Louisiana Voting Machine Search a Political Minefield | Louisiana News | 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

Kentucky House passes bills to allow early voting, weaken open records law | Joe Sonka/Louisville Courier Journal

The Kentucky House passed a bill Friday to allow three days of early voting and keep several other emergency measures enacted during Kentucky’s elections last year. The chamber also passed House Bill 312, which prohibits open records requests to government agencies from people outside of Kentucky, in addition to removing Franklin Circuit Court’s jurisdiction on appeals for records denied by the state legislature. House Bill 574, enshrining no-excuse early voting for the first time in Kentucky, passed easily through the chamber Friday with a 93-4 vote. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, Kentucky prohibited early voting by mail or in person unless a person could not vote on Election Day because of advanced age, illness, severe disability or temporarily residing out of the county or state — making its voting access laws one of the most restrictive in the country. Through executive action resulting from the COVID-19 emergency, Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams allowed three weeks of no-excuse, in-person early voting for the general election, along with setting up a new online portal for any registered voter to request an absentee ballot and cast it by mail or deposit it in a drop box. With those emergency measures expiring, HB 574 now requires three days of early voting on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before an election, which are held at voting centers where anyone in the county can vote. While the legislation keeps the online portal to request absentee ballots, it no longer allows every registered voter to request and submit such a ballot through the mail, reverting back to the exceptions in current law.

Full Article: House passes bills to allow early voting, weaken open records law

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: 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

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: Election officials defended the 2020 vote. In 2022, they’ll have to defend themselves. | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Donald Trump transformed these once-obscure officials into either the enemies — or the saviors, as most would have it — of American democracy. Now, campaigns for secretary of state are becoming the next major arena of nationwide political combat. Sitting secretaries and political groups are preparing for a flood of candidates, money and attention into campaigns for the newly prominent positions in 2022. Voting rules have become a bigger cause for both political parties, while coronavirus-fueled election changes combined with Trump’s conspiracy theories to turn secretaries of state into pivotal characters in last year’s presidential election. The biggest battleground is likely to be Georgia, where Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is set to face dual challenges after Trump targeted him for certifying President Joe Biden’s victory there. Democrats are eager to take control of state election administration in Georgia, which has for years been at the center of national debates about voter suppression. But first, Raffensperger may see Trump endorse a primary opponent out of retribution for perceived slights. “This will be a true test of where the Republican Party is going,” said Jordan Fuchs, who ran Raffensperger’s 2018 campaign and is now deputy secretary of state in Georgia. “There’s some growing pains now that Trump is not the leader of the Republican Party. And these primary elections are going to be defining for us for a very long time.” Twenty-six states will have secretary of state elections next year, including five of the 10 closest states in the 2020 presidential election, and incumbents from both parties are preparing for tough battles. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat up for reelection in 2022, said she will likely have to raise more money than before — but she expects it to be easier now. “If anything, the change will be that I won’t have to spend as much time, perhaps, persuading someone or convincing someone of the importance of investing in these races, as you might have in years past,” Benson said.

Full Article: Election officials defended the 2020 vote. In 2022, they’ll have to defend themselves. – POLITICO

National: Election Assistance Commission loses another key staffer, Jerome Lovato | Tim Starks and Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop

Another top official is exiting the staff of the Election Assistance Commission, the third in recent months for the small agency that plays an outsized role in U.S. election security. Jerome Lovato, the testing and certification director for voting system certification at the EAC, is leaving that position next month, two sources told CyberScoop. And the commission began advertising the opening for the job he holds last week. His departure follows Josh Franklin leaving his job as EAC chief technology officer in December, and in November, Maurice Turner leaving as senior adviser to the executive director of the commission. The exits come at a sensitive time for the commission. The EAC this month voted to approve a long-awaited update to its widely-used voluntary voting system guidelines, nicknamed VVSG 2.0, and a perhaps years-long implementation period will follow. Those guidelines emphasize the value of risk-limiting audits that help verify election results, which were Lovato’s speciality both before he joined the EAC staff and during his time at the commission. It’s not the only transition for the EAC, either. The commission on Wednesday announced that Donald Palmer had begun his expected term as chairman, taking the gavel from Ben Hovland. Palmer, whom President Donald Trump nominated as a commissioner, will make “building a voluntary election system testing program for non-voting technology to increase the security of election systems” a priority, an EAC news release said. Lovato joined the EAC in 2017, and in 2019 took the role he’s now departing. Before that, he worked for the Colorado secretary of state.

Full Article: Election Assistance Commission loses another key staffer, Jerome Lovato

National: Republican legislators around the country seek to strip governors and officials of emergency election powers | Fredreka Schouten and Kelly Mena/CNN

Republican legislators around the country are moving aggressively to strip governors and other officials of their power to change election rules — after states made it easier to vote last year during the coronavirus pandemic and turnout surged to record levels. The measures have been introduced in at least eight states with Republican-controlled legislatures — including the key battlegrounds of Georgia and Arizona. Some bills would give more authority to lawmakers to establish the ground rules for voting, in an escalation of the already bitter partisan fights that have erupted following the 2020 presidential contest. The fresh showdowns over who should run elections come as allies of former President Donald Trump continue to try to cast doubt on his loss — by arguing that election officials and the courts usurped state laws when they relaxed voting rules to overcome challenges posed by the pandemic. And they represent the latest front in the ongoing political warfare over voting rules. As of this month, state legislators in 43 states had introduced 253 bills to restrict voting access, according to an updated tally by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. The proposals to curtail officials’ powers are “consistent with the pattern that is happening across the country in Republican-dominated legislatures,” Jonathan Diaz, legal counsel for voting rights at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “They are trying to corner the market on running elections and make it more difficult to expand the right to vote.”

Full Article: Republican legislators in Georgia, Arizona and other states seek to tighten their control over how elections are run – CNNPolitics

National: Proposals to restrict voting gain traction in Republican states | Adam Brewster and Caitlin Huey-Burns/CBS

After a record turnout election that delivered Democrats the presidency and the Senate, Republican lawmakers in Georgia introduced legislation this week that critics say threatens to diminish the number of voters participating in the state’s next elections. If these provisions pass, Georgia would quickly go from being one of the easiest states in which to vote by mail to one of the more difficult ones. A bill introduced in the state Senate on Tuesday would severely limit who would be able to vote by mail, requiring voters to provide an excuse in order to vote by mail, although Georgia has had no-excuse absentee voting since 2005, when it was passed by a Republican legislature. Mail-in voters would also need to submit identification information to request a ballot. In 2020, Joe Biden became the first Democrat since Bill Clinton won Georgia in 1992 to win the state, and in January, Georgia’s pair of runoff Senate elections handed control of the Senate to Democrats. A record 5 million Georgia voters voted in the presidential election, including 1.3 million by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project. The January Senate runoffs also set records, with over 4.4 million voters, including more than 1 million by mail. Georgia had two recounts and a signature audit following the general election and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. 

Full Article: Proposals to restrict voting gain traction in Republican states – CBS News

National: Dominion and Smartmatic have serious shot at victory in election disinformation suits, experts say | Tucker Higgins/CNBC

Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic USA have a good shot at winning their billion-dollar defamation suits against a host of conservative personalities and, in the case of Smartmatic, Fox News, but they still have a lot to prove in court, experts say. Each of the two election technology firms has sued several boosters of former President Donald Trump, saying that they worked to spread conspiracy theories about each company’s products in order to cast doubt on President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Dominion launched its first salvo last month, suing Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, a conspiracy theorist and former lawyer for Trump’s campaign, in separate $1.3 billion suits brought in Washington, D.C., federal court. The company hit MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell on Monday with its latest suit, also calling for damages of $1.3 billion. Dominion CEO John Poulos warned the next day on CNBC that the Lindell suit is “definitely not the last.” Smartmatic has brought one case so far, in New York state court. The company sued Giuliani and Powell in addition to Fox News and its hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro. Smartmatic has asked for a minimum of $2.7 billion from the defendants in that case. Dominion’s suits are before District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee. Smartmatic’s suit is before Judge David Cohen, a Democrat who was elected in November. While the sums are staggering, lawyers who have worked on defamation cases in the past say the companies have made a pretty good showing so far.

Full Article: Dominion and Smartmatic defamation cases are credible, experts say

National: Congress looks towards new data breach laws as Russian hack scope remains unknown | Tonya Riley/The Washington Post

Companies responding to a massive Russian hack urged Congress to update laws dictating how the private sector shares information about cybersecurity breaches with the government.  “It is time not only to talk about, but to find a way to take action, to impose in an appropriate manner some kind of notification obligation on entities in the private sector,” Microsoft president Brad Smith told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I think it’s the only way we’re going to protect the country and I think it’s the only way we’re going to protect the world.”  We are just finding out more government and private sector victims who were compromised as part of the months-long SolarWinds hacking campaign discovered in December. The full scope of the victims of the Russian hack is still unknown since private companies have no legal obligation to come forward with the information. As the White House readies sanctions against Russia for the attack and other malign cyberactivity, as Ellen Nakashima reported, committee members from both parties expressed interest in boosting reporting requirements, which have failed in the past due to aggressive industry lobbying and Republican wariness over regulation.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Congress looks towards new data breach laws as Russian hack scope remains unknown – The Washington Post

National: House set to move on elections overhaul as outside advocates focus on Senate | Kate Ackley/Roll Call

With House Democrats poised to pass their 791-page campaign finance, elections and ethics overhaul as soon as next week, outside groups that support the measure are turning to the Senate. Left-leaning organizations such as Indivisible, Public Citizen, Democracy 21 and Common Cause, among others, have ramped up lobbying, grassroots and advertising campaigns aimed at the Senate, which poses a potentially fatal threat to the package. Even though Democrats narrowly control both chambers, the bill would need at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. It’s a reality that has some advocates for the bill, which is dubbed HR 1 in the House and S 1 in the Senate, pushing to roll back the filibuster, at least in some fashion. “We have a broken political system, a corrupting campaign finance system and a democracy that has been greatly damaged,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of the political money overhaul group Democracy 21. “This legislation makes historic democracy reforms, and the choice is going to come down to: Are we going to repair our democracy or are we going to let an antiquated filibuster rule stand in the way of fixing our political system and our democracy?” Wertheimer added that how Senate Democrats might figure out a way to pass the bill was above his “pay grade.” On the other side, conservative organizations American Principles Project and the Susan B. Anthony List said Wednesday they were partnering in a new, at least $5 million Election Transparency Initiative led by Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump administration official, to defeat HR 1 and to mount what the groups called a vigorous defense of the filibuster.

Full Article: House set to move on elections overhaul as outside advocates focus on Senate – Roll Call

Editorial: Dominion Voting Systems’ Legal Rampage Against Trump’s Grifters | Matt Ford/The New Republic

Every year, my colleagues and I get to go through “libel training.” Every year, I also make the insufferable joke to my co-workers that we’re going to be trained to commit libel. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that exciting. A lawyer who’s worked with The New Republic for many years presents a PowerPoint on the basics of American defamation law. He describes what counts as defamation and what doesn’t, what can insulate us from liability and what can increase it, and some of the gray areas where caution might be warranted. The annual lesson is a useful reminder that we have a responsibility, both legal and moral, to use our platform wisely. (I believe it’s also required by TNR’s insurance.) From a global perspective, we’re actually pretty lucky on this front. The First Amendment makes it extraordinarily difficult to bring a successful defamation lawsuit against someone in American courts. Australia and Britain, by comparison, have much lower legal thresholds for libel claims to succeed. This is one reason, among others, why the #MeToo movement spread further in American society than it did in many other countries, where survivors’ stories could be stifled with legal threats. But the U.S. threshold for defamation claims is not insurmountable. Mike Lindell, the far-right CEO of MyPillow, may soon find this out the hard way. Dominion Voting Systems filed a lawsuit against him this week for his central role in spreading what it refers to in its suit as the “Big Lie” that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election, which among other things implicates the company as a participant in this unhinged conspiracy to thwart American democracy. “Despite having been specifically directed to the evidence and sources disproving the Big Lie, Lindell knowingly lied about Dominion to sell more pillows to people who continued tuning in to hear what they wanted to hear about the election,” Dominion said in the complaint.

Full Article: Dominion Voting Systems’ Legal Rampage Against Trump’s Grifters | The New Republic

Editorial: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election | Laurence Tribe/The Hill

The 2020 election revealed rot in this country’s institutions. Donald Trump degraded the presidency; senators like Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) degraded the Congress. And, in a direct shot at the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election as our 46th president, Justice Clarence Thomas made clear that the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election — a major source of institutional decay — has infected the Supreme Court, too. Thomas staked out his Trumpian position in a dissent from the Supreme Court’s dismissal of two election-related lawsuits in Pennsylvania. Republicans in Pennsylvania had asked the Supreme Court to answer a recurring question that plagued the 2020 election: Does the United States Constitution permit the members of a state legislature, acting as a gang of elected lawmakers unconstrained by the state’s own constitution, to seize control of a presidential election by naming their own slate of electors to replace those chosen by the votes of the state’s people? The answer to that crucial question depends in part on parsing Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that presidential electors are appointed “in such Manner as the Legislature [of the State] may direct.” Some maintain that, by vesting the power to choose electors in state “Legislature[s],” the Constitution has designated a free-range bunch of state representatives to meet wherever they like and do whatever suits their fancy. They claim the Constitution authorized state legislatures to ignore procedural requirements (like the number of votes needed to pass a bill) drawn from the state’s constitution and even substantive state constitutional provisions (like those enshrining the right to fair and equal voting opportunities). Most constitutional scholars, myself included, reject this Wild West view of the Constitution. Instead, when the Constitution empowers a state “Legislature,” it takes legislature as it finds it: a body defined and circumscribed both by the state’s constitution as authoritatively construed by the state’s highest court, and by the federal Constitution as construed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Full Article: Laurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election | TheHill

Arizona: Maricopa County’s 2020 election votes were counted correctly, more county audits show | Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

The results of Maricopa County’s independent audit of 2020 election results are in.The verdict: The election was sound.Maricopa County on Tuesday released the results of election audits from two independent auditors it hired to verify that voting machines were not hacked, were not connected to the internet and counted votes properly during the 2020 general election. The auditors found that the county used certified equipment and software, no malicious hardware was found on voting machines, the machines were not connected to the internet, and the machines were programmed to tabulate ballots accurately, according to a letter from county election directors to the supervisors. These results, along with the previous audits the county and political parties did and other security protocols “confirm that Maricopa County Elections Department’s configuration and setup of the tabulation equipment and election management system provided an accurate counting of ballots and reporting of election results,” county election directors Scott Jarrett and Rey Valenzuela wrote in the letter. The county’s Board of Supervisors will review the audit results at a 1 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. The results and results summary were posted Tuesday as an attachment to the meeting agenda. Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers said in a statement on Tuesday that the county was releasing the audit results “so that the public can see what we see and know what we know: no hacking or vote switching occurred in the 2020 election.”

Full Article: Maricopa County’s election audits show 2020 votes counted correctly

Georgia Counties Sue Trump for Expenses From His Failed Voting Fraud Suit | Aimee Sachs/Courthouse News Service

Two Atlanta-area counties filed lawsuits against former President Donald Trump this week, seeking legal fees in his campaign’s failed voting fraud lawsuit against state election officials. Cobb County filed a motion in Fulton County Superior Court on Monday, followed by DeKalb County filing a similar motion against Trump and Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer. Cobb County’s Director of Registration and Elections Janine Eveler and DeKalb County’s Erica Hamilton were among a dozen of others named in the original complaint, which was filed in Fulton County Superior Court in December. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger was also listed as a defendant. The Trump campaign filed similar legal actions that failed in several other states. “Given the number of failed lawsuits filed by the former President and his campaign, Petitioners apparently believed that they could filed their baseless and legally deficient actions with impunity, with no regard for the costs extracted from the taxpayers’ coffers of the consequences to the democratic foundations of our country,” the motion states. The Georgia lawsuit alleged widespread voter fraud in the Peach State and challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election that Democrat Joe Biden won with the help of voters of Cobb County and DeKalb County. Biden won Cobb County with 56.35% of the vote, and in DeKalb County he received 83.12% of the vote. A statewide recount confirmed Biden’s victory.

Full Article: Georgia Counties Sue Trump for Expenses From His Failed Voting Fraud Suit – Courthouse News Service

Georgia bill clears Senate that would let state take over local election boards | David Wickert/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would allow the state to take over local election offices that fail to meet standards. Senate Bill 89 would allow the State Election Board to establish criteria for “low-performing” election offices and, if they don’t improve, to replace the local officials with new election superintendents indefinitely. Supporters said the bill would mean more support for local election officials, as well as accountability for those — such as Fulton County — that have repeatedly had election problems. “The state has come down on Fulton County numerous times, but we still see systemic problems,” said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell. Critics said the state already has the authority to investigate and hold local officials accountable. They say the proposal would usurp local control of elections guaranteed in the Georgia Constitution. “What this bill is really trying to get to is removing (local) election superintendents,” said Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta. The measure passed by a vote of 35-18. SB 89 is one of a slew of bills that seek to reshape voting in Georgia in the wake of a 2020 election that confirmed Georgia’s status as a national partisan battleground. The state helped deliver the presidency to Democrat Joe Biden and flipped control of the U.S. Senate.

Full Article: Georgia bill clears Senate that would let state take over local election boards

Iowa Republicans Approve Fast-Track Dramatic Election Bill | David Pitt/Associated Press

Iowa House Republicans cast the final vote needed Wednesday to send a bill to the governor that sharply limits early voting in the state, months after a general election overseen by a Republican secretary of state resulted in record turnout and overwhelming victories by GOP candidates. The bill passed with only Republican votes just a day after it similarly passed the Senate. Supporters of the legislation cited fraud concerns as the reason early voting must be reined in. However, like in many other Republican-led states where similar steps are being considered, there historically haven’t been widespread concerns about irregularities in the election system. “When we go back home and talk to people in the gas stations, at the grocery stores and at the hardware stores there is no disputing there are tens of thousands of Iowans that tell this Republican caucus every single week when we go home we emphatically support this bill, we want this bill, we think this bill is necessary and we support it,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who managed the bill in the House. Democrats who are outnumbered in both chambers were left aghast but in no position to stop the changes. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, has indicated she’d consider them. “Last fall we had elections overseen by a Republican secretary of state in which Republicans gained seats in the Iowa House and the U.S. House, so if there is any significant voter fraud in this state then two things are true,” Democratic Sen. Herman Quirmbach of Ames said. “It’s your fault, and second, it raises questions of the legitimacy of your own elections.”

Full Article: Iowa Republicans Approve Fast-Track Dramatic Election Bill | Political News | US News

Louisiana Senate leader wants voting machine search scrapped | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

A key Louisiana Senate leader Thursday called on Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to jettison his search for new voting machines and redo the effort after seeking more guidance from lawmakers, election experts and the public. In a sharply worded letter to Ardoin, Sen. Sharon Hewitt said the state’s Republican elections chief rushed to start shopping for replacement voting equipment without legislative oversight and without trying to reinforce public trust. She accused Ardoin of “attempting to further avoid public scrutiny by hiding behind a blackout period” now that the solicitation for bidders is underway. “As THE statewide elected official charged with protecting our election procedures, your office’s actions are paramount to building trust and instilling confidence that our elections are fair and run according to Louisiana laws enacted by the legislature,” Hewitt wrote in a letter to Ardoin. Ardoin defended his search for a contractor and suggested he will continue to pursue the effort. Hewitt leads the Senate’s Republican delegation and chairs the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversees election issues — a position that could make it difficult for Ardoin if he tries to continue shopping for voting machines without her support. Ardoin will need contract approval from the majority-GOP joint House and Senate budget committee before entering into any deal for election equipment, and Hewitt also sits on that panel.

Full Article: Louisiana Senate leader wants voting machine search scrapped

Michigan: Emails reveal Antrim County’s response to problem that fueled conspiracies | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

Antrim County has inspired nationwide conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election, but internal emails from the northern Michigan county clerk’s office show election officials quickly identified the human errors that led to problems with initial results. There wasn’t a mysterious glitch with the Dominion Voting Systems election technology, as some lawyers and advocates have suggested without providing clear evidence. Instead, late changes to the ballot and the lack of a thorough rechecking of the machinery led to the discrepancies. Antrim County election officials realized something went wrong within five hours of posting the unofficial results showing that Democrat Joe Biden won the Republican county stronghold, according to a Detroit News review of hundreds of emails from within the Antrim County Clerk’s Office.  They took responsibility for the mistakes that led to the problems, worked to share information about what had happened but were overpowered by a wave of false allegations. The 2020 election in Antrim County is defined by a handful of errors that turned into fuel for frustrated supporters of President Donald Trump, who handily won Antrim County when the official results were posted three days later but who lost Michigan by 154,000 votes. Instead of emphasizing what happened, which was clear to local election officials on Nov. 4, high-ranking Republicans spent weeks pushing to investigate the situation, which fanned the fires of conspiracy.

Full Article: Emails reveal Antrim’s response to problem that fueled conspiracies

North Dakota Senate has passed a bill hiding presidential vote counts | Bob Port/Jamestown Sun

The fighting over close national elections can be vicious. We saw that last year in the heated battle between Joe Biden and Donald Trump where many of the latter’s supporters made claims of vote fraud. But it’s not a recent phenomenon. Turn back the clock and you find Democrats in the George W. Bush-era hatching conspiracy theories about Diebold voting machines.Given the reality of that sort of turbulence, does it make any sense to make the election process less transparent? Less open to public scrutiny?A bill before the Legislature in Bismarck would do just that. Senate Bill 2271, introduced by Sen. Robert Erbele, a Republican from Lehr, would hide the vote counts for North Dakota’s presidential elections from the public. State officials would still be allowed to release percentage figures representing the share of the vote each candidate got, but the actual vote numbers would be a secret until after the Electoral College votes from each state are cast. Surprised you haven’t heard of this bill? Don’t be. It hasn’t gotten much attention, despite having sailed through the Senate already on a lopsided 43-3 vote. It’s “almost a politburo situation from Soviet Russia,” Saul Anuzis said on this episode of Plain Talk. Anuzis is a long-time Republican leader – he led the Michigan GOP for years and was twice a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee – and of late is a proponent of an interstate compact promoting the national popular vote. He says Erbele’s bill is being pushed by a lobbyist opposed to the national popular vote, the idea being that North Dakota can’t participate in any national popular vote proposals if we don’t report our popular vote totals.

Full Article: Plain Talk: North Dakota Senate has passed a bill hiding presidential vote counts | Jamestown Sun

Pennsylvania counties will again be unable to process mail ballots early during primary election | Marie Albiges/Spotlight PA

Local officials in Pennsylvania are facing another election without extra time to process mail ballots, likely leading to delayed results and putting increased pressure on counties reeling from the most expensive contest ever. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre) and Rep. Seth Grove (R., York) told the New Castle News last week they likely wouldn’t consider any election-related legislation until after the House State Government Committee completes its 14 election oversight meetings, the last of which is scheduled for May 5, less than two weeks before the May 18 primary. The municipal primary — which includes races for local and appellate court judges, school board members, and township positions — typically has much lower turnout than a presidential race. But election officials said they can’t predict how many voters will take advantage of the state’s no-excuse mail voting law during an off-year election. “It’s just not possible, even with a small election, to get everything counted in one day plus run another election,” said Marybeth Kuznik, Armstrong County’s election director.

Full Article: Counties will again be unable to process mail ballots early during Pa.’s primary election · Spotlight PA

Washington State House passes bill to exempt certain election security information from public records disclosure | Laurel Demkovich/The Spokesman-Review

A bill that would exempt certain election security information from public records disclosures passed the state House of Representatives Wednesday. After an election that brought up questions of security, the bill aims to keep certain election procedures and plans of continuity unavailable to the public. Sponsor Rep. Laurie Dolan, D-Olympia, called it “an election integrity issue.” Election security information and contingency plans should not be provided “as a road map” to the bad actors who want to harm elections, Dolan said. “We need to secure our elections from bad actors in order to have truthworthy results,” she said. The bill passed 61-37, with many Republicans saying they oppose exempting more from the Public Records Act, which requires all state and local governmental entities to make public records available to the public.

Full Article: State House passes bill to exempt certain election security information from public records disclosure | The Spokesman-Review

Wisconsin: Rightwing group nearly forced state to purge thousands of eligible voters | Sam Levine and Alvin Chang/The Guardian

well-connected conservative group in Wisconsin nearly succeeded in forcing the state to kick nearly 17,000 eligible voters off its rolls ahead of the 2020 election, new state data reveals. The group, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (Will), caused a national uproar in late 2019 when it successfully convinced a county judge to order the state to immediately remove more than 232,000 people Wisconsin suspected of moving homes from the state’s voter rolls. The state, relying on government records, had sent a postcard to all of those voters asking them to confirm their address, and Will sought to remove anyone who had not responded within 30 days. Democrats on the commission refused to comply with the order, believing that they didn’t have the authority to immediately remove the voters and that the underlying data wasn’t reliable, and wanted to give voters until April 2021 to confirm their address before they removed them. Appeals courts intervened and blocked the removals; the case is currently pending before the Wisconsin supreme court. There were still more than 71,000 voters still on the list at the end of January who did not respond to the mailer (152,524 people on the list updated their registration at a new address). But new data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission shows how disastrous such a purge could have been. And the dispute underscores the way fights over how states remove people from their voter rolls – often called purging – has become a critical part of protecting voting rights in America. Across the country, Republicans and conservative groups have pushed for aggressive purging, saying it helps prevent fraud. Democrats and voting rights groups say the process can be done haphazardly, leaving eligible voters, particularly minority groups and students, at risk of being wrongly purged.

Full Article: Rightwing group nearly forced Wisconsin to purge thousands of eligible voters | US news | The Guardian

National: U.S. Supreme Court formally pulls the plug on election-related cases | Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley/Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday brought a formal end to eight lingering disputes pursued by former President Donald Trump and his allies related to the Nov. 3 presidential election including a Republican challenge to the extension of Pennsylvania’s deadline to receive mail-in ballots. The justices turned away appeals by the Republican Party of Pennsylvania and Republican members of the state legislature of a ruling by Pennsylvania’s top court ordering officials to count mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day and received up to three days later. Three of the nine-member court’s six conservative justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – dissented from the decision not to hear the Pennsylvania case. Trump, a Republican, lost his re-election bid to Democrat Joe Biden, who took office on Jan. 20. Biden defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania and the legal case focused on fewer than 10,000 ballots. The high court, as expected, also rejected two Trump appeals challenging Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin based on claims that the rules for mail-in ballots in the two election battleground states were invalid. The court also turned away separate cases brought by Trump allies in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona – all states won by Biden.

Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court formally pulls the plug on election-related cases | Reuters

Editorial: For trusted elections, we should model 2020 | Matt Masterson/TheHill

In the wake of the horrific Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — which was fueled by months of lies and conspiracy theories — election officials are left to pick up the pieces of our fractured democracy and begin to rebuild trust in our elections. They cannot and should not be asked to do this alone. It took a whole of government effort to secure the 2020 election and it will take that same level of investment to restore confidence in future elections. President Biden and his administration can play a critical role in this work. First, the new administration must double down on support to state and most importantly, local election officials. These heroes are being asked to defend their systems against threats from criminal actorsnation states and purveyors of disinformation. In the lead-up to the 2020 election, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and intelligence community, led the federal effort to support election officials in all 50 states to improve the security and resilience of their systems. This included pushing actionable information regarding cyber activity targeting election networks to thousands of election offices, scanning and testing election networks for vulnerabilities, literally pulling apart election systems to the chips and boards to find and mitigate weaknesses, responding to cyber incidents such as ransomware at the state and local level and sharing intelligence regarding foreign threats to elections broadly across the election community. In the end, this was as smooth and well run a presidential election as I have ever experienced in my fifteen years in elections. In the face of a global pandemichistoric turnout and baseless claims of rigging and malfeasance, state and local election officials rose to the occasion and administered a secure, accessible and accurate election.

Full Article: For trusted elections, we should model 2020 | TheHill

National: ‘No Evidence’ Of Election Fraud In Battleground States, Statistical Analysis Finds As Trump Continues False Claims | Alison Durkee/Forbes

A new MITRE Corporation analysis of eight battleground states’ election results found there was “no evidence of fraud, manipulation, or uncorrected error”—including involving Dominion voting machines—further emphasizing the presidential race wasn’t “stolen” or fraudulent even as former President Donald Trump and his allies continue to push those claims. The analysis, done by MITRE’s nonpartisan National Election Security Lab, looked at presidential election results from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, with a focus on several “anomalies” that have been held up by some in the GOP as evidence of potential fraud. In response to a far-right conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems’ voting machines fraudulently flipped votes to Joe Biden, researchers compared results from different vendors’ machines and found “there was no statistical difference” that would suggest votes on Dominion machines were changed. Using statistical data analysis, researchers looked into allegations of so-called ballot harvesting in Georgia–in which third parties deliver people’s ballots, which critics say could cause them to be tampered with—and found “no suspicious indicators” of the practice. There was also no evidence of “vote flipping or ballot box stuffing” in Georgia, after researchers created an “election fingerprint” using turnout and voter data that can be used to detect fraud.

Full Article: ‘No Evidence’ Of Election Fraud In Battleground States, Statistical Analysis Finds As Trump Continues False Claims

National: High-profile elections officials leave posts after a tumultuous 2020 | Fredreka Schouten and Kelly Mena/CNN

A cluster of election officials around the country have lost or left their jobs in recent weeks, as the fallout from the tumultuous 2020 election season continues. The exits come as experts say a wave of departures could be on the horizon, as elections officials reach retirement age or leave jobs that have become increasingly targeted in partisan political battles. Secretaries of state have broad portfolios, ranging from election oversight to registering corporations. The day-to-day responsibilities of administering elections generally fall to officials at the county and city level. Indiana’s Secretary of State Connie Lawson, the state’s longest-serving elections chief, announced Monday her plans to resign, saying “2020 took a toll on me.” On Tuesday, the Fulton County, Georgia, elections board voted 3-2 to remove elections director Richard Barron from his post in the state’s largest county, citing the need to modernize elections. (His future is in flux after a county commission failed to ratify the election panel’s decision.) And Pennsylvania’s top election official Kathy Boockvar, who became a familiar face across the country as she oversaw an intensely scrutinized presidential contest last November, resigned this month after her agency mistakenly failed to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment — an error unrelated to the 2020 election. Potentially a quarter of local election officials in some of the country’s largest jurisdictions are planning to retire before 2024, according to a survey of 857 officials in all 50 states by the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College.

Full Article: High-profile elections officials leave posts after a tumultuous 2020 – CNNPolitics

National: Meet SG3: The Élite Legal Squad That Vowed to Safeguard the Election | Jane Mayer/The New Yorker

Last March, after President Trump declaimed that the only way he could lose the election was if there was fraud, Seth Waxman couldn’t sleep. A member of the tiny, élite club of litigators who have served as Solicitors General of the United States, Waxman is not a mellow guy. An obsessive runner with the wound-up energy of a twisted rubber band, he often wakes up at three in the morning agitated by something or other. Typically, he makes a cup of tea, works for an hour, and goes back to bed. But the insomnia last March, he said, “was, like, five nights in a row!” The proximate cause was what he calls “the Doomsday scenarios,” which he feared could unfold if Trump tried to subvert the 2020 election. Could the President order the election postponed because of the pandemic? he wondered. Could he call a reunion of the ice agents he sent into Portland to intimidate minority voters in urban centers? Night after night, Waxman tabulated every possible thing that could go wrong. Having advised several Democratic Presidential campaigns, he was familiar with the pitfalls. But none of the nightmares conjured by Trump “corresponded with anything I’d worried about in earlier campaigns,” he said. He ended up with a three-and-a-half-page single-spaced list of potential catastrophes. Eleven months before the Senate impeachment trial exposed an unprecedented level of political savagery, Waxman quietly prepared for the worst. He reached out to two other former Solicitors General, Walter Dellinger and Donald Verrilli, who served as the Clinton and the Obama Administrations’ advocates, respectively, before the Supreme Court. By April, they had formed a small swat team to coördinate with the Biden campaign. They called themselves the Three Amigos, but the campaign referred to them as SG3. Their goal: safeguarding the election.

Full Article: Meet SG3: The Élite Legal Squad That Vowed to Safeguard the Election | The New Yorker