The Virus of Mass Voter Challenges Threatens Democracy and Is Spreading Fast

Blue background with red-toned viruses that say "VOTED" on them taking up the graphic.

If the virus of mass voter challenges is an epidemic threatening to sweep across the nation and undermine our democracy, then Georgia is patient zero. It was there, in the 2020 Senate run-off elections that we saw 360,000 voters challenged — a number so large that it defies any post-Jim Crow era comparison.

After Republicans lost both Senate seats, it was Georgia that changed its law to make mass voter challenges easier to lodge and harder to defeat. Even as we saw Republicans file challenges in other states, in the midterm elections, Georgia again led the nation with more than 100,000 new challenges filed.

Like a rabies victim who, in their final stages of deliria, seeks to spread the virus, Georgia Republicans continue to make mass challenges easier and more dangerous. Just last week, the GOP-controlled Legislature enacted a new law that further enables mass challenges and weakens the ability of county officials to protect targeted voters.

Even before this newest law, we have already seen the virus of voter challenges spread. New Republican election vigilante groups are cropping up around the country to lodge mass challenges against unsuspecting voters — seeking to deprive them of the right to vote. With names like the Pigpen Project in Nevada and Soles to the Rolls in Michigan, these right-wing organizations are part of a web of anti-voting organizations preparing now to make it harder to vote by targeting voters for challenge.

Left unchecked, the virus of mass challenges threatens to reach all corners of the country and wreak havoc on free and fair elections.

In Waterford, Michigan, a single activist challenged more than a thousand voters. The population of the entire town is only just over 70,000. Among those who were incorrectly removed was an activity duty member of the U.S. Air Force. In Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, conservative vigilantes in Pennsylvania have already challenged the voter registrations of 16,000 citizens, with plans to challenge 10,000 more.

Scarcely a week goes by that another right-wing group does not brag about new technology to make these mass challenges bigger, more targeted and more effective at disenfranchising voters. Just last week, True the Vote, the largest of these organizations challenging voters and the group responsible for the most mass challenges in Georgia, relaunched its platform, IV3. 

According to the group, it will allow right-wing vigilantes to enter their own location and receive a list of voters to submit to their county to challenge. Ominously, they promise that this platform and the databases underlying it “can and will change elections in America forever.”

Republicans are not mere bystanders in this attack on voters; they are active participants. From removing states from cooperative agreements like ERIC to RNC lawsuits aimed at weakening election offices’ ability to defend themselves, the national GOP is working side by side, if not hand in glove, with these local voter suppression outfits.

Left unchecked, the virus of mass challenges threatens to reach all corners of the country and wreak havoc on free and fair elections. But it is not too late to stop this.

First, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has not yet signed the new law in Georgia and should be encouraged to veto it. This is a place where the business community can help like we saw in 2021 with Senate Bill 202, but it must act decisively and fast.

Second, every state with a Democratic trifecta should immediately enact laws banning private voter challenges. States and counties, operating within the law, have regular programs to conduct list maintenance to ensure accurate rolls. There is no reason why their efforts should be replaced by right-wing, election-denying groups.

Third, legal and voting rights organizations need to fight against these vote suppression tactics in court. Whether it is challenging the laws that make these vigilante tactics available or direct litigation to protect individual voters, the legal community must prioritize this for the threat that it is.

Finally, when it comes to voter registration, we all must look out for ourselves and our families. Take a few minutes to check and make sure your voter registration is up to date. Go to your county or state website or call them to confirm that you are properly registered. Do it again after Labor Day, before you vote.

The virus of mass voter challenges will not be contained within Georgia or just to Georgia. But if we do what we can now, we can prevent it from permanently injuring our democracy this fall.