What Laws Are at Stake in the 2022 Midterm Elections?
We here at FindLaw are not political wonks. Still, we thought it might be beneficial to take a look at the laws that are on the ballot, both literally and figuratively, in the upcoming midterm elections.
Below are the laws and ballot initiatives on a few important matters voters say they are most concerned about. The focus here is on potential laws, not economics or foreign policy, so there is no mention of some prominent voter concerns such as inflation or the war in Ukraine. And while many of these issues are extremely political and partisan, we are only attempting to summarize the broad public platforms of candidates, not offer an opinion on them directly.
Voting itself has perhaps become the most hotly debated legal and political issue of the 2022 midterms. State lawmakers of both parties are heavily involved in introducing and passing voting laws that apply to their respective states.
Generally, Republican-controlled state legislatures are interested in passing restrictive voting measures that target election interference. Hundreds of such bills have been introduced, which seek to limit mail-in voting, early voting, ballot dropboxes, voting without a photo ID, and similar proposals. Meanwhile, several Democratic-controlled state legislatures have passed laws expanding access to voting.
It is a partisan issue. According to a Politico-Morning Consult poll early in 2022, a little over half of all self-identified Republicans supported former President Donald Trump's continued claims that the 2020 election was stolen, although currently there is no evidence that widespread fraud occurred. Among all voters, 64% thought the Republican party should move on from its focus on election interference.
Legislators in every state but Vermont have introduced legislation to curb access to voting in 2022. By May of this year, 18 states passed approximately 34 laws designed to restrict voting access. Many current state and national elections include a Republican candidate who alleges the previous presidential election was stolen.
While bills both for expanding and restricting voting access have been introduced in Congress this year, there does not appear to be any imminent action. That could, of course, change depending on election outcomes. And while it doesn't directly affect voting in the states, the House did pass a bill on September 21 that seeks to explicitly refute the vice president's ability to unilaterally declare state election results invalid, as Trump urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to do on January 6, 2021. It is not clear that the bill will become law, however.
If you have questions about current voting laws and restrictions in your state, please check out FindLaw's Voting Rights section for more information.
As with voting, abortion is an intensely partisan and divisive issue that has become the focus of numerous state and national election campaigns. Many states are still scrambling to figure out their own abortion laws.
Trigger laws banning abortion have been going into effect throughout 2022. These laws, passed in anticipation of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, vary in scope, but all place restrictions on abortion that would have been unconstitutional as of last year. Other states have codified abortion rights, and in some states, such as Michigan, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to protect abortion rights in the state constitution.
Other states are also including abortion laws in ballot referendums. These include California, Vermont, Kentucky, and Montana. The ballot initiatives vary widely among the states. Kentucky is asking voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to explicitly state that abortion is not a protected right. California, meanwhile, could amend the state constitution to explicitly give all women abortion rights.
Nationally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has proposed a law prohibiting women in every state from getting an abortion after 15 weeks. However, his bill has not yet even gone to committee, and the chances of it or similar legislation ultimately passing is still uncertain.
Reproductive rights have become an issue in all 50 states, and many candidates seeking national office are basing their platforms on the issue. Nationally, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that the 2023 House GOP platform pledges to "protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers."
You can find out about existing reproductive rights laws on FindLaw's Learn About the Law.
Gun Control and Crime
Another hot-button issue concerning voters is gun rights and gun safety laws. This summer, Congress passed the most comprehensive gun control legislation in decades, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
However, many candidates continue to campaign on both gun safety and crime. The House GOP platform is targeting public safety and border enforcement as major issues. While there are no details or specific legislation offered, the platform does mention fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that has caused numerous overdose deaths the last several years.
Democratic state legislatures, meanwhile, have made continued gun safety measures a focus of their campaigns. Democratic-controlled legislatures have passed several gun safety laws, including California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. While the laws vary, they generally target ghost guns, assault weapons, open carry laws, and carrying weapons in certain locations such as polling places and hospital buildings.
You can also read more about your state's current gun control laws on our criminal law section.
Just a Sampling of the Issues
This is not at all a comprehensive list, of course. And, as is typical in campaigning, many candidates are choosing to run on broad issues while withholding the specifics of policies and laws that they will attempt to pass if elected.
As it stands, however, it is clear that a number of important legal issues that affect the daily lives of Americans are being decided these midterms.
- Can You Still Own a Gun if Convicted of Domestic Violence? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- What Is Included in a 'Life of the Mother' Exception to an Abortion Ban? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- More Cities and States Eyeing 'Ghost Gun' Crackdowns (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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