democracy is a work in progress

Threats to Voting Rights

Problem Brief

America's damaged democracy

Key Takeaways

  • A new and immediate threat to the heart of democracy – the right to vote and have that vote counted – has emerged with the rise of Donald Trump, a cult-like authoritarian figure whose refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election has exposed his party’s abandonment of conservative democratic principles. By seeking to overturn the election results and actively encouraging others to support his cause, he and the leaders of the Republican Party have further undermined trust in our elections and divided the nation.
  • Election security, always a concern but never a significant domestic threat until the 2020 presidential election, is at greater risk of a breach as Republicans in control of many state governments are making it easier for partisans to disregard legitimate votes and declare election winners regardless of the vote count.
  • The lack of competitive elections, in part the result of heavily gerrymandered districts, has enabled the two major parties to marginalize independent and moderate voices, creating more extreme politics that have hastened the real possibility of authoritarian rule.
  • Voter suppression, never absent from American elections, has accelerated since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that severely weakened the Voting Rights Act. An important Democratic Party tactic from Reconstruction through the 1960s civil rights era, suppressing the vote has since been more a hallmark of the Republican Party playbook.
  • Two of the last four presidents were elected without winning the popular vote, and the process of certifying the Electoral College result has become a central element of today’s threat to the security and reliability of our presidential elections. It is worth asking whether the Constitution needs its first update to presidential election rules since ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967.

Threats to voting rights and voting in America have been at a critical peak since Donald Trump and his GOP allies intensified their attacks on the integrity of our elections with baseless claims of widespread fraud and a stolen presidency. Despite the Trump camp’s multiple promises to make evidence of fraud public, no such credible evidence has yet been presented to support their allegations. Courts have dismissed more than 50 lawsuits that purported to buttress Trump’s claims. Furthermore, Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, declared there was no fraud sufficient to change the outcome in any state and other top Trump administration officials said the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history”.

Nevertheless, Trump spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 and urged attendees to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell”, which led to the attack on the Capitol that for several hours halted the process of certifying the election results. Following the failed insurrection, Congress reconvened late that night and certified the results over the objections of a majority of congressional Republicans – 147 of 261 – who continued to support Trump’s baseless claims.

The January 6 insurrection – and the posture of many Republicans in state and federal elective office ever since, denying that it was an attack on democracy – are clear indicators of the strength and depth of this internal threat to the future of our most fundamental democratic rights. The Republican National Committee even called the attack on the Capitol legitimate political discourse – nevermind that five people died in connection with that day’s violence and 150 Capitol police officers were wounded while protecting our elected representatives from the attackers.

Soon after the insurrection, the House of Representatives established the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack over the objections of the GOP leadership, which chose not to name any Republican members to the committee. But the committee’s work proceeded with the vigorous cooperation of two Republican members: Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney – named  to the panel by the Democrats. (As a consequence, both have since been effectively cast out of the party by their GOP colleagues.)

After a year of work, the committee decided it had gathered sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump and some of his allies had conspired to commit fraud and obstruction by misleading Americans about the outcome of the 2020 election and attempting to overturn the result.

Meanwhile, Republicans in state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills and enacted laws in at least eight states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, to give them more partisan control over election results. In dozens of state and local races, supporters of the “Stop the Steal” movement and participants in the Capitol attack are running for elected positions that would give them influence and, in some cases, oversight of elections. In 2021, seven candidates who attended the rally won their races. At least 57 people who were involved in the protests on January 6, including several who were arrested, are running for office in 2022.

When we first published this brief in 2019, we sought to break down the systemic threats to voting rights and voting in a way that showed that – with sufficient effort, time, and support from the public – the system could be modified and improved and thus live up to the aspiration of creating “a more perfect union”. What we see happening now threatens to uproot the system entirely and make a sham of future elections, much as we’ve seen happen with elections in Russia and other nations that exist under authoritarian rule.

While we strive to avoid click-baiting and anxiety-inducing pronouncements, the January 6 insurrection and efforts in many states to make election oversight more partisan lead us to conclude that, after nearly 250 years, the nation’s great experiment in government by the people and for the people is at risk of failing. Preventing this slow coup should now be the priority in the struggle to protect the cornerstones of our democracy: the right to vote and the right to have our votes fairly counted.

Problem Definition

Disinformation and the loss of election integrity

Claims of election fraud and a stolen election – repeated without evidence – have steadily undermined the integrity of our elections and convinced many voters that there are serious problems with our electoral system. The January 6 attack on the Capitol suggests that when people no longer trust the electoral system, they will resort to violence – especially when urged by the president of the United States to “fight like hell [or] you’re not going to have a country anymore”, a sentiment echoed by other political leaders. At the same time, real threats to election integrity, including passage of state laws giving more partisan control over vote counting and certification, are also eroding trust in the electoral process.

Gerrymandering and the loss of competitive elections

The Constitution requires a census at the start of every decade for the purpose of determining how many seats each state should have in the House of Representatives based on changes in population. States use this information to redistrict – redraw their congressional district maps by shifting boundaries that determine who gets to vote in each House election. It has long been recognized – and generally accepted – as an activity often manipulated by the party in power in order to maximize its chances of remaining in power. That manipulation is called “partisan gerrymandering” and is a practice that has intensified in recent decades as modern data analytics allow for more precise, if contorted, lines that maximize the dominant party’s electoral chances.

Acts of voter suppression

The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder struck down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which required that states and counties with histories of racially discriminatory elections get federal approval for any changes in their election procedures. Soon after the decision, those states covered by the VRA implemented strict voter ID laws, aggressive purges of voter rolls, and onerous restrictions on voting by mail. These measures had the apparent intent and certainly the effect of making it harder for people of color to register and to cast their ballots. Separately, the 2017 expiration of decades-old limits on the power of partisans seeking to thwart fraud at polling places cleared the way for creation of an army of poll watchers for Trump in the 2020 election.

Threats to election security

Interference by foreign adversaries exploiting vulnerabilities in technology and the ease of spreading disinformation in the internet age had been the main threats to election security in the first few political contests of the 21st century. Now, however, the focus has shifted to domestic threats revealed in the aggressive and coordinated efforts by many GOP officials and far right organizations to tamper with the 2020 election and future elections.

Exploiting the Electoral College

The Electoral College has drawn increased scrutiny since George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016 were elected despite finishing second in the national popular vote; it has also placed a spotlight on the dispositive importance of fewer than 10 genuinely “purple” or battleground states. The 2020 election highlighted legal loopholes that could be exploited by partisan state officials to award slates of electors to their candidate instead of the winner of the popular vote in their state. Whatever the arguments for its preservation, recent elections have contributed substantially to the loss of faith in our core democratic principle of one person, one vote.

When added together, the persistence of false election claims, voter suppression, gerrymandering, and opposition to fixing these problems continues to weigh against Americans’ trust and engagement in the political system. Combined with record economic inequality and Congress’ inability to agree on ways to combat such problems as limited access to medical care, the rapidly warming climate, and the skyrocketing national debt, the cumulative damage has been corrosive – giving significant segments of the population reason to conclude that American democracy does not represent, include, or work for them.

Problem Scope

In research by Morning Consult that evaluated Americans’ right-wing authoritarian tendencies, 26% were identified as “highly right-wing authoritarian”. And in the 2020 election, 47% of the nationwide vote —74.2 million ballots – were cast for Donald Trump, who had made a disregard for democratic norms and support for authoritarian views a hallmark of his four years as president.

This drift away from democratic principles lends new urgency to fixing the many weaknesses in our democratic system that have brought us to this point. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and threats to election security are all vital problems of the system that have needed to be rectified for decades. What is newly alarming is how disinformation is undermining election integrity. These vulnerabilities have been magnified by the dominance of an autocratic figure who has turbocharged the authoritarian strain that runs through one of our two major political parties and leveraged weaknesses in the Electoral College system. Attacks by Trump and other leading Republicans on the democratic rules and aspirations of our elections are now more direct and overt.

Limits to What We Know

Trump’s – and the New GOP’s – Staying Power

What we’ve described thus far has been a Republican Party that has put its thirst for political power ahead of its democratic principles. It’s a shift in orientation that has its roots in the party’s acceptance of the Jim Crow Democrats and the ascendance of the no-holds barred style of partisan politics championed by Newt Gingrich. The anger of Tea Party activists at the federal government and their uncompromising approach to policymaking completed the shift and put the nation under the current threat of authoritarian control.

The Tea Party movement, despite its influence, was diffuse and active at the grassroots when it began, but it lacked a galvanizing figure at the national level. Donald Trump became that figure. His candidacy and then his presidency inflamed and emboldened the extreme right and accelerated a “purification” of the Republican Party in which many moderate Republicans – so-called RINOs, or “Republicans in name only”, who were willing to work with their Democratic colleagues – have been pushed from the party.

Trump thrives in the spotlight and used it effectively in 2020 to persuade 74 million people that his personal character and affection for authoritarian rule are not relevant to the cause of erasing Democrats from the political map by whatever means is available. Sadly, he is far from alone. In fact, virtually the entire GOP leadership at the federal and state level continues to countenance his behavior, if not overtly then by declining to call it out as inappropriate.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has proven willing to ignore democratic norms and break even his own previously declared rules in order to ensure that Republicans control the filling of vacant seats on the Supreme Court and can hinder and scuttle Democratic appointees and legislation at will.

House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy first faulted Trump for his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol when, a week later, he said, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” He then spent the next several months backpedaling and trying to undermine efforts to organize a bipartisan committee to investigate the attack. He ultimately refused to put any Republicans on the committee and defended the Republican National Committee’s censure of the two Republicans who joined the committee.

There are the majority of Republicans in Congress (8 senators and 139 representatives) whose first votes after the January 6 attack on the Capitol were to sustain objections to certifying the Electoral College votes that made Joe Biden president. Days later, only 10 of the 211 House Republicans subsequently voted to impeach him for “incitement of insurrection”, and only seven of the 50 GOP senators voted to convict him and remove him from office.

Dozens if not hundreds of Trump supporters are running for political office, including the Republican governors of the second and third most populous states, Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida. Both men have excited the Trump base and positioned themselves for presidential runs in 2024 by promoting and signing laws counter to traditional American democratic principles, including Texas’ spy-on-your-neighbor-for-money anti-abortion law and Florida’s effort to neuter the restoration of voting rights for released felons – an initiative that had been overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters.

The bottom line: A divisive, authoritarian streak runs deep through today’s Republican Party, so it is unlikely to disappear even if Trump leaves public life. Whether another Republican leader can provide the same galvanizing force is unclear. Trump’s influence as kingmaker in the party remains strong, making it unlikely that anyone will displace him, at least pending the results of the candidates he has endorsed in the 2022 Republican primaries around the country.

Trump and Russian Influence

There has been ample speculation about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, dating from at least 1987, that is fueled by a number of facts reported by several reputable organizations and augmented by unconfirmed allegations, innuendo, and guilt-by-association. The sketchy narrative dares us to imagine what seems so implausible: That a president of the United States may be an asset – unwitting or otherwise – of the nation’s long-time adversary. In an era of sophisticated disinformation tactics, however, we have to be very careful about accepting at face value such “evidence”, because it’s possible this is one more twist in a plot to divide the country.

It’s also possible that it should not be our top concern, for example, that Trump may have been targeted by the KGB as a potential asset in 1987. Rather, what is even more relevant is what is in plain sight: Trump’s synchronicity with Russian objectives, as evident by his rejection of long-standing US government policies and Republican attitudes toward Russia, his open affection for Vladimir Putin, and his attacks on our electoral system. Does it really matter whether any of that happened in direct collaboration with Putin?

The question all Americans should be asking is: Do we want to be led by an authoritarian who wants us to leave NATO, the lynchpin of security in the West since World War II, turn our back on our allies there, and end the nation’s peaceful transfer of power after a world-record 224 years? Trump’s policy positions are especially alarming given that they are a wholesale reversal of bedrock American views held regardless of party affiliation and yet, a shockingly large number of Republican leaders and voters are now willing to go along with him.

The primary concern is not whether Trump is in cahoots with the Russians, but that he poses a threat to American democracy regardless of where the impetus is coming from.

Impact of New Partisan Elections Laws

We don’t know if Republicans will use the new state laws giving them partisan oversight of elections to overturn any Democratic victory in 2022 or beyond. The purpose in alerting citizens to this possibility is to encourage their engagement in state and local politics to make sure that never happens.

The institutions of American democracy were created by the authors of the Constitution to replace autocratic rule by the British monarch. Our democracy has survived this long because a majority of Americans and partisan officials respected those institutions and chose not to put their faith in any politician who aspired to govern by autocratic fiat. No matter how the institutions of government may be abused or corrupted by bad actors, it’s our responsibility to hold those people accountable while insisting on a preservation, if not strengthening, of those democratic institutions to prevent future abuse.

This much is a sure bet: The more Trump supporters are elected to state office, the more likely new state laws will be invoked to throw out victories by Democratic candidates – as well as, potentially, unwelcome wins by more moderate candidates in Republican primaries. Those who believe in democracy need to be prepared in those areas where this could legally come to pass.

What’s at Stake

Democracy and Trust That It (Still) Works

Republics can and do fail. It cannot be overstated: Any act, constraint, or legacy of our system that undermines the engagement of all citizens in the political process is a threat to our right to govern ourselves and preserve the freedoms we have. The act of voting is the most fundamental level of engagement, and it is under attack.

  • When the act of voting becomes onerous – a choice between feeding your family or taking time off from your low-paying, hourly-wage job to make the long trek to the polling center only to stand in line for hours – it ceases to be a viable choice for many people.
  • When candidates run unopposed or in a district created along partisan lines so the party of the winner is predetermined, voters have less incentive to pay attention to the issues or the candidates and are less likely to vote.
  • When presidential candidates win a majority of the popular vote but still lose the election, everyone who believes that democracy reflects the will of the people also loses.
  • When elected officials fail to serve the common good and instead appear to support only those with economic power, people lose faith in the power of their own vote.

We can’t ignore those who, unintentionally or not, attack our right and ability to vote. Nor can we allow bureaucratic inertia and technical vulnerabilities to degrade the electoral process and diminish the power of our votes.

A Robust Conservative Party

To continue referring to the Republican Party as the nation’s conservative party gives the false impression that conservatives are still in control of the party. But according to Richard Viguerie, a long-time GOP operative and architect of the conservatives’ grassroots outreach in the 1960s and ‘70s, conservatives have already ceded party control. In his 2004 book, “America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Over America”, he wrote, “The conservative message of limited, constitutional government has been virtually silenced, co-opted by my-party-right-or-wrong partisanship.”

Today’s GOP continues to embrace conservative issues like cutting taxes on businesses and the wealthy, holding down the minimum wage, and shrinking the size of government, but during the Trump era a willingness to defy the norms of governing and government institutions has become its defining feature.

Had Republicans embraced and followed the recommendations in their 2012 post-election report, conservatives might possibly have reasserted their control of the party. Rather than adapt to a changing and more diverse America, though, the party doubled down on culture war issues like immigration, abortion, gay marriage, and gender fluidity that appeal to its White, Christian, and nativist base of support.

Every democracy needs at least two parties that offer opposing views and are willing to fight their policy battles within the democratic framework. Today’s GOP has abandoned that framework for one where it has declared itself the sole arbiter of what is best for America.

Fixing Our Systemic Problems

One hallmark of today’s Republican Party is that it has consistently denied or ignored the existence of systemic problems like climate change and unequal access to healthcare. Until the 1990s, conservatives in Congress and the statehouses would have mounted fierce policy debates on these issues to explain why the government’s role in finding solutions should be limited. But beginning with the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994 – and especially since Mitch McConnell promised in 2009 to make Barack Obama a one-term president – these challenges have been used more as weapons to undermine the credibility of those who sought solutions to them, and then as stakes in the ground to further segregate the electorate into partisan tribes.

As for voting rights, as we’ve demonstrated, today’s Republicans would prefer to keep as many people from voting as possible (expecting that high turnout would aid Democrats) rather than increasing overall participation in the electoral system. The stronger the GOP’s hold and influence on who votes and who counts the votes, the less likely it is that problem-solvers in government will be able to succeed.

Potential Obstacles

The Legal Coup

With new state laws governing who counts the votes, and a Supreme Court dominated by justices with highly partisan GOP resumes, Democrats may not have the ability to influence federal policy for a long time. Under a government run by this Republican Party, voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering will be the norm and creatively designed laws will threaten those people who mount strong campaigns against them. Statutes like one in Tennessee could be just a beginning: Enacted in 2020, it puts protesters at greater risk of felony charges, which if convicted, would mean they are stripped of their right to vote.

Even those few remaining Republicans who Democrats and the media look to for signs of a moderating influence – people like Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins and Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – do not support legislation, known as the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, that would update the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court decided were outdated in Shelby County v. Holder.

Hyper Partisanship

There has been a shift in the last 70 years from a time when political scientists believed the two major parties were too similar to the hyper-partisan tribalism that we see today. Political psychologist Lilliana Mason described this shift in a 2019 podcast and identified one particularly concerning development regarding today’s partisanship: A party’s followers will continue to follow even when their leadership suddenly flips its long-held position on an issue. Trump’s flip on Russia is a leading example.

What distinguishes a hyper-partisan environment is the parties’ all-out desire to win regardless of what might be best for their constituents or the country as a whole. Since the early 1990s, Republicans and their supporters in business and the media repeatedly rejected the science of climate change and avoided unwelcome policy discussions, vigorously opposing Obamacare (which was modeled on the market-driven solution implemented in Massachusetts when Republican Mitt Romney was governor), and partly shutting down the federal government and threatening to allow a default on the national debt as weapons in budget negotiations. All because the party refused to cede any victories to its opposition, whether or not a policy was good for Americans and the nation.

During the last decade, Republican leaders have not tried to hide their strategy. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell declared it his highest priority in 2009 to make Barack Obama “a one-term president.” And Ohio Republican John Boehner promised prior to the 2010 election that, if Republicans reclaimed control of the House of Representatives, they would “do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill [Obama’s policy agenda], stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.” (They won, and he was elected House Speaker.)

The American people have noticed. A Fox News poll in 2018 found that most Americans believe by a wide margin – 52% to 36% – that the Republican Party puts its own interests ahead of the best interests of the country.

With regard to voting rights, while both parties have used gerrymandering and closed primaries and caucuses that erode the integrity of our elections, the GOP has done much more to advance restrictive measures that primarily affect communities of color and to make  false claims of widespread voter fraud and rigged elections. And it was Republicans in Congress who for an extended time opposed giving the states the federal funds needed to make voting systems less vulnerable to foreign interference – even while making frequent and grossly exaggerated claims about election vulnerabilities that could create opportunities for fraud.

At the very least, today’s GOP does not make voting rights a priority, choosing instead to focus on a statistically insignificant level of fraud to justify voter ID laws and purges that have the potential to impact the most fundamental right of a substantial number of our citizens – and disproportionately people of color. At worst, the party has strategically undermined those rights, cynically promoting efforts to restrict and exclude people who tend to vote against them.

Continued Disengagement Among Eligible Voters

Despite the record turnout in 2020 – 66% of eligible Americans cast a ballot – the vast majority believe the political system is rigged in favor of the super-rich and organizations representing corporate interests. In 2021, according to an ongoing Gallup poll, only 5% of Americans had  a great deal of confidence in Congress. There is a good reason why Americans responded as they did.

A 2014 Princeton University study looked at 1,800 public opinion polls in a 20-year period and found that, no matter how much public support there is for a piece of legislation – be it 100%, 0%, or somewhere in between – there is only a 30% chance that the legislation will be passed. The authors concluded, “The preferences of the average American have only a miniscule, near zero, statistically insignificant impact on public policy.”

Once lost from the system, it is very difficult to re-engage those who have stopped voting and paying attention to politics, especially the growing numbers who believe the system does not work for them. In this context, “use it or lose it” takes on a more dire and possibly more permanent meaning, as it is only through the vote that Americans can legitimately reclaim their voice in how we are governed.

Additional Considerations

Income and Wealth Inequality

Over the last 40 years, incomes for most workers grew by about 12% while top earners saw their salaries increase dramatically, in some cases by almost 340%. The wealthiest 10% of Americans own about 70% of the nation’s wealth. The bottom 50% own 2%.

In a democracy, differences in income and wealth have traditionally had little impact on our freedom of speech – at least in theory, we all have the same liberty to voice our opinions. However, money and position in society enable the wealthiest and most connected to amplify their views far above the volume of the average citizen. Most of us understand that those who hold the purse strings have a disproportionate share of the power to persuade governments to do their bidding, with no guarantee that it will serve the common good – and that the well-heeled few have a far easier time evading if not breaking the law, and getting away with it, than the rest of us. Not only does this run counter to the foundational principles of democracy, it also disillusions large swaths of the population who tend to disengage from the participation needed to sustain our democratic freedoms.

Finding a way to level the playing field so that all citizens believe they have a similarly meaningful stake in the system is essential for a healthy and thriving democracy.

Money in Politics

The increased role of money in politics since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – which said corporations, nonprofit organizations, labor unions, and other associations had a First Amendment right to make unlimited independent expenditures to support or oppose political candidates – has overwhelmed the electoral process and virtually silenced the voices of average Americans at the national level. Most members of Congress spend more time fundraising than legislating. The Princeton University study about the effect of citizen support on the passage of legislation concluded that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Repairing the electoral process and re-invigorating the electorate is the best means of achieving greater representation and influence on future policies. One of the most effective means to do so demands that the flow of money in politics be controlled.

The Spread of Undemocratic Speech

With freedom of speech comes great responsibility – something many of our public figures seem to forget and many in the public fail to recognize. We have every right to speak openly and in opposition to those in power, but we should choose our words and expressions carefully lest we damage the fragile balance of our democracy.

It’s an age-old problem that has returned to the spotlight because hate speech, speech that incites violence, and the repetition of falsehoods have become pervasive on social media,  spread across more traditional media platforms, and fueled an already volatile political division. As soon as Twitter prohibits posts by a sitting president, or Facebook starts to moderate and occasionally censor what’s posted and promoted in its feeds, or when state governments pass laws limiting what can be taught to our children, attention again focuses on our right to unfettered speech and our need to blunt the most outrageous talk and spread of dangerous falsehoods if we are to retain that right.

The problem can be separated into two pieces: The right to speak freely and to disseminate speech, and the right to impose consequences for out of bounds speech. Who gets to decide what speech is so outside the mainstream that it deserves punishment or censorship? Congress and the Supreme Court have limited some forms of speech, including obscenity, child pornography, incitement to immediate violence, and lying under oath. The behavior of businesses is not covered by the First Amendment and so they have much more leeway to make their own decisions about what constitutes appropriate speech and to impose  repercussions for speech that violates their rules.

That question of who decides has becomes more concerning and complex at a time when social media is perceived as the town square of the 21st century and leading media platforms are owned by some of the world’s richest people: Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post; Rupert Murdoch has the Wall Street Journal and Fox News; Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, and now, it appears, Elon Musk at Twitter. The reach and influence of these platforms gives them substantial and potentially dangerous amounts of power in our democracy.

In particular, the power of social media to rapidly spread disinformation is why federal regulation will most likely be needed, as Zuckerberg himself has suggested on several occasions: “Even if I’m not going to agree with every regulation in the near term, I do think it’s going to be the thing that helps creates trust and better governance of the internet and will benefit everyone, including us over the long term.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Aren’t Democrats also guilty of partisan gerrymandering and taking advantage of the primary system and sore loser laws?

Yes, but the question implies a false equivalency. Since passage of the Voting Rights Act, Democrats have been advocates of expanding voter participation, not limiting it. They are the party of inclusion, a position that reflects the nation’s history of steadily expanding the vote to different populations. Republicans, on the other hand, have shown themselves to be the party of exclusion with an inclination to remove voting rights from segments of the population.

How common is voter fraud?

The short answer: not at all common.

Studies of voter fraud have found no evidence to suggest it is a widespread problem nor one that has affected the outcome of any race. The Brennan Center’s 2007 report, The Truth About Voter Fraud, estimated that fraud incident rates were less than one-one-hundredth of 1%. Over the next decade, more than two dozen studies, court opinions, and government investigations concluded that voter fraud is virtually non-existent and has no impact on election results.

And in December 2021, the Associated Press reported that it had found no more than 475 cases of potentially fraudulent votes in the six battleground states in which President Trump lost and then disputed the results. That statistically insignificant number of ballots would have made no difference in the 2020 outcome – even if all the questionable ballots were for Biden, which they were not, and even if those ballots were counted, which in most cases they were not. Biden won Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and their 79 Electoral College votes by a combined 311,257 votes out of 25.5 million ballots cast for president. The disputed ballots represent less than 1% of his victory margin in those states.

Despite repeated claims that millions have voted illegally, examination after examination of such fraud claims reveals that fraud is very rare and voter impersonation is nearly non-existent. Many cases of potential fraud turn out to be unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators.

Will voters who had to make little effort to register or vote make any effort to educate themselves about issues or candidates prior to voting?

Regarding the effort to educate oneself, experience suggests that if obstacles to accessing useful information are removed, more people will make use of the information. The challenge in today’s infosphere is that too much useful information is obscured or distorted by a lot of noise, some of it intentionally created to distract and confuse and ultimately dull the motivation to engage further.

Second, this question seems rooted in a darker, more oppressive period in our voting history. Whether or not people have educated themselves about issues or candidates is not a determinant to their right to vote, no more so than the ability to pass a literacy test or pay a poll tax.

In the earliest days of our democracy, the founders recognized that it would best thrive if its citizens were educated participants in civic life, but they made no demands in this regard. Instead, we have a long history of mostly incomplete efforts of limited success to establish a common education that prepares each generation for the civic challenges of its time.

Why doesn’t this brief evaluate the premise that underlies the article, which I infer is that getting everyone to register and vote is a great idea?

Yes, your inference is correct: We don’t question the idea that encouraging all eligible citizens to register and vote is a good idea. Here’s why:

  1. The Declaration of Independence makes no distinction when it declares that “all men are created equal” – a phrase that has been expanded through the generations to include men of all races and religions, and women, too; and
  2. The Constitution of the United States – our constitution – was ordained and established by “We the People of the United States” – again, making no distinction among skin color, gender, language spoken, wealth, intelligence, or any other characteristic that distinguishes one person from another.

In this context, we agree that the right to vote is an inalienable right belonging to all eligible citizens. While society has determined that certain of its citizens should not be eligible to vote, such as those who disqualify themselves from enjoying the rights of society by committing certain crimes, such determinations, while seemingly well-intentioned, have in the past and still today are used to exclude people of color and those with little wealth from the right to vote. Finally:

  1. The more people who vote, the more people are engaged in sustaining our democracy. Recognizing that, lawmakers and the public have steadily expanded the right to vote. Democracy thrives best when there is participation from its citizens. When participation is low, the democracy becomes more vulnerable to the rise of non-democratic elements of the society.

We’re pretty sure there are many other reasons, but these are the three we think are most relevant.

Are the voter suppression tactics described here racist?

Yes, most of the tactics are racist in origin, and in some recent legal cases, courts have ruled that they are. More generally, these tactics are simply a matter of power politics. After rejecting the recommendations of the party’s 2012 post-election report, Republican leadership understands that in order to win elections in some states, the party needs fewer people voting, not more. It may be, however, that in order to gain support among voters, the GOP leadership and candidates prey upon the electorate’s racist and nativist fears and animosity. And they have become more blunt and public in doing so.

Echoing sentiments of the Jim Crow era, State Rep. John Kavanagh told CNN in 2021 that his fellow Arizona Republicans “don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote” and that he was more concerned with the “quality of votes” than with overall voter turnout.

Tools & Resources

What can you do to make sure your vote counts and your voice is heard? Or to make sure that we foster a voting process that makes it easy and encourages everyone who is eligible to cast their vote? The following tools and resources offer a variety of ways to do something – just find the one or two that suit you and click.

Get information and express your expectations for the November 2020 election

Contact your state’s Secretary of State to find out what they are doing to make the November election safe, secure, and well-run. In most states, the Secretary of State is responsible for managing elections.

Find your state election office with this helpful search tool from USA.gov.

Find your local election office using this look-up page on the US Federal Voting Assistance Program website.

Find your polling place. Vote.org provides links to each state’s (and DC’s) polling center locations.

Get personalized voting information on your registration and your state’s voting deadlines, how to register and vote absentee, check your registration status, find out what’s on your ballot, and more. Enter your address and VOTE411 will connect you with your state’s tools and resources.

See what you can do on the VoteSaveAmerica website – vote by mail, be a poll worker, or volunteer.

Make it easier to vote

Be a nonpartisan poll monitor. Volunteer to be a nonpartisan poll monitor with Election Protection, a project led by Common Cause and coordinated by a coalition of more than 100 local, state, and national organizations.

Demand safer, more secure elections. Tell your governor to do what’s necessary to ensure safe, secure elections in November via this page provided by FairVote.

Vote by mail in your state. This tool from Represent Us will tell you whether you can vote by mail in your state and, if you can, how to get your ballot. If you are not eligible to vote by mail, it offers steps you can take to help expand vote by mail in your state.

Best practices and strategies for vote at home. The National Vote At Home Institute has loads of resources including best practices and a strategy for expanding vote by mail in time for the 2020 general election in November.

Giving employees time off to vote. Led by a broad range of businesses, Time to Vote is a movement committed to ensuring that hourly employees and those without paid time off do not have to choose between voting and earning a paycheck.

Voting rights for all Americans. Though overtly motivated by partisan concerns to elect Democratic champions of voting rights, iVote is committed to securing voting rights for all Americans. Editor’s note: Until the Republican Party begins to act on its concern over voter fraud by offering proposals to make efforts to expand the vote more secure – rather than using unfounded claims of fraud to dismiss such efforts outright or otherwise hindering them, we cannot fault iVote for their partisan sentiments.

Election Integrity

MIT Election Performance Index. Originally developed by the Pew Charitable Trusts, this tool shows whether your state has made improvements to its election process and how its performance compares to other states and to its own performance in different election years. It also offers a detailed look at specific performance indicators for each state. This is a very simple tool to navigate.
Gerrymandering Threat Index. From RepresentUS, this page enables you to learn about the risks of gerrymandering in your state.

For voters

I Side With. Take a quiz on where you stand on different issues and this site’s very cool AI will analyze your responses to determine which presidential candidate you side with.
Atlas of Redistricting. FiveThirtyEight has created an interactive map that provides the ability to look at each state and what different ways of drawing district lines would look like. If we reject partisan gerrymandering, what takes its place – ensuring competitive elections, minority representation, simplified (more “fair”) borders?
VOTE411. Vote 411 offers ballot information for local, state, and federal elections. Confirm that you’re registered, find your local polling place, see who/what is on the ballot.
Vote.org. Find everything you need to make sure you’re ready to vote: confirm/complete your registration, get your absentee ballot, request election reminders, and if you’re too young to vote, pledge to register to vote and get a reminder when you turn 18.

For election administrators

Voting Technology Project (VTP) Toolkit. From MIT and Caltech, this site offers election administrators a variety of tools to help plan and conduct elections.
ElectionTools.org. This site offers communication and administrative tools for election officials.

Sources

Takeaways

Michael Balsamo, “Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud”, AP, Dec 1, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/barr-no-widespread-election-fraud-b1f1488796c9a98c4b1a9061a6c7f49d, accessed Feb 5, 2022

Press release, “Joint Statement from Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council & the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees”, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Nov 12, 2020, https://www.cisa.gov/news/2020/11/12/joint-statement-elections-infrastructure-government-coordinating-council-election, Feb 5, 2022

Harry Stevens, Daniela Santamariña, Kate Rabinowitz, Kevin Uhrmacher, John Muyskens, “How members of Congress voted on counting the electoral college vote”, Washington Post, Jan 7, 2021,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2021/politics/congress-electoral-college-count-tracker/, Apr 3, 2022

Caroline Vakil, “Murkowski criticizes RNC calling Jan. 6 attack ‘legitimate political discourse’”, The Hill, Feb 5, 2022, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/592988-murkowski-criticizes-rnc-calling-jan-6-attack-legitimate-political-discourse, accessed Mar 25, 2022

Rohini Kurup, Katherine Pompilio, “Jan. 6 Select Committee Says Trump and Allies May Have Engaged in Criminal Conspiracy To Overturn 2020 Election”, LawFare, Mar 3, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/jan-6-select-committee-says-trump-and-allies-may-have-engaged-criminal-conspiracy-overturn-2020, accessed Apr 26, 2022

Amy B. Wang, Mariana Alfaro, “At least seven Jan. 6 rallygoers won public office on Election Day”, Washington Post, Nov 3, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/03/least-seven-jan-6-rallygoers-won-public-office-election-day/, accessed Mar 25, 2022

Brittany Gibson, “They stormed the Capitol. Now they’re running for office.”, Politico, Jan 5, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/01/05/jan-6-protesters-run-for-office-526545, accessed Apr 4, 2022

Definition

Charlie Savage, “Incitement to Riot? What Trump Told Supporters Before Mob Stormed Capitol”, New York Times, Jan 12, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/10/us/trump-speech-riot.html, accessed Apr 4, 2022

Scope

Cameron Easley, “U.S. Conservatives Are Uniquely Inclined Toward Right-Wing Authoritarianism Compared to Western Peers”, Morning Consult, Jun 28, 2021, https://morningconsult.com/2021/06/28/global-right-wing-authoritarian-test/, accessed Apr 4, 2022

Lee Drutman, Larry Diamond, Joe Goldman, “Follow the Leader Exploring American Support for Democracy and Authoritarianism”, Democracy Fund | Voter Study Group, https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publication/follow-the-leader, accessed Apr 4, 2022

Election Integrity

National Poll, “Trust in Elections, Threat to Democracy”, NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist, Nov 1, 2021, https://maristpoll.marist.edu/polls/npr-pbs-newshour-marist-national-poll-trust-in-elections-threat-to-democracy-biden-approval-november-2021/, accessed Feb 25, 2022

Heritage Foundation, “Election Fraud Cases”, https://www.heritage.org/voterfraud/search, accessed Mar 8, 2022

Brennan Center for Justice, “The Myth of Voter Fraud”,  https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/ensure-every-american-can-vote/vote-suppression/myth-voter-fraud, accessed Mar 2, 2022

Michael Edison Hayden, “Far Right Resurrects Roger Stone’s #StopTheSteal During Vote Count”, Southern Poverty Law Center, Nov 6, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2020/11/06/far-right-resurrects-roger-stones-stopthesteal-during-vote-count, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, “#StopTheSteal: Timeline of Social Media and Extremist Activities Leading to 1/6 Insurrection”, Just Security, Feb 10, 2021, https://www.justsecurity.org/74622/stopthesteal-timeline-of-social-media-and-extremist-activities-leading-to-1-6-insurrection/, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Steven Gillon, “GOPAC Strategy and Instructional Tapes (1986-1994)”, Library of Congress, 2010, https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/documents/GOPACtapes.pdf, accessed Mar 25, 2022

McKay Coppins, “The Man Who Broke Politics”, The Atlantic, Nov 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/11/newt-gingrich-says-youre-welcome/570832/, accessed Mar 25, 2022

David A. Graham, “North Carolina Had No Choice”, The Atlantic, Feb 22, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/02/north-carolina-9th-fraud-board-orders-new-election/583369/, accessed Mar 3, 2022

Emery P. Dalesio, “After ballot fraud suspicions, GOP candidate in North Carolina congressional race drops out”, USA Today, Feb 26, 2019, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/02/26/mark-harris-drops-out-north-carolina-congressional-race/2998998002/, accessed Mar 3, 2022

Michael C. Herron, “Rules, Politics, and Policy”, Election Law Journal, Sep 11, 2019, https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/elj.2019.0544, accessed Mar 3, 2022

Sarah Pruitt, “What are Delegates and Superdelegates”, History, Dec 20, 2019, https://www.history.com/news/what-is-a-delegate-and-superdelegate, accessed Apr 21, 2022

Brandon Carter, Don Gonyea, “DNC Votes To Largely Strip ‘Superdelegates’ Of Presidential Nominating Power”, NPR, Aug 25, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/08/25/641725402/dnc-set-to-reduce-role-of-superdelegates-in-presidential-nominating-process, accessed Apr 21, 2022

Dahleen Glanton, “DNC betrayed Bernie Sanders and the rest of America”, Chicago Tribune, Jul 25, 2016, https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/ct-dnc-sanders-glanton-talk-20160725-column.html, accessed Apr 5, 2022

Aaron Blake, “Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile both now agree the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged”, Washington Post, Nov 2, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/11/02/ex-dnc-chair-goes-at-the-clintons-alleging-hillarys-campaign-hijacked-dnc-during-primary-with-bernie-sanders/, accessed Apr 5, 2022

Donna Brazile, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC”, Politico, Nov 2, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774/, accessed Apr 5, 2022

Peter Grier, “Many Americans don’t trust elections. What can be done?”, The Christian Science Monitor, May 21, 2121, https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2021/0521/Many-Americans-don-t-trust-elections.-What-can-be-done, accessed Apr 4, 2022

Nick Laughlin, Peyton Shelburne, “How Voters’ Trust in Elections Shifted in Response to Biden’s Victory”, Morning Consult, Jan 27, 2021, https://morningconsult.com/form/tracking-voter-trust-in-elections/, accessed Apr 4, 2022

Joanna Weiss, “What Happened to the Democrats Who Never Accepted Bush’s Election”, Politico, Dec 19, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/19/2004-kerry-election-fraud-2020-448604, accessed Mar 8, 2022

Gerrymandering

Ballotpedia, “Annual State Legislative Competitiveness Report: Vol. 10, 2020”, Feb 4, 2022, https://ballotpedia.org/Annual_State_Legislative_Competitiveness_Report:_Vol._10,_2020, accessed Mar 3, 2022

Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter, “Why competition in the politics industry is failing America”, Harvard Business School, September 2017, pg. 1, https://www.hbs.edu/competitiveness/Documents/why-competition-in-the-politics-industry-is-failing-america.pdf, accessed Feb 16, 2021

Ballotpedia, “Partisan affiliations of registered voters”, July 2021, https://ballotpedia.org/Partisan_affiliations_of_registered_voters, accessed Apr 5, 2022

Thomas Mann, William Galston, “Make U.S. Politics Safe for Moderates”, Brookings Institute, Feb 23, 2011, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/make-u-s-politics-safe-for-moderates/, Mar 29, 2022

David Holt, Foreword to The Next Great Migration: The Rise of Independent Voters, Open Primaries Education Fund, 2020, https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/openprimaries/pages/4575/attachments/original/1637687269/ROI_Report_R1-1-compressed.pdf?1637687269, accessed Mar 18, 2022

National Conference of State Legislatures, “State Partisan Composition”, Feb 1, 2022, https://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/partisan-composition.aspx#, accessed Apr 5, 2022

Michael Li, Laura Royden, “Extreme Maps”, Brennan Center for Justice, May 9, 2017, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/extreme-maps, accessed Mar 25, 2022

Nate Cohn, “A Potential Rarity in American Politics: A Fair Congressional Map”, New York Times, Mar 10, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/10/us/politics/redistricting-congressional-maps-elections.html, accessed Apr 21,2022

OpenPrimaries, “Rules in Your State”, https://www.openprimaries.org/rules-in-your-state/, accessed Apr 7, 2022

Ballotpedia, “When states adopted sore loser laws”, https://ballotpedia.org/When_states_adopted_sore_loser_laws, accessed Apr 18, 2022

Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter, “Why competition in the politics industry is failing America”, Harvard Business School, September 2017, pg. 14, https://www.hbs.edu/competitiveness/Documents/why-competition-in-the-politics-industry-is-failing-america.pdf, accessed Feb 16, 2021

Yereth Rosen, “Senator Lisa Murkowski wins Alaska write-in campaign”, Reuters, Nov 17, 2010, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-elections-murkowski/senator-lisa-murkowski-wins-alaska-write-in-campaign-idUSTRE6AG51C20101118, accessed Apr 7, 2022

Voter Suppression

US District Court  District of New Jersey Opinion, Case 2:81-cv-03876-DRD-MAS Document 84, US Government Publishing Office, filed Dec 1, 2009,  https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCOURTS-njd-2_81-cv-03876/pdf/USCOURTS-njd-2_81-cv-03876-0.pdf, accessed Mar 2, 2022

Brennan Center for Justice, “Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth”, https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Briefing_Memo_Debunking_Voter_Fraud_Myth.pdf, accessed Mar 2, 2022

Brennan Center for Justice, “The Effects of Shelby County v. Holder”, Aug 6, 2018, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/policy-solutions/effects-shelby-county-v-holder, accessed Mar 2, 2022

US Commission on Civil Rights, An Assessment of Minority Voting Rights Access in the United States, Sep 12, 2018, pg. 82, https://www.usccr.gov/files/pubs/2018/Minority_Voting_Access_2018.pdf, accessed Apr 7, 2022

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Democracy Diverted: Polling Place Closures and the Right to Vote, September 2019, https://civilrights.org/democracy-diverted/, accessed Feb 17, 2021

Jarrett Renshaw, Joseph Tanfani, “Cellphones in hand, ‘Army for Trump’ readies poll watching operation”, Reuters, Oct 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-poll-watchers-insight/cellphones-in-hand-army-for-trump-readies-poll-watching-operation-idUSKBN26S1J5, accessed Mar 3, 2022

Michael Wines, “Freed by Court Ruling, Republicans Step Up Effort to Patrol Voting”, New York Times, May 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/18/us/Voting-republicans-trump.html, accessed Mar 2, 2022

Lee Fang, Nick Surgey, “Conservative Operatives Float Plan to Place Retired Military, Police Officers as GOP Poll Watchers on Election Day”, The Intercept, Apr 11, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/04/11/republican-poll-watchers-vote-by-mail-voter-fraud/, accessed Mar 2, 2022

Pam Fessler, “Democrats Worry GOP Efforts To Recruit Poll Watchers May Lead To Voter Intimidation”, NPR, Sep 29, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/09/29/918317570/democrats-worry-gop-efforts-to-recruit-poll-watchers-may-lead-to-voter-intimidat, accessed Mar 2, 2022

Jessica, Huseman, “So Far, Trump’s “Army” of Poll Watchers Looks More Like a Small Platoon”, ProPublica, Nov 2, 2020, https://www.propublica.org/article/so-far-trumps-army-of-poll-watchers-looks-more-like-a-small-platoon, accessed Mar 22, 2022

National Conference of State Legislatures, “Voter ID Laws”, Jan 7, 2022, https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id.aspx, accessed Mar 3, 2022

Jimmy Carter and James A Baker III, “A Clearer Picture on Voter ID,” The Carter Center, Feb 2, 2008, https://www.cartercenter.org/news/editorials_speeches/voter_id.html, accessed Aug 10, 2021

ACLU, “Oppose Voter ID Legislation – Fact Sheet,” https://www.aclu.org/other/oppose-voter-id-legislation-fact-sheet, accessed Aug 10, 2021

GovTrack, “H.R. 1: For the People Act of 2021”, Mar 3, 2021, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/117-2021/h62, accessed Apr 8, 2022

Ballotpedia, “HR1,’For the People Act’”, Mar 22, 2022, https://ballotpedia.org/HR1,_%22For_the_People_Act_of_2021%22, accessed Apr 8, 2022

Brennan Center for Justice, “Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth”,  https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Briefing_Memo_Debunking_Voter_Fraud_Myth.pdf, accessed Mar 2, 2022

Paul M. Smith, “”Use It or Lose It”: The Problem of Purges from the Registration Rolls of Voters Who Don’t Vote Regularly”, American Bar Association, Feb 9, 2020, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/voting-rights/-use-it-or-lose-it—the-problem-of-purges-from-the-registration0/, accessed Mar 8, 2022

Angela Caputo, Geoff Hing, Johnny Kauffman, “They Didn’t Vote… Now They Can’t”, APM Reports, Oct 19, 2018, https://www.apmreports.org/story/2018/10/19/georgia-voter-purge, accessed Feb 17, 2021

Sam Levine, Alvin Chang, “”, The Guardian, Feb 25, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/25/wisconsin-voter-purge-data-will-2020-election, accessed Apr 21, 2022

Kevin Morris, “Voter Purge Rates Remain High, Analysis Finds”, Brennan Center for Justice, Aug 21, 2019, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/voter-purge-rates-remain-high-analysis-finds, accessed Feb 17, 2021

Katie Sanders and Politifact, “Florida voters mistakenly purged in 2000”, Tampa Bay Times, Jun 14, 2012, https://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/florida-voters-mistakenly-purged-in-2000/1235456/, accessed Feb 17, 2021

Mark Niesse, “”, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, May 22, 2019, https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/georgia-joins-multi-state-voter-registration-and-cancellation-effort/Z0yLAHuQLqH2KsmTPRh1aJ/, accessed Apr 9, 2022

Jim Hoft, “Who’s “Cleaning” Our Voter Rolls? Soros Funded ERIC Is Now Used In 31 States”, Gateway Pundit, Jan 20, 2022, https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2022/01/cleaning-voter-rolls-soros-founded-funded-eric-now-used-31-states/, accessed Apr 10, 2022

Jim Hoft, “ERIC Investigation, Part 3: Soros Open Society and the Founding of the Nation’s Largest Voter Roll Clean-Up Operation”, Gateway Pundit, Jan 20, 2022, https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2022/01/eric-investigation-part-3-soros-open-society-founding-nations-largest-voter-roll-clean-operation/, accessed Apr 10, 2022

Jim Hoft, “Meet Sarah Whitt the Official Behind the Wisconsin Voter Rolls that Included 3.42 Million Extra Ineligible Voters and Now Works for ERIC”, Gateway Pundit, Apr 8, 2022, https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2022/04/meet-sarah-whitt-official-behind-wisconsin-voter-rolls-included-3-42-million-extra-ineligible-voters/, accessed Apr 10, 2022

Miles Parks, “Right-wing conspiracies have a new target: a tool that fights actual voter fraud”, NPR, Feb 9, 2022 https://www.npr.org/2022/02/09/1076529761/right-wing-conspiracies-have-a-new-target-a-tool-that-fights-actual-voter-fraud, accessed Apr 10, 2022

Rob Arther, Allison McCann, “How The Gutting of the Voting Rights Act Led To Hundreds Of Closed Polls”, Vice, Oct 16, 2018, https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/kz58qx/how-the-gutting-of-the-voting-rights-act-led-to-closed-polls, accessed Apr 11, 2022

Emma Platoff, “Texas counties can offer only one drop-off ballot location, federal appeals court rules, upholding Gov. Greg Abbott’s order”, Texas Tribune, Oct 13, 2020, https://www.texastribune.org/2020/10/13/texas-election-ballot-drop-off/, accessed Mar 3, 2020

American Civil Liberties Union, “Oppose Voter ID Legislation – Fact Sheet”, May 2017, https://www.aclu.org/other/oppose-voter-id-legislation-fact-sheet, accessed Mar 3, 2022

Catherine Walker-Jacks, “H.R. 1, Voter ID, and The Myth of Voter Fraud”, The Equal Democracy Project at HLS, Apr 11, 2021, https://orgs.law.harvard.edu/equaldemocracy/2021/04/11/h-r-1-voter-id-and-the-myth-of-voter-fraud/, accessed Apr 8, 2022

Election Security

Seth G. Jones, “Russian Meddling in the United States: The Historical Context of the Mueller Report”, Center for Strategic & International Studies, Mar 27, 2019, https://www.csis.org/analysis/russian-meddling-united-states-historical-context-mueller-report, accessed Mar 25, 2022

Evan Osnos, David Remnick, Joshua Yaffa, “Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War”, The New Yorker, Feb 24, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Jeff Nesbitt, “Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia”, Time, Aug 15, 2016, https://time.com/4433880/donald-trump-ties-to-russia/, accessed Mar 14, 2022

Bethania Palma, “Did Ex-KGB Spy Say Russia Cultivated Trump as an ‘Asset’ for 40 Years?”, Snopes, Feb 2, 2021, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/kgb-spy-russia/, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, Mike McIntire, “Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance”, New York Times, Sep 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html, accessed Mar 25, 2022

Natasha Bertrand, “The timeline of Trump’s ties with Russia lines up with allegations of conspiracy and misconduct”, Business Insider, Nov 16, 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-russia-ties-michael-flynn-dossier-2017-2, accessed Mar 25, 2022

Ben Popken, “Election security experts say hack of voters’ confidence may be biggest threat to 2020”, NBC News, Sep 21, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/election-security-experts-say-hack-voters-confidence-may-be-biggest-n1057246, accessed Apr 12, 2022

Sarah Swann, “These 34 states are making voting easier, if only for this fall”, The Fulcrum, Sep 24, 2020, https://thefulcrum.us/voting/how-to-vote, accessed Apr 12, 2022

Yelena Dzhanova, “Trump slams mail-in voting, says it ‘doesn’t work out well for Republicans’”, CNBC, Apr 8, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/08/trump-slams-mail-in-voting-says-it-doesnt-work-out-well-for-republicans.html, accessed Mar 8, 2022

Anthony Zurcher, “US Postal Service halts controversial changes amid voting furore”, BBC News, Aug 18, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-53829347, accessed Mar 8, 2022

Kevin Breuninger, “Trump says he is refusing additional post office funding as part of his fight against mail-in voting”, CNBC, Aug 13, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/13/trump-refuses-post-office-funding-as-part-of-fight-against-mail-in-voting.html, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Grace Panetta, “Trump admits he’s refusing to fund the US Postal Service to sabotage mail-in voting”, Business Insider, Aug 13, 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-admits-he-wants-block-usps-funding-sabotage-mail-voting-2020-8, accessed Mar 9, 2022

James Crump, “Trump says he doesn’t want to fund Postal Service because there’s ‘nothing wrong’ with in-person voting amid pandemic”, The Independent, Aug 13, 2020, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-election/trump-us-postal-service-funding-mail-in-voting-coronavirus-2020-election-a9669016.html, accessed Mar 9, 2022

USPS Office of the Inspector General, “Service Performance of Election and Political Mail During the November 2020 General Election”, Mar 5, 2021,  https://www.uspsoig.gov/document/service-performance-election-and-political-mail-during-november-2020-general-election, accessed Mar 8, 2022

USPS Office of the Inspector General, “Service Performance of Election and Political Mail During the November 2020 General Election”, Mar 5, 2021, https://www.uspsoig.gov/document/service-performance-election-and-political-mail-during-november-2020-general-election, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Miles Parks, “Prosecutors in multiple states are investigating false Electoral College submissions”, NPR, Jan 25, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/01/25/1075304670/prosecutors-in-multiple-states-are-investigating-false-electoral-college-submiss, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Peter Weber, “The Justice Department is investigating pro-Trump ‘fraudulent elector certifications’ from states Biden won”, The Week, Jan 26, 2022, https://theweek.com/electoral-college/1009413/the-justice-department-is-investigating-pro-trump-fraudulent-elector, accessed Apr 21, 2022

Joshua Kaplan, Joaquin Sapien, “New Details Suggest Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic”, ProPublica, Jun 25, 2021, https://www.propublica.org/article/new-details-suggest-senior-trump-aides-knew-jan-6-rally-could-get-chaotic, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Bart Jansen, Josh Meyer, Kevin Johnson, “Is there a link between Jan. 6 suspects and Trump’s inner circle? FBI’s questions show hunt is still on”, Jan 28, 2022, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/01/28/fbi-capitol-attack-trump-giuliani-stone-bannon/6581068001/?gnt-cfr=1, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Hugo Lowell, “Capitol attack investigators target Trump circle over fake elector ploy”, The Guardian, Feb 15, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/15/capitol-attack-january-6-subpoenas-fake-electors, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Quinn Scanlan, “10 new state laws shift power over elections to partisan entities”, ABC News, Aug 16, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/dozen-state-laws-shift-power-elections-partisan-entities/story?id=79408455, accessed Mar 28, 2022

Will Wilder, Derek Tisler, Wendy Weiser, The Election Sabotage Scheme and How Congress Can Stop It, Brennan Center for Justice, Nov 8, 2021,  https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/election-sabotage-scheme-and-how-congress-can-stop-it, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Fredreka Schouten, “Pro-Trump Republicans try to rewrite state election laws as a voting rights showdown looms in Congress”, CNN, Jan 9, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/09/politics/gop-election-voting-rights-battleground-states/index.html, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Eric Bradner, David Wright, “Arizona House passes legislation that weakens secretary of state”, CNN, Jun 25, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/25/politics/arizona-bills-secretary-of-state/index.html, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Chuck Lindell, “From polls to ballots, here’s what a new Texas voting law means for you”, Austin American-Stateman, Sep 7, 2021, https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2021/08/27/texas-voting-bill-sb-1-election-law-ballot-polls/5616452001/, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Sean Morales-Doyle, “We’re Suing Texas Over Its New Voter Suppression Law”, Brennan Center for Justice, Sep 7, 2021, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/were-suing-texas-over-its-new-voter-suppression-law, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Ave Mince-Didier, “Texas Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences”, Nolo, https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/texas-misdemeanor-crimes-class-and-sentences.htm, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Michael T. Morley, Franita Tolson, “Common Interpretation: Election Clause”, National Constitution Center Interactive Constitution,  https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/interpretation/article-i/clauses/750, accessed Mar 11, 2022

Alison Durkee, “Senate Report Finds Russians Attempted to Hack the 2016 Election in All 50 States”, Vanity Fair, Jul 25, 2019, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/07/senate-report-russia-2016-election-50-states, accessed Apr 12, 2022

Christina A. Cassidy, “Lessons learned from 2016, but US faces new election threats”, AP, Jan 26, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/ap-top-news-elections-voting-hillary-clinton-hacking-502ea2d593ed7ae74162c8eb46290b8a, accessed Apr 13, 2022

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, “Joint Statement from Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council & the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees”, Nov 12, 2020, https://www.cisa.gov/news/2020/11/12/joint-statement-elections-infrastructure-government-coordinating-council-election, accessed Apr 12, 2022

Alison Durkee, “Pennsylvania Decertifies County’s Voting Machines After Partisan Election Audit ‘Compromised’ Them”, Forbes, Jul 21, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2021/07/21/pennsylvania-decertifies-countys-voting-machines-after-partisan-election-audit-compromised-them/?sh=2b054fa661dc, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Celine Castronuovo, “Arizona’s Maricopa County to replace all voting machines after GOP audit”, The Hill, Jun 29, 2021, https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/560660-arizonas-maricopa-county-to-replace-all-voting-machines-after-gop-audit, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Jan Wolfe, Helen Coster, “Dominion sees no chance of settling suits against pro-Trump lawyers Giuliani, Powell”, Reuters, Jan 25, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/dominion-sees-no-chance-settling-suits-against-pro-trump-lawyers-giuliani-powell-2022-01-25/, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Kris Holt, “Judge rules voting machine maker Smartmatic can proceed with its lawsuit against Fox News”, Engadget, Mar 9, 2022, https://www.engadget.com/voting-machine-smartmatic-fox-news-giuliani-lawsuit-214507425.html, accessed Apr 4, 2022

Julian Sanchez, “No, The Presidential Election Was Not Rigged by Hacked Voting Machines”, Cato Institute, Nov 13, 2020, https://www.cato.org/blog/no-presidential-election-was-not-rigged-hacked-voting-machines, accessed Mar 10, 2022

Julian Sanchez, “Trump Is Looking for Fraud in All the Wrong Places”, The Atlantic, Dec 12, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/12/trump-looking-fraud-all-wrong-places/617366/, accessed Mar 10, 2020

FindLaw, “What Is Electoral and Voter Fraud?”, Mar 18, 2020, https://www.findlaw.com/voting/how-u-s–elections-work/what-is-electoral-and-voter-fraud-.html, accessed Mar 9, 2022

Justin Levitt, The Truth About Voter Fraud, Brennan Center for Justice, Nov 9, 2007, pg. 23, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/truth-about-voter-fraud, accessed Mar 15, 2022

Christina A. Cassidy, “Far too little vote fraud to tip election to Trump, AP finds”, AP, Dec 14, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/voter-fraud-election-2020-joe-biden-donald-trump-7fcb6f134e528fee8237c7601db3328f, accessed Apr 13, 2021

Sharad Goel, Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, David Rothschild, Houshmand Shirani-Mehr, “One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections”, University of Pennsylvania,

https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~marcmere/workingpapers/OnePersonOneVote.pdf, accessed Mar 15, 2022

John Schwartz, “Judge in Landmark Case Disavows Support for Voter ID”, New York Times, Oct 15, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/us/politics/judge-in-landmark-case-disavows-support-for-voter-id.html, accessed Mar 15, 2022

Electoral College

Garance Franke-Ruta, “What You Need to Read in the RNC Election-Autopsy Report”, The Atlantic, Mar 18, 2013, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/03/what-you-need-to-read-in-the-rnc-election-autopsy-report/274112/, accessed Mar 18, 2022

Jeffrey M. Jones, “Quarterly Gap in Party Affiliation Largest Since 2012”, Gallup, Apr 7, 2021,  https://news.gallup.com/poll/343976/quarterly-gap-party-affiliation-largest-2012.aspx, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Pew Research Center, “Trends in Party Identification, 1939-2014”, Apr 7, 2015, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/interactives/party-id-trend/, accessed Mar 17, 2022

US Census Bureau, “2020 Census Apportionment Results”, Apr 26, 2021, https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2020/dec/2020-apportionment-data.html, Apr 14, 2022

Russell Wheeler, “Can the Electoral College be subverted by “faithless electors”?”, Brookings Institution, Oct 21, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2020/10/21/can-the-electoral-college-be-subverted-by-faithless-electors/, accessed Mar 9, 2022

ProCon, “The Electoral College – Top 3 Pros and Cons”, Dec 9, 2021, https://www.procon.org/headlines/electoral-college-pros-cons-procon-org/, accessed Mar 17, 2022

Limits

Vanessa Williamson, Theda Skocpol, John Coggin, “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism”, Perspectives on Politics , Volume 9 , Issue 1 , March 2011 , pp. 25 – 43, https://doi.org/10.1017/S153759271000407X, accessed Apr 14, 2022

Aaron Blake, “House Republicans spent more time faulting Trump than defending him on impeachment”, Washington Post, Jan 13, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/01/13/house-republicans-spent-more-time-faulting-trump-than-defending-him-impeachment/, accessed Apr 14, 2022

Stakes

Richard Viguerie, David Franke, “America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Over America”, Bonus Books, 2004, pg. 346

Obstacles

Andy Barr, “The GOP’s no-compromise pledge”, Politico, Oct 28, 2010, https://www.politico.com/story/2010/10/the-gops-no-compromise-pledge-044311, accessed Apr 21, 2022

Fox News Poll, Sep 23, 2018, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/fox-news-poll-9-23, accessed Apr 21, 2022

Jessica Huseman, “How Voter-Fraud Hysteria and Partisan Bickering Ate American Election Oversight”, ProPublica, Jul 22, 2020, https://www.propublica.org/article/how-voter-fraud-hysteria-and-partisan-bickering-ate-american-election-oversight, accessed Apr 17, 2022

Gallup, “Confidence in Institutions”, https://news.gallup.com/poll/1597/confidence-institutions.aspx, accessed Mar 3, 2022

Martin Gilens, Benjamin I. Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”, Perspectives on Politics, Sep 2014 Vol. 12 No. 3, pg. 575, https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf, accessed Dec 4, 2019

Considerations

Lawrence Mishel, Julia Wolfe, “CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978”, Economic Policy Institute, Aug 14, 2019, https://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-compensation-2018/, accessed Apr 26, 2022

Katharina Buchholz, “The Top 10 Percent Own 70 Percent of U.S. Wealth”, Statista, Aug 31, 2021, https://www.statista.com/chart/19635/wealth-distribution-percentiles-in-the-us/, Apr 26, 2022

Freedom Forum, “Which Types of Speech are Not Protected by the First Amendment?”, https://www.freedomforuminstitute.org/about/faq/which-types-of-speech-are-not-protected-by-the-first-amendment/, accessed May 2, 2022

Amanda Macias, “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls for more regulation of online content”, CNBC, Feb 15, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/15/facebook-ceo-zuckerberg-calls-for-more-government-regulation-online-content.html, May 2, 2022

FAQs

Justin Levitt, The Truth About Voter Fraud, Brennan Center for Justice, Nov 9, 2007, pg. 23, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/truth-about-voter-fraud, accessed Mar 15, 2022

Christina A. Cassidy, “Far too little vote fraud to tip election to Trump, AP finds”, AP, Dec 14, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/voter-fraud-election-2020-joe-biden-donald-trump-7fcb6f134e528fee8237c7601db3328f, accessed Apr 13, 2021

Credits

Author: George Linzer
Contributing Editor: David Hawkings
Published: April 28, 2022

Feature image: George Linzer, based on images by Library of Congress on Unsplash and thomas-bethge

An earlier version of this brief was published on December 5, 2019 and updated several times. Previous contributors were Michael Deal, George Linzer, and Kyle Mullins.

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