Updated: Pro-Democracy State Leaders Convene to Discuss Voter Protection Efforts

Bipartisan group of current and former Governors, Lt. Governors, State Attorneys General, and Secretaries of State Connect on Protecting the Freedom to Vote

Published: 4.9.21

NATIONWIDE—On Friday, Voter Protection Action brought together a bipartisan group of current and former state leaders from across the country to discuss the coordinated voter suppression effort sweeping state houses and to share best practices for protecting access to the ballot box. Despite being deemed the most secure election in American history with record-breaking voter participation, the 2020 election brought unprecedented attempts to undermine the will of the American people. Now the effort to block the ballot box is making its way through state legislatures, with more than 360 bills pending in 47 states.

The leaders who participated in today’s convening joined from states that witnessed unprecedented frivolous litigation and disinformation efforts during the 2020 election, and states that saw record-breaking voter participation and that expanded access to the ballot box. They shared best practices, updates on current state legislative efforts, and strategies for how states can support one another in the work of election protection. The participants also discussed the impact that many of the proposals at the state and national level would have on state residents, particularly on communities of color, the elderly, veterans, and younger voters.

“The 2020 election is over but the war on democracy is escalating and many of our states have become battlegrounds for coordinated efforts to undermine the freedom to vote. The particular suppression tactics may vary, but the goals are the same: make it harder for American citizens to vote. That is why it’s so important to connect with state leaders across the country as we work to protect democracy and the voting rights of every citizen – no matter where they live or who they vote for,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

“Over the past year, as the foundation of our society has been rocked, it has never been more important to ensure that the foundation of our democracy remains strong. I’m very proud to unite with state leaders to ensure no American is denied access to their fundamental right to vote based on where they live or the color of their skin. To incentivize participation and break down barriers for disenfranchised voters, every single elected official should be held accountable for ensuring that every voice can be heard,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

“Voting is among the most fundamental rights of our democracy, and it is critical that leaders from all backgrounds stand together in our commitment to protecting, securing and expanding access for this constitutional right,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

“Over the past year, we have witnessed the attacks on voting rights nationwide. But we have also seen the incredible power of voters engaging in the democratic process in historic numbers. As a country, we must continue to recognize that our democracy cannot be taken for granted. It’s on us to come together, bridge divides, and end these harmful voter suppression measures once and for all,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

“Michigan Republicans are using lies about the 2020 election to build barriers to voting, parroting efforts across the country by both fringe and mainstream figures to foment distrust and deny reality. Instead of working to speed up our pandemic response, fix our roads, or jumpstart our economy, anti-democratic forces in Michigan and in dozens of other states are focused on pushing anti-voter bills. We can’t let lies big and small disrupt our duty to protect the freedom to vote. We must have elections in this country where candidates are focused on building support for their ideas and plans, not suppressing voters to win,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

“In 2020, Pennsylvania withstood relentless attacks on our democracy with bogus claims and dangerous conspiracy theories. Ultimately, the truth prevailed, but we cannot allow the baseless claims to be used as a weapon to take away the right to vote. We must remain united in our commitment to freedom and voter rights in order to protect our democracy from those who do not trust our citizens to choose their own leaders,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

“We need strong partnership and collaboration across parties and across states to stop this attack on the freedom to vote, and to amplify pro-democracy officials and policies on both sides of the aisle. In 2020, we got a crash course in how far the forces for voter suppression are willing to go. Together, we confronted those challenges and protected the will of the American people, and together is how we will protect our democracy going forward,” said former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

“Efforts to build barriers that make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote are anti-democratic. As duly elected officials, we have an obligation to push back against any effort that makes it harder for eligible voters to access the ballot and to make their voices heard. That work does not stop when the votes are tallied and an election comes to a close. There are no ‘off days’ in preserving our democracy, and public officials must focus on enacting policies that bring more voters to the table at every opportunity,” said Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

“During the 2020 election, I was very clear that in Nevada we would not tolerate voter intimidation or voter suppression. That is still true today. Right now, we are witnessing attempts to add barriers to the ballot box that disproportionately impact Black voters, our elderly, and our veterans. That is why I am proud to work with other state leaders to confront these suppression efforts and to expand access to voting,” said Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford.

“The effort to restrict the freedom to vote isn’t just a one state issue, it impacts all Americans, which is why it’s so important for state leaders to work together to protect and strengthen our elections,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

“With the freedom to vote under attack, it’s imperative that we come together to push back against new barriers to voting—especially when those barriers are thinly veiled attempts to suppress voting in communities of color. The 2020 election was free, fair, and conducted with integrity, and the results reflect the will of the voters. Any politician who lies about the 2020 election to justify voter suppression efforts is doing a disservice to our democracy and the American people,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul.

“In 2020, we learned that what is happening in our states on elections can and should be part of the national conversation. Michigan was the poster child for election mischief and extremism in the past year, and often what we saw happening here was heading to one of our fellow states next. As state leaders, we need to stay connected. In this fight to protect our freedom to vote, it’s all hands-on-deck,” added Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

It’s important to ask ourselves why a handful of politicians want to add barriers to voting. It was only two years ago that we passed bipartisan reforms in Pennsylvania to expand access to voting for the Commonwealth, and now there are efforts to roll us backwards. We cannot let it become the norm that lies and conspiracy are used to push policies that will harm the freedom to vote,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

“Here in Maine, we are proud of our strong pro-democracy voting laws like automatic voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, accessible drop boxes, and more. I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with my colleagues from across the country to discuss what we can do together, to unite behind efforts to strengthen our elections on both the state and national level,” said Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.

“Lies, conspiracy theories, and disinformation pose a real threat to our democracy. In 2020, thanks to the tireless work of local election officials, democracy stood strong. Sadly, a handful of lawmakers have taken all the wrong lessons from this past election, and now are using the same falsehoods to pursue a bad faith effort to add barriers to voting in Arizona and in states across the country. As the state leaders who administer and understand our elections, it’s so important for us to work together to protect our elections, safeguard access to the ballot box, and ensure voters their ballots will be counted,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

“Even here in Minnesota, a state where we proudly claim the top spot for voter participation in the country, there are efforts underway to add barriers to the ballot box. The lies about the 2020 election paved the way for these attacks, and when it comes to our democracy, lies should never become laws. Thankfully, the momentum is building on the side of voter protection. The attack on voting rights is coordinated, and it is going to take leaders from all arenas coming together to protect the sanctity of our elections,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.

The event was led by Secretary Shenna Bellows (ME), Secretary Jocelyn Benson (MI), Secretary Katie Hobbs (AZ), Secretary Steve Simon (MN), Governor Roy Cooper (NC), Governor Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist (MI), Attorney General Aaron Ford (NV), Attorney General Dana Nessel (MI), and Attorney General Josh Shapiro (PA). Participating state leaders included Governor Kate Brown (OR), Governor Tim Walz (MN), Governor Tom Wolf (PA), Attorney General Maura Healey (MA), Attorney General Josh Kaul (WI), and Ellen Rosenblum (OR). Additionally, leaders who ran the Voter Protection Program in 2020 joined the call, including Joanna Lydgate, Norman Eisen, former Governor Christine Todd Whitman (NJ), and former attorneys general Jahna Lindemuth (AL), Grant Woods (AZ), Tom Rath (NH), and John Farmer (NJ).

About Voter Protection Action (VPA)

Voter Protection Action (VPA) is a nonpartisan section 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization with a mission to protect our elections and our democracy.