Protecting Voters from Election Officials

Ideas and Issues Voting Voting Rights

            New Orleans      Our major project to prevent voter suppression is called the Voter Purge Project.  We have been processing the voter files for all registered voters in 27 states, about 140 million voters, for the last several years.  This effort was key moving into 2020, and seems to be as critical as we look at 2022 and 2024.  Thanks to a recent partnership, we are now in the process of adding the remaining 23 states, so that we can monitor the efforts to purge voters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

As we prepare a report over the next month that will rank all of the states and their top election officials, usually secretaries of state, we’ll be able to share widely, across a number of indices, how well these folks are doing in protecting and managing the voter files critical to our election system and democracy.  As we do the work, we worry, not just about the partisanship that is coming to this vital function of election protection, but the polarization that is pushing forward candidacies whose main purpose seems to be subvert the very will of the voters.

We’ve become used to climate-deniers, but now election-deniers are front and center, as some candidates for the top state election posts are running overtly on the unfounded, conspiratorial claims that the count was dishonest in 2020, and that Trump actually won the election.  These claims have now been investigated in state after state at every level and found wanting.  Court challenges were dismissed for lack of evidence.  Despite the hue and cry, no one has been able to document any voter fraud.

Yet, here we are.  The AP notes that “States United Action, a nonpartisan advocacy organization founded by [former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd] Whitman, has been tracking secretary of state races and identified nearly two dozen Republican candidates who deny the results of the 2020 presidential election.”  Michigan and Georgia have attracted the most attention where incumbents are running for re-election.  In Georgia, a grand jury has been convened to investigate former president Trump’s efforts to convince the current Republican secretary, Brad Raffensperger to “find” sufficient votes for him to thwart the voters’ will and win the state’s electoral votes.  Other 2020 highlight-reel states like Arizona and Nevada are also up for grabs, and elections for this office are being held soon in Nebraska, Idaho, Alabama, Ohio, and Indiana.  In Colorado, the Republican count clerk “under indictment for a security breach of voting systems is running to challenge” the current secretary, a Democratic incumbent.

As the AP further details, “Of the 25 secretary of state races on the ballot this year, nine Republican and seven Democratic incumbents are running to keep their seats.  While only one of the Democratic incumbents has drawn a challenger, seven Republican secretaries will be facing at least one GOP opponent who either denies Biden won or makes unsubstantiated claims that elections are not secure.”  What a mess!  No one can seriously believe that this will end well.

Years ago, one of our colleagues directed an effort, unusual at the time, to focus donors and election pros on the importance of the Secretary of State offices.  He and his effort were ahead of the times.   The midterm elections are the featured race, but these down ballot contests could mean the difference in whether or not we are even able to pretend we have fair and honest, democratic elections in the future, and that’s about the public vote count, where everyone is watching, when we know from the Voter Purge Project, that even more mischief and mayhem can happen to the voters as the lists are handled behind closed doors.