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Democrats On Track To Win Control Of U.S. House; Republicans Retain Senate


There were scattered reports of long lines and malfunctioning ballot machines in some U.S. states, as Americans voted.

WASHINGTON -- Preliminary unofficial results in the U.S. congressional elections show that Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans will retain control of the Senate.

The outcome from the November 6 elections underscores how divided Americans are about their government, and also poses a serious risk for the next two years of President Donald Trump's administration.

House Democrats are expected to open new investigations into White House decision making, including interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.

In a post to Twitter late on November 6, Trump called the election results a “tremendous success," while House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi -- who is likely to become the next House Speaker -- declared that "tomorrow will be a new day for America."

Underscoring the intensity of U.S. voters, early and same-day voting exceeded many past midterm elections.

Reports from U.S. news media, state election departments, and political experts predicted that Democrats would take more than the 23 seats they needed to take control of the House from the Republicans.

Predictions also showed that Republicans would take at least three Senate seats from Democrats, highlighting the overall mixed message to be drawn from the elections, which were widely seen as as referendum on the first two years of Trump's presidency.

There were scattered reports of problems in some places around the country, including long lines and malfunctioning computer scanners. Still, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters that there was no indication of “compromise to our nation’s election infrastructure.”

Many pre-election polls had predicted that Democrats had a strong chance of taking control of the House. The Senate, however, had been widely expected to remain in Republican control.

In addition to restarting investigations into Trump's Russia connections, House Democrats are also likely to focus on the ethical problems some of Trump’s Cabinet members have faced. That means the final two years of Trump's first term will likely be shadowed by a stream of bad news.

Nonetheless, Pelosi said Democrats will seek to cooperate with Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate in areas like infrastructure, where they share similar goals with the president.

"We will have accountability and we will strive for bipartisanship. We have all had enough of division," she said.

U.S. midterm elections usually draw fewer voters to the polls than presidential election, but this year the turnout was significantly higher than usual.

Even before polling precincts opened, a surge in early voting in many states highlighted how electrified the U.S. voters are about a range of issues -- first and foremost, Trump’s presidency.

An analysis published November 6 by the Associated Press found that more than 40 million Americans had already voted, either by mail or in person, breaking early voting records across 37 states.​

According to data compiled by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, at least 44 states had exceeded their total number of early votes cast in the last midterm election, in 2014.

A coalition of some 100 groups monitoring polling irregularities said problems with voting machines had been reported in at least 12 states during the day.

Election Day Difficulties

Among the Election Day difficulties, long lines and defective voting machines were reported in the state of Georgia, site of a hotly contested battle for the governor’s post.

In Fulton County, which includes Georgia's largest city, Atlanta, unusually long lines of voters prompted a local judge to order three polling stations to stay open beyond the scheduled closing deadline.

A judge in another neighboring county also extended hours in three locations. And, in the city of Snellville, technical difficulties with voting machines forced dozens of people to wait in line for more than four hours to vote, with many laying on the floor until their turn to cast a ballot.

In New York City, broken ballot scanners caused delays at several locations. Lines at one precinct on Manhattan's Upper West Side stretched down the street and around a school gymnasium.

A judge in Porter County, Indiana, ordered 12 polling places in the region to stay open late after voting didn't start as scheduled. The cities of Houston, Sarasota, Florida; and Phoenix, Arizona, were among other locations reporting confusion at polling stations.

In addition to Congress, many states are choosing governors, and new members of state legislatures. Some states also were holding referendums on specific issues such as taxes, animal cruelty, legalizing marijuana, or increasing the minimum wage.

Colorado voters elected Democrat Jared Polis as governor, making him the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a U.S. state.​

For his part, Trump and his wife Melania voted in New York State -- their primary residence -- via absentee ballot several weeks ago, according to the White House.

By all accounts, the election campaign has been rancorous to a degree not seen in years.

A strong economy and low unemployment would ordinarily be good news for a president and his party in midterm congressional elections, which occur every two years and are all called midterms when they fall at the midway point of a president's four-year term, like this year.

But Trump’s hard-line approach to policy-making and social issues has dented the ability of Republicans to claim full credit for the strong economy.

Trump's job approval is also at a near-record low: 40 percent according to Gallup, which the pollster said was the lowest at this point of any first-term president in the modern era.​

On the eve of Election Day, senior U.S. security and intelligence officials issued a joint statement saying that so far "we have no indication of compromise of our nation's election infrastructure that would prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes."

The midterm campaign was roiled by a wave of attempted mail bombings, allegedly committed by a Florida man who regularly posted vitriolic statements on social media, and who appeared to be a staunch Trump supporter. A shooting massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people on October 27 has also darkened the national mood; the gunman allegedly shouted anti-Semitic slurs as he opened fire.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent in Prague, where he reports on developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and money laundering. Before joining RFE/RL in 2015, he worked for the Associated Press in Moscow. He has also reported and edited for The Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, Voice of America, and the Vladivostok News.