National: Republicans want to change state election laws. Here’s how they’re doing it. | Zach Montellaro and Daniel Payne/Politico

Passing new election laws has been one of the top priorities for Republican state legislators in 2021 — and they are working from similar playbooks to tighten or restrict the old policies even in states with very different election systems. The latest flashpoint in the GOP drive to change voting rules came in Texas, where Democrats temporarily blocked a sweeping new bill this week that touched many of the same voting policies that drew wide notice in Georgia earlier this year. Republicans across the country have proposed significant changes to their states’ election rules after former President Donald Trump promoted conspiracy theories and spread false claims that he’d been robbed of victory there and elsewhere by massive fraud. Together, Texas and Georgia show which areas Republicans are focused on after Trump’s 2020 loss. Texas’ mail voting policies were already very tight, but both states sought to make their absentee policies stricter. Both states specifically targeted new voting policies piloted by big, blue counties in 2020. And Republicans in both states sought to impose new limits on election officials — and expose them to new criminal penalties for wrongdoing. Right now, there’s one key difference between the legislation in Georgia and Texas: Georgia’s became law, while Texas’ is stalled. But not for long: In an interview with Texas talk radio host Chad Hasty on Thursday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said a special legislative session to pass a new elections law will come soon.

Full Article: Republicans want to change state election laws. Here’s how they’re doing it. – POLITICO

National: From Vermont to Kentucky, some Republicans expand voting access in 2021 | Julia Harte/Reuters

Vermont’s Republican governor on Monday signed a law requiring the state’s top election official to send a mail ballot to every eligible voter, becoming one of the few Republican leaders at the state level to buck their party’s trend of trying to limit voting access. The law signed by Governor Phil Scott makes permanent a universal mail-in voting system that Vermont adopted in 2020 to address the challenges to voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. It puts Vermont in the company of just six other U.S. states that automatically mail ballots to all eligible voters. Republicans have passed a wave of new voting requirements and limits this year in battleground states such as Georgia, Florida and Arizona, citing a need to stamp out alleged electoral fraud that former President Donald Trump says, without evidence, cost him the November election. Democrats and voting rights advocates have sued state officials over the measures and denounce them as partisan power grabs. State and federal judges have dismissed more than 50 lawsuits brought by Trump or his allies alleging fraud and other irregularities in November. But some Republicans lawmakers and election officials in states that are less competitive in national elections, such as Vermont, Kentucky and Oklahoma, say their party should be making it easier to vote, not harder – and support legislation to do just that.

Full Article: From Vermont to Kentucky, some Republicans expand voting access in 2021 | Reuters

National: Meadows Pressed Justice Dept. to Investigate Election Fraud Claims | Katie Benner/The New York Times

In Donald J. Trump’s final weeks in office, Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, repeatedly pushed the Justice Department to investigate unfounded conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, according to newly uncovered emails provided to Congress, portions of which were reviewed by The New York Times. In five emails sent during the last week of December and early January, Mr. Meadows asked Jeffrey A. Rosen, then the acting attorney general, to examine debunked claims of election fraud in New Mexico and an array of baseless conspiracies that held that Mr. Trump had been the actual victor. That included a fantastical theory that people in Italy had used military technology and satellites to remotely tamper with voting machines in the United States and switch votes for Mr. Trump to votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr. None of the emails show Mr. Rosen agreeing to open the investigations suggested by Mr. Meadows, and former officials and people close to him said that he did not do so. An email to another Justice Department official indicated that Mr. Rosen had refused to broker a meeting between the F.B.I. and a man who had posted videos online promoting the Italy conspiracy theory, known as Italygate. But the communications between Mr. Meadows and Mr. Rosen, which have not previously been reported, show the increasingly urgent efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies during his last days in office to find some way to undermine, or even nullify, the election results while he still had control of the government.

Full Article: Meadows Pressed Justice Dept. to Investigate Election Fraud Claims – The New York Times

National: Joe Manchin will oppose For the People Act, putting Senate’s voting rights bill in peril | Matthew Brown/USA Today

Sen. Joe Manchin, the pivotal Democrat in a split Senate, announced he will vote against Democrats’ flagship voting reform package, the For the People Act, in a major blow to the party’s ambitions on voting rights. “I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” Manchin wrote in an op-ed published Sunday in the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail. Manchin’s decision to oppose the legislation, which would allow the federal government greater ability to implement a standard election framework across the country and allow the federal government to enforce civil rights law, was rooted in his desire for bipartisanship and opposition to what he sees as a near-sighted partisan effort by Democrats. While the House passed the bill in March, the legislation has been bogged down in the Senate, where a 60-vote filibuster is necessary to advance legislation. Manchin has repeatedly said he will not vote to eliminate the filibuster, a Senate rule with a complicated history.

Full Article: Joe Manchin will vote against For the People Act

Editorial: Joe Manchin retreats to fantasyland and sticks America with the consequences | Eugene Robinson/The Washington Post

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has the right to live in a make-believe wonderland if he so chooses. But his party and his nation will pay a terrible price for his hallucinations about the nature of today’s Republican Party. And even this sacrifice might not guarantee that Manchin can hold on to support back home. Manchin’s declaration Sunday that he will vote against sweeping legislation to guarantee voting rights nationwide and that he “will not vote to weaken or eliminate” the Senate filibuster is a huge blow to President Biden’s hopes of enacting his ambitious agenda. There’s no way to spin this as anything other than awful. Manchin’s decision is a catastrophe not just for this particular bill, though he has almost certainly doomed the legislation. A senior administration official told me Monday that “none of this is a surprise to those who have heard Manchin’s views” and that the White House will continue working to “make progress notwithstanding the difficult challenges in front of us, including a 50-vote Senate.” But thanks to Manchin’s decision, Biden doesn’t even have a 50-vote Senate for what many Democrats see as an existential fight against the GOP’s attempt to gain and keep power through voter suppression. The 49 Senate votes left after Manchin’s defection will take Biden and the Democrats precisely nowhere. Worse, Manchin is asking Democrats to respond to ruthlessness with delusion. In an op-ed in the West Virginia paper the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin said he will oppose the For the People Act, passed by the House in March, because it has no Republican support. “I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy,” he wrote.

Full Article: Opinion | Joe Manchin retreats to fantasyland and sticks America with the consequences – The Washington Post

Editorial: Are We Destined for a Crisis of Democracy in 2024? | Ross Douthat/The New York Times

I wrote my weekend column about three ways that Donald Trump might be prevented from plunging the country into crisis in 2024, should he reproduce both his 2020 defeat and his quest to overturn the outcome: first, through the dramatic electoral overhauls favored by progressives; second, through a Bidenist politics of normalcy that prevents the G.O.P. from capturing the House or Senate; or third, through the actions of Republican officials who keep their heads down and don’t break with Trump but, as in 2020, refuse to go along if he turns another loss into an attempted putsch. Because the big electoral overhauls aren’t happening, I noted, the progressive attitude risks becoming a counsel of despair. But that note didn’t adequately convey just how despairing a lot of progressives have become, treating the hypothetical where Trump (or, for that matter, some other Republican nominee) actually succeeds in overturning an election defeat not just as a possibility but as a likely outcome in 2024, the destination to which we’re probably headed absent some unexpected change. “This is where it’s going,” the press critic Jay Rosen of New York University tweeted recently, about a scenario in which state legislatures, the House and the Senate would simply hand the presidency to the G.O.P. nominee, “and there is presently nothing on the horizon that would stop it.” In response to my column, the Nation columnist and Substacker Jeet Heer suggested that none of the three approaches to forestalling a crisis seem plausible. “In sum, we can all see the disaster that is coming,” he wrote. “But there is no clear way to stop it.” This pessimism is, in a way, an extension of the arguments that went on throughout the Trump presidency, about how great a threat to democracy his authoritarian posturing really posed. As a voice on the less-alarmist side, I don’t think I was wrong about the practical limits on Trump’s power seeking: For all his postelection madness, he never came close to getting the institutional support, from the courts or Republican governors or, for that matter, Mitch McConnell, that he would have needed to even begin a process that could have overturned the result. Jan. 6 was a travesty and tragedy, but its deadly futility illustrated Trumpian weakness more than illiberal strength.

Full Article: Opinion | Are We Destined for a Crisis of Democracy in 2024? – The New York Times

Arizona: Is the Maricopa County election audit truly an audit? Here’s what professional auditors have to say | Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

What to call the activity at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum this month? It’s not an “audit,” according to many of those watching. It doesn’t meet the formal criteria, they say. A better description would be a review or investigation — or, from some perspectives, “grift” or “clown show.” Some have taken to calling it a “fraudit.” Sierra Vista resident Ben Eaddy is one of many Arizonans who say calling this exercise an audit “lends it an appearance of legitimacy it simply does not deserve.” But many supporters of what the Arizona Senate’s contractors are doing say that this is an audit and should be called one. They believe that the multiple tests the county did before this to verify its election results should not be called “audits.” Ah, partisanship. But those in the profession? They get the final say. Most certified auditors contacted by The Arizona Republic, including accountants, internal auditors, and forensic auditors, say this is not an audit — or at least it doesn’t appear to be following the generally accepted standards for one, from the outside. … Mark Lindeman, acting co-director of national election integrity nonprofit Verified Voting, said he finds this contractor’s claim “deeply reprehensible.” Auditors should never release false and defamatory statements about the entity they are covering, he said, before, during or after their work. “It underscores all of the concerns we have had all along about a process skewed towards discrediting an election rather than establishing a truth about it,” he said.

Full Article: Arizona election audit: Is it truly an audit? Here’s what experts say

Arizona 2020 Election Review: Risks for Republicans and Democracy | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Rob Goins is 57, a former Marine and a lifelong Republican in a right-leaning jigsaw of golf courses, strip malls and gated retirement communities pieced together in the Arizona desert. But ask about the Republican-backed review of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s 2020 election victory here in Maricopa County, and Mr. Goins rejects the party line. “There’s a lot of folks out there trying to make something out of nothing,” he said recently as he loaded purchases into his vehicle outside a Home Depot. “I don’t think there was any fraud. My opinion of this is that it’s a big lie.”  Mr. Goins is flesh-and-blood evidence of what political analysts here are all but shouting: The Republican State Senate’s autopsy of the 2020 vote, broadly seen as a shambolic, partisan effort to nurse grievances about Donald J. Trump’s loss here in November, risks driving away some of the very people the party needs to win statewide elections in 2022. That Arizona Republicans are ignoring that message — and that Republicans in other states are now trying to mount their own Arizona-style audits — raises worrisome questions not just about their strategy, but about its impact on an American democracy facing fundamental threats.

Full Article: Arizona 2020 Election Review: Risks for Republicans and Democracy – The New York Times

How Georgia Could Conduct A Forensic Audit Of November’s Election | Stephen Fowler/Georgia Public Broadcasting

… An ongoing lawsuit in Fulton County seeks to unseal more than 145,000 absentee ballots only and inspect them for evidence of counterfeit or fraudulent ballots, but that is currently on hold after all of the defendants in the case filed motions to dismiss. But based on a GPB News analysis of Georgia election rules and practices, extensive reporting on Georgia’s new election system and interviews with elections experts, there is no way to “forensically audit” absentee ballots or votes printed out by ballot-marking devices, and numerous safeguards are in place to verify only legal votes are counted. Additionally, any “audit” done at this point could not alter the outcome or any election results, unlike pre-certification post-election audits many states conduct. The term “forensic audit” is traditionally used in the financial world to uncover embezzlement or other financial crimes by combing through minute details of accounts. These issues are traced to individual transactions or people — but that is not possible with elections. The right to a secret ballot means after a voter’s eligibility is confirmed (either in person or with signatures and identification for mail-in ballots), officials can no longer tie a ballot back to a specific person. This is by design. Amber McReynolds is a former elections director in the all-mail state of Colorado and the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute and current member of the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service. She said Republicans and other pro-Trump groups pushing for these so-called audits are asking for things that don’t exist, and are furthering conspiracy theories that show a lack of understanding about the secure election processes used across the country.

Full Article: Here’s How Georgia Could Conduct A Forensic Audit Of November’s Election | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Michigan: Doomed campaign to reinstate Trump comes to Antrim County, original home of the election lie  | Malachi Barrett/MLive.com

Conservative activists striving to prove the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” still believe an obscure Northern Michigan community holds the key to unraveling an international conspiracy. An election night error in Antrim County – which temporarily showed Donald Trump losing the historically Republican county – continues to fuel unproven allegation of voter fraud eight months later. This weekend, promoters of fraud claims and QAnon conspiracy theories are holding a summit in Antrim County to share ‘evidence’ amid a national push for forensic audits of voting machines and ballots across the United States. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is the scheduled keynote speaker for Saturday’s event at Friske’s Farm Market in Ellsworth. Lindell, who faces a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit over his claims of rigged election machines, recently predicted Trump will be reinstated as president in August. There is no legal mechanism to reverse President Joe Biden’s victory. John Pirich, a retired attorney who represented Trump in a 2016 election lawsuit, said there’s zero chance Trump will be reinstated. The Michigan Bureau of Elections conducted statewide audits already and released a report in April. Michigan’s certified results show Biden won the state by 154,000 votes, a difference of 3 percentage points. “It’s just spinning a fairy tale out of an event that is over with and done with,” Pirich said.

Full Article: Doomed campaign to reinstate Trump comes to Antrim County, original home of the election lie  – mlive.com

Nevada governor signs bill permanently expanding mail-in voting to all registered voters | Joseph Choi/The Hill

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) on Wednesday signed a new bill that expands mail-in voting to all registered voters, requiring local election officials to send out mail ballots before a primary or general election. “At a time when State legislatures across the country are attempting to roll back access to the polls, I am so proud that Nevada continues to push forward with proven strategies that make voting more accessible and secure,” Sisolak said in a press release. “Nevada has always been widely recognized as a leader in election administration and with this legislation, we will continue to build on that legacy.” This legislation expanding voter access comes as several GOP-controlled state legislatures have moved to tighten voter restrictions following the presidential election. The 2020 race saw record turnout as the pandemic required social distancing and states relied heavily on early and mail-in voting for Americans to cast their ballots. Lawmakers in 14 states, the majority of which have Republican legislatures and governors, have passed 22 bills to tighten voting restrictions, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. The year’s tally of legislation like this is expected to grow. Among the restrictions, states like Iowa and Montana have passed legislation to reduce the hours of polling places. Others have scaled back early voting hours, and sought to limit ballot dropbox usage.

Full Article: Nevada governor signs bill permanently expanding mail-in voting to all registered voters | TheHill

New Hampshire Election Audit, part 2 | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

In my previous post I explained the preliminary conclusions from the three experts engaged by New Hampshire to examine an election anomaly in the town of Windham, November 2020. Improperly folded ballots (which shouldn’t have happened) had folds that were interpreted as votes (which also shouldn’t have happened) and this wasn’t noticed by any routine procedures (where either overvote rejection or RLAs would have caught and corrected the problem)–except that one candidate happened to ask for a recount. At least in New Hampshire it’s easy to ask for a recount and the Secretary of State’s office has lots of experience doing recounts.

Full Article: New Hampshire Election Audit, part 2

Pennsylvania Republican leaders face pressure to pursue Arizona-style 2020 election ‘audit’ | Andrew Seidman/Philadelphia Inquirer

Republican leaders of the Pennsylvania legislature are coming under growing pressure to conduct a new review of the 2020 election, as former President Donald Trump and his supporters continue to make false claims that the vote was rife with widespread fraud. The push is dividing the party between those who want to put the presidential race behind them five months into the Biden administration, and others eager to curry favor with the GOP’s undisputed leader. The split also illuminates competing visions for how the party can win in next year’s high-stakes elections for governor and U.S. Senate. Lawmakers in Harrisburg spent months holding hearings about Pennsylvania’s election system, with GOP leaders taking pains to emphasize they want to improve state law — not relitigate the presidential race. Republicans’ point person on election legislation in the state House released a report last month outlining potential changes for a systematic overhaul of the election code, and GOP lawmakers expect to introduce a bill this month. But this week, three Republican lawmakers traveled to Phoenix to get a firsthand look at a controversial partisan review of last year’s election in Maricopa County, Ariz., which has been underway for months. The lawmakers — including State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a likely candidate for governor — then called for a similar review in Pennsylvania.

Full Article: Pa. Republican leaders face pressure to pursue Arizona-style 2020 election ‘audit’

Pennsylvania: How the national push by Trump allies to audit 2020 ballots started quietly in Pennsylvania | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

Joe Biden’s presidential victory in Pennsylvania had been certified for weeks when officials in some Republican-leaning counties began receiving strange phone calls from GOP state senators in late December. The lawmakers, who had been publicly questioning Biden’s win, had a request: Would the counties agree to a voluntary audit of their ballots? The push to conduct unofficial election audits in multiple counties, described in interviews and emails obtained by The Washington Post, served as a last-ditch effort by allies of former president Donald Trump to undercut Biden’s win after failing in the courts and the state legislature. The previously unreported lobbying foreshadowed a playbook now in use in Arizona and increasingly being sought in other communities across the country as Trump supporters clamor for reviews of the ballots cast last fall, citing false claims that the vote was corrupted by fraud. The former president’s backers argue that any evidence of problems they can uncover will prove the election system is vulnerable — and could have been manipulated to help Biden win. The audits are being pushed by a loose affiliation of GOP lawmakers, lawyers and self-described election experts, backed by private fundraising campaigns whose donors are unknown. In Pennsylvania, the state senators quietly targeted at least three small counties, all of which Trump had won handily. Their proposal was unorthodox: to have a private company scrutinize the county’s ballots, for free — a move outside the official processes used for election challenges. Only one county is known to have agreed to the senators’ request: rural Fulton County, on the Maryland border, where Trump performed better than anywhere else in the state, winning nearly 86 percent of the roughly 8,000 votes cast.

Full Article: How the national push by Trump allies to audit 2020 ballots started quietly in Pennsylvania – The Washington Post

Texas Attorney General Says Trump Would’ve ‘Lost’ State If It Hadn’t Blocked Mail-in Ballots Applications Being Sent Out | Jason Lemon/Newsweek

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said former President Donald Trump would have lost in Texas in the 2020 election if his office had not successfully blocked counties from mailing out applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters. Harris County, home to the city of Houston, wanted to mail out applications for mail-in ballots to its approximately 2.4 million registered voters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the conservative Texas Supreme Court blocked the county from doing so after it faced litigation from Paxton’s office. “If we’d lost Harris County—Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas. Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million, those were all illegal and we were able to stop every one of them,” Paxton told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon during the latter’s War Room podcast on Friday. “Had we not done that, we would have been in the very same situation—we would’ve been on Election Day, I was watching on election night and I knew, when I saw what was happening in these other states, that that would’ve been Texas. We would’ve been in the same boat. We would’ve been one of those battleground states that they were counting votes in Harris County for three days and Donald Trump would’ve lost the election,” the Republican official said.

Full Article: Texas AG Says Trump Would’ve ‘Lost’ State If It Hadn’t Blocked Mail-in Ballots Applications Being Sent Out

Vermont’s Governor Expands Voting Rights, Bucking Republican Push | Maria Cramer/The New York Times

Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont signed legislation on Monday that requires all registered voters in the state to receive mail-in ballots, an expansion of voting rights that counters a movement among Republicans in other states to restrict them. Mr. Scott, a Republican, signed the bill nearly four weeks after the Vermont General Assembly approved the legislation, which also allows voters to fix, or “cure,” a ballot that was deemed defective if it was filled out or mailed incorrectly. In a statement on Monday, Mr. Scott said he had signed the bill “because I believe making sure voting is easy and accessible, and increasing voter participation, is important.” He added that he would push lawmakers to expand the provision beyond statewide general elections, “which already have the highest voter turnout.” “For greater consistency and to expand access further,” he said, “I am asking the General Assembly to extend the provisions of this bill to primary elections, local elections and school budget votes when they return to session in January.”

Full Article: Vermont Governor Phil Scott Agrees to Expand Voting Rights – The New York Times

Wyoming: Lawmakers look to change how state holds elections | Victoria Eavis/Casper State Tribune

A state legislative committee voted Monday to pursue two bills that would significantly change the way Wyoming’s statewide elections are run as soon as next year. One bill would create a ranked-choice system. The other would institute an open primary. The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivision voted to draft the bills after initially discussing legislation that would require a runoff if one candidate did not receive a certain portion of the vote. But doubts about the feasibility of implementing that approach by next year’s election led lawmakers to look elsewhere. The effort to change Wyoming’s primary elections, which has been talked about for years, is gaining traction due to the increased desire to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney and the size of the field in the last gubernatorial election. During the 2018 election, for example, Gov. Mark Gordon received less than 50% of the vote but won after several far-right candidates split the electorate. Cheney’s critics worry about a similar result in next year’s GOP House primary, which already features nine candidates.

Full Article: Lawmakers look to change how Wyoming holds statewide elections | 307 Politics | trib.com

National: Haberman: Trump pressing conservative media to write election was ‘stolen’ | Thomas Moore/The Hill

Former President Trump wants conservative media to legitimize his conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election being stolen and claims that he’ll soon be reinstated, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said Wednesday. “He has been trying to get conservative writers to publish, you know, in a more mainstream way that this election was, quote unquote, stolen from him,” Haberman told CNN “New Day” co-host John Berman, without naming any writers. She said Trump has been “laser focused” on the Arizona election audit and reaching out to other conservative politicians and commentators for support, hoping they’ll help promote the idea that the elections will be overturned. “And none of that is possible. But this is the kind of thing that he is trying to flush into the conservative media ecosystem,” Haberman said. “And I expect it to get more intense the more he is under investigation by the Manhattan district attorney and the state attorney general in New York and the threat of indictment over the coming months.”

Full Article: Haberman: Trump pressing conservative media to write election was ‘stolen’ | TheHill

National: Manchin pressed on filibuster, voting rights by Democrats | Sean Sullivan and Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post

Democratic leaders and activists are urgently stepping up pressure on Sen. Joe Manchin III to support legislation to fight Republican-led voting restrictions across the country, with party officials increasingly concluding that the battle over voting rights could come down to what the centrist Democrat from West Virginia does. In a rare show of public frustration with his own party on Tuesday, President Biden appeared to lash out at Manchin when he accused a pair of unnamed senators of aligning too closely with Republicans and stalling efforts to pass sweeping voting standards. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently announced that his chamber would vote this month on a House-passed elections bill co-sponsored by every Democratic senator except Manchin — a move that would force Manchin to pick a side in a fight that has taken on new urgency in recent weeks. Even some of Manchin’s Democratic colleagues are beginning to prod him more aggressively to join their cause, while activists and civil rights leaders are loudly decrying his hesitation. The Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday that he and other civil rights leaders plan to meet with Manchin next week to talk about the importance of supporting Democrats’ voting legislation. “The idea there is not to attack Manchin but to appeal to him,” said Sharpton. He said NAACP President Derrick Johnson and National Urban League President Marc Morial are also expected at the Tuesday meeting. The obstacle Manchin poses to his party’s voting rights effort is twofold: He is also one of several Democrats who oppose changing Senate rules to advance legislation with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority. While Manchin is not alone in his party in opposing the elimination of the filibuster, he has emerged as one of its most prominent defenders, which has made him a lightning rod for frustrated Democrats in the early months of Biden’s presidency.

Full Article: Manchin pressed on filibuster, voting rights by Democrats – The Washington Post

Experts Call It A ‘Clown Show’ But Arizona ‘Audit’ Is A Disinformation Blueprint | Miles Parks/NPR

To Matt Masterson, the review of 2020 ballots from Maricopa County, Ariz., that’s underway is “performance art” or “a clown show,” and definitely “a waste of taxpayer money.” But it’s not an audit. “It’s an audit in name only,” says Masterson, a former Department of Homeland Security official who helped lead the federal government’s election security preparations leading up to November’s election. “It’s a threat to the overall confidence of democracy, all in pursuit of continuing a narrative that we know to be a lie.” By lie, he means the assertion from former President Donald Trump and some of his allies that election fraud cost him a second term in the White House. And, Masterson says, the strategy chosen by the Arizona’s Republican state Senate leaders is working as intended to undermine confidence in the outcome of last year’s vote. The process is a simple exercise in how disinformation spreads and takes hold in 2021. And experts fear it presents a blueprint for other states and lawmakers to follow, one that is already showing signs of being emulated across the country. “Now we have a playbook out there,” said Masterson, who is currently a policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory, “where if you don’t like the results — by the way in an election that wasn’t particularly close … you just claim you didn’t lose and in fact the process itself was rigged against you.”

Full Article: How Arizona’s Ballot Audit Is A Disinformation Exercise : NPR

National: Microsoft’s Vote Tracking Software Clears a Major Hurdle | Lily Hay Newman/WIRED

In the ever-urgent quest to ensure United States elections are safe and secure, Microsoft’s ElectionGuard software has been a tantalizing development. The project, launched in 2019, offers what’s known as “end-to-end verifiability,” meaning that all vote data is encrypted and private, but there’s still full transparency into how the votes were tallied and whether the determination of a winner is correct. It’s open source and designed to be incorporated into existing voting systems. Last year, Microsoft successfully piloted the software in a real-world election. The question, though, has been whether private voting machine makers—who compete with each other in a regulated market—would be willing to adopt a technology that any of their rivals can use too. Now at least one company is saying yes. On Thursday, Microsoft and Hart InterCivic, one of the three major voting machine vendors in the US, jointly announced a partnership to pilot the use of ElectionGuard in Hart’s Verity voting systems. The idea is to meld Hart’s existing voting equipment with dramatically expanded software capabilities from ElectionGuard. The system will always produce paper backups, is encrypted in a special way to allow counting while preserving full voter security and privacy, and expands the ability to do post-election audits. Hart’s ElectionGuard offering will also give voters the ability to check whether their vote has been counted. And the system is independently verifiable—anyone will be able to build an app that can confirm the vote tally for a particular election. The news comes at a time of doubt and uncertainty among US voters. While election officials declared the 2020 election to be one of the most secure in the country’s history, the country still clearly bears scars left by former President Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine voter confidence in the election. In January, Pew found that more than three-quarters of Trump voters thought Trump had probably or definitely won the election—even though Joe Biden was the legitimate winner. There’s still a (controversial and much beleaguered) 2020 presidential election results audit dragging on in Arizona. And Republican lawmakers in numerous states have been pushing a wave of voting reform laws in recent months that critics say undermine citizens’ voting rights.

Full Article: Microsoft’s Vote Tracking Software Clears a Major Hurdle | WIRED

National: GOP Ballot Audits Aren’t About Overturning the Last Election. They’re About Overturning the Next One. | Elliot Hannon/Slate

If you needed any further evidence of the corrosive effect of Republicans’ performative election “audit” in Arizona, Pennsylvania Republicans now say they want one too. A group of Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers steeped in the election conspiracy claims of former President Donald Trump made a pilgrimage to Maricopa County on Wednesday to see for themselves how the partisan review of the 2020 results was going. The aim of the visit is exporting the Arizona model back to their home state, which President Joe Biden won by a point. The team of state legislators—Sens. Doug Mastriano and Cris Dush, and Rep. Rob Kauffman—met with Arizona officials before being briefed by the election conspiracy–spewing head of Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm with no prior election experience that’s leading the audit. Cyber Ninjas has been given access to Maricopa County’s ballots and employed a team of contractors to scour for bamboo-laced “China ballots” that Trump supporters believe with all their hearts were imported ahead of Election Day to swing the vote to Joe Biden. The members of the Pennsylvania delegation in Arizona this week were among the 64 GOP legislators in the state that signed a letter asking the state’s congressional delegation to object to Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes going to Biden, the made-up procedural move that Trump supporters were demanding as they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. One of the Pennsylvania trio, Mastriano, was in Washington to protest the election result that day, but says he left before the Capitol was stormed.

Source: Republicans want to replicate Arizona’s election audit model elsewhere.

Trump has grown increasingly consumed with ballot audits as he pushes falsehood that election was stolen | Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

Former president Donald Trump remains relentlessly focused on the false claim that the November election was stolen from him and is increasingly consumed with the notion that ballot reviews pushed by his supporters around the country could prove that he won, according to people familiar with his comments. Trump has rebuffed calls from some advisers to drop the matter, instead fixating on an ongoing Republican-commissioned audit in Arizona and plotting how to secure election reviews in other states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Georgia, according to advisers. He is most animated by the efforts in Fulton County, Ga., and Maricopa County, Ariz., according to two advisers who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump’s interest has been fueled by conversations he has had with an array of figures who have publicly touted false claims of election fraud. Among them, according to advisers, is Christina Bobb, a host at the One America News network who has privately discussed the Arizona audit with the former president and his team; Mike Lindell, the chief executive of the company MyPillow; and Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), who urged the state’s congressional delegation to reject Biden’s victory there last fall. Trump has become so fixated on the audits that he suggested recently to allies that their success could result in his return to the White House this year, according to people familiar with comments he has made. Some advisers said that such comments appear to be just offhand musings.

Full Article: Trump has grown increasingly consumed with ballot audits as he pushes falsehood that election was stolen – The Washington Post

National: First major voting vendor, Hart InterCivic, partners with Microsoft on ambitious software security tool ElectionGuard | Tim Starks/CyberScoop

The ElectionGuard technology that Microsoft touts as a way to make elections more secure and verifiable is taking its biggest step yet: Hart InterCivic, one of the big three election vendors, says it will incorporate ElectionGuard into one of its voting systems. The ElectionGuard open-source software development kit gives voters a unique code to track their encrypted vote and confirm it wasn’t manipulated, and it offers a way for third parties to validate election results, according to Microsoft. The two companies jointly announced the partnership on Thursday. Hart InterCivic is the biggest partner to date for ElectionGuard, as one of three vendors — alongside Election Systems & Software and Dominion Voting Systems — that dominate the marketplace for voting machine technology. “We believe we must constantly re-imagine how technology can make voting more secure and also more transparent, and this partnership with Microsoft is a strong step in that direction,” said Hart InterCivic CEO Julie Mathis. “The combination of Hart voting machines with ElectionGuard technology delivering end-to-end verifiability provides election officials the ability to offer more transparency to the process of vote tabulation.” Some details for how the pilot program will work remain unsettled, however. While Hart InterCivic will test ElectionGuard in its Verity system used by more than 500 jurisdictions in 17 states, Hart is still in the process of identifying at least one county to initiate the pilot, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. The timing for when the test would begin also hasn’t been locked down, either.

Full Article: First major voting vendor, Hart InterCivic, partners with Microsoft on ambitious software security tool ElectionGuard

National: A frantic warning from 100 leading experts: Our democracy is in grave danger | Greg Sargent/The Washington Post

With yet another GOP effort to restrict voting , President Biden is now calling on Congress to act in the face of the Republican “assault on democracy.” Importantly, Biden cast that attack as aimed at “Black and Brown Americans,” meriting federal legislation in response. That is a welcome escalation. But it remains unclear whether 50 Senate Democrats will ever prove willing to reform or end the filibuster, and more to the point, whether Biden will put real muscle behind that cause. If not, such protections will never, ever pass. Now, in a striking intervention, more than 100 scholars of democracy have signed a new public statement of principles that seeks to make the stakes unambiguously, jarringly clear: On the line is nothing less than the future of our democracy itself. “Our entire democracy is now at risk,” the scholars write in the statement, which I obtained before its release. “History will judge what we do at this moment.” And these scholars underscore the crucial point: Our democracy’s long-term viability might depend on whether Democrats reform or kill the filibuster to pass sweeping voting rights protections. “We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary — including suspending the filibuster — in order to pass national voting and election administration standards,” the scholars write, in a reference to the voting rights protections enshrined in the For the People Act, which passed the House and is before the Senate. What’s striking is that the statement is signed by scholars who specialize in democratic breakdown, such as Pippa Norris, Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky. Other well-known names include Francis Fukuyama and Jacob Hacker.

Full Article: Opinion | A frantic warning from 100 leading experts: Our democracy is in grave danger – The Washington Post

National: Vice President Harris Asked to Lead on Voting Rights. She Has Her Work Cut Out for Her. | Katie Rogers and Nicholas Fandos/The New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris did not come to her role with a list of demands. She wanted to be a generalist, in large part to learn the political rhythms of a president she was still getting to know. In the first few months of her tenure, some of her portfolio assignments were just that: assignments. But on the matter of protecting voting rights, an issue critically important to President Biden’s legacy, Ms. Harris took a rare step. In a meeting with the president over a month ago, she told him that she wanted to take the lead on the issue. Mr. Biden agreed, two people familiar with the discussions said, and his advisers decided to time the announcement of Ms. Harris’s new role to a speech he delivered on Tuesday in Tulsa, Okla. In his remarks, the president declared the efforts of Republican-led statehouses around the country to make it harder to vote as an “assault on our democracy, ” and said Ms. Harris could help lead the charge against them. He also gave a blunt assessment of the task: “It’s going to take a hell of a lot of work.”

Source: VP Kamala Harris Asked to Lead on Voting Rights, and It’s a Challenge – The New York Times

Alabama: COVID-19, curbside voting ban exacerbate difficulties for voters with disabilities like me | Dr. Eric Peebles/AL.com

I believe voting is the most sacred of all civic responsibilities. Because I have spastic cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects coordination and control of motor function, I require assistance to help me fill out ballots. But I am determined to exercise my fundamental right to vote in person whenever I can. This has been a lifelong endeavor. In the mid-1980s, my local public school tried to bar me from attending because of my disability and wheelchair use. School officials even said I was a danger to other students because of my power wheelchair. My mother refused to accept this discrimination and lobbied local leaders on my behalf. After two years of advocacy, my school district was put under federal supervision, and I was allowed to attend a public school. I registered to vote after I turned 18, and I have tried to vote in every election since. I’ve long embraced the words spoken by one of the fathers of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Justin Dart, who once told a gathering I attended: “Get into empowerment. Get into politics as if your life depended upon it. It does.” My condition puts me at high risk for contracting and suffering severe complications, including death, from COVID-19. So as the 2020 elections neared, I felt compelled to protect my right to vote safely.

Full Article: COVID-19, curbside voting ban in Alabama exacerbate difficulties for voters with disabilities like me – al.com

Arizona: Observers of GOP-led election audit document security breaches, prohibited items on counting floor | Felicia Sonmez and Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

Observers of Arizona’s Republican-led recount have found security gates left open, confidential manuals left unattended and quality-control measures disregarded, according to the Arizona secretary of state’s office. In one instance, a software update caused so many errors that the company handling the recount abandoned the update and went back to the old software. In other instances, prohibited items including cellphones and pens with black or blue ink were allowed onto the counting floor. And in an alleged incident last week, audit spokesman and former state Republican Party chairman Randy Pullen told an observer that the pink T-shirt the observer was required to wear while watching the proceedings made him “look like a transgender,” according to the Arizona secretary of state’s office. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) and election security experts have long criticized the audit as error-riddled. Now, Hobbs’s office is documenting the alleged infractions online.

Full Article: Observers of Arizona?s GOP-led election audit document security breaches, prohibited items on counting floor – The Washington Post

Arizona: Who is looking at your ballot? These are the companies involved in the election recount | Ryan Randazzo, Jen Fifield and Andrew Oxford/Arizona Republic

Prior to Republicans in the Arizona Senate selecting the company to run the election audit, the Florida company known as Cyber Ninjas garnered little attention. That has changed since the GOP members of the Arizona Senate announced March 31 that the company would lead the audit of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County in the November 2020 election and reporters discovered a deleted Twitter account from CEO Doug Logan promoting conspiracy theories about fraud in the election. Cyber Ninjas is not the only company involved in the effort, though. Here’s what we know about the companies that are reviewing or previously reviewed the 2020 election results in Maricopa County.

Full Article: Arizona audit: These companies are looking at Maricopa County ballots

Florida: ‘Up is down and down is up.’ Report examines misinformation on Miami Spanish talk radio | Lautaro Grinspan/Miami Herald

Thousands of dead people and noncitizens voted in the 2020 presidential election. There were more votes cast than registered voters. Black Lives Matter and Antifa infiltrated the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol. Those are just some of the conspiracy theories compiled in a new media monitoring report published Wednesday, revealing the extent to which misinformation pervaded the airwaves of Miami Spanish-language talk radio in the immediate lead-up to, and aftermath of, the Jan. 6 insurrection. Scrutinizing a week’s worth of early to mid-January pre-recorded programming, the report shows how a group of radio hosts across two popular local AM stations, Radio Mambi and Actualidad Radio, mischaracterized the events of Jan. 6 and continued amplifying baseless claims of voter fraud, sometimes with the tacit endorsement of high-ranking guests, including U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar of Miami-Dade. Leaders of the organizations that produced the report — including progressive-leaning advocacy groups Florida Rising and Miami Freedom Project as well as communication firms ProsperoLatino and Latina Comunica — told the Herald that the aim of the media monitoring initiative is to better understand, and expose, how misinformation is disseminated on Spanish-language radio, a key component of an influential misinformation ecosystem targeting Hispanics in South Florida.

Full Article: Report: Conspiracy theories abound on Spanish-language radio | Miami Herald