Biden links Juneteenth to voting rights as he signs new federal holiday into law | Alex Woodward/The Independent

President Joe Biden has signed a bill into law creating Juneteenth – the nation’s oldest annual commemoration of slavery’s end – as a national holiday. Following the proposal’s swift passage in Congress, from a unanimous vote in the Senate on Tuesday and debate and passage with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the president signed the measure into law on Thursday, two days before 2021’s Juneteenth celebrations. Effective this week, federal workers will receive a paid holiday on 19 June, or, if it falls on a weekend, the closest Friday or Monday. In remarks from the White House before a bill signing, the president said Juneteenth “will join the others of our national celebrations” for “our independence, our labourers who built this nation, our service members” but he underscored the nation’s urgent and ongoing duty to live up to its promise of equality. He pointed to his administration’s efforts to combat and prosecute discrimination, promote equity in healthcare and education, and protect voting rights against “an assault that offends our very democracy” from partisan legislation undermining ballot access across the US.

Full Article: Biden links Juneteenth to voting rights as he signs new federal holiday into law | The Independent

Ohio takes tougher line on election tech wireless connectivity | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

Back in February, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the federal board that sets guidance on how Americans vote, adopted a comprehensive, and long-awaited update to its security standards on election technology. But while the election security community largely embraced the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0, the five-member EAC stopped short of banning wireless connectivity in ballot scanners and electronic tablets, a decision that led to a group of technologists and former election officials saying that even switched off, wireless capabilities pose a security risk. Still, individual states are free to set their own guidelines for election technology, and on Tuesday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced updated standards that explicitly prohibit wireless capabilities in the equipment used there. “VVSG was a big change. This was a small but impactful change,” LaRose told StateScoop of the EAC update that allows the inclusion of wireless radios. The changes were made by the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners, a four-person bipartisan group that reviews and certifies the election equipment used by the state’s 88 county boards of elections, including electronic pollbooks, printers and ballot scanners.

Full Article: Ohio takes tougher line on election tech wireless connectivity

National: New emails detail Trump’s efforts to have Justice Department take up his false election-fraud claims | Karoun Demirjian and Matt Zapotosky/The Washington Post

President Donald Trump’s staff began sending emails to Jeffrey Rosen, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, asking him to embrace Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election at least 10 days before Rosen assumed the role of acting attorney general, according to new emails disclosed Tuesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. On the same day the electoral college met to certify the election results — which was also the day Trump announced that William P. Barr would be stepping down as attorney general — the president’s assistant sent Rosen an email with a list of complaints concerning the way the election had been carried out in Antrim County, Mich. The file included a “forensic analysis” of the Dominion Voting Systems machines the county employed, alleging they were “intentionally and purposefully” calibrated to create fraudulent results. It also included “talking points” that could be used to counter any arguments “against us.” “It’s indicative of what the machines can and did do to move votes,” the document Trump sent to Rosen reads. “We believe it has happened everywhere.” The claims were false, based on a report compiled by Allied Security Operations Group, a company led by a Republican businessman who pushed baseless allegations that the 2020 election was stolen. The email — one of several previously undisclosed records released by the Oversight Committee — sheds light on the type of pressure Trump put on the Justice Department to take up his crusade against Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.

Full Article: New emails detail Trump’s efforts to have Justice Department take up his false election-fraud claims – The Washington Post

National: We’re learning more about how Trump leveraged his power to bolster his election fantasies | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

On Dec. 14, 2020, about 2,500 people died of covid-19, the disease for which a vaccine was just beginning to be deployed. On that day, more than 200,000 people contracted the coronavirus, a number equal to 13 out of every 20,000 Americans. But in the White House, President Donald Trump’s focus was largely elsewhere: on his desperate effort to overturn the results of the presidential election that had been settled more than a month before. At 5:39 p.m., Trump announced that his attorney general, William P. Barr, would be leaving his administration. The timing was odd, given that Trump had only a month left in office. But Trump, we learned on Tuesday, wasted no time in getting Barr’s replacement up to speed on the president’s primary concern. About 40 minutes before Trump’s announcement about Barr, the president “sent an email via his assistant to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, that contained documents purporting to show evidence of election fraud in northern Michigan — the same claims that a federal judge had thrown out a week earlier in a lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers,” the New York Times’s Katie Benner reported. Trump had been publicly focused on the results in Antrim County, Mich., a few hours earlier. “WOW,” he tweeted at about 3 p.m. “This report shows massive fraud. Election changing result!” The report to which he was referring — and which was forwarded to Rosen — was compiled by an activist named Russell Ramsland, who was central to the false claims about the election that were floating around, The Washington Post reported in May. There was a misreporting of results in the county, a function of an error that occurred when some ballots were updated to include new candidates. The error was caught and explained within 48 hours of the election — but Antrim became a focal point of conspiracy theories about voting machines and fraud anyway. (An audit completed a few days after Trump’s tweet validated the corrected results.)

Full Article: We’re learning more about how Trump leveraged his power to bolster his election fantasies – The Washington Post

National: The sycophantic inner circle egging on Trump – and fueling his big lie | Adam Gabbatt/The Guardian

On 7 November 2020, after several days of vote-counting, Donald Trump lost the US presidential election. More than 60 unsuccessful lawsuits and one insurrection later, Trump has still lost the election, but the former president refuses to accept defeat. Egged on by a group of sycophants and fantasists, including a small-time Pennsylvania politician, a host on a far-right news network, and the CEO of a pillow company, Trump now plans to hold rallies at the end of June where he is likely to continue his fraudulent claims of a stolen election. Despite the election having been repeatedly investigated and declared “the most secure in American history” by a group of experts, the former president is said to be convinced the election result will be overturned. Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and a Trump confidant who claims to have evidence that shows voting machines were hacked by China, told the Guardian Trump would be returned to office by August or – at the latest – September. “With me they just keep saying: ‘It’s a conspiracy, Mike Lindell – he’s crazy, blah blah blah,’ all this stuff,” Lindell said. “But I think it gives the whole country hope because they know me and they know I wouldn’t be out there if I wasn’t 100%.” As are those in his close circle fighting a series of quixotic battles on his behalf.

Full Article: The sycophantic inner circle egging on Trump – and fueling his big lie | Donald Trump | The Guardian

National: ‘Potential crisis for democracy’: Threats to election workers could spur mass retirements | Zach Montellaro/Politico

State and local election offices fear they are set to face a wave of retirements and resignations after confronting the dual burdens of a pandemic and a rise in conspiracy-fueled threats. A new survey of over 200 local election officials — the people responsible for running polling places, maintaining voter rolls and counting and certifying the results of elections — found that roughly one-third were either very or somewhat concerned about “being harassed on the job” or “feeling unsafe” at work during the 2020 election cycle. Nearly 4-in-10 respondents in the survey, which was conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice and Bipartisan Policy Center, reported the same level of concern about “facing pressure to certify election results.” Election workers and watchdogs say that after these officials preserved the integrity of the 2020 election despite enormous pressure from former President Donald Trump and allies, the climate could kick off a “brain drain” in their field that would pose a threat to the administration of future elections if longtime election workers are replaced by those with less experience — or by believers in the conspiracy theories about the 2020 results Trump and his allies promote.

Full Article: ‘Potential crisis for democracy’: Threats to election workers could spur mass retirements – POLITICO

National: GOP crushes Manchin’s hopes for elections compromise | Burgess Everett/Politico

Senate Republicans spent months praising Joe Manchin for his insistence on cross-party compromise. Next week they will almost surely end his hopes for a bipartisan deal on elections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed all 50 Republicans would oppose Sen. Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) slimmed-down elections compromise, which focuses on expanding early voting and ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections. And it’s not clear there’s a single Republican vote to even begin debate on the matter, potentially dooming Manchin’s proposals before they can even make it into the bill. Both Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said they would likely oppose a procedural vote next week that would bring Democrats’ massive elections reform bill to the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Senate could amend the bill to adopt Manchin’s changes. But Romney said supporting that strategy “doesn’t make a lot of sense to me” and Murkowski said “Joe hasn’t briefed me on any of this.” “It needs to be blocked,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who praised Manchin last week for “saving our country” in encouraging bipartisanship. “I’m not optimistic that they could make enough changes to that to make it a fair bill. It would usurp the rights of the states.”

Full Article: GOP crushes Manchin’s hopes for elections compromise – POLITICO

National: Voting in America: The Urgency of Legitimacy | Clay S. Jenkinson/Governing

“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken. They’ve all spoken.” That from then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Jan. 6, 2021, in remarks intended to push back against those who were attempting to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.” Here we are, six months later. The 2020 national election has been certified in all fifty states. Recounts, audits and more than sixty court challenges have been adjudicated and resolved, and nothing in any of those post-election checks and balances has revealed any significant voter fraud. Joe Biden won the election. He is the 46th president of the United States. Republican political leaders now routinely speak of Joe Biden as the legitimate president and work with his administration every day, every week, to address national concerns. And yet …. Some of those same Republican leaders pander to the most ardent Trump supporters by seeming to agree with them that the election was stolen, or that there were enough irregularities to justify skepticism that the election was legitimate. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on May 24 indicated that more than 60 percent of Republican respondents continue to assert that the election was stolen. Perhaps more alarming, according to the same poll, 23 percent of Republican respondents agreed that “the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” and that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” You know the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times!

Full Article: Voting in America: The Urgency of Legitimacy

Arizona: Beyond bamboo and watermarks: The unconventional ways election auditors are searching for fraud | Jen Fifeld/Arizona Republic

Workers are wrapping up the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in the ongoing audit of the Maricopa County general election and have moved on to physically inspecting each ballot. Contractors hired by Arizona Senate Republicans, who commissioned the audit, are taking a high-resolution image of each ballot with a DSLR camera and then using a microscope camera to take up-close photos of specific areas of the ballot. This, they say, will tell them whether the ballot is authentic. No voter fraud was uncovered in previous audits by Maricopa County, though, and a lawsuit claiming there were fraudulent ballots was dismissed. The unconventional and largely unexplained inspection work began back in April when the recount began. It has ramped up significantly in an attempt to finish by June 30, when the Senate’s lease at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum expires. Ballot inspectors are studying the oval voters filled in on the presidential race to see whether it was filled in by a person or a machine, and looking at a bullseye mark on the ballot to see how it is aligned — even though the county says that mark is purely for printing purposes and does not impact tabulation, Randy Pullen, a former state GOP chairman who is serving as an audit spokesperson, recently explained to The Arizona Republic. While audit officials initially said ballot inspectors were looking for watermarks and bamboo, workers stopped looking for watermarks shortly after the audit began and it’s unclear if the search for bamboo was ever truly part of the review.

Full Article: How Arizona election auditors are inspecting Maricopa County’s ballots

California: Federal judge tosses local lawsuit that echoed Trump claims of election fraud | Brooke Staggs/Orange County Register

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit filed by California Republicans that echoed false allegations made by former President Donald Trump about the validity of the 2020 election. The lawsuit, filed in January by a conservative election watchdog group and 10 failed GOP congressional candidates against a slew of state and county elections officials, claimed the November election in California was rife with “mass irregularities and opportunities for fraud.” The plaintiffs argued that such conditions have been brewing in California for years, but were exacerbated by changes made last year to make sure all voters in the state had access to a ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. But those arguments, similar to claims made in dozens of other lawsuits disputing the 2020 election, were rejected. Federal Judge Andre Birotte wrote in a 13-page ruling published Tuesday that the plaintiffs didn’t offer concrete evidence that problems affected the outcome of California’s November elections. Birotte also said he agreed with the defendants’ statement that the lawsuit amounted to “an incremental undermining of confidence in the election results, past and future.”

Full Article: Federal judge tosses local lawsuit that echoed Trump claims of election fraud – Orange County Register

Colorado Secretary of State implements emergency rules to block Arizona-style audit | Pat Poblete/ Colorado Politics

Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Thursday implemented emergency rules aimed at thwarting future efforts at an Arizona-style “forensic audit” conducted by a third party. The new rules ban county clerks from allowing access to voting machines unless that person has passed a background check and is performing a task with authorization from either the county clerk or Griswold’s office.  The rules also require that person to be either an employee of the county clerk’s office or Griswold’s office, an election judge or an employee of a company that provides voting machines to that county. Voting machine manufacturers often make employees available to service and update machines. Those rules would block third parties, such as the Cyber Ninjas firm brought in by Republicans in the Arizona state Senate, from accessing voting machines. Violation of that new standard can result in “the prohibition or limitation on the use of, as well as decertification of, a county’s voting system or components.” The new rules also allow Griswold to investigate complaints of tampering with voting machines by installing uncertified components, breaking the chain of custody for a voting machine or repeated hardware failures or malfunctions. The findings of that investigation can result in the limitation, prohibition or decertification of a voting system.

Full Article: Griswold implements emergency rules to block Arizona-style audit in Colorado | Elections | coloradopolitics.com

Florida elections supervisors confused, frustrated by new voting law | Jake Sheridan/Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s new elections reform law is causing headaches and confusion for the state’s 67 county elections supervisors — and several vented their frustrations to Secretary of State Laurel Lee and other state officials during a conference Wednesday. “We’re all still struggling with how vague some of the new things put into law are,” Okaloosa County election supervisor Paul Lux told the Times following a sometimes-heated discussion on the controversial new law during the Florida Supervisors of Elections’ summer conference. “We need answers.” Recognizing that tensions over the law, SB 90, might be high, the state had asked that questions for Wednesday’s session with Florida Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews be submitted ahead of time. But several election supervisors took to the microphone in the grand ballroom of Tampa’s Water Street Marriott anyway, raising concerns about a lack of clarity on what the law requires them to do. “Would you agree with me that these questions are the classic example why the legislators should have checked with the election experts before they started tinkering with things?” Alan Hays, Lake County’s elections supervisor, pointedly asked attorneys with the state, drawing applause from election supervisors and staff. Hays, previously a Republican state senator, credited his fellow elections supervisors for improving the bill before passage, saying it previously had parts that were “absolutely so hideous.” Earlier in the day, a lobbyist for the statewide bipartisan elections association told attendees that, at one point, the elections bill was a whopping 400 pages and said behind-the-scenes back-and-forth over the bill included a legislator wanting all voting machines to be made in Florida, even though he said none currently sold are.

Full Article: Florida elections supervisors confused, frustrated by new voting law

Georgia: Reports detail tense moments with election monitors | Kate Brumback/Associated Press

As a pair of election workers sat at a table counting ballots during an audit of Georgia’s presidential election in November, no fewer than eight Republican monitors swarmed around them, hurling accusations of voter fraud and taking photos in violation of the rules. This was one of several tense situations involving party monitors that independent election monitor Carter Jones documented in reports produced during the several months he spent observing election operations in Fulton County to ensure that officials in the state’s most populous county were complying with a consent agreement. “The party audit monitors seemed to feel as though they were detectives or sheriffs and that they were going to personally ‘crack the case’ and uncover a stolen election,” Jones wrote in a report submitted to the State Election Board on Nov. 20. “This is a gross misunderstanding of their role as monitors and certainly made the audit process more contentious — not to mention more difficult for the auditors attempting to count amidst the commotion of a full-scale argument.” While transparency is imperative throughout the election process and monitors are necessary, political parties must do a better job of vetting and training their monitors and explaining exactly what their role is, Jones wrote. He also suggested that repeat offenders be prohibited from serving as monitors in the future.

Full Article: Reports detail tense moments with Georgia election monitors

Michigan GOP activists ask God, demand lawmakers deliver Arizona-style audit of 2020 election | Malachi Barrett/MLive.com

Conservative activists delivered several thousand signed affidavits to Michigan lawmakers Thursday, demanding an Arizona-style “forensic audit” of the 2020 election. A weeks-long campaign to gather signatures by members of the Michigan Republican Party and supporters of former President Donald Trump culminated in a Thursday rally that mixed religion and politics. Boxes containing the affidavits, some inscribed with Biblical verses, were blessed with prayer and anointed in oil on the steps of Michigan’s Capitol. Activists distrust audits completed by the Michigan Secretary of State and are demanding “a complete audit of the statewide election results and all votes, machines and software.” A few hundred people gathered outside the state Capitol for an event organized by Transformation Michigan, a religious nonprofit, and conservative groups. “If you wonder why we’re doing this at a prayer rally, that’s because we recognize that this is a spiritual battle,” said Patrick Colbeck, a former Republican lawmaker who has promoted election fraud allegations. Colbeck compared the 2020 election with the Biblical persecution of Jesus Christ. “The question ‘what is truth,’ which everybody is struggling with right now, was famously found in the Gospel,” Colbeck said. “Pontius Pilate is trying to put his political finger up in the air and figure out ‘should I go with the mob or should I go with what I know is the truth?’ He chose poorly. We want to make sure the folks in this building behind us don’t choose poorly anymore.”

Full Article: GOP activists ask God, demand lawmakers deliver Arizona-style audit of Michigan’s 2020 election – mlive.com

North Carolina lawmakers try again to remove literacy test, a Jim Crow relic, from NC constitution | Laura Leslie/WRAL

North Carolina’s constitution still requires a literacy test for voting, a Jim Crow-era tactic used to keep Black voters away from the polls. State House lawmakers are trying again to ask voters to remove it. Article VI, Section 4 of the state constitution requires that “Every person presenting himself for [voter] registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language.” In 1965, the federal Voting Rights Act banned the use of literacy tests for voting. Gaston County challenged that provision in court, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the VRA in 1969 and banned North Carolina from using the tests. In response to the ruling, state lawmakers approved an amendment to remove the requirement from the state constitution. It was put on the ballot in 1970, but North Carolina voters defeated it. So, it’s still there.

Full Article: Lawmakers try again to remove literacy test, a Jim Crow relic, from NC constitution :: WRAL.com

Pennsylvania Governor says GOP’s election bill is ‘driven by fringe conspiracy theories’ as lawmakers crash event | Andrew Seidman/Philadelphia Inquirer

The battle to shape public opinion over Pennsylvania Republicans’ proposed election overhaul intensified Thursday, as Gov. Tom Wolf called it an attack on voting rights and GOP lawmakers crashed an event in the Philadelphia suburbs to demand he negotiate. Democrats have blasted the proposal as the latest effort by GOP-controlled legislatures across the country to appease former President Donald Trump and effectively codify his lies about a stolen election into law. “Make no mistake, leaders of the [state] House Republican caucus are being driven by fringe conspiracy theories, and that is no way to make good policy,” Wolf said during a morning appearance in Delaware County. Republicans call the bill an important, top-to-bottom upgrade of an election code that dates to 1937, parts of which were revised in a major 2019 law that greatly expanded mail voting. They say it would modernize elections, improve accessibility, and make them more secure. State Rep. Seth Grove (R., York), chairman of the House State Government Committee and the bill’s author, came with other GOP colleagues to Wolf’s news conference in Media. He labeled the argument that “election reform is suppression” as Democrats’ own “Big Lie” — a play on how Democrats have branded Republicans’ false election claims.

Full Article: Pennsylvania Republicans’ election bill sparks fight between Gov. Tom Wolf, State Rep. Seth Grove

Rhode Island House approves bill to allow remote electronic voting | Katherine Gregg/The Providence Journal

The state’s top election officials raised warning flags. One state lawmaker after another stated their misgivings about a bill moving through the State House to allow remote voting without a paper trail. But in the end, the Rhode Island House on Wednesday voted 48-to-17 for legislation that would allow disabled and military voters to “electronically receive and return their mail ballot.” The bill now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s turnabout on the bill epitomized the struggle many of the lawmakers were having in an era of cyber hacking and potential distrust of the outcome of any election where there is no paper trail to validate the results. Advocates said the electronic delivery and return of ballots would make it easier for handicapped people to vote than the current system for absentee voters, which ultimately requires the filled-out ballot be placed in the mail or in a drop box. But Common Cause of Rhode Island, one of the leaders of a campaign to increase voting opportunities, came out strongly against the bill. “We believe that the electronic return of the ballot is too risky,” John Marion, executive director of the local Common Cause chapter, told The Journal. “The FBI and [R.I. Congressman] Jim Langevin both agree. It can be hacked and votes can be changed, and the voter would never know.”

Full Article: RI House approves bill to allow remote electronic voting

Texas Democrats Are Pressing Their Congressional Counterparts To Expand Voting Rights | Susan Davis/NPR

A group of Democratic Texas state lawmakers traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with congressional Democrats and Vice President Harris as part of a broader effort to pressure those in their party to pass far-reaching voting rights and election reform legislation. The Texas lawmakers met Tuesday with staff of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key opponent of the bill, called the For the People Act. Manchin himself did not attend. “I think they heard us,” Texas state Rep. Jasmine Crockett told reporters, referring to Manchin’s staff. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer called it an “extremely productive visit.” The Texas legislators also had a private meeting with a group of Senate Democrats. “They must have gotten five or six standing ovations,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Tuesday. “We were really taken by their courage, their bravery and, most importantly, their mission.”

Full Article: Texas Lawmakers Pressure Democrats To Pass Elections Bill : NPR

Wisconsin: Republican Bill Would Limit How Ballot Drop Boxes Could Be Deployed | Will Keneally/PBS Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Legislature is proceeding with bills that would change how the state runs elections, reflecting the ongoing Republican response to the 2020 election. The Assembly elections committee heard testimony Tuesday on one bill that would limit how local clerks can place ballot drop boxes. A version of the bill was passed the previous week by the state Senate in a broader package of election-related bills. “People in the state need to have a general idea of where voting is taking place,” said Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, one of the bill’s authors. “I think any time a ballot is not a secured facility, that there is a potential for issues.” The legislation is largely in response to the Democracy in the Park event held before the 2020 election, during which poll workers in Madison helped witness and collected absentee ballots. Critics of the event said it was de facto early voting — during which voters can receive and cast ballots at designated locations in the two weeks before Election Day. However, Madison city attorney and the state’s former chief elections official Michael Haas said the event was not early voting because no ballots were being issued at the dropoff sites in city parks.

Full Article: Republican Bill Would Limit How Ballot Drop Boxes Could Be Deployed in Wisconsin

Garland announces expansion of Justice Department’s voting rights unit, vowing to scrutinize GOP-backed voting restrictions and ballot reviews | Amy Gardner and Sean Sullivan/The Washington Post

Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged Friday to double the size of the Justice Department’s voting rights enforcement staff to combat efforts to restrict ballot access and prosecute those who threaten or harm election workers. In an expansive speech that invoked the nation’s long and, at times, faltering progress toward ensuring every American’s right to vote, Garland likened the fight against efforts to curtail ballot access to past campaigns enshrining voting rights for Black Americans in the Constitution and the seminal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Garland said the additional trial attorneys, which he plans to hire over the coming 30 days, will scrutinize new laws and existing practices across the nation for potential discrimination against Americans of color, including in new measures GOP state lawmakers are pushing. They will enforce provisions of the Voting Rights Act by challenging such laws or practices in court — and prosecute anyone found to intimidate or threaten violence against election officials. The expanded unit will also monitor the growing number of post-election ballot reviews being called for around the country by supporters of former president Donald Trump in search of signs of violations of federal laws, Garland said, and will watch over upcoming redistricting efforts to call out discriminatory practices. “To meet the challenge of the current moment, we must rededicate the resources of the Department of Justice to a critical part of its original mission: Enforcing federal law to protect the franchise of all eligible voters,” Garland said in his address to department employees. He added: “Where we see violations, we will not hesitate to act.”

Full Article: Garland announces expansion of Justice Department’s voting rights unit, vowing to scrutinize GOP-backed voting restrictions and ballot reviews – The Washington Post

National: How Republicans came to embrace the big lie of a stolen election | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Just a few days after the polls closed in Florida’s 2018 general election, Rick Scott, then the state’s governor, held a press conference outside the governor’s mansion and made a stunning accusation. Scott was running for a US Senate seat, and as more votes were counted, his lead was dwindling. Targeting two of the state’s most Democratic-leaning counties, Scott said there was “rampant fraud”. “Every person in Florida knows exactly what is happening. Their goal is to mysteriously keep finding more votes until the election turns out the way they want,” he said, directing the state’s law enforcement agency to investigate. “I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.” Scott eventually won the election, and his comments eventually faded. But the episode offered an alarming glimpse of the direction the Republican party was turning. A little over two years later, fanned repeatedly by Donald Trump throughout 2020, the myth of a stolen American election has shifted from a fringe idea to one being embraced by the Republican party. The so-called big lie – the idea that the election was stolen from Trump – has transformed from a tactical strategy to a guiding ideology. For years, civil rights groups and academics have raised alarm at the way Republican officials have deployed false claims of voter fraud as a political strategy to justify laws that restrict access to the ballot. But the way Republicans have embraced the myth of a stolen election since Trump’s loss in November, is new, they say, marking a dangerous turn from generalized allegations of fraud to refusing to accept the legitimacy of elections.

Full Article: How Republicans came to embrace the big lie of a stolen election | Republicans | The Guardian

Congress likely won’t take action on the growing threats to election integrity, leaving election workers vulnerable to criminal prosecution and results open to partisan tampering | Grace Panetta/Business Insider

Congress will almost certainly sit out the ongoing high-stakes fight within states over how people vote, and who has power over how elections are run. The Senate is gearing up for a showdown over voting rights and the filibuster at the end of June, amid the backdrop Republican state legislators passing an unprecedented number of laws tightening rules for voters and election officials. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is bringing the For The People Act (known as HR. 1 in the House and S. 1 in the Senate), Democrats’ 800-plus page flagship voting rights and democracy reform bill, up for a floor vote the week of June 21. The chances of Congress passing that legislation went from extraordinarily slim to none after moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin formally came out against the bill in a June 6 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Within the current Senate filibuster rules (which Manchin also supports), the bill, which has no GOP support, would need Manchin and at least 10 Republican votes to pass the US Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also threw cold water on H.R. 4, Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s proposed bipartisan alternative to the For The People Act that would restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Full Article: Congress Likely Won’t Take Action on GOP Election Subversion

National: G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’ | Maggie Astor/The New York Times

It was 1991, she recalled, and she was a 21-year-old learning to live independently with cerebral palsy, which she has had since birth. She waited in line at her polling place in Austin, Texas, for hours. Then she waited for a poll worker who could help her complete her ballot. Finally, the worker refused to take her aside, making her name her preferred candidates in full view and earshot of other voters. Ms. Angel, who has limited use of her limbs and a speech impairment and uses a foot-operated power wheelchair, left understanding that, unlike other Americans, she couldn’t vote privately. It was only when she began working for the Coalition of Texans With Disabilities in 2010, and learned about the adaptive equipment available to her, that she was able to vote independently — an experience that brought her to tears. Now, Ms. Angel is watching the Texas Legislature pursue sweeping voting restrictions, afraid that she and others with disabilities might again be deterred from voting. “They’re really making it so we don’t have a voice anymore,” she said. “And without that, we can’t get the things that we need to survive.” The Texas legislation Democrats blocked but Republicans  in a special session, is one of a series of Republican voting bills that would disproportionately affect people with disabilities. The Wisconsin Senate approved three last week with more to come, though unlike in Texas, the governor there is a Democrat and is expected to veto them. Georgia and Florida have enacted similar measures.

Full Article: G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’ – The New York Times

National: In Congress, Republicans Shrug at Warnings of Democracy in Peril | Jonathan Weisman/The New York Times

Senator Christopher S. Murphy concedes that political rhetoric in the nation’s capital can sometimes stray into hysteria, but when it comes to the precarious state of American democracy, he insisted he was not exaggerating the nation’s tilt toward authoritarianism. “Democrats are always at risk of being hyperbolic,” said Mr. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “I don’t think there’s a risk when it comes to the current state of democratic norms.” After the norm-shattering presidency of Donald J. Trump, the violence-inducing bombast over a stolen election, the pressuring of state vote counters, the Capitol riot and the flood of voter curtailment laws rapidly being enacted in Republican-run states, Washington has found itself in an anguished state. Almost daily, Democrats warn that Republicans are pursuing racist, Jim Crow-inspired voter suppression efforts to disenfranchise tens of millions of citizens, mainly people of color, in a cynical effort to grab power. Metal detectors sit outside the House chamber to prevent lawmakers — particularly Republicans who have boasted of their intention to carry guns everywhere — from bringing weaponry to the floor. Democrats regard their Republican colleagues with suspicion, believing that some of them collaborated with the rioters on Jan. 6. Republican lawmakers have systematically downplayed or dismissed the dangers, with some breezing over the attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful protest, and many saying the state voting law changes are to restore “integrity” to the process, even as they give credence to Mr. Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 election. They shrug off Democrats’ warnings of grave danger as the overheated language of politics as usual. “I haven’t understood for four or five years why we are so quick to spin into a place where part of the country is sure that we no longer have the strength to move forward, as we always have in the past,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, noting that the passions of Republican voters today match those of Democratic voters after Mr. Trump’s triumph. “Four years ago, there were people in the so-called resistance showing up in all of my offices every week, some of whom were chaining themselves to the door.”

Full Article: In Congress, Republicans Shrug at Warnings of Democracy in Peril – The New York Times

National: Trump Pressed Official to Wield Justice Department to Back Election Claims | Katie Benner/The New York Times

An hour before President Donald J. Trump announced in December that William P. Barr would step down as attorney general, the president began pressuring Mr. Barr’s eventual replacement to have the Justice Department take up his false claims of election fraud. Mr. Trump sent an email via his assistant to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, that contained documents purporting to show evidence of election fraud in northern Michigan — the same claims that a federal judge had thrown out a week earlier in a lawsuit filed by one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers. Another email from Mr. Trump to Mr. Rosen followed two weeks later, again via the president’s assistant, that included a draft of a brief that Mr. Trump wanted the Justice Department to file to the Supreme Court. It argued, among other things, that state officials had used the pandemic to weaken election security and pave the way for widespread election fraud. The draft echoed claims in a lawsuit in Texas by the Trump-allied state attorney general that the justices had thrown out, and a lawyer who had helped on that effort later tried with increasing urgency to track down Mr. Rosen at the Justice Department, saying he had been dispatched by Mr. Trump to speak with him. The emails, turned over by the Justice Department to investigators on the House Oversight Committee and obtained by The New York Times, show how Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Rosen to put the power of the Justice Department behind lawsuits that had already failed to try to prove his false claims that extensive voter fraud had affected the election results. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s frenzied drive to subvert the election results in the final weeks of his presidency, including ratcheting up pressure on the Justice Department. And they show that Mr. Trump flouted an established anticorruption norm that the Justice Department acts independently of the White House on criminal investigations or law enforcement actions, a gap that steadily eroded during Mr. Trump’s term. The documents dovetail with emails around the same time from Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, asking Mr. Rosen to examine unfounded conspiracy theories about the election.

Full Article: Trump Pressed Official to Wield Justice Dept. to Back Election Claims – The New York Times

National: As hope for federal voting rights rescue dims, state Democrats, advocates turn up the heat | Jane C. Timm/NBC

The Texas Democrats who blocked a Republican-backed voting restrictions bill from becoming state law at the eleventh hour last month will head to the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday to lobby senators as part of a broader, last-ditch effort to rally support for a major voter rights bill. Nearly two dozen state Democrats plan to lobby senators in behalf of the For the People Act, a broad bill that would create a federal floor of voting rights access and kneecap laws like the one proposed in Texas and already enacted in other Republican-led states. The schedule is still in flux, but a source with knowledge of the plans said the Texas legislators are scheduled to meet with Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both of Texas. They will also meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and hope to meet with Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in their push for federal voting rights legislation. They will head to the White House for a previously announced meeting Wednesday with Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading the Biden administration’s push to protect voting rights. “This is, in my mind, a now-or-never moment. It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment,” state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said Sunday. “On that last day” of the Texas House session, “on that gloomy Sunday, we knew we didn’t have the votes, but we found a will, and we found a way.”

Full Article: As hope for federal voting rights rescue dims, state Democrats, advocates turn up the heat

National: Exodus of election officials raises concerns of partisanship | Anthony Izaguirre/Associated Press

There is no shortage of job openings for local election officials in Michigan. It’s the same in Pennsylvania. Wisconsin, too. After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential of new punishments in certain states, county officials who run elections are quitting or retiring early. The once quiet job of election administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to be pushed by many in the Republican Party. The exits raise a pressing question: Who will take these jobs? Barb Byrum, clerk of Ingham County, Michigan, has an idea. “These conspiracy theorists are in it for the long haul. They’re in it to completely crumble our republic, and they’re looking at these election administrator positions,” said Byrum, a Democrat. “They’re playing the long game.” It’s difficult to quantify exactly how many election officials across the country have left their posts and why, since the departures are not generally tallied. Retirements also are common after presidential elections. But in places that do track such information, along with anecdotal accounts from county officials, it is clear that many have recently left because of the newfound partisan rancor around the jobs and the threats many local election workers faced leading up to the November election and afterward as former President Donald Trump and his allies challenged the results.

Full Article: Exodus of election officials raises concerns of partisanship

Editorial: How Joe Manchin could escape the trap he set for himself | Edward B. Foley/The Washington Post

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is correct that any electoral reform enacted by Congress must be bipartisan — not one party’s rules imposed over the other’s unified opposition. But his position on the filibuster may need some adjustment if his own stated standard for bipartisan electoral reform is to prevail. First, let’s focus on why Manchin is right to nix the Democratic Party’s dream elections bill, For the People Act (H.R. 1/S.B. 1), in its current form. Not only does it contain components that are dubious on policy grounds, including campaign finance provisions that would increase funds for extremists such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). It also has items that are poison pills for Republicans, such as mandatory “same-day” registration and eliminating voter identification requirements for on-demand vote-by-mail. H.R. 1 passed the House with zero Republican votes, and the companion S.B. 1 has zero GOP support in the Senate. That’s because it’s a purely partisan bill aimed at helping the Democratic Party win elections, not impartial reform designed to foster fair electoral competition in America’s traditional two-party system. If Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), keep saying that H.R. 1/S.B. 1, as currently drafted, is essential to secure democracy, they are self-deceived or deceitful. Same-day registration is hardly necessary for the preservation of self-government.

Full Article: Opinion | How Joe Manchin could escape the trap he set for himself – The Washington Post

Editorial: GOP preparing the ground to steal an election | Juan Williams/TheHill

We need to talk about Jan. 6. I’m talking about Jan. 6, 2025. That’s when the U.S. Congress will meet to certify the winner of the 2024 presidential election. “How to Get Away With Murder” was a recent TV crime show. As the 2024 race approaches, the Trump-GOP’s current weekly drama is titled “How to Get Away with Murdering Democracy.” Step One — Don’t mention Jan. 6, 2021. If it comes up, say Trump’s violent radicals did not stop certification of President Biden’s win over Trump. It was just like a “tourist visit,” according to one GOP congressman, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.). Too bad for him he was photographed that day with a look of terror on his face. Next, prevent a bipartisan, independent commission from looking into the violent Republican riot. Twist the arms of the honest Republicans left on Capitol Hill by scaring them with previews of the commission’s probable findings and the damage those stories could do to the party’s efforts to regain control of the House, Senate and White House. Step Two — Change election laws in states with GOP-majority legislatures. New laws in Georgia, for example, take power away from independent election boards and the secretary of state to certify election results. Georgia’s new laws give unprecedented power to the Republican legislature to determine the winner of the 2024 election. They can override local and state election officials in certifying votes. In 2020, the Georgia secretary of state — a Republican, Brad Raffensperger — defied Trump’s demand to “find” enough votes to make him the winner of the presidential race. Raffensperger or his successor will not have that power come 2024.

Full Article: Juan Williams: GOP preparing the ground to steal an election | TheHill

Arizona: ‘The audit is The Great Awakening’: How QAnon lives on in Maricopa County election audit | Richard Ruellas and Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

It’s not as if Q is spinning ballots around on turntables or waving them under ultraviolet lights. But Q is definitely at work on the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum where all 2.1 million general election ballots cast in Arizona’s most populous county are being audited. Q’s influence is not obvious, perhaps as cryptic as Q’s postings that claimed the looming takedown of a global cabal, words that spawned the wide-ranging QAnon conspiracy theory. Q is in the thoughts of those standing in 100-plus-degree heat outside the Phoenix arena where the audit is taking place, cheering on the work inside. Q is the reason ultraviolet lights were briefly employed as part of the audit. Q has provided a sustaining energy atypical for supporters of a losing candidate. Q has been in the background in the aftermath of Election Day, when devotees joined the crowd who rallied outside Maricopa County’s election headquarters, aiming to stop the stealing of the election they were certain was happening inside. Q followers barraged elected officials with pleas for this audit. And when Republican leaders in the state Senate ordered the audit, they hired a company whose CEO had shared QAnon-related messaging on social media. Since 2017, Q had guided followers to expect former President Donald Trump to save the world from a secretive cabal of sex trafficking and pedophile government officials before he left office.

Full Article: QAnon movement clings to Arizona election audit as next hope