When former president Trump demanded that state legislators in Michigan and Pennsylvania – and undoubtedly other states — step in and steal the election in their state, they frequently replied, “We can’t intervene as the President asks because our state laws give us no role in choosing electors.” Republican efforts to disenfranchise millions of voters ran into the fact that state laws permitted (or at least did not prohibit) the use of voter drop boxes, the acceptance of ballots received in the few days after the election, county efforts to allow absentee ballots to be “cured” of minor errors, etc. Some of these state legislators showed their willingness to advocate that others violate their oaths to overturn the election. For example, a group of Pennsylvania state legislators wrote their Congressional delegation, urging them to reject their own state’s certification of the election results. So, it seems likely they would be willing to intervene in future elections if state law permitted it.
Imagine if state law didn’t contain those restrictions. What if Michigan state law did allow the state legislature to override the will of the people and in essence declare the winner? What if, when Congress met to count and certify the state electoral votes, there were multiple slates of electors from Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona? What if state law prohibited ballot curing, the use of drop boxes, or the counting of ballots received after election day? Or banned “no excuse” absentee balloting entirely? What if, instead of reporting evidence of fraud to the DA, as section 302 of the Pennsylvania election code now requires, county election officials were required to report such findings to a newly formed “Commission on Election Integrity” which in turn had the authority to “take all appropriate actions?” Legislation to allow the legislature to overturn the people’s vote and instead appoint the winner has already been introduced in Arizona and is sure to be introduced in many other states.
Except for the residual of the Voting Rights Act, the 18-year voting age, and the 24th amendment ban on poll taxes, the Constitution leaves elections almost entirely to the states. State laws can be changed by a simple majority vote and unless they reimpose a poll tax or violate the remnants of the Voting Right Act or attempt to raise the voting age, there is nothing for federal courts to review.
If deep red states such as North Dakota or West Virginia adopt such laws, it will make little difference to the outcome. But if states such as Georgia or Florida or North Carolina or Arizona – or Pennsylvania – make these changes, it could fundamentally change the outcome of the election. And it seems almost certain that GOP lawmakers will move forward. In fact, the first steps have already been taken.
The 2020 Republican vote theft campaign was no more aggressive anywhere than it was in Pennsylvania. And it appears that Adams County may be the shameful center of Republican efforts in Pennsylvania to steal the 2024 election. Our state representative, Dan Moul, has pledged to introduce legislation to ban drop boxes and satellite voting facilities. Our state senator, Doug Mastriano, has gone one step further, promising to introduce legislation to ban “no excuse” absentee balloting. Does anyone think they will stop there, and not introduce legislation to ban ballot curing, expand the authority to challenge ballots, or create the Commission on Election Integrity that they shied away from in 2020?
These are likely to be major issues in future legislative sessions. These laws would create the mechanism to reduce votes from Democratic leaning areas and disenfranchise many Democratic voters. If we want a meaningful vote in 2024, this will take a prolonged campaign
Leon Reed, freelance reporter, is a former US Senate staff member, defense consultant, and history teacher. He is a seven year resident of Gettysburg, where he writes military history and explores the park and the Adams County countryside. He is the publisher at Little Falls Books, chaired the Adams County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and is on the board of SCCAP and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He and his wife, Lois, have 3 children, 3 cats, and 5 grandchildren.