Why Democrats didn't take the Senate despite winning 11 million more votes than Republicans

A woman voting.
(Image credit: Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Although Republicans retained control of the Senate during this year's midterm elections, Democrats actually earned about 11 million more votes.

Reported vote counts show that Democratic Senate candidates this year thus far have won roughly 44 million votes, whereas Republican Senate candidates have earned 33 million, per The Washington Post. That means about 57 percent of the total votes cast went for Senate Democrats. Despite those stats, Republicans managed to flip three seats, bolstering their majority.

Although it might initially sound galling that Democrats earned more votes but didn't get the majority, there's a reason for that: 35 Senate seats were on the ballot this year, and of those, 26 of them were held by Democrats, while only nine were held by Republicans. The fact that most of the seats up for re-election were Democratic made the party more vulnerable to suffer losses, which Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) did.

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Democrats did, in fact, win the vast majority of the Senate seats that were up this year; they just didn't gain enough to gain a majority, with the party losing a net of at least two seats and the Republicans gaining at least two. Some races still have not been called. In fact, Bloomberg's Justin Fox points out that Democrats actually gained a larger majority of seats than their popular vote margin; he also observes that this statistic is skewed by the fact that in California, multiple Democrats ran in the general election, and there wasn't even a Republican on the ballot. Still, The Washington Post reports that some onlookers see statistics like these as examples of America's "underdeveloped electoral system."

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