Concern

Statement of Concern

The Threats to American Democracy and the Need for National Voting and Election Administration Standards

We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.

When democracy breaks down, it typically takes many years, often decades, to reverse the downward spiral. In the process, violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.

Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes. They are seeking to restrict access to the ballot, the most basic principle underlying the right of all adult American citizens to participate in our democracy. They are also putting in place criminal sentences and fines meant to intimidate and scare away poll workers and nonpartisan administrators. State legislatures have advanced initiatives that curtail voting methods now preferred by Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as early voting and mail voting. Republican lawmakers have openly talked about ensuring the “purity” and “quality” of the vote, echoing arguments widely used across the Jim Crow South as reasons for restricting the Black vote.

State legislators supporting these changes have cited the urgency of “electoral integrity” and the need to ensure that elections are secure and free of fraud. But by multiple expert judgments, the 2020 election was extremely secure and free of fraud. The reason that Republican voters have concerns is because many Republican officials, led by former President Donald Trump, have manufactured false claims of fraud, claims that have been repeatedly rejected by courts of law, and which Trump’s own lawyers have acknowledged were mere speculation when they testified about them before judges.

In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.

Democracy rests on certain elemental institutional and normative conditions. Elections must be neutrally and fairly administered. They must be free of manipulation. Every citizen who is qualified must have an equal right to vote, unhindered by obstruction. And when they lose elections, political parties and their candidates and supporters must be willing to accept defeat and acknowledge the legitimacy of the outcome. The refusal of prominent Republicans to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, and the anti-democratic laws adopted (or approaching adoption) in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Texas—and under serious consideration in other Republican-controlled states—violate these principles. More profoundly, these actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy. As scholars of democracy, we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage.

The most effective remedy for these anti-democratic laws at the state level is federal action to protect equal access of all citizens to the ballot and to guarantee free and fair elections. Just as it ultimately took federal voting rights law to put an end to state-led voter suppression laws throughout the South, so federal law must once again ensure that American citizens’ voting rights do not depend on which party or faction happens to be dominant in their state legislature, and that votes are cast and counted equally, regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which a citizen happens to live. This is widely recognized as a fundamental principle of electoral integrity in democracies around the world.

A new voting rights law (such as that proposed in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) is essential but alone is not enough. True electoral integrity demands a comprehensive set of national standards that ensure the sanctity and independence of election administration, guarantee that all voters can freely exercise their right to vote, prevent partisan gerrymandering from giving dominant parties in the states an unfair advantage in the process of drawing congressional districts, and regulate ethics and money in politics.

It is always far better for major democracy reforms to be bipartisan, to give change the broadest possible legitimacy. However, in the current hyper-polarized political context such broad bipartisan support is sadly lacking. Elected Republican leaders have had numerous opportunities to repudiate Trump and his “Stop the Steal” crusade, which led to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Each time, they have sidestepped the truth and enabled the lie to spread.

We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.

Signatures are still being added. This list was last updated on 6/1/21 at 9:00 a.m. ET.

John Aldrich
Professor of Political Science
Duke University

Deborah Avant
Professor of International Studies
University of Denver

Larry M. Bartels
Professor of Political Science
Vanderbilt University

Frank R. Baumgartner
Professor of Political Science
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Sheri Berman
Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Benjamin Bishin
Professor of Political Science
University of California, Riverside

Robert Blair
Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs
Brown University

Henry E. Brady
Dean, Goldman School of Public Policy
University of California, Berkeley

Rogers Brubaker
Professor of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles

John M. Carey
Professor of Government
Dartmouth College

Michael Coppedge
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Katherine Cramer
Professor of Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Larry Diamond
Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution and Freeman Spogli Institute
Stanford University

Lee Drutman
Senior Fellow
New America

Rachel Epstein
Professor of International Studies
University of Denver

Henry Farrell
Professor of International Affairs
Johns Hopkins University

Christina Fattore
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Morris P. Fiorina
Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University

Joel L. Fleishman
Professor of Law and Public Policy Studies
Duke University

Luis Fraga
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

William W. Franko
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Francis Fukuyama
Senior Fellow
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University

Daniel J. Galvin
Associate Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University

Laura Gamboa
Assistant Professor of Political Science
University of Utah

Martin Gilens
Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Social Welfare
University of California, Los Angeles

Kristin Goss
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Duke University

Jessica Gottlieb
Associate Professor of Government & Public Service
Texas A&M University

Virginia Gray
Professor of Political Science Emeritus
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Jacob M. Grumbach
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
University of Washington

Anna Grzymala-Busse
Professor of International Studies
Stanford University

Jacob Hacker
Professor of Political Science
Yale University

Hahrie Han
Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Thomas J. Hayes
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Connecticut

Gretchen Helmke
Professor of Political Science
University of Rochester

Amanda Hollis-Brusky
Associate Professor of Politics
Pomona College

Daniel Hopkins
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Matthew B. Incantalupo
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Yeshiva University

Matt Jacobsmeier
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Hakeem Jefferson
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Bruce W. Jentleson
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Duke University

Theodore R. Johnson
Senior Fellow & Director, Fellows Program
Brennan Center for Justice

Richard Joseph
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
Northwestern University

Alex Keena
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Virginia Commonwealth University

Nathan J. Kelly
Professor of Political Science
University of Tennessee

Eric Kramon
Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs
George Washington University

Katherine Krimmel
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Didi Kuo
Senior Research Scholar, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
Stanford University

Matt Lacombe
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Timothy LaPira
Professor of Political Science
James Madison University

Michael Latner
Senior Fellow
Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy

Yphtach Lelkes
Assistant Professor, Annenberg School for Communication
University of Pennsylvania

Margaret Levi
Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Steve Levitsky
Professor of Government
Harvard University

Robert Lieberman
Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Scott Mainwaring
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Jane Mansbridge
Professor Emerita of Political Leadership and Democratic Values
Harvard University

Lilliana H. Mason
Associate Research Professor, Department of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Corrine M. McConnaughy
Research Scholar and Lecturer, Department of Politics
Princeton University

Jennifer McCoy
Professor of Political Science
Georgia State University

Suzanne Mettler
Professor of American Institutions, Department of Government
Cornell University

Robert Mickey
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Michael Minta
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Minnesota

Terry Moe
Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Jana Morgan
Professor of Political Science
University of Tennessee

Mason Moseley
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Russell Muirhead
Professor of Democracy
Dartmouth College

Pippa Norris
Professor of Political Science
Harvard University

Anne Norton
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Brendan Nyhan
Professor of Government
Dartmouth College

Angela X. Ocampo
Assistant Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Norm Ornstein
Emeritus Scholar
American Enterprise Institute

Benjamin I. Page
Professor of Decision Making
Northwestern University

Tom Pepinsky
Professor, Department of Government
Cornell University

Anibal Perez-Linan
Professor of Political Science and Global Affairs
University of Notre Dame

Dirk Philipsen
Associate Research Professor of Economic History
Duke University

Paul Pierson
Professor of Political Science
University of California, Berkeley

Ethan Porter
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
George Washington University

Robert D. Putnam
Professor of Public Policy
Harvard University

Kenneth Roberts
Professor of Government
Cornell University

Amanda Lea Robinson
Associate Professor of Political Science
Ohio State University

Deondra Rose
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and History
Duke University

Nancy L. Rosenblum
Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government Emerita
Harvard University

Larry J. Sabato
University Professor of Politics
University of Virginia

Sara Sadhwani
Assistant Professor of Politics
Pomona College

David Schanzer
Professor of the Practice of Public Policy
Duke University

Kim L. Scheppele
Professor of Sociology and International Affairs
Princeton University

Daniel Schlozman
Associate Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Kay L. Schlozman
Professor of Political Science
Boston College

Cathy Lisa Schneider
Professor, School of International Service
American University

Shauna Lani Shames
Associate Professor in Political Science
Rutgers University, Camden

Gisela Sin
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
University of Illinois

Dan Slater
Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Anne-Marie Slaughter
Professor Emerita of Politics and International Relations
Princeton University

Charles Anthony Smith
Professor of Political Science and Law
University of California, Irvine

Rogers M. Smith
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Susan Stokes
Professor of Political Science
University of Chicago

Alexander George Theodoridis
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Chloe Thurston
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University

Antonio Ugues Jr.
Associate Professor of Political Science
St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Omar Wasow
Assistant Professor, Department of Politics
Princeton University

Christopher Witko
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Pennsylvania State University

Christina Wolbrecht
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Daniel Ziblatt
Professor of Government
Harvard University

*Institutions and titles are listed for identification purposes only.