Editorial: Election officials need our legal help against repressive laws and personal threats | Bob Bauer and Benjamin L. Ginsberg/The Washington Post

Election officials are coming under unprecedented attack for doing their jobs. Some states are attempting to criminalize the exercise of these officials’ trained professional judgments; some officials have been the target of threats to themselves and their families. Any American — whether Republican, Democrat or independent — must know that systematic efforts to undermine the ability of those overseeing the counting and casting of ballots on an independent, nonpartisan basis are destructive to our democracy. The two of us have been partisan opponents in the past, representing opposing political parties to the best of our abilities. But at this moment in time, we share a grave concern about attacks on those public servants who successfully oversaw what was arguably the most secure and transparent election in our country’s history, with record turnout, during a global pandemic. If such attacks go unaddressed, our system of self-governance will suffer long-term damage. So, in partnership with the nonprofit and nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, we are launching the Election Official Legal Defense Network (EOLDN), which will connect licensed, qualified, pro bono attorneys with election administrators who need advice or assistance. State and local election workers anywhere in the country can go to EOLDN.org, or call the toll-free number (877) 313-5210, at any time, 24/7, to request to be connected with a lawyer who can help them, at no cost.

Full Article: Opinion | Election officials need our legal help against repressive laws and personal threats – The Washington Post

National: Democrats, GOP Push Back Against Partisan Election Audits | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

Ten months after the 2020 presidential election, Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are following Arizona in pushing investigations rooted in the false claim that the election was stolen. Inspired by former President Donald Trump’s baseless accusation of widespread voter fraud, the inquiries are taking place in two states won by President Joe Biden. They come as the similarly partisan review wraps up in Arizona, where investigators chased conspiracy theories and accepted millions of dollars from Trump allies. State lawmakers, mostly Democrats but also some Republicans, and much of the election administration community have lambasted the Arizona effort in Maricopa County for jeopardizing the security and confidence of elections and for tampering with election equipment that top state election officials now say needs to be replaced. Many election officials and lawmakers from both parties fear a repeat in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. “I can’t be party to what I consider to be the destruction of democracy in the United States,” said Pennsylvania state Sen. Dan Laughlin, a moderate Republican who is running for governor, in an interview. “We ran a clean election in 2020, but there’s a lot of folks who don’t quite believe that because of the distrust that’s been sown. I don’t see it. I don’t see any massive fraud.” This puts Laughlin at odds with most of his caucus, though he claims the disagreement has not caused a lot of friction. Republican state Sen. Gene Yaw also has said he does not support the audit.

Full Article: Democrats, GOP Push Back Against Partisan Election Audits | The Pew Charitable Trusts

National: Terrorized U.S. election workers get little help from law enforcement | Linda So and Jason Szep/Reuters

The death threats brought Staci McElyea to tears. The caller said that McElyea and other workers in the Nevada Secretary of State’s office were “going to f—— die.” She documented the threats and alerted police, who identified and interviewed the caller. But in the end, detectives said there was nothing they could do – that the man had committed no crime. The first call came at 8:07 a.m. on Jan. 7, hours after Congress certified Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the November 2020 presidential vote. The caller accused McElyea of “stealing” the election, echoing Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. “I hope you all go to jail for treason. I hope your children get molested. You’re all going to f—— die,” he told her. He called back three times over the next 15 minutes, each time telling her she was “going to die.” McElyea, 53, a former U.S. Marine, called the Nevada Capitol Patrol and sent the state police agency a transcript of the calls, according to emails Reuters obtained through a public-records request. An officer contacted the man – who police would later identify as Gjurgi Juncaj of Las Vegas – and reported back to McElyea that their inquiry “might have pissed him off even further,” the emails showed. A week later, state police concluded that Juncaj’s threats were not criminal, characterizing them as “protected” political speech, according to a summary of the case. Juncaj was never arrested or charged. Asked about the calls, Juncaj told Reuters he didn’t believe he had done anything wrong. “Like I explained to the police, I didn’t threaten anybody,” he said.

Full Article: Special Report: Terrorized U.S. election workers get little help from law enforcement | Reuters

National: More secure election machines won’t be ready until 2024 | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Election officials and technology companies are embarking on a multiyear process to improve the security and accessibility of voting machines. But they’re running smack into a cadre of GOP politicians sowing unfounded doubts about election security. The major election vendors are getting ready to produce new voting machines that meet a slate of upgraded security standards. But those machines won’t be ready until around 2024, they told the Election Assistance Commission during a hearing yesterday. The machines likely won’t be widely used by voters until the 2026 midterm elections or later. Yet there’s a sense of urgency to boost public confidence in elections. The delay could be damaging as some Trump supporters continue to spread baseless claims about election hacking in 2020 and push for partisan audits in states Donald Trump narrowly lost to President Biden in November. It’s reasonable to wonder whether the slow pace of change at the EAC and in the vendor community are up to the task of combating a loss of public confidence in elections,” Edward Perez, global director of technology development at OSET Institute, a nonprofit election technology organization, told me. In February, the EAC approved the basic rules for the upgrades. It’s the 2.0 version of a document called the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), which, despite its name, is often incorporated into mandatory guidelines approved by states. Among other changes, the update requires the strongest form of encryption of voting data and technology that makes it easier to audit vote counts. 

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: More secure election machines won’t be ready until 2024 – The Washington Post

National: UC Berkeley group to study future of mobile voting | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

With the acknowledgment that mobile voting is gradually becoming more common across U.S. elections, a think tank at the University of California, Berkeley announced Wednesday it’s assembling a group of cybersecurity experts and former election officials to study the controversial practice and develop guidelines for its future use. The working group will be based out of Berkeley’s Center for Security in Policy, which will spend the next 12 to 18 months analyzing historical uses of internet-connected voting — including in several recent election cycles — and the feasibility of new technical standards that could offer greater layers of trust and security. While ballot submission by email and fax is offered in 31 states to military and expat voters, thanks to a federal program for U.S. citizens living abroad, a handful of states and counties have in the last few years started experimenting with mobile apps and websites for broader use. Those pilot programs, many of which have been funded by private donations, have drawn numerous criticisms from members of the election-security community, who’ve argued an electronic ballot is fundamentally insecure. Third-party audits have also found software developed by mobile-voting vendors, like Voatz, to be riddled with bugs.

Full Article: UC Berkeley group to study future of mobile voting

Arizona: 42% of Maricopa County budget on the line as officials discuss next move on senators’ election subpoenas | Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

Maricopa County stands to lose hundreds of millions in state funding — an estimated 42% of the money it uses to run the county’s day-to-day operations such as public safety, the court system and public health — if officials don’t act soon. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said last month that, by not fully responding to subpoenas for election information issued by a few state Senate leaders, the county had violated state law and would lose state money, amounting to about $676 million of the $1.6 billion in general fund revenue the county expects this fiscal year. Key among the Senate’s demands: access to the county’s routers. Brnovich gave the county 30 days to respond, with a deadline of Sept. 27. The supervisors are considering how to move forward. They met in a closed-door session to discuss the issue on Thursday, but didn’t come to any decision. Supervisors were not immediately available for comment. “Productive talks today,” county spokesperson Jason Berry said. “We’ll act before the deadline.” Among the various options, he said, are further responding to the subpoenas, attempting to negotiate with the Senate or filing a lawsuit. The fight continues to pit county Republicans — four of five supervisors and Recorder Stephen Richer are Republican — against state Republicans, including Brnovich and the two senators who issued the subpoenas, Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Judiciary Chairman Warren Petersen.

Full Article: Maricopa County supervisors debate compliance with Senate subpoenas

Arizona canvass report draws nonsensical conclusions | Ali Swenson/Associated Press

A report released this week in Arizona’s largest county falsely claims to have uncovered some 173,000 “lost” votes and 96,000 “ghost votes” in a private door-to-door canvassing effort, supposedly rendering the 2020 election in Maricopa County “uncertifiable.” But its conclusions aren’t supported by any evidence, according to county election officials and outside election experts, who called the report’s methods “quasi-science” and its findings inaccurate. Still, the 11-page document ⁠— which is separate from an ongoing partisan audit in the county ⁠— has been shared widely in conservative media and by Republican politicians, including state Rep. Mark Finchem, who is campaigning to be Arizona’s secretary of state — the state’s top election official. Report author Liz Harris, an unsuccessful Republican legislative candidate and a real estate agent in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, declined to respond to specific questions but said a more comprehensive version of the report would be released soon. Here’s a closer look at the facts.

CLAIM: An estimated 173,104 “missing or lost” votes and an estimated 96,389 “ghost” votes cast by people who didn’t appear to live at their voter registration addresses indicate that the 2020 election in Maricopa County included irregularities and is “uncertifiable.”

THE FACTS: The report doesn’t provide evidence for these far-fetched claims, and the county’s election results have been certified for months.

Source: FACT FOCUS: AZ canvass report draws nonsensical conclusions

Colorado: Mesa County deputy clerk formally charged with burglary, cybercrime | Blair Miller/Denver Channel

Formal charges were filed Thursday against Mesa County Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley in connection with her allegedly being at a county building and using her boss’s computer while she is on administrative leave. Knisley, 66, was charged with second-degree burglary, a class 4 felony, and cybercrime — unauthorized access, a class 2 misdemeanor. She said little at her court appearance, and her attorney requested a preliminary hearing or arraignment in the case. Judge Matthew Barrett ordered a review hearing be held in the case on Sept. 30. The 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office reiterated Thursday that the charges are separate from the office’s ongoing criminal investigation into election security breaches involving Mesa County’s voting equipment. No arrests have been made in that case, the district attorney’s office said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also conducting an investigation. Knisley turned herself in on Sept. 1 after a warrant was issued for her arrest in the case in which she faces charges. Knisley was put on administrative leave with pay by the county’s human resources director on Aug. 23. According to an affidavit, on Aug. 25, count officials found Knisley at a county office – which she is prohibited from entering while she is suspended – and allegedly tried to use County Clerk Tina Peters’ laptop to access the county computer network.

Full Article: Mesa County deputy clerk formally charged with burglary, cybercrime

Georgia  Republican lieutenant governor demonised by Trump reveals what’s behind GOP election suppression laws: ‘They got scared’ | Gino Spocchia/The Independent

A senior Georgia Republican and former target of Donald Trump has delivered a damning analysis of the party’s attempts at restricting voting access, which he says was because GOP leaders “got scared” by defeat in 2020. Geoff Duncan, the Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia, claimed in a book published on Tuesday that Republicans were restricting turnout — and particularly in big swing states such as Florida, Georgia and Texas — because they feared losing in future. The remarks, which were reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, were published on the same day that Texas’s Republican governor Gregg Abbott signed a bill into law that restricts voting access, and according to campaigners, will disproportionately target Democratic voters. Mr Duncan wrote in his book, called GOP 2.0: “Unfortunately, many held to the theory that if more people vote, Republicans will lose, because they got scared, GOP leaders became too focused on making voting more difficult.” “We had a clear motive and selfish aims,” the Republican, who announced in May that he will not seek re-election, wrote of the voting restrictions introduced in Florida, Georgia, Texas and around the country. “Nobody thought GOP efforts were anything more than attempts to ensure more Republicans won next time.”

Full Article: Senior Republican demonised by Trump reveals what’s behind GOP election suppression laws: ‘They got scared’ | The Independent

Maine: Push to audit 2020 election takes cues from fraught effort in Arizona | Scott Thistle/Portland Press Herald

On a sunny afternoon at the Windsor Fair last week, Norene Libby and Liliana Thelander were busy collecting and notarizing signatures from fairgoers that call for a “forensic audit” of Maine’s 2020 election results. They worked from a booth next to the Kennebec County Republican Party’s small building, at a station replete with a red, white and blue banner sign that read: “Maine 2020 Presidential Election, Forensic Audit Affidavits.” The pair could not say precisely what signing the affidavit was meant to accomplish, but they suggested the documents could be used in a future court case that seemed ill-defined. “It’s exercising your constitutional rights,” Libby said, when asked why someone should sign the document. The campaign is part of an ongoing multistate effort to perpetuate the falsehood – often called the Big Lie – that former President Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. In Arizona, Trump’s backers convinced the state senate, which is controlled by Republicans, to force an audit of the state’s election results by outside groups with no expertise. In a months-long effort the group, the Cyber Ninjas, has produced no evidence of inaccurate results in Arizona, although the work is reportedly still incomplete.

Full Article: Push to audit Maine’s 2020 election takes cues from fraught effort in Arizona – Portland Press Herald

Michigan, Detroit seek $204K for fighting election lawsuit | Sara Powers/Assocaited Press

Attorneys are seeking $204,000 in fees for successfully defending Detroit and Michigan from a post-election lawsuit filed by lawyers aligned with former President Donald Trump. The tally filed Wednesday came two weeks after a judge said the lawyers, including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, would pay a penalty for pursuing the case. The final figure will be determined later. Trump voters filed a lawsuit in November after Michigan’s vote in favor of Joe Biden was certified. They alleged fraud and wanted voting machines impounded. U.S. District Judge Linda Parker said the lawsuit was a sham. “Individuals may have a right — within certain bounds — to disseminate allegations of fraud unsupported by law or fact in the public sphere,” the judge said. “But attorneys cannot exploit their privilege and access to the judicial process to do the same.” Detroit was represented by lawyers in private practice. They’re seeking $182,000. The Michigan attorney general’s office is requesting about $22,000. Parker also ordered 12 hours of legal education, including six hours in election law, for each of the nine pro-Trump attorneys. Her decision will be sent to the states where the lawyers are licensed for possible disciplinary action there.

Full Article: Michigan, Detroit seek $204K for fighting election lawsuit | Hosted

Montana lawsuit by youth groups calls new Republican election laws ‘a cocktail of voter suppression measures’ | Sam Wilson/Helena Independent Record

A trio of groups advocating for young Montanans are challenging several changes to Montana’s election laws enacted by the Legislature, calling them “a cocktail of voter suppression measures that land heavily on the young.” The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Yellowstone County District Court, targets three bills passed by Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte earlier this year. Two are already the subject of existing lawsuits: Senate Bill 169, which tightened voter identification requirements, including requiring that student IDs be augmented with another form of identification for in-person voting; and House Bill 176, which ended Election Day registration in Montana. House Bill 506 previously received attention for a series of last-minute changes to the bill by Republicans, who amended it to alter the process for drawing Montana’s new congressional district. Thursday’s lawsuit challenges a different aspect of that law, which prevents ballots from being mailed out to new voters in advance of their 18th birthdays.

Full Article: Lawsuit by Montana youth groups calls new Republican election laws ‘a cocktail of voter suppression measures’ | 406 Politics | helenair.com

North Carolina legislators must release the money to secure elections | John Shallcross Jr. and Chip Futrell/Charlotte Observer

As Republican and Democratic county election board members, we are pleased to report that North Carolina voters should have confidence in our election systems. But maintaining secure election systems requires a concerted year-round effort in today’s world — and we need continued support from voters and public officials to accomplish that task. Across North Carolina new voters are registering daily and their data must be protected, along with yours. New voting machines are being tested, purchased and retested. Old software and backup systems are being replaced with modern systems that resist cyberattacks. Our operations must be continually audited to detect vulnerabilities. Fortunately, federal funds under the bipartisan 2020 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) have already been sent to North Carolina to finance this effort. But those funds must be released (appropriated) in the state budget that legislators are now debating. As county election officials, we understand the importance of releasing this money because it has a tangible impact, in small and big ways, on our ability to do our job — to protect voters and to maintain a fair, accessible and secure voting system. Given the attention election integrity has received nationally, it would be tragic to withhold these funds.

Full Article: Legislators must release the money to secure NC elections | Charlotte Observer

Pennsylvania Republicans launch new election audit but don’t say how it will work | Andrew Seidman and Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Following months of demands from former President Donald Trump, Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers on Thursday jumpstarted what they’re calling a “forensic investigation” of the 2020 election — but they didn’t detail how the review will actually work. State Sen. Cris Dush (R., Jefferson), chairman of the committee leading the review, said it’s aimed at determining whether Pennsylvania election law can be improved. “This investigation is not about overturning the results of any election, as some would suggest,” he said in remarks that opened an almost two-hour hearing. “That horse is out of the barn, as far as this investigation is concerned.” But Dush’s stated objective closely resembles the rationale GOP lawmakers gave for previous probes, including one led by a special panel formed by the top Senate Republican specifically to review the election and recommend changes to state law. For months, State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) — a pro-Trump firebrand and likely candidate for governorled the push for an investigation. But until late August, it was unclear whether GOP leaders would take up Trump’s cause. That’s when Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre) came out in favor of a review, and ousted Mastriano from overseeing the probe.


Full Article: Pennsylvania Republicans launch new election audit but don’t say how it will work

Texas elections law carries costs and threat of litigation for all 254 counties | Allie Morris/Dallas Morning News

In Tom Green County last election, the line of people waiting to cast a ballot from their vehicle sometimes wrapped around the block. The farming and ranching hub in West Texas was one of a handful of places to roll out drive-through voting in the pandemic, drawing enthusiastic support from locals. “It just happened to benefit some people who had kids with them or people who couldn’t stand for a long time,” said elections administrator Vona Hudson. “I can’t tell you how many people appreciated it and called and thanked us.” Tom Green County couldn’t be more different than Harris, the large, liberal county whose novel voting initiatives triggered a months-long legislative fight over voting rights. Yet now, both must account for the new GOP-backed elections law that will have sweeping effects for all 254 counties. The law bars counties from offering drive-through and 24-hour voting, like Houston’s Harris County did. Other, less high-profile provisions could cost taxpayers thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Not only must counties buy new equipment and come up with new election forms, they are now open to potentially costly lawsuits and fines, election officials said.

Full Article: New Texas elections law carries costs and threat of litigation for all 254 counties

Texas Republicans plan expanded election audits | Reid Wilson/The Hill

Texas Republican legislators coming off a successful effort to overhaul the state’s election procedures are preparing new legislation that would dramatically expand the rights of candidates and political party bosses to force mandatory audits of future elections. The legislation, introduced by a former elections official who now serves in the state Senate, would allow those with a direct stake in election outcomes to formally seek answers from county clerks about potential irregularities in reported results and to elevate concerns to the Texas secretary of state. Those who could raise potential objections to election results include a candidate, the chair of a county or state political party, the presiding county judge — effectively a county’s top executive — or the proponents or opponents of a ballot measure campaign. The secretary of state would be allowed to order a review and potentially an audit. The legislation is written to grandfather in complaints about the 2020 presidential election, giving new life to former President Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread irregularities that have not been proven.

Full Article: Texas Republicans plan expanded election audits | TheHill

Wisconsin: ‘It’s a waste of time’: A pair of Republicans take aim at partisan election reviews | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Two Republicans ripped into GOP efforts to review Wisconsin’s presidential election Wednesday, calling it a waste of money that would needlessly damage the public’s views of a properly run election. “We need leaders who are focused on governing, not pushing unfounded lies about a settled election nine months after the fact. These types of election reviews aren’t just wasting time and costing taxpayers money. They are actively threatening the health of our democracy,” said Christine Todd Whitman, a former New Jersey governor who served as the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush. The pushback comes a week after Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said “there’s nothing obviously skewed” about Joe Biden’s victory in Wisconsin and argued officials should not focus on analyzing voting machines. Meanwhile, Republican election clerks — including one who recently reviewed results in her county — this week said they’re confident in how the election was conducted. Despite those sentiments, Assembly Republicans have ramped up their review of the election and have discussed seizing ballots and voting machines from municipal clerks. “It’s a waste of time, a waste of energy and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s former secretary of state. “And unfortunately these actions make our elections less secure and ultimately make our country worse off.”  “I still consider myself a Republican,” he added. “I worry about the future of election security and the future of the Republican Party.”

Full Article: Pair of Republicans take aim at partisan election reviews in Wisconsin