Voters across the country cast ballots to elect a governor in Kentucky, decide legislative control in Virginia and determine whether the Ohio state constitution should be changed to enshrine the right to have an abortion.
These were all races and issues that faith voters cared about, even though off-year elections get less attention in the U.S. than presidential and midterm congressional ones. Nonetheless, both Republicans and Democrats are using this week’s results to give them an inkling of trends that could affect next year’s races, including the 2024 presidential election.
The vote comes as former President Donald Trump has pulled ahead of President Joe Biden in five swing states with a year left until the election. When Biden won in 2020, he had pitched himself as the man who could defeat then-President Trump.
In the six battleground states where the 2024 election is likely to be decided, Biden only leads in Wisconsin, according to a new New York Times and Siena College poll. But the White House saw Tuesday’s results as a promising sign heading into next year.
Trump, who is mired in a series of criminal and civil court cases, is up in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Michigan — potential victories that would hand him the 270 electoral votes needed for him to return to the White House.
Despite the polling, it was a very good night for Democrats across several states and a number of issues, including the expansion of abortion rights in states Trump had previously won and that many religious conservatives saw as their home turf.
Here are five things we learned from this year’s results and what they mean to faith voters:
1. Abortion access in Ohio
Ohioans voted on a referendum to protect abortion access until 23 weeks of pregnancy. The ballot measure in Ohio, a red state, was approved — marking the seventh straight victory for abortion rights in state referendums since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Ohio was the only state to consider a statewide abortion rights question this election cycle.
The state held a special election this past August, where voters weighed a separate proposal that would have required the threshold for voters to amend the state constitution to jump from a simple majority to 60%. The special election drew bipartisan criticism and came just months ahead of Tuesday’s vote. It ultimately proved unsuccessful.
The ballot’s passage has widespread implications. It has emboldened abortion rights advocates who are looking to put their own measures on the ballot in other states. Democrats are hoping that this result could serve as a litmus test and that increased support for abortion could translate into votes for Biden, a practicing Catholic who is also a strong abortion-rights supporter.
The Catholic Church spearheaded the move against the ballot’s passage, spending millions on the issue. On the Diocese of Cleveland’s website, a link explaining its stance against the amendment was plastered on its homepage over the past few weeks.
2. War in Ukraine and Israel
While the Israeli-Hamas conflict and the war in Ukraine were not on any ballot, their ramifications impacted U.S. elections and will do so into the future. Only two House seats were up for grabs this election day, and the outcomes had no impact on who controls the chamber.
Nonetheless, it will remain a main issue as the presidential race draws near. Furthermore, 468 seats — 33 in the Democrat-led Senate and 435 in the GOP-led House — are up for grabs a year from now.
Incoming House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., defended his approach to redirect IRS funding to provide aid to Israel, saying Republicans are “trying to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s resources.”
“Instead of printing new dollars or borrowing it from another nation to send over to fulfill our obligations and help our ally, we want to pay for it — what a concept, we are trying to change how Washington works,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Last week, House Republicans passed a $14.5 billion package to provide military aid to Israel. The vote came down mostly on party lines (the GOP holds just a nine-seat edge). But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has called the plan “not serious,” and Biden has threatened to veto the bill.
This comes as the House voted late Tuesday to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., for defending the Hamas attack against Israel as “resistance” and calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. The vote was moved up after Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga., who introduced the resolution, received death threats.
At the same time, the war between Israel and Hamas is also Johnson’s first big test as House speaker after the party ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as speaker. Johnson said he will turn next to aid for Ukraine and U.S. border security as Republican lawmakers increasingly oppose helping Kyiv fight Russia.