Year-End Report Details State Legislatures’ Election Subversion Playbook; Examines Laws That Increase Risk of 2024 Election Crisis

Analysis finds 600+ state legislative proposals introduced since 2020 that would interfere with and undermine nonpartisan administration of elections

Today, the States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward released a final update to their A Democracy Crisis in the Making report ahead of 2024. The report analyzes the nationwide trend of state legislatures considering — and, in some cases, enacting — laws that would increase the risk of election subversion. These laws could contribute to an election outcome that doesn’t reflect the will of voters. Now that states have mostly set the rules of the road for their elections in 2024, the report finds an alarming number of new laws aimed at creating conditions for partisan politicians to declare their preferred results, order new elections, or otherwise cast doubt on the results. 

Since 2020, the organizations have identified 62 new laws in 28 states that introduce confusion, burdens, and delays into the election process and make it harder for trusted election administrators to do their jobs. In all, the report has cataloged more than 600 legislative proposals that would increase the risk of election subversion. While the vast majority of these proposals haven’t become law, they have succeeded at keeping baseless conspiracies about our elections alive, and continued to undermine voter confidence in our election system. 

This year, state legislatures have again introduced bills and enacted laws that could cause an election crisis. This is particularly dangerous in a presidential election where there’s likely to be a candidate at the top of the ticket who tried to subvert the previous election. In the 2023 legislative cycle, the report finds that state legislators introduced almost 200 bills that would interfere with nonpartisan election administration. Twenty-one of those bills became law in 15 states.

The report analyzes major developments in state legislatures this year and highlights three states — North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin — where partisan legislative activity raises particular concern. The report also identifies other notable trends that increase the risk of election subversion:

  • Election deniers, activists, and some local officials are pushing to have ballots counted exclusively by hand, a method likely to cause delay, errors, and expense.
  • Nine states have withdrawn from ERIC, a membership organization that helps state election officials keep accurate voter rolls and prevent illegal voting. 
  • Generative artificial intelligence could be used to spread election disinformation at a scale never before seen in elections. 
  • The departure of experienced election officials raises the risk of mistakes or errors in election administration. 
  • Some states have yet to adjust their laws to conform with the federal Electoral Count Reform Act, Congress’s bipartisan response to former President Trump’s attempt to overturn the will of the voters in 2020.

To view a PDF of the full report, click here.

“We’re heading into a high-stakes presidential election, and any of these bills could cause disorder and confusion that could disrupt the process and harm public trust,” said Victoria Bassetti, Senior Advisor at the States United Democracy Center. “This is a threat that has evolved consistently and creatively since 2020, and it all adds up to a big risk that could undermine our democracy.”

“As we head into the 2024 election year, it’s important that voters pay particular attention to what’s happening in their states to make sure partisan politicians don’t prevent their voices from being heard,” said Blake Jelley, Communications and Advocacy Strategist with Protect Democracy. “Elections are free and fair when we the voters get the final say, and our will is not ignored by those already in power. While our election system could be improved with more resources and by making it easier for people to vote, the legislation covered in our Report does neither of these things—instead, it increases the risk that bad actors will seek to subvert the will of voters.”

“Election denialism and conspiracy theories continued to form the basis for damaging legislation this year,” said Elizabeth Pierson, an attorney at Law Forward. “Even as we see positive progress in some states, we’re keeping a close eye on the ongoing threats to our democracy, including the potential of AI to amplify disinformation. At the end of the day, voters must be the ones to decide the outcome of our elections.”

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