US citizens were voting Tuesday in the midterm elections [Nuri Vallbona/Reuters]

The first polls have opened in the United States midterm elections, which will decide the makeup of the next Congress as Republicans are looking to claw back control from Democrats.

Iran PressAmerica: The critical United States midterm elections on Tuesday will set the tone for the remainder of President Joe Biden’s term in the White House.

The vote comes as Americans grapple with sky-high inflation and living costs, and the economy has emerged as the top concern among supporters of both the Democratic and Republican parties, Al Jazeera reported.

Democrats currently retain a slim majority in Congress, and they have focused much of the campaign on defending reproductive rights and strengthening democratic institutions, which they argue are under threat in the country.

But as the party in power, Democrats are expected to lose ground to Republicans, who have seized on immigration and economic issues in a bid to garner support at the ballot box.

“There are some countervailing pressures on the economy: unemployment remains relatively low at 3.5 percent, consumer confidence is still fairly high,” Thomas Gift, the director of the Centre on US Politics at University College London, told Al Jazeera, “but inflation hits everyone, and the majority (party) – fair or not – is going to get scapegoated.”

All 435 seats in the US House of Representatives are up for grabs, along with 34 in the Senate. Governorships, state legislatures, local councils and school boards are also being contested.

More than 41 million Americans have already cast their votes across the country, either through mail-in ballots or early in-person polls, according to a tally by the US Elections Project at the University of Florida.

Republicans would need to pick up five seats to take a majority in the House and just one to control the Senate. Nonpartisan election forecasters and opinion polls suggest Republicans have a very strong chance of winning a House majority, a result that could become clear Tuesday evening, with control of the Senate likely to be closer fought and likely to take longer to be resolved.

The first wave of vote tallies are expected on the East Coast between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET (0000-0100 GMT Wednesday, Nov. 9). An early indication of Republican success could come if the races expected to be close - like Virginia's 7th congressional district or a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina - turn out to be Democratic routs.

However, it may take longer, perhaps weeks longer, to know which party will control the Senate, with close contests in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia likely to determine final control.


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