By Sayer LaGalle, all voting is local
August 28, 2023
All Voting is Local (All Voting) was founded on the principle that the problems people face when trying to vote are solvable if decision-makers are accountable to the communities they serve. State and local election officials – the people in charge of administering elections in our nation’s cities, counties, and states – exercise wide-ranging authority. From deciding how to make registration available to the process for counting ballots, these officials make decisions every day about who gets to vote and who doesn’t and whether their votes will count. Too often, their work goes unnoticed, made without public input or accountability.
So what does accountability mean when we talk about holding our public election officials accountable?
Accountability comes in many forms and many contexts. Everyone is accountable to someone in their lives, whether it be family, friends, or colleagues. Notably, in his brief remarks following the recent federal indictment against former President Donald Trump for his alleged role in subverting the 2020 election, Attorney General Merrick Garland named accountability as one of the core priorities of the Department of Justice and Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation. Without a doubt, the rule of law is a core principle of accountability by using criminal and civil liability as a tool against those who break the law to deny the will of the people is a critical piece of the work to end election sabotage.
In Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel recently brought charges against 15 alleged participants in a scheme to certify a slate of “fake electors” after the 2020 election. While the judicial process plays out, All Voting is Local Action and other local partners are calling for accountability for those who were charged and still hold positions of authority over election administration in their communities, including Kent Vanderwood, mayor of Wyoming, MI. At the Wyoming City Council’s first public hearing since the indictments were released, 20 community members showed up to call on the mayor to resign, citing a lack of trust in upcoming elections, in which Mayor Vanderwood will play a role . Regardless of the mayor’s next steps, ensuring that local officials hear from their constituents about their concerns and proposed solutions is a fundamental form of accountability.
Unfortunately though, not every action that harms voters, degrades democracy, or sows distrust in our elections results in criminal liability. At All Voting, we believe that these other unlawful actions, and the individuals and offices that carry them out, should be held accountable as well. Following the 2020 election in Arizona, the state legislature contracted with CyberNinjas to conduct what ultimately proved to be a disastrous sham election review of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County. Following months of litigation and failure to produce any meaningful results, All Voting is Local and our local partners in Arizona worked with the Brennan Center for Justice to call for the federal debarment of CyberNinjas and its CEO Doug Logan, which would prevent them from competing for future federal contracts. That debarment request is still pending. Sometimes accountability looks like initiating action to an end to bad faith actors’ ability to profit from their efforts to undermine elections.
We’ve also seen – and applauded – professional accountability in the form of bar complaints against attorneys who participated in schemes to undermine the 2020 election. Our partners at States United Democracy Center filed a complaint with the State Bar of California, calling for disciplinary action against John Eastman, one of the lead strategists of the fake elector scheme.
All Voting will continue working with partners to bring to light bad faith actors who seek to use their power to deny people their right to vote and have their voices heard, and whenever possible leveraging legal, professional, reputational, financial, civil, and criminal consequences against anti-voter, anti-democratic policies and the people who implement them. We must ensure that they are unable to act with impunity, out of view of the public and without scrutiny. Our democracy depends on it.