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.