Partisan Actors’ Plans in Wisconsin Pose a Direct Threat To Our Elections

Sen. Ron Johnson, wearing a face mask, walks to the right side of the image.
United States Senator Ron Johnson (Republican of Wisconsin) arrives to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Abaca Press/Alamy Live News

Moves by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-W.I.) and others in his state to undermine a bipartisan elections agency and threaten its members with legal action are part of a concerning and ongoing trend that, if left unchecked, stands to sabotage the American electoral process. 

In recent months, partisan attempts to undermine legitimate and fair American elections have found shocking amounts of support and gained a concerning amount of traction.  

In states including Georgia, Texas and Arizona, Republican elected officials have introduced bills or otherwise taken action deliberately targeting election officials with criminal penalties for doing their job. 

More recently and most troubling, Republicans in Wisconsin – many of them the same partisan actors who engaged in a deliberate disinformation campaign following the results of the 2020 election – have begun taking steps for the avowed purpose of allowing the party to take full control over the electoral process in future elections.  

They are objecting to a March 2020 vote by the Wisconsin Elections Commission to make it possible for residents of Wisconsin nursing homes to vote during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Wisconsin law had required two visits by state officials to nursing homes before residents could receive mail ballots, but it was impossible for outsiders to enter nursing homes during the COVID lockdown because of health dangers to the residents.  

Led by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and G.O.P speaker of the State Assembly Robin Vos, Republican officials have begun directly targeting the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

They have declared that “prosecutors around the state” should determine whether to bring charges against members of the commission for their March 2020 vote, which was supported by commissioners from both parties. 

Our freedom to vote is meaningless unless our votes are reliably counted and respected. Partisan subversion of those time-tested practices, from any holder of political power, is a danger to all our freedom to vote.  

For far too long, we have seen that elected officials are willing to go to great lengths to choose their voters and undermine the voices of our communities.

After attempting and failing to overturn the result of the 2020 election, officials motived solely by partisanship are trying to make sure their next attempt to sabotage our elections succeeds.

For those who repeatedly seek to sabotage our elections, partisan manipulation of election officials is just another extension of that practice.  

The upcoming 2022 midterms and the next presidential election could be the most contentious elections in our nation’s history. We need to ensure that it is the voters who decide these elections. This central tenet of our democracy should not be undermined by partisan officials who want to stay in power. 

Trevor is CLC's founder and one of the country's top election lawyers.
Limiting Partisan Interference with Elections