Election deniers face especially stiff rebuke in Great Lakes states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania

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Voters defied the odds in last week’s election across the country. But they did so with particular enthusiasm along the Great Lakes.

In Minnesota, the Democratic secretary of state defeated his Republican challenger by 10 points, calling the 2020 election unfairly rigged and pushing to limit early voting. In Wisconsin, voters rejected Gov. Tony Evers (D) for a second term, a candidate backed by former President Donald Trump, leaving open the possibility of him trying to overturn the last presidential election. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) defeated Republican Doug Mastriano, who said he would decriminalize voting machines if he were to win the governorship.

But perhaps the biggest message of democracy came in Michigan, where voters overwhelmingly rejected Republican nominees for governor, attorney general and secretary of state. They also passed an amendment to the state constitution that expanded voting rights and made it much harder for officials to overrule voters. In the process, they flipped the Legislature using new legislative maps drawn by a nonpartisan commission, giving Democrats full control of the state for the first time in 40 years.

All of this led Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) to make a bold prediction that may have seemed wildly wrong ahead of the vote: “Finally, democracy is stronger than it’s ever been this season — stronger, healthier, in 2018 or 2019.” -More people believe in him than in the past.

In other battleground states across the country, voters have rejected those who reject the election, but in many cases not as strongly as in states bordering the Great Lakes. Kathy Hobbs (D) narrowly beat incumbent Kari Lake (R) in the Arizona governor’s race, while Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) narrowly held off a challenge from incumbent Adam Laxalt (L).

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Denial is one of several issues looming in the runoff race next month between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) of Georgia and Herschel Walker, a Republican who has accepted Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

Jeff Timmer, a former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party who now works for the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, said Democrats did particularly well in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin as they improved their appeal to voters in a number of states. Trump returned to the Democratic voting pattern in the 2016, 2020 presidential election.

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

“They were by no means seen as fire-breathing ideologues,” Timmer said. “I think these three campaigns as a whole are a template for Dems nationally to consider how to win purple states.”

A more mixed picture emerged in Ohio’s Great Lakes state. JD Vance (R), who lied that the 2020 election was stolen, won the Senate nomination. But Ohio’s competitive home districts have sidelined three other candidates.

Observing which election rejects win and lose in the midterms

The relatively smooth election process and the rejection of election detractors have cheered many election officials, who have seen the systems they run undermined by Trump’s push to cancel the 2020 presidential election.

“That doesn’t mean the opt-out is gone,” said Chris Thomas, Michigan’s former director of elections. “But we can hold the people who are deeply tied to the Trump operation and the independents to hold their breath and say, ‘Yeah, okay, this system worked.'”

Michigan’s passage of a constitutional amendment on voting rights comes four years after voters passed a measure establishing absentee ballots without reason and allowing people to register to vote at the polls.

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The voting rights amendment was overshadowed by the law guaranteeing abortion rights, which the overwhelming majority of voters approved. Another amendment approved by voters last week changed the way term limits work in the state.

The new voting rights amendment was approved by 60 percent of the vote and is far reaching. It establishes nine days of early voting, expands the use of ballot boxes, and allows voters without a photo to sign affidavits to vote.

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

The same message was made in Pennsylvania, said state Sen. Sharif Street, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. There, Democrats won the governor’s and U.S. senator races and are poised to take control of the lower house of the legislature for the first time since 2010.

“There was no red wave. Not even a splash of red,” Street said. “We are still a purple state in terms of voter attitudes. But I think the Democrats offered pragmatic solutions and Doug Mastriano offered divisive rhetoric.

In Michigan, state lawmakers and election clerks are seeking to implement a new amendment that expands voting rights. One of the biggest changes involves a new form of early voting.

Michigan allowed voters to mail absentee ballots or fill them out at offices. In any case, the clerks did not count the leave ballots until polling day. According to the new regulation, voters will have the opportunity to go to voting centers ahead of time, fill out ballots and provide them with voting tabs. Machines can count results quickly on election day, easing the burden on clerks and reducing the chance that election detractors will take advantage of vote counting delays to spread false claims.

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Clerks must work out a number of logistical issues, including finding polling locations for nine days and keeping their equipment safe overnight. Small cities often need to work out arrangements with other jurisdictions to help with early voting.

Mary Clark, clerk of Delta Township, near Lansing, said she hopes the amendment will increase voter turnout.

“We are a nation that has the freedom to vote,” he said. “Participation is low in some regions. I think it’s our job to facilitate that and create opportunities to meet the demands of voters.”

The amendment also establishes a fundamental right to vote, allowing citizens to go to court to block laws or policies that they believe interfere with their ability to vote.

The amendment would strengthen requirements that election officials certify the results reflect the will of the voters and prohibit the review of partisan elections, such as the 2021 Arizona election conducted by a firm with no experience in auditing elections.

According to the new amendment, every community must have at least one ballot box. Larger populations should have one box for every 15,000 registered voters.

Additionally, the amendment would allow voters to be automatically sent opt-out ballots for all elections. This makes voting easier, but requires election officials to keep a close eye on when people move to ensure ballots are sent to the correct address.

Chris Swope, Lansing’s city clerk, said he’s not worried about the additional responsibilities he and his staff will be taking on.

“To me, this is a positive measure for voters,” he said.

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