A Democracy Crisis in the Making: How State Legislatures are Politicizing, Criminalizing, and Interfering with Election Administration (August 2022)

Aug 24, 2022
  • Description

In the 21 months since the 2020 election, we have seen a breakdown in the longstanding consensus that election administration belongs in the hands of professional, dispassionate experts, and that naked political interference in vote counting is anathema to a functioning democracy. Over the course of 2021 and into 2022, state legislatures have embarked on a sweeping campaign to propose, consider, and, in some cases, enact measures that increase the risk of election subversion—that is, the risk that an election's declared outcome does not reflect the choice of the voters.

In May, we published the 2022 edition of our ongoing analysis of these efforts that identified a pattern across more than 30 states of lawmakers menacing independent and accurate election administration through proposals that, if enacted, would impact practically every step of the electoral process.

Since the release of our May report, the landscape has only darkened. In this update, we describe three evolving trends—each of them a distinct threat, but connected in the danger they pose to the future of free and fair elections. As we explain in Part I, the number of bills that heighten the risk of election subversion has increased. In Part II, we detail a gathering storm cloud as the Supreme Court prepares to consider a case that could rewrite constitutional elections doctrine with an extreme legal theory, upend decades of election law, and accelerate election subversion efforts. Finally, in Part III, we discuss how the insider threat trend—misconduct by officials in trusted election administration roles—has sharpened. With an election less than three months away, it is imperative that these threats be acknowledged and mitigated.