Primaries pick up with elections in 6 states
Voters will make their voices heard in six states Tuesday, including a special election primary in Ohio.
The other five states — Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington — will provide the opportunity for voters to decide party candidates for congressional, state and local elections, while a crucial abortion rights amendment is on the ballot in Kansas.
Former President Donald Trump will loom large over the elections, with those he endorsed vying for nominations and his unfounded claims of election fraud sparking new legislation.
Read on for a breakdown of the biggest primary races in these states and the changes in election law that will frame the proceedings.
The defining race in Arizona on Tuesday is for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, with endorsements from high-profile party members splitting the field.
The Trump-endorsed Kari Lake, running on a tough-on-immigration platform, is facing a full slate of fellow Republican candidates including Karrin Taylor Robson, who was endorsed by such high-profile conservatives as former Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Doug Ducey, who was term-limited for this election. Both candidates have expressed doubt over the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
In the Democratic primary, former Secretary of State Katie Hobbs will face Marco Lopez.
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Elsewhere in the state, five Republican candidates — including Trump-endorsed tech entrepreneur Blake Masters — are vying to face incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in the general election, which has been tipped to be a tight contest in November.
Arizona’s legislature has enacted many changes to the state’s election procedures, which both expanded and limited voting access.
In 2019, the state eliminated a rule requiring people with a felony conviction to pay legal fines and fees before the restoration of their voting rights, though they must still pay outstanding restitutions. In 2021, lawmakers banned the use of private funding for election administration and created an election integrity fund to pay for election security, cybersecurity and post-election ballot counting costs. Multiple 2021 laws also worked towards limiting the absolute election authority of the secretary of state, allowing the Legislature and courts to act as checks.
Arizona also prohibited election officials from sending mail-in ballots to voters who hadn’t requested one, unless a voter is on the permanent absentee voting list — a measure punishable by a felony offense.
Earlier this year, Ducey signed a law that would retroactively require all voters to provide proof of citizenship, overruling a 2004 law that only required new voters to do so and setting the stage for thousands to be removed from the voter rolls.
In 2022, the state enacted seven laws to improve voter access and six that would restrict access, according to the Voting Rights Lab.
Kansas’ upcoming primary election has already gotten interesting thanks to its surge in early voter turnout. The early voting turnout for this primary has increased by 246% compared to the last midterm primary season in 2018.
The cause for this can likely be attributed to an amendment on the ballot that will decide the future of abortion rights in the state. Kansas will be one of the first states since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade to provide a statewide vote on abortion rights. If the amendment passes, state legislatures will have the opportunity to restrict or uphold the right to an abortion. However, if Kansans vote no on the bill, legislatures will be barred from passing most bills restricting access to abortions. As of right now, the state’s legislature is composed of a majority of Republicans large enough to make the legislature veto-proof.
The race for a U.S. Senate seat nomination will be competitive. Incumbent Jerry Moran (R) will face the likes of Republican Joan Farr who previously ran for a Senate seat in Oklahoma, former Kansas City Mayor Mark Holland (D) and Democrat Paul Buskirk, among others.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Kansans will decide representatives in two out of four districts. In District 2, Patrick Schmidt is running in the Democratic primary while incumbent Republican Jacob LaTurner is seeking reelection. Incumbent Sharice Davids is the only Democratic member from Kansas and will also be gunning for the nomination in her district again. On the Republican side, Amanda Adkins will face John McCaughrean for the nomination.
Another big election will be the race for governor, especially with the state’s eye on abortion issues. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly will be countered by Richard Karnowki. For the Republican nomination, Arlyn Briggs will face off against Derek Schmidt on the ballot.
Kansas will also hold elections for Secretary of State, Attorney General, and several state district Representatives.
In May, Kansas enacted two voting rights bills that have restricted voting accessibility. Address confirmation is now required if an individual does not vote every four years, and breaking the new ballot chain of custody process could result in a felony charge.
The state has also doubled down on monitoring election fraud and voting booths that have been tampered with.
Michigan’s ballot is a confusing one for voters, as it is one of the few states that prints both Democratic and Republican candidates on a single paper. However, voters cannot vote across parties if they want their ballots to count. Already, in Ottawa County, 10-15% of ballots have been rejected due to this problem, causing alarm throughout the state.
Michigan’s ballot contains mostly state elections with no U.S. Senate seats up for reelection. However, there are a number of candidates running for their party’s nomination for Michigan’s 13 U.S. House of Representatives seats. Currently, Republicans and Democrats hold an equal number of seats in the House, with seven Republican representatives and seven Democratic representatives. A compelling race will take place in District 3 between Republican incumbent Peter Meijer and challenger John Gibbs, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Interestingly, Meijer was just one of 10 GOP members of the House who voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 insurrection.
A spotlight has been drawn on the election for the gubernatorial seat. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could face any one of a flurry of Republican candidates for her seat. On the top of the list is conservative media personality, Tudor Dixon. Dixon has been endorsed by the state Chamber of Commerce, an anti-abortion group named Michigan Right to Life, and by the DeVos family, an influential conservative family in Michigan that includes former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. In a number of polls released ahead of the primary elections, Dixon was leading the race for Republican candidate. She will square off with Ralph Rebandt, Kevin Rinke, Garrett Soldano and Ryan Kelley.
The Michigan Legislature has introduced a number of voting rights bills that have varying effects on voting accessibility. None of these bills have yet to be enacted.
All eyes will be on the races for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat Tuesday. With Sen. Roy Blunt (R) retiring, the field is open for new players. While Missouri is often seen as a “deep red” state, scandals faced by one of the GOP front runners may give Democrats a shot. One of Missouri’s Senate seats was held by Democrat Claire McCaskill, until she lost the seat to Republican Josh Hawley in 2018.
The Democratic primary is heating up, with former Marine Lucas Kunce facing philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine, heiress to the Anheuser-Busch beer company fortune. In a state where Democratic primaries are rarely contentious, this race has left many undecided. Kunce and Busch Valentine have lobbed accusations of racism and homophobia in televised ads, as Democratic voters attempt to decide who has a better chance at winning in November. Current polls show Busch Valentine in the lead.
In the Republican primary, the leading candidates are Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. Greitens has been mired in scandal since he resigned as governor after allegations of sexual assault. He is now fighting accusations of domestic abuse, though he claims that he is being smeared by establishment Republicans such as Sen. Mitch McConnell. Missouri Democrats believe their candidate may have a chance against Greiten. However, polls show Schmitt in the lead.
In June, a sweeping elections bill made numerous changes to voting in Missouri. The bill allows voters to vote early using the in-person absentee ballot process - expanding voter access. However, the bill also restricts access by requiring a photo-ID to vote and formally ending and outlawing mail voting, after it was used during the 2020 election on an emergency basis. Additionally, the bill eliminated presidential primaries, making Missouri one of the few caucus states in 2024.
On Tuesday, Ohio will have its second primary election of the year because of legal challenges to the state’s redistricting maps, which delayed some races. A federal court ultimately picked the state’s maps in June, which overruled an Ohio Supreme Court decision that declared the maps illegally slanted in favor of Republicans under a new anti-gerrymandering amendment added to the state constitution.
The first primary date — May 3 — held congressional, statewide and local precinct positions. The most high-profile race resulted in a victory for J.D. Vance in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, defeating a contingent of opponents including Josh Mandel and Jane Timken for the opportunity to face Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in November for the seat vacated by former Sen. Rob Portman (R).
Tuesday’s primary will focus on state legislative positions, with state Senate and House candidates on the ballot for both parties.
While Ohio eased voting measures in 2020 in the face of the pandemic, the state enacted few changes in 2021, though lawmakers did prohibit election officials from accepting money from any non-governmental or private entity.
The Voting Rights Lab reported Ohio enacted just one bill related to voting rights in 2022 that aimed to improve access and focused on absentee voting.
With over 500 races in Tuesday’s primary, the ballot is packed for voters in Washington state. Washington uses a top-two primary system meaning the two candidates with the largest vote share will be on the ballot in November, regardless of party affiliation.
In Washington’s 3rd and 4th districts, incumbent Republicans face Trump-backed challengers. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Rep. Dan Newhouse were two of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump in 2020. Though they have not been as vocal in their opposition to Trump as some of their colleagues, they may face a reckoning from ardent Trump supporters in their Republican districts. The former president has endorsed Joe Kent, a former Green Beret with extremist ties, in opposition to Herrera Beutler and Loren Culp, a former law enforcement officer and gubernatorial candidate, against Newhouse.
Washington’s 8th Congressional district, the state’s only swing district that was never once won by a Democrat until Rep. Kim Schrier’s win in the 2018 midterms, is another race to watch. Three Republicans are at the forefront of the ten vying to challenge her. Veteran and Zillow director Jesse Jensen narrowly lost to Schrier in 2020. Also prominent in the race are attorney Matt Larkin and King County Councilmember and former federal prosecutor Reagan Dunn. This House seat could be crucial in determining whether the Democrats are able to maintain their majority in the House.
In recent years, several election related laws have been passed in Washington, which has had statewide vote-by-mail elections since 2011. Both same-day and automatic voter registration were enacted in 2019, as well the Native American Voting Rights Act which allows non-traditional forms of ID and tribes to request voter services on their reservations.In 2020, a policy that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote was updated to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries provided that they will be 18 by the general election. A law enacted this year requires that state and local voter pamphlets be sent to any overseas and uniformed voters who request them, by mail or electronically.
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