|By Bo Harmon
Campaign Advisor, RepresentUs
Since the 2020 election, states across the country have introduced and passed legislation that fundamentally changes how our elections are conducted. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 19 states passed laws restricting voting access in 2021, including Georgia, Florida and Texas.
Believe it or not, it could have been worse. A handful of heroic elected officials in Arizona, along with our pro-democracy movement, stopped a slew of attacks on free and fair elections.
Principled Politicians Stepping Up for Democracy
In the face of these attacks on elections, principled politicians across the country are stepping up to protect our right to vote.
One of the best examples is Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, who earlier this year stood up to members of his own party who wanted to drastically change how Arizona’s elections are conducted. A bill proposed by these members would have given the state legislature the power to reject election results if they saw fit. Yet Speaker Bowers used parliamentary tactics to ensure the bill would never pass. As CNN reported, “Bowers took the unprecedented step of ordering all 12 House committees to consider the elections bill, virtually ensuring it will never reach the floor.”
In addition to giving the legislature the power to subvert the will of the voters, this bill would have required that all ballots be counted by hand and would have restricted access to absentee ballots.
Speaker Bowers wasn’t alone in taking a stand for democracy. His Republican colleague in the State Senate, Paul Boyer, voted against 12 bad election bills, helping to prevent their passage. By our count, these two lawmakers helped block 16 bills that would have restricted Arizonans’ freedom to vote and to have their votes counted.
RepresentUs and allies helped support efforts to beat back these bad bills.
Ultimately, principled politicians such as Speaker Bowers and Senator Boyer are crucial to ensuring American democracy continues to work for the people. Because of his efforts to uphold democracy in the aftermath of the 2020 election, Bowers received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award.
Other award winners include election officials who resisted attempts by former President Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election. Republican Wyoming U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Fulton County, Georgia, elections department employee Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, will all be honored in Boston later this month for their work in protecting American democracy.
Our team at RepresentUs often covers the democratic backsliding happening in America. As a nonpartisan organization, we are also happy to highlight politicians on both sides of the aisle who take steps to safeguard Americans’ right to vote.
However, ensuring that politicians cannot just overturn elections they don’t like should not become a reason for celebration. As Speaker Bowers himself said after receiving the nomination for the Profile in Courage award, “Honoring my oath and the people’s choices at the ballot box are not heroic acts — they are the least that Arizonans should expect from the people elected to serve them.”
This is why our work at RepresentUs is so important. From partisan gerrymandering from both parties to corruption undermining the legislative process, the threats facing American democracy are numerous. But despite these challenges, we remain optimistic about the future of American democracy.
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Contributors: Adam DuBard, RepresentUs Political Analyst; Caroline Joseph, RepresentUs Research Analyst