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Fierce pushback against ‘federal takeover’ of election laws ‘rigging it for Democrats’

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Politics.]

By Philip Wegmann
Real Clear Politics

A trio of pro-family and anti-abortion groups led by Trump alum Ken Cuccinelli will soon launch a multimillion-dollar campaign to restore confidence in election outcomes among social conservatives, RealClearPolitics has learned.

Cuccinelli, the former deputy secretary of homeland security and Virginia attorney general, will chair the Election Transparency Initiative. The Susan B. Anthony List and the American Principles Project are partners, and the effort has an initial war chest of $5 million.

The coalition’s goal, according to Cuccinelli, is addressing “a legitimate crisis of confidence in the quality of elections.” The campaign will focus on enacting reforms at the state level in the long run, but the groups are also preparing to immediately mobilize grassroots activists in West Virginia, Arizona, and Montana to pressure senators there into opposing passage of HR 1 in the upper chamber.

Every single House Democrat signed on to that sweeping election reform bill Monday, arguing that the legislation — dubbed For the People Act — would expand voting access and “clean up corruption.” Republicans, meanwhile, dismiss the measure as a “federal government takeover” of election laws that would rig rules in the favor of Democrats.

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“I’m proud to join SBA List and APP to act quickly to defeat the efforts of Democrats in Washington to federalize election laws through HR 1, while simultaneously going on offense at the state level to rally the grassroots around meaningful reforms,” Cuccinelli said.

Ken Cuccinelli

The legislation they oppose would create automatic voter registration nationwide, expand early voting, and make it easier to vote by mail. It is the exact opposite of what conservatives want, and it is coming at a moment when conservative faith in the integrity of elections has never been lower.

“They clearly are getting feedback from their members and their universe that is sort of questioning ‘Why should we put this much effort into a system that cheats us?’” Cuccinelli said of the two groups.

“Now, I’m not saying it does or doesn’t,” he added, “but that is the perception of many of them” following the 2020 election and President Trump’s insistence that victory was stolen from him.

This collective belief has convinced Cuccinelli that social conservatives need to take up the election integrity crusade. “The pro-life movement must engage in election transparency and integrity reform,” he said, “or their ability to elect pro-life, pro-family lawmakers — and pass laws that save lives — will be greatly diminished, if not extinguished.”

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Donald Trump, even before leaving office and ever since Nov. 3, has declared the 2020 presidential election a fraud. With Trump trashing the election process in their state instead of campaigning for his party’s candidates, many Georgia Republicans subsequently stayed home rather than vote in a special Senate election last month. Challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, and the upper chamber is now controlled by Democrats.

Trump’s former DHS chief doesn’t have a verdict on Trump’s claims, though. “I don’t have an answer for that,” he said when asked. “We are not looking backwards. We’re looking forwards.” Still, questions about election integrity “can be both raised and not brushed aside but also answered and addressed in an open environment,” he said.

Cuccinelli points to the raft of reforms Florida enacted after the contested 2000 presidential election as evidence that the nation can put its electoral house in order. But even as his initiative opposes HR 1, he stresses that “it isn’t really a left-versus-right thing, at least it shouldn’t be — it’s just about what’s the best way to run an election that you can be confident in.”

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The emerging coalition represents a shift in the politics of the right. The SBA List normally focuses its more than 900,000 national members on the abortion issue. The group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, explained that expanding the mission to election law was necessary to ensure their “ability to win elections for pro-life candidates is predicated on a transparent, fair elections process.”

Democrats took advantage of the pandemic, Dannenfelser argued in a statement, to weaken “state laws ensuring free and fair elections.”

“While we vigorously oppose efforts to federalize election laws through bills such as HR 1,” she added, “we must also rally activists in battleground states to ensure pro-abortion Democrats cannot make their control of government permanent.”

More support is on the way, promised APP Executive Director Terry Schilling, who insisted that the final coalition “will not only include national and state pro-life groups but will extend to the broader conservative and Republican-aligned groups, many of which are focused on defeating HR 1.”

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Politics.]

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