Election denialism has always existed somewhere within American politics, but it hadn’t gained the amount of serious traction it has now until around the Donald Trump Presidency. Glean from that what you will, but the main takeaway is that election denialism is alive and kicking. You see it in the news, social media, talks at Thanksgiving, and especially with lawmakers. This has been proven by the fact that legislators in a total of 38 different states have introduced nearly 200 bills in this year alone that aim to “subvert” our elections, one of the defining factors that makes the US what it is.
This information has been brought to us by a report from the States United Democracy Center, Project Democracy, and Law Forward, all three of which being non-partisan groups that tracked these bills. You can find the full report published on the States United Democracy Center’s website to see their methodologies used. In the end, the end results are still the same: many lawmakers, whether in bad faith or a genuine lack of belief in our democratic system, have routinely tried to subvert how we currently run our elections.
So what exactly was found in this report? Well, for one, the total number of bills that fall under this category from January 1st to May 3rd is 185, and we haven’t even hit the halfway point of this year. Second, the ones pushing the bills were mainly Republican, so make of that what you will. Third, the guidelines used to clarify these laws as potentially dangerous to the democratic process is if the bills intend to increase risk of “subversion” through criminalizing, politicizing, or interfering with future elections.
Here I’ll go over the analysis put forth by the States United Democracy Center and sum up the 45 pages, but if you’d like to see it for yourself, you can find it as “A Democracy Crisis in the Making”.
How State Legislatures are Increasing the Risk of Election Subversion
In this section, this report concludes that there are 5 ways in which the risk election subversion is being hiked up. They are:
- Usurping control over election results. These are bills that would give state officials direct control over election outcomes.
- Requiring partisan or unprofessional election “audits” or reviews. These would be unprofessional reviews from third-party companies that cast election results in doubt. This was seen extensively in 2021 and 2022.
- Seizing power over election responsibilities. Bills like these would shift responsibilities from non-partisan professionals and towards whomever the legislature deems fit, partisan or not.
- Creating unworkable burdens in election administration. Bills such as these would disturb the basic procedures of the election administration. This causes confusion, delay, unnecessary chaos, and irregularity. The report believes it to be a pretext to subversion.
- Imposing disproportionate criminal or other penalties. This essentially means to create or expand the penalties given to election officials, including the actual criminalization of genuine mistakes.
Subversion Beyond the Statehouse
- Disinformation leads to ERIC withdrawals. The spread of disinformation and mistrust imposed by certain legislators has led to states withdrawing from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization made up of state election officials that helps other election officials across the country to maintain accurate and complete voting while deterring illegal votes.
- Brain drain of election officials. It covers the struggles that election officials have been put through in the last few election cycles. This includes a shortage of workers, cyber security concerns, and insufficient financial resources. This section spotlights Texas in particular.
- Local officials’ refusal to certify election results. This one is fairly obvious, and this country has seen it a couple times. It’s essentially officials refusing to certify the results, causing suspicion among the public and subverting the process.
How states are proactively safeguarding
against election subversion
- Protections for election workers. States have proposed enacting additional protections for election officials. Many have been bombarded with death threats and have been driven to resign. To ensure the safety of our elections, we must ensure the safety of those helping to maintain them.
- Direct response to January 6, 2021. There’s no denying the effect the January 6 riot had on our country, especially when it came to election denialism. Legislators have been using this date as a reminder of the threats to democracy that are still present, and are actively using the example to remind everyone that an overturn of our democracy can still happen if we aren’t careful in quelling such misinformation in the future. This section spotlights Arizona in particular.