Two Major Things These Midterm Elections Proved…And What Lies Ahead…
• According to fivethirtyeight’s Nate Silver, 60,000,000 plus Democrats turned out to vote this year, which is a huge number in a non-Presidential year. (For instance, it compares to 45-million Republicans in the 2010 Midterm wave).
• And that’s our #1: If people vote in great numbers, Democrats tend to win. So Republicans, in order to win in 2020, need to hope Democrats self-destruct, figure out ways to make them less enthusiastic about voting, or make it so their votes don’t count.
• #2: Democrats tended to use “new” ways of voting (such as mail-in ballots) much more than Republicans. That’s why we saw so many election night totals flipped on their heads after huge numbers of mail-in ballots were counted, which in most instances favored Democrats. It’s also why it took so long to call races in many places, since the number of mail-in ballots was far greater than anticipated. Don’t think this is going unnoticed by Republicans, and the President.
More On That In A Sec, But First Let’s Catch Up On Races Called Just This Weekend…
• First, the surprise that didn’t materialize: in Florida, Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis prevailed following a recount in their bids for Senator and Governor respectively. (Both their opponents have now conceded). Yet another agonizing loss for Democrats in that state, after a bitter dispute and multiple lawsuits over vote counting. Not to mention multiple Tweets from the President alleging fraud. (And if you think the ultimate results will get Trump to back off of those claims, think again: he’s already asserting it was his putting a spotlight (via Twitter) on the actions of election supervisors that made it impossible for them to carry out their dastardly plans.) We were curious however, why Florida — which seems to be the key state in modern national elections — still seems to have so many problems related to voting, especially following the debacle in the 2000 Presidential race. We found this comprehensive piece in the Orlando Sentinal, which says while Florida has resolved some problems (no more “hanging chads”, and no more disqualifying votes if you both check the box for a candidate and write the name of the candidate in), other problems remain, including one we just saw where the Governor, who was running for Senator, was also overseeing the election, and lashing out with his own accusations of fraud. Suffice to say, Florida is not going to be a Democrat-friendly place — at least as far as state government is concerned — come 2020, and they are sure to make changes to their election process between now and then.
• Democrats had reason to cheer in Orange County, California, where they pitched a shutout, sending 6 Democrats to the House; flipping 4 seats there. For those who don’t follow politics closely, this result is nothing short of astounding, considering Orange County was one of the most consistently Conservative areas of the country for decades. In fact George W. Bush won by the widest margin there of anywhere in the country. (Democrats could not pull off a win against Duncan Hunter in nearby San Diego County, even though the Republican was recently indicted by the Justice Department for fraud.)
• And remember President Trump’s post-mortem ridicule of Utah Republican Mia Love for losing because she did not support him enough? “Mia Love showed me no love and she lost. Too bad.” Well, guess what? She’s ahead now by a few hundred votes. Although no final call yet. The Utah Representative, who is the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, is one of the few Republicans benefiting from a surge of late votes.
Update: Mia Love did not win, losing to Democrat Ben McAdams by a few hundred votes. The results were certified late Tuesday.
So What Does That Portend?
• While Democrats won Governorships in several key states, they still lag behind Republicans overall in control of statehouses 27–23. Democratic pickups in Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine and Nevada could be very important going into 2020. But so could Republican holds on Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Arizona. And Florida and Ohio at least are very often key states to Presidential victories. Ballot initiatives in several states making voter registration easier passed (including same-day registration), but so did some requiring more voter ID in other states. Voters also passed ballot measures in some states to limit the impact of gerrymandering, which doesn’t have a direct impact on Presidential elections, but it does when state legislatures do not accurately represent the composition of their state’s population, and then pass laws to make it harder to vote in certain ways and in certain areas. And gerrymandering has become so scientific these days, it’s scarily effective, whereas in the old days it was a guessing game that at least left some margin of error.
• With Republicans now well aware of the fact that Democrats are fond of mail-in ballots, expect to see red states accelerate measures to limit these types of ballots, arguing they’re making it take too long to count all the votes. Also, look for them to try to adopt stricter “voter match” regulations, which will allow them to disqualify and discard mail-in ballots that aren’t exact matches of registration info., as they did with registrations themselves this year in Georgia. And finally, look for them to tie stricter voter ID laws to mail-in voting, which could make that option much more difficult for voters.
We’ve discussed this before, and we expect it to become a much bigger issue between now and 2020: while mail-in ballots are a huge convenience, and a great way to get more people to vote, it’s also much, much easier to disqualify them if that’s your objective. Why? The issue with mail-in ballots is the signatures on those ballots still have to be matched with the voter’s registration after they are received but before they’re counted, and that takes time. When you go in to vote in person on Election Day, you generally sign a ledger of some kind, and your signature check is complete. When you mail in a ballot, although it’s much more convenient for you, election officials then have to verify your signature, without you being present to clear up any issues. So it takes longer. Also, if an election worker doesn’t like your signature on your mail-in ballot, it may just be thrown out and you’ll never find out. Or you’ll be sent a notice in the mail requiring you to jump through hoops to fix it.
• Also expect to see red states purge more people from voter rolls, just like the very strict rules adopted last year in Ohio, which the Supreme Court upheld.
• Finally, we are wondering if Republicans, and perhaps the President himself, have learned a lesson about the danger of meting out punishment to those who didn’t vote for you, which is something that Trump really seemed to like to do. But maybe not so much now that he’s seen how those voters can come back and bite you. Specifically, we’re talking about the Trump/Republican tax cut, which punished people in high tax states by taking away the deductibility of their state and local taxes, as much as it rewarded giant corporations with lower tax rates. Republicans suffered brutally in states which had a lot of voters directly impacted by that: California, losing 6 Republican seats; sending only 8 Republicans to the House out of 53 Representatives, New Jersey flipping 4 seats with Republicans losing all but one seat in the state, and New York flipping a huge swath of the Hudson Valley: handing Democrats 77% of the House seats in that state. And we’re wondering if Trump’s visit this weekend to wildfire ravaged areas of California might’ve at least had at least a little to do with this. Because while the fires this year are undoubtedly far more destructive and taken more lives than ever before, last year during what were then record California wildfires, Trump didn’t visit; didn’t even Tweet.