Election Day was once a joyful ritual, where people waited patiently in line to cast their ballot and perform the most important act of citizenship: choosing our leaders by vote. I remember when I was in junior high school in 1952, brewing coffee in the home ex classroom and selling it for 5 cents to voters on an unusually chilly day in Houston. My partner and I split $14 for a day’s work. There was no animosity, no anger among those waiting to vote.

Fast forward to 2022.

Here is what Politico predicts:

OFF THE RAILS It’s time to talk about it out loud: This year’s election is going to be a train wreck. Not just Election Day, but the weeks and perhaps even months to come.

For starters, it might not be clear who controls the House for days, or longer. In the Senate, it could be weeks. In fact, if the polling averages are correct , we might not know who controls the Senate until after a potential early December runoff in Georgia.

But that’s the least of the trouble ahead. All the elements of a perfect storm are present: a rise in threats against election administrators and poll workers; outdated and overstrained election infrastructure; a brain drain of officials experienced with the complexities of administering elections; external cyber threats; and an abundance of close races that could extend long past Election Day as mail-in and provisional ballots are counted, recounted and litigated.

Then, there are the hundreds of Republican candidates up and down the ballot with a record of denying or expressing doubts about the 2020 presidential results — a few were even present at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. At least a dozen candidates running in competitive Senate and governor and secretary of state contests refused to commit or declined to respond when asked whether they’ll accept the results of their races.

A blowout Republican victory might remove many of the most combustible elements. But short of a red wave Tuesday, we’re looking at an ugly finish.

If those prominent election-denying candidates lose, it will not be graciously — remember, these are candidates whose political brands are rooted in their refusal to accept the 2020 election results, and their own high-profile and extra-legal efforts to overturn them. For them, the traditional pain and disappointment of defeat will be amplified because of the high expectations of midterm GOP success. And there are no party graybeards who will be able to talk them down — in fact, the post-election recriminations will likely find backing from party leaders and elected officials who fear antagonizing a base that’s been primed to believe the 2020 election was rigged.

The wellspring of these false claims, former President Donald Trump, is already laying the predicate — last week, he sought to cast doubt on the integrity of Pennsylvania’s results by claiming the 2022 results there are rigged as well .

It is obvious that it undermines our democracy when prominent figures like Trump claim that elections are rigged. He predicted it in 2016. He predicted it in 2020. And he’s never stopped claiming that he won in a landslide in 2020. Most Republicans believe him, despite the lack of any evidence and the complete debunking of his claim by courts and his own cabinet members and advisors.

To make matters worse, Elon Musk tweeted to his 115 million followers that they should vote Republican because Democrats hold the presidency, and balance is good. What he doesn’t understand is that in the American system, balance means stalemate. No action on climate change. No effort to protect abortion rights. A mutual veto. Congress blocks the President’s proposals. The President vetoes Congressional acts.