November 29, 2022


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Latest on critical House, Senate races

15 min read

Election watchdogs reported routine issues in key battleground states Tuesday but no major problems as ballots were cast across the country. The midterms are the first national election since 2020, when former President Donald Trump refused to accept the results, sparking conspiracy theories and thrusting voting into the spotlight. 

  • Election watchdog Common Cause is reporting routine balloting problems in battleground states, and U.S. cyber security officials say they are on guard but all has been smooth so far.  
  • In New Hampshire, Gov, Chris Sununu has some choice thoughts about Trump’s toying with announcing a presidential run.
  • In Pennsylvania, Senate candidates have cast their votes, including Dr. Mehmet Oz, who didn’t take questions on whether he would accept the results.
  • President Joe Biden says democracy is on the ballot. So is his record and the fate of his agenda for the rest of his presidential term. Biden’s approval rating has been hovering in the low 40s in recent months, and it’s expected to be a drag on Democratic candidates down the ballot.

The latest updates:

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What you need to know on Election Day:

Florida’s top election official said Tuesday that the state won’t allow federal monitors at polling locations in South Florida because it’s against state law and federal authorities failed to present any evidence for such an action.

Secretary of State Cord Byrd told reporters in Tallahassee that state officials “wanted to make it clear that (polling locations) are places for election workers and for voters, not for anyone else.” 

The Justice Department said Monday that it was deploying election monitors to 64 jurisdictions across the country, including three counties in South Florida: Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.

Brad McVay, an attorney with Florida’s Department of State, sent the Justice Department a letter Monday. “None of the counties are currently subject to any election-related federal consent decrees,” he wrote. “None of the counties have been accused of violating the rights of language or racial minorities or of the elderly or disabled.”

The Justice Department confirmed receipt of the Florida letter but declined to comment except to indicate that federal monitors would be outside the polling places.

Doug Soule, USA Today Network-Florida, and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

Miami-Dade County is one of the biggest and most coveted prizes for any statewide candidate in Florida, and Democrats have owned it for years.

Consider the fact that Miami-Dade hasn’t voted for a Republican since 1988 and hasn’t backed a Republican governor since 2002. That may be changing this year. Early voting numbers as of Tuesday morning show Republicans holding a slight edge of almost 4,000 votes over Democrats.

If the numbers hold up, it would represent one of the most dramatic electoral turnarounds in Florida history and may solidify the Sunshine State as a red, Republican state moving forward.

— Sergio Bustos, USA Today Network-Florida Enterprise/Politics Editor

YOUR GUIDE TO MIDTERMS: Voting rights, ballot access and key issues: A guide to midterm elections in your state

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc said Tuesday that his opponent, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, is out of touch in accusing him of being “extreme” and an “election-denier,” saying he will concede the election Tuesday if he loses.

Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general, made those remarks after voting at the Stratham Memorial School in the town where he lives.

— Max Sullivan

The county experienced issues at roughly 10% of voting locations Tuesday morning, but officials sought to assure voters that they can still cast ballots.

Voters at impacted sites have two options: to cast their ballot via a secure box to be counted later or to go vote at a different location. Elections Department spokesperson Megan Gilbertson said poll workers are best equipped to help voters ensure their ballot is successfully cast.

“It’s important for voters to talk to the poll workers on site,” Gilbertson said.

Officials confirmed the issues were with the on-site tabulators.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, nearly 30,000 Maricopa County voters had cast a ballot, Gilbertson said.

Sasha Hupka

At the Desert Breeze Community Center outside Las Vegas, approximately 100 people waited in line as the polls opened at 7 a.m. Robert Streat, 73, was among the first to cast a ballot, a personal in-person voting tradition he said dates back decades.

Streat said he opposes Biden’s agenda and worries the country is changing too fast from the values he helped defend in Vietnam. He said he supported Republican candidates in the election.

“This country is going to hell if we don’t change it. We’ve got too many people who hate it,” he said. “We should control the government but we’ve lost it.”

But Jonathan Copeland, 55, said he worries that Republican control of the House and Senate would mean further erosion of abortion rights, which he supports. Copeland said he voted to help defend the seat of U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat in danger of losing to Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. A Laxalt victory would help flip the Senate to Republican control.

“What politician has the right to tell a woman what to do?” Copeland said.

— Trevor Hughes

Common Cause officials reported during a 10 a.m. news conference routine problems with voting in battleground states, but urged voters who cast ballots by mail to track them and make sure they were counted.

Amy Keith, program director for Common Cause in Florida, said more than 15,000 absentee ballots were flagged by Thursday for problems such as a missing signature. Voters have until Thursday at 5 p.m. to fix the problems, but with a tropical storm hurtling toward the state, Keith urged voters to vote move briskly.

She said 2.2 million voters voted early in person and another 2.5 million voted early by mail.

“Floridians are coming out to have their voices heard,” Keith said.

Bart Jansen

U.S. cybersecurity officials so far have seen no indications of direct attacks on election infrastructure across the United States in the early hours of mid-term voting Tuesday. But they remain on high alert to disinformation operations and efforts to sway voters’ opinions by nation-states such as Russia, China and Iran, a senior official with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told reporters.

The senior CISA official said those three nations continue to use the election disinformation playbook they have in past elections, and that CISA will continue to support election officials nationwide to any risks that may arise because of them.

In the first of three election security media briefings scheduled for Tuesday, the official would not say whether such foreign disinformation efforts are worse than in past election cycles, but confirmed that CISA is especially on guard against Russian malign influence campaigns following yesterday’s claim by sanctioned Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin that the Kremlin has meddled in U.S. elections and will continue to do so.

 — Josh Meyer

In Arizona, a vote tabulating machine in Maricopa County went offline, causing some concerns. But county officials said it was quickly back online. In Louisiana, officials said the GeauxVote informational site was down but they were directing people to an election hotline.

Voting machines at some polling places in New Jersey experienced technical glitches, including in Mercer County. Voting rights group Common Cause said the problems will not disenfranchise voters.

“Voters’ votes will be counted,” Susannah Goodman, director of election security at Common Cause, said.

Anne Ryman and Donovan Slack

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican running for re-election, was one of the first in line to cast his ballot, and when asked about reports former President Donald Trump is expected to announce a 2024 presidential run, he said it seemed like poor timing.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu

“Anyone who thinks it’s a smart idea to announce an election, a potential presidential bid, after (Tuesday’s) election but before Christmas, is just the worst time you could possibly do it,” Sununu said. “My sense is the former president needs better advisers if that’s really what his strategy’s going to be.”

 As he has crisscrossed the country to campaign for Republican midterm candidates, Trump has increasingly hinted that he may launch a 2024 White House bid soon after the midterms. At a Monday night rally in Dayton, Ohio, he told supporters he was planning a “very big announcement” on Nov. 15 from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Max Sullivan

On Election Day 2022, Americans are unhappy with the present, pessimistic about the future and not fully enamored with either political party. Their anxious, angry mood helps explain why campaign appeals have mostly turned not on aspirational promises – on exploring space or ending poverty, say – but on ominous warnings about the dangers of supporting the other side.

“Probably not since even the Civil War (has there been) such a dire situation for our democracy as we are in the current day,” said John Mark Hansen, a political scientist at the University of Chicago.

Lessons learned in the midterms include those on the importance of the economy and the emergence of the extremes, among others. Also, the next campaign has already begun, so if you wanted to take a breath before 2024, you’re out of luck.

Susan Page

After months of campaigns, debates, primaries, absentee and early voting, polls in Ohio opened at 6:30 a.m. EST and will remain open until 7:30 EST.

One key issue is a ballot measure on rules for future elections. Issue 2 would prohibit noncitizens from voting, proposing that only adult U.S. citizens who legally reside and are registered to vote in Ohio for at least 30 days can cast a ballot in future state and local elections.

The most high-profile race in the state is the contest between Republican J.D. Vance and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan that will help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. Voters will also choose between incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and his Democratic challenger Nan Whaley.  While polls show a tight race for the Senate seat, DeWine has had a wide lead over Whaley in many polls.

Micah Walker and Caren Bohan

Top election officials in key states with tight contests are ready for potential disruptions as voters head to the polls – and the ballots are counted afterward.

In Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said her office is coordinating closely with law enforcement, deploying dozens of monitors to polling paces, and is prepared to eject poll workers who violate rules.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office set up a texting system for poll workers in 85 counties to report problems and has state patrol officers and the National Guard ready to provide security.  

In Arizona, Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates said officials throughout the county are ready to respond and are closely coordinating with law enforcement to ensure balloting goes smoothly.

“Our message has been very clear to those who would try and disrupt this election: They do it at their peril,” Gates told reporters at a recent briefing hosted by The Center for Election Innovation & Research. “We’re going to respond very strongly to that.”

One of his biggest worries are influencers on social media trying to sow distrust and misinformation when the results aren’t immediately available after balloting is finished.

“It is tough when you’re dealing with people who may have four or six or eight million followers on Twitter and they’re saying why don’t they have final results in Arizona? They do in Brazil after one night, they do in Florida,” Gates said. “So you know we’re constantly pushing back on this.”

Still, he said, county election officials are ready for it. “The polls that we’re seeing show multiple extremely close races here in Arizona. So chances are, we’re going to be — this is going to go on for several days, and we’re prepared for that. We’re ready for it.”

— Donovan Slack

Voting rights in the United States: A state-by-state analysis

ATLANTA – With one of the most anticipated Senate races in the country being decided in Georgia today, the state’s Common Cause chapter is reminding voters that it may take days before the final results are known.

Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock is engaged in an intense sprint against Republican challenger Herschel Walker, which could ultimately decide who controls the upper chamber.

Polls show the race is a dead heat and the Peach State has been a tight battleground in recent cycles.

“It’s crucial every voice is heard in this election and that means counting every vote,” Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said in a statement. “It takes time to count every vote accurately and that’s why Election Day is not results day.”

As voters decide between Warnock and Walker, a record number of 2.5 million Georgians voted early this year, which shattered the 2018 record of 1.8 million, according to the secretary of state’s office.

— Phillip M. Bailey

Polling places are now open on the East Coast, with few problems reported so far. Voters in Georgia, New Jersey and Ohio began casting ballots early this morning, along with a slew of other states.

Voting hours on Election Day vary depending on where you live. Looking for what time polling places are open in your state? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a guide with the full rundown of when polling places open and when they close by state.

Cullen Bray enters a voting booth at a polling place in Edgewater, New Jersey, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz enters the polling station at the Bryn Athyn Borough Hall to cast his ballot on Nov. 8, 2022 in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. Oz faces Democratic Pennsylvania Senate nominee John Fetterman in midterm elections taking place across the United States today.

After voting in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County, Dr. Mehmet Oz told reporters he’s proud of the campaign he’s run and that “Pennsylvania is  going to send a message to Washington.”

That message is one of balance, not extremism, the Republican Senate nominee said.

After his brief remarks, Oz did not answer questions about whether he would accept election results “no matter what” or offer a reaction to his opponent’s recent federal lawsuit to have mail-in ballots counted regardless of date discrepancies.

He is locked in a tight race against Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for the U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Fetterman is suing in federal court to ensure mail-in ballots with incorrect or missing dates will be counted. Scroll down for more on that legal skirmish, likely one of many to come.

—Candy Woodall

Election week … again?

The Senate race in Georgia could once again keep the nation waiting for results – not just on the victor in the race, but on which party will control the Senate. If the race is close, it could head to a recount, and if neither candidate gets a majority of votes, the race will head to a run-off.

That’s what happened in 2020, when the state’s two Senate seats went to Democrats in runoff elections, giving Democrats the majority.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., shakes hands with Republican candidate Herschel Walker prior to the Nexstar Georgia Senate Debate in Savannah, Ga., on Oct. 14, 2022.

“Georgia is completely up for grabs,” said Barry Burden, political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s possible that Georgia could hold the power, the balance of power in the Senate again, and we will have to wait.”

Georgia is not the only state that may have Americans waiting for results. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada all have tight races and varying rules for counting and recounting. USA TODAY’s Joey Garrison sorts out the races that could have us waiting past election night before winners and losers are decided.  

Donovan Slack

What are the midterm elections? Here’s what to know about them and why they’re important

More than 40 million voters had already cast ballots before the first polling place opened Tuesday morning, according to the United States Elections Project at the University of Florida. A little more than half that total were mail-in ballots, and the rest voted early in person.

The number surpassed the total for the 2018 midterms, when roughly 39 million voted before Election Day. The vote total in the election overall that year amounted to 118.6 million, accounting for a turnout rate of about 50%.  

Michael McDonald, founder of the Elections Project, expects turnout this year to be 49%.

“This would be slightly lower than the 50% turnout rate in the 2018 election,” McDonald said.

‘Harder for them to cheat that way’: GOP voters hold onto mail ballots fearing rigged election

Disinformation disruption: Conspiracies about voting machines have Nevada’s Nye County set for rare ballot hand count

With 239.5 million estimated eligible voters, that’s around 117 million expected to vote – with as many as 74 million of them set to hit polling places in person Tuesday.

“That’s still a fairly healthy turnout rate for modern midterm elections,” McDonald said in an analysis. “Aside from 2018 –which had the highest midterm turnout rate since 1914 –the last time we experienced midterm turnout rates in the mid-40 percent range was the 1960s.”

— Donovan Slack

When do the polls close in my state?: A complete breakdown for Election Day 2022.

What happens in midterm elections today will impact what happens in the presidential election in 2024.

If Democrats keep the Senate and House, President Joe Biden can continue furthering his agenda, providing a longer record for him and other Democrats to run on (if he decides to for re-election).

If Republicans take over the House, they have already promised to launch a litany of investigations of the Biden administration that could damage Democrats’ record (and Biden’s legacy). If they take the Senate, they can block Supreme Court nominations and block legislation.

While no one has declared their intentions to run for president yet, some hopefuls will be on the ballot today and others have been out on the trail stumping for others in the runup to the midterms.  

  • In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely rumored to be con templating a run. He is favored to win his re-election bid today.
  • In South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott is also expected to win re-election -and possibly run for president in 2024.
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia and is releasing a book and doing a press tour next week.

There are, of course, Biden and former President Donald Trump who are circling the idea of a possible rematch in 2024. Trump said Monday he is planning a big announcement next week.

Biden, who turns 80 on November 20, hasn’t disclosed his plans. Other Democrats waiting in the wings are Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. USA TODAY’s David Jackson has all the tea here. But, but, but first – the midterms.   

People in privacy booths vote in next week's midterm election at an early voting polling site at Frank McCourt High School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City on Tuesday, November 1, 2022.

As America braces for its first national election since 2020 – as Jan. 6 insurrectionists remain on trial, as candidates nationwide deny the results from presidential election, as the president warns of a “path to chaos” – experts on voting and extremism want to make two things clear.

First, voting in the United States remains extraordinarily safe.

Second, as millions of Americans still seethe over the 2020 election and cast doubt on the fairness of the electoral process, spurred on by lies and disinformation, the possibility remains of tense confrontations or even violence at polling places.

It’s a new normal for everyone – election officials, law enforcement officers and individual voters – who should be on alert, but not panicked, as they cast their votes, said Jared Holt, a senior researcher at the think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and an expert on domestic extremism.

“When it comes to risks at the polls, I keep telling people to be vigilant, but not paranoid,” Holt said. ”Vigilance means being aware of some of the different things that you might see at polling locations and how to respond to those, whereas paranoia looks like believing armed goons are waiting outside your polling station now and maybe you just don’t want to go vote at all, because you’re worried about it.”

Will Carless, Bill Keveney, and Trevor Hughes

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman

PHILADELPHIA – As all eyes are on pivotal Pennsylvania, where the U.S. Senate race here could decide which party controls the upper chamber, Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman is suing in federal court to ensure mail-in ballots with incorrect or missing dates will be counted.

His campaign is joined in the lawsuit by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Their filing late Monday comes after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court deadlocked 3-3 last week on a decision that ordered counties to set aside and not count mailed ballots with missing or invalid dates on their outer envelopes.

Mailed ballots tend to be sent by Democrats and the state Supreme Court order would prevent thousands of votes from being counted in a tight Senate race that polls show is neck-and-neck.

“The Date Instruction imposes unnecessary hurdles that eligible Pennsylvanians must clear to exercise their most fundamental right, resulting in otherwise valid votes being arbitrarily rejected without any reciprocal benefit to the Commonwealth,” attorneys for Fetterman and the Democratic committees said in their lawsuit. “The date on a mail ballot envelope thus has no bearing on a voter’s qualifications and serves no purpose other than to erect barriers to qualified voters exercising their fundamental constitutional right to vote.”

— Candy Woodall

Um, yes. All voters are eligible to cast ballots in today’s elections. Party affiliation can be a determining factor during primary elections to decide who each party’s nominee will be in the general election. Primary elections were held across the country earlier this year to select which candidates are running to be elected today.

Peeling back the curtain: How and why we cover the midterm elections, from the editors

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