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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “How States Can Prevent Election Subversion in 2024 and Beyond,” Alice Clapman reports at brennancenter.org that “the country has made progress toward insulating future elections from subversion attempts. Most notably, Congress passed the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act of 2022 (ECRA), closing some loopholes and resolving ambiguities that the Trump campaign tried to exploit in 2020. Among other reforms, the ECRA clarifies that only a state’s governor or other predesignated executive official may submit official election results; bars state legislatures from changing the rules for appointing electors after Election Day; and makes it harder for federal legislators to overturn election results. Several states went further. Notably, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York clarified their certification processes and took steps to combat disinformation and protect voters and poll workers from harassment and violence….the United States remains at risk for election subversion (that is, the overturning of an election outcome through disruption or manipulation of the vote counting, canvassing, or certification processes, or other acts of large-scale disenfranchisement)….Election denial is still rampant within federal, state, and local governmental bodies and among segments of the public. Although many of those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, have faced criminal consequences, so far the officials and politicians who incited them to violence have not. Election deniers won numerous congressional and state legislative seats, party chairs, and state and local election administrative positions….Republican activists have recruited poll workers and observers in large numbers with the false and inflammatory message that U.S. elections are being stolen and must be “taken back.””

Clapman continues, “While the ECRA included necessary reforms, Congress has failed to pass broader protections, including baseline national election standards. footnote9_86caho09 This failure puts the onus on states. Each state has different vulnerabilities and different options for addressing them. Every state should start with these five measures:

  • Strengthen laws requiring timely certification based solely on verified vote totals, with effective enforcement mechanisms.
  • Strengthen laws channeling election disputes through the state judiciary, and set clear standards governing how these disputes are resolved.
  • Finalize a plan for putting out accurate information about the election process and preempting disinformation, starting well before Election Day and backed by adequate state resources.
  • Bolster election administration with training, written guidance, and investment in equipment, security, scenario planning, staffing, and supplies.
  • Enact stronger measures against intimidation of voters and election workers, including gun restrictions and privacy protections for election officials.

In some states, legislatures will be in session again before the 2024 vote; in others, they could be called to a special session. Elsewhere, administrative officials could implement many of these measures. And state policymakers at every level should continue to push for these reforms after 2024, because election subversion will remain a risk.” Clapman provides extensive details for each of her five proposals towards the end of her article.

Clapman has another post at brennancenter.org with co-writer Lauren Miller, entitled “Are Swing States Ready for 2024? Here’s how Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Nevada can stop election subversion.” In this article, the authors focus on specific remedies for vote theft and related scams for the aforementioned states. Here’s an excerpt describing what Georgia can do: As Clapman and Miller write, “Georgia officials must implement best practices for preventing, detecting and confirming physical breaches. These include restrictions on access, reporting protocols, keycard systems, and video and log surveillance, with review, to track access to sensitive equipment. Georgia should also prepare plans to promptly investigate and, if necessary, decommission and replace those systems to ensure that potentially corrupted equipment is replaced before the next election and with enough time for pre-election testing….Most recently, the chair of Georgia’s State Election Board — who sought to debunk unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election — announced that he was resigning after just 14 months in office….Georgia should take steps to protect election officials and workers from threats. The state should fund physical security protections and training and revise statutes to offer a broader set of protections against harassment and doxing. Those protections should include, for example, shielding officials and workers’ personal information from public information requests and creating meaningful civil and criminal liability for individuals who intimidate or harass them at any stage of the election process….Georgia must also protect its voters from unwarranted challenges. Georgia’s S.B. 202, passed in 2021, invites people to challenge an “unlimited” number of voters in their county. Predictably, groups and individuals in at least eight counties subsequently challenged an estimated 92,000 voter registrations in the 2022 election cycle. In Gwinnett County alone, the group VoterGA worked with local residents to challenge at least 37,000 voters (over 6 percent of the county’s active voters). Local election officials threw out most of these challenges….Election deniers appear ready to recklessly challenge hundreds of thousands more voters in the next election cycle. To prevent those efforts, Georgia too should consider reforms to constrain baseless mass challenges, including by clarifying that challenges cannot be based on unreliable data and that targeting voters for challenges based on protected characteristics such as race is illegal.”

Here’s another excerpt from Clapman’s and Miller’s article focusing on Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania has seen a number of subversion efforts in recent years: fake electors and legislative interference schemes in 2020, certification refusals in 2022, various lawsuits attempting to invalidate whole tranches of absentee ballots, and a concerted effort by Republican lawmakers acting at the behest of the Trump campaign to gain unauthorized access to voting equipment (successful in one county), to name a few. The state has election deniers in many local positions of power, including officials who previously voted to remove drop boxes and refused to certify valid results, an official who helped the Trump campaign access voting equipment, and even one fake 2020 elector….Pennsylvania is also one of a few states, particularly among battleground states, that bar clerks from preprocessing absentee ballots before election day. Because absentee ballots have skewed heavily Democratic in Pennsylvania in recent years, this unnecessary legal bar often causes a “red mirage,” which in turn fuels election denial. Pro-democracy lawmakers have repeatedly tried to reform the law, including this year, only to be outvoted by Republican colleagues. (The proposed legislation also would have allowed voters to cure ballot defects and have their votes counted.)….Some of the same lawmakers who voted down preprocessing have sued to overturn no-excuse absentee voting, a reform that passed with bipartisan support in 2019. Republican-appointed appellate judges struck the law down based on an originalist reading of the state constitution, but were overruled by a divided state supreme court…Without legislative reform, wrangling over the counting of absentee ballots — including wrangling over whether defects can be cured — will continue. Votes will be discarded if they arrive after election day, or for purely bureaucratic reasons. And another red mirage is also likely. Politicians, officials, media outlets and advocacy groups must continue to call out the partisan gamesmanship over absentee ballots and the repeated efforts to disqualify them en masse. These ballots are not abstractions, or some political football, but actual votes from citizens who are exercising fundamental rights.”

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