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Every day you can pick up the latest news report from some online media source, and despite positive polling for Democratic candidates, they always highlight the negative lining. “There must be a shadow here somewhere,” the news seems to contend. After all, how can Democratic candidates be faring so well in a year when, traditionally, the party that holds the White House suffers? The truth is, thanks to the United States Supreme Court and absolutely terrible candidates, Republicans have found their own party in disarray. They are busy battling among themselves with candidates who any reasonable person understands should not hold elected office. Can anyone legitimately argue Herschel Walker is a viable candidate in any other year? In Ohio, JD Vance disappeared mid-election to go to another country to sell books. Dr. Oz is more famous for selling fake medical solutions than he is for helping the good people of Pennsylvania live better, more equitable lives. Kari Lake is, well, Kari Lake. Are these the best candidates the Republicans could come up with?
While there are outlets that want the horse race because they need viewership, the truth is if people turn out and vote in the same way they did in 2018, the same way they did in Kansas special election in August on abortion, in the same way they sent a Democratic representative to congress in Alaska, it could be a long night for Republicans hoping to gain control. There is only one thing that can stop us: ourselves. Knowing these facts doesn’t mean we get too confident or that we rest. Now is the time to press the advantage and make sure every single voter we know of turns out to the polls and casts their ballot. Now is the time to put the pressure on Republicans, who don’t have the votes but have tried to rig the process to prevent voters from participating.
Georgia is the test this year
Republicans are looking to test a theory of how they can completely change elections this year in Georgia. Georgia’s new laws are being put to the test this year, laws that lower the ability of many to vote because of the time it takes to vote in general. In early voting, one couple noted it took them eight hours of standing in line to cast their ballot. That matters because, under the new law, organizations are prevented from having items like free water or snacks available to anyone line. So if you aren’t prepared to stand in line without food or drink for a day, your ability to cast a vote is certainly at risk. In this case, we are talking about early voting, not even same-day voting, which will feel more pressure.
What is good is that, despite these changes, Black Georgia voters are turning out at a higher rate than in 2018. While not at the rate of 2020, this boost from 2018 will certainly help give Democratic efforts a push coming into election day.
So, the question is, how do Republicans respond if Democratic candidates do prevail? This is where, at the state level, it starts to get tricky.
In states where the legislature is dominated by Republicans, like Kansas and Georgia, a new theory has gained immediate ground: provide the state legislature firing power over positions within the administration based on votes, and the ability to strip the governor of many powers altogether. What was fine for Brian Kemp, or would be okay for a Republican in Kansas, simply won’t be okay if a Democratic candidate is elected. A set of different rules. Georgia will be the test of what those rules will look like, both at the ballot box and in their own state legislature.
There is an opportunity here
We have to look at this year as an opportunity to send a message of what is and is not OK in our democracy. That we are a country represented by the people, for the people. Not a country represented only by corporations pushing a policy that benefits them. Not by billionaire donors dumping millions into elections. We are not a country that believes one person has one vote, and the other has hundreds.
With early voting open across America, now is the time to go out and make sure you aren’t the only one who votes, but to get your friends and your family to the polls with you and turn in every vote possible. Voting on your own simply isn’t enough. Your civic responsibility doesn’t end by saying, “Well, I voted, I’m good.” Do more. Volunteer if you can. Talk to your friends. Make a few phone calls, even if it is just to a family member. Speak out when you can and drive the message home: we need to win this year. A rancorous two years of government where Trumpers control the U.S. House, Senate, or state Houses will be a disaster for our democracy.
I watched more young people turn out in an August special election vote in Kansas than we ever imagined; unaffiliated voters who had nothing on their special election ballot except the issue of abortion. In one vote, the issue was decided—for a while—in Kansas. Now, Republicans are saying they are prepared to not honor that vote and work to come back, again and again, to press older laws on the books by overturning the state Supreme Court.
There will always be a short moment of relief, a feeling of accomplishment after an election. Democracy isn’t something that we just take our eyes off of and assume everything will be okay. It is like a garden that requires constant attention to make sure that it blossoms into something beautiful, and we can all become the stewards that make it bloom the next spring.
What are you doing to help this election season?
The 2022 midterms are just around the corner, and you sent us a ton of fantastic questions for this week’s episode of The Downballot. Among the many topics we cover: which states are likely to report results slowly—and how will those results change over time; the House districts that look like key bellwethers for how the night might go, and which might offer surprises; why and how Democrats make the hard decisions on which races to triage; the top legislative chambers to keep an eye on; and plenty more!