Louisiana ends search for new voting machines amid criticism | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

Louisiana’s secretary of state decided Wednesday to shelve his search for new voting machines after a barrage of complaints about the bid process from election technology companies, the head of a state Senate oversight committee and his fellow Republicans. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin sent a letter to Paula Tregre, Louisiana’s chief procurement officer, announcing his decision, asking her to remove the bid solicitation from a state website and requesting that she dismiss protests filed by two companies that wanted to seek the work. “I am withdrawing the (request for proposals) to spend the next few months seeking to undo the damage to voter confidence done by those who willfully spread misinformation and disinformation,” Ardoin said in a statement. In his pointed letter to Tregre and a follow-up statement, the Republican secretary of state accused Tregre of mishandling complaints from the vendors about the bid process, defended his search effort and suggested critics were using national concerns about election integrity to derail needed replacement voting machines. “We cannot let election administration become just another political football for politicians or voting machine vendors to kick around, without any understanding or concern for the consequences,” he said. Ardoin said he’ll redo the search in the future, though he gave no date for that plan. It’s the second time the secretary of state has jettisoned his effort to replace 10,000 Election Day and early voting machines, many of which are decades old. Ardoin also ran into problems with a previous effort in 2018.

Full Article: Louisiana ends search for new voting machines amid criticism

National: Targeting State Restrictions, House Passes Landmark Voting Rights Expansion | Nicholas Fandos/The New York Times

House Democrats pushed through a sweeping expansion of federal voting rights on Wednesday over unified Republican opposition, opening a new front in a raging national debate about elections aimed at countering G.O.P. attempts to clamp down on ballot access. The bill, adopted 220 to 210 mostly along party lines, would constitute the most significant enhancement of federal voting protections since the 1960s if it became law. It aims to impose new national requirements weakening restrictive state voter ID laws, mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, make it harder to purge voter rolls and restore voting rights to former felons — changes that studies suggest would increase voter participation, especially by racial minorities. The vote was the latest bid by Democrats to beat back Republican efforts in statehouses across the country to enact new barriers to voting that would consolidate power for the Republican Party amid false claims of rampant election fraud heralded by former President Donald J. Trump and many of his allies in Congress. But the measure, which is supported by President Biden, appears to be doomed for now in the Senate, where Republican opposition would make it all but impossible to draw the 60 votes needed to advance. Democratic leaders have vowed to put it up for a vote anyway, and progressives were already plotting to use Republican obstruction of the bill to build their case for jettisoning the legislative filibuster in the months ahead. “Everything is at stake. We must win this race, this fight,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said as Democrats rallied on the Capitol steps before the vote. “At the same time as we are gathering here to honor our democracy, across the country over 200 bills are being put together, provisions are being put forward to suppress the vote.”

Full Article: House Passes Landmark Voting Rights Bill – The New York Times

Georgia: Why the G.O.P.’s Voting Rollbacks Would Hit Black People Hard | Richard Fausset, Nick Corasaniti and Mark Leibovich/The New York Times

After record turnout flipped Georgia blue for the first time in decades, Republicans who control the state Legislature are moving swiftly to implement a raft of new restrictions on voting access, mounting one of the biggest challenges to voting rights in a major battleground state following the 2020 election. Two bills, one passed by the House on Monday and another that could pass the Senate this week, seek to alter foundational elements of voting in Georgia, which supported President Biden in November and a pair of Democratic senators in January — narrow victories attributable in part to the array of voting options in the state. The Republican legislation would undermine pillars of voting access by ending automatic voter registration, banning drop boxes for mail ballots and eliminating the broad availability of absentee voting. The bills would restrict early voting on the weekends, limiting the longstanding civic tradition of “Souls to the Polls” in which Black voters cast ballots on Sunday after church services. Taken together, the new barriers would have an outsize impact on Black voters, who make up roughly one-third of the state’s population and vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Black voters were a major force in Democratic success in recent elections, with roughly 88 percent voting for Mr. Biden and more than 90 percent voting for Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the January runoff elections, according to exit polls.

Full Article: Why the Georgia G.O.P.’s Voting Rollbacks Would Hit Black People Hard – The New York Times

Michigan post-election audit completed: What results showed | Clara Hendrickson/Detroit Free Press

Almost four months after the November presidential election, Michigan has completed its most comprehensive series of post-election audits in the state’s history, confirming the results, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday. The audits examined the ballots cast in the general election, the machines that tabulated those ballots and the election procedures used. “It is time for leaders across the political spectrum to tell their constituents the truth, that our election was the most secure in history, and the results accurately reflect the will of Michigan’s voters,” Benson said. Former President Donald Trump and his allies spent months spreading misinformation about Michigan’s election process and outcome. Polls consistently show a majority of Republican voters don’t trust the outcome of the presidential election.

Full Article: Michigan post-election audit completed: What results showed

Georgia Takes Center Stage in Battle Over Voting Rights | Richard Fausset, Nick Corasaniti and Mark Leibovich/The New York Times

After record turnout flipped Georgia blue for the first time in decades, Republicans who control the state Legislature are moving swiftly to implement a raft of new restrictions on voting access, mounting one of the biggest challenges to voting rights in a major battleground state following the 2020 election. Two bills, one passed by the House on Monday and another that could pass the Senate this week, seek to alter foundational elements of voting in Georgia, which supported President Biden in November and a pair of Democratic senators in January — narrow victories attributable in part to the array of voting options in the state. The Republican legislation would undermine pillars of voting access by ending automatic voter registration, banning drop boxes for mail ballots and eliminating the broad availability of absentee voting. The bills would restrict early voting on the weekends, limiting the longstanding civic tradition of “Souls to the Polls” in which Black voters cast ballots on Sunday after church services. Taken together, the new barriers would have an outsize impact on Black voters, who make up roughly one-third of the state’s population and vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Black voters were a major force in Democratic success in recent elections, with roughly 88 percent voting for Mr. Biden and more than 90 percent voting for Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the January runoff elections, according to exit polls.

Full Article: Georgia Takes Center Stage in Battle Over Voting Rights – The New York Times

National: A new government watchdog report highlights urgent federal cybersecurity risks | Tonya Riley/The Washington Post

Government agencies could have caught a massive Russian hacking campaign sooner if they had implemented urgent cybersecurity recommendations from the federal government’s top watchdog. That’s the message the Government Accountability Office gave the House’s top oversight committee yesterday following the release of its biennial report listing government programs at highest risk of mismanagement and abuse. “It certainly would have led to an earlier discovery of the attack,” U.S. Comptroller General Eugene L. Dodaro told House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) when asked about the GAO findings. “It’s hard to say … but we would have been better postured to detect the attack ourselves and to take quicker action,” he said, referring to the fact the campaign was uncovered by private cybersecurity firm FireEye months after Russian hackers accessed government systems. The GAO report provides an early blueprint for how Congress and federal agencies can work to address the significant cybersecurity issues raised by the hack of SolarWinds software, which led to the compromise of at least nine federal agencies. “[A]nother silent battle is being fought in our IT networks by cyber attackers intent on stealing our intellectual property and undermining our national security,” Maloney said during her opening statement. “The SolarWinds breach that came to light last December, as well as escalating and targeted cyberattacks that have drained millions of dollars from struggling hospitals, are just two examples of the threats we know about.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: A new government watchdog report highlights urgent federal cybersecurity risks – The Washington Post

Supreme Court Seems Ready to Sustain Arizona Voting Limits | Adam Liptak/The New York Times

The Supreme Court seemed ready on Tuesday to uphold two election restrictions in Arizona and to make it harder to challenge all sorts of limits on voting around the nation. In its most important voting rights case in almost a decade, the court for the first time considered how a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 applies to voting restrictions that have a disproportionate impact on members of minority groups. The court heard the case as disputes over voting rights have again become a flash point in American politics. The immediate question for the justices was whether two Arizona measures ran afoul of the 1965 law. One of the measures requires election officials to discard ballots cast at the wrong precinct. The other makes it a crime for campaign workers, community activists and most other people to collect ballots for delivery to polling places, a practice critics call “ballot harvesting.” Several members of the court’s conservative majority said the restrictions were sensible, commonplace and at least partly endorsed by a bipartisan consensus reflected in a 2005 report signed by former President Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of state under President George Bush. The Biden administration, too, told the justices in an unusual letter two weeks ago that the Arizona measures appeared to be lawful. But the letter disavowed the Trump administration’s position that the relevant section of the Voting Rights Act should not be widely used to keep states from enacting more restrictive voting procedures.

Full Article: Supreme Court Seems Ready to Sustain Arizona Voting Limits – The New York Times

Virginia Department of Elections Says Audit Shows Election Integrity | Jaud Khalil/WVTF

The department collaborated with VotingWorks, a non-profit organization that helps conduct Risk-Limiting Audits, a method of assessing election systems. “Our risk measurement for the presidential election was .0000065117%,” said Ginny Vander Roest of VotingWorks in a meeting with election supervisors. “The risk measurement is the possibility that we might have missed something.” “The success of Virginia’s first statewide audit reaffirms our dedication to ensuring secure and accurate elections for our voters,” said Christopher Piper, Virginia’s Commissioner of Elections in a press release. “I am proud of the hard work that our election administrators do in the Commonwealth, and this audit further exemplifies the integrity and validity of the 2020 November General Election results.” The process of the RLA began on February 24, when Piper and others threw ten 20-sided dice to determined a random string of numbers. That string selects ballots randomly from across the commonwealth to make up a random sample of ballots. After those ballots are counted, officials compared the sample’s margin of victory to the margin from November. That comparison provides a measure of confidence that election software wasn’t faulty, either due to hardware, software, or human error. The audit does not assess the final count, but looks at the outcome of the election: a measure of confidence that the reported winner actually won. RLAs are cheaper than a recount and more accurate than a spot audit, according to Monica Childers of VotingWorks. She said this method of auditing election software provides a broader sample rather than a spot check in which a few voting machines or precincts are examined.

Full Article: Va Dept. of Elections Says Audit Shows Election Integrity | WVTF

Michigan’s most comprehensive election audit finds no widespread voter fraud | Russ McNamara/Michigan Radio

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says Michigan has finished the most comprehensive election audit in the state’s history. In short – there was no widespread voter fraud. Many of the allegations of impropriety were centered on the Democratic stronghold of Detroit. Benson says the audit proves again that those allegations were completely unfounded. “These efforts are dangerous, racist and undertaken for personal and political gain. They are also completely meritless as proven by these audits and must be treated as such in the future.” Benson says the very few ballot counting irregularities found were the product of deadlines, not misconduct. “They found that the reason many of the counting boards were left out of balance without explanation at the end of the county canvass was simply because canvassers ran out of time,” she said. “In fact, the net number of ballots out of balance was just 17.” Benson says the absentee ballot counting process could be improved by allowing poll workers to tally votes in the weeks before Election Day, and is calling on the state Legislature to allow that to happen.

Full Article: Michigan’s most comprehensive election audit finds no widespread voter fraud | Michigan Radio

Georgia County Employees Saved State’s Elections, But At What Personal Cost? | Christopher Alston/WABE

Deidre Holden has been Paulding County election director for 17 years and has lived in the county since she was 3. Holden remembers where she was when she first learned the pandemic was going to drastically alter her job. “I was actually in Nashville, Tennessee, when Secretary [Brad] Raffensperger made the announcement that we were going to postpone the election. And when that happens and you hear that, your wheels start turning on how you can make that work,” Holden said. County election directors like Holden earned praise for handling the strains of conducting a heated presidential election during a pandemic. While the stress has led some to resign and others are considering it, some are holding steadfast in their positions. The government response to the pandemic had an immediate effect on election departments because it meant quickly rescheduling the presidential preference primary originally slated for March 24 of last year. Like many of her colleagues, Holden had to deal with a drop in poll workers, and older workers who know elections best were the first to go because of their vulnerability to the virus.

Full Article: County Employees Saved Georgia’s Elections, But At What Personal Cost? | 90.1 FM WABE

Ohio: Trump’s Baseless 2020 Conspiracies Complicate Stark County’s Effort To Buy Voting Machines | Nick Castelle/NPR

A conspiracy theory sown by former President Donald Trump and his allies to cast doubt on his loss last year has trickled down to county-level politics, impeding one Ohio county’s ability to purchase new voting equipment ahead of local elections this year. The theory falsely claims voting machines made by a company called Dominion changed votes to swing the election in favor of now-President Biden. Multiple audits and recounts in states and counties that used the company’s equipment confirmed that the machines accurately recorded the vote totals last November. But those audits and recounts haven’t stopped Republican county officials in Stark County, Ohio, home to Canton, from slowing the procurement effort for new machines. Voters in the county twice voted for Barack Obama then twice — by double digits — for Donald Trump. The controversy started in December, when the bipartisan Stark County Board of Elections voted unanimously to replace its aging voting machines with new ones from Dominion. Since that vote, the county’s three top elected officials, all Republicans, say they’ve been getting an earful from voters.

Full Article: The Real World Impact Of A Voting Machine Conspiracy Theory : NPR

National: Stolen-Election Myth Fuels G.O.P. Push to Change Voting Laws | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Led by loyalists who embrace former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election, Republicans in state legislatures nationwide are mounting extraordinary efforts to change the rules of voting and representation — and enhance their own political clout. At the top of those efforts is a slew of bills raising new barriers to casting votes, particularly the mail ballots that Democrats flocked to in the 2020 election. But other measures go well beyond that, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules for the benefit of Republicans; clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives; and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections, which were crucial to the smooth November vote. And although the decennial redrawing of political maps has been pushed to the fall because of delays in delivering 2020 census totals, there are already signs of an aggressive drive to further gerrymander political districts, particularly in states under complete Republican control. The national Republican Party joined the movement this past week by setting up a Committee on Election Integrity to scrutinize state election laws, echoing similar moves by Republicans in a number of state legislatures. Republicans have long thought — sometimes quietly, occasionally out loud — that large turnouts, particularly in urban areas, favor Democrats, and that Republicans benefit when fewer people vote. But politicians and scholars alike say that this moment feels like a dangerous plunge into uncharted waters.

Full Article: Stolen-Election Myth Fuels G.O.P. Push to Change Voting Laws – The New York Times

Louisiana Voting Machine Search a Political Minefield | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

 If Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin needed another indication about the politically dicey nature of his work to replace Louisiana’s voting machines, he received a bracing and loud reminder during his luncheon speech to a group of Republican women. The women assembled at the Baton Rouge event interrupted his remarks, yelled questions, chastised his responses and accused the Republican elections chief of dodging their concerns. One woman shouted at him from a table, then moved closer to challenge him more directly, saying: “You work for us, and we are unhappy.” And those are people within Ardoin’s own party. “I hear you,” Ardoin repeatedly tried to tell the women. But it’s already clear Ardoin won’t be able to calm all the concerns. A dissatisfied leader of the Senate elections oversight committee Thursday pointedly urged Ardoin to shelve the bid process and redo it later. The secretary of state’s effort to replace 10,000 Election Day and early voting machines with newer, updated technology comes amid intense national scrutiny about the way people vote and the way elections officials tally those ballots. Despite dozens of court rulings upholding the presidential election results, supporters of Donald Trump continue to assert baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud in states the former president lost in November. They have targeted the current voting technology firm Louisiana uses, Dominion Voting Systems, for the unfounded claims. Some Republicans want to bar the company from being allowed to win another state contract — at odds with the public bid process.

Full Article: Analysis: La. Voting Machine Search a Political Minefield | Louisiana News | US News

National: Democrats launch sweeping bid to overhaul US election laws | Brian Slodysko/Associated Press 

Stacey Abrams, whose voting rights work helped make Georgia into a swing state, exhorted Congress on Thursday to reject “outright lies” that have historically restricted access to the ballot as Democrats began their push for a sweeping overhaul of election and ethics laws. “A lie cloaked in the seductive appeal of election integrity has weakened access to democracy for millions,” Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, said during a committee hearing for the bill, which was introduced as H.R. 1 to signal its importance to the party’s agenda. Democrats feel a sense of urgency to enact the legislation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when their narrow majorities in the House and Senate will be at risk. The bill, which good-government groups have championed, is advancing against a backdrop of Republican-controlled states seizing on former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen 2020 election to push legislation that would make it more difficult to vote. Democrats argue that voters of color, a key constituency for the party, would be disproportionately affected. It also comes on the cusp of a once-in-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts, a highly partisan affair that is typically controlled by state legislatures. With Republicans controlling the majority of statehouse, the process alone could help the GOP win enough seats to recapture the House. The Democratic bill would instead require that the boundaries be drawn by independent commissions.

Full Article: Democrats launch sweeping bid to overhaul US election laws

National: U.S. faces ‘unprecedented assault on democracy,’ White House says, backing election reform bill | Trevor Hunnicutt/Reuters

The Biden administration backed Democrats’ efforts to overhaul voting rules and turn over the process of drawing congressional districts to independent commissions on Monday, weighing in on a political fight that is likely to dominate Washington in coming years. The United States is facing an “an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country,” President Joe Biden’s Office of Management and Budget said in a statement. The House of Representatives is set to vote and likely to pass a sweeping election reform bill, HR-1, as soon as this week. Biden’s fellow Democrats have a majority in the House, but the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, where the measure would need support from all 50 members of that party caucus, plus 10 Republicans. Republicans have said the law would take powers away from states and raise fraud concerns. Democrats have been fighting to expand access to the polls through early voting, vote-by-mail and other measures, efforts that expanded as the coronavirus pandemic raged. Republicans have been fighting those efforts and pursuing measures to curb access to the polls. Former President Donald Trump, in his first public speech after his stinging Nov. 3 election loss to Biden, on Sunday proposed limiting absentee voting and days when Americans can vote.

Full Article: U.S. faces ‘unprecedented assault on democracy,’ White House says, backing election reform bill | Reuters

National: Why Republicans Are Moving To Fix Elections That Weren’t Broken | Steve Inskeep/NPR

Republican-led legislatures in dozens of states are moving to change election laws in ways that could make it harder to vote. Many proposals explicitly respond to the 2020 election: Lawmakers cite public concerns about election security — concerns generated by disinformation that then-President Donald Trump spread while trying to overturn the election. The Brennan Center, a nonprofit that tracks voting laws, says that 43 states — including key swing states — are considering 253 bills that would raise barriers to voting, for example by reducing early voting days or limiting access to voting by mail. Lawmakers in a different set of 43 states have proposed expanding voter access, but Republicans have prioritized new security requirements and shorter voting periods. In Georgia, which President Biden won by nearly 12,000 votes, legislators are considering multiple bills to restrict voting. The most significant, House Bill 531, is before a committee chaired by Republican Rep. Barry Fleming. He said Democrat Stacey Abrams campaigned to expand voter access after losing a governor’s race in 2018, and now Republicans want their own changes. The bill is “an attempt to restore the confidence of our public,” he said, because “there has been controversy regarding our election system.”

Full Article: Why Republicans Are Moving To Fix Elections That Weren’t Broken : NPR

National: Some local GOP leaders fire up base with conspiracies, lies | Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza, Juliet Linderman, Larry Fenn/Associated Press

A faction of local, county and state Republican officials is pushing lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories that echo those that helped inspire the violent U.S. Capitol siege, online messaging that is spreading quickly through GOP ranks fueled by algorithms that boost extreme content. The Associated Press reviewed public and private social media accounts of nearly 1,000 federal, state, and local elected and appointed Republican officials nationwide, many of whom have voiced support for the Jan. 6 insurrection or demanded that the 2020 presidential election be overturned, sometimes in deleted posts or now-removed online forums. “Sham-peachment,” they say, and warn that “corporate America helped rig the election.” They call former president Donald Trump a “savior” who was robbed of a second term — despite no evidence — and President Joe Biden, a “thief.” “Patriots want answers,” they declare. The bitter, combative rhetoric is helping the officials grow their constituencies on social media and gain outsized influence in their communities, city councils, county boards and state assemblies. And it exposes the GOP’s internal struggle over whether the party can include traditional conservative politicians, conspiracy theorists and militias as it builds its base for 2022.

Full Article: Some local GOP leaders fire up base with conspiracies, lies

National: CPAC goes all in on Trump’s false election fraud claims | Jane C. Timm/NBC

The nation’s largest conference of conservative activists will prominently feature former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud weeks after his stolen election lie fueled a riot that led to the deaths of five people. The agenda for the Conservative Political Action Conference, the influential right-wing summit best known as CPAC taking place in Florida this weekend, provides attendees multiple forums that appear to perpetuate conservative mythmaking around the 2020 election as well as ways to discuss the new wave of voting restrictions pushed by the Republican Party. The featured speaker is the former president himself on Sunday. The event includes seven speeches and panels about “protecting elections” over the long weekend, with 2020-specific themes like “Other Culprits: Why Judges & Media Refused to Look at the Evidence,” and “The Left Pulled the Strings, Covered It Up, and Even Admits It.”

Full Article: CPAC goes all in on Trump’s false election fraud claims

National: Supreme Court to again consider federal protections for minority voters | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post

With one contentious election behind it, the Supreme Court this week will consider the rules for the next and how federal law protects minority voters as states across the nation race to revamp their regulations. The court on Tuesday will review the shield provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA), first passed in 1965 to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race. The cases at the Supreme Court involve two voting regulations from Arizona that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Donald Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.” But the greater impact will be the test that the increasingly conservative court develops for proving violations of the VRA, as new laws are proposed and state legislatures begin redrawing congressional and legislative districts following the 2020 Census.

Full Article: Supreme Court to consider federal protections for minority voters – The Washington Post

National: Voting rights take center stage on Capitol Hill and at Supreme Court | Todd Ruger/Roll Call

To get a sense of the partisan and unsettled future of election laws in the United States, look no further than the debates on ballot collection teed up in Congress and at the Supreme Court this week. The House is expected to pass a sweeping election, campaign finance and ethics overhaul bill that includes a provision that would require states to allow voters to give their completed absentee ballots to someone else to drop off. Democrats generally consider laws that limit ballot collection alongside others that seek to disenfranchise minority voters who are more likely to vote for their candidates, such as requiring photo identification at polling places. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans already have balked at that provision on what they call “ballot harvesting,” and he highlighted it last week on the floor as allowing “paid operatives” to show up at polling places with “a big stack of filled-out ballots with other people’s names on them.” With Congress at an apparent partisan deadlock on federal legislation on the issue without a major change in Senate rules, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a pair of cases about Arizona’s ballot collection ban.

Source: Voting rights take center stage on Capitol Hill and at Supreme Court