Republicans are planning to subvert future elections. They tried to overturn the election results in court in November and December 2020 and overthrow them at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Unless they are stopped, Republicans will try again in 2022. If they fail, they will try again in 2024. Our democracy is in grave danger.
While our country endures one crisis after another — COVID, Ukraine, inflation, abortion bans and most recently the human tragedy caused by the epidemic of gun violence — the Republican attack on free and fair elections continues state by state and law by law as single-minded rightwing advocates of the “Big Lie” gain ground toward their eventual goal.
According to the New York Times, Cleta Mitchell, one of the key lawyers behind Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election is now “[w]orking with a well-funded network of organizations on the right, including the Republican National Committee [RNC], [to] recruit election conspiracists into an organized cavalry of activists monitoring elections.” The Republican Party claims it has already recruited more than 5,000 poll watchers and nearly 12,000 poll workers for the 2022 elections.
Taking this one step further, Politico, using secretly taped recordings of RNC trainings, offers a deeper look into these subversion efforts: “Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys.”
While it is bad enough that Republicans are proactively recruiting and training thousands of volunteers to undermine our elections, they are also staffing up their legal teams en masse as the courts increasingly become the latest battleground for these post-election challenges.
In Michigan, which almost faced an unprecedented failure to certify its election results for president in 2020, the RNC’s election integrity director for the state told a training session in October that “We’re going to have more lawyers than we’ve ever recruited, because let’s be honest, that’s where it’s going to be fought, right?”
Right. In fact, we’ve already seen their efforts play out in courtrooms across the country.
In Nevada, Republicans filed two lawsuits to expand the role of poll watchers to, among other things, allow them to stand within two feet of vote counting and to inspect voters’ individual ballots. While Republicans lost those lawsuits, they have made clear that they are not giving up. Just last week, a Republican state Senate candidate in Nevada filed a new ballot initiative petition that would impose a strict voter ID law in the state.
In Wisconsin, Republicans have recently filed five more lawsuits targeting the use of drop boxes in heavily Democratic counties. In both state and federal courts in Pennsylvania, Republicans are trying to block otherwise lawful mail-in ballots from being counted simply because some voters failed to write the date on their outer ballot return envelopes. In Illinois, the Republican Party is trying to block the state from counting mail-in ballots cast before Election Day but received in the days following. In Arizona, the Republican Party is literally trying to abolish no excuse mail-in voting altogether — a system used by more than 80% of Arizonans in 2020 and one that has been in place since 1991.
Republicans have also made clear that they intend to engage in mass challenges of voter eligibility — disenfranchising thousands of voters at a time. Recall that prior to the 2021 Georgia Senate runoff elections, conservative groups challenged the voting eligibility of 364,000 Georgians. For context, only 4 million votes were cast in the runoff election between now-Sen. Jon Ossoff and former Sen. David Perdue. Through a mix of public pressure, legal threats and filed litigation, those challenges were defeated. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won by less than 2%.
In 2022, Republicans in Georgia have mounted a new voter eligibility challenge program that, in part, relies on “crowdsourcing” — turning neighbors into election-suppressing vigilantes. Over 10,000 challenges have been filed so far, and we are still five months from the general election. Ominously, Republican-controlled Forsyth County recently described how it handled mass voter challenges made by Republicans ahead of Georgia’s primary elections. Rather than dismissing the challenges as a violation of federal voting rights, the county detailed a process — including seven hours of hearings — that, absent further litigation, is almost certain to lead to widespread disenfranchisement in the fall.
Since their humiliating defeats in court following Trump’s loss in 2020, Republican lawyers and operatives have been looking for new ways to subvert our elections. They have endless resources and a single focus. Whether it’s by installing “an army” of their own volunteers to monitor the electoral process on the local level or by recruiting even more lawyers to try to overturn elections in the courts, Republicans will use every tool available to disregard the will of the voters.
If we are to prevent that from happening, we need a similar degree of commitment. In short, we need to make preserving free and fair elections our top concern. We will not be able to address climate change, secure reproductive rights or enact common sense gun control unless we have a functioning democracy. The other side knows that. It is why subverting our elections is their top objective.
As I have written before, we are one or two elections away from potentially losing our democracy for a generation or more. We have the ability to stop that from happening. But only if we all act together. And only if we all act now. Because there simply is no time to wait.