As polls closed on Tuesday, neither party claimed control of Congress, but crime’s impact on the midterms was conclusive.
While inflation and abortion topped voters’ minds, according to data from Edison Research and the AP VoteCast poll, about one in 10 voters said crime was the most salient issue.
In addition, in the weeks before the elections, Republicans spent $64.5 million on ads focused on crime – almost one-quarter of their ad expenditures, according to a CNN analysis of AdImpact data.
While other vital issues topped voters’ minds, the midterm elections showed crime remains an evergreen issue. In response, the Vera Insitute of Justice created a memo and analyzed exit poll data to ascertain the extent crime played in the elections.
“There was a real anticipated fear/expectation that the crime rhetoric would take down democrats,” said Insha Rahman, Vice President of Advocacy and Partnerships at the Vera Institute of Justice, who helped lead the memo.
“But it didn’t materialize.”
But according to Rahman, while “Democrats dodged a bullet,” the party must address safety and crime sooner and with frequency.
According to Rahman, that doesn’t mean abandoning justice reforms.
Recreational marijuana was on the ballot in five states, including four conservative-led states. Maryland and Missouri legalized cannabis use for adults, while voters balked at the measure in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Before the midterms, 19 states and the District of Columbia allowed the use of recreational cannabis.
“There’s momentum still for criminal justice reform,” Rahman said. “You can have both safety and justice.”
In another victory for criminal justice reformists, four states removed language to their constitutions allowing slavery as a punishment in prisons. Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont were the states that removed the language.
As the final votes are counted, and the country moves forward, crime will likely remain near the top of many Americans’ minds.
“What we saw overwhelmingly is that voters across the political spectrum want solutions, not scare tactics,” Rahman said.
James Van Bramer is Associate Editor of The Crime Report.