As a likely showdown looms in Congress this week over federal voting legislation, Republicans aligned with former President Trump are pressing ahead at the state level to change voting procedures, conduct partisan investigations of the last presidential contest and seize more control over the machinery of elections.
Democrats and voting rights advocates warn that the unrelenting campaign to cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Biden's 2020 victory over Trump could erode voter confidence in elections and increase the chances that losing candidates and their supporters will challenge the results of free and fair elections in the future.
"Every day that goes by, I am more and more concerned about the direction and resilience of American democracy," said David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research. "I'm worried that we are heading down a path where there are those who cannot accept that ... their candidate could lose."
Recent polling underscores the peril. A CBS News-YouGov poll found that more than 6 in 10 of Americans said they now expect violence over the loss of future presidential elections. And a separate poll from The Washington Post and the University of Maryland found that about one in three Americans think violent action against the government is sometimes justified.
The Post-UMD poll also exposed a stark partisan divide: 40% of Republicans and 41% of Independents said violence against the government could be justified versus 23% of Democrats.
In the last year, 19 states passed 34 laws that restrict voting in some way, according to an analysis by the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice. And more changes are expected as state legislatures convene early this year.
Brennan's analysis found 88 restrictive bills introduced last year will carry over into upcoming legislative sessions, and that 13 new bills had been pre-filed as of last month.
The new proposals include a measure that would ban the use of drop boxes in Georgia — where Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in 28 years. An Arizona lawmaker wants to establish stricter voter ID requirements.