States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward Release Year-End Updates on Trend of Election Hijacking Bills in State Legislatures

Democracy Crisis in the Making Update Recaps Election Subversion Activity in 2021 with an Eye Toward Evolving Threats to Democracy in 2022 

Published: 12.23.21

Washington, D.C. — The States United Democracy CenterProtect Democracy and Law Forward today released an end-of-year update to their Democracy Crisis in the Making series, which analyzes the nationwide election hijacking trend in state legislatures seeking to politicize, criminalize, or interfere with the nonpartisan administration of elections. The December 2o21 update finds that the number of election subversion bills introduced and enacted has continued to grow, even as most state legislatures were out of session by mid-year. As 2021 comes to a close, 262 bills have been introduced in 41 states — an increase of more than 100 bills since we began monitoring this trend in April — with 32 becoming law across 17 states.

The year-end recap also highlights how the nature of the election subversion threat has evolved. Anti-democratic efforts to overturn the will of American voters are not limited to legislation in state legislatures. Looking toward 2022, the December update forecasts that the election subversion threat will have four core pillars:

  • Changing the rules to tilt the playing field, roll back the freedom to vote, and hijack election administration;
  • Changing the people who defend our democracy by sidelining, replacing, or attacking professional election officials and replacing them with hyper-partisan actors;
  • Promoting controversial constitutional theories about our elections to justify partisan takeovers; and

  • Eroding public confidence and trust in our election system.

The update includes key examples from states like Pennsylvania, where there is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state legislature “to unilaterally scuttle any election regulations issued by the state’s chief elections officer …  and would also create a permanent audit system subject to the legislature’s rules.” In Wisconsin, state legislators have introduced a measure that would allow for the imprisonment of “members of the Elections Commission or its staff if they willfully neglect to engage in a particular version of voter registration list maintenance.” And in Michigan, local Republicans have appointed election deniers to canvassing boards in eight of the eleven largest counties in the state.

“We’re seeing an effort to hijack elections in this country, and ultimately, to take power away from the American people. If we don’t want politicians deciding our elections, we all need to start paying attention,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center. “The anti-democracy playbook is simple: change the rules, change the players, so they can change the outcome. As our end-of-year update makes clear, these coordinated efforts are based on the same lies about the 2020 election that led to a violent insurrection. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for those who care about protecting our republic and free and fair elections.”

“In this country, voters decide elections, not politicians. Yet, since the 2020 election, there have been unrelenting and unprecedented attacks on the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections. Throughout the past year, we’ve seen active disinformation campaigns seeking to undermine trust in our elections and spread conspiracy theories, attacks on the officials and civil servants who run our elections, and changes to state laws that will make it easier for politicians — who don’t like the results of elections — to overturn the will of the voters. As our updated report sheds light on, this troubling nationwide trend of state legislatures proposing legislation that intentionally interferes with the ability of state and local election officials to do their jobs is only gaining momentum and leading us down an anti-democratic path toward an election crisis,” said Jess Marsden, Counsel at Protect Democracy.

“This report demonstrates how urgent the need is to focus on what’s happening to our country’s democracy and address it head on. State legislatures are rolling back voting rights and sabotaging elections at the same time — we cannot remain idle. Law Forward is committed to calling out this dangerous behavior,” said Mel Barnes, Staff Counsel at Law Forward.


About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org.

About Protect Democracy

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government. For more information, visit protectdemocracy.org.

About Law Forward

Law Forward is a nonprofit law firm focused on protecting and advancing democracy in Wisconsin. We use impact litigation, the administrative process, and public education to protect Wisconsin’s fundamental democratic principles, and revive Wisconsin’s traditional commitment to clean and open government. Learn more about our work at LawForward.org.