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The Record-Setting Midterm of 2010

A Commentary By Larry J. Sabato

Friday, August 06, 2010

Everyone already knows the 2010 elections are significant and competitive. Let’s add record-setting to that description. Why?

  • 2010 features the most U.S. Senate seats on the November ballot (37) since 1962.
  • 2010 also has the most elections for governor ever on the same ballot (also 37).
  • 2010 has produced one of the highest percentages of Democratic-versus-Republican House line-ups in modern history. Fully 405 of House races out of 435 have both a Democrat and a Republican running for the seat—the gold standard of basic two-party choice in democracy. Democrats have nominated 410 candidates for the House and Republicans have an even larger number, 430. For the GOP this is the most congressional districts they have ever contested.

Elections always matter, and citizens should vote. But if history is predictive, only about 40% of adults in the United States will cast a ballot in 2010, as opposed to a much larger 63% in 2008.

Perhaps the record number of elections—not to mention the high stakes—will encourage more Americans to participate this fall. We at the Crystal Ball certainly hope so.

Larry J. Sabato is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

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