Betting On Democracy

Gun Rights

This article is part of a series—At 250, Who Will America Be?—reporting on threats to American democracy as we approach the nation’s Semiquincentennial, on July 4, 2026.

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As legalized sports betting has spread throughout America, you may find yourself laying some money down on your favorite team—maybe even cleaning up on those overachieving Jets or Giants early in this NFL season. But now, with slightly more than two weeks until November 8, Election Day, every American concerned about the continuation of our 246-year-old democracy needs to put some money (and time) on the line. At the roulette table you can wager on Red or Black, but placing a bet on democracy in 2022 means—as you’ll see detailed below—laying your cash and efforts down on the Blue. 

Why? Well, let’s quote from a recent presentation by Republican representative Adam Kinzinger, a member of the Congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol: “It’s the right of any candidate to litigate genuine election disputes. Nobody argues that, but President Trump’s litigation was completely unsuccessful….” Kinzinger then reinforced that statement by citing rulings from courts around the country that rejected the Trump campaign’s claims. For instance, a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania wrote, “Charges require specific allegations and proof. We have neither here.” A federal judge in Michigan sanctioned nine attorneys, including a member of Trump’s legal team, Sidney Powell, for making frivolous allegations in an election fraud case. The judge described the case as “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

The congressman also described “a group of distinguished Republican election lawyers, former judges, and elected officials” who issued a verdict on the findings of the courts: “In that report, entitled ‘Lost, Not Stolen,’ these prominent Republicans analyzed each election challenge and concluded this: ‘Donald Trump and his supporters have failed to present evidence of fraud or inaccurate results significant enough to invalidate the results of the 2020 Presidential Election.’” 

Yet, as we detailed in a previous article in this series on American democracy, almost the entire Grand Old Party is going all-in on Trump’s election lies, either by touting them as red-meat campaign planks or—in some ways, even worse—by remaining silent as citizens’ faith in the integrity of U.S. elections is eroded.

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So, two weeks out from the Midterm elections, what is there for a patriotic American—who simply wants every eligible voter to have their vote counted—to do? 

Easy. Take that money you were planning to turn into chips at a Vegas poker tournament or lay down with an electronic bookie and instead send it to organizations and candidates supporting voting rights and small “d” democracy. If your funds are low, many of them will be happy to have a donation of your time. 

VOTER TURNOUT RESOURCES

The Progressive Turnout Project eschews TV ads in favor of personal contact by digging into precinct-level data to identify infrequent Democratic voters and knock on their doors. The organization’s website states that their main strategy is to efficiently “focus on reaching the right voters: the folks who are very likely to vote for Democrats when they do vote, but not as likely to turn out in every election.” Midterm elections, in other words—when there is not a high-profile presidential race to drive turnout.

The importance of getting low-propensity voters to the polls was emphasized in a recent fundraising pitch that the progressive organization MoveOn sent out: “In 2020, President Biden won Arizona by only 10,457 votes, Georgia by 11,779, and Wisconsin by 20,682. On average, Biden won by only five votes per precinct in those critical states. You read that correctly: The 2020 presidential election was effectively decided by five votes per precinct. When we say that ‘every vote counts,’ you can see why.” 

The Grand Old Party has a long history of using poll watchers to intimidate voters. In a 2021 report, the Texas Civil Rights Project gave a sense of just how old-school Republican voter suppression is: “The 1960s finally began to realize some hard-fought civil rights victories for Black Americans. Unfortunately, this decade also marked the beginning of poll watchers organizing to keep Black voters out using ‘legal’ means. For example, in 1962, two white Republican poll watchers stood outside a school polling place in Phoenix, Arizona to confront Black voters. They would show Black would-be voters a card featuring an excerpt from the Constitution and ask them to read it out loud to prove that they were literate. Whether or not they could read it, many of these people became discouraged and chose not to vote. One of those two white men was future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A lawyer on the Rehnquist poll watching squad said that ‘if we can disqualify enough blacks and enough Mexican Americans, we can elect Paul Fannin Governor in 1962.’” (Fannin did become governor of Arizona, and went on to become a hard-line conservative U.S. senator whose vote in favor of the 1965 Voting Rights Act would, nowadays, no doubt have gotten him purged from the GOP before he got the chance to vote against both Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court and the 1968 Civil Rights Act.) 

To counter such intimidation of voters this November, check out Rock the Vote, and sign up as a poll watcher—help citizens cast their vote rather than be turned away. 

WHO IS YOUR SECRETARY OF STATE? 

Sometimes the most obscure of elected positions can have an outsize impact on how votes are cast and counted in any given state. Not surprisingly, the “Grand Theft Party” is putting resources into various states’ secretary-of-state races to support candidates who continue to claim, falsely, that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump (despite the fact that many local and state-wide Republicans won on those same ballots). Why is this important? Because it is often the secretary of state who oversees voter registration, voting-by-mail standards, voter-education materials, and, most important, who certifies election results. So let’s say that the majority of voters cast their vote for Candidate A but the secretary of state wanted Candidate Q to win. All you have to do is rerun the tape of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to see how that might turn out. 

Should you want to lay some side bets on American democracy, the States United Democracy Center has a comprehensive list of races where election deniers are attempting to get their hands on some of the most sensitive levers of power. 

• • PLACE YOUR BETS • • 

FiveThirtyEight’s concise graphics make political handicapping as easy as a day at the track. Like tout sheets, 538 provides charts that clearly indicate which candidates have the momentum your small-dollar donation might help increase, and which candidates are either so far ahead or so far behind that they qualify only for sentimental bet status. 

GOVERNORS
Governors, like secretaries of state, have substantial influence on how elections are conducted in their states. Here are three democracy-supporting candidates in governor’s races that are close enough for even small donations to make a difference. 

Katie Hobbs is running a poor campaign in battleground-state Arizona (she refused to debate her election-denying opponent), but her race is still deemed a tossup in a state that Biden won by only 3%. Hobbs, the Grand Canyon State’s current secretary of state, deserves support for standing up to election deniers during the 2020 race and its aftermath—a display of backbone that has earned her multiple death threats. 

In Kansas, a rare Democratic incumbent in a red state, Laura Kelly, is running against Trump-endorsed Derek Schmidt, who, as Kansas’s attorney general, signed on to a frivolous 2020 lawsuit contesting the presidential vote in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—which the U.S. Supreme Court promptly declined to consider. 

Wisconsin’s Democratic incumbent, Tony Evers, is facing GOP candidate Tim Michels, who, in addition to lining up behind Trump’s discredited election claims, has also championed an 1849 law that would make it a felony for doctors to perform most abortions. Since he is clearly backpedaling to gain centrist votes in the general election race, we don’t have to take him at his word when he claimed, in a recent debate, “I will never arrest a doctor,” adding, “I’m a reasonable guy.” 

U.S. SENATORS
Watch out—U.S. senators are elected to six-year terms, two more than the president, so your attention to these races is crucial. Below are five candidates who believe elections should be free and fair, and who are running against opponents who are perpetuating the Big Lie that Trump did not lose in 2020. 

Incumbent reverend Raphael Warnock has a razor-thin lead over former football star Herschel Walker, in Georgia. This race in the Peach State is seen by many observers as the key to whether Democrats maintain control of the Senate. A hardcore election denier, Walker is currently in the news for paying for a former girlfriend’s abortion (he sent her a get-well card), even though he has said as recently as August, “So, I said, ‘I believe in life.’ I believe in life. And I said, you know, if anyone wants to have an exception, I said, ‘Not in my book.’” He then added, “I said, ‘I’m sorry. I feel bad for anyone that’s a victim of any kind of crime.’ I do. I feel like that. That is terrible and that’s horrible, but we deal with that as it comes.” 

In Nevada, incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto is running neck and neck with Adam Paul Laxalt, who “put his commitment to Donald Trump ahead of his commitment to law and order,” as a police officer speaking in an ad for Cortez Masto accurately claims.

Despite his documented poor oversight resulting in abuse during medical experiments on dogs, Dr. Mhmet Oz has gained on Pennsylvania native John Fetterman in the Keystone State, another crucial race that could determine control of the Senate. A Trump sycophant, Oz has walked back his original support of the Big Lie in order to hoodwink moderates in the general election, not a good prescription for democracy. 

In Ohio, Tim Ryan has lost ground against, in the former president’s own words, ass-kisser” J.D. Vance, but the Buckeye State is still a possible pickup for the Dems, and worthy of a donation. 

Similarly, Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court, is within striking distance of Ted Budd—a Republican congressman who voted against certifying Biden’s election and has received massive support for the open Senate seat in the Old North State from such far-right billionaires as industrial-supply-giant Uline’s Richard Uihlein and TikTok investor and tax evader Jeff Yass. 

Want to place more bets on the “World’s Most Deliberative Body,” as the U.S. Senate is quaintly known? Helpful charts from FiveThirtyEight (538) can be found here

THE HOUSE
Gerrymandering disputes, former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ineptitude, and other factors in Blue New York are hurting Dems’ chances of retaining control of the House of Representatives. Still, Pat Ryan is, per 538, “slightly favored” to defeat MAGA stalwart Colin J. Schmitt in the race for the Empire State’s 18th District.

In Rhode Island, Democrat Seth M. Magaziner is in a too-close-to-call race with Allan W. Fung, a Trump supporter with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, who has no position on current legislation aimed to avert another January 6–style insurrection (although any citizen can easily get up to speed on it with a click of the old mouse).

In Pennsylvania, incumbent Democrat Susan Wild is in a dead heat with Lisa Scheller, who obtained Trump’s endorsement by parroting his “Stop the Steal” canards. 

In Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, Hillary Scholten is slightly favored to defeat John Gibbs—who stated that Biden’s 2020 win was “simply mathematically impossible.” (Must be Trump’s version of the New Math.)

If you need any further reason to vote for Dem Michelle Vallejo against Monica De La Cruz and her “Complete and Total Endorsement” from Donald Trump, how about the fact that De La Cruz has already used the election denial playbook in a losing 2020 Congressional race against Vincente Gonzalez: “I am calling into question this vote difference and the validity of the Gonzalez win.” Expect the same broken-record refrain from De La Cruz this time around—unless she wins.

Although all 435 House seats are, as usual, up for grabs in every biannual election cycle, only a percentage are truly contested. To find more candidates who support free and fair elections and who are in close races and could use your help, look for the lightest hexagons in 538’s “Forecasting each House seat” chart. Although Republicans are predicted to take control of the House this year, helping turn a seat here and there can mitigate the damage. 

• • BETTING YOUR HEART, NOT YOUR HEAD • • 

Still have a few dollars burning the screen on your banking app? Well, for you sentimental bettors, here are some wagers that might make you feel better and are worth taking a flyer on.

Ron DeSantis is, in 538’s terminology, “clearly favored” to win re-election as Florida’s governor. But if former Republican party member—and former Independent, former Florida governor, and former U.S. House member from Florida—and now the Democratic candidate for another term as the Sunshine State’s top dog, Charlie Crist, could knock off DeSantis, it might stop the man who many pundits see as Trump’s heir apparent. (DeSantis has the dubious distinction of possibly being even more belligerent than The Donald himself). 

Mandela Barnes grew up solidly middle-class in Wisconsin and is currently the Badger State’s lieutenant governor. He is also trailing in a race against incumbent GOP senator Ron Johnson, a take-no-prisoners Big Liar who is currently caught up in a scandal concerning fake electors in the 2020 election. Barnes is behind, but is flirting with the margin of error, so a donation to his campaign to help get out the vote couldn’t hurt. 

Although incumbent Republican Brian Kemp did the right thing in 2020 by resisting Trump and his cronies’ efforts to hijack his state’s 16 electoral votes, it’s questionable, a second time around, whether he could withstand the GOP’s fearsome and ugly pressure on those who defy the former POTUS. So send a donation to Stacey Abrams, who has been fighting the good fight for voters’ rights ever since she was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, in 2007. With Abrams in the governor’s chair in 2024, we would at least be assured that Georgia’s presidential electoral votes will go to whomever the majority of Georgians vote for. Which shouldn’t be a big deal, but the Trump-centric GOP has put even the basics of democracy on the chopping block. 

So forget the Red and Black that you usually find on the roulette wheel. Instead, vote Blue.

In other words, place your bets on democracy—anything else is just playing Russian Roulette.  

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