This year is a reminder of just how dependent democracy is on the little-known individuals who actually administer the process for counting the votes. In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger emerged as the unexpected hero of upholding free and fair elections, asserting that “as an engineer,” he knows that “numbers don’t lie.”

Suppose, however, that Raffensperger had buckled under Trump’s attack and said that he did not trust his own state’s results? Even if the truth had been just the same, the public narrative over Georgia’s outcome might have played out far differently.

Even more obscure is Republican Aaron Van Langevelde. He’s the hero of Michigan’s state canvassing board, simply for insisting that it “follow the law as written” and thus, along with two Democratic members, certify Biden’s decisive 154,000-vote victory. But if he hadn’t? Who knows how messy Michigan could have become as part of Trump’s attempted power grab.

The core of Trump’s scheme was for state legislatures to appoint electors in defiance of the state’s popular vote. He took the extraordinary step of summoning Michigan legislators to the White House as part of his pressure tactics. They resisted this time, when there wasn’t even a colorable basis for claiming that the popular vote was corrupt. It’s when the pretext is more plausible that we should be really worried.