Nothing To See Here: McConnell Claims State Legislatures Would Never Overturn Elections

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 16: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. McConnell held the press conference to mark... WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 16: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. McConnell held the press conference to mark the end of the year and his view of the legislation passed in 2021. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS

The wave of partisan attacks against election officials is just … imaginary, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday. 

At least, that was the implication of McConnell’s comments during a Republican leadership press conference

As Democrats again debate changing the Senate rules in order to pass new voting rights protections in the face of uniform Republican opposition, McConnell on Tuesday was asked about a part of the Democrats’ Freedom to Vote Act, which would add legal protections against partisan attacks for election officials.

“What about the components of the Democrats’ bill that would put in protections so that it would be more difficult to make political firings of election officials?” a reporter asked the minority leader. 

What followed was a masterclass in reality denial. 

“I think they assume that people who get elected to legislatures are idiots,” McConnell said. “They get elected by the people, too. Why would any legislature in America want to overturn the counting of votes? They have to get elected by those people, too. The notion that some state legislature would be crazy enough to say to their own voters, ‘We’re not going to honor the results of the election’ is ridiculous on its face.” 

McConnell made no mention of the 147 congressional Republicans who sought to overturn the last election, nor the comparable group of Republicans who supported Texas’ wild 2020 request that the Supreme Court overturn the results in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia. Among those lawmakers were 19 Republicans who represented those states in Congress. 

McConnell also didn’t mention efforts to establish unofficial slates of Trump electors in several battleground states in 2020, which would have subverted the voters’ will in those states. (The Republican leaders of Pennsylvania’s legislature signed a letter just ahead of the Capitol attack saying “we believe that the Pennsylvania election results should not have been certified.”)

Nor did McConnell mention the several Trump-endorsed secretary of state candidates who have backed Trump’s lies about the last election, raising fears that, should they win office, they would act on those lies in the future. 

Most pointedly, McConnell didn’t note the several efforts already underway by Republicans to undermine or replace elections officials — such as in Michigan and Georgia. Separately in the press conference, McConnell said “the Voting Rights Act is still intact” — despite the Supreme Court gutting two key provisions over the last decade, leaving the DOJ with few tools to protect racial minorities from voter disenfranchisement.

The reporter questioning McConnell tried to follow-up: “But so many of these election officials have been espousing what the former president has said,” they said, presumably referring to secretary of state candidates endorsed by Trump. But McConnell moved on, taking a question about the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack.

Trump is holding a press conference Thursday, on the anniversary of his effort to pressure Congress into disregarding the will of the American people — precisely the thing McConnell had just dismissed as an impossibility.

“It’ll be interesting to see what he has to say,” McConnell said.

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