Nov 8, 2022 - Podcasts

What we’re watching on Election Day

Election Day voting begins across the country this morning, including in states with some particularly close and competitive local races. Axios reporters tell us what they're watching for in today's midterm elections.

  • Plus, inside the shortage of Black sperm donors in the U.S.

Guests: Axios' Jeremy Duda, Monica Eng, John Frank, Emma Hurt and The Washington Post's Amber Ferguson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, November 8th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: Americans vote to determine the next Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. Plus: inside the shortage of Black sperm donors in the U.S. But first: local reporters with what they’re watching for today. That’s our One Big Thing.

What we’re watching on Election Day

NIALA: Election Day voting begins across the country this morning, including for some particularly close and competitive local races. Axios’ reporters in four states are here to give us their view.

JOHN FRANK: This is John Frank with Axios Denver here in Colorado. What I'm watching on Election Day is whether the Rocky Mountains stopped the red tide that's expected to sweep across the nation, entering the final days of the campaign. Here Democrats in the top races for U.S. Senate and for governor held strong, even double digit leads in some of the polls, and Democrats control all the statewide constitutional seats as well. So by the end of the night, Colorado could stand as one of the few bright spots for Democrats. In addition, one interesting question on our ballot asks voters to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other psychedelics. It would allow for the use, growth and possession of them, but sales of psilocybin mushrooms would be limited to licensed healing centers where the clients could use them under supervision. But, just in the way Colorado let in marijuana, it'll be interesting to see if we do the same on magic mushrooms.

MONICA ENG: Hey, this is Axios Chicago reporter Monica Eng. We live in a pretty strong Democratic town. Still, we will be watching the governor's race between incumbent J.B. Pritzker and downstate farmer Darren Bailey. Bailey was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and represents a pretty far right end of Illinois’ GOP that doesn't often rise to full state office. But, like a lot of places around the country, Illinois chose the Trump-endorsed candidate to run at the top of the GOP ticket. We'll also be looking at a race for U.S. representative in the Chicago suburbs, where Democrat Sean Casten is trying to hold onto his seat against suburban Mayor Keith Pekau. Both candidates got a boost from national party officials over the weekend because this race is tightening up.The last big hard to predict race is the fight for control of the Illinois Supreme Court, which is elected here. The court has been in Democratic control for more than 50 years, but that could change with two seats up for grabs in this election.

JEREMY DUDA: I'm Jeremy Duda, a reporter with Axios Phoenix. And one thing I'm watching today is turnout. Arizona has a very unique system for the way our early voting works where you can either mail in your ballot or drop it off on Election Day. Democrats typically dominate early voting by mail. Republicans dominate Election Day voting, and in recent years they also dominate early ballots that get dropped off on Election Day. So what we're likely to see is Democrats in some of these close races starting off with, perhaps, sizable leads and then those switch to the Republicans as the count goes on.

The second thing I'm watching is how these candidates are going to react to these results we've had. Most notably Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for governor, who has refused to commit to accepting the results of the election unless she wins. Similar situation with our Republican candidate for secretary of state, Arizona's top election official, Mark Finchem. The two of them have both been very avid promoters of Donald Trump's false claims about the 2020 election being rigged. Should any of these candidates lose, I would certainly expect that we may see, refusal to accept those results.

EMMA HURT: This is Emma Hurt coming to you from Atlanta on Election Day 2022. Things that I'm gonna be watching for today are how a lot of the many changes to how votes are counted in Georgia, how those affect our vote tallies today. Lots of new rules about when counties can start counting absentee ballots, by when they must report the total outstanding ballots. All of it designed to avoid the long, drawn out counting process that we had in 2020 that bred so many voter fraud allegations. Another big thread is, in this year, we have at test the Democrats long argument that Georgia is a blue state. And as Georgia has changed and gotten more diverse, the state will become more Democratic. At the same time we have on the Republican side, as we know, nationally, what appears to be an increase in Republican support among voters of color, including Black voters and Latino voters. And we have that playing out here in Georgia as well. And then I'm also watching split ticket voters. How many more voters does Brian Kemp get than Herschel Walker? It's something that we've seen consistently in the polling here, and while it kind of baffles people at first glance, it is true that sometimes voters can make their own decisions about candidates independent of party. And no matter what, it's gonna be exciting.

NIALA: Thanks to our Axios local reporters – and tonight, come back and join me for a special election night podcast episode where we will have analysis of what we know so far.

After the break: why there’s such a shortage of Black sperm donors.


Inside the shortage of Black sperm donors in the U.S.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

There's a major shortage of Black sperm donors in the U.S. and the demand is high. That's according to a recent analysis done by the Washington Post showing less than 2% of donors in the country's four largest sperm banks are Black. Amber Ferguson has been digging into this story for months for the Post, and is here to tell us about this shortage. Hey Amber, welcome to Axios Today.

AMBER FERGUSON: Hi. I'm so excited to be here.

NIALA: What did you find are some of the reasons that sperm from Black donors is hard to come by?

AMBER: So cryobanks traditionally have done a really poor job of recruiting Black sperm donors, and this problem has been going on for decades. When I spoke to fertility doctors, they said during the pandemic, more Black women have chosen to freeze their eggs out of any other demographic group, and more black women are choosing to have children on their own. One sperm bank told me that 20% of their calls come from Black women yet the supply remains extremely low. And what we found were that Black men are choosing not to donate because of medical mistrust; they don't know how their sperm is going to be used.

They also expressed a strong desire to parent and to be a father, and one of the stereotypes that they kept bringing up was that they are perceived as absentee fathers and that they really wanna be involved in their offspring's lives. And another thing is they just don't know how much they're needed because before 2020 cryobanks, it was very rare to see a Black child or a Black family on their websites. The most surprising thing I found was that gay donors are still banned from donating sperm. Cryobanks told me this disqualifies 10% of their applicants.

NIALA: If you wanna acquire a sperm donor, how is that done?

AMBER: Because there is such a small supply of Black sperm, it means that Black sperm literally sells out within minutes. And I can't over emphasize this enough. The wait list for a really in-demand White donor is around three months, but for a Black donor, the wait is 18 months and a woman who is in her late 30s or early 40s just doesn't have the time to wait.

And so they're really being pushed by cryobanks, by their fertility doctors to choose a donor of a different race, which means they're choosing to have a biracial child. I interviewed 15 Black women and only one was able to find a Black sperm donor and have a child from a Black sperm donor. And all of them initially wanted a Black sperm donor, that was the top thing on their wishlist as they called it. But at the end of the day, being a mother to a child had to be more important than being a mother to a Black child.

NIALA: What does the future of the fertility industry need to look like for things to change and what are you hearing about how things are changing?

AMBER: Throughout my reporting I learned that the Sperm Bank of California, which is the country's only nonprofit cryobank, they have a equity policy, which means donors who are of diverse backgrounds, including Black, those vials can only be sold to a person or a couple who is of that same race or who has a child of that same race. And I also learned that next year there's going to be a cryobank opening in Washington, D.C., called Reproductive Village, which is aiming to recruit mostly Black men. And this is because one of the women who is founding the organization, she had to choose a donor of a different race to conceive her child who is half Latino now.

NIALA: Amber Ferguson is a senior video editor at The Washington Post. Thanks Amber.

AMBER: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s all we’ve got for now – but remember to find our election night episode tonight in your feed. And if you have questions during the day text me, 202-918-4893. And we will talk about it tonight.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tonight and as always tomorrow morning.

For The Economist's analysis of the results of the midterms and where America is headed -- listen to the "Checks and Balance" podcast - where John Prideaux and his colleagues provide their perspectives on democracy in America. Join them today and start listening to "Checks and Balance" wherever you get your podcasts.

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