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20 Things to Know about Midterm Elections

DC-White-HouseWhat age group historically has the lowest voter turnout?  What is the average voter turnout for midterm elections?  Test your knowledge of elections with these twenty facts from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute.  

  1. When the nation was founded only white, male, property owners could vote in elections.
  2. Four of the twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution have been about expanding who could vote.
  3. Voter turnout for midterm elections averages about 39.3% but the turnout in the 2014 midterms were a 72-year record low at 35.9%.
  4. The Constitution does not mention political parties. Even so, political parties began during President Washington’s administration.
  5. Unlike political parties in Europe, the parties in the U.S. don’t have as much control over who runs for legislative office.
  6. Voter turnout rates for primaries are always lower than general elections. For midterm primaries you can have as little as 25% of eligible voters turning out to vote.
  7. Voters 18-29 years old turn out to vote at a rate 15-20% less than those voters 30 and older.
  8. Midterm voters tend to be more partisan than general election voters so candidates for Congress try to appeal to more extreme positions to get elected.
  9. All elections (even presidential and Congressional races) are run by the states and NOT the federal government. Voting rules/methods vary from state to state.
  10. Election day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even numbered years. It will always fall between the 2nd and 8th of November.
  11. Qualifications to be elected to the House: You have to be 25 years old, citizen of the United States for 7 years, resident of the state you represent.
  12. Qualifications to be elected to the Senate: You have to be 30 years old, citizen of the United States for 9 years, resident of the state you represent.
  13. It costs a lot of money to run for office. The Republican and Democrat candidates for Congress spent over $1.6 BILLION in the 2014 midterm elections.\
  14. It is hard to unseat an incumbent member of Congress. Representatives are reelected over 90% of the time and Senators over 80% of the time.
  15. Most of the money spent in presidential campaigns is for TV, radio, and internet political advertisements. In midterm years it tends to be for mailed advertisements.
  16. Part of the leg-up that incumbent members of Congress get over their challengers is the ‘Franking Privilege’. It allows them to send free mailings to their constituents.
  17. While Congress as a whole has a horrible approval rating at 15%, most people tend to approve of their members of Congress at much higher rates.
  18. Congressional candidates tend to run as ‘outsiders’ even when they have been in Congress for multiple terms. They run for Congress by running against it.
  19. Many members of Congress see an 8-10% bump in additional votes received during their first re-election campaign. This is known as the ‘Sophomore Surge’.
  20. There is what is known as the ‘Coattail Effect’ where a congressional candidate rides the coattails of a popular presidential candidate into office. This effect is obviously not available during midterm elections.


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