In the run-up to the US midterm elections, something happened that set off alarm bells for those concerned about the stability of the United States’ democracy. About 345 Republicans have accepted the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump as a result of massive fraud, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, a think tank based in Washington, DC.
These fears eased somewhat when the Republican Party failed to do well in the polls on November 8, dismaying predictions of a “red wave” at the ballot box.
Opponents lost the most watched state contests and failed to win new seats in nearly 95 percent of state contests, according to an analysis by the United States United Democracy Center, an organization that tracks contests and opposition polls.
On Monday, President Joe Biden hailed the midterm results as “a strong rebuttal to anti-elections at every level”.
Speaking to reporters at the Group of 20 (G20) meeting this week in Indonesia, Biden described the results as evidence of the power of democratic institutions.
“What these elections have shown is that there is a deep and unwavering commitment in America to preserving and protecting and protecting democracy,” he said.
In the middle of the month of November 8, the dissidents competed in contests in almost all districts. The battle for control of the US Senate, for example, has come down to battleground states like Nevada and Arizona, where conservatives are favored. Adam Laxalt and Blake Masters lost by narrow margins to their Democratic opponents.
But just as important were the state and local races that provide voter access and the ability to shape the outcome of presidential elections in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona.
Such candidates often have a dark and scheming attitude towards the elections they are tasked with overseeing. Jim Marchant, the Republican candidate for secretary of state in Nevada, said on a podcast that the state has not held a real election since 2006 and that the representatives were “set by the deep government”.
The gubernatorial race in Arizona was one of the most successful contests, with Republican Kari Lake narrowly losing to Democrat Katie Hobbs. It took almost a week to count the votes. Lake falsely claimed that the 2020 election was rigged as the cornerstone of his campaign.
Lake did not acknowledge the results when they were announced, instead writing: “Arizona knows BS when it sees it.”
Such candidates posed an unusual problem for US politics: What would happen if election officials used their positions to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of elections?
“One thing is clear: the American voters fought hard to defend democracy in this election. In many places, we saw voters rejecting in detail those who reject the elections who want power in their votes,” Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the United States United Action, told Al Jazeera in the words he shared via email.
“That said, election denial will continue to be a threat, and we need to be vigilant in 2024.”
To sow doubt
The current trend in the denial of the election became clear when former President Trump spread falsehoods that the 2020 elections were rigged due to “gross fraud” and “fraudulent elections”, forcing officials to change the wishes of the voters.
The claims have been struck down in court due to lack of evidence. Republican election officials such as Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger also reassured voters that the election results were accurate and that the growing claims of fraud were unfounded.
But opposition to the election has spread among Republican voters and the general public. A University of Monmouth poll in late September found that 61 percent of Republican voters doubted the integrity of the 2020 election.
The Brookings Institution’s analysis also showed that large states like Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania had more abstentions heading into the midterms, compared to more populous but left-leaning states like New York and California.
Because elections are controlled by federal governments in the US, political officials such as governors, secretaries of state and attorneys general have varying degrees of responsibility for what happens in elections.
In Arizona, for example, the secretary of state is responsible for certifying election results. But in Nevada, the secretary of state is not given this position. They can, however, push governments to enact policies that affect voting rights.
Across the country, right-wing candidates have run for office, often with Trump’s endorsement after admitting his fraud claims.
Doug Mastriano, who was endorsed by Trump for governor of Pennsylvania, said the state’s votes in the 2020 presidential election should not be guaranteed and promised to appoint a secretary of state who shares that belief.
Mark Finchem, a Republican running for secretary of state in Arizona, introduced the state’s ballot restrictions long after the 2020 election. He also called for hand-counting, a method experts say is flawed and inefficient.
In Michigan, Kristina Karamo, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, filed a lawsuit seeking to block thousands of Detroit midterm ballots from being counted, alleging fraud.
The campaign has also vowed to roll back measures that make voting easier, such as mail-in voting, which Trump has characterized as illegal and prone to fraud.
Mastriano, Finchem and Karamo all lost their suits, and the judge dismissed Karamo’s case as “intolerable”, criticizing him for failing to provide “any evidence” for what he said.
Marchant, who is known as the architect who forced the opposition to run for secretary of state in the swimming pool, also lost his race in Nevada.
Such a defeat caused the public to rejoice with election experts, who say that false claims about electoral corruption can undermine faith in democracy.
“The popularity of what Republican voters are concerned about, but we haven’t seen it clearly in many of the battlegrounds,” Thad Kousser, a professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, told Al Jazeera. “In 2024, this means that elections in developed countries will be controlled by manual statistics.”
Kousser sees another reason for celebration: Many of those who rejected the election failed to follow the limits. Both Karamo and Mastriano lost by more than 14 points.
But in western states such as Arizona and Nevada, some of those who rejected the election recorded strong results, with very narrow margins to open the door to unsubstantiated claims that the elections were “stolen”.
In Arizona, Finchem and Nyanja worked on technology and voting systems in Maricopa County to push back on Election Day fraud. Seniors he apologized of the challenge and promised that every vote would be counted.
“A new counting machine.” If this is what the new ones give us, what do the old machines do? Go vote and don’t let Marx stop you from voting. Double check and make sure the machine counts your vote correctly. #VoteFinchem
– Mark Finchem #JustFollowTheLaw VoteFinchem.com (@RealMarkFinchem) November 8, 2022
Things in Maricopa County were already burning. Suspicions of an election fraud conspiracy have led to death threats and harassment of election workers, prompting some to quit their jobs, Reuters reports.
One message received during the summer said that election workers would be tied to trucks and dragged through the streets. In October, the US Department of Justice complained about voter intimidation following reports of armed men in Arizona guarding outdoor ballot boxes.
On Election Day, Trump teamed up with Lake and Finchem to publish allegations of fraud.
“Have we started again?” Trump said on the Truth Social website. “People can’t stop!!”
Such comments from powerful Republicans have prompted Democrats to warn against premature celebrations. Opponents won some of the most powerful races in Republican-leaning states, including at least five gubernatorial seats and secretary of state races in states like Indiana and Wyoming.
“Our democracy has faced a critical test, and it’s because of the voters,” Lydgate of United Action United States said in a statement. But we must remember that the anti-election movement is not going anywhere as we wait for 2024. This threatens to continue.