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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Republicans lead national push to restrict the vote | Melanie Mason/Los Angeles Times

The national battle over voting restrictions was, for one sluggish February afternoon, waged in a cramped hearing room of Arizona’s House of Representatives. Separated by plexiglass barriers, Republican lawmakers steadily plowed ahead on bills that, put together, could make it harder for Arizonans to vote. Members of a House committee advanced a proposal to forbid the use of private money to help conduct elections, such as by buying equipment or funding voter education. They approved a bill making it a felony for an official to change any election-related date set in statute. They OKd a measure to preemptively forbid same-day voter registration, which the state does not currently offer. Each bill was portrayed by its proponents as a commonsense housekeeping measure to guard against wrongdoing, or even the perception of it. Voting rights advocates see a broader — and more damaging — agenda. “If you look at one of them, it may not seem that big a deal, but there’s 50 or more of them,” Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director of All Voting is Local, said in an interview. “They all add up to changing our election system in substantial ways to basically respond to the ‘Big Lie’” — that last year’s presidential election was stolen from former President Trump. Similar scenes are playing out in statehouses across the country, with a barrage of voting restriction measures snaking through the legislative process.

Full Article: Arizona Republicans lead national push to restrict the vote – Los Angeles Times

Arizona: Judge Rules State Senate Can Access 2020 Election Ballots | Bob Christie/Associated Press

A judge ruled Friday that the Arizona Senate can get access to 2.1 million ballots and election equipment from Arizona’s most populous county so it can audit results of the 2020 election that saw Democrat Joe Biden win in the state. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason’s decision comes after a protracted battled between the Republican-controlled state Senate and the GOP-dominated Maricopa County board over subpoenas issued by the Senate. The five-member Board of Supervisors argued that the ballots were secret, that the Legislature had no right to access them and that the subpoenas issued by Senate President Karen Fann were for an illegitimate purpose, among other arguments. The Senate’s lawyers contended that the constitution gives the Legislature the role of maintaining the purity of elections and make sure voter integrity is protected, that the subpoenas were legal and a proper use of legislative power. In his ruling, Thomason agreed with the Senate on all those arguments, saying the subpoenas “are legal and enforceable.” “There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas,” Thomason wrote. “The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas. The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections.

Full Article: Judge Rules Arizona Senate Can Access 2020 Election Ballots | Arizona News | US News

Georgia bills would replace bipartisan county election boards | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

With a quick vote last week, the Georgia General Assembly passed the first bill to break up a county’s volunteer, bipartisan elections board. It’s the beginning of legislation to remove equal political representation over local election offices across Georgia. Other county election boards could soon face the same fate as Morgan County’s, where replacement election board members would instead be chosen by the mostly Republican County Commission. Bills to change local elections management are being debated along with sweeping legislation to require ID for absentee voting, restrict drop boxes and limit weekend early voting in Georgia. These measures follow a two-month effort by Donald Trump and his Republican supporters to overturn the presidential election results despite state officials saying there was no evidence of widespread fraud. So far, legislators from Morgan and at least two more counties are pursuing the removal of bipartisan election boards, whose members were appointed by each party with a nonpartisan chairperson to break ties. Lawmakers are also considering similar changes in metro Atlanta and other counties, creating the possibility of politicized local elections oversight.

Full Article: Georgia bills would replace bipartisan county election boards

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

Editorial: Keep your eye on Kentucky’s voting plans | Joshua A. Douglas/CNN

Many Republican-led state legislatures are crafting new voter restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election, but one particularly red state may buck that trend. Kentucky is considering a bill that would actually expand voter access while also enhancing integrity measures. The measure just passed the House by an overwhelming and bipartisan 93-4 vote, and it will hopefully achieve that same success in the Senate. It’s a lesson in what’s possible in the all-too-partisan world of election law. Other states should take notice. It began with a successfully executed 2020 election, in which Kentucky, which has some of the most restrictive voting rules in the nation, eased voter access in light of the pandemic. Normally, Kentucky has no early voting, no online ballot request tool for absentee voters and no “cure” process if the signature on the ballot does not match the one on file with the state. For 2020, however, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael G. Adams crafted a bipartisan emergency plan to allow for early voting, the adoption of countywide vote centers, an online portal to request an absentee ballot, and the ability for voters to cure problems with their ballots. The process led to higher turnout and nationwide praise. And Republicans still did extremely well, even with expanded voter access.

Full Article: Opinion: Keep your eye on Kentucky’s voting plans – CNN

Lousiana: Election Systems and Software protests state’s voting machine search | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

Another elections technology firm is objecting to the terms of Louisiana’s voting machine search, accusing the secretary of state of trying to manipulate the bid process to benefit its current contractor and raising echoes of the dispute that derailed efforts to get new machines three years ago. Election Systems and Software filed a formal protest with Louisiana’s procurement office about the criteria that Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the state’s top elections official, is using to replace 10,000 Election Day and early voting machines. The Nebraska-based voting system vendor, known as ES&S, said Ardoin’s bid solicitation will limit the state to choosing a “system virtually identical to the current system.” ES&S said it’s impossible for any company to meet the criteria except for Louisiana’s current contractor, Dominion Voting Systems. “It is a noncompetitive solicitation,” ES&S lawyers wrote in the protest filed Friday with Louisiana’s chief procurement officer, Paula Tregre.

Full Article: Another company protests Louisiana’s voting machine search | Elections |

Nevada lawmaker wants to make universal mail-in voting permanent | John Sadler/Las Vegas Sun

Expanded mail-in voting implemented in Nevada last year — which Democrats and voting rights activists praised and Republicans criticized — could become permanent. Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, is expected to introduce a bill similar to a one-time measure passed last year amid the pandemic to send mail-in ballots to all active registered voters. The major difference is the bill would apply to all future elections. “It wouldn’t be consistent with Nevada’s independent spirit to take that option away from voters,” Frierson said. The legislation may address the speed at which votes are counted and reported, but specifics are still being ironed out, Frierson said. Educating the public about the safety of mail-in ballots is a priority, he said. “I think that we absolutely have to take into account that there are some people who are, I believe, misled with false information about fraudulent activity,” Frierson said. Mail-in ballots were at the heart of a partisan fight during last year’s presidential election, with Democrats arguing they expanded voting opportunities and kept voters safe during the pandemic and Republicans making unsupported claims they contribute to voter fraud.

Full Article: Lawmaker wants to make universal mail-in voting permanent in Nevada – Las Vegas Sun Newspaper

New Hampshire: Voters, officials look into vote count discrepancy in Windham | Cherise Leclerc/WMUR

Voters in Windham have continued to call for answers over a discrepancy in votes between election night and a subsequent recount. During a meeting held on Monday night, the Deputy Moderator said they still do not know which vote count is correct. Officials with the company that owns the voting machines, LHS Associates in Salem, were as the meeting held Monday. They explained how the machines work and the next steps, saying they are in support of a 100% audit of the election results. A recount of the state representative race found about 300 additional votes for each of the winning candidates. Town Clerk Nicole Bottai explained the security behind the four machines that have been in use for 20 years.

Full Article: Voters, officials look into vote count discrepancy in Windham

South Dakota Senate committee defeats ban on mailing absentee ballot applications | Nathan Thompson/Rapid City Journal

A bill seeking to ban the secretary of state from automatically mailing absentee ballot applications failed Monday in the Senate State Affairs Committee. HB1126, sponsored by Rep. Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, and Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, would have outlawed the secretary of state’s office from mailing applications for an absentee ballot unless the voter requested it. Dennert said the bill was meant to add another layer of security for absentee voting and ensure more confidence in the process. “Historically, our absentee system has been a secure way to vote. However, many will agree the most secure form of voting is in person, and I believe we should encourage our citizens who are able to physically vote on election day or by in-person absentee when possible,” Dennert said. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the secretary of state’s office pre-emptively mailed out absentee ballot applications to all South Dakota voters for the 2020 elections. Secretary of State Steve Barnett said he wanted every registered voter in the state to have the opportunity to vote and encouraged people to cast their ballots by mail because of the pandemic.

Full Article: Senate committee defeats ban on mailing absentee ballot applications | Legislature |

Wisconsin: Study uncovers flaws in process for maintaining state voter rolls | Mike Cummings/Yale News

States regularly use administrative records, such as motor-vehicle data, in determining whether people have moved to prune their voter rolls. A Yale-led study of this process in Wisconsin shows that a significant percentage of registered voters are incorrectly identified as having changed addresses, potentially endangering their right to vote. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, found that at least 4% of people listed as suspected “movers” cast ballots in 2018 elections using addresses that were wrongly flagged as out of date. Minority voters were twice as likely as white voters to cast their ballot with their original address of registration after the state marked them as having moved, the study showed. The findings suggest that states should more clearly communicate the processes they use to update voter-registration files and that a more robust effort is required to confirm whether individuals have moved before they are removed from the voter rolls, said Yale political scientist Gregory A. Huber, the study’s lead author. The process of maintaining states’ voter-registration files cries out for greater transparency,” said Huber, the Forst Family Professor of Political Science in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. “Our work shows that significant numbers of people are at risk of being disenfranchised, particularly those from minority groups.

Full Article: Study uncovers flaws in process for maintaining state voter rolls | YaleNews