Federal Government Involvement in the Election
State governments have the primary responsibility to administer elections and enforce election law. Traditionally, the federal role has been limited to two areas: (1) Enforcing the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every eligible citizen has the right to vote, and (2) After all votes are counted and an election result is certified, prosecuting individuals who have committed federal election crimes.
But recent comments and actions by the federal government have raised concerns of the possibility of unprecedented federal involvement — and potentially interference — with the conduct of elections at the state and local level. This toolkit collects resources to help state attorneys general, and other local and state officials, understand the proper federal, state, and local roles in election administration and enforcement.
Use this quick reference guide to understand what federal election-related behavior is acceptable — and what behavior should raise concerns.
On November 9, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr released a memo upending a 40-year-old policy of noninterference with elections. VPP Board members who are ex-federal prosecutors issued this statement in response.
This memo analyzes the laws and constitutional rules that forbid the federal government from deploying troops or armed agents to the polls. The memo also explains why the government can’t invoke the Insurrection Act, under the guise of quelling civil unrest, in the election’s aftermath.
This Q&A explains the proper role of the National Guard in and around elections: The Guard can be deployed by states to assist with election logistics, but it can’t be used by the federal government to intrude on state control of everyday law enforcement functions.
NATIONAL GUARD COORDINATION
This is a bullet-pointed list of practical steps to help state officials coordinate and communicate with the National Guard around election-related deployments.
Here’s a bullet-pointed list of practical steps that state attorneys general can take to ensure that the federal Department of Justice hews to its traditional limited role of after-the-fact election law investigation and prosecution, if needed.
FEDERAL AGENCY INVOLVEMENT
Here’s a bullet-pointed list of practical steps that state officials can take to coordinate with federal agencies other than DOJ to ensure that the federal government does not overstep its limited role in the election.
This template is an illustrative resource for state attorneys general who are considering outreach to local U.S. Attorneys in response to concerns over federal involvement in the 2020 election.