Hug a poll worker this election season 🤗
The November election is still 12 days away, yet reporters are already calling this midterm election “eye-popping” with 70% of all registered voters expressing high interest in voting, according to a new NBC News poll. This is the highest percentage ever in the news outlet’s survey for a midterm election, even higher than the historic turnout of 2018.
So, what’s leading to this spike in voter interest? Certainly, concerns about inflation, immigration, crime rates, and many other issues are all on the ballot this year. But there’s another shocking number to consider. The poll shows that some 80% of Democrats and Republicans believe their political opposition (the other party) “poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.”
This mutual antagonism reinforces something we know: the dysfunction of our political system is an overarching threat to our democracy. So, while the issues we care about are important, nothing will change the discord in our partisan politics unless we first address the central driver of our dysfunction — our elections with the Primary Problem at the top of the list.
Here are three things we should think about ahead of this midterm election:
1. It’s not the issues that divide us, but our partisan election system
During The Un-Convention hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center earlier this month in Philadelphia, Unite America’s Executive Director Nick Troiano, used immigration — an issue that is both divisive to most Americans and long unaddressed by Congress — to underscore the deep roots of our political dysfunction.
"I see the issue of immigration as a case study about how our political system isn't representing most Americans because on various dimensions of immigration, you can get large majorities of Americans to agree. Why can't our Congress?” asked Troiano on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s live Un-Convention podcast taping.
His answer? That political dysfunction directly derives from our election system, as 85% of Congressional seats are now safe for one party or the other, and only about 16% of age-eligible voters participated in the election of consequence (the primary) this year. He noted this on the “Facing Forward” Podcast by the Concord Coalition going on to say, “You have a very small number of voters, usually on the wings of both parties, that are determining the vast majority of our elections. That means the only incentive our leaders have is to pander to those wings. That’s why they won’t compromise with each other.”
And of course, it’s not just that folks are too apathetic to turn out and vote; it’s that millions of voters are outright prohibited from participating in these consequential primaries. And that’s what we’re working to change.
2. Don’t Panic: The BPC's Guide to ballot delays and when to expect results
As we noted last week, mail-in ballot numbers are projected to be at an all-time high this election season. While this is great news, a higher volume of mail-in ballots, in some states, could lead to delays. Although, as we learned in Alaska’s election, this isn’t just common but to be expected.
Here are a few key notes as election day results roll-in:
- Just because we don’t have election results immediately does not mean that the integrity of our elections is compromised. Certain states don’t allow pre-election day counting and, due to the volume of ballots cast, tabulation may stretch beyond election night to determine the official results. This is to be expected.
- Vote by mail isn’t to blame for delayed results. Most states simply lack either the election infrastructure to efficiently count ballots or have laws that create delays when a high volume of mail-in ballots are submitted. This exact scenario came into the limelight this week when New York’s Supreme Court ruled that early ballot counting allowed under a COVID-related rule was unconstitutional and must be stopped ahead of the election, creating a legal battle ahead of election day.
- Voting laws are changing so it’s important to keep up with what’s happening in your state. Some states changed their laws after the 2020 election and the pandemic to allow for early vote tabulation, while other states have yet to make updates. You can keep up with your state’s laws around the early tabulation of ballots by visiting the Vote at Home Institute’s “State-by-State Dashboard.”
3. Election workers are on democracy’s frontline this election cycle
According to a new series by The Boston Globe, the 2022 cycle is pushing election workers to the brink as concerns grow about new dangers in November. Poll workers have reported they’ve received numerous threats, which are driving nonpartisan election administrators from their jobs in droves.
This could not come at a worse time, as their experience and institutional knowledge are needed now more than ever. We've shared this before but it's worth mentioning here that our friends at Issue One are actively working in Congress to fight for necessary improvements to support election workers, including significant, predictable, and regular funding by Congress for state and local election administration, as well as protections for election workers and facilities. Watch their “Faces of Democracy” video below to learn more.
In the meantime, we can also play a part in ensuring that election officials have the support they need to get the job done by volunteering at the polls in your community by signing up at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
And no matter what, please thank your poll workers this election season.