Organizers of the Family Research Council’s “Pray Vote Stand” conference for religious-right activists invited Kenneth Blackwell, who actively promoted former President Donald Trump’s false stolen-election claims after the 2020 election, to discuss “election reform.” Blackwell praised states that have passed restrictive voting laws this year while condemning federal voting rights legislation pending in Congress.
FRC Action Vice President Brent Keilen interviewed Blackwell on stage, framing the topic of conversation as “election integrity,” the right-wing buzzword favored by so-called Stop the Steal activists and Republican legislators who use false claims of voter fraud to justify passing more restrictive voting laws. Blackwell urged activists to demand that every state impose photo ID requirements for voters, and he called for dramatic restrictions on early voting.
After the 2020 election, Blackwell aggressively promoted Trump’s false claims that he won the election. Blackwell signed a Dec. 10 open letter from right-wing leaders that declared, “There is no doubt President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election. Joe Biden is not president elect.” The letter called on legislatures in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan to override the election results and appoint pro-Trump electors.
Blackwell signed another open letter at the end of December, urging Senate Republicans to contest the electoral votes from five battleground states won by Biden. FRC President Tony Perkins also signed both letters.
Two days before the Capitol insurrection, Blackwell tweeted a video declaring, “Over the next 72 hours, actions will be taken, decisions will be made, by our political leaders that will have seven decades of consequences.” Using the hashtag #StopTheSteal, Blackwell urged right-wing activists to demand that members of Congress meeting on Jan. 6 address the “irregularities” and “illegalities” that he claimed “impacted the 2020 election.”
Right Wing Watch noted in January that Blackwell was “known as a relentless deployer of voter suppression techniques when he served as Ohio secretary of state” and that Blackwell had used “wildly inflammatory rhetoric in making unsubstantiated claims about how the 2020 election was carried out in Pennsylvania.”
At “Pray Vote Stand” Thursday, Blackwell did not make such explicit claims, but implied that he believed the election was stolen, saying there were things about the election “that made me say, ‘huh.’”
Blackwell portrayed pending federal voting rights legislation that would overturn state voter suppression laws as an attempt to concentrate power in the hands of the federal government and the Democratic Party, claiming that it would “convert us from free citizens to subjects again.” He noted that the Constitution gives state governments the power to determine the place, time, and manner of elections, without acknowledging that the very next phrase in the Constitution grants Congress the power to alter state regulations.
Blackwell absurdly connected the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to “critical race theory,” claiming that requiring states to get approval from the Justice Department before putting into place potentially discriminatory voting changes was “rooted in this notion that America in 1619 was founded in racism.”
Blackwell said the effort to pass federal voting rights legislation comes from “the same clown car that tells parents they have no role in the education of our children” and the same people who he claimed are “trying to run God and faith out of the public square,” “create a system of voters without borders,” “crush the incubator of liberty,” and “fundamentally transform our constitutional republic” into “an authoritarian federal government with centralized power that destroys our individual liberties.”