This year, Democracy Docket published 38 guest authors on a range of issues facing voters written by activists, elected officials, experts and more. Ahead of the midterm elections, we also launched a candidate Q&A series featuring pro-democracy candidates running for office across the country. Today, we take a look back on the voices we heard from in 2022.
We spoke to 16 candidates running for office in this year’s midterms.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, we highlighted 16 candidates running for office in this year’s midterms through our candidate Q&A series. Not only did we hear from Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Sen.-elect John Fetterman (D-Pa.) in their crucial Senate races, we also spoke to candidates running for governor and secretary of state like Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs in Arizona and Secretary of State-elect Cisco Aguilar in Nevada. Be sure to check out the Q&As to learn more about each candidate and their commitment to fight for voting rights. We also included a few fun questions — that’s how we found out that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) favorite snack is ice cream!
Many writers highlighted the importance of states in the fight for American democracy.
A major storyline of the midterms was the importance of state legislatures — only four states didn’t have any legislative chambers up for election. While state legislative elections often don’t get enough attention, they can be deeply consequential. We learned how the results of this year’s legislative races could determine whether the 2024 presidential election is free and fair, proving that when it comes to democracy there’s no such thing as small races. Thankfully, leaders stepped up to contest state legislative races across the country — New York state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D), chair of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and majority leader of the New York state Senate, highlighted the work being done to win in the states.
With Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive federal voting rights legislation this past January, the actions of officials and individuals at the state level are pivotal in the fight to ensure every American has an equal opportunity to vote. Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs wrote about her fight to protect voting in Arizona, while secretaries of state Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D-N.M.) and Shirley Weber (D-Calif.) described how their states are working to make voting easier. Indeed, though often overlooked, secretaries of state have become a pivotal position to protect voting rights.
At the local level, former Harris County clerk Chris Hollins described how Harris County achieved record-breaking turnout in 2020 (and how Texas Republicans targeted it in 2021). Amanda Litman from Run for Something encouraged people to step up and run for local offices. We also heard from activists in Montana about a new law targeting one of the main lifelines of elections in Native communities and one woman’s odyssey to drive around in a van and register voters all across Texas. Finally, former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) wrote about the importance of fighting and organizing even in red states.
Ballot measures took center stage as well.
2022 was also an important year for ballot measures, with voters in several states approving important reforms to expand access to voting and make our elections better. It should come as no surprise, then, that Republicans are trying to make them more difficult in many states. We also learned how Republicans in Arizona managed to defeat a pro-voting initiative in court and how activists are working to restore the initiative process in Mississippi.
We learned about the role of young voters in the fight for democracy.
The 2022 midterms featured the second-highest youth voter turnout in at least 30 years. Democracy Docket was lucky enough to feature an array of voices that spoke to the critical role of young voters, as well as spotlighting the challenges they face in participating in the electoral process.
- We learned about how voter suppression in America often means suppression of the youngest voters specifically.
- Experts from Tufts University wrote about the steps we can take to protect young voters and fight back against voter suppression.
- Activists urged their fellow young voters to make their voices heard and fight for progressive goals all across the country.
- The Alliance for Youth Action encouraged candidates to take the concerns of young voters seriously as the key to winning the fight for democracy.
The courts were a major focus.
Unsurprisingly for Democracy Docket, the courts were another big focus of our guest authors this year. During a year in which the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, court reform was a major theme. Rakim Brooks wrote about how conservatives managed to take over the courts and Demand Justice’s Christopher Kang argued that to save democracy, we need to expand the Court.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court held oral argument in Moore v. Harper, a case that could have major implications for American democracy by giving the Court a chance to review the fringe independent state legislature (ISL) theory. Harvard Law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos wrote about what the theory could mean for redistricting across the country and the Institute for Responsive Government joined the chorus of voices attacking the ISL theory as dangerous. The Court also heard a challenge to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and we heard from Louisiana Progress about the case’s implications for the Bayou State.
We at Democracy Docket have always stressed the importance of the courts and law in protecting democracy and voting rights. But we’re not alone in that message. This year, We the Action’s Anna Chu highlighted the role that lawyers play in ensuring elections are free and fair and helping eligible voters cast their vote.
Felony and jail-based disenfranchisement was on our minds.
In recent years, efforts to restore the voting rights of individuals with felony convictions and those currently jailed have become a crucial front in the battle for voting rights. Democracy Docket featured several guest authors to draw attention to this important issue. We heard from Corey “Al-Ameen” Patterson about his first-hand experience being disenfranchised while in jail. Activists in Florida and North Carolina discussed efforts in their states to restore voting rights to individuals with felony convictions. And in a year Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made news for arresting people for simply voting, Jessica Pishko wrote about how the “Big Lie” is influencing sheriffs and law enforcement to criminalize elections.
We continued to spotlight the need to reform and strengthen our democracy.
Finally, we heard from many experts about different ideas to strengthen American democracy. The filibuster stopped Democrats from passing comprehensive voting rights legislation in January. But it doesn’t have to be that way — Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-Ore.) chief of staff wrote about how restoring the talking filibuster would make passing critical legislation easier while appeasing moderates that don’t want to eliminate it entirely. And when the conversation in our nation’s capital began to turn away from protecting voting rights to defending against election subversion, political scientists stressed that both are essential to democracy and you cannot protect against election subversion without ensuring the right to vote.
Others proposed more radical reforms. Charlotte Hill and Lee Drutman advocated for completely changing how we elect members of Congress. Proportional representation, they argue, “would fundamentally dissolve the zero-sum, high-stakes ‘doom loop’ destroying our politics.”
And even though election deniers largely lost this year, that doesn’t mean American democracy is safe. As we head into 2023 and 2024, we still need to take threats to free and fair elections seriously and fight back against attempts to suppress the vote and rig elections in favor of a specific outcome. Looking for a helpful tool in this quest? Look to End Citizen United’s Democracy Scorecard to see the health of our democracy broken down by each state.
Stay tuned for more entries in our How We Won series.
As the dust settled from the midterms, we launched a How We Won series to highlight the year’s successes.
- Gen-Z for Change highlighted the role of social media in getting young voters to the polls.
- End Citizen United’s Tiffany Muller wrote about how American rejected extremism and protected democracy at the polls.
- After flipping legislative chambers in Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, the DLCC and Empower Project laid out how Democrats won in the states.
- democracyFIRST broke down the key factors that helped pro-democracy secretaries of state win all across the country.
- NextGen America showed how young voters were crucial in preventing a red wave and defeating extremist candidates.
We’ll continue publishing entries in How We Won in the new year. We’re also gearing up to bring you even more guest authors in the new year, and we can’t wait to share new insights and perspectives with you. Stay tuned!