Election Deniers Didn’t Win Big, but Continue to Threaten Multiracial Democracy

While election denialism was a winning strategy in many Republican primaries, it was a mixed bag last night in many contests for key state-level offices that play some role in overseeing elections.

Key projected winners included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and attorney general candidates in Florida and Ohio. Election deniers suffered projected losses in races for governor in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and secretary of state in Michigan and Minnesota.

The verdict is still out on the election-denier candidates for Arizona governor and secretary of state, and Nevada secretary of state. Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem has said he wouldn’t have certified Arizona’s 2020 results favoring Biden, and if Finchem wins this year he could refuse to certify 2024 results showing most Arizona voters prefer a Democratic presidential candidate. We also don’t know how many election deniers successfully won races for local offices that oversee elections.

Even if most of these election deniers lose, however, challenges still exist. Election denialism was not simply an empty talking point to secure a Trump endorsement – it remains a potent force within the Republican base. Nearly 200 federal or statewide candidates who questioned the results of the 2020 election won – largely in Republican areas. Over the next two years expect to see Republican politicians (election deniers and non-election deniers) continue to try to shape the electorate by using unsubstantiated claims of fraud to justify new laws to restrict voter registration, vote-by-mail, and early voting, as well as allow for partisan interference in elections.

While I’ve grappled with those who have raised unsubstantiated concerns about fraud to justify unnecessary restrictions on voting for years, this moment is different.

Our nation is becoming more diverse. Cultural anxiety is prompting some Americans to question the legitimacy of our democracy. As Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol says, “Stop the Steal’ is a metaphor…. It is a metaphor for the country being taken away from the people who think they should rightfully be setting the tone.” Online platforms magnify false claims about election fraud so they become more mainstream. Today’s U.S. Supreme Court seems unlikely to give relief by requiring evidence of fraud to justify unnecessary voting restrictions, preventing political gerrymandering and other election rules that facilitate entrenchment, or acknowledging the original intent and values of the 15th Amendment.

The morning after the 2022 mid-term elections, election denialism continues to pose a significant threat to the future of multiracial democracy. Unfortunately, our existing institutions were not originally designed to facilitate a healthy, well-functioning multiracial democracy. We need transformative solutions to overcome these challenges and create an electoral system that provides diverse communities incentives to engage with each other, create new coalitions, and work together to solve our most pressing problems.

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