Last summer, LDAD warned about efforts by the states to overrule federal election results by empowering State legislatures to overrule the actual vote count whenever it disliked the result. Measures to do this, we noted, were afoot in some forty States and, if successful, would fundamentally change the American electoral system. At the time, we thought the threat to American democracy would be obvious and that a warning against the folly would be enough to divert the efforts.
We were wrong.
Those who would upend our system to stay in power have not been deterred. The Big Lie about the 2020 election continues to fuel their cynical and fraudulent claims to legitimacy.
The latest example comes from Wisconsin, the home of such champions of democracy as former governor Robert La Follette and former senator William Proxmire. Instead, today, Wisconsin is the seat of proposed legislation to eliminate or severely curtail the State’s current bi-partisan election commission, the body charged with responsibility for certifying election outcomes. Under this proposal, the State legislature would be the ultimate decider of election results.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is among those encouraging these efforts. He and his supporters base their argument on the discredited notion that Wisconsin’s vote in the 2020 election in favor of Joseph Biden cannot be trusted because of fraud. A Republican-commissioned analysis concluded there was no truth to that contention.
But even that report was no deterrent. Why? Because the goal is to remain in power regardless of the desires of voters. Johnson told the New York Times that Republican control of Wisconsin elections is necessary because Democrats cheat.
The effort to put State legislatures in the driver’s seat in determining election outcomes is reminiscent of how our system worked prior to the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when state legislatures, not voters, chose U.S. Senators, based on the mistaken notion that State legislators knew better than the voters. The 17th Amendment changed that in 1913 by providing that voters directly choose U.S. Senators. The Amendment’s proponents had faith in the voters.
Measures to allow State legislatures to determine election outcomes would reverse more than a century of trust in voters - a fundamental principle of our democracy. And they would do so not on the basis of some noble enquiry about who is most capable of exercising the awesome responsibilities of government, a question that occupied much thought in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It would be based instead on a distinctly ignoble attempt to sink with lead, the least noble of metals, the ability of Americans to have their votes matter.
Last summer, we called upon you to register your concerns. It is now more urgent than ever that each of us fight attempts like these to undermine American democracy. The preservation of our democracy requires that we all make our voices heard.
Emails to your elected representatives at both the federal and state levels are the easiest way to make your influence felt. Send letters to the Editor of The Washington Post, The New York Times and your local newspaper, as well as postings on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media platforms. You are more influential than you might think.