|By Jenny Zimmer
RepresentUs National Organizing Director
In the wake of the 2020 election, an extremist movement is using a tactic called the “precinct strategy” to undermine democracy.
What is the precinct strategy?
The precinct strategy has been around for more than a decade. Originally, it was used by far-right groups to try and take control of local Republican party infrastructure. If enough of them gained power in local precincts, the thinking went, they could influence the national party’s priorities.
This strategy can succeed because precinct committee workers don’t have the same visibility and accountability as national party leaders. But they still hold immense power at the local level. According to ProPublica, “they help elect higher-ranking party officers, influence which candidates appear on the ballot, turn out voters on Election Day and even staff the polling precincts where people vote and the election boards that certify the results.” These decisions are usually made behind closed doors and the precinct committee positions are often vacant, creating a perfect storm for abuse by self-interested extremists.
How the precinct strategy is threatening democracy
Following the 2020 election, extremists are testing a similar strategy to accomplish something more nefarious: overturn free and fair elections. Instead of taking over a political party, the goal is to put people in charge of elections at the local level who could manipulate the voting process and outcomes in their favor.
Inspired by the myth that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and emboldened by high-profile political influencers like Steve Bannon, extremists have come out in droves to run for local positions that impact elections.
Local election officials are critical to protecting the integrity of elections. But in the wake of the 2020 election, we face the real possibility that the people running our elections believe the lie that the election was stolen. These precinct strategy recruits are using the guise of voter fraud – which is extraordinarily rare – in an attempt to undermine free and fair elections.
As the Washington Post put it, “the enduring myth that the 2020 election was rigged was not one claim by one person. It was many claims stacked one atop the other, repeated by a phalanx of people.”
We’re working to ensure local politics stay local
As a result of these 2020 election lies, local election officials are under a microscope like never before. They are facing so much harassment that one in five election workers said they’re likely to quit before the 2024 election.
The good news is that Americans from across the political spectrum are rallying behind election workers and democracy. In response to these threats, at least nine states have proposed or enacted laws aimed at giving greater protections to the unsung heroes of democracy.
Here at RepresentUs, we’re working in key states to shine a light on these authoritarian threats and protect elections – including and especially the vital community officials who run them. We’re supporting volunteer-led efforts in Pennsylvania in Wisconsin, two critical swing states that are facing particularly acute threats.
Voters across political ideologies are stepping up to advocate for free and fair elections, and to build a buffer of support around existing election officials so they don’t resign and open up room for authoritarians to take their place.
Over the coming weeks and months, these locally-led election protection teams will organize in their communities to show appreciation for election workers and educate voters about election administration. Last month, we held a “toast to election workers” for National Cocktail Day. And last week, Wisconsin organizers held events across the state to show appreciation for election workers as part of “Thank Election Heroes Day.”
For democracy to work, we must all play our part to protect our elections. Join our movement below to ensure every American has free and fair access to the ballot!