Louisiana: Amid national controversy, commission to select new voting system | Mark Ballard/The Advocate

Born from the widespread, if incorrect, fears that American elections are tainted, the Voting Systems Commission met five times over the past six months. The commission’s work could conclude Wednesday when it votes on recommendations to Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin on how to conduct Louisiana elections into the future. Many conservatives argued to the commission that they want to replace voting machines with hand-marked paper ballots that are counted by hand. And that method is among the four options to be considered Wednesday by the commission. But an abundance of problems attends that system, not the least of which is disenfranchising disabled voters without sight or use of their hands. “My preference at this point is ballot marking devices (that prints a paper receipt) that the voters can verify and then put into an electronic scanner that maintains an electronic copy of it and a paper copy for audit purposes and tabulates it, so that we can have election results on election night,” Ardoin said in an interview. “I prefer that option because it gives us an opportunity to provide for our disabled individuals to be able to vote as independently as possible.” It’s a method he sought in two failed proposals before controversy over the 2020 presidential election results turned the temperature high on the issue. Ardoin has no idea of how much that system would cost, even a ballpark figure. He suspects it’ll be very expensive. “That’s why the law says ‘recommendations to the secretary.’ I’ve got to be able to make responsible decisions. I might want a Porsche, but I might only be able to afford a mid-sized van,” Ardoin said.

Full Article: Amid national controversy, commission to select new voting system for Louisiana | State Politics | theadvocate.com

District of Columbia: New legislation could bring mobile voting but experts warn that the technology isn’t ready | Lauren Lumpkin/The Washington Post

New proposed legislation could bring mobile voting to the District, a measure that supporters say would enfranchise more eligible voters throughout the city. Meanwhile, some experts warn that the type of technology needed to support mobile voting on such a large scale isn’t ready and could further erode the public’s trust in elections. In December, several groups signed a letter to District officials urging them “not to adopt, test or develop internet voting of any kind.” … “The appeal is obvious. We all can agree that if there’s a safe way to make it as easy as possible for eligible voters to vote, we should do it. People very much want mobile voting to be that,” said Mark Lindeman, a director at Verified Voting, which focuses on election technology. “But we haven’t figured out a way to do it safely and verifiably.” Part of the problem stems from the way the Internet was created, Lindeman said. “The Internet still is, foundationally, what is was built to be by academics going back to the 1970s, and academics weren’t really thinking of building a system that was private and secure,” Lindeman said. Their priority, instead, was sharing information as quickly as possible. During an age in which millions of Americans bank and shop online, casting votes on the Internet may seem safe enough for some. But J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan professor and electronic voting expert, said standards for voting should be higher. “In banking, a certain amount of fraud is just accepted as the cost of doing business. But that’s just not how we view elections. We want there to be no fraud in elections,” Halderman said. “Frankly, it’s phenomenally retrograde to consider Internet voting in the present moment because we know sophisticated attackers have our election systems in their sights.”

Full Article: District bill could bring mobile voting to city in 2024 – The Washington Post

Utah bill to end default mail-in voting fails in raucous hearing | Bridger Beal-Cvetko/Deseret News

A bill that would have returned Utah to in-person voting by default failed to advance from committee on Wednesday after opponents argued that it could disenfranchise voters and had few discernible security benefits. HB371, sponsored by Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, was heard in the House Government Operations Committee before an at times rambunctious crowd of supporters who filled five separate overflow rooms. Committee vice chairman Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, had to repeatedly remind them to refrain from outbursts. Lyman said his bill was a necessary step to protect Utah elections from fraud and reinstate voter faith in elections. From a security standpoint, “our elections are pretty wide open,” he said — a claim that lacks evidence and Utah election officials contest. Although the bill would require voters to specifically request an absentee ballot be mailed to them, Lyman said the key provision in the bill was one that would require an independent audit after each election. He falsely claimed that precincts in Salt Lake and San Juan counties saw voter turnout as high as 200-300% in recent years and said that matching voter rolls to mail-in ballots “becomes really problematic.” “In essence, what we’re doing … is we’re blanketing communities with ballots assuming that the people that we’re sending them to are legitimate on the voter rolls, whether they requested it or not,” he said.

Full Article: It’s time to ‘get down to what’s real’: Utah bill to end default mail-in voting fails in raucous hearing | KSL.com

National: Election Workers Are in Crisis. Will Congress Actually Help? | Sam Brody/Daily Beast

Defiance County, Ohio, does not loom large in the story of the 2020 presidential election. This rural slice of northwest Ohio—population 38,000—went for Donald Trump by more than 30 percentage points. The county has long favored Republicans, and it hasn’t been competitive in a very long time. But for the people who run elections in Defiance County, the job has never been harder. “In the last three years, this job has basically tripled,” said Tonya Wichman, the county elections director. It’s not just the endless stream of calls and letters. It’s what they entail for election workers these days: near-constant harassment and denigration from people who, largely spurred on by Trump’s election fraud conspiracies, have developed a toxic distrust of the election system and those who run it. “It’s a disheartening thing… to have people tell you how bad you do your job when you’re going above and beyond what they expect from you,” Wichman says. “They’re listening to people speak about our jobs without asking us about our jobs.” In response, the Defiance County elections office has upgraded every aspect of its security, and there is an additional physical barrier between staff and those who walk in. They instruct poll workers what to do if they see a suspicious car at a voting location, which Wichman says has not been necessary before. Wichman stresses that election workers love what they do and are committed to protecting the integrity of the system—no matter what. But for some in the field, the work has simply become too overwhelming.

Full Article: Election Workers Are in Crisis. Will Congress Actually Help?

National: Judges are narrowing voting protections. Some fear lasting damage | Carrie Johnson/NPR

The nation’s premier tool to protect voting rights is in mortal danger, threatened on multiple fronts by the Supreme Court and lower-ranking federal judges, scholars and civil rights advocates say. The latest blow to the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 came this week in Arkansas, where a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump dismissed a case over new statehouse maps. The NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the maps diluted the power of Black voters. But the judge said he found no way for the outside advocates to proceed. “Only the Attorney General of the United States can bring a case like this one,” wrote Judge Lee Rudofsky. The ACLU said the decision flouts decades of precedent and vowed to appeal. “This ruling was so radical that there was no choice but to appeal it,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Private individuals have brought cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to protect their right to vote for generations.”

Full Article: The Supreme Court takes on another Voting Rights Act case : NPR

Just what Arizona needs: an imaginary ballot box to combat imaginary election fraud | Laurie Roberts/Arizona Republic

Comes now the latest in the Republicans’ unrelenting and at times unhinged assault against Arizona’s elections. Today’s victim: Arizona’s wildly popular early voting system, a decades-old program that was lauded as a national model until Donald Trump lost an election and Republican leaders lost their minds. Senate Bill 1571 would bar voters who receive early ballots from dropping them in the mail. Instead, we’d have to take our ballots to a “smart” drop box. One that doesn’t exist. This plan comes courtesy of Sen. Kelly Townsend, an Apache Junction Republican who is hoping to convince Tucson that she should represent them in Congress next year. This bill is, at least, a step up from her earlier efforts to outright ignore the results of an election. This time, she’s just trying to make it harder for people to vote in the first place. All this, in the name of eliminating all that supposed fraud that not even the Senate’s own ninja auditors could find after an exhaustive examination of Arizona’s 2020 election.

Full Article: An imaginary ballot box to fight imaginary fraud? Genius plan!

Colorado election officials continue to face threats as lawmakers pursue new protections | Scott Franz/KUNC

Election workers in Adams County are putting on bulletproof vests before they head to the office. More than 150 miles away in Salida, the clerks in the Chaffee County clerk and recorder’s office now talk to residents through bulletproof glass and walls. “It’s like it’s so beyond the pale, the craziness,” Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell said last week after describing the range of threats and misinformation she and her staff are still facing following the 2020 election. “I think that’s why it’s hard to combat back because it’s like, ‘Oh my God, what the heck is going on?’” Mitchell said the threats against her office started on social media. They also targeted a worker at a ballot processing machine company that has been the focus of unfounded claims of fraud. “We did all the proper channels of reporting (the threats) to the sheriff and to the FBI and whatever we had to do,” she said. “But it still was very unnerving for me and my family.” Things got worse last summer. Mitchell was driving about a block away from her office in Salida, a small town on the banks of the Arkansas River surrounded by sprawling ranches and mountains. She said she noticed something alarming.

Full Article: Colorado election officials continue to face threats as lawmakers pursue new protections | KUNC

Delaware lawsuit filed to stop early voting | Melissa Steele/Cape Gazette

A lawsuit challenging early voting in Delaware based on a conflict with the state’s constitution was filed Jan. 24 in Delaware Chancery Court. Filed by former Attorney General M. Jane Brady’s legal group on behalf of an election inspector, the lawsuit states that Delaware’s early voting laws, set to take effect in 2022, conflict with and violate the Delaware Constitution because those laws expand the administration of the general election beyond its constitutionally designated day. Per the state constitution, the state’s general election is to be held on a Tuesday after the first Monday in the month of November for an election year. Brady, however, said provisions in the constitution only apply to the general election, not primary elections or special elections, such as the one planned March 5 for the 4th District representative seat. “The language of the constitution itself and court decisions make clear that the provisions we feel are being violated only apply to the general election,” she said. Permanent absentee voting law also violates the constitution, according to the lawsuit. “[Statutes] grant eligibility to vote by absentee ballot indefinitely, and without consideration of the applicant’s eligibility at each subsequent election, as required by the constitution,” the suit states.

Full Article: Lawsuit filed to stop early voting in Delaware | Cape Gazette

District of Columbia: New Bill Would Bring Mobile Voting To D.C. | Martin Austermuhle/DCist

A new bill in the D.C. Council would allow voters to cast ballots from their phones, tablets, or computers, which proponents say would simplify the voting process and enfranchise residents who are otherwise likely to sit out elections. The bill was introduced Friday by Councilmember Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) and seven of her colleagues, and follows a push launched late last year by venture capitalist and former political operative Bradley Tusk to make D.C. the first place in the country to formally adopt mobile voting. … “There is currently no internet technology available that allows for the secure transmission of voted ballots while also maintaining voter privacy and ballot verifiability,” wrote Mark Lindeman, an expert on voting security and audits with Verified Voting, a nonpartisan group that focuses on elections and technology, in a recent letter to legislators in Rhode Island considering a bill to allow ballots to be returned over the internet. Additionally, local critics could point to D.C.’s checkered history with various technological advances. In mid-2020, the elections board quietly killed off its unreliable app that allowed voters to register to vote or change their registration; last month the board unveiled its first web-based option for online voter registration, though plans for another app have been delayed. Earlier this month, DC Health discontinued a new web portal that was supposed to allow residents to get access to their COVID-19 vaccine records after the system sent the wrong personal information to some people.

Full Article: New Bill Would Bring Mobile Voting To D.C. | DCist

Florida bill creating election police unit ready for Senate floor | Renzo Downey/Florida Politics

The Senate could soon vote to establish an election crimes investigations unit, ban ranked-choice voting, change vote-by-mail forms and more. After more than two hours of discussion, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted nearly along party lines Thursday to send an elections bill (SB 524) that contains several of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “election integrity” priorities to the Senate floor. Despite bipartisan agreement the 2020 election was possibly the smoothest in Florida’s recent history, the bill is Republicans’ second follow-up measure to strengthen Florida’s voting laws. The legislation, sponsored by St. Augustine Republican Sen. Travis Hutson, proposes many changes to several areas of Florida election laws. “I don’t want one illegal vote in the state of Florida, and I don’t think we should be afraid of our elections being too secure,” Hutson told the committee. Gulf Breeze Republican Sen. Doug Broxson suggested the measure is insurance for the future rather than a reaction to the past. “We’re really looking to the future, to the reality of what seems to be a changing landscape across the country on election procedure,” Broxson told the committee. But Democrats, like Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson, contested the bill’s purpose. “All this is stoking fear. It is wanting to cause division, not only in this state, but in this country,” Gibson said.

Full Article: Bill creating election police unit ready for Senate floor

Michigan: Cross Village election data “cloning” case ends with misdemeanor plea | Mardi Link/Traverse City Record Eagle

A woman who faced felony charges after she was accused of plotting to “clone” voting data in Cross Village Township, pleaded no contest Tuesday to a single misdemeanor charge of creating a disturbance. Tera Jackson agreed in 90th District Court to plead no contest, and in exchange the prosecutor dropped two felony charges — common law fraud and unauthorized access of a computer — agreed to a delayed sentence and possible expungement. “The court will enter a conviction to the misdemeanor without you telling me exactly what you did, okay?” explained 86th District Court Judge Michael Stepka. “That’s how no contest works,” Stepka said. “You’ll still have a conviction for creating a disturbance, do you understand that?” “My understanding is, that goes away,” Jackson said, “after the successful — yeah, me continuing my life as I always have, not being a criminal.” Stepka presided as a visiting judge in response to a Feb. 3 order from the state court administrator’s office, he said. Ninetieth District Court Judge Angela Lasher, who was challenged unsuccessfully in the 2020 election by Jackson’s attorney, Robert A. Banner, recused herself from the case.

Full Article: Cross Village election data “cloning” case ends with misdemeanor plea | News | record-eagle.com

Nevada: National Guard, ‘stealth paper ballots’ proposed for Washoe County elections | Mark Robison/Reno Gazette Journal

Commissioner Jeanne Herman is proposing big changes in the way elections are handled in Washoe County — including ensuring the Nevada National Guard is present at every polling location as soon as the 2022 primary — in an effort to preserve the “purity” of voting in Nevada’s second-largest county. All 20 measures in Herman’s resolution, dated Feb. 16, came from suggestions made during 4½ hours of public comment at a recent county commission meeting attended by more than 350 people, she said. “The people need to have a voice to be heard and be satisfied that we have looked at the situation with care and are living up to our job as commissioners,” Herman told the RGJ Friday morning. The resolution will be discussed by the commission at its Tuesday, Feb. 22, meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. Go here to view the agenda; the resolution is listed as item No. 14.

Full Article: National Guard, ‘stealth paper ballots’ proposed for Washoe elections

New Hampshire bill to reprogram automated voting machines has support from election officials | Kevin Landrigan/The New Hampshire Union Leade

The state’s top election official and town clerks have endorsed a bipartisan bill to reprogram automated voting machines to detect ballots that have votes for too many candidates for a single office. Currently, if the machine detects an “overvote” it doesn’t count the votes for anyone for that race, though it does process the rest of the ballot. This change, if it had been made before the 2020 election, would have immediately flagged the absentee ballots that were incorrectly read by Windham voting machines on Election Day because of folds through one of the candidates’ names, said state Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough, the chief architect of the reform measure. Porter said the post-2020 election summary tapes of votes from other towns she and others have seen led her to believe many more votes were invalidated as the machines wrongly read them as overvotes. “This leads me to believe the shadow issue found in Windham may have been more widespread than we know,” Porter told the House Election Laws Committee Wednesday. The amended bill Porter presented would require that these machines kick out any ballot that appears to have votes for too many candidates for a single office. “Our machines can be programmed at no additional cost to reject the ballot, much like that change machine returns the crinkled dollar you try to put in at the laundromat,” Porter said. This ballot would then be placed in an “auxiliary bin” to be hand-counted by local election officials after the polls have closed.

Full Article: A bill to reprogram automated voting machines has support from election officials

Oregon: New bill introduced to better protect elections officials | Madison LaBerge/KOTI

With elections officials across the country facing increasing threats, including in southern Oregon, a new bill is under consideration in Salem. House Bill 4144 is gaining support from elections officials across the state. It would exempt elections officials from disclosing their addresses in public records. Jackson County’s own elections clerk supports the legislation. “Written in these huge, probably six to eight, possibly even 10 foot letters were: ‘VOTE DON’T WORK’ and then just south of that ‘NEXT TIME BULLETS.’ And it literally just, it threw me off,” said Chris Walker, the Jackson County elections clerk, going into her 14th year. She said threatening vandalism was found in the parking lot across the street from the elections office, just one day after the county certified the 2020 elections results. “I can’t believe the stuff we’ve heard about happening around the country, it’s here and now in our own county — in Jackson County. It was very disheartening, and very disturbing, as well,” said Walker.

Full Article: New bill introduced to better protect elections officials – KOBI-TV NBC5 / KOTI-TV NBC2

Oregon legislature passes election worker safety bill | Jamie Parfitt/KGW

A bill aimed at shielding Oregon’s election workers from intimidation and threats has now passed both chambers of the legislature, heading to Governor Kate Brown’s desk for a signature. House Bill 4144 allows election workers to keep their home addresses from public disclosure, and makes the crime of harassment against an election worker punishable by a maximum 364 days in prison and a $6,250 fine — upgrading it from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. The 2020 election became a particular hotbed of hostility and harassment, much of it directed at the workers and elected officials who oversee vote-counting throughout the country. While Oregon was far from the worst example, there were enough incidents that some lawmakers and county clerks felt that something had to be done. Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker, a nonpartisan elected official, championed HB 4144 after her office became the target of threats. Shortly after the 2020 election, someone painted a message in a nearby parking lot: “vote don’t work” and “next time bullets.”

Full Article: Oregon legislature passes election worker safety bill | kgw.com

Tennessee: New evidence undermines case against Black US woman jailed for voting error | Sam Levine/The Guardian

I have an update in my reporting on the case of Pamela Moses, the 44-year-old Black Lives Matter Activist in Memphis who was sentenced to six years in prison for trying to register to vote. The case has attracted significant national attention because many see Moses’ sentence as too severe and a clear example of disparities in the US criminal justice system. The prosecution’s case is built around the argument that Moses knew she was ineligible to vote because she was on probation, and people on felony probation in Tennessee cannot vote. Indeed, a few months before she tried to register, a judge had issued an order telling Moses her probation was ongoing. But nevertheless, prosecutors argued, she convinced a probation officer into signing a form saying she was eligible to vote and then knowingly submitted the document knowing it was false. “You tricked the probation department into giving you documents saying you were off probation,” W Mark Ward, the judge who sentenced Moses, said in January. Moses, for her part, told me she did not know she was ineligible and her lawyers have said she went to the probation office genuinely seeking clarity about whether she could vote. A new email I obtained through a public records request adds to evidence undercutting the claim that Moses tricked the officer.

Full Article: New evidence undermines case against Black US woman jailed for voting error | US voting rights | The Guardian

Texas firm Authentix backs GOP push for high-tech ‘fraud-proof’ ballots | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

Holographic foil. Special ink designed to be sensitive to temperature changes. Nearly invisible “stealth numbers” that can be located only using special ultraviolet or infrared lights. Those are among the high-tech security features that would be required to be embedded on ballots under measures proposed in at least four states by Republican lawmakers — all promoters of false claims that the 2020 election was marred by mass fraud — in an attempt to make the ballots as hard to counterfeit as passports or currency. But the specialized inks and watermarks also would limit the number of companies capable of selling ballot paper — potentially to just one Texas firm with no previous experience in elections that consulted with the lawmakers proposing the measures. Mark Finchem, an Arizona state representative spearheading the initiative, said in an interview that he developed ideas for the proposals after discussions with executives of Authentix, a company in Addison, Tex. The firm has since hosted other GOP lawmakers at its office and given presentations about the idea to legislators in two states, according to participants and social media posts.

Full Article: Texas firm Authentix backs GOP push for high-tech ‘fraud-proof’ ballots – The Washington Post

Utah House committee rejects baseless claims of election fraud; soundly defeats bill to end universal vote by mail | Bryan Schott/Salt Lake Tribune

The “stop the steal” conspiracy theory ran into reality as a bill to end Utah’s universal mail-in balloting went down in flames during a House committee meeting on Wednesday evening. Hundreds of Utahns who championed former President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent packed into several rooms at the Capitol in support of HB371 from Rep. Phil Lyman. They left disappointed as the committee voted 7-3 to kill Lyman’s bill. Lyman’s massive bill, more than 2,000 lines, was a radical overhaul of Utah’s elections and contained several ideas that have popped up in the wake of Trump’s 2020 loss. Utah’s universal mail-in balloting would be replaced with same-day, in-person voting counted by hand. Most absentee balloting would be eliminated except under certain circumstances. Registering to vote would be more difficult. There is also a provision for an independent audit of the election results. Lyman said he was prompted to push for the election overhaul because people don’t trust election results. “Every single vote should count,” Lyman said. “In Utah, we have a crisis of confidence in our elections.” Lyman kept returning to his belief that an outside audit is crucial to restoring the lost election confidence. Legislative leaders authorized an audit of the state’s election systems in December, which removed some of the urgency behind Lyman’s push. Much of the rationale behind arguments for overhauling Utah’s elections was flimsy and relied on anecdotes.

Full Article: Utah House committee rejects baseless claims of election fraud; soundly defeats bill to end universal vote by mail

Wisconsin GOP seeks more election oversight but faces likely vetoes | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Republicans in the state Senate approved measures Tuesday that would change voting rules for those who are confined to their homes and allow lawmakers to cut funding for state agencies that they believe aren’t strictly following election laws. Those bills and others related to elections face likely vetoes from Gov. Tony Evers if they get to him. At least one of the bills the Senate approved Tuesday likely won’t get to the Democratic governor because of opposition from Republicans in the Assembly.  Senate Bill 214 would allow officials to begin counting absentee ballots on the day before election day. Election clerks have pushed for the idea for years to ease their workload and help them avoid reporting their results in the middle of the night. The Senate passed the bill 20-13, with Republican Sen. André Jacque of DePere joining all Democrats in opposition. Democrats have generally supported allowing absentee ballots to be processed before election day but didn’t like the particulars of the Republican-drafted bill. Despite the overwhelming support of the measure from Senate Republicans, their counterparts in the Assembly are reluctant to vote on it. “I’d say it’s unlikely at this point,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke of Kaukauna said of taking up the bill. Under the bill, election officials could begin processing absentee ballots starting at 7 a.m. on the day before election day. They could not tally the results or publicly report them until after the polls closed at 8 p.m. on election day.

Full Article: Wisconsin GOP seeks more election oversight but faces likely vetoes

Wisconsin Republicans seeks to jail officials in 2020 election review | Patrick arley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Assembly Republicans sought Friday to jail the chairwoman of the state Elections Commission, Racine’s mayor and other officials as part of their months-long review of the 2020 presidential election. The court filing marked the latest shift in approach for Michael Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice who is leading the review for the Republicans. Three days ago, he abandoned far-reaching subpoenas he issued in January to the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera Action. A month ago an attorney working with Gableman told a judge he was hoping to avoid trying to jail the mayors of Madison and Green Bay. But on Friday Gableman intensified his efforts, telling Waukesha County Circuit Judge Ralph Ramirez he should incarcerate those mayors and others if they don’t sit for interviews with him behind closed doors. The officials have said they are willing to talk to Gableman but don’t believe he should be able to do so out of the view of the public. They argue the interviews should be conducted before a legislative committee.

Full Article: Wisconsin Republicans seeks to jail officials in 2020 election review