Chose Democracy

Democracy is fragile. While a coup is beginning to look less likely as the media uniformly declares Biden the winner of the election, we are continuing to watch the situation closely. We know that the people can defend our democracy. Nonviolent mass protests have stopped coups in other places, and we will be ready to do the same here if things change.

Elections work because the public agrees to honor the results. Similarly, coups work only if the public honors them. When the public refuses to accept the coup as legitimate, coups fall apart. Refusal looks like millions of people using nonviolent tools to delegitimize the coup by demonstrating, resisting orders, and shutting down the country until democracy prevails.

We believe in supporting the winner of a free and fair election, but we will oppose any attempts to twist the process beyond recognition.

That’s why we are committing now to choose democracy: by voting, making sure all the votes are counted, and preparing to take the streets in the case of a coup.

Together, we choose democracy.

The Coup-o-Meter is maintained by Visit the site for details on recent events that have contributed to the current state of the Coup-o-Meter.

Updates from the Choose Democracy mailing list

November 18th:

Since we sent the update yesterday a couple of things have happened — some reassuring, others concerning enough that we’re sending an immediate update. Election officials breaking their vows to certify is serious. It’s unprecedented. And, it didn’t work. We’re not entirely sure what ripples it will have, but we want to keep you informed in these tumultuous times.

The first is Trump fired a Homeland Security official — one who kept publicly saying there’s no evidence of fraud. The official was known for meticulous prevention of foreign and domestic interference in the elections and created an excellent website debunking Trump’s claims of fraud with well-reasoned facts. Trump is growing less tolerant of folks not showing personal loyalty, so expect more firings.

The second is Pennsylvania’s state supreme court rejected another legal challenge (and excoriated another). The Trump campaign claimed their observers were impeded in Philadelphia. The court soundly rejected that claim.

The third happened last night. For about four hours, one small part of the US election system bent to Trump’s narrative for the first time. This concerning flurry of events ended with an otherwise normal certification of election results.

The events as we understand it are:

In Detroit Michigan, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers met to certify the election results. A court ruling pushed the meeting to be last-minute — so it started at 4:47pm, very late for an anticipated 5pm announcement of a normally routine act in the election process.

Organizers on the ground had reason to believe that the Republican canvassers might make an unprecedented move and not vote to certify. The Republican chairwoman of the Board of Canvassers has ethics complaints against her and a history of extreme partisanship. Because it was an outside possibility, Metro Detroit Action Council (spearheaded by groups like Michigan Liberation) had organized a car caravan ahead of the canvassers’ meeting and a call-in campaign to State Representatives and the Wayne County Commissioner.

Before the public comment period began, the two Republicans on the four-person Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused to vote to certify the results. Journalist Nancy Kaffer tweeted, “This is unprecedented in my 20 years covering government here.”

The Michigan Republican Party initially claimed their pressure made the difference, also naming the Republican National Committee and the Trump Campaign. In their statement no evidence was given of their claims of fraud. A detailed review of the votes in question from the Detroit Free Press reveal the inconsistencies to be minor and well within the margin of human error, consistent with other counties and previous elections.

With the canvass board appearing unable to certify, the votes would go to the State Board of Canvassers. Organizers still felt confident the votes would get counted at the state level, but worried about the narrative and precedent.

But then the public comment period began. The Zoom room was overwhelmed with people trying to speak. Voices added up.

If this result had stood, millions of votes would have temporarily not been certified, specifically targeting Detroit. Rev. Wendell Anthony of the Detroit NAACP spoke, “You have extracted a Black city out of a county and said the only one that I have fault against is the city of Detroit, where 80% of the people who reside here are African Americans. Shame on you.”

The testimony was passionate and went on and on.

By 9:17pm Michigan’s Secretary of State was live on CNN when the news broke that the decision had been undone. The Republicans reversed course and the board unanimously certified the results.

There are some specifics about this case that may make it a fluke — the particular history of the chairwoman and some of the particulars of place. But since there’s a chance it is a crack in the wall, we encourage vigilance and readying for rapid response, as needed.

The actions laid out by Detroits’ organizers provide a good model where this may be an issue:

  1. As we said before, contact your local election officials. If you hear rumors of defecting canvassers or legislators, build pressure on them now. Target them and pressure upwards to elected officials.
  2. Stay alert and get 5 people ready to join you in action. Large county swing states have built local coalitions and groups ready to respond, such as We Make Michigan. Their toolkit is replicable in other locations.
  3. Be prepared for rapid response. We have not heard full reporting on what changed the Canvassers’ positions, but it’s pretty clear one tactic was meaningful: calling in to the local canvass board.

Last night we scrambled to prepare an action alert to boost actions in Michigan. But then we were relieved by the final result.

Look at our PS for ways to plug-in with Michigan’s efforts. There’s another virtual meeting of the Board of Canvassers today.

At this moment, we are not actively hearing rumors of this happening in other places around the nation. We continue to urge vigilance.

The poisonous narrative is infectious. Democracy is fighting back.

November 17th:

We don’t know what the days will bring.

But for now our analysis remains: The Democratic election churns along towards confirming President-elect Biden. Trump continues norm-busting, but has not acted outside of his authority as President which would be required to pull off a coup. Trump is driving a small but eager audience along a dangerous narrative — but he has not been able to bend a single election instrument to his will.

After sustaining numerous losses (23, if you’re keeping count), Trump’s legal options have narrowed considerably. He is churning a narrative that undermines the belief in the election, but does not seem capable of changing the outcome. Staff are fleeing his campaign. By encouraging Biden to receive security briefings, Republicans found a strategy to encourage a transfer of power that avoids direct confrontation with the administration. And more Republican and world leaders are coming out in support of President-elect Biden.

Here are the latest updates:

If you’re looking for evidence of a coup, installing four loyalists in the Department of Defense appears terrifying. However, Esper had long been a thorn in Trump’s side and so like others we had expected his removal (that’s why he had a letter of resignation prepared in his desk). The move appears more about classic Trump pettiness and his long desire to remove all troops from Afghanistan. We found Vox’s context a helpful analysis.

Despite the broad narrative of massive fraud, Trump’s legal case is not about “fraud.” The legal cases trend towards minor instances of poll watcher complaints, rumors of rumors, or highly specific cases. With little to no evidence, they are being tossed out quickly. Last Friday marked a slew of Trump’s cases losing. He lost six cases in Pennsylvania, dropped a long-shot lawsuit in Arizona, and lost a case in Michigan where Republican poll watchers claimed they were denied equal access and asked the courts to stop the certification process — the judge tossed the case with detailed point-by-point rebuttals. On Sunday Trump amended its PA lawsuits with even fewer claims.

In all states the certification process appears to be on track. Georgia may be the first swing state to certify its results on November 20 in spite of Senator Graham and others’ outrageous pressure, which would be on the heels of its recount (expected to show very little change). Read more about upcoming swing state certification processes in Politico. We see no moves likely to stop state’s certification processes.

Of all the aspects we are watching, this is the most disturbing: a calcified group of people who are unwilling to accept the election results. Under one hundred thousand gathered in DC for a mostly calm rally. Meanwhile Trump added fuel to the fire, tweeting for the DC police to be hard on counter-protestors: “do your job and don’t hold back!!!” The DC police did not comply.

This is deeply concerning to democracy. Choose Democracy’s role is focused on a coup and so we ask ourselves if this is a group in a position to seize control of society and stop the wheels of the democratic election. Successful coups require a plan, coordination, numbers, and a lot of legitimacy. They do not appear to have these things.

Trump appears to have no game plan — the scrambling of his advisors certainly suggests that. (We’ve never heard of anyone orchestrating a coup while golfing.) Right-wing militias continue to be split by internal divisions. While Trump has persuaded people to believe in fraud, it’s been restricted to his core base. The numbers of Republican leaders publicly urging him to accept the loss keeps growing — now including , John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser, and Trump’s “vaccine czar”.

All of this leads us to the same conclusion: Election Officials are holding strong. We’re still watching for signs of Democratic institutions slipping at their post, but they are not. As one example: the sharp rebuke by Republican and Democrat Election Officials (including in Trump’s administration). States continue certifying the election results. Trump’s legal strategy is running out of options.

We continue to encourage folks to breathe, give gratitude to election workers, and prepare for pressuring a Biden presidency.

We continue to keep monitoring the situation and will send periodic updates.

1 Sign up for updates.

While a coup is beginning to seem less & less likely, we will let you know right away if we see things which raise alarm or require action. Standard messaging rates apply.


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2 Want to take action? Here are ways to get involved.

While a coup seems less likely today than it did before the election, it’s still important that we make our voices heard & keep pressure on elected officials to respect & defend democracy. Check out these actions and see which one makes sense for you:

Organize a local group and ask your politicians to commit to counting every vote

Gather a group of your friends, neighbors, or coworkers, pick a local government official, and use the guide below, make a plan to pressure them to publicly commit to ensuring that all votes are counted & the results are respected.

Use the Hold the Line guide to start a pressure campaign.

People arm-in-arm with talk bubbles saying "count vote"

Call or write a letter to local elections officials demanding a fair process

Protect Our Elections will help you send a pre-written letter or make a call to your local elections officials asking them to do their duty and protect democracy.

Email or call your local elections officials using a script from Protect Our Elections.

Phone and letter

Want to learn more now? Read or watch the 10 things you need to know to stop a coup. Or find articles and case studies in our Resource section.