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WHY THIS ELECTION MATTERS: For the Congressional vote, the midterms are a referendum on President Barack Obama, who began his term two years ago with control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Senate: Thirty-seven seats are up for election of which 19 are currently held by Democrats and 18 by Republicans. In the 100-member chamber, Democrats control 59 seats to 41 for Republicans.

House of Representatives: All 435 seats are up for election to two-year terms. Democrats now hold 255 seats to Republicans' 178, with two vacancies. Republicans look set to surpass 218 seats to win the majority away from Democrats.
In both chambers, the majority party determines what and when legislation is brought to a vote and chairs all committees.

State Governments

Governors: Elections in 37 states, of which 19 are now held by Democrats and 18 by Republicans.

State legislatures: Variations in state election laws and state governments mean 46 states are holding elections for 88 of 99 state chambers. Democrats currently hold an edge in control of state legislatures, but Republicans are expected to make inroads.
Political party control of governorships and state legislatures takes on national importance in 2010 when states' U.S. legislative districts are to be redrawn. The party in power has the authority to set district boundaries to favor its candidates in elections for the next decade.

Ballot Measures

Initiatives & Referendums: Voters in 36 states will cast ballots for various measures. Most concern changes in tax laws, state budgets or government administration. California's Proposition 19 would legalize marijuana for personal use and permit local governments to tax

Main Issues

American voters have told pollsters their biggest concerns are the economy, high unemployment, the budget deficit, and health care.