National: Moving to Evidence-Based Elections | Barbara Simons and Poorvi Vora/National Academies

In most jurisdictions things went relatively smoothly in the November 2022 midterms, but serious issues, both technical and political, remain. As we discuss below, elections may be made more transparent and secure through the use of voter-marked paper ballots and rigorous postelection audits. The midterm elections were not as contentious as many had feared, but harassment of election officials and poll workers of both political parties has persisted. For example, on election night Bill Gates, the Republican chair of the Maricopa County (AZ) governing board, had to go into hiding because of threats. In Cobb County, GA, a suspect was arrested for interfering with poll workers and slapping a voter. Police were called in Cascade County, MT, because protesters were circling outside waiting for election officials. And an Arizona judge ordered masked and armed “observers” to keep some distance from ballot drop boxes. Safety fears have triggered election official resignations and made recruitment of poll workers more difficult. In addition, unanticipated technical problems occurred and are likely to continue to occur in every large election. Fast and accurate information is needed to explain both the problems and, where feasible, the workarounds. For example, in Maricopa County, some polling place printers produced blank ballots (for voters to mark by hand) that were too faint for the polling place scanners to read (they were readable by central scanners). Although the printing problem generated conspiracy theories among some, election officials and the press quickly informed voters that they could deposit their completed ballots in ballot boxes for later tabulation. Or they could vote at a different location if they first surrendered their marked ballot.

Full Article: Moving to Evidence-Based Elections | National Academies

Could election denialism in a feuding Arizona county upend US democracy? | Rachel Leingang/The Guardian

The 2022 election ended months ago, at least in most of the country. In a rural county on the US-Mexico border in Arizona, though, the election and its fallout linger, causing heated divisions and offering a view into how conspiracy theories could upend elections across the country. While statewide candidates in Arizona who embraced election lies lost their races in November, the election denialism movement hasn’t died off, especially in legislative and local offices, where Republicans continue to push for restrictions to voting and ballot counting that would hinder access and make elections less secure. Fueled by false claims about whether ballot tabulation machines are properly certified or accurate, supervisors in Republican-controlled Cochise county tried to conduct a full hand count of its election results and attempted not to certify the county’s results. Their efforts ultimately failed, but they reveal how election denialism has taken hold in parts of the United States and could continue to wreak havoc on American democracy.

Full Article: Could election denialism in a feuding Arizona county upend US democracy? | Arizona | The Guardian

Pennsylvania: Paper ballots provided for May Primary in Luzerne County | Andy Mehalshick/Eyewitness News

Electronic voting machines are out and paper ballot voting is in, at least for now as voters in Luzerne County will see some big changes when they head to their polling places for the May Primary Election. They will no longer cast votes on electronic voting machines. Luzerne County Election Officials told I-Team Reporter Andy Mehalshick they know they have to regain the trust of the voters, and they believe that the use of paper ballots in the upcoming election will be a step in the right direction in making that happen. Voters in Luzerne County will not be using the familiar electronic voting machines, sometimes called ‘Electronic Ballot Markers,’ in the May Primary Election. “We will have the election poll books set up for voters to sign in they will vote by paper ballot. So they’ll be given their ballot behind a privacy screen they will cast their vote and then scan it into our scanning machines before they leave,” said Jennifer Pecora, Division Head of Administrative Services.

Full Article: Paper ballots provided for May Primary in Luzerne County | Eyewitness News

National: How the backbone of American elections is being upended | Zach Montellaro/Politico

A bipartisan behind-the-scenes organization that helps states maintain their voter rolls is facing an uncertain future, after several Republican-led states left the group. The board of the Electronic Registration Information Center — or ERIC — is meeting on Friday, as the remaining members of the organization try to chart the organization’s path following the high-profile departures of Florida, West Virginia and Missouri earlier this month. Some officials fear more states are eyeing the door. The division roiling ERIC is just the latest example of a previously apolitical organization involved in fostering cooperation on the mechanics of running elections, finding life a lot more dramatic in the post-Trump world. At risk: the upending of the backbone of the nation’s electoral system. Over the last year, five states with Republican chief election officials — Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Missouri and Florida — all left ERIC. Some states have used outwardly conspiratorial-minded reasons for leaving — citing a secretive plot by liberals to take control of voter rolls. Other complaints are more about the structure of the organization bubbling to the surface, which defenders of the organization say is being used as a false pretense to leave.

Full Article: How the backbone of American elections is being upended – POLITICO

National: At center of Fox News lawsuit, Sidney Powell and a ‘wackadoodle’ email | Sarah Ellison and Amy Gardner/The Washington Post

A day after major news organizations declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential race, a Sunday-morning guest on Fox News was holding forth on exotic and baseless claims of election fraud — allegedly deceased voters, ballots supposedly lacking an option to vote for Donald Trump, an “affidavit” from a postal worker claiming to have postdated mail-in ballots — when host Maria Bartiromo pressed for more details. “Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software,” Bartiromo said on the Nov. 8, 2020, broadcast. “I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that.” The guest was Sidney Powell, a Texas-based lawyer who would soon be ambiguously connected to the Trump legal team mustered to challenge the election results. She stared stiffly into the lights of a satellite TV studio but answered without hesitation. “That’s putting it mildly,” Powell replied. “The computer glitches could not and should not have happened at all. That’s where the fraud took place, where they were flipping votes in the computer system or adding votes that did not exist.”

Full Article: At center of Fox News lawsuit, Sidney Powell and a ‘wackadoodle’ email – The Washington Post

National: Half of 2020 GOP election deniers admit no ‘solid evidence’ for their belief | Aaron Blake/The Washington Post

Sidney Powell has tacitly conceded that she didn’t have the proof of a stolen election that she claimed. Former Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis has now explicitly acknowledged that. And it turns out the GOP base as a whole is increasingly admitting it to themselves — that its continued belief in a stolen election is largely just about vibes. A new CNN poll shows the false belief that President Biden’s 2020 win over Donald Trump was illegitimate remains strong among Republicans and GOP-leaning voters; 63 percent continue to say that, while 37 percent acknowledge Biden’s legitimate victory. But as this question has been asked over time, something notable has happened: These voters have increasingly acknowledged there is no “solid evidence” for their belief. Shortly after such beliefs led to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, 71 percent of Republican-leaning voters told CNN’s pollsters that Biden’s win was illegitimate — slightly higher than today.

Full Article: Half of 2020 GOP election deniers admit no ‘solid evidence’ for their belief – The Washington Post

National: Postal Service’s Election Mail Program Receives Top Honor | Marti Johnson/USPS

The U.S. Postal Service has received the Public Service Award for its Election Mail program from the nonpartisan Election Verification Network. The award is given every year to a public official or governmental unit for protecting and promoting election integrity and verifiable elections. “This award is further confirmation of the Postal Service’s deep commitment and great success in delivering the nation’s ballots securely and on time,” said Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy. “We take pride in the role our organization plays in the election process. The American people can continue to feel confident in using the U.S. Mail to fulfill their democratic duty to vote.” The Election Verification Network is comprised of election officials, researchers and advocates focused on secure, transparent and verifiable elections. “The award is additional recognition of the Postal Service’s successful processing and delivery of Election Mail, which has grown exponentially in recent years,” said Adrienne Marshall, the Postal Service’s director of election and government mail services. “Our 635,000 employees are proud to provide this service for customers who choose to use the U.S. Mail to participate in the democratic process.”

Full Article: Postal Service’s Election Mail Program Receives Top Honor – Newsroom –

Arizona bill to enable do-it-yourself election audits sparks rare bipartisan interest | Jen Fifield/Votebeat Arizona

Behind closed doors this month, in a caucus room that typically holds members from just one party, in a state defined by its political divisiveness, a rare bipartisan parley unfolded. State Sen. Ken Bennett paced around the room explaining his idea for a Do-It-Yourself election audit. He wanted to create a path making it possible — though technically difficult — to confirm the validity of election results by precinct, race, or ballot, from the comfort of home. “I just wanted to give people the opportunity to say, do you have trouble with any of that, the underlying concept?” Bennett said. Sitting before him were prominent figures from both political parties, including Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers. No one spoke up to object. In a legislative session marked with hostility and party-line votes, this idea from Bennett, a Republican and a former secretary of state, has brought about a rare cross-party dialogue. Both sides set aside their talking points during the meeting, with no emphasis from Republicans on unproven theories of stolen elections, according to video snippets shared with Votebeat, and no stonewalling from Democrats.

Full Article: Arizona Sen. Ken Bennett pushes bipartisan elections bill for do-it-yourself audits – Votebeat Arizona – Nonpartisan local reporting on elections and voting

Arkansas House committee passes bill to regulate paper ballot counties | Hunter Field/Arkansas Advocate

A group of state representatives advanced legislation Monday that would require counties that opt to get rid of voting machines to bear the costs of paper ballots. The Arkansas House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs passed Senate Bill 250 by Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) on a split voice vote after several hours of debate and testimony that included debunked claims and conspiracies about election integrity. The bill was introduced in response to a Donald Trump-connected group’s efforts to convince county quorum courts to ditch voting machines for hand-marked ballots and hand-counted election results. Cleburne County in January became the first county in the state to pivot away from voting machines, but last week, the quorum court repealed that ordinance. An official from the Association of Arkansas Counties told the House committee Monday that the North Arkansas county had passed the January ordinance hastily and may not have realized its full implications. Opponents of SB250 testified the bill would discourage counties from opting to count election results by hand. Hammer said the proposal was not “anti-paper ballot,” saying the bill provides guidelines for any counties that do “deviate” from the rest of the state. Arkansas, he said, has a history of free, fair elections.

Full Article: Arkansas Advocate : Arkansas House committee passes bill to regulate paper ballot counties | Regional News |

Colorado: Federal judge refuses to dismiss defamation suit by former exec of Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems | Michael Karlik/The Gazette

Dominion Voting Systems executive against an Oklahoma podcaster who spread unproven statements about election-rigging in the wake of the 2020 presidential race. Eric Coomer, the former director of product security and strategy for voting technology supplier Dominion, sued Clayton Thomas “Clay” Clark and his “Thrivetime Show” podcast for promoting the rumor that Coomer allegedly confessed to ensuring former President Donald Trump would not win reelection. Those assertions of “treasonous behavior” resulted in death threats against Coomer, who lives in Colorado. On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Senior Judge William J. Martínez denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Clark and Thrivetime argued they had “every reason to believe” the dubious allegations about Coomer, and the lawsuit could not survive because it stemmed from their protected First Amendment activity. But the judge found “no real dispute” that some of the defendants’ comments about Coomer amounted to defamation.

Full Article: Defamation lawsuit by former Dominion exec remains intact | Courts |

Georgia grand jury hears 3rd leaked Trump call | Tamar Hallerman and Bill Rankin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The bomb-sniffing dog was new. The special grand jurors investigating interference in Georgia’s 2020 elections hadn’t before seen that level of security on the third floor of the Fulton County courthouse where they had been meeting in secret for nearly eight months. Oh, God, I hope it doesn’t find anything, one juror recalled thinking as the German Shepherd inspected the room. “It was unexpected. We were not warned of that,” she said. The reason for the heightened surveillance was the day’s star witness: Michael Flynn, former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. An election denier who suggested martial law should be imposed to seize voting machines in Georgia and other swing states where Trump lost, Flynn had only agreed to appear after being compelled to by two courts in his home state of Florida. Fulton law enforcement was taking no chances on that unseasonably warm December day, concerned about who might turn up to protect Flynn, a prominent figure among far-right, conspiracy theorist and Christian nationalist groups. Outside, on the courthouse steps, sheriffs’ deputies and marshals carrying automatic weapons kept watch.

Full Article: Behind the scenes of Trump grand jury in Georgia; jurors hear 3rd leaked Trump call

Missouri is not hand-counting votes, despite California county supervisor’s claim | David Benda Redding/Record Searchlight

Supervisor Patrick Jones has used the state of Missouri as an example of where a hand-count ballot system can work and also comply with federal election laws. Jones is leading a charge to eliminate electronic vote tabulation machines in Shasta County and return to hand-counting ballots. “I have been doing a little bit of research with at least one state. Missouri is returning to hand-counting,” Jones said at the board’s Feb. 28 meeting. The Show Me State is not ditching its electronic machines to hand-count ballots. New election provisions that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed into law in June 2022 do a lot of things. What they don’t do is mandate hand-counting all ballots. “Starting in 2024, we are eliminating some electronic equipment, which is called our DRE equipment. Basically, though, just saying that it will be replaced with equipment that will be producing that paper ballot. … But there’s nothing in Missouri where we’re going to start hand-counting all paper ballots,” JoDonn Chaney, director of communications for Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, said to the Record Searchlight.

Full Article: Missouri is not hand-counting votes, despite Shasta supervisor’s claim

Nevada Senate bill: Repay state for unused voting machines | Taylor R. Avery/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Counties and cities could be on the hook for repaying the state for unused voting machines under a bill considered by lawmakers Thursday. Senate Bill 215, presented by state Sen. James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, would require counties and cities that choose to stop using voting machines purchased with state funds to return the money to the state. The bill comes in response to some counties that considered using paper ballots and hand counting, ostensibly to ensure election integrity. The bill would not be retroactive, meaning counties that have already opted to stop using voting machines wouldn’t be required to pay the money back. If passed, the bill would become effective on July 1. The proposed legislation was suggested by an interim legislative committee, which voted in August to request a version of the bill be introduced during the 2023 legislative session.

Full Article: Nevada Senate bill: Repay state for unused voting machines | Las Vegas Review-Journal

New Mexico: Intimidation, voting rights measures headed to governor’s desk | Dan McKay/Albuquerque Journal

Legislation making it a crime to intimidate election workers and expanding automatic voter registration is on its way to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham after winning House approval Monday. The proposals — contained in separate bills — emerged this year as priorities for Democratic legislative leaders. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the measures would increase protection for people on the front lines carrying out elections and make it easier for New Mexicans to vote. “As federal voting bills are stymied in Congress and voting rights come under attack across the nation, states like New Mexico must step up to protect these rights,” said Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat. The automatic voter registration proposal, House Bill 4, includes provisions to establish a Native American Voting Rights Act, outlining requirements for secure ballot drop boxes and restores felons’ rights to vote when they leave incarceration, rather than after the completion of probation or parole.

Full Article: Intimidation, voting rights measures headed to governor’s desk in New Mexico – Albuquerque Journal

Texas Senate passes bill to make illegal voting a felony again | Pooja Salhotra/The Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate on Tuesday gave final approval, on a 19–12 vote, to legislation that would raise the penalty for voting illegally from a misdemeanor to a felony, a priority for Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other conservative lawmakers who have worked to remake the state’s voting laws since the 2020 election, despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas. Senate Bill 2 heads next to the lower chamber for consideration. If the bill becomes law, a person found guilty of the crime could face up to 20 years in prison and more than $10,000 in fines. The initial debate on the floor Monday between Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, the bill’s author, focused heavily on what constitutes illegal voting. Lawmakers disagreed over whether, under the bill, a person who mistakenly votes illegally could be prosecuted. Democrats pointed to examples such as a person who knows they have been convicted of a felony but doesn’t realize that makes them ineligible to vote or a person who knows they are not a U.S. citizen but does not know that makes them ineligible.

Full Article: Texas Senate gives OK to make illegal voting a felony | The Texas Tribune

Utah: Elections audits and restrictions for changing parties. Here’s how voting will change. | Bryan Schott/The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah lawmakers introduced 36 bills dealing with elections during the 2023 legislative session, passing 13. Additionally, there were seven proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution, with three that will make it to the 2024 ballot. Most of the election-related bills approved by lawmakers are administrative. For example, HB37 from Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, standardizes signature verification procedures for ballots and how to contact voters when a problem with their signature needs rectifying. Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, pushed SB63, which changes the conditions under which political parties can replace candidates on the ballot. Previously, candidates could only be replaced if they died, were disqualified or resigned due to a physical or mental disability. The change was prompted by the controversy surrounding former Rep. Joel Ferry remaining on the ballot after he resigned from the Legislature and was appointed to head up the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

Full Article: Utah lawmakers passed more than a dozen elections laws. Here’s how voting will change.

Vermont: Internet voting: Good idea, but the risk is still too great | Angelo Lynn/Addison Independent

As a Vermont state legislator, one of the most satisfying parts of the job is to craft legislation that solves a problem for a particular group of constituents. In H.429, legislators crafted a bill that attempts to improve several aspects of the state’s election laws, including what was called a “sore loser law” in which the bill limits the ability of a candidate who loses in a primary battle to re-enter the general election as an independent candidate for the same office. But a clause in the bill also makes changes to expand online voting. This brief aspect of the bill was drafted and passed with bipartisan support and not much controversy for what are good reasons: it sought to make voting easier for a select group of citizens, it was expanded from an existing system, and adequate effort was made to ensure the voting process was secure. And it sought to accomplish what everyone saw as a public good: larger voter turnout via a more convenient process. But what seems secure isn’t always so. Currently, Vermont towns can send blank ballots to a few select voters — basically military, overseas military and citizens with disabilities who request absentee ballots. All ballots are filled out and mailed back via US postage, with military personnel having a special premium paid service that expresses it back to the states. The new law would allow for military, those with disabilities and voters who request an absentee ballot emailed to them, with also the ability for that ballot to be returned electronically.

Full Article: Editorial: Internet voting: Good idea, but the risk is still too great – Addison Independent

Wisconsin: Election-denying donors pour millions into key supreme court race | Alice Herman/The Guardian

More than $3.9m has poured into the Wisconsin supreme court election from individuals and groups involved with promoting election disinformation and attempts to overturn the 2020 election, according to an analysis of campaign spending by the Guardian. The contributions, in support of the conservative candidate Daniel Kelly, come amid a race that has broken national campaign spending records. According to a campaign finance tracker by the Brennan Center for Justice, political ad orders for the liberal county judge Janet Protasiewicz and conservative Kelly have reached at least $20m in anticipation of the 4 April general election. The Wisconsin supreme court is currently made up of three judges who lean liberal and four conservatives. Whoever replaces the conservative retiring justice Patience Roggensack will determine the ideological composition of the court, which has been dominated by the right wing for 15 years. At stake in the Wisconsin supreme court race are redistricting, abortion rights, and voting rights and elections policy. And these decisions go beyond the state: Wisconsin has been a critical swing state in recent presidential elections, so its voting policies affect more than just state residents.

Full Article: Election-denying donors pour millions into key Wisconsin supreme court race | Wisconsin | The Guardian