Republicans could take control of one or both houses of Congress when all the votes are counted. But Democrats are celebrating the fact that their party defied forecasts for this midterm election.
The reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision last June was clearly one of the main reasons for overturning 49 years of abortion rights.
As selected pre-election polls have consistently shown, inflation and the economy are the biggest polling issues, cited by 51% of voters in exit polls conducted by the Associated Press and analyzed by KFF Polls.
But abortion was the most important issue for a quarter of all voters and a third of women under 50. NBC News exit polling indicated that abortion was the second-highest polling issue, with inflation at 27%.
The “red wave” predicted by Democrats’ reluctant “red wave” in the House and Senate did not materialize, although as of Wednesday morning it seemed likely that Republicans would win the handful of seats they needed to gain a majority in the House.
In the Senate, where Republicans needed just one seat to control, no incumbent was officially defeated, although Democrats held the Pennsylvania seat vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
Several other close races have yet to be called, and control of the chamber is held by Democratic incumbent Sen. A possible December runoff in Georgia between Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker could well rest on its laurels.
Among other issues facing voters on Tuesday, South Dakotans approved the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It became the seventh state to expand the program despite objections from Republican governors and/or state legislatures.
Similar measures were previously passed in Idaho, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah. South Dakota’s approval would reduce the number of states that have not expanded the program to people with incomes up to 138% of the poverty line, including Texas, Florida and Georgia.
On abortion rights, voters in half a dozen states across the political spectrum showed their direct support through ballot initiatives. The most closely watched of these measures, Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing reproductive freedom, thereby preventing the 1931 ban from taking effect.
Kentucky voters narrowly rejected an amendment to their constitution declaring no right to abortion. This made it the first Southern state to express direct support for abortion rights.
Other questions about abortion rights were passed in Vermont and California. The California measure, which was approved with 65% of the vote, consolidated abortion and contraception rights.
In Montana, babies born alive after attempted abortions lose with 80% of votes to seek medical care. This requirement already exists in federal law.
Moreover, in several key states where abortion legalization is at stake, pro-choice governors and candidates defeated abortion opponents, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Abortion has also been an issue in Supreme Court elections in at least six states, where challenges to abortion laws or constitutional interpretations could decide whether it remains legal.
In Kentucky, Judge Michelle Keller sponsored Kentucky’s abortion activation law leading Republican state legislator Joe Fisher. Incoming Montana judge Ingrid Gustafson defeated challenger James Brown, the state’s Republican governor and a Republican backed by party leaders who backed a 1999 court ruling that protected abortion rights in the state constitution.
But abortion wasn’t the only health issue on Tuesday’s state ballot.
In Arizona, a ballot question to limit interest on medical debt won with 60% of the votes counted. In Oregon, however, the most unenforceable issue, such as declaring a “right to health care” in the state constitution, narrowly lost with 64% of the vote.
In a more concrete move, California voters approved a ban on flavored tobacco products, while Massachusetts voters supported dental insurance companies by requiring at least 83% of premiums for dental insurance to be spent directly on dental care. Massachusetts is not the first state to impose such a requirement.
In Iowa, gun rights advocates won a victory with the easy passage of a constitutional amendment declaring that Iowans have “a fundamental individual right” to keep and bear arms and that any restrictions on guns must pass. By “rigorous investigation” in court. As of Wednesday morning, with 99 of 99 counties reporting ballots, the amendment had the support of 65% of Iowa voters.