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How State and Local Election Certification Works

The process is designed to withstand election denialism.

Published: March 4, 2024
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As the 2024 election approaches, voters may start to hear more and more about a particular post-election process: election certification, the method by which state and local election officials sign off on the accuracy and completion of election results. These processes are primarily governed by state statutes, but recent efforts have added constitutional provisions. 

Certification typically doesn’t warrant news coverage, and for good reason. Aside from Florida’s debacle in the 2000 election contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore (which predates many younger voters), the process has usually served as an important but drama-free formality carried out after the excitement of an election winds down.

That all changed in 2022. Throughout the midterm election cycle, a surge of rogue local officials across the country refused (or threatened to refuse) to certify valid election results based on claims rooted in election denialism — the false idea that the 2020 election was stolen and that widespread fraud continues to pervade our election system.

As my co-author and I explain in a new article in the Stanford Law & Policy Review, these attacks highlighted a gap in legal scholarship. Historically, little academic attention has been paid to the mechanics of state certification processes, leaving many in the legal community bewildered by the recent string of attacks. Against this backdrop, we took a closer look at state certification frameworks to demonstrate why, and how, they can combat the ongoing threats against them.

Read the rest of the article on State Court Report >>