Menu

Pushing Back on Sham Election Reviews

Overview

For centuries, state legislatures have been laboratories of democracy, forming the backbone of our federal and republican system of government. But as the Big Lie — the false belief that the 2020 presidential election was somehow stolen — takes hold among many members of the Republican Party, some state legislatures have become a threat to the very democratic system they helped build. Extreme factions within these states are using legislatures as laboratories of authoritarianism, systematically undermining the basic principle that voters, not politicians, should decide election outcomes.

One of the most concerning trends to have developed since the 2020 election is the proliferation of so-called “audits” and similar investigations by state legislatures into the election. The trend began in Maricopa County, Arizona, and is quickly spreading to other states. These sham reviews are touted as efforts to improve election administration rather than question the results of the November election. But in reality they are highly partisan processes, lacking transparency, professional standards, and adequate safeguards for the security of ballots and other election materials. They bear little, if any, resemblance to actual election audits and will serve only to spread false narratives and conspiracy theories and undermine confidence in our elections.

Read our report titled “Partisan Election Review Efforts in Five States,” written in partnership with the Brennan Center and R Street Institute.

Read our report titled “Democracy Crisis in the Making” to learn more about how some states are proposing and passing bills that would give partisan state legislators greater control over elections while hamstringing experienced state and local election administrators.

Sham Audit in Maricopa County

Learn more about our work to protect Arizona voters from unlawful intimidation in connection with the Maricopa County sham audit here.

The initial work plan for the sham audit in Maricopa County, Arizona, included a plan to interrogate voters about their voting history. This likely would have violated federal laws banning voter intimidation, including the Voting Rights Act. 

In response, Protect Democracy sent a demand letter for the company running the “audit” and its subcontractors. The letter highlights the various federal and state laws that the companies would likely violate if they were to move forward with the proposed audit.

As a follow up, alongside partners, Protect Democracy sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice raising concerns that the “audit” would violate federal laws requiring ballot preservation and banning voter intimidation. 

Shortly after, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the Arizona Senate outlining many of the same concerns that Protect Democracy and its partners raised, including concerns that the plan to interrogate voters would constitute unlawful voter intimidation. In response, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann notified the Department of Justice that the plans to interrogate voters were “indefinitely defer[red]”.

What Happened in Arizona Didn’t Stay in Arizona: NotAnAudit.com

Alongside our partners at States United Democracy Center and Fair Fight Action, we launched NotAnAudit.com, a joint project to help track the sham audits spreading around the country. This site is a visual representation showing the connection between the chaos happening in Arizona and how it has influenced the larger strategy by anti-democracy elected officials in states across the country. 

The site allows anyone to track the latest on these bad-faith reviews and provides key information, quotations, and documentation to help explain why they are so damaging to our democracy.

You can find the tracker at www.NotAnAudit.com.

Report: Partisan Election Review Efforts in Five States

Protect Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the R Street Institute wrote a report, “Partisan Election Review Efforts in Five States,” examining efforts to conduct sham reviews of the 2020 election results by supporters of the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen. We compare the partisan election review efforts in five states to what experienced and unbiased election administrators do — and in many cases have already done — when they wish to truly ensure that an election was secure. 

The details vary in each state, but a closer look at each reveals a recurrent theme: while the 2020 election results in each state have been confirmed by experts as secure and accurate, the Big Lie movement seeks to undermine confidence in our elections.

Read the report here.

Help Protect Democracy

History has shown that the best way to protect democracy is by standing united in its defense. Donate to help us to scale up our efforts to educate, advocate, organize, and litigate on behalf of the values we all hold dear.

Donate

Be an informed American.

An engaged and informed public is at the heart of American democracy. Sign up to receive updates that will keep us all informed about the threats we face and how we can fight to protect our democracy together.