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History was made this midterm election

Three things to think about this November 10th

Alana Persson
Digital Marketing Associate
November 10, 2022

On Tuesday, tens of millions of Americans cast their ballots to determine the outcome of the 2022 election. As reformers, we recognize there is a lot on the line this midterm — the integrity of our democracy is at stake, and a historic number of ballot initiatives to reform our election system are taking center stage in numerous jurisdictions. 

However, despite the possibility of historic voter participation in this midterm election, very few seats were actually decided on Tuesday. In fact, Unite America just released new research revealing that a staggering 83% of U.S. House seats were decided months ago by just 8% of voters during the primary election. This means that the results of fewer than one in five races were in some doubt on Tuesday night — the rest were already effectively decided before a single vote was counted this November. And it’s this problem that’s disenfranchising voters, fueling political division, and distorting representation.

While there is still much to be determined this election, we already have some wins for reform on the board. Here are three things to take away from the 2022 election:

1. The #Primary Problem — A Thread 🧵

We’ve been hammering home the gravity of The Primary Problem all primary season long, but this week’s results gave us a unique opportunity to put it into a greater perspective. We’ve released new research highlighting that the Primary Problem has gotten worse this year. How much worse though, and what does this mean in relation to the state of our democracy? Check out our thread on Twitter highlighting the jaw dropping details and key facts you should know about the Primary Problem in 2022.

Here are four key tweets to share:

1. The 2022 elections were severely lacking in competition and choice. Of the 83% (359 seats) of U.S. House seats decided in the 2022 primary, nearly 1/3(129 seats) were uncontested, with only one candidate on the ballot in the favored party’s primary for voters to choose from.
2. This is a cross-partisan issue affecting both Democrats & Republicans. In 2022, 165 blue & 194 red seats were decided in primary elections, denying voters on both sides of the aisle any real choice on election day.

3. There were 21 states with NO competition in the favored party’s primary, effectively limiting the choice of 61.5 million voters from a say in who represents them.
4. Only 16.5% of eligible voters cast a ballot in primary elections. Since 2010, less than one in five voters have voted in a midterm primary election.

2. The midterm's untold truth

The Primary Problem is THE primary problem with our politics today. So, why is it not plastered across national headlines (yet)? Unite America's Executive Director, Nick Troiano, talked with Axios’ Media Trends reporter, Sara Fischer, about the media's coverage of our latest findings. The article notes that while research on The Primary Problem shows that there are fewer elections that matter in November than ever before — which should inherently make it a wildly covered narrative — the reason that it often isn’t the top headline is due to “the challenge, of course… to make sure the media isn't inadvertently dissuading voters, but rather, reminding them of the importance of the primary process, to encourage them to participate.” 

Check out Axios’ coverage of the 2022 Primary Problem and Nick’s recent op-ed in the Fulcrum about the solutions that exist to address the Primary Problem.

3. As The Supremes sing, “You can’t hurry love” — nor can you hurry election results

Two days have passed since the midterm election, yet much is still to be determined. It will be a few days until we learn the final results of some races and the official outcomes of key election reform ballot initiatives — or in some cases, like in Alaska (a statutory provision requires 15 days for all ballots to be counted), it will be a few weeks until we get the final results.

So, while we’re still in a holding pattern waiting for final results to be tabulated, you can learn about what Alaska’s new election system — a top-four nonpartisan primary and ranked choice voting general election — has already taught us this election by reading our recent blog “What We Know So Far About Alaska’s Innovative Election System.” 

Lastly, while we still have a ways to go in our pursuit of better representation and a functional government, we already know that this election has been a HUGE step toward reaching these goals. Thank you to everyone who participated in this election and for being a part of this growing movement.