Whether you’re the most hardened of political junkies or you only go online every other November to vote, it’s always a good idea to review some of the terms you hear about during election season and remember who is running for office and how CNN rates those races. Here are the answers to some basic questions that many people might have.

When is election day?

US elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every two years. Election Day 2022 is November 8.

Who can vote?

Most US citizens age 18 and older can vote. There are exceptions, such as for people convicted of a felony, although they can vote in some states.

Must a voter be registered?

Voter registration is mandatory in all states except North Dakota. The voter registration deadline varies. Some states require registration about a month before Election Day. Many now allow people to register on election day.

Who can vote earlier?

Most states now offer some form of early voting, either by mail or in person. The rules vary by state.

Which states vote by mail?

Eight US states – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington – and the District of Columbia send a ballot to each voter. Some others allow early voting for everyone, and others require an excuse, although almost anyone can do some form of early voting.

Why are only a third of senators running for office?

Senators serve six-year terms and there are federal elections every two years. Seats are divided into three classes and approximately one third of the Senate is elected every two years. The 2022 election includes Class III senators. See race odds by Inside Elections.

Why are all 435 members of the House elected every two years?

The House of Representatives is the part of the federal government closest to the people. Nominating House members to elections every two years gives voters more direct and immediate control over the direction of their government.

What is a “reverse seat” or “pick-up”?

A reverse seat or pick-up is a seat in the House or Senate that voters take from one party and give to the other party. Due to the redistricting, nine House seats — including seven new seats where there is no incumbent and two where two incumbents are running against each other — cannot be classified as pickups for one. or the other of the parties.

Why does the number of gubernatorial races fluctuate with each cycle?

Each state treats its governors slightly differently. Forty-eight of the 50 US states elect governors for four-year terms. Two states, New Hampshire and Vermont, elect governors for two-year terms. Most states, 36 of them, hold their gubernatorial elections in midterm election years between presidential elections. Three states, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana, elect governors in out-of-year elections the year before a presidential election. Two states, New Jersey and Virginia, elect governors in off-year elections the year following a presidential election.

What is a “holder”?

An incumbent is a legislator or elected official who is running for re-election.

What is a special election?

When a senator retires, dies, or leaves office before the end of their term, the state governor usually appoints a replacement to fill the seat. Then voters are often given the opportunity to have their say, usually in the next possible federal election. This is how Democratic senses Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia were first elected in 2020 in special elections and why in 2022 both men are running for a full six-year term.

This year there are special senatorial elections in Oklahoma, where Republican Sen. James Inhofe will step down next year, and in California, where Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, who was nominated to replace Vice President Kamala Harris, is running. present both to fulfill the remainder of Harris’ term (which ends in January) and to win the next term.

Members of the House cannot be appointed, so when a seat in the House becomes vacant there must be a special election to fill it. This year there is a special election in Indiana to serve the last two months of Representative Jackie Walorski’s term. Walorski died in August.

What is ranked voting?

A number of cities and states are experimenting with ways to give voters greater access to the political process and potentially depolarize politics. Preferential voting is a system in place for most elections in Maine and Alaska, where voters rank their choices in order of preference instead of picking a single candidate. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the first place votes, the last candidate is dropped and the second choice of voters who selected that candidate gets those votes. This process repeats until a winner emerges.

What does “estimated vote” mean?

Based on data such as previous election turnout, pre-election ballots cast or requested, and pre-election polls, organizations can anticipate the number of votes expected in a given election. An estimated vote may underestimate or overestimate the actual vote, and the percentage of reports may rise or fall throughout election night depending on how those estimates are adjusted as analysts evaluate real-time data. As these estimates materialize, they can be useful in predicting how many votes are left to count.

What is an exit poll?

Exit polls are large-scale polls conducted by a consortium of news organizations among early and absentee voters and Election Day voters. They are done when voters leave polling places, on Election Day and in many states at early voting locations, as well as by phone or online before Election Day to account for mail and early voting.

What does “down vote” mean?

The top of the ticket is the race that the most people in a state will see on their ballot. In a presidential year, these candidates are at the top of the ticket. Candidates for more local races are rejected. A House candidate, for example, is rejected by a presidential candidate. A candidate for mayor is rejected by a candidate for the Chamber.

How can CNN project a race without any votes?

This is a task that CNN takes very seriously. Based on previous election results, exit polls, recent opinion polls, early voter turnout and other factors, it is sometimes possible to see that a particular candidate will win a race. . If there is a risk of an upset, CNN will refrain from screening a race.

How does CNN make projections?

Using a combination of many factors, including current and previous election results, real-time exit polls, recent opinion polls, voter registration data and more, CNN’s Decision Desk is often able to reliably predict that a candidate has received enough support to win. It is a projection, however, and not the last word. State officials and the courts have the say.

What is a ballot initiative? How does a state decide to put one on the ballot?

While most laws are passed by state legislatures or Congress, many states ask voters questions directly during elections. These can range from issues such as the legalization of marijuana to abortion or tax measures. Ballot initiatives give voters a more active role in choosing the direction of their laws.

What is a CNN “key race”? Who decides this?

“Key race” is a subjective term. Most political observers generally agree that only a subset of races are truly competitive in November, and these are generally considered the key races. Political parties spend more money on these races. Journalists spend more time covering them.

Of the 35 Senate races on the ballot in 2022, election forecasters at Inside Elections consider three to be genuine draws and another four to lean towards Republicans or Democrats. Nineteen house races are real draws, although many others could end up being closely contested. Five governor races are draws. See internal election ratings for Senate, House, and Governor. Key races can also be races that might be less competitive but have wider implications or feature particularly notable candidates.

What is the balance of power?

Political parties have more power when they control the House or the Senate by winning the majority of seats in that chamber. The ruling party controls the committees that draft legislation and decides which measures will get a vote on the floor. In the House, the party with at least 218 seats holds the majority and, assuming it can unite behind a single candidate, chooses the Speaker of the House. In the Senate, the party with 51 votes has the majority.

How does the Vice President’s Senate tiebreaker work?

The official duty of the vice president is to serve as president of the Senate, although few modern vice presidents have spent much of their time on Capitol Hill. In votes where there is a tie, the vice-president may cast a deciding vote. In the current Senate, where there is an equal split of Republican and Democratic votes (two independents currently in the Senate usually side with the Democrats), the vice president’s deciding vote also gives the Democrats control of the chamber.

Will we know who wins on election day?

Don’t rely on final answers in every race on election night. With so many people voting early and by mail and so many close elections, chances are it will take days or weeks to determine who won certain races. The margins of power in the House and Senate are close enough that it will take days to know who will have the majority of the seats.

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