National: States Push for New Voting Laws With an Eye Toward 2024 | Neil Vigdor/The New York Times

The tug of war over voting rights and rules is playing out with fresh urgency at the state level, as Republicans and Democrats fight to get new laws on the books before the 2024 presidential election. Republicans have pushed to tighten voting laws with renewed vigor since former President Donald J. Trump made baseless claims of fraud after losing the 2020 election, while Democrats coming off midterm successes are trying to channel their momentum to expand voting access and thwart efforts to undermine elections. States like Florida, Texas and Georgia, where Republicans control the levers of state government, have already passed sweeping voting restrictions that include criminal oversight initiatives, limits on drop boxes, new identification requirements and more. While President Biden and Democrats in Congress were unable to pass federal legislation last year that would protect voting access and restore elements of the landmark Voting Rights Act stripped away by the Supreme Court in 2013, not all reform efforts have floundered.

Full Article: States Push for New Voting Laws With an Eye Toward 2024 – The New York Times

With a roll of the dice, Michigan begins audit of 2022 election | Ben Orner/

Over the next month, state and local election officials will audit Michigan’s 2022 general election, checking the accuracy of results and security of procedures. These more than 200 audits across counties, cities and townships will see Bureau of Elections staff and county clerks review ballots and election administration in randomly selected precincts and identify best practices for future elections. “It is somewhat like a recount, but it is not a recount,” said Michigan elections director Jonathan Brater. “What we’re doing is counting enough containers across the state to make sure that – within a statistical level of certainty – we’re confident that the tabulators got the proper result.” Brater watched Thursday as a handful of local election officials and bureau staff rolled a 10-sided die to determine which batches of ballots will be hand-counted to check the accuracy of Michigan’s vote tabulation machines.

Full Article: With a roll of the dice, Michigan begins audit of 2022 election –

National: Election Assistance Commission Appoints New Director With Security-Focused Background | Edward Graham/Nextgov

The Election Assistance Commission on Tuesday announced that Steven Frid—the security director at the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office—has been appointed as the new executive director of the agency beginning on Jan. 30. In a press release, EAC called Frid “a long-term public servant who has dedicated his career to collecting and analyzing data about risks to federal employees, facilities, information and operations within the Office of Personnel Management, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Education.” “Steven Frid will be joining the EAC during a very exciting and pivotal time for the agency as we prepare for the 2024 elections,” EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks, Vice Chair Christy McCormick, and Commissioners Ben Hovland and Donald Palmer said in a joint statement. “His leadership, innovative work and expertise at a range of federal agencies will be an asset as the EAC continues to grow and work to better serve election officials, voters and other stakeholders.”

Full Article: Election Assistance Commission Appoints New Director With Security-Focused Background – Nextgov

National: GOP action on mail ballot timelines angers military families | Julie Carr Smith and Gary Fields/Los Angeles Times

Ohio’s restrictive new election law significantly shortens the window for mailed ballots to be received — despite no evidence that the extended timeline has led to fraud or any other problems — and that change is angering active-duty members of the military and their families because of its potential to disenfranchise them. The pace of ballot counting after election day has become a target of conservatives egged on by former President Trump. He has promoted a false narrative since losing the 2020 election that fluctuating results as late-arriving mail-in ballots are tallied is a sign of fraud. Republican lawmakers said during debate on the Ohio legislation that even if Trump’s claims aren’t true, the skepticism they have caused among conservatives about the accuracy of election results justifies imposing new limits. The new law reduces the number of days for county election boards to include mailed ballots in their tallies from 10 days after election day to four. Critics say that could lead to more ballots from Ohio’s military voters missing the deadline and getting tossed. This issue isn’t confined to Ohio. Three other states narrowed their post-election windows for accepting mail ballots last session, according to data from the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab. Similar moves pushed by Republican lawmakers are being proposed or discussed this year in Wisconsin, New Jersey, California and other states.

Full Article: GOP action on mail ballot timelines angers military families – Los Angeles Times

Arizona Court of Appeals rejects state GOP party effort to end early voting | Mary Jo Pitzl/Arizona Republic

Arizona’s early voting system is constitutional, the state Court of Appeals has ruled, upholding a popular voting method used widely across the state. The ruling, issued Tuesday, is the second legal defeat on the issue for the Arizona Republican Party and its chair, Kelli Ward, who last year sued to eliminate early voting before the 2022 elections. The three-judge appeals court rejected the party’s argument that mail-in voting violates the secrecy clause in the state Constitution, which requires that voters must have a way to conceal their choices on the ballot. The state’s mail-in, or early voting, process does provide secrecy, the court found, “by requiring voters to ensure that they fill out their ballot in secret and seal the ballot in an envelope that does not disclose the voters’ choices.”

Full Article: Arizona Court of Appeals: Early voting does not violate Constitution

Arkansas: Cleburne County Rejects Voting Machines and Votes to Move to Hand Counted Paper Ballots | Magnolia Banner News

The Cleburne County quorum court passed a binding resolution making them a “paper ballot” county, meaning future elections would be administered with hand marked paper ballots that are hand counted. The vote was in response to Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, INC.(AVII) CEO Colonel Conrad Reynolds’ push for election computers to be removed from Arkansas elections. Reynolds stated, “For more than a decade there have been too many unanswered questions with these voting machines, which are essentially computers. The owners of the machine company are intentionally shielded from the public. The machines do not read the names on the ballots, instead they scan barcodes, which humans cannot read. They also utilize proprietary software that we are not allowed to examine. This all means voters cannot verify that their vote is being counted properly as mandated by state law. As a former military intelligence officer, I look at this through a national security perspective and conclude there are big problems with our current voting system.”

Full Article: Cleburne County (Arkansas) Rejects Voting Machines and Votes to Move to Hand Counted Paper Ballots

Colorado: Pueblo County election tampering case bound for competency court | Justin Reutter/The Pueblo Chieftain

A Pueblo man’s competency to stand trial in an election tampering case is still up in the air and has been bound over to competency court by District Judge William Alexander. An initial report from the Colorado Department of Human Services has been ordered to opine on the initial likelihood of restoring to competency suspect Richard Patton, 31, to stand trial. However, no findings have yet been made, according to Colorado court records. At a hearing Dec. 29, Alexander also ordered Patton to undergo outpatient mental health treatment in hopes of restoring legal competency in the case. A Jan. 18 competency court hearing has been set in front of District Judge Allison Ernst, according to Alexander. Patton was found to be incompetent to stand trial following a December evaluation by a behavioral health expert.

Full Article: Pueblo election tampering case bound for competency court

Idaho lawmakers want hand recounts during election audits | James Dawson/Boise State Public Radio

Post-election audits must be done by hand under the first bill to make it to the House floor this year. State legislators passed a law last year requiring a random audit of each primary and general election in Idaho. Counties are randomly drawn, with the requirement that small and larger counties alike are chosen. But the law never specified how audits should be conducted. Despite that, Secretary of State Phil McGrane said state officials did previously use hand recounts. “This is just affirming the current practice,” said McGrane. “It was done previously by directive of [former Secretary of State Lawerence Denney]. That directive will continue.” Votes are typically scanned and counted by a machine, which can occasionally misread faintly filled-in bubbles, or make other errors.

Full Article: Idaho lawmakers want hand recounts during election audits | Boise State Public Radio

Michigan lawmakers announce plans to protect election officials in wake of threats | Anna Gustafson/Michigan Advance

After threats against election workers have soared in the wake of a right-wing campaign to push lies about the 2020 election, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Democratic lawmakers announced Tuesday plans to protect election officials and crack down on those intentionally sharing misinformation about elections and voting. “As Michigan’s chief election officer, my responsibility is to ensure that our elections are accessible, safe, secure, and that the results are an accurate reflection of the will of the people,” Benson said during Tuesday’s press conference. “It’s a role that increasingly forces all of us in this work, whether we consider ourselves Republican, Democrat or independent, to endure threats, harassment, false and malicious attacks on our character and integrity, and sometimes even violence. “We cannot have a secure democracy if we do not protect the security of the people who administer, protect and stand guard over our elections,” Benson continued.

Full Article: Benson, Dem lawmakers announce plans to protect election officials in wake of threats ⋆ Michigan Advance

Mississippi: New voting machines can help keep elections secure but will require funding | Kobee Vance/MPR

Mississippi is currently investing in a new voting infrastructure that will rely more on paper ballots as a backup to the machines that scan in votes. This was originally funded through a law passed last year. It allows for local municipalities to print ballots on demand and has specialized touchscreen voting machines for those with disabilities. But Secretary of State Michael Watson says there are some additional costs with these machines that need additional legislative funding to maintain software and security. “I think it’s important to make sure that Mississippians are educated, and they say, ‘well, we’re still voting on machines.’ Well it’s a machine that counts a paper ballot,” says Watson. “So if there’s ever an issue, you can come back and say ‘you know what, let’s look to the paper.’ And so I think Mississippians will feel more confident about that.” Watson says the continued security maintenance that modern voting machines require will be a recurring cost for local municipalities, and much of this will be handled by the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services.

Full Article: New voting machines in Mississippi can help keep elections secure but will require funding

Nevada: Democratic state senator to propose criminalizing ‘fake elector’ schemes | Sean Golonka/The Nevada Independent

In a bid to strengthen Nevada election laws, Democratic Sen. has requested a bill that would criminalize so-called “fake elector” schemes, such as the 2020 plot that saw self-designated Republican electors seek to pledge Nevada’s electoral votes to then-President Donald Trump, despite him losing the popular vote to Democrat Joe Biden. “I just wanted to, to the extent that we can, strengthen the rule against it, the penalty for it, make sure it never happens again, basically make it even more illegal than it was before,” Daly, who represents a Sparks-area district, told The Nevada Independent. “The idea is not only to capture … the actual fake electors, but anyone conspiring with them to do such a thing.” For those found guilty of submitting false electoral votes or conspiring to do so, Daly’s requested bill would, if approved, subject them to felony charges, including four to eight years of jail time. It also would ban those convicted of breaking the law from running for elected office in Nevada and from being appointed to any government position in the state. “I pray that we’ll never … have to prosecute or attempt to prosecute or have a reason to prosecute anybody,” he said. “But at the same time, though, who would have thought that it would happen the first time?”

Source: Democratic state senator to propose criminalizing ‘fake elector’ schemes – The Nevada Independent

New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission moves forward with assessing new counting machines | Jeongyoon Han/New Hampshire Public Radio

New Hampshire’s Ballot Law Commission is continuing to test out different ballot counting machines as it seeks to replace the state’s aging ones. The commission, which sets the criteria and has the final say for certifying ballot counting machines in the state, met on Wednesday to assess several companies’ ballot counting machines. Here’s what happened. The commission met with representatives from a company called Clear Ballot Group, which wants to have their ballot counting machines approved so that towns in New Hampshire could use them for elections. The state uses those machines when conducting its routine election audits. James Rundlett, national sales manager at the company, showed the commission how the ballot machine works. “We believe this is the future of elections,” Rundlett said. Clear Ballot Group’s ballot devices are being used in various parts of the country, including in parts of the Pacific Northwest, Kansas, Seattle, and Ohio.

Full Article: NH Ballot Law Commission moves forward with assessing new counting machines | New Hampshire Public Radio

New Jersey county will seek court-ordered recount after voting machines produced erroneous election results 7 David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

The Monmouth County Board of Elections are expected to ask a judge to order a recount of an Ocean Township school board race after their voting machine vendor, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), acknowledged on Tuesday that a human programming error caused some votes to be double counted, the New Jersey Globe has learned. Frustration among election officials in Monmouth County from both parties has caused the election board to move forward despite the advice of the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and not recanvass and recertify the November 8 general election, two sources with direct knowledge of the board’s actions have confirmed. … The company, which services a large percentage of U.S. voting machines, sought to downplay the problem. “In Monmouth County, the outcome of one race in the 2022 November General Election – a local, nonpartisan race – was affected due to USB flash media being loaded twice into the results reporting module,” said Katrina Granger, an ES&S spokesperson. “This isolated incident occurred due to a human procedural error. An audit of the system yielded this information.”

Full Article: N.J. county will seek court-ordered recount after voting machines produced erroneous election results – New Jersey Globe

New Mexico shootings follow two years of election assaults | Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

Two years since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, a series of drive-by shootings targeting Democrats in New Mexico is a violent reminder that the false claims about a stolen election persist in posing a danger to public officials and the country’s democratic institutions. While no one was hurt in the Albuquerque attacks, this latest outburst of political violence underscores how election denialism has become deeply embedded across much of the country and how it is driving grievance-filled anger over the nation’s politics and officeholders. Over the past year, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was seriously injured in an attack in his home by an assailant who said he was sick of the “lies coming out of Washington D.C.,” election workers were intimidated and harassed, and prosecutors won convictions in a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor. Further sign of the unrelenting threat came this week when authorities arrested a Republican candidate for the New Mexico House who had refused to accept his loss in last fall’s election. Police said Solomon Peña hired four people to shoot at the homes of four Democratic lawmakers.

Full Article: New Mexico shootings follow two years of election assaults | AP News

New Mexico: A Republican candidate paid for shootings targeting Democratic officials, police say | Ayana Archie/NPR

Solomon Peña, who unsuccessfully ran for a state House seat in New Mexico as a Republican last November, was arrested Monday in Albuquerque for allegedly paying four men to shoot at the homes of four elected officials, police said. They say Peña paid $500 — and that he took part in one shooting himself. The criminal complaint against Peña includes chilling details. In one case, bullets tore through the walls of a 10-year-old girl’s bedroom as she slept. Just before that attack, police allege, Peña had urged the gunmen to aim lower when they shot at politicians’ houses. Charges against Peña, whom police call the “mastermind” behind the string of attacks, include conspiracy to commit a felony, shooting at an occupied dwelling, and shooting from a vehicle. He was booked into the Albuquerque Metropolitan Detention Center late Monday.

Full Article: A Republican candidate paid for shootings targeting N.M. Democrats, police say : NPR

Pennsylvania: Driven by Election Deniers, Hand Recount of 2020 Election Results in Lycoming County Showed Little Change | Trip Gabriel/The New York Times

On the 797th day after the defeat of former President Donald J. Trump, a rural Pennsylvania county on Monday began a recount of ballots from Election Day 2020. Under pressure from conspiracy theorists and election deniers, 28 employees of Lycoming County counted — by hand — nearly 60,000 ballots. It took three days and an estimated 560 work hours, as the vote-counters ticked through paper ballots at long rows of tables in the county elections department in Williamsport, a place used to a different sort of nail-biter as the home of the Little League World Series. The results of Lycoming County’s hand recount — like earlier recounts of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona — revealed no evidence of fraud. The numbers reported more than two years ago were nearly identical to the numbers reported on Thursday. Mr. Trump ended up with seven fewer votes than were recorded on voting machines in 2020. Joseph R. Biden Jr. had 15 fewer votes. Overall, Mr. Trump gained eight votes against his rival. The former president, who easily carried deep-red Lycoming County in 2020, carried it once again with 69.98 percent of the vote — gaining one one-hundredth of a point in the recount.

ull Article: Hand Recount of 2020 Election Results in Lycoming County Showed Little Change – The New York Times

Texas: Republicans have already filed dozens of bills to restrict voting in 2023 | Kira Lerner/The Guardian

Republican lawmakers across the country have already filed dozens of bills that would restrict voting, including proposals in Texas that would increase criminal penalties on people who violate voting laws and enact a new law enforcement unit to prosecute election crimes. The 2023 legislative session comes in the wake of an election that was described by many voting rights advocates as a triumph of democracy, despite the restrictive voting laws that were in place in 20 states for the first time last year. Before this session, at least 26 states enacted, expanded or increased the severity of 120 election-related criminal penalties. This year, Republican-controlled legislatures plan to continue pressing for laws that they say would help prevent widespread voter fraud, a problem that voting advocates say does not exist but nonetheless continues to be alleged by Donald Trump and his allies. Several pre-filed bills would further criminalize voters and election officials, a trend that has been occurring across the US in the past few years.

Source: Republicans have already filed dozens of bills to restrict voting in 2023 | US voting rights | The Guardian