Election deniers have faced particularly sharp rebuke in the Great Lakes states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania


Voters rejected election denialists across the country last week. But they did so with particular gusto along the Great Lakes.

In Minnesota, the Democratic secretary of state defeated by a 10-point margin a Republican challenger who wrongly called the 2020 election rigged and pushed to limit early voting. In Wisconsin, voters gave Gov. Tony Evers (D) a second term, refusing to reward a candidate backed by former President Donald Trump who left open the possibility of trying to swing the last presidential election. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) defeated Republican Doug Mastriano, who had emphasized his desire to decertifying voting machines if he wins the governorship.

But perhaps the biggest statement about democracy came in Michigan, where voters by wide margins rejected a number of Republican nominees for governor, attorney general and secretary of state. They hugged too amending the state constitution which expands voting rights and makes it much harder for officials to subvert the will of voters. In the process, they overturned the Legislature using new legislative maps drawn by a nonpartisan commission, giving Democrats full control of state government for the first time in 40 years.

All of this prompted Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) to make a bold prediction that might have seemed far-fetched before the vote: “Democracy will ultimately emerge from this period stronger than ever before — stronger, healthier, with more people engaged and believing in it than maybe in 2018 or 2019.”

In other battlegrounds across the country, voters refused denying the election, but in many cases not as strongly as in the states bordering the Great Lakes. Katie Hobbs (D) defeated election-denier Carrie Lake (R) by a narrow margin in Arizona’s gubernatorial race, and in Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) barely held off a challenge from election-denier Adam Laxalt (R).

The denial is one of several issues expected to feature prominently next month in the Georgia runoff race between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker, who has embraced Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

Jeff Timmer, a former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party who now works for the Lincoln-Trump Project, said Democrats did exceptionally well in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin because they honed their appeal to voters in a set of states that were elected Trump in 2016, only to revert in 2020 to their pattern of voting Democratic in presidential elections.

Evers, Shapiro and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) have shown they come from “the governing, pragmatic wing of the party,” he said.

“They were by no means perceived as fire-breathing ideologues,” Timmer said. “I think these three campaigns as a whole are the template for national Democrats looking to win purple states.”

A more mixed picture emerged in the Great Lakes state of Ohio. JD Vance (R), who falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen, won his Senate bid. But three other election-denying candidates in competitive Ohio houses lost.

Tracking which election deniers are winning and losing in the midterms

The relatively smooth election process and rejection of election deniers was encouraging to many election officials who had watched the systems they run undermined by Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 presidential vote.

“It doesn’t mean the opt-out is gone,” said Chris Thomas, Michigan’s former director of elections. “But maybe we can catch some of those people who are closely associated with the Trump operation and independents to take a breather and say, ‘Yeah, well, this system worked.’

The passage of Michigan’s state constitutional amendment on voting rights comes four years after voters by a wide margin passed a measure that would establish absentee voting without an excuse and allow people to register to vote at the polls.

The voting rights amendment was overshadowed by one guaranteeing the right to abortion which voters overwhelmingly approved. Another amendment approved by voters last week changed the way term limits work in the state.

The new voting rights amendment, approved by 60 percent of the vote, is far-reaching. It establishes nine days of early voting, expands the use of drop-off ballot boxes and ensures that voters without photo ID can vote by signing affidavits confirming they are who they say they are.

“Voters want safe and accessible elections,” said Christina Schlitt, co-chair of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. “And we heard loud and clear from Michigan voters … that all parties reject attacks on democracy and elections.”

The same message was sent in Pennsylvania, said Sharif Street, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and a state senator. There, Democrats won the governor’s and U.S. senator races and are on the verge of taking control of the lower house of the legislature for the first time since 2010.

“There was no red wave. There wasn’t even a red sprinkler,” Street said. “Obviously, we’re still a very purple state in terms of the attitudes of the electorate. But I think the Democrats are offering pragmatic solutions and Doug Mastriano is offering divisive rhetoric.

In Michigan, state legislators and election officials will now turn to implementing the new amendment expanding access to voting. One of the biggest changes will be the move to a new form of early voting.

Michigan allowed voters to mail absentee ballots or fill them out at the post offices. In both cases, the clerks did not count the absentee ballots until Election Day. Under the new provision, voters will be able to go to early voting centers, fill out ballots and drop them into voting tabs. Machines can quickly tally results on Election Day, easing the burden on clerks and reducing the chance that election deniers will take advantage of the delay in vote counting to promote false claims.

Officials will have to solve a number of logistical problems, including finding places where they can conduct voting for nine days and keeping their equipment safe overnight. Small cities in many cases will need to work out agreements with other jurisdictions to help them with early voting.

Mary Clark, a city clerk for the town of Delta, near Lansing, said she hopes the amendment will boost voter turnout.

“We are a nation that has the freedom to vote,” she said. “In some areas, participation is weak. I think it’s up to us to provide opportunities to make it easier and meet the needs of voters.”

The amendment also established a basic right to vote by giving citizens the ability to sue to block any laws or policies they felt would prevent them from being able to vote.

The amendment strengthens requirements that election officials certify results that reflect the will of voters and prohibits partisan reviews of elections like the one in Arizona in 2021, conducted by a firm with no experience in election research.

Under the new amendment, every community will have to have at least one ballot box. Those with larger populations will be required to have one box for every 15,000 registered voters.

In addition, voters under the amendment would have the right to automatically have absentee ballots mailed to them for all elections. This will make voting easier, but will require election officials to keep a close eye on when people are moving to ensure ballots are sent to the correct address.

Chris Swope, Lansing’s city clerk, said he’s not worried about the additional duties he and his staff will have to take on.

“To me, that’s a positive measure for voters,” he said.

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