Dealt a significant blow by voters in last month's elections, Republicans in several states appear determined to undermine the will of the people, moving to weaken the power of incoming Democratic officials and, in some cases, attempting to restrict access to voting in the future.
The boldest version of this has played out in Wisconsin, where the GOP-controlled legislature followed the example North Carolina set in 2016 and used the lame duck legislative session to grant themselves additional powers at the expense of the new incoming Democratic governor and pass a grab-bag of policy priorities. One is a two-week limit on early voting.
Similar machinations are underway in Michigan, where the Republican-held legislature is using the lame-duck session to fiddle with two voter-approved constitutional amendments to expand voting access and prevent partisan gerrymandering.
In Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, measures are being floated to the press, grinding their way through the legislature, or being mishandled in ways that would restrict access to the ballot or otherwise make voting more difficult.
Election experts and voter advocates are alarmed by the spread of blatant power grabs but more significantly by measures specifically designed to interfere with voting in future elections.
“It’s a contagion,” Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California Irvine who runs the Election Law Blog, told TPM. “What’s so shocking about it is that it’s spreading. It’s not just that one legislature is out of control, it’s that it’s a changing of the norms towards using maximal political power even in the face of a political rejection.”
“The old move was voters sent us a message, we lost, we’ll compromise,” Hasen continued. “And now it’s voters sent us a message, they don’t like us, we’re going to hold on to whatever power we can still hold onto—including through manipulation of the rules related to elections.”
In an interview with TPM, Myrna Pérez, leader of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections project, referred to this as the “repeated and concerted effort for a cadre of politicians whose constituents are declining to try to maintain and assert power.”