In a rural county in New Mexico, the nation has been given a terrifying glimpse into the bleak future of democracy, absent aggressive intervention by those who care about its protection.
In a shocking refusal to perform their legal obligation, three Otero County Commissioners refused to certify the results of the June 7 primary election, instead citing vague – and false – concerns about Dominion voting machines and voter fraud.
Fortunately, democracy prevailed because the New Mexico Secretary of State filed suit and the state’s Supreme Court ordered the Commissioners to do what the law required - certify the election results.
One of the three Commissioners refused, based not on any facts or evidence, but on his gut feeling and intuition. That Commissioner is also the founder of Cowboys for Trump and was recently convicted and sentenced for his role at the Capitol on January 6.
Even as the voters of Otero County ultimately had their right to vote protected by the intervention of the Secretary of State, efforts are underway around the country to undermine voting rights. Supporters of the Big Lie of 2020 election fraud are running for Secretary of State and other key positions around the country, threatening the right to free and fair elections in the future.
Unchecked, the vote by the Otero County Commissioners would lead to governmental arbitrariness, vindictiveness and, ultimately, authoritarianism. If public officials are permitted to base their decisions on their unfounded and partisan personal beliefs, rather than on facts and an evidentiary basis, any notion of governmental fairness, the rule of law, and citizens’ trust in American democracy is destroyed.
America’s lawyers must not let this happen. We must treat this dangerous moment like the emergency that it is and act to protect the Constitution, the rule of law, and government decision-making based on facts, not lies.
In their instructive article on CNN, Professor Laurence Tribe and our colleague, Dennis Aftergut, capture the state of emergency we are facing in this country and offer practical steps to “stand up to election sabotage” and “ensure that public officials certify the candidates with the most votes.”
It is alarming that this is the state of American politics. It is more alarming that the legal profession has not yet galvanized to act.