Republican state lawmakers filed more than 200 bills in 2022 to change election rules and strip oversight from officials in response to a ‘crisis that doesn’t exist’
A baseless narrative that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from Donald Trump has fuelled a wave of state-level efforts to subvert democratic elections with legislation that makes it easier for partisan officials to undermine voters.
Over the last year, Republican state legislators filed dozens of bills to change the rules of election administration and strip oversight from election officials, efforts that democratic advocates have warned could invite bogus fraud investigations or try to overturn results entirely.
State legislatures in 33 states have introduced 229 such bills in 2022, according to an updated report on the state of antidemocratic efforts from States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy and Law Forward.
Since the organisations started tracking so-called “election subversion” bills in the aftermath of the 2020 election and the attack on the Capitol fuelled by the “stolen election” narrative, 50 have been enacted or adopted.
“This report should sound an alarm for anyone who cares about free and fair elections,” Victoria Bassetti, senior adviser with the States United Democracy Center said in a statement accompanying the report. “It shows that state legislatures are becoming bolder and more creative in their attempts to interfere with the trusted public servants who administer our elections. These bills are responses to a crisis that doesn’t exist. We know the 2020 election was free, fair, and accurate.”
The measures have proposed giving GOP-dominated state legislatures the authority to award electoral votes, allowing post-vote “audits” directed by Republican officials, creating “task forces” to investigate election-related complaints already handled by state agencies, and hitting election workers with disproportionate criminal penalties for routine election activity, among other measures, according to the report.
“In some cases, the potential subversion is quite direct – for example, bills that give the legislature the power to choose a victor contrary to the voters’ will,” according to the report. “In others, the impact is less direct but still dangerous. Some bills would introduce dysfunction and chaos into the election system and could lead to delay, uncertainty, and confusion, all of which could provide cover for subversion.”
In states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, legislators have introduced measures to give state legislatures authority to reject election outcomes and award electoral votes in presidential races to candidates who did not win the popular vote.
At least 20 states have allowed “unprofessional or biased reviews of election results” with partisan-driven “audits” like those authorised in Arizona, Texas and Wisconsin.
And in at least a dozen states, legislators have put forward more than three dozen measures to hand the authority to partisan officials or people appointed by them, increasing “the danger of partisan election manipulation,” according to the report.
“In America, voters decide elections. This is at the core of our democracy, but there is a coordinated right-wing effort threatening that principle,” according to a statement from Nicole Safar, executive director of Law Forward.
“Their playbook is simple: change the rules, change the players, so they can change the outcome,” she said, echoing findings from an earlier report.
She pointed to Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers, who has vetoed a string of election-related bills passed by the GOP-dominated legislature in the battleground state.
“What is happening in Wisconsin and across the country demonstrates just how tenuous our election systems are today,” she said.