Today is Election Day and voting is underway across the country in a range of races. While we’ll be paying close attention as the results come in for several races, it’s not too early to start looking ahead to the next major elections: the 2022 midterms. As the first major national elections of President Biden’s presidency — plus the first national elections since Trump tried to subvert American democracy, there’s plenty we’re watching out for next year. The outcome of these races will be pivotal in counteracting future election subversion. Here are three things that are at stake for democracy in 2022.
1. Control of Congress — and the ability to pass laws combating voter suppression and election subversion.
The biggest story of the midterms will be the battle for control of Congress, with all 435 House seats and 34 Senate seats up for election. With the Democratic Party holding razor-thin margins in both houses, it won’t take much to flip control of either chamber to the Republicans. In the House, this could be accomplished through gerrymandering alone. Meanwhile, in an evenly divided Senate, the Democratic majority will depend on defending every incumbent — particularly Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) who are all top targets for Republicans next year.
The outcome will have huge implications for the final two years of President Biden’s term. Should control of either chamber change hands, the chances of enacting any major legislation are slim —especially for legislation protecting voting rights or restoring key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). If either the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act has not passed Congress by 2023, the chances they’ll be enacted with Republicans in control of either chamber are nonexistent. Not a single Republican supports the Freedom to Vote Act and only Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has expressed support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — although she hasn’t committed to voting for it yet.
But it’s not just new legislation that’s at risk. Congress’ ability to investigate the events of the Jan. 6 insurrection and hold those who seek to undermine our democracy accountable will be jeopardized if Republicans take control. The work of the Select Committee To Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, for instance, would be very different under Speaker Kevin McCarthy — who voted to overturn the election results and has sought to undermine a thorough investigation of Jan. 6 all year.
2. Control of state governments — and the power to restrict or enhance access to voting.
At the same time, voters in most states will be heading to the polls to elect their state governments as well. 36 states will be voting for their governor, and all except Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia will hold elections for state legislatures as well.
States have the primary responsibility for setting most of the rules that determine how elections are run, which is why Republican-led states have been able to enact suppressive laws. While federal legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act could curtail this authority, until then states have a free hand to change how they run elections. Thus, the more state governments Republicans control, the more repressive voting bills they can pass. But Republicans don’t have to stop there. They could also enact laws that give themselves greater control of election administration or strip power away from Democratic secretaries of state. On the flip side, the more state governments Democrats control, the more new, expansive voting laws can be passed. Even as Republicans passed suppressive bills this year, Democrats took action to restore voting rights to felons, adopt all-mail elections and enact a state-level voting rights act in Virginia.
The gubernatorial races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will be especially vital since the Democratic governors in those pivotal and closely-contested states have served as bulwarks against the worst excesses of their Republican-controlled legislatures. Beyond those races, every election won by a Democrat is a step in the right direction in protecting the right to vote.
3. Control of election administration in key states — and whether we’ll have a fair and free election in 2024.
Last — but certainly not least — are elections for the often overlooked office of secretary of state. In most states, the secretary of state is responsible for overseeing and administering all elections. When Trump tried to subvert the results of the 2020 election, secretaries of state — even a few Republicans — withstood his efforts and pushed forcefully back against his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. As a result, Republicans who supported Trump’s “Big Lie” are already launching campaigns to become secretary of state in some of the most contested states of the 2020 election. If they win, they will have the ability to influence how fair the 2024 election will be in their states — democracy is literally on the ballot.
In Arizona, incumbent Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), who pushed back against Arizona’s sham “audit” and defended the state’s election, is running for governor. One of the Republicans running to replace her, state Rep. Mark Finchem (R), has already earned Trump’s endorsement. Finchem, who attended the Jan. 6 rally and has repeatedly defended Arizona’s audit, is running on a platform of ballot integrity. Finchem is far from the only “Big Lie” conspiracist in the field, however. Fellow state Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R) introduced legislation that would allow the Arizona Legislature to disregard election results and choose its own electors. The third Republican running, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, authored some of the restrictive voting laws passed this year, although she’s criticized the fraudulent Arizona audit.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) earned the special ire of Trump for refusing to overturn his state’s election results in January by “finding” extra votes for Trump. Even though Raffesperger strongly supports Georgia’s new suppressive voting law, Trump endorsed primary challenger Rep. Jody Hice (R), who objected to counting Georgia’s electoral votes on Jan. 6 and joined 138 other Republican representatives in voting against the election. Hice has made numerous false statements on the campaign trail, including that 700,000 illegal voters received applications for absentee ballots in Georgia.
Trump’s third secretary of state endorsee is Kristina Karamo (R) in Michigan, running to challenge incumbent Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D). Benson took steps to make voting easier during the pandemic, like sending absentee ballot applications to every voter in the state, and defended the accuracy and integrity of the vote in the state. Karamo, meanwhile, spent weeks last year challenging the election in Detroit, backed Texas’ absurd lawsuit in the Supreme Court challenging the election results in several states and went to Arizona to observe its “audit.” She also recently spoke at a conference organized by prominent QAnon conspiracy adherents.
Finally, in Nevada losing congressional candidate Jim Marchant (R) is running to replace term-limited incumbent Barbara Cegavske (R). Cegavske publicly stated there is no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election in her state, which resulted in her censure by the state GOP. While Marchant has not yet been endorsed by Trump, he filed a suit seeking to overturn his own loss to Rep. Steven Horsford (D) last year and states his number one priority is “overhaul[ing] the fraudulent election system in Nevada.” Like Karamo, Marchant has been linked to QAnon groups and participated in events with election conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Mike Lindell.
The 2022 elections will have a huge impact on the future of American democracy.
The midterm elections are always important, but when it comes to the future of voting rights and American democracy, 2022 will be especially vital. The Republican Party has already telegraphed that they are prepared to subvert elections and suppress the vote to maintain power, and the elections next year will help determine how successful it will be. The future of voting rights legislation in Congress, voter suppression laws in the states and whether “Big Lie” adherents will oversee elections all hinge on the outcome of the midterms next November.
It’s never too early to start getting involved in the midterms. SwingLeft has already created a resource page, where you can find candidates to donate to, ways to connect with other volunteers in your area and resources to help you prepare for the fight.