National: After voters embraced mail ballots, GOP states tighten rules | Anthony Izaguirre and Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

A monthslong campaign by the Republican Party, fueled in part by the false narrative of widespread fraud in last year’s presidential election, has led to a wave of new voting laws that will tighten access to the ballot for millions of Americans. The restrictions especially target voting methods that have been rising in popularity across the country, erecting hurdles to mail balloting and early voting that saw explosive growth during the pandemic. More than 40% of all voters last fall cast mail ballots, a record. Texas is the latest state to crack down, after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill Tuesday taking aim at Democratic-leaning counties that have sought to expand access to the ballot. “Regardless of motives, these bills hurt voters,” said Isabel Longoria, the election administrator of Harris County, which includes Houston. “Voters are going to feel this the next time they go vote, and that’s what I’m most worried about.”

Full Article: After voters embraced mail ballots, GOP states tighten rules

National: Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections | Isaac Arnsdorf, Doug Bock Clark, Alexandra Berzon and Anjeanette Damon/ProPublica

One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump’s supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. “We’re on the point of attack,” Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. “All hell will break loose tomorrow.” The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: “It’s them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?” When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his “War Room” podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. “This is your call to action,” Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges. The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. “It’s going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don’t have an option,” Bannon said on his show in May. “We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.” Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.

Full Article: Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections — ProPublica

National: Misinformation on Facebook beats factual news when it comes to clicks, study finds | Elizabeth Dwoskin/The Washington Post

A new study of user behavior on Facebook around the 2020 election is likely to bolster critics’ long-standing arguments that the company’s algorithms fuel the spread of misinformation over more trustworthy sources. The forthcoming peer-reviewed study by researchers at New York University and the Université Grenoble Alpes in France has found that from August 2020 to January 2021, news publishers known for putting out misinformation got six times the amount of likes, shares, and interactions on the platform as did trustworthy news sources, such as CNN or the World Health Organization. Ever since “fake news” on Facebook became a public concern following the 2016 presidential election, publishers who traffic in misinformation have been repeatedly shown to be able to gain major audiences on the platform. But the NYU study is one of the few comprehensive attempts to measure and isolate the misinformation effect across a wide group of publishers on Facebook, experts said, and its conclusions support the criticism that Facebook’s platform rewards publishers that put out misleading accounts. The study “helps add to the growing body of evidence that, despite a variety of mitigation efforts, misinformation has found a comfortable home — and an engaged audience — on Facebook,” said Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University, who reviewed the study’s findings. In response, Facebook said that the report measured the number of people who engage with content, but that is not a measure of the number of people that actually view it (Facebook does not make the latter number, called impressions, publicly available to researchers).

Full Article: Misinformation on Facebook beats factual news when it comes to clicks, study finds – The Washington Post

Arizona Senate releases more records of 2020 election review | Bob Christie/Associated Press

Lawyers representing the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate in a review of 2020 election results in the state’s most populous county released a slew of communications between GOP lawmakers, their audit liasions and others under a court order obtained by a watchdog group that is fighting for transparency in the election recount. Among the communications were text messages from a top campaign official of former President Donald Trump to Senate liaison Randy Pullen asking where to send $175,000 to help pay for the partisan recount. Former Trump campaign chief operating officer and ex-Arizona state Treasurer Jeff DeWit also asked Pullen if another group raising funds for the audit was legitimate, saying “Trump asking.” The Senate records were not complete. Senate attorney Kory Langhofer told a judge Wednesday that it withheld nearly 3,000 records because they contained legislative or attorney-client communications he says are privileged. Other records sought by American Oversight remain the subject of a court battle. A judge had also ordered the Senate’s contractor, including the Florida company that is overseeing the audit, to produce its records.

Full Article: Arizona Senate releases more records of 2020 election review

California: Security of some ballot-marking devices could be vulnerable in recall election, researchers say | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

A group of voting security researchers, alarmed by recent disclosure of sensitive election system software by an ally of former President Trump, want California officials to conduct a statewide post-election review of ballots cast in the Sept. 14 recall targeting Gov. Gavin Newsom. Their request, made just days before in-person voting begins in several counties, threatens to drag California into the tumultuous national debate over election security. “While the software versions are not identical to those used in California, differences are relatively minor,” the group said in its letter Thursday to Secretary of State Shirley Weber. “The release materially elevates threats to the trustworthiness of the ongoing California recall election and to public trust in the election.” The researchers who wrote to Weber acknowledged California’s strong record on election security. But they argued the public discussion of Dominion products by Mike Lindell, the chief executive of My Pillow and an informal advisor to Trump, was tantamount to a serious breach of election system security. Jenna Dresner, a spokeswoman for Weber, said Friday that the election systems used in California are secure and the state has launched a pilot program for risk-limiting audits with plans to expand the effort to all counties by 2023.

Full Article: Experts question California recall ballot-marking devices – Los Angeles Times

California: Experts call for rigorous audit to protect recall election | Christina A. Cassidy and Kate Brumback/Associated Press

A group of election security experts on Thursday called for a rigorous audit of the upcoming recall election for California’s governor after copies of systems used to run elections across the country were released publicly. Their letter sent to the secretary of state’s office urges the state to conduct a type of post-election audit that can help detect malicious attempts to interfere. The  statewide recall targeting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, set for Sept. 14, is the first election since copies of Dominion Voting Systems’ election management system were distributed last month at an event organized by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an ally of former President Donald Trump who has made unsubstantiated claims about last year’s election. Election offices across 30 states use the Dominion system, including 40 counties in California. Election security experts have said the breaches, from a county in Colorado and another in Michigan, pose a heightened risk to elections because the system is used for a number of administrative functions — from designing ballots and configuring voting machines to tallying results. In the letter, the experts said they do not have evidence that anyone plans to attempt a hack of the systems used in California and are not casting blame on Dominion. “However, it is critical to recognize that the release of the Dominion software into the wild has increased the risk to the security of California elections to the point that emergency action is warranted,” the experts wrote in their letter, which was shared with The Associated Press. The eight experts signing the letter include computer scientists, election technology experts and cybersecurity researchers.

Full Article: Experts call for rigorous audit to protect California recall

California: Latest Wave of Fake News Concerns Mail Ballot Fraud in Recall Election | Sameea Kamal/Times of San Diego

You’ve seen the posts on Twitter and Facebook, or maybe someone forwarded a WhatsApp message about suspicious activity with California’s recall ballots. Unfounded rumors about election security have always been around, but they’ve been rampant since the 2020 election and former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement. Despite those allegations, the 2020 elections were found to be “the most secure in American history,” according to a statement from a coalition of government and election industry officials. Claims of fraud in California’s recall election have been amplified on social media by some recall supporters, as well by some of the candidates themselves, including Larry Elder, the Republican talk show host leading most polls. So ahead of the Sept. 14 election, state and county election officials are emphasizing transparency — including allowing observers to watch the vote count — and ramping up messages to combat disinformation. On television and social media, the secretary of state’s office is running spots about how votes are safeguarded, including independent testing, paper trails and audits.   On Sept. 2, a group of election security experts urged California to conduct a thorough post-election audit because the recall is the first contest after copies of systems used to run elections were released publicly, the Associated Press reported.

Full Article: Latest Wave of Fake News Concerns Mail Ballot Fraud in California’s Recall Election – Times of San Diego

Colorado county election official allegedly pressured employees to not cooperate with investigation into security breach | Paul P. Murphy/CNN

County administrators in Colorado have opened an investigation into an election official after employees complained she was pressuring them not to cooperate with a joint local, state and federal criminal investigation into an election system security breach discovered last month, a source told CNN. Deputy clerk Belinda Knisley of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorders office has been placed on paid administrative leave due to a “confidential personnel matter,” CNN previously reported. A source in the Mesa County government tells CNN that the “confidential personnel matter” refers to an open county human resources investigation in which Knisley is accused of pressuring fellow clerk employees — her subordinates — not to cooperate with the criminal investigation into the breach. When Knisley caught wind of the HR investigation, the source said that Knisley also then pressured employees not to cooperate with it. Knisley was arrested on Wednesday, charged with felony burglary and misdemeanor cyber crime. As part of her bail conditions, Knisley agreed to have no contact with any clerk employees.

Full Article: Colorado county election official allegedly pressured employees to not cooperate with investigation into security breach – CNNPolitics

Georgia Election Officials Prep For New Voting Law’s Impact | Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting

It would be easy to lose track of all the changes to Georgia’s voting rules made by the 98-page Senate Bill 202, but for local elections officials, that’s not an option. Across three days this week, hundreds of county supervisors, elections board members, probate judges and staff received hands-on training at the Georgia Association of Voter Registration and Elections Officials conference on Jekyll Island. The session dealing with SB 202 ran for more than an hour, with the Secretary of State’s office going section by section to make sure no alteration goes unnoticed. While Republicans, Democrats and federal lawsuits have zeroed in on a few higher-profile parts of the bill, dozens of pages of it that people aren’t talking about more directly affect how local officials do their jobs.

Full Article: Georgia Election Officials Prep For New Voting Law’s Impact | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Maryland settles lawsuit over machines used by blind voters | Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun

The state of Maryland will pay $230,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by visually impaired voters and the National Federation of the Blind that alleged the state’s electronic voting machines compromised voter secrecy and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Three voters and the federation sued the state in federal court two years ago, detailing problems with the electronic devices, which are often used by voters with vision impairments or other disabilities. Since 2016, most Maryland voters have used paper ballots marked with a pen. Before that, all voters used touch screen machines. The lawsuit contended that in some instances, election judges were poorly trained or that the voting machines, known as “ballot marking devices,” were inoperable. And the lawsuit noted that the ballot marking device prints out a ballot that’s a different size and shape than the paper ballots used by other voters. That means that if only one voter used the ballot marking devices at a voting location, their ballot could be identified among the rest. After months of settlement negotiations, the state and the plaintiffs reached an agreement in August. The Maryland Board of Public Works, a three-member panel that oversees state spending, voted unanimously and without discussion Wednesday to approve the settlement and $230,000 payment.

Full Article: Maryland settles lawsuit over machines used by blind voters – Baltimore Sun

Editorial: The lessons from Trump’s ‘Kraken’ lawyer sanctions in Michigan – How to protect against this type of attack in the future | Scott L. Cummings/NBC

The only thing surprising about U.S. District Judge Linda Parker’s order early last month imposing monetary sanctions on nine Trump attorneys was that it was so long in coming. These lawyers — led by conspiracy-theorists-in-chief Sidney Powell and Lin Wood — made outlandish claims of election fraud in Michigan and other key battleground states, all of which were roundly rejected by every court that considered them. The Michigan suit was part of multistate litigation that Powell called the “Kraken” after the mythic sea monster (the release of which she claimed would destroy President Joe Biden’s victory). The Trump legal team made unsubstantiated claims of computerized ballot stuffing by a deceased foreign dictator and late-night ballot dumps by mysterious trucks, leading Parker to lambaste the lawsuit as “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.” The Kraken suit, and others brought by Trump campaign attorneys, imposed a stress test on the American legal system by seeking to co-opt courts to advance a fabricated account of the election results. Parker’s order suggests that the American system passed this test — just barely, and just for now. To protect against this type of attack in the future requires a concerted effort by the entire legal profession. It is therefore crucial that the lawyers on the bench and in the bar take seriously what they can do — and must do — better.

Source: Scott L. Cummings: The lessons from Trump’s ‘Kraken’ lawyer sanctions in Michigan

Missouri Secretary of State wants ban on helping voters fix absentee ballot mistakes | Jonathan Shorman/The Kansas City Star

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft wants the General Assembly to ban local election workers from helping voters correct mistakes on absentee ballots, a change that could keep some votes from being counted. The request adds to a growing list of measures advanced by Republicans to alter the state’s election laws, including restoring rules requiring voters to show a photo ID and making it harder to amend the state constitution through ballot measures. Lawmakers failed to pass most proposals earlier this year, but proponents are signaling they will try again in 2022. The proposals come as GOP legislators indulge lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election. Missouri Republicans are also keen on curbing Democrats’ success at passing progressive policies through statewide votes. Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana and minimum wage increases have all been approved by voters in recent years. “We would like to see legislation that does not allow for curing of absentee ballots,” Deputy Secretary of State Trish Vincent told the House Elections Committee last week, ‘curing’ being a common term for fixing errors.

Full Article: Top MO elections official: ban absentee ballot ‘curing’ | The Kansas City Star

Nevada: Federal, state election officials stymie rural Lander County commissioners’ proposed 2020 election audit | Sean Golonka/The Nevada Independent

State election officials and the Department of Justice intervened last week to thwart an attempt by Lander County commissioners to audit the county’s electronic voting machines, which hold physical voting records from the 2020 general election. The county’s election official is required under federal law to retain and preserve those records for 22 months after the election. At the same time, county commissioners are also considering converting to entirely paper elections — largely viewed as more time-consuming and error-prone — by restricting use of all electronic machines in the election process. In August — more than nine months after the 2020 general election — Lander County Manager Bert Ramos requested to the county clerk (at the direction of the county commission) that all of the county’s 26 electronic voting machines be transferred from the clerk’s office into the custody of the county manager’s office. In an interview with The Nevada Independent, Lander County Clerk Sadie Sullivan confirmed that the commissioners intended to conduct a post-election audit of the machines in order to determine whether they had been tampered with or if they had been connected to the internet (the machines run on a closed system and are certified by the federal government to not rely on internet connectivity). Sullivan also said the county hired a legal team to examine the machines.

Full Article: Federal, state election officials stymie rural Lander County commissioners’ proposed 2020 election audit – The Nevada Independent

14 Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers go to court to challenge mail-in voting law 11 of them voted for | Marc Levy/Associated PRess

Fourteen Republican state lawmakers have filed a new lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law, calling it unconstitutional and asking for it to be thrown out — even though 11 of those lawmakers supported it just two years ago. The legal challenge was filed just before midnight Tuesday in the state Commonwealth Court. It is the latest attempt by Republicans to invalidate the 2019 law that GOP lawmakers almost unanimously supported. The central claim of the lawsuit is that the law — which allowed no-excuse voting by mail — violates a constitutional provision that requires lawmakers to provide a way for people to vote if they are unable to do so in person for specific reasons. Those reasons include being out of town on business, illness, physical disability, Election Day duties or a religious observance. But the lawsuit contends that the 2019 law violates that because it allows people to vote by mail even if they do not meet fall under one of those categories.

Full Article: 14 Pa. Republican lawmakers go to court to challenge mail-in voting law 11 of them voted for | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Texas Senate too late with hastily conjured bill allowing party officials to trigger audits of 2020 election | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Full Article: Texas Senate bill would have let party officials trigger audits of 2020 election | The Texas Tribune

Wisconsin: Milwaukee, Brown County clerks refuse to turn over ballots, voting machines to GOP lawmaker, but issue could escalate | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The top election officials in Milwaukee and Brown counties refused Friday to turn over ballots, voting machines and other material to a Republican state lawmaker because subpoenas she issued last month have been deemed invalid by nonpartisan legislative attorneys. “Milwaukee County’s elections are transparent and fair. We have proven this fact on numerous occasions,” said a statement from George Christenson, a Democrat serving in his second term as Milwaukee County clerk. Hours after Christenson issued his statement, an attorney for Brown County Clerk Patrick Moynihan released a letter saying he was taking the same stance. Moynihan is a Republican who was elected to his first term less than a year ago. While officials from the two counties said they would not comply with Rep. Janel Brandtjen’s subpoenas, they could soon face new demands for documents — ones with far more legitimacy. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester last week said he will sign subpoenas as part of an investigation of the 2020 election if the attorney overseeing the probe believes they are necessary. Subpoenas signed by Vos could lead to a legal standoff. Some Democrats and election officials have said clerks should not turn over their material as part of an investigation into an election that multiple courts have found to be valid. Further, the U.S. Department of Justice has warned officials they could violate federal laws if they don’t maintain custody of their election records.

Full Article: Milwaukee, Brown counties refuse to turn over ballots to GOP lawmaker

Wisconsin: Milwaukee County prepared to reject election subpoena | Scott Bauer/Associated Press

Milwaukee County’s chief elections clerk indicated Thursday that he was not going to comply with a subpoena issued by a Republican lawmaker requiring him to turn over ballots and voting machines to a GOP-controlled legislative committee next week. State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chairwoman of the Assembly Elections Committee, issued subpoenas to election clerks in Milwaukee and Brown counties on Aug. 6 ordering them to appear before her committee at noon on Tuesday with the requested material. However, the Legislature’s nonpartisan attorneys issued two memos saying the subpoenas needed the signature of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to be valid. Vos has said he won’t sign them but would support subpoenas sought by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who is leading a separate investigation ordered by Vos. Gableman has yet to issue any subpoenas. “It’s common knowledge that the (Legislature’s attorneys) have issued two memos indicating the subpoena is invalid,” Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. “Speaker Vos has indicated he’s not signing them, so I believe one can guess our response. However, we wanted to do our due diligence.” Christenson also noted that the subpoena, which is nearly identical to a letter submitted by a Republican lawmaker in Pennsylvania for elections data, equipment and ballots in that state, asks for signature-matching software that isn’t used in Wisconsin. “It was clearly just a cut-and-paste job,” Christenson said of Brandtjen’s subpoena.

Full Article: Milwaukee County prepared to reject election subpoena

National: Their work secured the election. It also paved the way for pro-Trump conspiracies. | Kevin Collier/NBC

Watching coverage of pro-Trump rioters storm the Capitol building Jan. 6, Matt Bernhard had to wonder: How much were he and his colleagues to blame? “We spent the last five years putting in all this work,” said Bernhard, an engineer at VotingWorks, a nonprofit election technology company, and an expert in election cybersecurity. “And somehow despite all that, there was the worst insurrection in the country since the Civil War because people don’t trust the outcome.”  Like all cybersecurity research, election security relies heavily on the premise that to make any system better, you first need to draw attention to the ways people can hack it. Bernhard’s peers have done that with gusto since the beginning of the Trump administration. They’ve showed how, in the right isolated circumstances, a voter registration machine can be rewired to play the 90s computer game Doom, or how a child could hack a vulnerable website that was coded to look like Florida’s election night reporting site. While their research heavily contributed to security upgrades ahead of the contentious 2020 election — one that election officials jointly called “the most secure in American history” — it has proven to be a double-edged sword. Election cybersecurity researchers who spoke with NBC News say they worry it also provided ammunition to bad-faith actors who have sought to convince some Americans that the election was illegitimate. “We always knew we were walking a bit of a scary line when flagging vulnerabilities,” Maggie MacAlpine, an election security researcher, said. “We’re always battling the fact that the appearance of a hack can be as impactful on an election as an actual hack.”

Full Article: Trump conspiracies strain election cybersecurity experts

Thousands March In D.C. For Voting Rights | Wynne Davis/NPR

Thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C., and other cities across the country on Saturday to protest a recent slew of legislation that critics say suppresses voter rights, particularly for voters of color and young voters, in many Republican-led states. The event, called the March On For Voting Rights, took place on the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March On Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech. Sunday’s event was organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and partner organizations. Other events also took place in Atlanta, Miami and Phoenix. In D.C., participants gathered early Saturday in McPherson square, and marched to the National Mall for a rally with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop. Organizers say the event drew thousands to Washington. William Birdo, 82, traveled to D.C. from Los Angeles to participate in Saturday’s march, and said he’d been protesting for civil rights for a half-century. “Ever since time, we’ve been fighting,” he said. “I’m from back there in the ’60s, when we really protested the wars, and voting rights and civil rights, and everything else. And we won, and we made progress.”

 

Full Article: Thousands March In D.C. For Voting Rights : NPR

National: Experts warn of dangers from breach of voter system software | Christina A. Cassidy/Associated Press

Republican efforts questioning the outcome of the 2020 presidential race have led to voting system breaches that election security experts say pose a heightened risk to future elections. Copies of the Dominion Voting Systems software used to manage elections — from designing ballots to configuring voting machines and tallying results — were distributed at an event this month in South Dakota organized by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an ally of former President Donald Trump who has made unsubstantiated claims about last year’s election. “It’s a game-changer in that the environment we have talked about existing now is a reality,” said Matt Masterson, a former top election security official in the Trump administration. “We told election officials, essentially, that you should assume this information is already out there. Now we know it is, and we don’t know what they are going to do with it.” The software copies came from voting equipment in Mesa County, Colorado, and Antrim County, Michigan, where Trump allies had sue unsuccessfully challenging the results from last fall.

Full Article: Experts warn of dangers from breach of voter system software

National: Partisan Republican vote ‘audits’ are making elections less safe, officials say | Josh Marcus/The Independent

Even though they’re often conducted under the nominal banner of election security, Republican efforts to scrutinize the 2020 election results have made elections less safe, according to cyber security experts. Earlier this month, copies of the widely used Dominion Voting Systems election software were shared with attendees at an election event organised by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a Trump supporter and booster of election conspiracy theories. It’s unclear how the software reached participants, but cyber experts told the Associated Press that now that the Dominion software, which is used in roughly 30 states, is out in public hands, it may make it easier for hackers and others bad actors to find vulnerabilities. “It’s a game-changer in that the environment we have talked about existing now is a reality,” Matt Masterson, a former top election security official in the Trump administration, told the AP. “We told election officials, essentially, that you should assume this information is already out there. Now we know it is, and we don’t know what they are going to do with it.”

Full Article: Partisan Republican vote ‘audits’ are making elections less safe, officials say | The Independent

National: As Washington Stews, State Legislatures Increasingly Shape American Politics | Michael Wines/The New York Times

With the release of the 2020 census last month, the drawing of legislative districts that could in large part determine control of Congress for the next decade heads to the nation’s state legislatures, the heart of Republican political power. Increasingly, state legislatures, especially in 30 Republican-controlled states, have seized an outsize role for themselves, pressing conservative agendas on voting, Covid-19 and the culture wars that are amplifying partisan splits and shaping policy well beyond their own borders. Indeed, for a party out of power in Washington, state legislatures have become enormous sources of leverage and influence. That is especially true for rural conservatives who largely control the legislatures in key states like Wisconsin, Texas and Georgia and could now lock in a strong Republican tilt in Congress and cement their own power for the next decade. The Texas Legislature’s pending approval of new restrictions on voting is but the latest example. “This is in many ways genuinely new, because of the breadth and scope of what’s happening,” said Donald F. Kettl, a scholar of state governance at the University of Texas at Austin. “But more fundamentally, the real point of the spear of Trumpism is appearing at the state and local level. State legislatures not only are keeping the flame alive, but nurturing and growing it.” He added that the aggressive role played by Republican legislatures had much further to run.

Full Article: As Washington Stews, State Legislatures Increasingly Shape American Politics – The New York Times

National: Report: Most federal election security money remains unspent | Roxanna Hegeman/Associated Press

Congress provided hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up the nation’s election system against cyberattacks and other threats, but roughly two-thirds of the money remained unspent just weeks before last year’s presidential election. A recently released federal report says the states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories had spent a little more than $255 million of $805 million in election security grants through Sept. 30 of last year, the latest figures available. States were given leeway on how and when to spend their shares because election concerns and potential vulnerabilities of voting systems vary widely across the country. Several election officials cited two main reasons for the slow pace of spending: More than half the money wasn’t allocated until the 2020 election was less than a year away, giving election officials and state lawmakers little time to make major spending decisions. And the coronavirus pandemic upended last year’s election planning, forcing officials to focus on safety at the polls and pivot to provide more early voting and mail-in balloting. “Security was still on everybody’s mind, but it took a back seat to just making sure that the election ran without it just having a total meltdown,” said Don Palmer, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which issued the report. A state-by-state snapshot the commission released last month shows that as of the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, when early voting was already happening in the presidential election, the nation’s 50 states plus the District of Columbia and five territories had spent roughly 31% of the election security funding. The grant money came in two chunks since 2018 under the Help America Vote Act.

Full Article: Report: Most federal election security money remains unspent

National: Legal experts welcome sanctions of pro-Trump lawyers, say more needed | John Kruzel/The Hill

Attorneys behind some of the dubious litigation over former President Trump’s 2020 election loss were sanctioned this week by a federal judge in a move that was welcomed by legal ethics experts. More disciplinary steps are needed to deter efforts to undermine future U.S. elections, said experts who spoke to The Hill, adding that the system for holding pro-Trump election lawyers to account was working as it should. “The wheels of ethical accountability grind slowly but deliberately,” said Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer. “Within the span of 10 months, we have seen both state bars and the courts take action against those lawyers who took their propagation of Trump’s conspiratorial fantasies out of the cable news studio and into the courtroom.” Following President Biden’s win at the ballot box, pro-Trump attorneys filed dozens of lawsuits based on unfounded claims contesting the election’s legitimacy. The litigation persisted even after the attorneys collectively racked up an abysmal record in court, winning only a single minor case while losing some 60 others. Although some Trump-allied attorneys characterized their actions as hard-fought advocacy, critics say they crossed an ethical red line by deploying politically motivated disinformation to advance Trump’s “big lie” that the election was stolen from him.

Full Article: Legal experts welcome sanctions of pro-Trump lawyers, say more needed | TheHill

Editorial: How to prevent the next Jan. 6, as revealed in an important new analysis | Greg Sargent/The Washington Post

We cannot say we weren’t warned. As the select committee examining the Jan. 6 violence ramps up, one of its lesser-known goals is to offer “recommendations” to prevent a future effort to overthrow U.S. democracy through mob assault and intimidation. As it happens, there is a critical way Congress can minimize the possibility of another Jan. 6 — by addressing glaring legal vulnerabilities in the presidential electoral process that encouraged Donald Trump’s movement to try to overturn his loss, creating the conditions for the worst outbreak of U.S. political violence in recent times. We’re talking about revising the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887. That may sound dry and unexciting, but it would shore up hidden weaknesses that made the 2020 breakdown possible. This week, a bipartisan coalition of pro-democracy experts will release a new blueprint laying out a way to revise the ECA along those lines. The report from the National Task Force on Election Crises — which includes dozens of experts in election law and voting rights — outlines major fixes.

Full Article: Opinion | How to prevent the next Jan. 6, as revealed in an important new analysis – The Washington Post

Arizona Attorney General: County must comply with 2020 election subpoena | Bob Christie/Associated Press

An Arizona county that has resisted parts of a subpoena issued by the state Senate as it reviews how it handled the 2020 election must turn over everything the Senate wants or lose all its state funding, the state attorney general said Thursday. Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued the decision after a Republican senator asked him if Maricopa County’s refusal to hand over routers, passwords and other items the Senate says it needs to complete the unprecedented partisan review violated state law. The county has turned over its vote-counting machines, servers and huge amounts of data but balked at handing over routers it uses county-wide and passwords it says it does not control. But the county board of supervisors has said the routers were never connected to election tabulation equipment but were used by every county department, including the sheriff’s office, and that turning them over would compromise sensitive law enforcement information. Brnovich, also a Republican, said that refusal to comply with the Senate’s subpoena violates state law and triggers another law that penalizes counties, cities or towns that have policies in conflict with laws enacted by the Legislature. The county has until Sept. 27 to comply or it will lose all the revenue it gets from the state — about 25% of its budget, which was $2.8 billion in 2020.

Full Article: Arizona AG: County must comply with 2020 election subpoena

California: Lawsuit to halt recall election is dismissed | Maura Dolan/Los Angeles Times

A federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday refused to block the Sept. 14 recall election, which opponents had challenged on the grounds it violated constitutional guarantees of one person, one vote. U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, an Obama appointee, said there was “nothing unconstitutional about placing in one ballot a vote for or against the recall of the governor and then a vote for a replacement candidate.” The lawsuit, filed by civil rights lawyer Stephen Yagman on behalf of a recall opponent, sought a court order blocking the election or requiring the ballot of replacement candidates to include Gov. Gavin Newsom. Under California’s recall rules, Newsom is not permitted to run as a replacement candidate, and he could be replaced by a candidate who received far fewer votes.

Full Article: Lawsuit to halt California recall election is dismissed – Los Angeles Times

Colorado secretary of state sues to stop Mesa County clerk from overseeing elections | Justin Wingerter/Denver Post

Colorado’s secretary of state filed a lawsuit Monday to remove the clerk of Mesa County from her role overseeing elections because the clerk is under criminal investigation for allegedly allowing a security breach of election equipment. Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, filed the lawsuit in Mesa County District Court. Griswold can unilaterally require supervision of county elections, as she did in Mesa County earlier this month, but needs a judge’s order before taking the additional step of preventing county clerks from overseeing elections. Monday’s lawsuit is the latest fallout from an alleged security breach at Mesa County’s election office. Griswold believes that Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican, allowed an unauthorized man into a secure room in May. Images of the county’s election equipment passwords and hard drives were later posted online and presented at a conspiracy theorist conference that Peters attended. The alleged breach is under investigation by the FBI and the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Griswold’s office also investigated the matter and determined that Peters likely allowed the breach to occur May 25. The lawsuit seeks to appoint Wayne Williams, Griswold’s Republican predecessor, as Mesa County’s top election official for the November elections and give Sheila Reiner, Peters’ Republican predecessor, the position of elections supervisor. On Monday, the Mesa County Commission approved a contract that will pay Williams $180 per hour to do the job. Reiner is currently the county treasurer.

Full Article: Jena Griswold sues to prevent Tina Peters from overseeing elections

Georgia Secretary of State seeks court orders for absentee ballot study | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is going to court to unseal absentee ballot documents for a study of signature verification in last year’s presidential election. The secretary of state’s office confirmed this week that it is seeking court orders to retrieve absentee ballot envelopes in at least 17 counties. Other counties have disclosed election materials without requiring a judge’s approval. The absentee ballot envelopes will be used for a statewide study evaluating the effectiveness of the signature verification process, which compared voters’ signatures to verify their identities. The Georgia General Assembly has since eliminated signature verification, replacing it with new ID requirements. Raffensperger announced the study in December after Republican Donald Trump and state legislators called for further verification of election results that showed he lost to Democrat Joe Biden by less than 12,000 votes in Georgia. An audit of absentee ballot signatures in Cobb County completed later that month found no cases of fraud. Though election officials no longer use signature matching for absentee ballots, the study will evaluate verification methods employed in November’s election, said Trey Hood, a University of Georgia political science professor hired by the secretary of state’s office to conduct the research.

 

Full Article: Judges asked to unseal Georgia absentee ballots for signature study

New Hampshire: Windham emails provide window into election distrust | Michaela Towfighi/Concord Monitor

In a small white building, with green shutters to match the door, six binders with thousands of emails tell a story of outrage and distrust in an election system. The aftermath of a recount, forensic audit and sheer uproar over the November election still ring through this southern New Hampshire town as the state continues to release reports on how Windham got its election results wrong. The State of New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission released a final report last week on how three Republican candidates, who won the election, were shortchanged about 300 votes apiece. “The commission finds that the discrepancies in Windham in November, 2020 were the result of a unique set of circumstances, not the result of malfunctioning of the ballot counting devices, and are not likely to reoccur,” the report reads. The commission reaffirmed the results of the recount and offered an explanation for why Democrats were initially given more votes than deserved. Folds in the ballots interfered with the scanner’s ability to correctly read the ballots. The machines often misread the fold as a vote for a Democrat, but in some cases that meant a vote for four candidates vying for three State Representative seats, which invalided the ballot. Hand counting revealed the true totals, according to the commission. “The commission finds that the presently authorized AccuVote machines are capable of continuing to meet the requirements for elections held in New Hampshire,” the report concludes. Still, separating fact from fiction regarding the November election continues to be a point of debate.

Full Article: Windham emails provide window into election distrust