As part of their push to combat Republican voter suppression efforts sweeping the country, Democrats introduced bicameral legislation on Tuesday aimed at preventing Republicans from allowing local election officials to be removed or appointed through partisan efforts.
In states like Georgia, Republican state lawmakers have proposed and passed legislation that reforms state election boards to be more partisan and allow for officials in charge of administering elections to be removed by partisan interests in the state legislature. Because Republicans control the majority of state legislative chambers across the country, such bills could help the GOP have absolute control over election results, too.
The Democrats’ Preventing Election Subversion Act of 2021, introduced by Senators Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Representatives John Sarbanes (D-Maryland) and Zoe Lofgren (D-California), among others, is aimed at combating the GOP attempts to control election results. It proposes protections for local elections officials who may be subject to removal for any reason — or no reason at all.
The Democrats’ bill would require that elections officials could only be removed if they are found to be inefficient or neglectful of their duties, or if they have committed a malfeasance. The official subject to removal would also have the option of appealing to a federal court, where the court would be required to expedite their hearing.
Further, the bill seeks to protect election workers by making it a federal crime to harass or harm an election worker.
The Democratic legislators have also proposed protections aimed at preventing Republicans from launching widespread campaigns to invalidate peoples’ votes, which the GOP has attempted to do with the introduction of “challenger laws” in their voter suppression bills.
GOP legislators in several states have proposed allowing groups or individuals to challenge an unlimited number of voter registration qualifications, which experts say could lead to votes being hastily thrown away, especially in conjunction with Republican takeovers of election boards. Republicans had tried to get hundreds of thousands of votes questioned and thrown out last year, but largely failed in their mission because of existing state guidelines.
The Preventing Election Subversion Act is aimed at preventing Republicans from being able to challenge and throw out votes en masse and requires any challenges to an individual’s voter registration be backed up with personal knowledge of the voter and the action defended under penalty of perjury.
This push comes as the Senate is considering a debate over the For the People Act, or S.1, on Tuesday. The sweeping bill to protect elections and help remove corruption is slated to be blocked by a Republican filibuster. When the bill comes to the Senate again, the lawmakers plan to add the Preventing Election Subversion Act as an amendment.
The push also comes as Republicans are already in the process of removing election officials from their posts in Georgia, where the GOP rushed an omnibus voter suppression package into law earlier this year. Georgia Republicans have already removed many Democrats from their positions and even replaced a Republican who had opposed their voter suppression bill with someone more amenable to their agenda.
“The dangers of the voter suppression efforts we’re seeing in Georgia and across the nation are not theoretical, and we can’t allow power-hungry state actors to squeeze the people out of their own democracy by overruling the decisions of local election officials,” Warnock said in a statement. “This legislation is critical to ensuring the federal government has the tools to make sure every eligible voter’s voice is heard and their ballot is counted to help decide the direction of our country.”
Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Georgia), one of the legislators introducing the bill in the House, reiterated the danger of the GOP’s efforts to suppress voters in a statement, according to HuffPost.
“Republicans across the country continue to invent new tricks to give themselves control over our elections,” Williams said. “Their latest efforts seek to remove protections for the non-partisan election officials who ensure the integrity of our democracy. Protecting election officials from partisan interference is one way Congress can secure free and fair elections for everyone, no matter their zip code.”