By Adam Pritzker & Daniel Squadron
We’re just going to come right out and say it: American democracy is on the brink.
This might seem like hyperbole, but it’s true. It may be absurd, but it’s certainly not a drill. In fact, it’s a blaze that’s been building for decades. And with Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election coming far too close for comfort and a newly ascendant rightwing majority on the Supreme Court barreling toward a landmark decision that could potentially give state legislatures complete, unchecked control over federal elections (no matter who voters choose), that blaze is now a five-alarm fire that threatens to consume our country if we don’t do something about it.
While that outlook sounds pretty bleak, it’s not one without hope. We have a clear path to averting disaster — and it runs directly through the states: By ending unchecked rightwing control in three key state legislatures, we can safeguard our democracy and prevent the rightwing from finishing what Trump started and successfully stealing the next presidential election.
But the window to act is now. Because after November, it could well be too late.
Here’s what you need to know about the three states that could save American democracy — and what’s at stake in each this November.
Protecting the Path to 270
There’s no way around it: electing at least one pro-democracy state legislative majority in key states in 2022 is our last best chance to protect our democracy in 2024 and beyond. Because whoever holds power in the states will likely hold the keys to the future of our country.
Looking at the presidential map, just three state legislatures stand between us and a stolen presidential election: Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Each of these states voted for President Biden by narrow margins in 2020, with their 45 combined electoral votes playing a decisive role in his victory. However, each of their legislatures is currently controlled by rightwing majorities that, if newly empowered as the ultimate arbiter in federal elections by a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the extreme “Independent State Legislature Doctrine,” would be in a position to disregard the will of the people and appoint alternate slates of electors that could change the outcome of presidential elections in their state — and as a result, fraudulently determine who wins the White House, no matter what the voters say.
That means that beginning to secure pro-democracy governing majorities this year is absolutely critical. And each of these key states is potentially within our reach, with a realistic path to shifting the balance of power and thereby ensuring that pro-democracy state legislatures are in control of the 270 electoral votes needed to protect rightful, valid election results.
Here’s where things stand:
In Arizona, flipping only one seat in either chamber would end unchecked rightwing control of the legislature. That would protect 11 electoral votes from any attempts to steal the 2024 presidential election.
But this won’t be easy. While the newest maps project an even number of Biden and Trump seats in the House and Senate, the margins are razor thin. Winning will likely require our candidates to overperform the national environment and match the 2020 presidential performance — a tall order in what is shaping up to be a tough midterm.
In Michigan — where new maps have created more realistic paths to the majority than in 2020 — winning three more seats in the Senate or two in the House would protect 15 electoral votes.
We’ve seen some promising signs. In May, TSP endorsee Carol Glanville flipped HD 74 — a district Trump won by 16 points — in a special election and put ending rightwing control of the House just two seats away. And while the new map leans Republican overall, especially in the House, it has created a wide range of swing districts that give Democrats a chance to shift power in the chamber, even in a challenging year.
With all of the House up for election this year, Pennsylvania is 12 seats away from a majority. With fairer districts than we’ve had in a decade, we see a path to shifting power in this critical chamber by 2024 to defend 19 electoral votes.
And we’re starting with improved maps. In 2020, 103 of the 203 House districts voted for President Biden. With the work TSP has already undertaken in the state to build momentum, fairer maps have put the House within striking distance by the key 2024 election, which will determine the lawmakers that are in office when Pennsylvania sends its electors to Washington, D.C.