"Slow-motion Insurrection": How the GOP seizes electoral power

A few Americans stood up in the weeks before the deadly insurrection at U.S. Capitol on January 6, to stop then-President Donald Trump’s unprecedented attempt to overturn free and fair voting.

"Slow-motion Insurrection": How the GOP seizes electoral power

Since then, Trump-aligned Republicans worked hard to make the way for the next time.

Republicans are gaining control of the once-overlooked machine of elections in battleground states and elsewhere. Although the effort is imperfect and uneven, experts on democracy and Democrats warn that the United States is experiencing a slow-motion insurrection with better chances of success than Trump’s failed power grab last January.

They point out a growing list of evidence: Many candidates who deny Trump's loss have been running for office that could play a crucial role in the election to the next president in 2024. The Republican Party in Michigan is stocking obscure members of local boards that could prevent an election from being approved. The GOP-controlled legislatures in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are supporting open-ended "reviews," of 2020's election. This is based on an extremely flawed Arizona look-back. These efforts will fuel disinformation, anger and frustration about the 2020 results for many years.

This all happens as Trump's Republican Party aligns more with him. He has made denial of 2020 results a litmus-test for his support. Trump has supported primaries to purge lawmakers who have strayed from him and praised Jan. 6 rioters. Sixteen GOP governors signed laws that make it harder to vote. A poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that two-thirds (63%) of Republicans don't believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.

Experts believe that a new baseless challenge to an election is more likely than ever.

Steven Levitsky, a Harvard political scientist who co-authored the book "How Democracies Dye", said that "It's unclear that the Republican Party will accept defeat anymore." He also stated that "The party itself is now an anti-democratic force."

Since its inception, American democracy has been manipulated and flawed by both sides. Millions of Americans, including Black and Native Americans, have been excluded from this process. Both Republicans and Democrats have created laws to rig the rules in their favor.

Experts argue that this time is different. Never before in modern American history has a major party attempted to make the administration of elections a partisan act.

Republicans who raise alarms are not being heard by their party. Reps. Liz Cheney, Wyoming, and Adam Kinzinger, Illinois, who are members of a House panel investigating the Jan.6 insurrection are often dismissed by their party as party apostates. Others see election denialism as a distraction.

Some local officials, who are the closest to the process' fragility and process, appeal for change. Kathleen Bernier, a former election clerk and a GOP state senator, decried her party's attempts to take control of the elections process at a recent news conference.

Bernier stated, "These invented things people do to jazz-up the base is just despicable. I don't believe that any elected legislator should play that."

LOCAL CONTROL

Bernier's views are not shared by most Republicans who control Wisconsin's state Legislature. This is one of a few states where Biden won, but Trump incorrectly claims that he won. The Wisconsin Republicans demanded that their Legislative Audit Bureau review the 2020 election in 2021. The review revealed no evidence of fraud. The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty also conducted an investigation last month.

Many Republicans still believe that something was wrong. They point out how the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which was created by the GOP-led Legislature as well as the then-Republican governor eight years ago to manage the state's elections, changed the guidance for local election officers in order to make it easier to vote during the pandemic.

This has led to a conflict between the state Legislature, and the commission over control of elections.

"We feel that we must get this right for people to believe in our integrity," stated GOP Senator Alberta Darling, who represents conservative suburbs north Milwaukee. "We are not trying to change Trump's election. We are trying to find out the next election and fix irregularities.

Republicans are also changing the way that elections are conducted in other states. In Georgia, an election bill signed this year by the GOP governor gave the Republican-controlled General Assembly new powers over the state board of elections, which controls its local counterparts.

This law will be used to start a review of operations within the solidly-Democratic Fulton County. This county is home to most of Atlanta and could result in a state takeover. Additionally, the legislature passed legislation allowing local officials in six counties to remove Democrats from their election boards.

The GOP-controlled Pennsylvania legislature is reviewing the presidential election and subpoenaing voter data. Democrats claim this is an unprecedented invasion of voter privacy. Trump supporters are signing up in large numbers for local election jobs. A pastor who attended the rally in Washington on Jan. 6 won a race for a position as an election judge in rural Lancaster County.

The GOP's focus in Michigan has been on the state's counties boards of canvassers. Trump called the two Republican members on the Wayne County board, which is home to Democratic-bastion Detroit to vote against certification in November 2020. This brought the little-known power of these committees briefly to the forefront.

Local Republicans replaced one Republican member who had defied Trump with Robert Boyd. Boyd told The Detroit Free Press that Biden's win would not have been certified by him.

Boyd didn't return my call for comment.

Macomb County is the third-most populous county in Michigan. A similar swap saw a Republican replaced with one who recited Trump's election lies.

The Detroit News reported in October that Republicans had replaced their members in eight of Michigan’s most populous counties on the boards of canvassers.

Officials in Michigan say that if boards or canvassers fail to certify an election, they can be sued and forced to do so. However, this process could lead to chaos and serve as a rallying cry for election disputes.

Mark Brewer, an election lawyer who was also the former chair of Michigan Democratic Party, stated that "they're laying groundwork for slow-motion insurrection".

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson warned that the state's top election official had turned his attention to protecting 2020.

TRUMP'S RETRIBUTION

This includes Benson.

Numerous Republicans have lined up against her, including Kristina Karmo, a professor at a community college who has accused fraud in 2020 elections and claimed that Jan. 6 attackers were antifa activists trying frame Trump supporters.

Trump is clear in his intentions: He wants to remove all statewide officials that stand in his way, and replace them by his allies.

Trump said this month that he has endorsed Karamo and stated, "We have secretary-of-states who did not do what was right for the American people."

Georgia is where Trump is most visible. He is supporting U.S. Rep. Jody Haice, who voted against Biden’s Electoral College win on Jan. 6 in a primary against Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary-of-state. Trump's appeals to him to "find enough votes" to declare him the winner were rejected by Hice.

Trump encouraged David Perdue, a former U.S. senator to run for governor. Brian Kemp was the Republican primary winner. Trump tried to get Kemp to declare him victorious in 2020, but Kemp refused.

After Kemp was censured by the group, Jason Shepherd was forced to resign as Cobb County GOP chair in October. "It's shortsighted. Shepherd stated in an interview that they don't think about the consequences of this later. "They want their pound from Brian Kemp, because Brian Kemp followed law."

Multiple lawsuits filed in Nevada to reverse Biden's victory were dismissed by Nevada judges. Jim Marchant, an ex-GOP state legislator, filed a suit to overturn his congressional loss. It was also dismissed. Barbara Cegavske (current Republican secretary of State), who is term-limited, concluded that there was no evidence of fraud in the contests.

Marchant stated that he isn't just looking to be a Trump enabler. However, he was supported by Trump in his congressional campaign. Marchant stated that Trump was a person he has been fighting since before he arrived. "All that we want are fair and transparent elections."

Republican state senator Doug Mastriano from Pennsylvania, who organized Trump supporters' buses for Trump's rally at the White House on January 6, has indicated that he is running for governor. Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem is running for secretary of state. This comes after he hosted a one-day hearing featuring Rudolph Giuliani, Trump's adviser, in November 2020. Kari Lake, a former news anchor, is running for Republican governor. Doug Ducey was the one who stood up against Trump's election-year pressures and is now barred from a second term.

In Arizona, Stephen Richer, Maricopa County Registerer, who has defended his office from the conspiratorial electoral review, started a committee to support Republicans who tell the truth. He is realistic about the possibility of a stolen election being perpetuated within his party.

Richer stated, "Right now, the incentive structure seems strongly to favor doing the wrong thing."

HIGH STAKES RACES - GOVERNOR

Democratic governors in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have been a significant obstacle to the GOP's efforts to reform elections. They have also vetoed new rules, which Democrats claim are designed to make it more difficult for people of color vote.

The U.S. governors play a crucial role in elections. They certify winners in their states and allow for the appointment of Electoral College Members. This raises concerns that Trump-friendly governors might try to certify him as the winner of their states' electoral votes, regardless of how many votes he received.

Some Republicans also argue that state legislatures have the right to name their electors, regardless of how many votes are cast.

However, Democrats have not been able to clearly define the stakes in these elections. According to Daniel Squadron, of The States Project, a Democratic group trying to win state legislatures, it is difficult for voters believe that the system might be vulnerable.

He stated that the most motivated Americans today are those who believe that the 2020 election was stolen. "Acknowledging that this is happening requires such a leap in any core American value system that anyone of us has ever lived through."

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