November 11, 2022

Midterm Election Takeaways

Russ Feingold President

You mobilized. You poll worked. You volunteered. You voted your full ballot. And democracy is better for it. Not all the news from Tuesday is good, but there is much to celebrate.  

Let’s start big. Overall, our election infrastructure worked as it is supposed to. There were no systemic problems in election administration, although we will discuss the undeniable and devastating impact of gerrymandering shortly. Thank you to everyone who served as a poll worker or election administrator during this election cycle. Our elections worked in no small part because of your diligent service.  

Democracy and abortion rights proved top of mind for voters. Exit polls showed that abortion was the number two issue nationally, second only to inflation. And it was the number one issue for voters in several states, including in Pennsylvania. Voters also overwhelmingly understand that democracy cannot be taken for granted, with 60 percent of voters saying democracy is threatened in this country according to exit polls. We also saw an overwhelming turnout by young people, motivated by these critical issues.  

Abortion rights prevailed in every state in which they were explicitly on the ballot. California, Michigan, and Vermont voters all approved amendments to enshrine abortion rights in their state constitutions. Kentucky voters rejected a proposition that would have declared that the state constitution did not protect abortion. And, Montana voters rejected an anti-abortion “born alive” proposition.  

Voting rights and workers’ rights also prevailed. Connecticut and Michigan voters approved ballot measures to strengthen voting rights and access to early voting. Voters in Washington, D.C. and Nebraska voted in favor of raising wages. And Illinois voters adopted a Workers’ Rights amendment that gives workers a “fundamental right” to organize.  

While we are still awaiting consequential races in Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada, in several other key states, Secretary of State races were won by the candidate who vowed to uphold the will of the people and the rule of law. Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidates who denied the results of the 2020 election lost and lost big in many states, including in Michigan and Pennsylvania (where the Governor appoints the Secretary of State and the Attorney General).  

Amidst these encouraging results, there are still causes for concern. Over 150 candidates who denied the results of the 2020 election were elected this week, including to the U.S. House. Disinformation was prolific, particularly online, with minor administrative issues being spun into conspiracies. And money! Wow, did money win. These midterms cost over $9 billion, again proving the devastating impact of Citizens United 

That wasn’t the only way that these elections were heavily shaped by the Supreme Court. The midterms also cannot be understood without accounting for the Court’s decisions to allow voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, including allowing Alabama and Louisiana to hold elections with racially gerrymandered congressional maps. The Supreme Court is supposed to be apolitical. We know differently. The Supreme Court’s hand was all over these elections, and it will continue to be until we vindicate voting rights in this country. I come away from these elections even more convinced that we must reform the Supreme Court to safeguard our democracy.  

Election cycles are becoming tests for our courts more broadly. We again saw a wave of spurious lawsuits filed this election cycle aimed at disqualifying ballots believed to be predominantly cast by Black voters or democratic voters broadly. We cannot take for granted that courts will always come down in support of fundamental rights and freedoms, and the rule of law. As we know, institutions do not protect themselves. This is why we have already pivoted to the Senate’s lame duck session and the urgency of the Senate confirming 30 judicial nominees before the end of the year. President Biden has done his part to diversify the federal court by nominating diverse, qualified candidates who will uphold the rule of law and vindicate our fundamental freedoms. We are focused on making sure the Senate now does its part.  

Access to Justice, Affirmative Action, Democracy and Elections, Democracy and Voting, Equality and Liberty, Importance of the Courts, Supreme Court, Voting Rights