Protecting Our Democracy Amid Coronavirus
*Updated May 18, 2020
The novel coronavirus pandemic presents unique and dangerous opportunities for autocrats and heads of state with anti-democratic tendencies to further consolidate power. We have already seen these anti-democratic tendencies emerging in the U.S. from the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
We are working to protect our democracy amid the pandemic in two key ways:
Read through our sections above to get the details.
While the coronavirus threatens our health, President Trump’s response to the pandemic threatens our democracy in myriad ways. We’ve focused our efforts on three issues regarding abuse of power:
- President Trump’s claims to power that rightly belong to the states and Congress;
- His threats to distribute aid to states based on politics and patronage rather than on need and objective data;
- His efforts to undermine the oversight mechanisms Congress put in place in the coronavirus stimulus bill.
At bottom, each of these issues implicates limits on the scope and permissible uses of presidential power. Our work aims to ensure that President Trump does not use this public crisis to amass power or to improperly leverage the power he does have for political gain. Read more about each of the three issues we’ve focused on, below.
Protect Democracy is providing ongoing expert analysis of the federal government’s response to the pandemic. Find our published analysis here.
Aid to States
The lack of publicly available information about how the federal government is procuring and allocating scarce resources to states in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic creates a situation that is ripe for abuse.
Protect Democracy released recommendations for Congress and the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, including (a) legislation and (b) a set of recommendations to each of the relevant oversight bodies aimed at ensuring public access to information about the federal government’s allocation of aid and resources to states and deterring any distribution of resources on the basis of politics or patronage. Read our recommendations here.
These recommendations were created in partnership with the Project on Government Oversight, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, American Oversight, Public Citizen, and the Constitutional Accountability Center.
President Trump has attempted to claim the powers of a king by placing himself above the law. Protect Democracy is fighting back. We released ads challenging President Trump’s efforts to bar oversight mechanisms of coronavirus relief funds and his explicit claims of “total” power over the states.
These ads are in collaboration with Republicans for Rule of Law on the Presidential Accountability Project to fight against arbitrary uses of presidential power and to uphold the laws of the constitution. This project aims to expose the ways in which President Trump’s tactics endanger the very future of our democracy.
Our latest video explains that Trump is not king, and aired during Fox & Friends on April 15. Watch our latest ad:
You can also watch our first video, “President Trump thinks he is above the law,” here.
A functioning representative government and free and fair elections are cornerstones of our democracy. We’ve focused our efforts on ensuring these cornerstones adapt to remain operational and accessible to the public amid extraordinary circumstances.
Keeping Congress Operational
Congress must be able to operate and fulfill its constitutional obligations during a pandemic. Congress’s capacity to respond legislatively is limited if it is almost never in session and if it needs to operate by unanimous consent. Just as importantly, oversight cannot happen if Congress is not operational amid the pandemic.
We have signed onto the following letters with recommendations to Congress, urging them to operate remotely during the pandemic and to fund technology modernization in support of these operations.
- Protect Democracy Signs on to Cross-Partisan Letter to House Leadership (Apr. 20, 2020)
- Protect Democracy Signs on to Recommendations to Congress on Working During the Coronavirus Crisis (Mar. 12, 2020)
Elections in the Age of Coronavirus
Wisconsin: Protecting Voters & Democracy During the Pandemic
On May 18, 2020, Protect Democracy and a coalition of Wisconsin voters and organizations that work to mobilize Wisconsin voters sued state election officials for violating federal laws that protect the right to vote.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission’s failure to properly manage the April 7 election, held amid the expanding coronavirus pandemic, violated federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution, which protects every eligible voter’s right to vote. The suit asks the court to implement measures to ensure that all Wisconsin voters will be able to freely and safely participate in the upcoming August and November elections.
For more information, visit the Wisconsin: Protecting Voters & Democracy During the Pandemic case page.
National Task Force on Election Crises
Protect Democracy has convened the National Task Force on Election Crises, a diverse, cross-partisan team of over 40 experts in election law, national security, civil rights, and emergency response, to help ensure a free and fair 2020 election despite unexpected disruptions and disasters, including the coronavirus pandemic.
The Task Force released the COVID-19 Election Guide, which addresses how state and local officials can protect eligible voters’ ability to cast ballots without undue risk to their own health or to the broader community. Click here to view the PDF.
For more information about the Task Force, visit ElectionTaskForce.org.