ADDS VOTER COMMENTS IN GRAFS 3-4, 8, 12-13
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Americans are descending on polling stations in droves Tuesday for this year’s midterm elections.
Most voting locations began opening between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. local time on the East Coast (1100GMT and 1200GMT), with polling stations in the central and western U.S. set to open around the same times in their time zones. Vermont, however, was the earliest to open at 5 a.m. (1000GMT).
Spirits were high at the opening of a polling station in Virginia, with a large line of voters waiting to cast their ballot.
“It’s very important. And the people need to get out, this is your right. Hopefully everyone will come and vote," said Bobby, a security guard and resident of Virginia.
More than 36 million Americans have already cast ballots in early voting, according to data compiled by the University of Florida's United States Elections Project. That is 17 million more than those who voted early in the 2014 midterms as polling indicates an energized American electorate.
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, as are 35 seats in the 100-member Senate.
Republicans currently control both chambers, but the Democratic Party is seeking to pounce upon discontent among some voters to make inroads in the federal legislature.
At stake is the future of U.S. President Donald Trump's legislative agenda. He is set to round out the final two years of his first, and possibly sole, term in office.
"I used to be a lot more impartial about the party that I vote for. But now I lean a little more to the left thanks to him,” Sarah Greene, a 39-year-old resident of Virginia, said in reference to Trump.
While Democrats currently trail far more in the House, it is that chamber where their efforts are most likely to bear fruit, with projections estimating they will take a majority there. In the Senate, most of the seats up for election are Democratic, making more difficult their task of taking additional seats in the chamber, where Republicans hold a razor thin 51-49 majority.
Should Democrats take either chamber, Trump’s already complicated ability to drive policy would face further obstacles as Democrats oppose him uniformly on all of his major goals, from immigration to efforts to eliminate the U.S.'s healthcare law.
Beyond national politics, state and local elections will see voters decide on a host of smaller “down-ballot” races that include 36 state gubernatorial races.
For many voters, local issues are what motivated them to go to the polls and vote.
"Any issue that is related to our first responders is always important to me," Greene added.
*Umar Farooq contributed to this story