The Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy Guide was created before the 2020 election and was written for people from all walks of life including political newcomers and experienced activists to ensure a successful election. Success for the authors meant: free of intimidation and interference, transparency of vote counts, respect for the results, and safe from COVID and political violence.
The guide is separated into four different parts which include:
- Criteria for ensuring a successful election,
- background on potential scenarios after the election,
- the process for starting an election protection group in your community, and
- models of change derived from the field of civil resistance
In this guide you will learn:
- what “red lines” need to be held during an election,
- step-by-step information for organizing in your community,
- and lessons from the field of civil resistance that can be applied to make change on a range of issues.
Note: Whilst the information in this guide is specifically related to the November 2020 United States election involving Donald Trump there there are lessons and information that would apply to elections and civil resistance all around the world. e.g Brainstorming tactics, Roles Worksheet, Campaign Planning Guide.
This guide is designed to help people from all walks of life—political newcomers as well as experienced activists—take action to ensure that we have a successful election in November 2020.
A successful election is one that is:
- Free, in which all eligible voters are able to vote without hindrance, interference, or intimidation.
- Fair, in which all votes are counted transparently, non-partisan rules and laws are followed, and any disputes are resolved without bias towards any particular candidate.
- Respected, by which the loser of the election accepts the results, concedes, and engages in a good faith transition process to the election’s winner.
The United States has hundreds of years of experience in election administration, so you would think we would have a robust process and institutions to ensure our elections are successful. However, we face a long list of real and potential challenges in the upcoming November election that demand a heightened level of civic awareness and engagement… Fortunately, there’s a lot that each of us can do to help. Everyone has a role they can play to ensure that voting is accessible and safe ; that people turn out to vote ; that the rules are applied fairly ; and that the results are respected.
We conceive of these efforts in two stages:
- Stage 1: From now until Election day (Nov. 3, 2020)
- Stage 2: From Election day to Inauguration day (Jan. 20, 2021)
This guide focuses primarily on Stage 2, covering the period of time starting from Election day and continuing through to Inauguration day. It attempts to answer the question of how to prepare and what to do in case attempts are made to subvert the election results. At the same time, we recognize that Stage 1 is critically important as well, and deeply related to Stage 2, so we begin by dedicating some attention to Stage 1, before diving more deeply into Stage 2.
We’ve divided the guide into the following four parts:
- Part I focuses on critical actions people can take from now until Election day (Nov. 3, 2020) to ensure a successful election.
- Part II gives background on potential scenarios that could play out between Election day to Inauguration day (Jan. 20, 2021) .
- Part III provides a four-step process to start an election protection group in your community , and to begin planning actions to protect democracy in case they are needed.
- Part IV offers an in-depth analysis and model of change drawn from the field of nonviolent civil resistance, which informs our thinking about how to respond if there are attempts to subvert the election results. We draw lessons about how ordinary people have advanced democracy and won against authoritarian-style rulers in other parts of the world , and apply these lessons to the current situation in the United States.
This guide is designed to be read in whatever order makes most sense to you. We recommend Part I as a good place for everyone to start, because the election protection efforts outlined in Parts II, III, and IV will be significantly more powerful if we use time now to ensure the November election is as successful as possible.
Then, if you want more background information about possible scenarios that could play out on Election day and beyond, read Part II. If you are already familiar with potential post-election scenarios and want to jump straight into organizing a neighborhood election protection group, you can start with Part III . If you want a deeper sense of a model of change for how other societies have won rights, freedom, and justice against unaccountable rulers, and how those lessons could apply to the United States, read Part I.
Any narrative that improperly attempts to claim victory for Trump must be challenged forcefully and immediately by people who are united in their resolve. We must prevent a self-fulfilling cycle whereby people assume that Trump will be able to bully and cheat his way to remain in power. If people think he’ll “get away with it,” it can lead them to become passive and unmotivated to mobilize, and unwilling to defect from obeying orders. On the other hand, when people see active nonviolent resistance against subversion attempts, they can gain confidence to mobilize, and are more likely to defect in the face of unlawful orders. – pg. 17
- Building a Resiliency Network: A Toolkit for Building Community Resilience during a Contentious Election Cycle
This toolkit offers simple, step-by-step guidance and worksheets for leaders seeking to take decisive steps to create resilience to violence in their communities.
- How Democratic States Can Effectively Support Pro-Democracy Movements
A curated and comprehensive list of tools for democracies and their representatives to conduct an effective assistance program to nonviolent pro-democracy movements.
- How to Win Well: Civil Resistance Breakthroughs and the Path to Democracy
Civil resistance-Moving from dictatorship to democracy. Negotiations & elections are the breakthroughs that lead to more democratic outcomes.
- SNAP: Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding: An Action Guide
A strategic framework for activists, peacebuilders, and organizers working to transform violent conflict and advance a just peace.
- Authoritarianism: How You Know It When You See It by the Horizons Project
Understand the key attributes of authoritarian systems, how authoritarians wield power, and ways to counter it.
- The Democracy Playbook by The New Deal Forum
The document lays out, pro-democracy elected officials – of all parties – must commit to safeguarding free and fair elections. This means using technology to expand access to voter registration as well as expanding opportunities to cast ballots – including during a robust early vote period, no-excuse absentee voting, and on Election Day. This report is separated into three separate parts: Election integrity, voting and civic engagement.
- Civil resistance
- Direct action - Non violent NVDA
- Elections_Electorates (United States - 2020)
- Organising - Electoral