Across the nation, civic groups, faith leaders and alarmed citizens are staging hundreds of candlelight vigils and marches in support of voting rights and contacting Congress to mark one year since the ransacking of the U.S. Capitol.
Originally, the Stop the Steal movement sought to reverse the 2020 election results and organized the Jan. 6 attack. But the insurrection isn’t over: It was a dress rehearsal for what’s coming next. The movement still thrives and is redoubling its efforts at the state level for another effort to subvert our democratic system of government.
Here’s a few things we can expect in the year ahead:
n State-level Republicans will continue to pass more voter suppression laws and take steps allowing them to throw out election results they don’t like.
Already, the Stop the Steal movement is taking over offices that supervise elections; obstructing mail-in balloting; limiting the number, hours and availability of election polls; imposing harsher voter ID requirements; expanding voter roll purges; and securing partisan oversight over final election tallies.
According to the Brennan Center, so far 19 states have enacted 33 laws to make it harder for Americans to vote, and we can expect more. Many of these anti-voting laws are quite extreme, and all of them will disproportionately affect minorities and low-income people — targeting constituencies that tend to vote Democratic.
For example, Georgia residents may be charged with a crime for handing out water to voters waiting in long lines at the polls. In Texas, election administrators may face felony charges if they encourage voters to request mail-in ballots. And in Iowa and Kansas, people could be criminally prosecuted for helping voters deliver their ballots, for example, if they assist voters with disabilities.
In other states, Republican legislatures have undermined the nonpartisan administration of elections by elevating the role of state lawmakers in overseeing election officials and even inserting themselves into the election count.
n Saving our democracy from these attacks — and confronting the filibuster — will be the most crucial fight of 2022, and it is not at all clear if our democracy will survive.
Democracy is not down and out yet, but it is getting dangerously late.
Two essential legislative measures have been introduced in Congress that would overturn many state voting restrictions: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The Freedom to Vote Act would protect and expand vote-by-mail, enact automatic voter registration, simplify voter ID laws, make voting polls easily accessible, and mandate paper ballots, rein in secret political spending, and more. The Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ensuring that no eligible citizen is denied the right to vote.
The U.S. House already passed the Freedom to Vote Act and the Voting Rights Advancement Act. In the Senate, they enjoy the support of a narrow majority, but so far have been blocked by a Republican filibuster.
Calls for modifying the filibuster rules to get these voting rights measures passed into law are mounting, with even President Biden speaking out. This will be the decisive fight of 2022, with consequences that likely will reverberate for decades to come.
n If the election results are close, state-level Republicans will attempt to overturn those that don’t go their way using bogus claims of “election fraud” as the pretext.
Stop the Steal efforts are being coordinated across states by a network of pro-Trump election lawyers, touting their goal of reining in election fraud, despite the reality that no meaningful record of election fraud exists.
Voter fraud conspiracy theories have been widely debunked by election officials, legislative hearings, academic scholars and the courts. Most recently, three Trump supporters from a Florida retirement community were charged with voting more than once. But the wild notion that voter fraud is pervasive and affected the 2020 election results is accurately known as the Big Lie.
Michigan is one of the key states where Republicans hope to seize control of the election process and decide it for themselves. Under pressure from Republican lawmakers, the state ultimately conducted three separate election audits and found nothing. Now, Republicans are running a Trump election fraud lawyer for state attorney general.
2022 is the year that either will remake our democracy for the 21st century — leveling the playing field and ensuring that everyone can participate — or break it entirely. It’s up to all of us and our lawmakers to save it.
Craig Holman is the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.