Being a federal republic means something in these United States: Though there’s a strong central government in Washington (thanks, Alexander Hamilton), the nation is made up of 50 sovereignties with their own constitutions and laws that govern most things that matter, including voting.
That means that each state has its own voting machines, poll closing times, standards for tabulation and recounts — and its own courts resolving disputes. It follows that each state will have its own timeline for confirming victories. With the fairly widespread adoption of mail-in ballots and absentee voting — dialed back a bit this year compared to 2020, when COVID sweepingly changed practices all across the country — the processes could drag out to the point that we should expect this to be not Election Day so much as Election Week or even Election Month.
While it’s laudable to work towards more streamlined processes and quicker results, the lag times we’ll see in these midterms are not nefarious or concerning. That’s essential to keep in mind as a proliferation of unscrupulous Republicans preemptively refuse to accept the results if they lose and try to sow doubt in the process with a view towards shattering faith in our elections.
The effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election was a precursor of a broader project to subvert democratic transfers of power, and the tools prototyped there have since been refined: insist that disappearing early leads are the result of fraud and not simply the counting of additional votes; suggest mail-in ballots are illegitimate; and, actual evidence be damned, imply or outright state that any loss is the result of fraud. This time, nefarious falsehoods may spread with special ease on Twitter, where Elon Musk (who issued a blanket endorsement of Republicans for Congress) just gutted staff, including those responsible for flagging disinformation.
Never before has there been such a concerted effort to convince American voters that elections are illegitimate. We must forcefully reject this soft coup, and that starts with recognizing the weaponized lies that will be deployed.