A Democracy Crisis in the Making: Year-End Update

Dec 07, 2023
  • Description

As the 2024 election approaches, state legislatures continue to propose and enact laws that expose our election system to partisan disruption and manipulation. These laws ultimately increase the risk of subversion — that is, a declared outcome that does not reflect the true choice of the voters. They also abandon long-standing principles of nonpartisan election administration and instead allow for — or even encourage — dysfunction, misinformation, confusion, or manipulation by partisan actors.

Our organizations have been tracking this trend for three years, since the 2020 election. In that time, state legislatures have introduced more than 600 of these bills, and 62 have become law in 28 states. As we noted in our Report earlier this year, the 2022 elections were largely successful and free of serious subversion efforts. But we remain concerned that recently enacted laws could help precipitate a crisis — particularly in an election involving a candidate at the top of the ticket who has already attempted to subvert an election. At the very least, these laws will make it harder for professional election administrators, who already face a rise in unjustified suspicion and unprecedented levels of harassment, to do their jobs on behalf of our democracy.

This year-end update to our June 2023 Report reviews some of the major developments that we have seen this year. Some states warrant particular attention. In North Carolina, a legislative supermajority has engineered a host of changes in election oversight that could open the door to partisan interference, confusion at the polls, gridlock during the certification process, or doubt about the results, in addition to disinformation at each of those steps. In Texas, two laws enacted this year targeted the state's most populous and diverse county, abolishing the county election office and empowering the state to take control over election procedures under flimsy pretexts and with partisan motives. In Wisconsin, some legislators, relying in part on baseless conspiracy theories, have repeatedly sought to remove the state's top nonpartisan election official, so far without success.