5/14 The Accountability Era, Chapter 2

Published: 5.14.21

Dear All,

Today, States United Democracy Center Executive Chair Norman Eisen, Co-Chair Governor Christine Todd Whitman and I wrote a piece for Newsweek about where we are as a nation four months after the January 6 insurrection. It follows a piece that we penned for CNN in mid-February, arguing that the era of accountability for ex-President Donald Trump had begun. We are now in the second chapter of that era and, while we’ve made progress, the road to securing our democracy is anything but smooth.

“The violent insurrection of January 6 led to a bipartisan impeachment and trial of then-President Donald Trump, and our view that the era of accountability had arrived,” we wrote. “Four months later, it is well under way—but so is a furious backlash from the adversaries of democracy. Those of us who believe in free and fair elections must redouble our efforts.”

On Wednesday, House Republicans chose lies over truth by voting to remove Representative Liz Cheney from the party’s number three leadership position.  Cheney has refused to accept the lies that contributed to the insurrection, and she has been vocal in her opposition to former President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories. Prior to the closed-door vote, she reportedly told her fellow Republicans that we “cannot let the former president drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy. Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country.”

Speaking of  efforts to unravel our democracy, the “fraudit” in Arizona went on hiatus this week. Stretching into its third week, there seems to be “no firm end date for the audit.” And with graduation ceremonies set to take place in the venue where the “fraudit” is taking place, the entire operation was required to reassess next steps and has now been extended.

In 2020, telling the truth about the election was often met with threats of violence—and sadly that trend persists. In a response to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’s plea for the state Senate to come to terms with the already twice-audited results, she received death threats. The threats were so serious that Governor Doug Ducey ordered Department of Public Safety protection for Hobbs and her family.

In addition to concerns about the Arizona “fraudit” spreading to other states and the wave of voter suppression bills sweeping the country, we have also been focused on putting a spotlight on another dangerous trend pushed by anti-democratic forces: election interference and manipulation. In his latest New York Times column, Tom Friedman cited our new report on the topic. More on that below.

Have a great weekend,

Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center

Here is this week’s update:

National Update

New York Times (opinion): “The Trump G.O.P.’s Plot AgainstLiz Cheney—and Our Democracy.” By Thomas L. Friedman. (May 11, 2021)
According to a new report by Protect Democracy, Law Forward and the States United Democracy Center, ‘Across the country, state legislators are proposing bills that would give partisan state legislators greater control over elections while hamstringing experienced state and local election administrators who have traditionally run our voting systems. . . .

“‘Many of the bills would make elections more difficult to administer or even unworkable; make it more difficult to finalize election results; allow for election interference and manipulation by hyperpartisan actors; and, in the worst cases, allow state legislatures to overturn the will of the voters and precipitate a democracy crisis.’

“Had these bills been in place in 2020, it added, ‘they would have . . . raised the prospect that the outcome of the election would have been contrary to the popular vote.’”

Talking Points Memo: “Manchin Compromise Idea For Voting Rights Gets A Shot Across the Bow From Cornyn.” By Tierney Sneed. (May 13, 2021)
“It didn’t take long for a supposedly bipartisan compromise on voting rights legislation that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is floating to get dumped on by a key Republican. At a Thursday Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to vote on one of President Biden’skey Justice Department nominees, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) didn’t call out Manchin by name. But he referenced a proposal Manchin has recently floated—first to a local news outlet, and then more explicitly in an interview Wednesday with ABC News—for addressing voting rights.”

Washington Post: “The making of a myth: Russell J. Ramsland Jr. sold everything from Tex-Mex food to light-therapy technology. Then he sold the story that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.” By Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis, Jon Swaine, and Josh Dawsey. (May 9, 2021)
“Key elements of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump took shape in an airplane hangar here two years earlier, promoted by a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream.”

FiveThirtyEight: “Republicans Have Made It Harder To Vote In 11 States So Far.” By Nathaniel Rakich and Elena Mejia. (May 11, 2021)
“But Georgia is hardly the only state that’s made it harder to vote this year. Republican lawmakers have now enacted new voting restrictions in a total of 11 states—Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.”

CBS: “What we know about the ‘unprecedented’ U.S. Capitol riot arrests.” By Clare Hymes, Cassidy McDonald, and Eleanor Watson. (May 11, 2021)
“The Department of Justice told CBS News that as of May 6, approximately 440 defendants had been arrested since the attack. The government has said in court filings that in addition to the more than 400 people who had already been charged, federal prosecutors still expect to charge at least 100 more. Prosecutors have called the case ‘unprecedented’ in scale, and the government said in a March court filing that the Capitol attack ‘is likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.’”

State Updates

States United


TIME: “Arizona Enacts Mail Voting Restrictions. Here’s What to Know.” By Sanya Mansoor. (May 11, 2021)
“Arizona’s governor signed a bill Tuesday that could take more than 100,000 infrequent mail voters off a voting list that automatically delivers ballots by mail to voters—in a state where President Joe Biden clinched victory in 2020 by less than 11,000 votes. Arizona has ensured that all eligible voters receive ballots by mail in every election cycle for more than a decade through its Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). Many of Arizona’s voters—more than 70%—are on this list and almost 90% voted by mail in 2020.”

New York Times: “Why a Lifelong Republican Views Arizona’s Recount as Wrong.” By Jennifer Medina. (May 11, 2021)
One of the most outspoken Republican critics of the audit is Bill Gates, who was re-elected as a Maricopa County supervisor in 2020, and along with other supervisors helps oversee the county’s election procedures. Mr. Gates is a lifelong Republican who once worked as an election lawyer for the party. He considers himself a loyal member of the G.O.P. and points to former President Ronald Reagan as an inspiration for his interest in politics. But he is horrified at the partisan audit taking place in his district, saying that the recounts Arizona already conducted had sufficiently validated the results of the election.”


Detroit Free Press: “Setting the record straight on claims made in support of Republican election bills.” By Clara Hendrickson. (May 12, 2021)
“Michigan’s Senate Elections Committee has held three hearings so far on GOP-backed election bills that would place new requirements on voters. Republicans have sold their 39-bill legislative push as an effort to beef up election security and restore faith in the election process. Voting rights advocates and election officials say some of the proposals would disenfranchise voters by making it harder to vote.”


New York Times: “Exchange Over ‘Purity’ of Vote Puts Texas G.O.P. Firebrand in Spotlight.” By Dave Montgomery and Nick Corasaniti. (May 12, 2021)
“The sponsor of Texas’s voting bill stumbled through questioning as he did not know the origin or some of the language in the bill, like the ‘purity of the ballot box’ came directly from discriminatory language in Texas’ Jim Crow past.”

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