Two weeks ago, Americans across the country cast their ballots in the 2022 midterm elections. While some municipalities continue to tabulate the final vote totals, The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with three Penn political science professors about the status of the results and their implications for the future of America.
Professors shared their thoughts on what they believe the results of the midterms might mean for the federal government, what surprised them most about the outcome of the elections, and what the midterms showed Americans about mail-in ballot voting.
Where do the results stand, and what does this mean for the federal government?
Democrats have maintained control of the United States Senate while Republicans won back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
John Lapinski, who also serves as director of the Elections Unit at NBC News, said that when different parties control the presidency and the legislature, not many laws are able to make it through Congress. He said that Americans will see the majority of policymaking happen via court appointments and executive orders.
Marc Meredith said that many of the issues students care about, like abortion access, student debt relief, and environmental issues, may be addressed in some capacity on a federal level, but are more likely to be addressed by state governments.
“I think the next Congress will mostly pass budgets and the things that need to be done to keep the federal government moving, but without making any major policy changes,” Meredith said.
Matthew Levendusky noted the significance of Democrats maintaining control of the Senate in terms of the court processes because the Senate controls the confirmation process.
“There are several dozen judicial vacancies right now. If President Biden can appoint those people to positions, then you'll have people who are likely to rule in ways that Democrats would like," Levendusky said.
On a more local level, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro was elected as Pennsylvania's next governor. Levendusky called this race "one of the most importance governor's races" across the country due to what could have been had State rep. Doug Mastriano won the election.
If he had been elected, Mastriano planned to ban all COVID-19 vaccine mandates, increase election security, ban critical race theory in Pennsylvania schools, and protect Second Amendment rights. Mastriano had also been criticized for helping organize transportation for Trump supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and for calling for an audit of 2020 election results in Pennsylvania.
“The governor has to to certify the 2024 presidential election. If [Mastriano] refused to do that if Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, or whoever from the Democratic Party were elected, it's not exactly clear what would have happened," Levendusky said. "It just would have been bad.”
What surprised you most about the outcome of the midterm elections?
Levendusky said he was most surprised by how well Democrats performed, given trends in previous midterm elections, which indicate that the president's political party tends to fare poorly in the midterm elections.
“Democrats did much better than historical records would have suggested,” Levendusky said. “Biden’s approval rating is only in the mid 40s – and that suggested that Democrats would have lost a pretty dramatic number of seats, [but it] looks like they're going to lose somewhere in the mid single digits in the end.”
Levendusky said that he thinks that the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, which overturned landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade, likely motivated a lot of Democrats to vote and also encouraged independents and Republicans to vote Democratic.
“With the Dobbs decision this spring and the politicization of abortion, where I think the Supreme Court issued a decision that's quite out of step with public opinion, the Democrats are moving a lot of voters,” Levendusky said.
What did the midterm elections show Americans about the process of mail-in ballot voting?
Meredith said that ballot counting tends to be a very slow process, as some states have taken weeks to announce the final results for some races. However, Meredith noted that "the slowness is helping to maintain the integrity of the results rather than being the cause of the problem."
He added that these midterm elections present us with ways that election reforms can take shape.
“One thing I think everyone agrees is that there are some reforms that need to happen to the way Pennsylvanians vote,” Meredith said. “Especially on election administration, I expect that there will be some bipartisan reforms that will change significantly, potentially the way Pennsylvanians vote before the 2024 presidential election."
Lapinski agreed that there needs to be some sort of change to the ballot counting process for the sake of timeliness. He agreed, however, that this does not mean that the results lack integrity.
“It is absolutely insane that some of these states out on the West coast don't modernize to use the poll books and things like that get the get these ballots processed," Lapinski said. "It's not good for the country.”