By Sue Fothergill
RepresentUs Deputy Director of Organizing

September 22, 2022

Elections should be decided by American voters, not self-interested politicians. That doesn’t seem like a particularly radical idea, does it? But according to a recent report, in the 21 months following the 2020 election, 33 states have introduced 244 bills that would give partisan bodies control over the outcome of elections.

Although most of these bills have failed, 24 bills in 17 states have passed – impacting millions of American voters. These alarming, un-American attacks threaten the integrity of our elections, and could allow politicians to manipulate future election results.

A map of the U.S. showing that 17 states have passed 24 bills that will threaten the integrity of their elections. The states include: UT, AZ, SD, KS, OK, WI, IN, KY, TN, MS, AL, GA, FL, SC, WV, VA, and PA.

America’s elections depend on experienced professionals and nonpartisan independent public servants doing their job free from interference. While there are many ways we can improve elections – including making voting more secure and accessible – we must ensure that the vote-counting process itself remains fair and free from partisan interests.

 

What do these bills do?

The details of these bills vary, but the goal is the same: to give politicians more power over election results. Some examples include proposals to:

  • Change who controls election responsibilities (for example, giving politicians the ability to certify or overturn election results)
  • Create additional burdens for election workers, making their jobs incredibly difficult
  • Mandate audits or reviews of elections be conducted by unprofessional partisan groups

What does this look like in practice? Earlier this year, Arizona Republicans introduced a bill that would have given the state legislature the power to overturn state election results. Rusty Bowers, the former Republican speaker of the Arizona House, helped to defeat this bill and prevent partisan meddling in election results.

Unfortunately, not all of these dangerous bills have been defeated. In March 2021, Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law that not only will make voting harder, but it will also change who oversees elections. Importantly, the law gives the Georgia Legislature more control over the Georgia State Election Board. The Board’s duties include enforcing election laws, investigating voter fraud accusations, and ensuring elections are conducted legally and fairly. Now that the legislature has more say in appointing members of the Board, there’s more risk of partisan meddling.

These laws have the ultimate result of giving partisan politicians even more power over elections, rather than nonpartisan professionals. This is a clear conflict of interest, and opens the door for politicians to undermine or even overturn election results.

Where did this assault on American elections come from?

Since the 2020 election, some politicians – primarily fringe Republicans – are knowingly lying about voter fraud to justify passing these laws. They’re weaponizing disinformation to get what they want: more power for them, less power for the voters. 

Unfortunately, this problem may get worse. In this year’s primary elections, many candidates won in part by lying about the 2020 election. In total, more than half of states (27) have an election liar on the ballot for governor, secretary of state or attorney general. For example, the Republican nominees for Pennsylvania governor (Doug Mastriano) and Arizona secretary of state (Mark Finchem) both attended the January 6 riot and continue to tell lies about the 2020 election.

Depending on the state, these positions oversee, defend or certify election results.

Does anyone really think liars should be in charge of their state’s elections? Well, if they’re victorious in November, they could use their power to overturn future election results that they don’t like, or propose and implement laws further restricting the right to vote.

These laws are unnecessary and undermine faith in our system

It’s worth repeating: there was no significant fraud in the 2020 election. Politicians claiming anything illegal or irregular happened in 2020 are knowingly lying to constituents for the purpose of gaining and holding power.

By and large, American elections are secure. The 2020 election saw record turnout, with millions securely voting by mail for the first time ever. After the election, a comprehensive review found that in the six battleground states that determined the outcome, there were just 475 cases of potential fraud. President Joe Biden won these six states by a combined 311,257 votes. This means that the disputed ballots represent a grand total of 0.15% of President Biden’s victory margin.

A bar graph showing that in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, there were only 475 cases of potential voter fraud. Joe Biden won these states by a combined total of 311,257 votes in 2020. Even if all of the cases of fraud were found to be true (unlikely), it would not have made a difference in the outcome of the election.

But once again, these facts have not stopped corrupt politicians from attempting to fundamentally reshape American elections. And by consistently repeating these lies about the 2020 election, they continue to sow doubt about election integrity – which further undermines American democracy.

These lies have led directly to threats against election workers – causing many to leave their jobs.

American elections are not perfect, and there are common-sense reforms including Ranked Choice Voting and nonpartisan primaries that voters in both parties support. But this nationwide trend of giving partisans control over election administration is gnawing at the fundamental core of our democracy. We all have to step up and demand that elections be nonpartisan, every legal vote is counted, and that the people determine the election winners.

What can we do?

It’s time for Americans across the political spectrum to fight back against these attacks on our elections. There are numerous ways to stand up and help protect American democracy. Volunteering as a poll worker will help ensure elections are run smoothly and fairly. Encourage your representatives at the state and federal level to protect the workers who administer American elections.

Right now, there’s a bill up for a vote in the U.S. Senate that would help ensure voters decide elections, not politicians. Learn more about why the bipartisan Electoral Count Act needs to be updated, and encourage your senators to support it.

Ultimately, America needs as many pro-democracy activists fighting for our democracy as possible. There are reasons for optimism, but only if we the people get involved.

Contributors: Adam DuBard, RepresentUs Writer; Anh-Linh Kearney, RepresentUs Research Analyst