Must-Read Nate Cohn: “Georgia’s New Law, and the Risk of Election Subversion”

NYT Upshot column:

What would have happened if the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, had responded, “OK, I’ll try,” in a January phone call after President Trump asked him to “find” 11,000 votes?

No one can be sure. What is clear is that the question has been overlooked in recent months. Public attention has mostly moved on from Mr. Trump’s bid to overturn the election; activists and politicians are focused more on whether to restrict or expand voting access, particularly by mail.

But trying to reverse an election result without credible evidence of widespread fraud is an act of a different magnitude than narrowing access. A successful effort to subvert an election would pose grave and fundamental risks to democracy, risking political violence and secessionism.

Beyond any provisions on voting itself, the new Georgia election law risks making election subversion easier. It creates new avenues for partisan interference in election administration. This includes allowing the state elections board, now newly controlled by appointees of the Republican State Legislature, to appoint a single person to take control of typically bipartisan county election boards, which have important power over vote counting and voter eligibility.

The law also gives the Legislature the authority to appoint the chair of the state election board and two more of its five voting members, allowing it to appoint a majority of the board. It strips the secretary of state of the chair and a vote.

Even without this law, there would still be a risk of election subversion: Election officials and administrators all over the country possess important powers, including certification of election results, that could be abused in pursuit of partisan gain. And it’s a risk that H.R. 1, the reform bill congressional Democrats are pushing, does relatively little to address.

This is an urgent topic that is analytically distinct from the voter suppression concerns with the Georgia law. Although Nate links here to my recent WaPo column on what to include in H.R. 1, and suggests that it is missing a requirement of “nonpartisan election administration,” I’m not sure that would be so easy for Congress to write in terms of the structure that would apply, and it would be much harder to implement than for the one time act of drawing legislative districts.

But I have written about this question in my book, Election Meltdown, and some other recent pieces of mine discuss this question of election subversion and what to do about it:

We Can’t Let Our Elections Be This Vulnerable Again (The Atlantic) (suggesting changes to the rules for counting and certifying electoral college votes)

Donald Trump Should Be Prosecuted for His Shakedown of Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger (Slate)

The Only Way to Save American Democracy Now (Slate)

Election law can’t protect democracy if our representatives are lawless (LA Times)

And much more about this coming in my other writings, including my forthcoming “Cheap Speech” book

Share

Comments are closed.