Republicans in several states, including Georgia and Arkansas, are assailing a key line of defense against former President Donald Trump’s baseless attacks on the 2020 election by taking aim at local election officials. Their efforts result from new voting laws that have allowed the GOP to wrest election power from these authorities and give state Republicans heightened control over the voting process. Democrats argue that if such changes to election oversight had existed during the post-election period, they would have exacerbated Trump and his allies’ attempts to undermine the 2020 election results, according to the New York Times.
Take what’s happening in Georgia, where Republicans have wasted no time deploying a recent election law to silence opposing voices at the local level. “Members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature,” the Times reports.
At least half of the casualties in Georgia are Democrats of color. Among them, the Times notes, is Helen Butler, a leading voting rights and election administration activist who, in addition to running the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, is a member of the county election board in Morgan, a Republican stronghold east of Atlanta. Speaking of the recent maneuvers, Butler told the Times, “I think it’s all a part of the ploy for the takeover of local boards of elections that the state legislature has put in place.”
Meanwhile, under a law in Arkansas, a state board of election commissioners made up almost entirely of Republicans now has the power to probe and “institute corrective action” on a range of election procedures—from voter registration to election certification—in all counties, weakening local authorities’ power to oversee basic parts of the voting process. Rep. Mark Lowery, who authored the measure, told the Times that he believed Trump won the election.
High-level state officials who fought Trump’s conspiratorial efforts are also in jeopardy of losing power. In Arizona, Republicans recently targeted Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state who emerged last year as a prominent defender of Arizona’s election results. They did so by proposing a bill that would essentially sap her “of her authority over election lawsuits, and then expire when she leaves office,” the Times reports.
Like Hobbs, who defended the will of voters in election lawsuits challenging her state’s results, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has also seen his power diminished since standing up to Trump’s attacks last year. The Republican official was recently removed as the chair of the state election board, stripping his office of some of its authority.
The county and municipal-level changes are among the immediate effects of restrictive voting measures that the GOP has and continues to introduce in legislatures across the country. Democrats fear that promoters of “Trump’s conspiracy theories will soon have much greater control over the levers of the American elections system,” the Times reports.
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