The 2024 primaries and general election will serve as a stress test for American democracy. They will also send a signal to allies and adversaries worldwide about the durability and influence of American institutions. Although the 2022 midterm elections and several 2023 state-level contests have shown voter engagement remains high, the shadow of 2020 still hangs over the vote. 

With all that in mind, Just Security is extending its election protection coverage to delve into a range of issues: Will candidates accept the results of the election? Will the public? Can election administrators maintain public confidence that elections are free and fair amid constantly changing laws, court rulings, and the specter of disinformation? Will threats of violence at the polls and other forms of suppression discourage voters from exercising their rights? Will cyber threats decrease faith in elections or actually interfere with the vote? What is the threat stream concerning foreign interference? What are the known unknowns? These issues are intertwined with questions about the robustness of U.S. democratic institutions writ large and solutions to democratic backsliding.

Former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud in 2020, his efforts to stay in office despite his loss, and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol presented a profound challenge to U.S. elections and democratic norms. The ideas that fueled January 6th still have traction among the American public, and continue to animate Trump’s campaign to return to office. Combating disinformation and its less-deliberate cousin, misinformation, will require active communications to educate voters about how elections work and the many processes in place to ensure elections are secure. It also will require efforts to address the spread of such disinformation, a task that social media platforms may not be up to, and one in which the federal government’s role is now being litigated before the Supreme Court.

Efforts to improve upon American democracy and avoid backsliding remain active, but so do a range of threats. Election deniers hold elected office and other positions of power. The United States is also not immune to the authoritarian impulses seen in other countries including Germany and Italy, and, more severely, in Hungary.

The continuance of democracy is not guaranteed. It takes buy-in from voters, elected officials, and other thought leaders. In the years since the 2020 presidential election, it has required intense work, often not noticed by a public busy with other issues until the next four-year mark. As the U.S. presidential contest and state and local elections draw nearer, there is an ever-greater need to understand the stresses on America’s election system, as well as what can be done to ensure free and fair elections not just in 2024, but in 2028, 2032, during the off years, and well beyond.

Just Security’s coverage of U.S. election protection issues continues with the below articles. Stay tuned here for new installments as they’re published. And check out our ongoing coverage of voting rights. Readers may also be interested in our analysis of elections issues around the world, too.