Watching US elections is a frustrating experience. Australia does a better job, not just in election administration but in analysis as well: none of the American commentators seem to have a handle on what for us are basic concepts like matched booths and two-party swing.

Nonetheless, so far it looks as if the mid-term congressional elections are going according to expectations. The Democrats have scored a significant swing, and will take control of the House of Representatives. Only nine of the needed 15 gains were definite as at 2pm (10pm American eastern time), but another four Republican incumbents were trailing, with about half the key states still to post figures.

Total gains therefore are still a matter of guesswork, but look like being in the mid-20s, giving the Democrats a majority of around 20 seats, compared to a Republican majority of 29 in the old House. The Democrats will also pick up several additional governorships.

On the other hand, Republican control of the Senate looks like it will hold, albeit by a narrow margin. The Democrats needed to win both the key states of Virginia and Missouri, and as we went to press they are falling short in both: they could still make up the ground in Missouri, but Virginia, with 86% counted and a gap of 25,000 votes, now looks out of reach.

As expected, Republican senators have been unseated in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman, defeated in his party’s primary earlier this year, seems to have held his seat as an independent.

Turnout is reported to be high, although no overall figure will be available until the polls close on the West Coast. In 2004, high turnout apparently benefited the Republicans, but that seems to have been the exception not the rule.

For up-to-the-minute figures, check out CNN’s list of key races.

Peter Fray

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