mardi, novembre 21, 2006

Actualité - Some Facts Concerning 2006 Mid-Term Election Results

Elections at the federal level occur every two years in the United States. This is based on the two-year term for all 435 members of the House of Representatives. Mid-term elections are those that come in the middle of the presidential term of office. In addition, about one third of the Senate was up for election.

Generally, less than 50 percent of eligible voters vote in U.S. elections. This means no candidate receives a majority of the vote, something that most people consider a basic requirement of democracy. In the U.S. there is no requirement for candidates to secure 50 percent of the vote. Instead, they receive what is called a plurality of the vote, meaning they get the majority of the votes cast. Commonly this means candidates, including presidents, are elected to office with only about 25-28 percent of the eligible vote — not 50 percent, not even 30 percent, about one quarter of the vote.

For the 2006 elections, the turnout was only about 40 percent, considered normal for a mid-term election. Given most of the races were close, and votes for the anti-war candidates from small parties more widespread, it is likely that the final results will show that a majority of those who won did so with less than 25 percent of the eligible vote — possibly even less than 20 percent.

Representation in the House is based on population in each state, with larger states like California, Florida, New York, and Texas, having larger delegations, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut smaller ones. Candidates are required to live in the district where they are running for office and voters can only vote for candidates in the district where they live.

For the Senate, there are two senators.tors for each state regardless of size, making 100 altogether. They serve a six-year term, so that one third are up for elections with each federal election. This year, 33 Senators — 17 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one independent — were up for election. Senate elections are statewide, meaning all eligible voters in the state can cast a vote for candidates for senate.

Majority control of the House requires 217 seats. Coming into the 2006 elections, 231 seats were held by Republicans, 203 by Democrats and one independent. Republicans have held a majority in the House since 1994.

For the Democrats to secure a majority, they needed to win 15 seats from Republicans while retaining all their existing seats. They achieved this goal, losing no seats and winning 29 seats so far. (9 contests were still being counted at press time). The Democrats will have at least 229 seats and the Republicans 195, with two independents, when the new Congress is sworn in January 2007.

Democrats won most of their House seats in the east and midwest, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Ohio and Indiana, while also securing seats in Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, California and elsewhere.

In the Senate, Republicans held the majority with 55 seats. Democrats needed to win six seats. While the race in Virginia is still being contested as we go to press, it is expected that the Democrats will win, giving them the six senate seats necessary for a majority. These seats were won in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio, Missouri, Montana and likely Virginia.

This means that Democrats will have majorities in both houses of Congress. Their margin in the House will be similar to that Republicans had. In the Senate it is even more closely divided than previously, with 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans and two independents, who are expected to vote mainly with the Democrats. However, it is also the case that most votes are not strictly along party lines with both Democrats and Republicans crossing party lines. As well, many of the Democrats elected are pro-war and what are known as “Blue Dog” Democrats, meaning they are as conservative or more conservative than some Republicans. Given this, it is not surprising that a main view now being given by both parties is that they will work together and support “bipartisanship.” What this likely means for the people is that more repressive legislation like the USA Patriot Act, passed with overwhelming “bipartisan” support, will be imposed.

The Democratic majorities in both houses also gives them chairmanship of the congressional committees. These committees largely determine which bills actually reach the floor for a vote. They also determine such issues as -congressional oversight of wrongdoing by the executive branch, impeachment, fraud, etc. While the voters have made clear their demand for impeachment proceedings and an immediate end to the Iraq War, no one is holding their breath for Democrats to actually uphold the popular will. Indeed, people across the country are going forward with plans for stepped-up activity against the war and for impeachment, relying on strengthening their own efforts and building their own organizations to bring change.

(Voice of Revolution)

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