As Georgia Republicans face backlash over new sweeping voting restrictions, activists in other states are escalating efforts to oppose similar restrictions advancing in other states. Texas and Arizona have emerged as two of the next major battlegrounds over voting rights. Texas Republicans last week advanced legislation that would limit early voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and give partisan poll workers the ability to record voters at the polls, among other measures. In Arizona, Republicans are moving ahead with an audit of ballots from the presidential race while also advancing legislation that would make it harder to vote by mail. Nationally lawmakers have introduced 361 bills to limit access to the ballot in some way, according to a tally by the Brennan Center for Justice. Fifty-five of those bills are advancing in legislatures. After companies like Delta and Coca-Cola faced criticism for waiting too long to speak out against the Georgia legislation, advocates have been heartened by swift corporate condemnation of the Texas measure. American Airlines, which is based in Texas, said on Thursday it was “strongly opposed” to the Texas legislation. Microsoft and Dell also spoke out against the measures. Major League Baseball announced on Friday it was moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s sweeping new law. Joe Straus, the former speaker of the Texas house of representatives, also came out against the measures on Thursday, tweeting that businesses had “good reason” to oppose the bill. “Texas should not go down the same path as Georgia. It’s bad for business and, more importantly, it’s bad for our citizens,” he said.
Protecting American Democracy Is No Crime – New Laws Could Make Election Officials Legal Targets | Lawrence Norden/Foreign Affairs
In the past 12 months, American election officials have been heralded for their courage and commitment in carrying out the most logistically challenging election in modern times—with record turnout, no less. They have also been attacked as villains by those who believe the Big Lie, that the election was somehow stolen from then President Donald Trump. Election officials—who before 2020 had been largely ignored by the Twittersphere and conspiracy theorists—became the targets of thousands of false accusations, protests at their workplaces, and even harassment and threats. Such mistreatment is now taking a new and possibly even more sinister form. Legislation in several states proposes to strip election officials of their power to act on behalf of voters and to criminalize various actions they might take in the course of performing their duties. These bills add the danger of arrest and prosecution to already challenging working conditions. They should be beaten back by all who are committed to preserving American democracy. The recently passed law in Georgia is just one example. The law has rightly been criticized for its suppressive provisions, such as one that makes it a crime for volunteers to provide in-person voters with water, even when they’ve been waiting in line for hours. Less noticed are provisions that take key powers away from election officials. SB 202 removes Georgia’s secretary of state—who stood up to Trump’s efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 results—from the position of chair of the state election board and turns control of the board over to the state legislature. That newly constituted board is in turn given more power to intervene in the activity of local election boards, including by removing and replacing local board members. Reasonable people can disagree as to what is the best structure of a state election board, but all should be opposed to retaliating against an office for its holder’s refusal to bend to inappropriate and extreme political pressure.
National: How some states are expanding voting rights amid sweeping push to restrict access | Kendall Karson/ABC
The GOP’s rush to impose hundreds of voting restrictions in the aftermath of a bruising electoral loss comes as a burgeoning number of states are pressing ahead with an alternative ambition: making voting easier. The effort might seem like an outlier at a time when Republicans are scaling back voting access across the country and being condemned by Democrats for ushering in a new era of “Jim Crow.” In the aftermath of former President Donald Trump and his allies spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, at least 361 bills aimed at restricting ballot access have been introduced as of March 24, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. But the push to embrace broadening access to the voting booth isn’t few and far between. In fact, lawmakers in at least 47 states are putting forward more than 800 bills to expand the right to vote. As the nation seems bitterly fractured over election rules, in the heart of Trump country, one red state appears to be the lone exception so far. Kentucky lawmakers agreed on a bipartisan and modest expansion of voting rights, melded with some new restrictions to address election security. The new law, which was signed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday, sets tighter restrictions on who is eligible to vote-by-mail compared to the 2020 election, but it also provides three days for early voting, establishes vote centers to increase options for casting a ballot in-person, and creates an online portal for voters to request mail-in ballots.
National: Nation Has Georgia on Its Mind but Many States Are Making Voting Easier | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline
During the waning days of the presidential election, Vermont Democratic state Sen. Cheryl Hooker got a desperate call from one of her constituents: The woman said she had forgotten to sign her name on the absentee ballot, it had been rejected by the town clerk and she couldn’t fix it. This was a familiar story around the country, as the pandemic forced voters and election administrators to take a crash course in mail-in voting. “People make mistakes,” said Hooker, who couldn’t help her constituent at the time. “They don’t sign the outside envelope, or they forget to put their name on it. Their vote would not count.” When Vermont’s legislative session began earlier this year, Hooker introduced a measure that would create a process for voters to “cure” signatures or other technical mistakes on mail-in ballots. Lawmakers added provisions that would allow the state to mail ballots to every active voter before general elections. The bill passed the state Senate, is on track to pass the state House, according to Hooker, and has support from Republican Gov. Phil Scott. The national conversation around voting rights this year has focused on new ballot restrictions in states such as Arizona and Georgia. Less noticed have been efforts by states such as Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont and Virginia to expand voting by mail, early voting and voter registration. Lawmakers, mostly in heavily Democratic states, aim to loosen restrictions on the voting process, hoping to continue the trend of record turnout that most states saw last year. Lawmakers in 47 states have introduced nearly 850 bills to expand early voting, restore voting rights for people with felony convictions and set up automatic voter registration, among other measures, according to a late March count by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. This is more than twice the number of restrictive voting bills introduced this session.
National: Fifteen years ago, Smartmatic was drummed out of the United States by Lou Dobbs—but now he’s off the air and the voting machine company is attempting an American foothold once more. | Madeline Berg/Forbes
In the wake of last year’s presidential election, as Donald Trump was pushing his counterfactual narrative about vote rigging, Antonio Mugica watched Smartmatic, his little-known U.K. voting machine business become a bogeyman on right-wing media. The London-based company burst into the headlines—along with Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems—as rumors spread on social media that both companies were being shut down, their executives on the run. Some said Smartmatic, which provided machines just for Los Angeles county in 2020, secretly owned the much larger Dominion, which tallied votes in more than two dozen states. “This was so outrageous and crazy,” says Smartmatic’s 46-year-old CEO Mugica, in a rare in-depth interview. “I thought, no one would believe it.” But they did. Smartmatic promptly filed a defamation suit against Fox, three of its anchors and two Trump loyalists for $2.7 billion in financial damages, which is how much more Smartmatic’s Venezuelan cofounders say their company would be worth in the next five years if it weren’t for the ginned up controversy. (Forbes values Smartmatic, which is privately held, at an estimated $730 million. The Mugica family’s 66% stake is worth about $480 million. The other cofounder, Roger Piñate, and his family have a 19% stake. The company had an estimated $115 million in revenue last year.) The fake news story cost Smartmatic $500 million in potential profits over five years, according to the lawsuit, and derailed their plans to expand into the U.S. (This claim seems somewhat optimistic given that Smartmatic booked $450 million in profits in total over the last 12 years). Dominion filed its own $1.6 billion suit six weeks later, blaming the network for taking “a small flame and turning it into a forest fire.” Fox has filed four. motions to dismiss Smartmatic’s suit, citing the company’s First Amendment rights and claiming the content was a matter of public concern.
Arizona: Voting rights groups: Tactics in election audit are illegal, intimidating | Howard Fischer/Arizona Daily Star
Tactics planned by 2020 election auditors hired by the Arizona Senate are illegal and even criminal, attorneys for various voter rights groups contend. And the groups might go to court to try to halt them. In a letter Tuesday to Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the lawyers said the plans — which include knocking on doors and contacting people — “constitute voter intimidation.” They said it’s irrelevant whether that is the intent, and even whether that’s part of the contract Logan signed late last month with Senate President Karen Fann. That contract involves having Cyber Ninjas and other firms knock on doors in Maricopa County to determine if people actually live at that address and validate that they did in fact cast a ballot in November. A copy of the scope of work obtained by Capitol Media Services shows that Cyber Ninjas did some of that in-person contact even before the contract was signed. And the document claims that work has “brought forth a number of significant anomalies suggesting significant problems in the voter rolls.” The same document says Cyber Ninjas and others working with the Florida firm will audit at least three voting precincts they have decided have “a high number of anomalies,” to “conduct an audit of voting history related to all members of the voter rolls.”
Editorial: Farcical Maricopa County election audit just a sideshow to Trump circus | Tim Steller/Arizona Daily Star
Don’t look at the bias — that’s not what really matters. So claims Doug Logan, CEO of the firm called Cyber Ninjas that is playing at auditing Maricopa County’s elections as a contractor for Arizona’s state Senate Republicans. Logan put out a statement Tuesday responding to what he termed the “spurious clamor over bias insinuations.” I appreciated the fun word choice, but it couldn’t cover up his conclusion: He may be biased, but that doesn’t matter because the audit will be so, so good. Those aren’t his precise words, but they were the gist of his meaning when he said, “The big question should not be ‘Am I biased,’ but ‘Will this audit be transparent, truthful and accurate?’ The answer to the latter question is a resounding ‘Yes.’ ” In truth, the Arizona Senate Republicans’ so-called audit of the presidential election in Maricopa County is dead on arrival. In an effort to appease the GOP conspiracy caucus, Senate President Karen Fann and her sidekick, Sen. Warren Petersen, have chosen a team that has no credibility with anyone but conservative election conspiracists. For the rest of the state’s population, this audit is just a final sideshow of the Trump circus, best ignored or jeered at, but certainly not believed.
The Republican and Democratic county clerks in El Paso and Pueblo Counties want voters in their communities to be confident in the results of the 2020 presidential election. On Thursday, both officials made digital copies of every voted ballot from the election available to the public. Clerk Chuck Broerman in El Paso County, a Republican, said he and his staff are still answering questions five months later from voters who believe fraud occurred. He doesn’t want those doubts to discourage people from participating in future elections. “People get a little disheartened and they don’t vote, and that’s not good for our representative democracy,” Broerman said. “It’s always best when we have more voices that are heard.” He explained the Dominion Voting Systems used in Colorado are audited before and after each election to make sure they count the ballots accurately. The risk-limiting audit which occurs after each election compares a sample of paper ballots with the images of those ballots recorded by the machines and the corresponding vote tallies that were reported. Dominion was heavily criticized by the Trump campaign in lawsuits filed in various states after the election. Clerk Gilbert Ortiz in Pueblo County, a Democrat, hopes to quiet criticism from skeptics by being transparent and releasing the documents.
Full Article: County clerks release ballot images from 2020 election
Colorado Senate panel approves bill pitting election security experts against disability advocates | Pat Poblete/Colorado Politics
Democrats on a Senate panel on Tuesday advanced a bill that would allow voters with disabilities to return voted ballots online, a provision that pitted disability advocates against election security experts. Senate Bill 21-188 from Sen. Jessie Danielson seeks to build on legislation the Wheat Ridge Democrat championed in 2019 that allows voters with disabilities to access a ballot online. Under Danielson’s Senate Bill 19-202, a ballot can then be marked, printed and returned, which allows voters with disabilities to cast a ballot privately and independently. After being signed into law in May 2019, Danielson said Secretary of State Jena Griswold quickly implemented the legislation and it has largely been successful save for one hiccup: few voters with disabilities have a printer. … But the bill received pushback from election security experts such as C. Jay Coles, the senior policy associate with Verified Voting, who told lawmakers “multiple cybersecurity experts have concluded that internet voting currently is unsafe.” Coles pointed to, among other things, a 2018 National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report that concluded: “We do not, at present, have the technology to offer a secure method to support internet voting.”
Florida strips language from bill effectively banning voters from being given food and water in line | Ben Kamisar/NBC
Florida lawmakers have backtracked on legislative language that threatened to ban giving voters food or drink while near a polling place, removing the ban from an amended version of an elections bill that was approved by a House committee on Thursday. The original version of House bill 7041 forbade “giving or attempting to give any item” to a voter or “interacting or attempting to interact” with a voter within 150 feet of a polling place. But an amended version of the bill, approved by the state House Appropriations Committee, no longer includes either prohibition. However, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, argued that while the specific language is gone, it’s possible that handing out food and water could run afoul of the bill’s ban on “engaging in any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter.” Ingoglia raised the example of a well-known politician, like Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, handing out food and water to voters without specifically asking for a voter’s support. “If Ron DeSantis started walking up and down the line, handing out stuff to voters in line within the 150 feet, I’d dare to say your nominee would say he was trying to influence the vote,” he said.
What would have happened if the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, had responded, “OK, I’ll try,” in a January phone call after President Trump asked him to “find” 11,000 votes? No one can be sure. What is clear is that the question has been overlooked in recent months. Public attention has mostly moved on from Mr. Trump’s bid to overturn the election; activists and politicians are focused more on whether to restrict or expand voting access, particularly by mail. But trying to reverse an election result without credible evidence of widespread fraud is an act of a different magnitude than narrowing access. A successful effort to subvert an election would pose grave and fundamental risks to democracy, risking political violence and secessionism. Beyond any provisions on voting itself, the new Georgia election law risks making election subversion easier. It creates new avenues for partisan interference in election administration. This includes allowing the state elections board, now newly controlled by appointees of the Republican State Legislature, to appoint a single person to take control of typically bipartisan county election boards, which have important power over vote counting and voter eligibility. The law also gives the Legislature the authority to appoint the chair of the state election board and two more of its five voting members, allowing it to appoint a majority of the board. It strips the secretary of state of the chair and a vote.
Illinois: McHenry County clerk’s office figures out why results were misreported | Kelli Duncan/Daily Herald
The McHenry County clerk’s office has determined that the underreporting of votes in certain races across the county Tuesday night was because of changes made to the language on some ballots, which altered the spacing of the document just enough to interfere with machines’ ability to read votes correctly. While officials now are certain this was the cause of the issue, County Clerk Joe Tirio said his office decided to conduct a full, countywide recount of votes anyway out of an abundance of caution. “I’m obviously I’m not in love with the fact this happened, but I’m not hiding the fact that it happened and we’re going to do our best to get the right results out as soon as we possibly can,” Tirio said in an interview Thursday afternoon. Tirio said he had been hoping to finish the recount Thursday afternoon so they could offer post new election results that evening, but the task has taken longer than expected. He said they are on track to complete the recount about 6 p.m. Thursday and then they will need to compile new election results and run some tests to ensure they are airtight.
Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin told lawmakers Thursday that he won’t soon restart Louisiana’s work to upgrade its voting technology, after two prior efforts to replace thousands of voting machines were scrapped amid controversy. Ardoin, the Republican who oversees Louisiana’s elections, shelved the latest voting machine replacement attempt in March after facing widespread complaints from election technology firms, the leader of a state Senate oversight committee and other Republicans. Lawmakers will consider changing the voting machine selection process in their upcoming legislative session. While Ardoin defended his agency’s handling of the contractor search, he told the House Appropriations Committee that he pulled back the bid solicitation process after consultation with House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez, both Republicans. “There is no intent to go out for another (request for proposals) anytime soon?” asked Appropriations Chairman Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, a Houma Republican, during a hearing on Ardoin’s budget for next year. “No,” Ardoin replied.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel using Sidney Powell’s words against her in pursuit of sanctions | Dave Boucher/Detroit Free Press
Admissions by former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell in a massive defamation lawsuit may imperil her efforts to avoid sanctions in a federal Michigan elections case. This week, the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel asked a federal court whether it could include recent comments from Powell’s legal filings in a separate case as evidence that sanctions against Powell and associated attorneys are warranted in Michigan. The separate lawsuit was filed by Dominion Voting Systems, an election equipment company at the heart of conspiracy theories and misinformation offered by Powell and many other supporters of former President Donald Trump. In response to that lawsuit, Powell and her legal team specifically stated in a filing that “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” referring to many of the claims Powell offered to argue the election was stolen from Trump. “Faced with the specter of more than $1.3 billion in damages in the Dominion action, Ms. Powell has adopted a new litigation strategy to evade Dominion’s defamation claim: the truth. Whether that strategy will be advantageous in the Dominion action remains to be seen, but it strongly underscores why sanctions and attorneys’ fees are appropriate here,” Nessel’s office wrote in a filing Tuesday.
Ohio: Get COVID-19 vaccine and vote at Hamilton County Board of Elections all at once. Vax & Vote seeks to increase voter turnout and COVID-19 immunity. | Scott Wartman/Cincinnati Enquirer
Ever wonder if there’s a way to both support democracy and help end a pandemic without having to make two trips? There is, the Hamilton County Board of Elections said in a statement Thursday. Officials with the board of elections and Hamilton County Public Health Department hope to boost turnout out in the May 4 primary and COVID-19 vaccination rates with a Vax & Vote initiative. Early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections office in Norwood started April 6 for the primary that features the Cincinnati mayoral race and some local levies. The board of elections also happens to house Hamilton County’s central COVID-19 vaccination site. The county health department has administered the vaccine in the 15,000-square-foot space at 2300 Wall Street in the same Norwood office complex as the board of elections. The board of elections rented the space in 2020 for early voting.
Utah Senator Mike Lee stands up for the right of states to suppress minority voting rights | Raymond A. Hult/The Salt Lake Tribune
With the House having recently passed an historic election reform bill (HR1), Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s immediate response was “Everything about this bill is rotten to the core. It was written and held by the devil himself.” More recently, after Georgia Republican legislators passed a restrictive voter election law that Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola criticized as a blatantly suppressing the minority vote, Lee ranted, “I find that kind of intrusion unseemly and inappropriate. It’s wildly partisan what they’re doing. I think they should both issue an apology to the voters of Georgia.” Reviewing some of the provisions of the Georgia bill, I wondered what he found so unseemly, inappropriate and requiring an apology. It limits the number of drop boxes in every county as well as the hours they can be open. It prohibits automatically sending by-mail ballot applications to registered voters and shortens the period such requests can be made. It tightens ID requirement for casting an absentee ballot. It prohibits anyone from giving food or drink to voters waiting in line at a polling place. Everything contrary to voting in Utah and obviously intended to make it harder for minorities to cast their votes. Reviewing the main elements of HR1, I wanted to see exactly what may have caused that visceral rejection by Lee. Historically, what many consider to be one of the most profoundly significant legislative achievements in American history, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965. It enforced voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, most significantly attempting to ensure the right to vote by Black Americans.
The battle over voting rules has shifted to Texas, following recent legislation in Georgia that led to a backlash from civil-rights groups and some major corporations. The Texas legislature is advancing a bill that would limit early voting hours, place more restrictions on people who provide assistance with voting, control the number of voting machines at each location and allow partisan poll watchers to record video or photos of people voting, among other measures. The Texas State House is expected to begin hearings on the bill soon, which passed the state Senate around 2 a.m. on April 1 in an 18-13 party-line vote. Republican state leaders said the omnibus elections bill would improve confidence in elections and set uniform standards across the state’s 254 counties. Democrats said it would make it more difficult to vote, particularly in urban areas and minority districts, and could allow voter intimidation. The bill, along with others filed in Texas, comes as Republican lawmakers across the country have proposed new limits for mail-in voting and other electoral changes. Georgia emerged as an early hot spot after Republicans passed a bill along party lines in late March that added vote-by-mail identification requirements and limited ballot drop boxes. Passage of the bill prompted Major League Baseball to pull this year’s All-Star game from Atlanta and garnered opposition from companies including Delta Air Lines Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the bill, called the criticism partisan.
Full Article: After Georgia, Voting Fight Moves to Texas – WSJ
Wisconsin Election Officials, Groups Raise Concerns About Proposed Election Law Changes | Laurel White/Wisconsin Public Radio
Election officials and some community groups raised concerns about several proposed changes to Wisconsin election laws on Thursday as others argued the measures would increase public confidence in elections. The bills are part of a Republican-backed package of proposed election law changes aimed at changing how the state’s elections are run. Several of the plans are direct responses to criticism of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. One proposal discussed during a meeting of the state Senate elections committee on Thursday would limit local governments from accepting grant money from an individual or group to assist with administering elections. The bill would also require any grants accepted by the Wisconsin Elections Commission to be distributed to every municipality in Wisconsin on a per capita basis and for the distribution of those funds to be approved by the Legislature’s state budget committee. During the hearing, state Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, one of the bill’s sponsors, argued grants distributed to some Wisconsin communities during the 2020 presidential election unfairly benefited Democratic strongholds, like Milwaukee. “This bill is about fairness, and it certainly wasn’t fair,” Stroebel said. “We do have over 1,800 municipalities in the state of Wisconsin — five got almost all of (the grant money).” In July, Wisconsin’s five largest cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine — announced they would share $6.3 million in grant funding from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a group funded by Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg, to help run the election during the pandemic.