US midterm elections 2018: What the polls could mean for Donald Trump, predictions and what you need to know

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By Georgia Chambers,  Evening Standard

Next week, Americans will head to the polls to cast their vote in the midterm elections.

Happening every four years in the US, midterms determine which party holds control of Congress.

With voter turnouts for midterms being historically low, celebrities including Taylor Swift to Rihanna have been encouraging Americans to get out and vote.

Here's everything you need to know about the US midterms, including why they're important and what the outcome could mean for President Donald Trump:

When are the US Midterm elections?

The midterm elections will take place on Tuesday 6 November.

On the same date, elections for governorships, as well as local mayoral and state legislative chamber elections will also be held.

How do Midterm elections work?

The primary role of Congress is to make and pass laws and is comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The House of Representatives is the lower chamber of Congress and the Senate is the upper chamber.

If a legislative proposal is passed by both the House and the Senate and then approved by the President, it becomes law.

Whereas the House of Representatives is based on population (so more populous states will have more congresspeople representing them), in the Senate each state gets two senators, no matter how big or small they are.

All 435 members of the House of Representatives are up for election.

Current seats in the House of Representatives

Republicans: 240

Democrats: 195

The Senate has its own cycle where Senators serve six-year terms so only 35 of the 100 Senate seats are open.

In the Senate, 51 seats are needed for a majority. The Democrats are defending 26 seats whilst Republicans only have to defend nine.

In the House of Representatives, 218 seats are needed for a majority, meaning Democrats would need a net gain of 24 seats to win.

Current seats in the Senate

Republicans: 51

Democrats: 49

Whichever party wins the Senate and the House also controls Congress.

If opposing parties control the Senate and the House, there could be a risk of a government shutdown because rival parts of government would likely be unable to agree with each other.

Why are the elections important?

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Crucial times: In light of the migrant march, a Republican-majority Congress could mean tougher immigration laws. (AFP/Getty Images)

The party that controls Congress usually controls the agenda.

When you take into consideration how Mr Trump's administration has so far been dominated by Russia investigations and policies on immigration, gun rights and healthcare, the results of the midterms are a crucial indication to how the rest of the political term will play out.

If Republicans stay in control, Americans can expect changes including:
  •     repeal of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare
  •     cuts to welfare, food stamps, Medicare or Social security
  •     A reinvigorated advocation for Trump's border wall in light of the recent migrant marches

On the other hand, a Democrat win could mean:
  •     Plans to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama policy which protects those who emigrated to the US as children without the correct documentation from deportation. Mr Trump has repeatedly threatened to repeal DACA.
  •     no Obamacare repeal
  •     no more big tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy

What do the polls say?

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Democrats are edging ahead of Republicans according to opinion polls.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows 50 per cent of likely voters favour Democrats, while 41 per cent prefer Republican control.

However, among all registered voters, which represents a broader group, Democrats have a slimmer advantage over the Republicans at 48 to 41 per cent.

Democrats' chances of winning are partly helped by the fact that a record number of Republicans have retired, resigned or left to pursue other elected offices.

On the flipside, Democrats have witnessed a surge in recruitment, including 350 women who stood as Democrats in House primaries.

The midterms still present some challenges for the Democrats, though. Not only do they have to defend all of their Senate seats, but they'll also have to obtain two more by flipping Republican seats to take control.

Turnout is also a big problem for Democrats. 60% of Americans vote in the presidential election, whereas only 40% take part in the midterms.

The majority of those who vote in the midterms tend to be older and whiter than the general election, so low turnout has historically tended to favour the Republican Party.

How do you vote?

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Undemocratic?: Some critics argue that the US systems disenfranchises vulnerable and minority groups. (AFP/Getty Images)

You must be a US citizen and at least 18-years-old on or before Election Day.

Every state requires you to register to vote, with the exception of North Dakota.

You will usually be assigned a polling location to go and vote.

Some argue that the voting system is undemocratic because it restricts or prohibits certain people from voting.

Some convicted felons are banned from voting depending on what state they're in.

For example, someone who commits perjury in Mississippi could be permanently barred from casting a ballot there.

A restrictive voter ID law in Wisconsin also suppressed 200,000 black and Democratic voters in the state.

What will the midterms mean for Donald Trump?

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Challenges: President Trump may find it difficult to implement his plans if the Democrats take Congress. (AP)

Historically, Midterms don't bring good news for presidents.

As Mr Trump himself said at a rally in Nashville, "When you win the presidency, for some reason, you always end up losing the House."

The party that has control of the White House typically loses seats. In 2010, Barack Obama's Democrats lost a staggering 63 seats.

The worst case scenario for President Trump if the Democrats won would be risk of impeachment.

Plenty of Democrats have expressed a desire to remove the president from office.

If Mr Trump was put on trial by the Senate and found guilty of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours," he would be removed and replaced by Vice President Mike Pence.

Since no president has ever been removed through the impeachment process, it is more likely that he would have much less power to push his plans through a majority-Democrat Congress.