This midterm, the balance of power for both chambers of Congress are on the line. This could influence how easy it is for either political party to get things done during the legislative session.

So, with just a few days left until Election Day, here are the answers to some basic questions a lot of people might be asking:

What is the balance of power?

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

Why are all 435 House members up for election every two years?

The House of Representatives is the piece of the federal government that is closest to the people. Putting House members up for election every two years allows voters more direct and immediate control of the direction of their government.

What is a “flipped seat” or “pickup”?

A flipped seat or pickup is one in the House or Senate that voters take from one party and entrust to the other party. Because of 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 either party.

Will we know who wins on Election Day?

Don’t count on final answers in every race on election night. With so many people voting early and by mail and so many close elections, there’s a good chance that it will take days or weeks to figure out who won some races. The margins of power in both the House and Senate are close enough that it could take days to know who will have a majority of seats.

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