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Decision 2022
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Decision 2022

To the polls! To the polls!

Happy Tuesday—and happy Election Day! If you haven’t already, we hope you take a few minutes today to exercise your patriotic duty and vote.

Unless you’re one of the people who prompted the National Park Service to issue a bulletin asking visitors to stop licking the Sonoran desert toads. The election you vote in is next Tuesday.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Without providing details, ​​Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted Monday to interfering in U.S. elections—and said he planned to continue doing so. The State Department in July offered a reward of up to $10 million for information about his alleged election interference, and he’s now one of the first such implicated figures to publicly acknowledge his meddling. An ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prigozhin also admitted in September to founding the Kremlin-backed paramilitary Wagner Group, which has operated in Syria, Africa, and Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s National Securities and Stock Market Commission used wartime powers on Sunday to take control of five companies owned by powerful Ukrainian oligarchs, including Vyacheslav Boguslaev. Boguslaev was arrested last month during an investigation into whether his company was supplying Russia with helicopter parts. The output of the companies—which are involved in engine making, oil production and refinement, and other key industries—will be directed to keep Ukraine’s military supplied.
  • China’s General Administration of Customs reported Monday that exports from China declined 0.3 percent year-over-year last month—a surprising drop, if accurate, as economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal expected a 4 percent increase. China’s export data is generally viewed as a bellwether for the global economy, and the drop suggests consumers have cut spending as central banks raise interest rates to battle inflation. The Chinese Communist Party said exports to the U.S. fell 13 percent year-over-year in October, while those to the European Union dropped 9 percent.
  • North Korea’s military confirmed Monday via state-run media that it launched more than 80 missiles last week to simulate attacks on targets in South Korea and the United States in retaliation for the two countries’ recent joint military exercises. The military’s statement didn’t address what South Korean officials suspect was a failed test launch on Thursday of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but blamed the U.S. and its allies for “reckless military hysteria” moving the Korean Peninsula toward “unstable confrontation.”
  • Florida’s Board of Medicine voted Friday to adopt a new standard of care prohibiting doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and hormones or performing surgeries on minors experiencing gender dysphoria, with exceptions for children already receiving the treatments. The Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine approved similar restrictions Friday but included an exception for children enrolled in clinical studies. The approved rules will undergo a 21-day period of public comment which could trigger another hearing before they take effect.
  • Subtropical Storm Nicole is forecast to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall near West Palm Beach on Florida’s east coast on Wednesday or Thursday. The forecast could change, but Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 34 counties to spur preparations for flooding, high winds, and heavy rainfall which could affect much of Florida and parts of coastal Georgia.
  • Cobb County Superior Court Judge Kellie Hill on Monday ordered the Georgia county’s election officials to extend the absentee ballot receipt deadline to November 14 after election officials failed to send ballots to more than 1,000 voters. “Many of the absentee staff have been averaging 80 or more hours per week, and they are exhausted,” County Elections Director Janine Eveler said, blaming the delay on “human error.”
  • A not-yet-peer-reviewed study of 56,340 patients with at least one risk factor for severe COVID-19 found that those who took the antiviral drug Paxlovid within five days of testing positive for coronavirus were 26 percent less likely to have long-COVID symptoms about 90 days later compared to patients who didn’t receive antiviral or antibody treatments. The effect didn’t depend on whether the patients had been vaccinated and suggests that Paxlovid may reduce long-term effects of COVID-19 in addition to cutting the risk of hospitalization or death.

Some Light Reading While You Wait for Results to Roll in

(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images.)

We’ve finally made it. You’ll still see the same four commercials looping on TV over and over again after today, sure, but they’ll be about Liberty Mutual’s new home insurance bundle and Taco Bell’s breakfast crunch wrap, not Mark Kelly’s preferred border policy and Don Bolduc’s abortion views.

All of us here at The Dispatch are excited about all the midterms-related content we have planned in the coming days—most of our D.C.-based team is planning to work through the night in the office as results roll in—but today, we want to re-up two pieces that should prove useful while you’re waiting for polls to close.

There’s a decent chance several high-profile races won’t be called by tonight.

As Andrew noted last week, ​​declaring winners in other states comes down to two primary issues: counting mail-in ballots and the closeness of individual races.

Tabulating mail-in ballots is always more time- and labor-intensive than counting Election-Day votes—envelopes have to be opened, security measures like voter signatures need to be verified, and ballots need to be physically prepared to run through machines. Many states permit election workers to get some sort of jump on the process. In some, such as Florida and Arizona, election workers can process and count mail-in ballots upon receipt. Others, such as Georgia, allow workers to pre-process ballots—opening outer envelopes and verifying that the voter is legal—but not count the ballots until Election Day.

Pennsylvania, where Republican Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman are competing for an open seat, may be the laggard this year. State law mandates that even ballot processing wait until Election Day morning. So far, the state’s pushing a million early votes. That’s a lot of envelopes to tear open on Election Day before counting can even begin.

Election officials there are preaching patience. “The best we can do is just manage expectations and let voters know that election officials need to do their job,” Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman told NBC last week. “Delays in results does not mean anything bad is happening. It doesn’t mean ballots are showing up out of nowhere.”

That’s not to say, of course, that the states that pre-process or pre-count their mail-in votes will necessarily have results the fastest. Arizona can count mail-in ballots immediately upon receipt, but it was one of the last states to be called in the 2020 presidential election simply because the margin between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was razor-thin.

The narrower the margin, the more two additional factors affect vote counting. First, there are the late arrivals: While most important 2022 states mandate mail-in ballots must be received by the end of Election Day, some—most notably, this year, Nevada—permit votes to straggle in provided they were postmarked by Election Day.

Then there’s the ballot-curing process. If a mail-in ballot or ballot envelope has anomalies that would cause the ballot not to be counted, 24 states—including Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Ohio, Utah, and Florida, all of which have interesting Senate elections this year—require election officials to give the voter in question several days to fix those errors before results are certified. The question will be whether any race is close enough that potentially cured ballots could change the outcome.

Diving deep on the vote-counting process.

Just before Election Day 2020, in anticipation of the bellyaching to come, The Dispatch published a lengthy project looking at how elections were being administered across the country. Declan, Audrey, Charlotte, and former intern James Sutton spoke with the officials responsible for elections in dozens of states—primarily secretaries of state, both Democratic and Republican—to better understand the voting process and gauge confidence ahead of an election unlike any other.

The survey isn’t 100 percent applicable to today’s elections—some of the procedures in place two years ago were specific to the pandemic, and some of the officials we talked to no longer hold the same role—but it’s still helpful in understanding how our system works:

What security systems does your state have in place to protect against any meddling with the actual vote count?

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R): The idea that some foreign actor can tamper with a voting machine and that that would go undetected is far-fetched to the extent of being nearly ridiculous. The voting machines in Ohio are never connected to the internet. They’re kept in a vault at the board of elections or a secure room where they’re under double lock and key: The Republicans have one key, the Democrats have another key. I always joke, it’s like those submarine movies from the ‘80s where it takes two keys to launch the torpedo. The machines were tested and certified at both the state and federal level before they were ever purchased. Of course, they’ve got seals and tamper-evidence devices on them, so that you can tell if they have been messed with. If somebody were to take a screwdriver and crack open a machine, we would know about it, the board of elections would know about it. And then after the election, we do a full post-election audit because in Ohio, every vote has a hard copy paper trail that goes with it. And so you can compare the paper results to the electronic results.

Do you feel confident that the results tabulated in November in your state will be fair and accurate?

(Now former) Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D): Absolutely. Categorically. And I’ll tell you why: Because it’s not me doing it, it’s the town clerks. This is the real advantage of having a very diffuse system that you don’t see in other countries. We have 503 town clerks. Yeah, I’m the chief elections officer for the state of Maine, we supervise the printing of ballots and their distribution, and we certify the tabulation of the votes cast on Election Day. But that tabulation is done by town clerks who are working for their neighbors. And so to have some type of a wholesale undermining of the election would require a conspiracy of biblical proportions. You would have to get thousands of people to agree to be a part of something that would be so damaging to democracy that it’s unimaginable. And we have a very tight chain of custody of ballots. We do a strict accounting of ballots. It’s impossible to stuff a ballot box without getting caught. So I think that the accountability proceedings and the devotion that individual citizens who work in this process show to the process itself, and the accountability that’s expected of them, that’s the guarantee that you’re going to have a free, fair, and transparent election with integrity.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

As nice as it’ll be to finally have the midterms behind us, we may end up yearning for the halcyon days of John Fetterman and Herschel Walker gaffes sooner than you think.

Early Friday morning, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported that former President Donald Trump was gearing up for another run for the White House—and that a formal launch of the 2024 campaign could come as early as November 14. “Trump and his top advisers have been signaling for weeks that a 2024 announcement is imminent,” Swan wrote. “But those discussions have reached the point that allies are blocking off days in their calendars for the week after the midterms—and preparing to travel.”

The news was soon echoed by Swan’s fellow Trumpworld whisperers—including Maggie Haberman at the New York Times—but the man himself had all but confirmed it the night before. “In order to make our country successful and safe and glorious, I’ll very, very, very probably do it again,” Trump told attendees at a rally—ostensibly for Sen. Chuck Grassley—in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday. “Very, very, very. Get ready, that’s all I’m telling you.”

Trump was even more explicit last night at a J.D. Vance event outside of Dayton, Ohio. “I’m going to be making a very big announcement on November 15 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida,” he said. Wonder what that could be about.

For Republicans in tough races today, the unpopular former president’s announcement of an announcement last night was cause for relief, as rumors were swirling earlier in the day that he was prepared to formally kick off his campaign at the rally. Advisers—reportedly fielding calls from GOP operatives panicked that a Trump news cycle would juice Democratic turnout today—appear to have talked him out of it. “We want nothing to detract from the importance of tomorrow,” Trump said near the end of his hour-plus remarks last night.

The exceedingly aggressive campaign timeline would serve dual purposes for Trump, providing him a cudgel with which to attack any criminal investigations as politically motivated and preventing would-be challengers from capitalizing on any post-election momentum. Of particular concern to Trump is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s ingratiated himself with many of Trump’s voters over the past two years and appears poised to sail to reelection later today.

DeSantis and his team have done what they could to throw Trump off their scent, but last week’s loosely sourced Vanity Fair story—which indicated DeSantis has been telling people he wouldn’t run for president if Trump does—wasn’t enough to stop Trump from labeling him “Ron DeSanctimonious” as he read off outdated hypothetical GOP primary polling at a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday. Although Trump told voters in Miami the next day they should vote to re-elect their governor, it’s clear the pair’s détente is over.

Worth Your Time

  • While the political and economic climate has turned decidedly Republican-friendly in recent weeks, there are still enough tossup races to leave a wide range of possible outcomes when the dust settles tonight. For the New York Times, Nate Cohn walks through a few possible scenarios and explains why it’s still so hard to be sure. “In the Senate, the races likeliest to decide control remain exceptionally close, with the poll averages showing essentially a dead-heat in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona and even New Hampshire,” Cohn writes. “There’s a similar story in the House. While Republicans are plainly favored to win the chamber, dozens of races are tossups. It wouldn’t take much for Democrats to keep the race fairly close, perhaps delaying a call on House control for many hours or perhaps even days. On the other hand, it wouldn’t take much for Republicans to pick up dozens of seats, leaving the impression that 2022 was something like a wave election.”
  • What does it take to save one butterfly species on the edge of extinction? Fire, a flower, and a whole lot of people working together. Jaclyn Moyer reports for High Country News on the collaborative nature of survival. “Even the most robust Fender’s populations remain dependent upon humans,” Moyer writes. “To keep at bay the myriad plants ready to rush into the open space, people—restoration technicians, landowners, fire crews—must regularly mow or spray or burn the butterfly’s habitat. At first glance, this can appear to undermine the significance of the species’ recovery. Despite decades of conservation, the butterflies are far from self-sufficient. But this relationship is nothing new. Without the fires tended by the Kalapuya, the prairies of the Willamette Valley, along with Fender’s blue, would have vanished long ago. Nor is the entanglement unique when examined in light of the other partnerships surrounding the species—those entwining butterfly and host-plant, rhizobium bacteria and Kincaid’s lupine, caterpillars and ant-tenders. Self-sufficiency, it seems, is irrelevant: Survival is a collaborative process.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Tonight’s Dispatch Live (🔒) will start an hour later than usual—at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT—to allow for a special Election Day edition, hosted by Jonah and featuring a full cast of Dispatchers. Keep an eye out for an email later today with more details on how to tune in.
  • Right-wing revolution? No thanks, Kevin writes in Monday’s Wanderland (🔒). “The revolution talk is fundamentally unserious and fundamentally immature,” he argues. “The off-ramp from what ails the United States in 2022 is not revolution. It is—nothing surprising: free enterprise, investment, trade, hard work, thrift, prudence, economy, rule of law, good citizenship, community, family, and, where it cannot be avoided but may be properly limited, democracy.” Plus: an explanation of demand elasticity and diesel prices, and the meaning of the word bombastic.
  • In Monday’s Boiling Frogs (🔒), Nick returns to Biden’s last-minute “democracy is on the ballot” pitch. The message may be destined to fail, but how wrong is it, really? Voters know the Republican Party has remade itself in Trump’s image and seem ready to hand it victories today anyway. What does that suggest about how 2024 will go?
  • On today’s contentious episode of Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah revisit the Stacey Abrams lawsuit and check in on the state of election laws before turning to the question of expressive activity. Can a state force beauty pageants to include transgender contestants? Plus: Washington’s approach to “unconscious bias” in trials, and a pronunciation mea culpa or two.
  • On the site today, Audrey Fahlberg writes about the campaign of Colorado Republican hopeful Joe O’Dea and Jonathan Chew offers a video explainer on why Britain’s Conservative Party is such a mess.

Let Us Know

Looking back at all the elections you’ve participated in, what vote were you proudest to cast? Why?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.