Election deniers were losers in key midterm contests for public offices

Donald Trump spoke during a rally Jan 6, 2021

Candidates who questioned or denied the outcome of the 2020 presidential election lost key races in the midterms as voters across the country elected pro-democracy candidates.

Claims that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” gave rise to nearly 300 election deniers appearing on the ballot of nearly 60 percent of voters in the 2022 midterm general elections.

The Center for American Progress’ analysis of the outcomes of those races suggests that Americans in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona ultimately shunned election denialism when voting for offices with a responsibility to administer or oversee elections. 

Ticket splitting by voters in some states especially underscores this, as do polls showing that concern over the “future of democracy” was among the top reasons voters turned out to cast their ballots, with 44 percent of voters saying it was their primary concern.

Yet even so, many races were decided by small margins, and several election deniers were reelected or newly elected in less-competitive states and for offices mostly removed from election administration, such as Congress.

Taken together, these results suggest that Americans largely embraced traditional pro-democracy norms and elected candidates who have committed to defending elections against partisan interference.

However, voters also remain divided heading into the 2024 presidential election, with millions of people—primarily Republicans—still questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

The majority of gubernatorial and secretary of state candidates who said they would not have certified the 2020 presidential election and who have spread false election claims lost in 2022.

As a result, key offices needed to oversee and safeguard the integrity of the 2024 presidential election will be filled by individuals who say they will seek to impartially administer elections.

Additionally, most candidates—including some election deniers who lost their races, such as Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon (R) and Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl (R)—conceded in a timely and decisive manner.

The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021 showed the country how crucial a peaceful transfer of power is for democracy, and these concessions indicate a return to normalcy and civility.

Thirty-six gubernatorial races were on the ballot in 2022, and 20 election deniers ran as party candidates in 19 states. Ultimately, seven of these 20 candidates were elected to office; six of whom are incumbents, and just one—in Alaska—was newly elected.

For the purposes of election integrity, the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election—won by Democrat Josh Shapiro, who made a pro-democracy agenda a principal feature of his campaign—was the most consequential of these races given the state’s critical role during the 2020 election cycle.

Another critical state office for elections—the secretary of state—was on the ballot in 24 states where the officeholder serves as the chief election official.

Election deniers running for these secretary of state offices were on the ballot in 10 states, but only two won their election—one in Indiana and the other in Wyoming.

Those who took strong pro-democracy stands in their states and rejected then-President Trump’s lies about a so-called stolen election. included both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state such as Brad Raffensperger (R) in Georgia, Jocelyn Benson (D) in Michigan, and Barbara Cegavske (R) in Nevada. 

As many Americans realized during and following the 2020 election, secretaries of state are instrumental to administering safe and secure elections and protecting the freedom to vote.

Overall, elections for Congress are where the majority of election deniers saw victories during the 2022 midterm election. In particular, the U.S. Senate saw the largest percentage of newly elected election deniers win seats compared with other offices.

More than 150 election deniers have been reelected or newly elected to serve in the Senate and House of Representatives, with at least 150 election deniers winning election to the House and six to the Senate. Five of these senators-elect are new members: J.D. Vance (R-OH), Ted Budd (R-NC), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), and Katie Britt (R-AL). Many of these individuals campaigned on election and voting issues, including promising to roll back or eliminate voting options and “prevent ballot harvesting,” often while promoting unfounded election conspiracy theories.

The more than 150 election deniers who will take a seat in the House in the 118th Congress exceed the 139 House Republicans who objected to the counting of electoral votes following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and they make up a little more than one-third of all House members.

Additionally, the five new election-denying senators will join seven sitting senators who also objected during the tallying of electoral votes following the insurrection, bringing the total number of election deniers in the Senate to 12.

This new caucus is likely to propose federal legislation to roll back voting measures and can likely be expected to resist congressional efforts to protect voting rights and fund elections.

Their election as federal leaders will also give a more prominent position to those who have questioned the results of the 2020 election, giving them roles on congressional committees with oversight of federal departments and agencies that have a hand in election oversight and administration, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission, and the Federal Election Commission.

Voters turned out in record numbers in many states for the 2022 midterm elections and decidedly chose candidates from both parties who have pledged to uphold the will of the people. The most consequential elections were seen in swing states, where races had been closely monitored for months.

The results suggest that voters are looking for their elected officials to uphold the rule of law and shun election denialism. Both state and federal elected officials will have critical roles to play ahead of and during the 2024 presidential election cycle, but the results of the midterm elections have positioned many officials to strengthen and defend U.S. democracy.

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