On January 6, 2021, Americans watched in horror as thousands of Trump supporters descended on Washington, DC and stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 election. The insurrection threatened a peaceful transfer of power and came dangerously close to upending the very foundations of our democracy. The rioters that day were not only aided by a President who spurred them on and by members of Congress objecting to the results of a free and fair election, but also by state legislators across the country who fanned the flames of insurrection and who continue to sow doubt in our democracy for political gain.
Now, after an over year and a half-long investigation, the DLCC has uncovered that over 1,000 Republican state legislators and candidates aided and abetted Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow the United States government – and represent an ongoing threat to our democracy.
Most horrifying, the DLCC identified at least 21 sitting state legislators who traveled to DC on January 6th to participate in the rally-turned-insurrection, and in the many months since, dozens more insurrectionists have launched their own campaigns for elected office. Many of these candidates have the backing of Donald Trump in their efforts, and at least one is running from jail as he faces charges for his role in the violence on January 6th. The DLCC is working to hold all of these insurrectionists accountable, yet the full threat to democracy runs much deeper.
In addition to those in DC on January 6th, hundreds of state legislators have demonstrated their willingness to go along with or even lead the larger attack on our democracy. Some participated in protests, riots, or other events in their states on January 6th; others denied and continue to deny that President Joe Biden won. And over 500 legislators abused their authority by taking action to challenge or overturn the results of the presidential election. Some Republicans on the ballot were even among those involved with Trump’s ‘fake electors’ plot, while several were even willing to act as ‘fake electors’ themselves.
The attack on our democracy continues
For state Republicans, the insurrection didn’t end on January 6 – the attack on the Capitol was only the start of their effort to subvert our democracy.
A Colorado candidate has proudly claimed to be “one of the first people to head down to the Capitol,” a Michigan candidate has called the insurrection a “highlight” of her life, and a Florida candidate who was charged for his role in the riot is now running for office from jail. But these candidates and legislators just scratch the surface.
The sheer number of dangerous candidates identified by the DLCC in battleground states is reason for great concern. In Arizona, 50% of GOP candidates on the November ballot have shown a willingness to go along with Trump’s Big Lie. In Michigan, it is over 30%. And in Pennsylvania, there are over 70 candidates, the most of any state, who represent an ongoing threat.
In Arizona, a lineup of GOP state legislators launched a costly, sham election review that just recently came to a close. The firm Arizona Republicans hired to conduct the review was owned by vocal MAGA extremists who had no experience handling election materials, and ended up corrupting hundreds of voting machines, costing the state millions of dollars to replace them – just one of many reasons that officials have sought to keep details of this audit and the legislature’s involvement out of public view. Arizona wasn’t the only state to hold a nonsense audit of the election results. Republicans in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin spent thousands of dollars in taxpayer money on similar efforts and if MAGA Republicans on the ballot this fall win their races, many are pledging to renew those efforts.
To this day, hundreds of GOP legislators and candidates are still actively spreading the Big Lie, and many have made overturning the 2020 election a core pillar of their platforms. These Republicans are pushing outlandish conspiracy theories and misinformation on social media and at their events – trying to convince MAGA extremists that any election they lose must be rigged.
Warning signs for the future
But the GOP isn’t just obsessed with the past – they’re plotting for the future.
Since the insurrection, Republicans in more than a dozen states enacted anti-voter laws to increase barriers to the ballot box, largely disenfranchising voters of color, voters with disabilities, and voters in rural areas. Just take a look:
- In Iowa, the legislature shortened early voting, cut Election Day voting hours, and severely limited drop boxes.
- In Georgia – where the average voter wait time in majority Black precincts can be 8 times longer than in the majority white precincts – Republicans banned volunteers from distributing food and water to weary ballot casters.
- And in Texas, Republicans implemented a law that requires attendants accompanying disabled voters to the polls to provide their personal information and swear under penalty of perjury that they haven’t been paid for their time, despite the fact that many elderly voters or voters with disabilities need paid aides.
Meanwhile, Republican legislators and candidates are already planning to sabotage the outcomes of the 2024 election – working to gain unchecked power so they can pick the winners, instead of letting the voters decide. Even before the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, the GOP speculated about bypassing the popular vote altogether and simply picking the winner of the next presidential contest themselves. And next year, the Trump-stacked Supreme Court could give these Republican legislators exactly what they want: unchecked power to write the rules around elections with no say from the federal government, state courts, or governors.
Of course, the crisis of democracy unfolding in our state legislatures isn’t just staying there. Many legislators who spearheaded the Big Lie in their states are now running for higher office. Current Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is an insurrectionist and sitting state senator. If he wins, he could move to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and subvert the will of the people in 2024 should President Biden win again. Arizona candidate Mark Finchem, a sitting state representative who was also at the insurrection on January 6th, has similar plans if he wins his election for Secretary of State. These are the rising stars of the GOP.
It’s time to take action
So let’s be clear: November 8th is our chance to stop these MAGA militants, election deniers, and insurrectionists from gaining power in our statehouses and undermining our democracy as we know it. There are over 700 candidates on the ballot this November who attempted to overthrow the government – and more than 100 of them are in competitive races against Democrats who are fighting to protect our fundamental freedoms. We must do everything in our power to keep these threats to democracy out of the majority in our statehouses.