Democrats and election experts are deeply worried about the possibility that partisan state legislatures will overrule the results of the next election if Republicans fail to capture the White House, a nightmare scenario following last year’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by hundreds of Donald Trump supporters seeking to prevent Joe Biden from being certified as president.
But Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, doesn’t share their concerns.
“Why would any legislature in America want to overturn the counting of votes? … The notion that some state legislature would be crazy enough to say to their own voters, ‘We’re not gonna honor the outcome of an election,’ is ridiculous on its face,” the Kentucky senator told reporters at a Tuesday press conference.
“They assume that people who get elected to the legislature are idiots,” he added of Democrats.
There were many GOP lawmakers across the country who sought to do exactly what McConnell finds so unfathomable, however. One doesn’t have to look very hard for such evidence.
The Republican leaders of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, for example, signed on in support of a pro-Trump lawsuit that sought to overturn Biden’s win in their own state, as well as in three others.
State legislators in Pennsylvania and Arizona staged “hearings” to try to overturn the results. GOP lawmakers in Arizona also backed a fake “audit” meant to manufacture evidence to overturn the results there.
Trump’s campaign paid a lawmaker in Arizona while he pushed for the state legislature to overturn Biden’s victory there.
One official in Trump’s Department of Justice even wanted to send a letter to lawmakers in Georgia in December 2020 offering a road map for how lawmakers could justify calling a special session and appointing their own alternate slate of electors.
Moreover, GOP candidates are running for office right now ― including for posts to election boards ― on platforms that support overturning elections. Trump and his allies have actively boosted those efforts.
Election experts fear that local or state officials could refuse to certify votes before they are even sent to Congress, and that governors and state legislatures could submit “alternate” slates of electors that overrule the apparent vote counts.
“Given what we saw Trump actually do in 2020, these things are now within the realm of possibility and need to be legislated against and organized against so we have a fair election process going forward,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, told NBC News last year.
In a speech commemorating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol on Tuesday, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) also warned against ongoing threats to American democracy.
“One year later, and I’m even more worried now,” Schatz said on the Senate floor. “Donald Trump is now defining fealty to him by one thing and one thing only ― are you willing to install him into power regardless of the vote count? And so now every Republican politician and election official ― secretaries of state, county election commissioners, United States Senate candidates ― have to promise to put Trump above democracy itself. And they are doing it!”