Garland announces expansion of Justice Department’s voting rights unit, vowing to scrutinize GOP-backed voting restrictions and ballot reviews | Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan/The Washington Post

Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged Friday to double the size of the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement staff to combat efforts to restrict ballot access and prosecute those who threaten or harm election workers. In an expansive speech that invoked the nation’s long and, at times, faltering progress toward ensuring every American’s right to vote, Garland likened the fight against efforts to curtail ballot access to past campaigns enshrining voting rights for Black Americans in the Constitution and the seminal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Garland said the additional trial attorneys, which he plans to hire over the coming 30 days, will scrutinize new laws and existing practices across the nation for potential discrimination against Americans of color, including in new measures GOP state lawmakers are pushing. They will enforce provisions of the Voting Rights Act by challenging such laws or practices in court — and prosecute anyone found to intimidate or threaten violence against election officials. The expanded unit will also monitor the growing number of post-election ballot reviews being called for around the country by supporters of former president Donald Trump in search of signs of violations of federal laws, Garland said, and will watch over upcoming redistricting efforts to call out discriminatory practices. “To meet the challenge of the current moment, we must rededicate the resources of the Department of Justice to a critical part of its original mission: Enforcing federal law to protect the franchise of all eligible voters,” Garland said in his address to department employees. He added: “Where we see violations, we will not hesitate to act.”

Full Article: Garland announces expansion of Justice Department’s voting rights unit, vowing to scrutinize GOP-backed voting restrictions and ballot reviews – The Washington Post

National: How Republicans came to embrace the big lie of a stolen election | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Just a few days after the polls closed in Florida’s 2018 general election, Rick Scott, then the state’s governor, held a press conference outside the governor’s mansion and made a stunning accusation. Scott was running for a US Senate seat, and as more votes were counted, his lead was dwindling. Targeting two of the state’s most Democratic-leaning counties, Scott said there was “rampant fraud”. “Every person in Florida knows exactly what is happening. Their goal is to mysteriously keep finding more votes until the election turns out the way they want,” he said, directing the state’s law enforcement agency to investigate. “I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.” Scott eventually won the election, and his comments eventually faded. But the episode offered an alarming glimpse of the direction the Republican party was turning. A little over two years later, fanned repeatedly by Donald Trump throughout 2020, the myth of a stolen American election has shifted from a fringe idea to one being embraced by the Republican party. The so-called big lie – the idea that the election was stolen from Trump – has transformed from a tactical strategy to a guiding ideology. For years, civil rights groups and academics have raised alarm at the way Republican officials have deployed false claims of voter fraud as a political strategy to justify laws that restrict access to the ballot. But the way Republicans have embraced the myth of a stolen election since Trump’s loss in November, is new, they say, marking a dangerous turn from generalized allegations of fraud to refusing to accept the legitimacy of elections.

Full Article: How Republicans came to embrace the big lie of a stolen election | Republicans | The Guardian

Congress likely won’t take action on the growing threats to election integrity, leaving election workers vulnerable to criminal prosecution and results open to partisan tampering | Grace Panetta/Business Insider

Congress will almost certainly sit out the ongoing high-stakes fight within states over how people vote, and who has power over how elections are run. The Senate is gearing up for a showdown over voting rights and the filibuster at the end of June, amid the backdrop Republican state legislators passing an unprecedented number of laws tightening rules for voters and election officials. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is bringing the For The People Act (known as HR. 1 in the House and S. 1 in the Senate), Democrats’ 800-plus page flagship voting rights and democracy reform bill, up for a floor vote the week of June 21. The chances of Congress passing that legislation went from extraordinarily slim to none after moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin formally came out against the bill in a June 6 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Within the current Senate filibuster rules (which Manchin also supports), the bill, which has no GOP support, would need Manchin and at least 10 Republican votes to pass the US Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also threw cold water on H.R. 4, Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s proposed bipartisan alternative to the For The People Act that would restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Full Article: Congress Likely Won’t Take Action on GOP Election Subversion

National: G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’ | Maggie Astor/The New York Times

It was 1991, she recalled, and she was a 21-year-old learning to live independently with cerebral palsy, which she has had since birth. She waited in line at her polling place in Austin, Texas, for hours. Then she waited for a poll worker who could help her complete her ballot. Finally, the worker refused to take her aside, making her name her preferred candidates in full view and earshot of other voters. Ms. Angel, who has limited use of her limbs and a speech impairment and uses a foot-operated power wheelchair, left understanding that, unlike other Americans, she couldn’t vote privately. It was only when she began working for the Coalition of Texans With Disabilities in 2010, and learned about the adaptive equipment available to her, that she was able to vote independently — an experience that brought her to tears. Now, Ms. Angel is watching the Texas Legislature pursue sweeping voting restrictions, afraid that she and others with disabilities might again be deterred from voting. “They’re really making it so we don’t have a voice anymore,” she said. “And without that, we can’t get the things that we need to survive.” The Texas legislation Democrats blocked but Republicans  in a special session, is one of a series of Republican voting bills that would disproportionately affect people with disabilities. The Wisconsin Senate approved three last week with more to come, though unlike in Texas, the governor there is a Democrat and is expected to veto them. Georgia and Florida have enacted similar measures.

Full Article: G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’ – The New York Times

National: In Congress, Republicans Shrug at Warnings of Democracy in Peril | Jonathan Weisman/The New York Times

Senator Christopher S. Murphy concedes that political rhetoric in the nation’s capital can sometimes stray into hysteria, but when it comes to the precarious state of American democracy, he insisted he was not exaggerating the nation’s tilt toward authoritarianism. “Democrats are always at risk of being hyperbolic,” said Mr. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “I don’t think there’s a risk when it comes to the current state of democratic norms.” After the norm-shattering presidency of Donald J. Trump, the violence-inducing bombast over a stolen election, the pressuring of state vote counters, the Capitol riot and the flood of voter curtailment laws rapidly being enacted in Republican-run states, Washington has found itself in an anguished state. Almost daily, Democrats warn that Republicans are pursuing racist, Jim Crow-inspired voter suppression efforts to disenfranchise tens of millions of citizens, mainly people of color, in a cynical effort to grab power. Metal detectors sit outside the House chamber to prevent lawmakers — particularly Republicans who have boasted of their intention to carry guns everywhere — from bringing weaponry to the floor. Democrats regard their Republican colleagues with suspicion, believing that some of them collaborated with the rioters on Jan. 6. Republican lawmakers have systematically downplayed or dismissed the dangers, with some breezing over the attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful protest, and many saying the state voting law changes are to restore “integrity” to the process, even as they give credence to Mr. Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 election. They shrug off Democrats’ warnings of grave danger as the overheated language of politics as usual. “I haven’t understood for four or five years why we are so quick to spin into a place where part of the country is sure that we no longer have the strength to move forward, as we always have in the past,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, noting that the passions of Republican voters today match those of Democratic voters after Mr. Trump’s triumph. “Four years ago, there were people in the so-called resistance showing up in all of my offices every week, some of whom were chaining themselves to the door.”

Full Article: In Congress, Republicans Shrug at Warnings of Democracy in Peril – The New York Times

National: Trump Pressed Official to Wield Justice Department to Back Election Claims | Katie Benner/The New York Times

An hour before President Donald J. Trump announced in December that William P. Barr would step down as attorney general, the president began pressuring Mr. Barr’s eventual replacement to have the Justice Department take up his false claims of election fraud. Mr. Trump sent an email via his assistant to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, that contained documents purporting to show evidence of election fraud in northern Michigan — the same claims that a federal judge had thrown out a week earlier in a lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers. Another email from Mr. Trump to Mr. Rosen followed two weeks later, again via the president’s assistant, that included a draft of a brief that Mr. Trump wanted the Justice Department to file to the Supreme Court. It argued, among other things, that state officials had used the pandemic to weaken election security and pave the way for widespread election fraud. The draft echoed claims in a lawsuit in Texas by the Trump-allied state attorney general that the justices had thrown out, and a lawyer who had helped on that effort later tried with increasing urgency to track down Mr. Rosen at the Justice Department, saying he had been dispatched by Mr. Trump to speak with him. The emails, turned over by the Justice Department to investigators on the House Oversight Committee and obtained by The New York Times, show how Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Rosen to put the power of the Justice Department behind lawsuits that had already failed to try to prove his false claims that extensive voter fraud had affected the election results. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s frenzied drive to subvert the election results in the final weeks of his presidency, including ratcheting up pressure on the Justice Department. And they show that Mr. Trump flouted an established anticorruption norm that the Justice Department acts independently of the White House on criminal investigations or law enforcement actions, a gap that steadily eroded during Mr. Trump’s term. The documents dovetail with emails around the same time from Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, asking Mr. Rosen to examine unfounded conspiracy theories about the election.

Full Article: Trump Pressed Official to Wield Justice Dept. to Back Election Claims – The New York Times

National: As hope for federal voting rights rescue dims, state Democrats, advocates turn up the heat | Jane C. Timm/NBC

The Texas Democrats who blocked a Republican-backed voting restrictions bill from becoming state law at the eleventh hour last month will head to the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday to lobby senators as part of a broader, last-ditch effort to rally support for a major voter rights bill. Nearly two dozen state Democrats plan to lobby senators in behalf of the For the People Act, a broad bill that would create a federal floor of voting rights access and kneecap laws like the one proposed in Texas and already enacted in other Republican-led states. The schedule is still in flux, but a source with knowledge of the plans said the Texas legislators are scheduled to meet with Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both of Texas. They will also meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and hope to meet with Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in their push for federal voting rights legislation. They will head to the White House for a previously announced meeting Wednesday with Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading the Biden administration’s push to protect voting rights. “This is, in my mind, a now-or-never moment. It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment,” state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said Sunday. “On that last day” of the Texas House session, “on that gloomy Sunday, we knew we didn’t have the votes, but we found a will, and we found a way.”

Full Article: As hope for federal voting rights rescue dims, state Democrats, advocates turn up the heat

National: Exodus of election officials raises concerns of partisanship | Anthony Izaguirre/Associated Press

There is no shortage of job openings for local election officials in Michigan. It’s the same in Pennsylvania. Wisconsin, too. After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential of new punishments in certain states, county officials who run elections are quitting or retiring early. The once quiet job of election administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to be pushed by many in the Republican Party. The exits raise a pressing question: Who will take these jobs? Barb Byrum, clerk of Ingham County, Michigan, has an idea. “These conspiracy theorists are in it for the long haul. They’re in it to completely crumble our republic, and they’re looking at these election administrator positions,” said Byrum, a Democrat. “They’re playing the long game.” It’s difficult to quantify exactly how many election officials across the country have left their posts and why, since the departures are not generally tallied. Retirements also are common after presidential elections. But in places that do track such information, along with anecdotal accounts from county officials, it is clear that many have recently left because of the newfound partisan rancor around the jobs and the threats many local election workers faced leading up to the November election and afterward as former President Donald Trump and his allies challenged the results.

Full Article: Exodus of election officials raises concerns of partisanship

Editorial: How Joe Manchin could escape the trap he set for himself | Edward B. Foley/The Washington Post

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is correct that any electoral reform enacted by Congress must be bipartisan — not one party’s rules imposed over the other’s unified opposition. But his position on the filibuster may need some adjustment if his own stated standard for bipartisan electoral reform is to prevail. First, let’s focus on why Manchin is right to nix the Democratic Party’s dream elections bill, For the People Act (H.R. 1/S.B. 1), in its current form. Not only does it contain components that are dubious on policy grounds, including campaign finance provisions that would increase funds for extremists such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). It also has items that are poison pills for Republicans, such as mandatory “same-day” registration and eliminating voter identification requirements for on-demand vote-by-mail. H.R. 1 passed the House with zero Republican votes, and the companion S.B. 1 has zero GOP support in the Senate. That’s because it’s a purely partisan bill aimed at helping the Democratic Party win elections, not impartial reform designed to foster fair electoral competition in America’s traditional two-party system. If Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), keep saying that H.R. 1/S.B. 1, as currently drafted, is essential to secure democracy, they are self-deceived or deceitful. Same-day registration is hardly necessary for the preservation of self-government.

Full Article: Opinion | How Joe Manchin could escape the trap he set for himself – The Washington Post

Editorial: GOP preparing the ground to steal an election | Juan Williams/TheHill

We need to talk about Jan. 6. I’m talking about Jan. 6, 2025. That’s when the U.S. Congress will meet to certify the winner of the 2024 presidential election. “How to Get Away With Murder” was a recent TV crime show. As the 2024 race approaches, the Trump-GOP’s current weekly drama is titled “How to Get Away with Murdering Democracy.” Step One — Don’t mention Jan. 6, 2021. If it comes up, say Trump’s violent radicals did not stop certification of President Biden’s win over Trump. It was just like a “tourist visit,” according to one GOP congressman, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.). Too bad for him he was photographed that day with a look of terror on his face. Next, prevent a bipartisan, independent commission from looking into the violent Republican riot. Twist the arms of the honest Republicans left on Capitol Hill by scaring them with previews of the commission’s probable findings and the damage those stories could do to the party’s efforts to regain control of the House, Senate and White House. Step Two — Change election laws in states with GOP-majority legislatures. New laws in Georgia, for example, take power away from independent election boards and the secretary of state to certify election results. Georgia’s new laws give unprecedented power to the Republican legislature to determine the winner of the 2024 election. They can override local and state election officials in certifying votes. In 2020, the Georgia secretary of state — a Republican, Brad Raffensperger — defied Trump’s demand to “find” enough votes to make him the winner of the presidential race. Raffensperger or his successor will not have that power come 2024.

Full Article: Juan Williams: GOP preparing the ground to steal an election | TheHill

Arizona: ‘The audit is The Great Awakening’: How QAnon lives on in Maricopa County election audit | Richard Ruellas and Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

It’s not as if Q is spinning ballots around on turntables or waving them under ultraviolet lights. But Q is definitely at work on the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum where all 2.1 million general election ballots cast in Arizona’s most populous county are being audited. Q’s influence is not obvious, perhaps as cryptic as Q’s postings that claimed the looming takedown of a global cabal, words that spawned the wide-ranging QAnon conspiracy theory. Q is in the thoughts of those standing in 100-plus-degree heat outside the Phoenix arena where the audit is taking place, cheering on the work inside. Q is the reason ultraviolet lights were briefly employed as part of the audit. Q has provided a sustaining energy atypical for supporters of a losing candidate. Q has been in the background in the aftermath of Election Day, when devotees joined the crowd who rallied outside Maricopa County’s election headquarters, aiming to stop the stealing of the election they were certain was happening inside. Q followers barraged elected officials with pleas for this audit. And when Republican leaders in the state Senate ordered the audit, they hired a company whose CEO had shared QAnon-related messaging on social media. Since 2017, Q had guided followers to expect former President Donald Trump to save the world from a secretive cabal of sex trafficking and pedophile government officials before he left office.

Full Article: QAnon movement clings to Arizona election audit as next hope

Delaware Republicans block bill to create no-excuse absentee voting | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal

Despite many of them previously supporting the idea, Republicans have blocked a bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting in Delaware elections. They voted against House Bill 75, which would let voters cast absentee ballots without having to give an excuse for why they can’t do it in person, during a Thursday vote in the Democrat-controlled House. It’s the second time that lawmakers have voted on the measure in the past few years. In Delaware, constitutional amendments require lawmakers to pass one bill for two consecutive legislative sessions, which span two years. Nine Republicans voted for the bill in 2019, whereas none of them voted for it on Thursday. Constitutional amendments also require a two-thirds vote, which Democrats don’t have on their own in the 41-person House. They needed 28 votes, meaning two Republicans would have had to join all 26 Democrats in support. “From 2019 until now, nothing has changed about the efficacy, the security of absentee voting in Delaware and nationwide,”  bill sponsor Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana, said just before the vote. “The only thing that has changed, unfortunately, is the rhetoric around it.”

Full Article: Republicans block bill to create no-excuse absentee voting in Delaware

Florida elections law draws another challenge | News Service Of Florida

As challenges to a new Florida elections law stack up, a case filed Monday in federal court alleges that part of the law placing requirements on voter-registration organizations is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the groups HeadCount and the Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters Corp., is the fourth challenge to the law, which was passed in April by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The latest case is narrowly tailored to one section of the law that involves what are known as third-party voter-registration organizations. The law, in part, requires the organizations to inform voter-registration applicants that the organizations might not meet legal deadlines for delivering forms to elections officials. Also, the organizations are required to tell applicants how to register online. The challenge, filed in federal district court in Tallahassee, contends the law (SB 90) requires a “misleading warning” and violates First Amendment rights. “The mandatory disclaimer serves no legitimate governmental function or purpose, as there is no evidence that Floridians have been confused about the nature of community-based voter registration activity,” said the lawsuit, filed by attorneys for the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Fair Elections Center. “There is no suggestion that plaintiffs or similar voter registration groups have regularly turned in late forms or that they would make anything other than their best efforts to timely submit forms.”

Full Article: Elections law draws another challenge

Louisiana: Lawmakers rewrite rules for voting system search | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

In the final minutes of their legislative session, Louisiana lawmakers agreed to change the way the state shops for voting systems, to include more public vetting and require an auditable paper trail, after two recent efforts to replace the state’s voting machines failed amid controversy. The House voted 69-34 Thursday for the heavily rewritten bill by Senate Republican leader Sharon Hewitt, while the Senate backed it with a 27-10 vote. The proposal — which was negotiated with Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin — heads to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards for consideration. The measure would add new layers of legislative oversight and technical analysis, enact new requirements for the voting system that could be chosen and remove some decision-making from Ardoin, the Republican who oversees elections in the state. “It shifts our state from an outdated electronic voting system and shifts to a paper-based voting system, which is more secure, easier to audit and cheaper, most likely,” said Hewitt, of Slidell. A newly created commission that includes lawmakers, elections experts, a cybersecurity expert and others would analyze and make recommendations about the type of voting system that should be bought or leased. The commission would have to hold open meetings, giving the general public more points to offer thoughts before the bid solicitation begins. Louisiana’s new voting system would have to produce a paper record, unlike the current decades-old machines used on Election Day. The legislation also would mandate that Louisiana’s voting system can’t connect to the internet, already the practice today in the secretary of state’s office.

Full Article: Lawmakers rewrite rules for Louisiana’s voting system search

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice wants probe into late-arriving voting machines in Newark | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

The failure to deliver 33 voting machines in predominately Black wards of Newark before the polls opened on Tuesday have led 20 voting rights advocacy groups and grass roots organizations to call for a thorough investigation into a delay. The New Jersey Globe first reported on the morning of the primary that machines had been late in arriving and that Essex County Superintendent of Elections Patty Spango was aware of the delays before Election Day. Among the voters effected by the undelivered machines was Ryan Haygood, the president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Haygood arrived at his polling place at 7:30 AM – 90 minutes after voting opened – to find out that there were no voting machines. “I was told to return later and not offered a provisional ballot until I proactively requested one,” Haygood said. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have encountered voting obstacles in Newark. Running elections is a massive endeavor, but we must do better.” According to the organizations that signed the letter to Spango, multiple polling places in Newark did not open at 6 AM in the November 2020 general election, “once again forcing voters in the city to accommodate for these issues.” “Voters in much of the rest of Essex County do not encounter these issues, but voters in Newark – the state’s largest city and a majority Black city – regularly do,” the letter said.  “The unfortunate reality is that the election issues in Essex County are disproportionately felt by Black and Brown voters in Newark.”

Full Article: Groups want probe into late-arriving voting machines in Newark – New Jersey Globe

Pennsylvania Republicans eye voter ballot referendums to get past Tom Wolf vetoes | Marc Levy/Associated Press

Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s Legislature are increasingly looking to voter referendums to get around Gov. Tom Wolf and make policy that the Democrat cannot block with his veto pen. On Friday, Republicans unveiled a proposed constitutional amendment to expand Pennsylvania’s existing voter identification requirements, both for in-person voting and for mail ballots. Republicans also plan to introduce another proposal for a statewide referendum to repeal Pennsylvania’s expansive mail voting law that passed in 2019 with near-unanimous support from Republicans. Both have also been introduced as legislation, and Wolf has vowed to oppose both, seeing them as attacks on voting access spurred by former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims about widespread fraud in the 2020 election. “So the governor’s going to veto that,” one of the sponsors, State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin), told the audience Friday at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, an annual conservative gathering. ”Aha! But the lesson from last year was we’ll then do a ballot question and I think any issue of how our election is conducted in Pennsylvania should be your decision in the end.” The lesson, it seems, was in last month’s primary election, when voters approved two Republican-penned proposals to greatly expand the power of lawmakers over a governor’s disaster emergency declarations. A governor cannot block a ballot question to change the constitution from going to voters.

Full Article: Pennsylvania Republicans eye voter ballot referendums to get past Tom Wolf vetoes

Tennessee and 6 other states still have bans on atheists holding office | Kristina M. Lee/Tennessee Lookout

Tennessee’s Constitution includes a provision that bars three groups from holding office: atheists, ministers and those engaging in duels. Efforts are under way in the state legislature to remove this exclusion for ministers, but not for duelists – or atheists. In January 2021, Republican Tennessee State Senator Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, proposed Senate Joint Resolution 55 to amend Article IX of the Constitution of Tennessee to rid it of a clause that states “no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.” No mention is made in Pody’s resolution about Section 2 of the same article: “No person who denies the being of God … shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.” Nor for that matter does the current bill mention Section 3’s objection to those who participate, aid or abet a duel. When Pody was asked why his resolution removes only the ban on ministers, his response was that it is best to clean up the constitution “one simple step at a time.” Tennessee is one of seven states that has an unconstitutional ban on atheists holding public office. Although superseded by Supreme Court rulings, such bans are important. As a scholar of religious and political rhetoric who focuses on the marginalization of U.S. atheists, I believe they reflect the normalization of anti-atheism that has yet to be truly dealt with, or rarely acknowledged, in the United States.

Full Article: Why it matters that 7 states still have bans on atheists holding office – Tennessee Lookout

Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers | Linda So/Reuters

Late on the night of April 24, the wife of Georgia’s top election official got a chilling text message: “You and your family will be killed very slowly.” A week earlier, Tricia Raffensperger, wife of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, had received another anonymous text: “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.” That followed an April 5 text warning. A family member, the texter told her, was “going to have a very unfortunate incident.” Those messages, which have not been previously reported, illustrate the continuing barrage of threats and intimidation against election officials and their families months after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s November election defeat. While reports of threats against Georgia officials emerged in the heated weeks after the voting, Reuters interviews with more than a dozen election workers and top officials – and a review of disturbing texts, voicemails and emails that they and their families received – reveal the previously hidden breadth and severity of the menacing tactics. Trump’s relentless false claims that the vote was “rigged” against him sparked a campaign to terrorize election officials nationwide – from senior officials such as Raffensperger to the lowest-level local election workers. The intimidation has been particularly severe in Georgia, where Raffensperger and other Republican election officials refuted Trump’s stolen-election claims. The ongoing harassment could have far-reaching implications for future elections by making the already difficult task of recruiting staff and poll workers much harder, election officials say.

Full Article: Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers

Election laws, 2024, and the future of US democracy | Peter Grier/CSMonitor

It’s November 2024. The U.S. presidential election is over. The battle over who won is just beginning. Ballot totals show the incumbent leading the national vote by a few percentage points. His margin in the Electoral College is smaller than in 2020, but seems clear. Still, the challenger and his supporters are mounting a furious challenge to an election they say was close enough to have been tipped by fraud. … Nationwide, an organized corps of partisan poll watchers, taking advantage of laws passed since 2020 that allow them greater access, have filed hundreds of affidavits claiming suspicious voter behavior. Georgia is an epicenter of this dispute. The State Election Board, with all members appointed by the Republican-controlled legislature, issues a statement saying populous Fulton County was “rife with fraud.” Nationwide, an organized corps of partisan poll watchers, taking advantage of laws passed since 2020 that allow them greater access, have filed hundreds of affidavits claiming suspicious voter behavior. Georgia is an epicenter of this dispute. The State Election Board, with all members appointed by the Republican-controlled legislature, issues a statement saying populous Fulton County was “rife with fraud.” Finally, Georgia’s new governor takes a momentous step. Given everything happening in the nation, he says, it seems clear that the challenger won a big victory. He asks state lawmakers to simply overturn the president’s narrow Georgia victory, saying he’s been assured that such a move is legal under the U.S. Constitution. Is this scenario far-fetched? Maybe.

Full Article: Election laws, 2024, and the future of US democracy –

National: US Capitol attack was planned in plain sight, Senate report finds | David Smith/The Guardian

The deadly insurrection at the US Capitol was “planned in plain sight” but intelligence failures left police officers exposed to a violent mob of Trump supporters, a Senate investigation has found. The Capitol police intelligence division had been gathering online data since December about plots to storm the building on 6 January, including messages such as: “Bring guns. It’s now or never.” But a combination of bad communications, poor planning, faulty equipment and lack of leadership meant the warnings went unheeded, allowing the insurrectionists to overrun the Capitol and disrupt certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Five people died. The bipartisan investigation does not examine the causes of the riot, assess whether Donald Trump incited it by calling for his supporters to “fight like hell”, or even use the term “insurrection”. On the Senate floor on Tuesday, Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer said: “Just as glaring is what the report didn’t consider. Indeed, what it was not allowed to consider. The report did not investigate, report on, or hardly make any reference to the actual cause – the actual impetus – for the attack on 6 January.” But the senators do paint a portrait of bureaucratic flaws that left Capitol police scrambling to protect members of Congress and Vice-President Mike Pence. They also highlight the failure of the FBI to collect information on domestic extremists, despite a wealth of evidence on social media.

Full Article: US Capitol attack was planned in plain sight, Senate report finds | US Capitol breach | The Guardian

National: John Lewis voting rights bill faces bleak future in the Senate after McConnell deems it “unnecessary” – Grace Segers/CBS

Widespread Republican opposition to two major pieces of voting rights legislation is leading some Democratic lawmakers and activists to fear that Congress will be unable to pass either bill this year, even as several state legislatures enact restrictive voting measures. Later this month, the Senate is set to take up S. 1, or the For the People Act, an expansive but controversial voting and elections reform bill. The measure was already unlikely to pass, as Democrats hold a razor-thin 50-seat majority in the Senate, and 60 votes are required to advance most legislation. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin also announced Sunday that he opposes it, hammering another nail in its legislative coffin. But Manchin does support another voting rights bill, one that has yet to be introduced in this session of Congress — the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the late congressman and civil rights icon. This bill, also known as H.R. 4, would restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. That provision required certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to receive approval, known as preclearance, from the federal government before making changes to their voting rules. The Voting Rights Act established a formula to determine which areas should be covered by Section 5, which required certain jurisdictions to submit any changes to the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges for approval. The law was reauthorized in 2006, but the formula for dictating which jurisdictions should be subject to preclearance had not been significantly updated.

Source: John Lewis voting rights bill faces bleak future in the Senate after McConnell deems it “unnecessary” – CBS News

National: The U.S. government is getting closer to having a national cyber czar | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Congress is getting closer to confirming the first-ever national cyber director as the government lurches from one cyber crisis to the next. President Biden’s nominee for the post, Chris Inglis, is facing a confirmation hearing this morning before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — the first step in what is likely to be an easy path to confirmation. If confirmed, he will be immediately responsible for some of the biggest cyber challenges ever to hit the government, including recovering from a massive Russian theft of data and a scourge of ransomware attacks against vital U.S. infrastructure. “He’ll be putting his boat in the middle of the rapids and immediately need to start paddling or get submerged,” Suzanne Spaulding, a top cybersecurity official during the Obama administration, told me. “On the plus side, in the middle of a crisis there’s an opportunity to get people on the same page. They tend to be ready to put all the jurisdictional tensions on the back burner and roll up their sleeves.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: The U.S. government is getting closer to having a national cyber czar – The Washington Post

National: Can Mike Lindell’s “secret agents” undo the 2020 election? Pillow king claims he’ll “harvest” data from voting machines; allies hint at secret raids on election facilities | Zachary Petrizzo/

Fervent Trump acolyte and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, along with various associates, is accelerating his quixotic and/or terrifying quest to undo the 2020 presidential election. Over the past month Lindell has gone from unhinged tangents on various right-wing platforms — including his own semi-broken Frank Speech website — to alleged real-world actions that may include somehow acquiring voting machines and ordering a team of operatives to break into election facilities. In recent weeks, both in conversations with Salon and during media appearances on his Frank Speech site, Lindell has proudly boasted that he now possesses both Dominion and Smartmatic voting machines — and believes his team will soon “harvest” incriminating data from their innards. These claims echo earlier ones made by the pillow magnate on a May 8 segment of Steve Bannon’s podcast. “I’ll give Dominion a little scare this morning,” Lindell told Bannon. “We have machines now, I do. We have ES&S [Election Systems & Software] machines; we’ve got them all. We’re going to be putting out so much information over the next couple weeks, and this isn’t from Arizona, these are machines we actually have.” No “information” has emerged in the intervening month but Lindell’s claims have only intensified, including his vaporware proposal that former President Donald Trump will be reinstalled as president in August, by way of some unexplained mechanism and following a unanimous Supreme Court decision.

Full Article: Mike Lindell’s Mission Impossible: Can his “secret agents” undo the 2020 election? |

National: A Growing Number Of Critics Raise Alarms About The Electoral College | Mara Liasson/NPR

It’s hard to make an intellectual argument in favor of the Electoral College. Most people feel that the person who gets the most votes should become president. After all, that’s how we run every other election in this country, says Jesse Wegman, the author of Let the People Pick the President. “If anything, representative democracy in the 21st century is about political equality. It’s about one person, one vote — everybody’s vote counting equally,” he said. “You’re not going to convince a majority of Americans that that’s not how you should do it.” Another way the Electoral College is unfair, says Harvard University political scientist Gautam Mukunda, is that each state gets electors based on its representation in the House and Senate, which means small states get extra votes. “The fact that in presidential elections people in Wyoming have [nearly four] times the power of people in California is antithetical at the most basic level to what we say we stand for as a democracy,” he said. But Brad Smith, who used to be on the Federal Election Commission, disagrees. Sure, the election may be decided by just a handful of states — swing states that can shift red or blue. But Smith, a Republican, says the battleground is diverse. “Those states include some of the states with the heaviest minority populations in the United States, some of the states with the fewest minority populations in the United States,” he said. “They include states from every region of the country, and that forces candidates to try to go out and have a platform that will appeal to the huge, diverse sections of America — or at least not grossly turn them off.”

Full Article: Here’s What Critics Say Is Wrong With The Electoral College : NPR

Alaska lawmaker takes state-paid tour of Arizona’s Republican-led election audit | James Brooks/Anchorage Daily News

One of Alaska’s most conservative state lawmakers toured a controversial audit of Arizona’s election results on Monday. The audit, organized by Arizona’s Republican-controlled Senate, is part of a nationwide search by Trump supporters for any evidence of fraud that could have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, said the visit will help determine whether any lessons learned by that state can be applied in Alaska. He said he’s visiting on behalf of his constituents and intends to pay for the trip out of his legislative office account. “I am grateful for the efforts that those in Arizona are making to increase confidence in their elections and hope we will be able to increase the confidence that Alaskans have in our elections as well,” he said. Former President Donald Trump lost last year’s presidential election, and public officials nationwide have found no evidence that widespread fraud or wrongdoing determined the result. The president has repeatedly said he believes otherwise, and many of his supporters have sought to find evidence of significant fraud. In Arizona, the state Senate subpoenaed ballots and voting machines from the state’s most populous county and hired a little-known firm to conduct an audit. The result has been chaotic at times. Some workers have taken to using UV lights and microscopes in search of evidence for a conspiracy theory that says ballots were illegally smuggled from Asia. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a Republican who oversees Alaska’s elections, said he had heard of Eastman’s trip and was “disappointed.”

Source: Alaska lawmaker takes state-paid tour of Arizona’s Republican-led election audit – Anchorage Daily News

Arizona audit: Election experts offer challenge to Cyber Ninjas: We can count ballots without opening boxes | Ryan Randazzo/Arizona Republic

Election experts — including the founder of a national auditing company and a prominent Pima County Republican — have a proposal to dispel conspiracy theories about fraud in the 2020 election in Maricopa County. They also have a message for Cyber Ninjas, the company running the Arizona recount effort: “Put up or shut up.” The experts made a formal offer to Senate President Karen Fann on Tuesday to prove the election was sound. The proposal is getting attention from those working at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Here’s the offer: The experts say that if the Senate selects a box of unopened ballots (any box), the team could within minutes provide an accurate count of each race on all 1,000 or so ballots inside — without ever opening it. They would do this, they said, using public data they obtained from Maricopa County, that includes spreadsheets on batches of ballots as they were tabulated in November. The proposal sounds like a card trick where a magician asks an audience member to think of a card and then pulls it from the deck. But there’s no sleight of hand involved, they say.

Full Article: Arizona audit: Election experts challenge Fann, Cyber Ninjas on count

Arizona ballot audit backed by secretive donors linked to Trump’s inner circle | Sam Levine and Anna Massoglia/The Guardian

Dark money groups tied to Donald Trump’s inner circle and backed by people who have spread baseless claims about the 2020 presidential election appear to be playing a key role in funding an unprecedented review of 2.1m ballots in Arizona. Republicans in the Arizona state senate, which authorized the inquiry, allocated $150,000 in state funds to pay for it – just a fraction of the projected overall cost, which is still unknown. The state senate had enough money in its operating budget to pay for the investigation, the Arizona Mirror reported in April, but chose not to pay the full price. Instead, the effort is being paid for by private donors, who remain hidden from the public, according to a review by OpenSecrets and the Guardian. Arizona Republicans and Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based company overseeing the review, have refused to say who is providing the rest of the money. “It is wholly inappropriate that the Arizona state senate is hiding the mechanisms by which their sanctioned activity is being funded,” said Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who served as the top election official in Maricopa county, the target of the ballot review, until he lost his re-election bid last year. “The lack of transparency there is just grotesque.”

Full Article: Arizona ballot audit backed by secretive donors linked to Trump’s inner circle | US news | The Guardian

California: ‘They’re really on a rampage’: Departing San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder reflects on election conspiracies, racism | Lindsey Holden/San Luis Obispo Tribune

In a surprise move, San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong on Friday announced he’s resigning his position and leaving the area — exactly one month after enduring hours of election misinformation and racism at a Board of Supervisors meeting. Gong, the first Asian American elected to countywide office, will move to Contra Costa County in July to start a new job as a deputy clerk-recorder. On Friday, he told The Tribune the decision to leave was primarily motivated by a desire to be closer to family in the Bay Area, although attacks on his office following the 2020 election “probably played a factor” in his choice. Prior to making his exit public, Gong sat down with The Tribune to discuss the impacts of election conspiracy-mongering and anti-Asian racism and how his office can move forward and instill faith in the county’s voting system. … During the meeting, one caller made an explicitly racist comment asking if Gong is “a member of the Chinese Communist Party.” “It was interesting because we were hearing all of the scripted comments and everything, and your mind kind of goes numb as you’re listening,” Gong said. “That one did stick out, I will say. I was like, ‘Did I hear that right?’ You know, (it) was a little surprising. And my staff was with me, and it was like, ‘Oh yeah, wow.’” Gong grew up outside of Modesto, where his family ran a local chain of grocery stores. When he was going into kindergarten, Gong’s mother warned him that children may “call you names” or make racist comments. Hearing the racism at the meeting made Gong think back to that time.

Full Article: SLO elections official talks racism, voting misinformation | San Luis Obispo Tribune

Georgia 2020 Election Deniers Setting Sights On Higher Office | Stephen Fowler and David Armstrong/Georgia Public Broadcasting

For the past seven months, a group of Republican lawmakers have engaged in efforts to cast doubt on Georgia’s election integrity and overturn the results of a 2020 presidential race that was counted three times — each count upholding President Joe Biden’s victory. Now, some are parlaying their election skepticism into bids for higher office, launching campaigns for Congress, the governor’s mansion and the office of the top election official in the state, according to a GPB News and Georgia News Lab analysis. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, as confirmed by the original tally, a hand-counted risk-limiting audit of all the nearly five million votes for president, and a machine recount requested by the Trump campaign. But that hasn’t stopped prominent supporters of former President Donald Trump from promoting falsehoods about absentee ballot fraud, floating claims of illegal voting and parroting allegations of conspiracies that have been thoroughly debunked by election officials. Last month, a lawsuit backed by a well-known conspiracy theorist seeking to inspect 147,000 absentee ballots in Fulton County for evidence of counterfeits received the endorsement of former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and the state Republican Party. There is no evidence of counterfeit ballots or any other wrongdoing among Fulton’s absentee votes, and most of the allegations in the suit have long since been addressed by elections officials.

Full Article: Georgia 2020 Election Deniers Setting Sights On Higher Office | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Louisiana could change from voting machines to paper ballots after closed-door negotiations | Mark Ballard/The Advocate

Louisiana will be moving to elections using paper ballots under legislation finally approved about 90 minutes before the Legislature adjourned Thursday at 6 p.m. Senate Bill 221, by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, had been negotiated behind closed doors for about two weeks. Agreement came in the closing moments of the two-month-old legislative session. The result merged much of the language from two similar House-passed bills with the Senate measure. Current law requires Louisiana votes in machines. The legislation would now require a paper ballot that would be scanned to count. Louisiana’s current fleet of voting machines are aging and replacement parts aren’t easy to find. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has been trying to nail down a deal for new machines. Dominion Voting Systems Corp., an equipment and software company founded in Canada with headquarters in Denver, won the early phase of a bidding process that was successfully challenged as unfair by the losers. Work on a new bidding process is still ongoing. After the presidential election in November, Dominion became the target of widespread and specious rumors of being involved in the unproven claims of widespread fraud in presidential election. “The machines are outdated and it’s time to make change,” Hewitt said, adding that she had heard the worries of some voters voiced about voting machine vendors.

Full Article: Louisiana could change from voting machines to paper ballots after closed-door negotiations | Legislature |