Trump’s Speech Is the Blueprint for the GOP’s Ongoing Legislative Campaign to Undermine Free and Fair Elections
True North Research is issuing a report about how Donald Trump’s January 6th speech not only incited an insurrection but also spurred dramatic changes to state election laws that undermine American democracy.
Today marks the first anniversary of the violent riot incited by Donald Trump to try to stop the democratic process and prolong his presidency. Congress is pursuing an intensive investigation to help hold Trump and his confederates responsible for the damage to America that day, and the Justice Department has indicted more than 750 people for their actions on January 6th — but so far none are from Trump’s inner circle.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump for his words on January 6th that unleashed an unprecedented wave of violence by his followers. His devotees invaded the Capitol and threatened members of Congress and the Vice President for doing their constitutional duties of counting the votes certified by every state in the country. Last year, a majority of U.S. Senators voted that Trump should be convicted but that number fell short of the super-majority needed under the Constitution to do so.
But Trump’s speech did not only incite the most violent domestic insurrection in the U.S. since the Civil War: it also set forth a blueprint for his party’s ongoing campaign to change state laws in ways that undermine free and fair elections and create levers for Trump loyalists to use the law to subvert U.S. democracy.
This report by True North Research examines the anti-democracy playbook to change the law that Trump set out that day, predicated on his lies about voter fraud and more. It also shows how his loyalists have delivered, introducing more than 440 bills to restrict the freedom to vote and passing dozens of major changes that alter how future elections will be conducted.
In the year since Trump’s attempted coup, we have learned that the insurrection was not a one-off event, and that the Trump-aligned GOP is intent on creating the infrastructure they lacked in 2020 to effectively steal coming elections if they cannot persuade enough voters to actually vote for their candidates. As the New York Times editorial board put it, “Every Day Is Jan. 6 Now.”
Most coverage has focused on how Trump’s January 6th speech incited the breach of the Capitol and the violent insurrection by his most ardent cultists, which was part of his failed coup.
Less examined is how Trump’s speech also mapped out a playbook for state elected officials aligned with him to subvert free and fair elections through legislation and by placing Trump loyalists into offices charged with overseeing our elections and counting ballots. Thirty minutes into his rambling speech with the White House as his backdrop, Trump asked the crowd:
“Today, for the sake of our democracy, for the sake of our Constitution, and for the sake of our children, we lay out the case for the entire world to hear. You want to hear it?
Trump went on to explicitly demand that his party change election laws to suit him. His wish list makes it harder for Americans to vote and easier for his partisan loyalists to subvert elections and even overturn election results in some states.
This report shows how key components of the playbook set forth in Trump’s January 6 speech have been systematically implemented in the following ways:
- Voter Suppression: Trump used demonstrably false claims of voter fraud to map out changes to the law attacking the freedom to vote. His demands included limiting voting by mail and other absentee voting, curtailing assistance to voters who cannot easily access the polls, making it easier to purge Americans who registered to vote from the voting rolls, and implementing voter ID restrictions. According to the Brennan Center, 19 states have passed 34 laws this year making it harder for Americans to vote and, in all, more than 440 bills to restrict voting were proposed in 2021–a staggering figure.
- Power Grabs by State Legislatures: Trump made a clear call for the shift of administrative power over elections into the hands of politicians of his party — from independent courts and elected clerks, Secretaries of State, and other election officials who have historically made decisions about elections. In 2021, eight states complied and consolidated power in partisan bodies.
- Laying the Groundwork to Overturn Elections: In his speech, Trump lamented his failed plan in 2020 for state legislatures to (illegally and undemocratically) “recertify” the election by choosing a new slate of electors who would vote against the popular vote. In 2021, legislators in seven states filed bills which would have allowed state legislators to overturn an election, including one which would only have required a simple majority to do so. So far, all such bills have failed to pass.
- Conducting Sham, Partisan “Election Reviews”: Trump admonished states for not conducting “comprehensive audits to remove all the illegal ballots,” leading his party allies to push for highly partisan statewide “election reviews” in five states and in smaller jurisdictions like Georgia’s racially diverse Fulton County. All of these jurisdictions have reported finding no significant fraud, but that has not stopped Trump allies. This includes pre-filed bills for 2022 which would bring his long, expensive charade to two more states.
- Intimidating or Removing Officials Who Stand in Trump’s Way: Trump used his January 6th speech to explicitly threaten Vice President Mike Pence and to call for the removal of Georgia’s governor and secretary of state from office for not going along with his plans for election subversion. Trump’s intimidation tactics have forced election officials to resign and have resulted in a barrage of harassment, including death threats, aimed at officials across the country. Some state legislators have also sought to create new laws that would punish and criminalize election officials for perceived mistakes, making it more difficult for them to do their jobs and further driving away experienced workers who are desperately needed. And Trump has endorsed people who have spread the Big Lie for key roles in the administration of future elections.
On the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, it is important that the American people understand this was not a singular event. Trump operatives in nearly every state have sought to implement the democracy-attacking plan that Trump himself mapped out at the Women for America First right before many of his followers violently assaulted our Capitol in an effort to disrupt the counting of the vote.
The blueprint he set forth aims to dramatically alter America’s election laws to serve Trump’s ambitions and to perpetuate the Big (lucrative) Lie Trump told and re-told. These measures erode free and fair elections in the U.S., dismantle independent oversight of elections in favor of Trump apparatchiks, and pave the way for rigging future election processes and results in favor of Trump and his allies. Despite the rhetoric that these tactics prevent fraud or protect election integrity, the reality is that they are designed to change the rules and stack the deck to favor Trump and his authoritarian confederates.
Read the full report below: