In Texas, Efforts To Make Voting Harder Has Some Worried In Harris County | Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media

Texas already has some of the strictest voting laws in the country, and the state’s Republicans are trying to make them even tougher. Most of the state’s Democratic lawmakers have flown to Washington, D.C., to prevent a vote on legislation they call voter suppression. The center of the battle is Harris County, where Houston is located. The county is home to more than 4.7 million people, a larger population than the state of Louisiana. Last year, Harris County introduced an array of voting innovations to make it easier and safer to vote during the presidential elections. They included drive-thru voting, expanded voting hours – with one day of 24-hour voting – and sending out mail-in ballot applications to all eligible voters. Joy Davis is a stay-at-home mom and the mother of a young son with severe autism. She voted in a drive-thru location on the east side of Houston. “Oh, it was amazing,” Davis says. “It was so convenient. I felt safe, because it was at the highlight of the pandemic before I was able to get any vaccinations….When I arrived, it was just so simple, so easy, so effortless. We just pulled up, showed my ID, they directed us to a tent, and you know we met with the poll worker there, they gave us the machine so we could cast our ballot, and that was it. I cast my ballot.”

Full Article: In Texas, Efforts To Make Voting Harder Has Some Worried In Harris County – Houston Public Media

Texas Democrats may find themselves in the wilderness of wandering public attention | Ross Ramsey/The Texas Tribune

The spotlight won’t shine for long on the story of Texas’ flyaway Democrats. The novelty will wear off. The cable TV networks will have other top stories before you know it, and this will become another of those insider fights of only passing interest to Texans who don’t have regular business in the state Capitol. Voting rights are important to voters, but most people only pay attention to the particulars at election time. Where do I go? What do I have to do? Who and what is on the ballot? Who are all of these people, and which ones are in my way and which ones can I ignore? But the next big elections in Texas aren’t until March at the earliest — and those, the party primaries, could easily be delayed until May or later because of delays in the 2020 U.S. census, and the resulting delays in drawing new political maps to fit new details of where Texans live and how many of them live there. For now, it’s enough to know that the state government in Texas is dysfunctional, but not in a way that has any immediate effect on the lives of everyday Texans. That’s a particular problem for the wandering Democrats whose political play depends, to some extent, on public attention. They decamped on Monday, faced with the prospect of showing up to watch Republicans approve a bill with new restrictions on voting that they cannot abide.

Full Article: Analysis: Texas Democrats race against time, and flagging public attention | The Texas Tribune

Wisconsin: Experts warn against ‘sham audits’ movement | Darrell Ehrlick and Melanie Conklin/Wisconsin Examiner

Experts for three different organizations came together this week to discuss the latest in the undermining democracy trend: illegitimate election recounts. They warned that conspiracy theories, disinformation and outright lies can spread through more than just social media, undermining legitimate elections. Those spreading the disinformation also prey upon people who may not be familiar with the process of government, they warn. Officials from the Protect Democracy, Fair Fight Action and States United Action have launched a new website with toolkits to help people understand the differences between real election audits and “fake” or “sham” audits. All three groups agree that the audit taking in place in Arizona’s Maricopa County is not credible — because of the lack of experience of the company conducting it, the methods that are being used, and the lack of transparency. Experts who spoke as part of the panel also said that other auditing, recounting and canvassing done through the State of Arizona long ago proved the election’s legitimacy. The new website, Notanaudit.com, is the joint project of the three groups. They say the Arizona “audit” is just the beginning of what is likely going to be a growing trend that will pit career election officials against politicians and start-up companies claiming to be able to do forensic and large-scale audits. They warn that without better public education, people could become more confused and lose confidence in what is otherwise a very safe, secure and — above all — accurate election process. Moreover, the “spillover” effect from the recount in Arizona is giving some momentum to groups in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin to begin audit election results that were certified and validated months ago. Four Wisconsin legislators were among Republicans from various states who took a field trip to Arizona to observe the ballot counting.

Source: Experts warn against ‘sham audits’ movement – Wisconsin Examiner

Colorado: ‘A propaganda tool’ for Trump: A second federal judge castigates attorneys who filed a lawsuit challenging the 2020 results | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

Just before Christmas, two Colorado lawyers filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 160 million American voters, alleging a vast conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election by the voting equipment manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla Chan and elected officials in four states — and asking for $160 billion in damages. The case was dismissed in April, but now a federal judge is considering disciplining the lawyers for filing a frivolous claim — sharply questioning the duo in a Friday hearing about whether they had allowed themselves to be used as “a propaganda tool” of former president Donald Trump. “Did that ever occur to you? That, possibly, [you’re] just repeating stuff the president is lying about?” Federal Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter asked the two lawyers, Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker, during a hearing to consider sanctioning them. The two lawyers argued they had a good-faith belief that the election was stolen and did not trust government officials and others who affirmed that it was secure and that there was not widespread fraud. It was the second time this week that a judge dressed down lawyers who filed cases alleging fraud in the 2020 election, as the legal system grapples with how to hold accountable those who used the court system to spread falsehoods about the vote.

Source: ‘A propaganda tool’ for Trump: A second federal judge castigates attorneys who filed a lawsuit challenging the 2020 results – The Washington Post

National: ‘Have you no shame?’ Biden frames voting rights as a moral reckoning | Katie Rogers/The New York Times

President Biden said on Tuesday that the fight against restrictive voting laws was the “most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War” and called Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election “a big lie.” In an impassioned speech in Philadelphia, Mr. Biden tried to reinvigorate the stalled Democratic effort to pass federal voting rights legislation and called on Republicans “in Congress and states and cities and counties to stand up, for God’s sake.” “Help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our election and the sacred right to vote,” the president said in remarks at the National Constitution Center. “Have you no shame?” But his words collided with reality: Even as Republican-led bills meant to restrict voting access make their way through statehouses across the country, two bills aiming to expand voting rights nationwide are languishing in Congress. And Mr. Biden has bucked increasing pressure from Democrats to support pushing the legislation through the Senate by eliminating the filibuster, no matter the political cost.

Full Article: Biden Speaks on Voting Rights in Philadelphia – The New York Times

Arizona: Maricopa County to spend $2.8M to replace voting machines | Lacey Latch Mary Jo Pitzl/Arizona Republic

Maricopa County will spend nearly $3 million to replace voting equipment that officials say was permanently tainted by the Arizona Senate’s election review. The county will spend millions to purchase and then destroy the old equipment that was subpoenaed for the audit as well as for new systems before the upcoming elections. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously for the funding after the county announced June 28 it would not reuse most of the voting equipment that was in the possession of contractors for the audit. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs had previously warned the county that her office would move to decertify the machines if officials tried to use them in another election, citing concerns about the chain of custody after the Senate took possession of them. Hobbs said she consulted with experts and officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and concluded there was no way to determine whether the machines were tampered with. As a result, the Board of Supervisors agreed to purchase all of the subpoenaed equipment from Dominion Voting Systems for disposal. The board intends to replace the equipment with new voting systems before the next election. “The frustrating thing is, those were perfectly good machines which passed all of our accuracy tests from the time we first got them in 2019. The taxpayer paid good money for them, but now this equipment will have to be decommissioned because the Senate didn’t take our warnings about chain-of-custody seriously,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers in a released statement after the meeting. “When Senate leadership chose novices to conduct their audit rather than reputable, certified companies, they wasted an expensive investment that had served Maricopa County voters well in 2019 and 2020.”

Full Article: Arizona audit: Maricopa County to spend $2.8M to replace voting machines

National: Activists sue Election Assistance Commission over voting system guidelines | Associated Press

Key elements of the first federal technology standards for voting equipment in 15 years should be scrapped because language that would have banned the devices from connecting to the internet was dropped after private meetings held with manufacturers, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday. The lawsuit against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., claims those meetings should have been open and that changes to the draft standards should have been shared with the commission’s advisory and standards boards. The lawsuit seeks to have those changes set aside. The standards, approved in February, did not include draft language that would have banned wireless technology from voting equipment under federal certification guidelines. Voting security experts say the machines will be vulnerable to hacking without such a ban. While the commission’s certification guidelines are voluntary, multiple states use them to set mandatory requirements for voting equipment. Federal law requires the agency to develop its guidelines for voting systems in public, said Susan Greenhalgh of the nonprofit Free Speech for People, the group that brought the lawsuit along with University of California, Berkeley computer scientist Philip Stark, who sits on the commission’s advisory board. Greenhalgh said that was not done ahead of the February vote by commissioners to ratify what had been draft standards. “Instead, the EAC brazenly flouted its legal obligation to adhere to a transparent process, choosing instead to invite the manufacturers into private meetings so they could alter the voting system standards to ease requirements and benefit the manufacturers,” she said.

Full Article: Activists sue federal agency over voting system guidelines

National: Kremlin papers appear to show Putin’s plot to put Trump in White House | Luke Harding, Julian Borger and Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents. The key meeting took place on 22 January 2016, the papers suggest, with the Russian president, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present. They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow’s strategic objectives, among them “social turmoil” in the US and a weakening of the American president’s negotiating position. Russia’s three spy agencies were ordered to find practical ways to support Trump, in a decree appearing to bear Putin’s signature. By this point Trump was the frontrunner in the Republican party’s nomination race. A report prepared by Putin’s expert department recommended Moscow use “all possible force” to ensure a Trump victory. Western intelligence agencies are understood to have been aware of the documents for some months and to have carefully examined them. The papers, seen by the Guardian, seem to represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.

Full Article: Kremlin papers appear to show Putin’s plot to put Trump in White House | Vladimir Putin | The Guardian

National: Lawmakers Pitch New Voting System for US Troops Stationed Overseas | Patricia Kime/Military.com

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is seeking to increase the number of U.S. service members who exercise their right to vote — especially those stationed in combat zones or deployed overseas. Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced a bill Tuesday that would establish a secure electronic voting system for those assigned to hazardous duty stations or on a rotational deployment. According to the senators, the fully auditable system would track votes from the time they are marked through the counting process. In a release, Duckworth said a new system is needed as part of an overall effort to “strengthen voting rights across the country.” “Service members face numerous barriers to voting that make it more difficult for them to participate in our democracy by exercising their right to vote,” she said. “[The bill] would increase access to the ballot box for troops.”

Full Article: Lawmakers Pitch New Voting System for US Troops Stationed Overseas | Military.com

National: Top generals mobilized on fears Trump wanted military post-election coup, book details | Rebecca Shabad/NBC

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, worried that then-President Donald Trump would try to use the military to attempt a coup after the 2020 election and vowed to prevent it. That’s according to a new book by Washington Post reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig, “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year,” which will be released next week. The book, excerpts of which were obtained by NBC News, attributes the accounts of private conversations between military and government officials to myriad unnamed sources, including aides to those involved. Trump issued a statement Thursday denying that he had ever considered a coup and criticizing Milley, whom he said he appointed only because people he disliked had in turn disliked the general. “So ridiculous! Sorry to inform you, but an Election is my form of ‘coup,’ and if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley,” Trump said.

Full Article: Top generals mobilized on fears Trump wanted military post-election coup, book details

National: Phony Audits = Real Threats to the Vote | Michael Waldman/Brennan Center for Justice

For two months, Republicans, conspiracy theorists, and “Stop the Steal” activists have been conducting an “audit” of Arizona’s presidential election results. Critics call it the “fraudit.” It devolved into a national joke as fevered partisans looked for evidence of bamboo fibers to prove that China had printed the ballots to give the state to Joe Biden. The spectacle is reportedly backfiring, as Arizona’s independent voters recoil. But it’s no joke. It shows how deeply Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen has seeped into American politics. And now similar partisan election reviews are beginning to spread across the country. In Pennsylvania last week, a state senator asked three counties, including Philadelphia, for access to election equipment and materials. The legislator, a leader in the state’s “Stop the Steal” movement, said he’s copying the method of election deniers in Maricopa County, Arizona, where this nonsense began. In response, Philadelphia’s Republican City Commissioner Al Schmidt, who is responsible for the city’s elections, retorted: “I would encourage our legislators to educate themselves to know that our election was certified and that it was audited, not once — but twice — and there was no doubt about the outcome. It was safe, it was secure, and it wasn’t even close.” In other words: Trump lost, Biden won. These sham “audits,” however, are anything but objective and secure. In a joint report with R Street Institute and Protect Democracy, we examined proposed and ongoing reviews of election results in five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Full Article: Phony Audits = Real Threats to the Vote | Brennan Center for Justice

Arizona: House committee launches investigation of GOP-comissioned election review | Eugene Scott/The Washington Post

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is launching an investigation into Arizona’s GOP-commissioned review of the 2020 presidential election and the private contractor leading the effort, whose chief executive has echoed former president Donald Trump’s false claims. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the committee, and Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) sent a letter Wednesday to Douglas Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, seeking correspondences, documents and other information about his Florida-based company’s review of nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County. “The committee is seeking to determine whether the privately funded audit conducted by your company in Arizona protects the right to vote or is instead an effort to promote baseless conspiracy theories, undermine confidence in America’s elections, and reverse the result of a free and fair election for partisan gain,” Maloney and Raskin, who heads the subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties, wrote to Logan. A contact for Cyber Ninjas did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment. Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win Arizona in nearly 25 years — earning the state’s 11 electoral college votes, mostly because of the growth and diversification of Maricopa County, home to the fifth-largest city in the United States.

Full Article: House committee launches investigation of GOP-comissioned election review in Arizona – The Washington Post

Georgia: Some ballots initially double-counted in Fulton County before recount | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A duplicate write-in vote for singer Kanye West was a big clue that some absentee ballots had been counted twice in Fulton County. Digital ballot images made public under Georgia’s new voting law show nearly 200 ballots — including one for West — that election officials initially scanned two times last fall before a recount. There’s no indication any vote for president was counted more than once in official results. The discovery of identical ballots provides evidence to back up allegations of problems in the presidential election, but on a relatively small scale that had no bearing on the final certified count. A group of voters seeking to prove the election was fraudulent say double-counting is just the beginning of what they hope to find. … “It’s something that should never happen,” said Mark Lindeman, acting co-director for Verified Voting, an election integrity organization focused on voting technology. “I’m not trying to make excuses for a blunder, but under really difficult circumstances, people do things that are inexplicable, and that seems to be the case here.” Lindeman said he couldn’t recall another example of ballots being scanned twice anywhere in the country. He suggested stronger ballot tracking practices, with ballots divided into batches with unique identifying labels and cover sheets. Some jurisdictions imprint serial numbers on absentee ballots as they’re scanned for use during audits.

Full Article: Search for election fraud in Georgia finds 200 ballots scanned twice

Kansas: Judge to decide if top election official can withhold records by altering software | Sherman Smith/The Kansas City Star

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says the state’s open records law might as well not exist if Secretary of State Scott Schwab is allowed to keep public information hidden by reconfiguring software. Attorney Josh Pierson argued Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court for the release of provisional ballot data requested by Davis Hammet, a voter rights advocate who hoped to educate the public about why their ballots weren’t being counted. Hammet won a lawsuit last year over whether details about provisional ballots are a public record, and District Judge Teresa Watson ordered Schwab to turn the information over. The Republican secretary of state, whose agency oversees elections and manages a statewide voter database, instead ordered software engineers to remove the database function that allows the agency to produce the records. The secretary then denied Hammet’s request on the grounds that the records no longer exist. Schwab’s office told Hammet he could still get access to the data, but only if he paid $522 for the database vendor, Election Systems & Software, to retrieve it. Hammet sued again, with support from the ACLU. “This is gamesmanship,” Pierson said. “This was an attempt by the secretary to not have to produce these records that he litigated to not have to produce. He lost. He took matters into his own hands.”

Full Article: Schwab altered software to hide records, voting activist says. | The Kansas City Star

Louisiana’s Election Integrity Commission folds after two meetings | Wesley Muller/Louisiana Illuminator

After holding just two organizational meetings since it was founded this year in response to baseless allegations of voter fraud, the Louisiana Commission on Election Integrity and Voting was suspended on Thursday. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin made the announcement in a news release, thanking the members for their service and saying he needs to focus on other work. “I sincerely thank Chairman Quentin Dastugue and all members of this commission for their willingness to serve,” Ardoin said. “However, at this time, my staff and I must focus on supporting the important work of studying Louisiana’s next voting system as mandated by statute.” Ardoin has been working for several years to find suitable replacements for the state’s outdated voting machines. The commission that Ardoin suspended was one he formed in April in an effort to appease some who alleged, without evidence, that Louisiana’s elections were fraudulent. Despite this, state lawmakers established their own version of a board that could investigate such allegations and provide oversight of the state’s procurement of new voting machines — the Louisiana Voting Systems Commission, formed by way of Senate Bill 221, which Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law this month as Act 480.  The newer Voting Systems Commission is similarly established within the Louisiana Department of State “for the purpose of independently reviewing any proposals received by the secretary of state” for the sale of voting machines.

Full Article: Louisiana’s Election Integrity Commission folds after two meetings

Michigan GOP official: Trump a ‘malignancy’ who spouts election ‘lies’ | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

One of two Republican members of Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers blasted Donald Trump during a Tuesday meeting, calling the former president a “malignancy.” Tony Daunt, who’s also a member of the Michigan GOP’s state committee, made the comments after a presentation by state Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, whose Senate Oversight Committee led a seven-month investigation into the 2020 election and found no evidence of fraud. “I just want to thank you, the committee, for having the courage to do this report, to put the information out there without leaning on the scales, for having the courage to stand up against the malignancy that is Donald Trump and the people who have lacked the courage to stand up to him for the last six months,” Daunt said to McBroom. Norm Shinkle, the other GOP member of the Board of State Canvassers, adjourned the meeting soon after Daunt’s remark. The board is in charge of certifying election results in the state. After the meeting, Daunt, a longtime figure in GOP politics, said it’s unfortunate that Trump continues to “spout lies” that the election was rigged. Democrat Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 3 percentage points. The state Senate’s probe, dozens of court rulings and bipartisan boards of canvassers have reinforced the outcome despite unproven claims of fraud by the former president and his supporters.

Full Article: Michigan GOP official: Trump a ‘malignancy’ who spouts election ‘lies’

New Hampshire: Windham audit blames discrepancy on folded ballots | Kevin Landrigan/New Hampshire Union Leader

The discrepancy found in Windham’s state representative races last November was caused by folds in mailed absentee ballots being misread by ballot-counting machines, not by partisan misbehavior, the forensic audit team concluded. In its 121-page report released Tuesday, the three-man audit team sought to put to rest suspicions about the 300-vote gains all four Republican candidates achieved after a hand recount of the Nov. 3 ballots. “We found no basis to believe that the miscounts found in Windham indicate a pattern of partisan bias or a failed election,” wrote Harri Hursti, Mark Lindeman and Phillip Stark, the three auditors chosen by the state and the town to conduct the review. In the first count on the night of Nov. 3, Republican Julius Soti won the fourth state representative seat by 24 votes over Democrat Kristi St. Laurent. But Soti’s win grew to 420 votes after a Nov. 12 hand recount requested by St. Laurent. All four GOP candidates picked up roughly 300 votes apiece, while St. Laurent’s vote total dropped by about 100 after the hand recount.

Full Article: Windham audit blames discrepancy on folded ballots

North Carolina House Freedom Caucus stymied in voting machine probe | David N. Bass/Carolina Journal

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, is blocking attempts by the N.C. House Freedom Caucus to inspect voting machines for possible irregularities. Republicans are crying foul. “What we actually seek to show the public is that the equipment in North Carolina is not a problem,” said Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, at a press conference on Thursday, July 15. “We seek transparency in the election process. The Freedom Caucus believes that every legal vote should be counted but not a single illegal vote should be counted.” The Freedom Caucus — 25 House members and chaired by Kidwell — is seeking to inspect two voting systems in randomly selected precincts to ensure modems are not inside, which could allow for election results to be changed remotely. Brinson Bell responded to Kidwell with a blistering letter denying the request. Her office subsequently contacted all county boards of elections directing them to not allow Freedom Caucus members to inspect voting equipment. “The State Board has received no credible evidence that the certified results are not accurate, and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have stated that the 2020 general election in North Carolina was conducted fairly,” Brinson Bell wrote. “We will not allow misinformation about voting systems or any other aspect of elections to dictate our priorities in administering elections.”

Full Article: House Freedom Caucus stymied in voting machine probe – Carolina Journal – Carolina Journal

Pennsylvania: York County joins Tioga County in raising objections to Mastriano’s election audit | Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo/Associated Press

Another Pennsylvania county targeted for an Arizona-style “forensic investigation” of the 2020 presidential election being pushed by former President Donald Trump is raising strong objections to a sweeping demand for access to its voting equipment and records. York County’s three commissioners — two Republican and one Democrat — wrote this week to the Republican state lawmaker seeking the information and raised questions about the legality of his demand, the cost to the county and their lack of staff to complete the project. The commissioners also pointed to the likelihood that its voting machines would be decertified and rendered useless if they allow third-party access to the machines that is not authorized by the state or the company that supplied them, Dominion Voting Systems. In any case, the county’s commissioners said they had run the election legally, securely and transparently, and completed the required county and state audits confirming the accuracy of the results. York County responded a week after receiving the five-page request from Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has talked of possibly running for governor and claimed that Trump “asked me” to run.

Full Article: York County joins Tioga County in raising objections to Mastriano’s election audit | News, Sports, Jobs – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Texas: Behind the partisan drama lies a profoundly serious struggle over who gets shut out under voting laws | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

The dramatic exodus of Democratic Texas lawmakers to block a Republican voting bill has choked the political airways in a haze of confusion, posturing and finger-pointing. But beneath the smoke, a fire rages. Many Democrats, especially those who are people of color, are incensed, seeing the latest Republican voting bill as another moment of crisis in a state they believe has long marginalized people like them in the halls of power. Many Republicans, passions stoked by unsubstantiated claims of widespread voting fraud, see their hold on political power slipping away, and are clamoring for a firewall. The struggle over voting rights in Texas goes beyond the legislative theatrics of the moment. It is fundamentally a clash not just of elected officials, but of the two constituencies they represent. It is a fight over whose voices will be heard that began long before the Democrats shut down the Texas Legislature, and the stakes are not trivial. The two days preceding the Democratic flight offered a microcosm of the standoff. As a House committee fast-tracked the GOP’s voting bill over the weekend, hundreds of Texans descended on Austin to plead their cases against it. They were left milling in the Capitol’s basement corridors for more than 17 hours, waiting for their allotted three minutes to address the House’s committee on constitutional rights and remedies created specifically to consider the special session agenda.

Full Article: Behind the drama lies a profoundly serious struggle over Texas voting laws | The Texas Tribune

Wisconsin voting laws: What local election clerks think of GOP bills | Hope Karnopp/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have drawn clear lines on where they stand on changing Wisconsin’s voting laws. But the officials responsible for administering those laws have a more nuanced view of bills that have made their way through the state Legislature. The Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association registered against most of the bills but are supportive or neutral on two of the proposals. The group represents election officials from around the state, in both red and blue areas. The past year challenged clerks like none other, especially during the April 2020 presidential primary when state leaders fought in court over whether to hold the election during the emerging pandemic, leaving clerks caught in the middle. “In the midst of (the April election), I remember thinking this election is going to make or break a lot of clerks and I think there was a lot of resigning afterwards. Most things don’t stress me out but that election gave me gray hair,” said Village of Oakfield Clerk Miriam Thomas. “Most things don’t bother me at all but it was stressful especially right up to it, having the laws go back and forth, back and forth.” Now, clerks say some of the legislation proposed by Republicans in the aftermath of the contentious 2020 elections could add to their workload. What are some of the voting proposals being debated, and what do clerks — who administer elections at the local level — think about them? Brookfield Clerk Kelly Michaels chairs the legislative and communications and advocacy committee for the clerks’ association. She said the committee held a long meeting after the bills were introduced to try to figure out the implications of the legislation. “In a perfect world, things happen this way or should happen this way, but in an unperfect world, when you’ve got a thousand voters lined up at your door, is it really going to work that way?” Michaels said.

Full Article: Wisconsin voting laws: What local election clerks think of GOP bills

National: As Republicans Take Aim at Voting, Democrats Search for a Response | Michael Wines/The New York Times

The Democratic Party pledged millions for it last week, grass-roots groups are campaigning for it nationwide and, as recently as Friday, Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, said the fight for it had only begun. But behind the brave words are rising concerns among voting-rights advocates and Democrats that the counterattack against the aggressive push by Republicans to restrict ballot access is faltering, and at a potentially pivotal moment. President Biden is expected to put his political muscle behind the issue in a speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday. But in Congress, Democratic senators have been unable to move voting and election bills that would address what many of them call a fundamental attack on American democracy that could lock in a new era of Republican minority rule. And in the courts, attacks on voting restrictions face an increasingly hostile judiciary and narrowing legal options. Texas seems poised, absent another walkout by Democratic legislators, to become the latest Republican-controlled state to pass a sweeping legislative agenda placing new barriers to the ability to cast a ballot. That comes on the heels of a major Supreme Court ruling this month further weakening the one enforcement clause of the Voting Rights Act that remained after the court nullified its major provision in 2012. The decision arrived as advocacy groups were pressing lawsuits against restrictive voting laws enacted in roughly a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures.

Full Article: As Republicans Take Aim at Voting, Democrats Search for a Response – The New York Times

New Hampshire: Windham election audit team submits report | Callie Patteson/Yahoo News

A highly anticipated report about an audit of the 2020 election in Windham, New Hampshire, has been submitted to officials in the state. One of the auditors, Harri Hursti, confirmed to the Washington Examiner on Monday that his team “submitted it yesterday,” more than six weeks after the audit concluded. The team’s findings may become public as early as Tuesday. The portion of the audit that included the handling of ballots concluded on May 27. However, the audit team’s work did not stop there. “Now, we have captured the data,” Hursti told observers at the time. “Now, we have to go back to do the analysis, and there might be something in the data, which we now have, which we haven’t yet understood.” The three-person audit team — made up of Hursti, Mark Lindeman, and Philip Stark — initially found that as many as 60% of ballots with machine-made or handmade folds were improperly counted by scanning machines rendered by the town Windham. The ballot papers were made correctly, but the problem was due to the machines “forcefully” folding the paper in the wrong position.

Pennsylvania: Tioga County won’t offer up voting machines to GOP election audit | Marc Levy/Associated Press

One of three counties targeted by a Pennsylvania state lawmaker for an Arizona-style “forensic investigation” of the state’s 2020 presidential election sought by former President Donald Trump will not allow third-party access to its voting machines. The three commissioners in rural Republican-controlled Tioga County announced the decision Tuesday, six days after receiving a sweeping, five-page request from Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano for access to documents, information and equipment. The county’s solicitor, Christopher Gabriel, said Wednesday that the thrust of Mastriano’s request — under the threat of a subpoena — involves access to Tioga County’s voting machines. That could mean losing those machines, Gabriel said. “We can’t be in a position where we don’t have the election machines, because we have to run the next election, these are extremely expensive machines and our position is we need to follow the direction that (Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid) has given us,” Gabriel said. Degraffenreid, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s top election official, told counties last week that the state would decertify any election equipment that is subject to any such third-party access, rendering it useless in an election.

Full Article: County won’t offer up voting machines to election audit

National: The Biggest Threat to Democracy Is the GOP Stealing the Next Election | Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt/The Atlantic

The greatest threat to American democracy today is not a repeat of January 6, but the possibility of a stolen presidential election. Contemporary democracies that die meet their end at the ballot box, through measures that are nominally constitutional. The looming danger is not that the mob will return; it’s that mainstream Republicans will “legally” overturn an election. In 2018, when we wrote How Democracies Die, we knew that Donald Trump was an authoritarian figure, and we held the Republican Party responsible for abdicating its role as democratic gatekeeper. But we did not consider the GOP to be an antidemocratic party. Four years later, however, the bulk of the Republican Party is behaving in an antidemocratic manner. Solving this problem requires that we address both the acute crisis and the underlying long-term conditions that give rise to it. Last year, for the first time in U.S. history, a sitting president refused to accept defeat and attempted to overturn election results. Rather than oppose this attempted coup, leading Republicans either cooperated with it or enabled it by refusing to publicly acknowledge Trump’s defeat. In the run-up to January 6, most top GOP officials refused to denounce extremist groups that were spreading conspiracy theories, calling for armed insurrection and assassinations, and ultimately implicated in the Capitol assault. Few Republicans broke with Trump after his incitement of the insurrection, and those who did were censured by their state parties. From November 2020 to January 2021, then, a significant portion of the Republican Party refused to unambiguously accept electoral defeat, eschew violence, or break with extremist groups—the three principles that define prodemocracy parties. Because of that behavior, as well as its behavior over the past six months, we are convinced that the Republican Party leadership is willing to overturn an election. Moreover, we are concerned that it will be able to do so—legally. That’s why we serve on the board of advisers to Protect Democracy, a nonprofit working to prevent democratic decline in the United States. We wrote this essay as part of “The Democracy Endgame,” the group’s symposium on the long-term strategy to fight authoritarianism.

Full Article: Will the GOP Steal the 2024 Election? – The Atlantic

National: Democrats craft voting bill with eye on Supreme Court fight | Brian Slodysko/Associated Press

As congressional Democrats gear up for another bruising legislative push to expand voting rights, much of their attention has quietly focused on a small yet crucial voting bloc with the power to scuttle their plans: the nine Supreme Court justices. Democrats face dim prospects for passing voting legislation through a narrowly divided Congress, where an issue that once drew compromise has become an increasingly partisan flashpoint. But as they look to reinstate key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights-era law diminished over the past decade by Supreme Court rulings, they have accepted the reality that any bill they pass probably will wind up in litigation — and ultimately back before the high court. The task of building a more durable Voting Rights Act got harder when the high court’s conservative majority on July 1 issued its second major ruling in eight years narrowing the law’s once robust power. “What it feels like is a shifting of the goal posts,” said Damon Hewitt, the president and executive director of the left-leaning Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Sparring in Congress for months has focused on a different Democratic bill overhauling elections, known as the For the People Act, which Republican senators blocked from debate on the chamber’s floor last month.

Full Article: Democrats craft voting bill with eye on Supreme Court fight

National: Trump’s still waging a war on truth — and it’s still bad for democracy | Doyle McManus/Los Angeles Times

Last month, as thousands of former President Trump’s loyal supporters waited for him at a rally in Ohio, a chant rose from the crowd. “Trump won!” they roared. “Trump won!” The former president agreed. “We won the election twice,” he said, “and it’s possible we’ll have to win it a third time.” Eight months after he lost convincingly to President Biden, Trump and his followers are studiously maintaining an alternative reality — and having remarkable success keeping the fiction alive. Almost two-thirds of GOP voters told pollsters in one recent survey that they’re still convinced the election was stolen — a number that hasn’t changed much since November. This isn’t a harmless exercise in political puffery; it deepens the polarization of American politics and weakens democracy. The charge that the election was stolen doesn’t merely flatter Trump; it’s also an attempt to delegitimize Biden. It makes it politically dangerous for Republicans in Congress to collaborate with the administration — for why would anyone loyal to Trump negotiate with a usurper?

Full Article: Trump’s still waging a war on truth – Los Angeles Times

National: The Republican Party’s top lawyer called election fraud arguments by Trump’s lawyers a ‘joke’ that could mislead millions | Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post

The Republican Party’s top lawyer warned in November against continuing to push false claims that the presidential election was stolen, calling efforts by some of the former president’s lawyers a “joke” that could mislead millions of people, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post. Justin Riemer, the Republican National Committee’s chief counsel, sought to discourage a Republican Party staffer from posting claims about ballot fraud on RNC accounts, the email shows, as attempts by Donald Trump and his associates to challenge results in a number of states, such as Arizona and Pennsylvania, intensified. “What Rudy and Jenna are doing is a joke and they are getting laughed out of court,” Riemer, a longtime Republican lawyer, wrote to Liz Harrington, a former party spokeswoman, on Nov. 28, referring to Trump attorneys Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jenna Ellis. “They are misleading millions of people who have wishful thinking that the president is going to somehow win this thing.” The email from Riemer to Harrington, which came about six weeks before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, shows key figures in the party were privately disturbed by the false claims being made about the election by Trump and his supporters — even if they did not say so publicly.

Full Article: The RNC’s top lawyer called election fraud arguments by Trump?s lawyers Giuliani, Ellis a ‘joke’ – The Washington Post

National: DHS cybersecurity chief confirmed amid fallout from another ransomware attack | Geneva Sands/CNN

The Senate on Monday unanimously confirmed Jen Easterly to lead the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division, a role that will be key in the administration’s cybersecurity efforts. Easterly, a two-time recipient of the Bronze Star, was nominated by President Joe Biden in April to be the second director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The agency has been led in an acting capacity by career official Brandon Wales since then-director Chris Krebs was fired for pushing back against lies by then-President Donald Trump and his supporters about election security. Easterly’s confirmation comes at a crucial time for the administration as it works to respond to a flood of recent ransomware and cybersecurity incidents. She will assume the post on the heels of the ransomware attack targeting software vendor Kaseya, and in the wake of the SolarWinds breach and back-to-back ransomware attacks that crippled critical infrastructure companies — Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods. Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida had blocked a vote on Easterly’s confirmation for unrelated reasons, holding it up ahead of the July Fourth holiday weekend. Scott had previously said it wasn’t about Easterly or cybersecurity, but about DHS nominees and a “lack of accountability” from the Biden administration to address the border crisis.

Full Article: Jen Easterly: DHS cybersecurity chief confirmed amid fallout from another ransomware attack – CNNPolitics

National: Voting’s Hash Problem: When the System for Verifying the Integrity of Voting Software Lacks Integrity Itself | Kim Zetter/Zero Day

In September 2020, just weeks before voters went to the polls in one of the nation’s most critical and contentious presidential elections, state officials in Texas learned of a disturbing problem with election software used widely across their state and the country: a component of software provided by Election Systems and Software — the top voting machine maker in the country — didn’t work the way it was supposed to work. The component wasn’t involved in tabulating votes; instead it was a software tool provided by ES&S to help officials verify that the voting software installed on election equipment was the version of ES&S software certified by a federal lab, and that it hadn’t been altered by the vendor or anyone else since certification. But Texas officials learned that the tool — known as a hash-verification tool — would indicate that ES&S software matched the certified version of code even when no match had been performed. This meant election officials had been relying on an integrity check that had questionable integrity. When voters or security experts express concern that elections can be hacked, officials often cite the hash-verification process as one reason to trust election results. Hash verification involves running software through an algorithm to produce a cryptographic value, or hash, of the code. The hash — a string of letters and numbers — serves as a fingerprint of the program. If the software is altered and then run through the same hashing algorithm again, the hash that’s created won’t match the original hash. But Brian Mechler, an engineering scientist at Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas at Austin, discovered while testing ES&S software for the Texas secretary of state’s office last year, that the company’s hash verification tool didn’t always work correctly.

Full Article: Voting’s Hash Problem: When the System for Verifying the Integrity of Voting Software Lacks Integrity Itself – by Kim Zetter – Zero Day