scroll to top arrow or icon

Overturning a US election ain't that easy

Three hands putting votes into ballot boxes with different colors beside the "Midterm Matters" tagline
Ari Winkleman

With Midterm Matters, we are counting down to the US midterm elections on Nov. 8 by separating the signal from the noise on election-related news.

A leading concern for many American voters on the left is that many candidates on next Tuesday’s ballots say the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. That’s not just because they find that opinion indefensible and willfully dumb; it’s because some of these candidates are running for offices that give them access to the processes by which future elections will be held and votes counted.

Noise: The stats are out there. A study by FiveThirtyEight found nearly 200 office seekers “fully deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election.” More than 60 others have publicly raised questions about it, and many more refuse to say what they believe.

These aren’t fringe candidates. FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 midterm election forecast says “116 election deniers and eight election doubters have at least a 95% chance of winning” seats in the US House of Representatives.

At the state level, where presidential elections are conducted, seven election deniers are running for attorney general and seven more for secretary of state. These are the officials who oversee election administration in most states. A secretary of state can refuse to certify an election. A governor can try to submit electoral votes that favor his party’s candidate, and senators and representatives of that party could then vote to count those fake electoral votes.

Signal: These are serious concerns, and the candidacies of election deniers bear close watch. But we shouldn’t oversimplify the processes by which elections are conducted and votes are counted and reported.

There are many people involved in oversight of each state’s elections, and disputed results can be resolved in court — as all of former President Donald Trump’s charges of fraud in the last election were resolved. We should also not assume that every candidate who cries fraud to win votes today will actively seek to overturn elections tomorrow.

The upshot: The election of candidates who cried fraud at the last election is a serious issue we’ll be tracking for the foreseeable future. But no one should pretend it will be easy for anyone to overturn the result of an American election.


Subscribe to GZERO's daily newsletter