In the current update to its report, A Democracy Crisis in the Making, States United Democracy Center warns, “The decisions being made in statehouses this year and next will help determine how the 2024 election is conducted.” We’ll add that decisions being made in governors’ offices and in the courts will also impact upcoming elections.
Two important battlegrounds in the struggle to sustain our democracy include widespread attempts to impose new election laws that undermine election integrity, and a reversal among Republicans regarding a well-regarded data sharing program that once had overwhelming bipartisan support for its role in weeding out duplicate voter registrations.
Anti-democracy legislation: States United reports that between January 1 and May 3, 38 states were considering 185 bills that “would increase the risk of election subversion” and make it harder for election officials to do their jobs. Many of the bills would add greater partisan control and oversight of elections while others seek to impose new burdens on the election process and penalize election workers for mistakes made on the job.
Fortunately, most of these bills will not become law. Of almost 380 similarly subversive bills proposed in 2021 and 2022, States United says that only 56 became law and none have yet resulted in a major electoral crisis. However, the report points out, even the bills that never become law count as wins for their anti-democracy proponents: Campaigns in support of the bills promote and spread false information about election results and election security.
Attack on ERIC: Despite its effectiveness in helping states limit duplicate voter registrations, anti-democracy extremists on the right launched a disinformation campaign to discredit ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center. Louisiana became the first state to suspend its participation in January 2022; it formally withdrew from ERIC six months later. Election officials in several states who had previously been vocal in their support of ERIC, including Frank LaRose, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, have since reversed course. To date, eight states have withdrawn from ERIC: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Kentucky may be one of the next to leave even though it still has the support of Michael Adams, the Republican secretary of state there. After a recent meeting of the state Board of Elections, Adams acknowledged that ERIC had helped remove 320,000 ineligible voters from the rolls and expressed his frustration at the misinformation that is undermining this valued resource. However, Adams said, “It’s out of my authority.”
Undeterred by these new attacks, democracy advocates have held the line in some cases and made advances in improving the system elsewhere:
A favorable Supreme Court ruling: To the surprise of many election law experts and court watchers who had expected the Roberts Court to continue its steady erosion of the authority of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court ruled against Alabama’s gerrymandered redistricting map. Exactly how Alabama will redraw its map to comply with the ruling is unclear, though several options already exist. Alabama Media Group >>
The decision reaffirmed the authority of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Acts that protects minority voters from efforts to dilute their vote. The ruling had an immediate effect on court cases in Louisiana and Georgia that had also alleged that gerrymandered maps in those states violated Section 2 of the VRA. Democracy Docket >>
Top Arizona court rejects challenge to the state’s mail-in voting law: In May 2022, the Arizona Republican Party filed a lawsuit claiming that the state’s mail-in voting system violated the state constitution. The Arizona trial court, the Arizona Court of Appeals, and now the Arizona Supreme Court all rejected the claim. As noted by Democracy Docket, the law governing the state’s mail-in voting system was passed in 1991 with large bipartisan majorities in both houses and was signed by the Republican governor at that time. Democracy Docket >>
Arizona and Alaska remain in ERIC: Arizona’s Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, vetoed a bill passed overwhelmingly by the Republican-led legislature that would have withdrawn the state from ERIC. KJZZ >>
In Alaska, the House defeated a measure that would have cut off the state’s contribution to ERIC. The proposal was defeated 29 – 11, with 10 of the 21 Republicans in the House voting against the measure. Alaska Public Media >>
Election meddling vetoed in Arizona: Arizona governor Katie Hobbs (D) vetoed Republican legislation that would have given a legislative committee approval rights, in addition to the governor and the attorney general, over the state’s election procedures manual. In a letter to Senate president Warren Petersen, Hobbs bluntly stated, “Arizonans are tired of the Legislature meddling with Arizona’s elections.” Fronteras Desk >>
On June 20, Gov. Hobbs vetoed seven more election-relation bills, including one bill that wold have moved up the deadline for dropping off mail-in ballots and another that would have limited the use of countywide vote centers. According to Democracy Docket, Hobbs has now vetoed more than 28 election bills this year. Democracy Docket >>
Nevada makes it a felony to threaten election workers: With unanimous support in both houses of the legislature, Nevada passed a bill that makes it a felony to threaten, harass, dox, or otherwise intimidate an election worker.. Governor Joe Lombardo (R) signed the bill. KOLO 8 News >>