US midterms 2018: All the latest updates

US voters go to the polls on Tuesday, November 6, to take part in midterm elections that will help define the remaining two years of President Donald Trump’s first term in office.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs in the midterms, as well as 35 seats in the Senate, and 39 governorships.

Trump’s Republican party currently has a majority in the Senate and House of Representatives, but failure to hold on to either could result in political deadlock for the US leader’s most ambitious policies.

According to the latest opinion polls, the Democrats have a good shot at taking the lower house of Congress, but the Republicans are predicted to maintain control of the Senate.

Follow all the major updates, leading to the vote:

Sunday, November 4

Trump and Obama to hold rallies as midterms loom 

With the midterms just two days away, big rallies are expected by US President Donald Trump and former President Barrack Obama on Sunday.

Obama will be campaigning in Indiana starting from 19:00 GMT, and will headline a get-out-the-vote rally at the University of Illinois at 22:00 GMT.

Trump will hold MAGA rallies in Macon, Georgia, and at 23:00 GMT in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will be rallying in Pennsylvania from 23:30 GMT.

Al Jazeera on Sunday will be looking at how women’s participation is expected to change the national landscape. Dismayed by Trump’s approach towards women, more than a million marched on Washington to protest his election.

Many are also furious over his Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh who could rule against abortion rights. An unprecedented number of women – many of them new to politics – are running for office at all levels.

Saturday, November 3 

Racist robocalls hit Georgia race

A wave of robocalls using racist language went out in Georgia in recent days, apparently aimed at undermining the campaign of former state politician Stacey Abrams, who is running to become the first black female governor in the United States, according to her and her rival’s campaign.

The calls impersonated media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who earlier this week campaigned with Abrams, and also featured anti-Semitic language, according to audio of the call heard by Reuters.

Both Abrams and her rival, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, denounced the calls, with the Republican calling them “absolutely disgusting.”

The issue of voter suppression has been central to the race in Georgia, where Kemp is the state’s top election overseer.

Two federal courts on Friday issued rulings ordering the state to allow some 3,000 naturalized US citizens to vote in Tuesday’s elections and preventing the state from throwing out some absentee ballots.

A similarly racist round of calls went out in August in Florida, targeting Democratic candidate Andre Gillum, who is black.

Early voting turnout soars

As of Friday night, almost 32.4 million people had cast ballots early across the US, according to The Election Project at the University of Florida, which tracks turnout. That is up more than 50 percent from the 20.5 million early votes cast in all of 2014, the last federal election when the White House was not at stake.

Trump on campaign blitz

Trump is hitting the campaign trail hard in the last few days before the midterm election. He held rallies in Montana on Saturday and has a number scheduled for Sunday and Monday.

He’s in the midst of a final sprint to Tuesday’s midterm elections, and will be in Montana and Florida later Saturday to campaign for Republican candidates.

The president says in an early morning tweet that “Everyone is excited about the Jobs Numbers – 250,000 new jobs in October. Also, wages rising. Wow!”

The government reported Friday that employers added 250,000 jobs last month. Unemployment remains low and pay rose at a healthy pace.

Trump held rallies Friday in West Virginia and Indiana, where he stayed overnight.

Trump opened those rallies by highlighting the economic new

Friday, November 2

Washington state lawmaker embroiled in ‘Biblical war’ controversy

In the northwestern US state of Washington, a Republican state politician is facing backlash for distributing a document outlining the guidelines for a “holy army” and advocating killing people who violate “Biblical law”.

With criticism mounting, some donors have asked state representative Matt Shea to return their campaign contributions.

Shea, who represents Spokane Valley in conservative eastern Washington, is seeking a sixth term in the state House and has been under fire since he acknowledged in a Facebook video last week that he had distributed a four-page document titled, “Biblical Basis for War” to some of his supporters.

The document condemns abortion and same-sex marriage and says how those who don’t follow Biblical law should be punished, The Spokesman-Review reported. At one point, the document says, “If they do not yield, kill all males.”

Nigerian army posts Trump video to justify deadly fire

The Nigerian army cited comments by US President Donald Trump to justify opening fire on Shia protesters earlier this week.

In the wake of the deadly violence earlier this week, the US embassy in Abuja urged the Nigerian government to “conduct a thorough investigation of the events and to take appropriate action to hold accountable those responsible for violations of Nigerian law”.

But that did not stop the army from pointing to Trump’s comments about Central American migrants and refugees as justification.

The army’s official Twitter account shared a video of Trump suggesting that US soldiers could respond with force to migrants who throw rocks on the US border. “When they throw rocks … consider it as a rifle,” Trump said in the video.

The video has since been deleted.

US activists confront far-right Republican over white nationalism

At a town hall event on Thursday night, Kaleb Van Fosson, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, likened Steve King’s views to those of Robert Bowers, who has been charged with shooting dead 11 Jewish worshipers in a Pennsylvania synagogue.

“You and the shooter share an ideology that is anti-immigration,” Van Fosson said.

King interrupted him. “Do not associate me with the shooter whatsoever,” barked the Republican representative, who is currently in a neck-and-neck race for re-election in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District during the November 6 midterm elections.

US midterms: How widespread is voter suppression?

Since 2010, at least 24 US states have introduced new measures that place tight restrictions on voting. Most of those states are controlled by Republicans.

In the past eight years, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 13 states introduced or tightened restrictive voter ID laws, 11 have laws making it harder for citizens to register, seven cut back on early voting opportunities and three moved to make it more difficult to return voting rights to people with criminal convictions.

In most cases, the measures disproportionately affected voters of colour, who are generally considered more likely to vote Democrat than Republican.

Thursday, November 1

Trump, Oprah lead surrogate campaigners in 2018 midterms

From President Donald Trump to Oprah Winfrey, top political surrogates are fanning out in key battleground states to appeal to voters during the final days of the 2018 midterm campaigns.

Trump will rally his most loyal supporters in Columbia, Missouri, on Thursday night to boost the fortunes of Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley in his razor-thin contest against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. Vice President Mike Pence barnstormed Georgia for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, while Ivanka Trump jetted to Nevada for Republican Senator Dean Heller.

Democrats, meanwhile, enlisted Winfrey’s help to motivate Democrats and crossover voters in Georgia’s race for governor.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was headed to North Dakota to help Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who is among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats and who has trailed Republican Kevin Cramer in public polling.

Avenatti launches political ad

Los Angeles lawyer Michael Avenatti, who represents adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and is considering a 2020 presidential bid, is launching his first political ad ahead of the midterm elections.

The Democrat tweeted out a clip of the 80-second digital ad for The Fight PAC. It features a litany of people who warn that they are “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more” and are frustrated by “the lies”, ”the cover-ups” and “the bigotry.”

Avenatti then appears on camera and says, “Our constitution says, ‘We the people, not ‘Me the president,'” he says. “Stand up. Join the fight club. Use your vote as your voice on November 6.”

Warren stumps for Richard Cordray

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren urged college students in Ohio to vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, praising him as “the nerd we need”.

The president has called Cordray a “far-left disciple” of Warren, a potential 2020 presidential contender whom Trump frequently mocks.

Cordray led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that Warren promoted. He faces state Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, in a tight race for governor.

Ivanka Trump hits campaign trail

Ivanka Trump was hitting the campaign trail for two Republican candidates in the closing days of the midterms.

In Reno, Nevada, the first daughter praised Senator Dean Heller for the role he played in passing the tax overhaul and the doubling of the child tax credit that came with it.

Heller, who faces Democrat Jacky Rosen, said that this is “a close race” but that he’s never seen the Republican Party in Nevada this well-organised in a nonpresidential year.

Ivanka Trump was set to appear Friday with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds in West Des Moines, helping a governor with whom she has connected on workforce and education issues.

Trump is a senior White House adviser to her father, but both stops were being made in her personal capacity.

Trump to further restrict asylum seekers with limits, tent cities

Less than a week before the midterm elections, US President Donald Trump said his administration is finalising a plan that would deny asylum to individuals who cross the US border between official ports of entry.

Trump said he would be signing an executive order sometime next week regarding immigration. He did not detail the proposal or how it would be implemented.

Trump has been hitting the campaign trail hard this week as he attempts to energise his Republican base ahead of the midterm elections.

He has sought to stoke fear over a caravan of Central American migrants and refugees making its way to the US-Mexico border. The caravan is still more than 1,100km away and is not expected to make it to the US border for weeks.

Trump draws anger after ‘sickening’ anti-immigrant advert

A campaign ad tweeted by Donald Trump associates a caravan of migrants and asylum seekers heading to the US border to a murderer on death row.

Mexican citizen Luis Bracamontes was convicted of killing two police deputies in 2014. The advert shared by Trump starts with the opening line: “Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!” 

It then weaves between images of the killer and the caravan.

Trump, who has sought to drum up fear of immigrants before the November 6 vote, tweeted the video with the text: “It is outrageous what the Democrats are doing to our Country. Vote Republican now!”

Outgoing Republican senator, Jeff Flake, called the video sickening.

This is a sickening ad. Republicans everywhere should denounce it. https://t.co/5sftOt57pI

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) November 1, 2018

Number of young and new voters surges in Texas early voting

Upwards of 332,000 Texans between the ages of 18 and 29 have taken part in early voting, marking a 477-percent increase from the 2014 midterm elections, according to a survey by the data company Target Smart.

With more than 214,000 people voting for the first time, Target Smart’s data also found that the turnout of African American and Latino voters more than doubled since the 2014 midterm.

Donald Trump won Texas, traditionally a Republican stronghold, by nine percentage points during the November 2016 presidential elections, when he defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Obama and Oprah head to Georgia 

Former President Barack Obama and talk show host Oprah Winfrey are heading to Georgia to campaign for Democrat candidates, including governor nominee Stacey Abrams.

Republican Vice President Mike Pence is also in the state to attend rallies with Abrams’ rival Brian Kemp.

Kemp has drawn criticism for an apparent conflict of interest and has so far ignored calls to resign his position as Georgia’s secretary of state, a role in which he oversees an election he himself is standing in.

Multiple polls show a statistical dead heat between Kemp and Abrams, with a low percentage of undecided voters remaining. There’s a possibility of a December runoff, given that Libertarian Ted Metz is also on the ballot. Georgia requires that the winner garner a majority of the votes.

More than 23 million ballots cast already

That’s according to CNN, which has partnered with data company Catalist. The pair found at least 23,391,086 ballots had been cast either by early voting schemes or by mail voting. 

The total size of the US electorate is 157.6 million people, according to the US Census Bureau, so the number of votes already cast a week ahead of the actual election is 15 percent of the electorate.

Wednesday, October 31

Purged Ohio voters allowed to participate

Federal judges ordered Ohio to allow voters who had been purged for not voting over a six-year period to participate in this year’s election.

A divided 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel granted an emergency motion sought by voting-rights groups. The ruling overturned in part an October 10 ruling by a federal judge that said voters haven’t been illegally purged from Ohio’s rolls.

Early voting surges in Florida

More than 3.4 million people in Florida have already voted, surpassing the number who voted early or by mail four years ago.

New statistics released Wednesday by the state Division of Elections show registered Republicans still have the edge, casting 1.43 million ballots compared with nearly 1.37 million by registered Democrats.

More than 1.48 million people have voted early, and more than 1.9 million people have voted by mail.

Trump hits election trail with threat of troop surge on border

President Donald Trump took his pre-election anti-immigration rhetoric to new heights on Wednesday with a stunning threat to deploy as many as 15,000 soldiers on the Mexican border – equal to the size of the US contingent in Afghanistan.

Brushing aside accusations that his divisive rhetoric on immigration is stoking “extremism”, Trump made the announcement before kicking off a string of 11 rallies across eight states in the next six days.

Trump has repeatedly – and without evidence – claimed that the US-bound caravan of mostly Central American refugees and migrants consists of “dangerous” people.

“They’re not coming into our country,” he said of the latest group, a few thousand people who are still deep inside Mexico and far from the US border.

Who will be making history on election night?

From the first Muslim congresswomen to the first openly gay governor of a US state, we look at the candidates who are expected to – or could – make history on Tuesday.

Investors brace for split Congress

The most recent polls have the Democrats winning the House of Representatives and the Republicans holding on to the Senate. Those predictions come with a major caveat of course, as polls are frequently proven wrong.

Midterms are not usually a major market event but, according to this Reuters report, markets are preparing for the possibility that Donald Trump will be dealing with a deadlocked Congress, in which he will not be able to force through any major policy shift.

The result of such instability could be a drop in the valuation of some stocks.

Is Nevada heading for a female-majority legislature?

Patricia Ackerman has gone from establishing a successful business, becoming an award-winning actress, working as an undercover FBI agent in Russia, to now possibly becoming a member of Nevada’s state assembly.

The Democrat is one of dozens of women standing in the state’s legislature during the upcoming midterm elections.

Around 40 percent of the state’s current legislature is female. Having a high proportion of female representatives “provides a more collaborative leadership”, according to Congressional scholar, Jordan Tama.

Native American tribe sues North Dakota over Voter ID rules

The Spirit Lake Sioux tribe is suing the state of North Dakota over its voter identification requirements, which they say disenfranchises Native Americans.

To cast a ballot, voters in North Dakota need identification with a verifiable street address, something that’s hard to come by on reservations.

The state maintains that everyone has a street address via the statewide 911 system, but the lawsuit filed by the Native American Rights Fund, the Campaign Legal Center and two law firms argues the system is “incomplete, contradictory and prone to error on reservations.”

The state’s voter ID laws were tightened just a few months after the Democratic incumbent, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, narrowly won her seat in 2012 with the help of the Native American vote.

The Republican-controlled Legislature maintains the changes were not due to Heitkamp’s win.

Tuesday, October 30

Dairy firm pulls support for Steve King over far-right support

Dairy cooperative Land O’Lakes has pulled its support for Republican Congressman Steve King in light of his inflammatory comments on race.

King has regularly drawn criticism and controversy for his views on race and immigration, which many have characterised as far-right.

As midterms marred by violence, experts point finger at Trump

Experts on the far-right say the run-up to this year’s midterms has been one of the most violent in living memory.

In just the last week, 11 Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh were killed by a white supremacist gunman, and in Kentucky, two African Americans were shot dead in a grocery store by a man who spared white customers inside.

Trump took to Twitter to blame “fake news” for “great anger” in the country. 

Trump plans to ‘terminate birthright citizenship’

US President Donald Trump has floated another measure that will target immigrants – ending birthright citizenship.

The Republican leader has long complained of immigrants using so-called anchor babies to establish roots in the US.

In an interview with “Axios on HBO”, Trump said he wanted to revoke the constitutional right to citizenship for babies born in US territory.

The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, introduced in 1868, says: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” 

Any attempt by Trump to unilaterally end the right would lead to a long legal battle and most legal scholars think that he will not be able to revoke the amendment.

Rather, the announcement seems in line with Trump’s wider pre-election rhetoric against immigration, including his denunciations of a caravan of migrants and asylum seekers heading towards the Mexico-US border. 

Monday, October 22 

Anti-Muslim campaigning in the US is a ‘losing strategy’: report

A report published by the Muslim Advocates rights groups describes a swell of anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric since US President Donald Trump took power.

It documented 80 instances of “clear anti-Muslim rhetoric” employed by political candidates in 2017 and 2018, adding that 64 percent of the candidates held office before or enjoyed a presidential endorsement.

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