The 2022 election cycle has more angst, absurd assumptions, and consequences than I have seen in some time.
No doubt, regardless of discussions are at the fence post, supply stores or at family dinner, there is tangible uncertainty about the economy, crime, and our social fabric.
In Oregon, a high number of voters believe the state is on the wrong track. That is a recipe for making a change and our opportunity to get to vote.
Don’t let doubt interfere
The 2020 election has been one that has been a subject of a tremendous amount of debate and divisiveness. During that election, America came together and voted in more numbers than ever before — and that should be celebrated.
But in all campaigns, there are winners and losers, and it seems that the electorate these days cannot grasp that their worldview did not hold the day.
I have been there and get it. Losing really sucks, but it does not mean the election was not free and fair. Now, four in 10 Republicans — and one in four Democrats — say they will blame election fraud if their party does not win control of Congress this month.
For the 2022 midterms, 2020’s tumult is alive and morphing into a broader distrust of institutions and elections. Surveys found that Americans who had shared a meal in the past month with someone with a different political affiliation would be more skeptical about jumping to conclusions about fraud. Several public opinion polls from the first half of 2022 show roughly 70% of registered Republicans believe there is widespread voter fraud despite no evidence to support the claim.
Regardless of your political stripes, do not let the past (and distaste for the political toxicity) impede your future vote. This country trusts the people to establish direction through elections. Your voice matters.
Mistrust is not new
“Election integrity” efforts date back to the post-Reconstruction era, when segregationists aimed to take back racially integrated Southern governments by casting doubt on the legitimacy of Black votes. 0While the tactics are old, suppressing the vote is still an effective tool to tilt vote results one way
Fear and anger are tried and true, and weather is a factor too — that is what makes the COVID election of 2020 was so remarkable. I recall in the television show “The West Wing,” the high-strung character Josh Lyman was freaking out about the rainy weather in Oregon knocking down turnout. I yelled at the television, “We are a vote-by-mail state, you dunderhead!”
Oregon: low barriers to voting
I must say I miss going to the local elementary school and casting a ballot in person. There is something about the community gathering and the red, white and blue bunting at the booth that made it feel like something special.
Guess what: our right to vote is something special and is in our DNA. Oregon was the first state to create the ballot initiative process more than 100 years ago, and was among the first states to let women vote during the surffrage movement.
I recall the debate very well — not the one over women’s right to vote, but our pioneering effort to go solely to vote by mail. In November 1998, state voters decided (by a better than 2-to-1 margin) to expand it to include state primary and general elections. Registering in Oregon is easy, and most experts agree that Oregon has few barriers to voting. The only real thing to stop people from voting is apathy.
What makes the toxic comments about election integrity so grating is that Oregon’s county clerks are an honest bunch. All 36 county clerks are dedicated public servants.
Unfortunately, election officials who oversee elections in the state worry that misinformation about voter fraud and claims of rigged elections, often coming from outside the state, is eroding trust in voting and, by extension, democracy.
According to the Capital Chronicle news site, the state’s motor-voter law has boosted the number of registered voters in Oregon. Before the law passed, Oregon had 2.2 million registered voters. As of October 2022, the state boasted more than 2.9 million registered voters – an increase of 32% over the last six years. (Oregon’s population grew by about 7% in the same period.). The signature-verification process is one of the system’s strongest safeguards against fraud.
A boost in member engagement
I have never seen our members be so involved in campaigns as this year. This is not a Republican or Democrat (or non-affiliated) thing, it is taking personal responsibility and working hard to shape the kind of state we collectively want. It is the democratic process in all its glory.
I have heard it directly: “I have never written a check to a candidate before;” “I never have put a field sign on my property until now;” and “How do I get involved in the association’s process to determine endorsements?” Oregon Nurseries’ PAC has an endorsement list, which is available if you want it.
One thing is clear — big and small operations have come to the realization that elections have consequences. Oregon’s gubernatorial race is unique in the nation, with three women who have held state elective office. Former House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, the Republican; former House Speaker Tina Kotek, the Democrat; and running unaffiliated, State Sen. Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat. They have broken campaign spending records, collectively over $48 million, to become Oregon’s next governor. That is an insane amount of money.
Oregon mirrors much of the nation. The control of the state and congressional majorities are in play. 2022 matters.
Do not let doubt or anger seep in and limit your voice. Get out and vote!