When we talk about threats to democracy this election year, former President Donald Trump gets most of the attention. And for good reason: it is declared himself above the law And promises to abuse power if he wins a second term. But the most misunderstood threat comes from Congress. In the very building where our democracy was attacked three years ago, dozens of election deniers still hold power.
According to new research from the United States, the nonpartisan organization we founded to help state and local officials protect elections, about a third of current members of the House and Senate – 171 members in total – are election deniers. Take Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. In an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” she not only did not commit to certifying the results of the 2024 election, but she also said, “I am concerned about the treatment of the January 6 hostages.»
Once again, Stefanik is not alone. Election deniers represent 36 states, red and blue. And most will be on the electoral lists again next November. It’s worth thinking about the havoc they could wreak if they returned to power.
Start on January 6, 2025. On that day, the newly elected Congress will count the Electoral College votes and declare the winner of the 2024 presidential election. If voters reject Trump in favor of President Biden, then it is easy to imagine election deniers trying to derail the count. We’ve seen this movie before.
Yes, after the attack on the US Capitol, Congress made it more difficult to sabotage a presidential election. A new law raises the threshold for opposing a state’s electoral votes to one-fifth of members of the House and Senate. Previously, only one member from each chamber was required. But even with the new rules, congressional election deniers could get up to mischief. Already, 152 of them are seated in the House, which is more than enough to clear the upper bar. Nineteen sit in the Senate, just one fewer than would be necessary. With many races expected to be close, the threshold could be lower if some members are not sworn in by Jan. 6.
The situation is even worse: if no presidential candidate wins 270 electoral votes, the House chooses the president. That this hasn’t happened in 200 yearsBut it is not impossible this election year. Under this process, each state gets one vote. To date, election deniers serve in 36 House delegations.
This is not a fever dream of constitutional crisis. After all, election deniers in Congress tried to help Trump steal the presidential election last time. Nearly 150 members voted to reject the results states won by Biden. And more than 100 signed a memoir support a reckless trial who sought to derail the votes of tens of millions of Americans.
Leading the recruiting effort for this mandate was a little-known representative of Louisiana named Mike Johnson, now the government’s most powerful Holocaust denier. One of his first acts as Speaker of the House was to protect the identity of the January 6 rioters in the footage of the attack, to help them avoid accountability.
Congressional election deniers could cause problems in many other ways. They could use their budgetary powers to defund the January 6 lawsuits. Congress, which has a history of irregular election financing, could starve federal agencies that help protect elections. Election deniers could launch baseless investigations and haul election administrators to the Capitol to berate them for doing their jobs in 2024. The Senate could refuse to confirm judges or executive branch officials who don’t pay lip service to the “big lie”. And election deniers with an agenda in Congress could further poison public confidence in elections with more lies.
Elections are administered by state and local officials, but Americans understand that Congress wields considerable influence. In new US poll, 59% of respondents said Congress has significant power over elections. What they say – and do – about our elections really matters.
The good news is that there is still time to do something about it. And while presidential campaigns are decided by a handful of battleground states, voters from coast to coast can make a difference in 2024 by rejecting deniers from congressional elections.
The same poll suggests that refusing elections could come at a political price. A plurality of voters, 42%, would be less likely to re-elect a member of Congress who refused to certify in 2020. To educate themselves, voters can start by ElectionDeniers.org. It offers a comprehensive picture of election deniers in Congress and state offices across the country.
Three years have passed since January 6, 2021, and the push for accountability has made our democracy stronger. Trump faces federal and state indictments for trying to overturn the elections. Many of his accomplices are confronted criminal charges Or professional discipline. More than 1,200 people were arrested for the attack on the Capitol.
But members of Congress have largely escaped having to answer for their betrayal of American voters. If we don’t want this to happen again, we can decide this fall not to give election deniers power over our votes.