination of winners of the polls.
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