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We Came This Close to the Unthinkable

What if

…the results of the popular vote were closer?

…the attacks on our democracy were more coordinated?
…state lawmakers had been less concerned about ignoring the will of the people?

Last summer, The States Project publicly identified the crucial role that state legislatures in swing states could play in stealing the presidential election for Donald Trump, most people didn’t understand what we saw so clearly: that there was an open door for an attack on our democracy. 

As voters powered President Biden and Vice President Harris to victory while maintaining the balance of power in many right-wing state capitols, exactly what we thought could happen did happen: there was a real danger that state lawmakers in rightwing majorities could buy into the fraudulent idea that they could ignore the will of the people and be persuaded to appoint undemocratically selected electors for Trump.

Now that we are safely past the inauguration, it may be tempting to think of what happened next in the states as a series of somewhat useless activities driven by loyalty to a failed leader.

But Trump used the bully pulpit of the Oval Office to declare his victory and pressure state lawmakers and election officials in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. There were actual calls on state legislators to undermine the will of the voters and appoint electors for Donald Trump. And factless public lies and anger over the results raged from November 4 until January 6, when they culminated in violence at the US Capitol and threatened state capitols across the country.   

These were indeed dangerous attacks on our democracy. The fact that these attacks were centered on large urban centers to disenfranchise primarily Black voters was particularly egregious.  

We came this close to the unthinkable, and as long as the door to stealing a presidential election through state legislatures remains open, someone will try again. In Arizona, when the current majority could not move a policy to give themselves the power to override the secretary of state’s certification of election results in either chamber, they enacted partisan legislation to shift power over election-related litigation over to the rightwing attorney general.

Electing strong state majorities that can return power to the people remains the surest path to securing our democracy. Thank you for doing this work with us.