National: Republicans Pursue Harsh Penalties for Poll Workers | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

Anita Phillips has been an election judge in Texas for 17 years, responsible for managing a precinct in Waco, a city of roughly 135,000 people. But over the last four years, the civic duty she prized has become arduous. Harassment by partisan poll watchers has grown increasingly caustic, she has found, and helping voters is ever more treacherous amid a thicket of new rules. Those regulations are likely to grow stricter: Republican lawmakers in Texas, following in the footsteps of their counterparts across the country, are pressing forward with a voting bill that could impose harsh penalties on election officials or poll workers who are thought to have committed errors or violations. And the nationwide effort may be pushing people like Ms. Phillips to reconsider serving their communities. “It’s just so taxing,” Ms. Phillips said. “And if me — I’m in my 40s, and I’m having this much stress — imagine every election worker and election judge that is 65 and over with severe health issues. This is supposed to be a way for them to give back. And it’s supposed to be something that makes them feel good about what they’re doing, but now they’re starting to feel like, ‘Are we going to be safe?’” Ms. Phillips is one of millions of citizens who act as foot soldiers of the American democratic system, working long hours for low pay to administer the country’s elections. Yet this often thankless task has quickly become a key target of Republicans who are propagating former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. In their hunt for nonexistent fraud, they have turned on those who work the polls as somehow suspect.

Full Article: Republicans Pursue Harsh Penalties for Poll Workers – The New York Times

National: Purges, poll watchers and gridlock: Five developments in the voting battles | Fredreka Schouten/CNN

Arizona just became the latest Republican-led battleground to impose new voting restrictions, enacting a law that could purge tens of thousands of voters from the state’s early mail-in ballot list. And in other key states, GOP lawmakers are charging ahead with efforts to change the ground rules for future elections — with big bills pending in Texas, Michigan and elsewhere. As Republicans erect barriers to the ballot box, voting rights advocates are putting fresh pressure on congressional Democrats to pass a sweeping federal rewrite of election rules to counter the new laws. But a contentious committee meeting in an evenly divided Senate only underscores the near-insurmountable hurdles Democrats face in passing their elections overhaul. Here’s a look at recent developments in the battles over voting rights: A law signed last Tuesday by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey targets the state’s Permanent Early Voting List. Under that system, people on the list automatically receive a ballot for every election. The new law removes voters from the list if they fail to cast an early mail-in ballot in at least one primary or general election in a four-year period and don’t respond to mailed notices warning them of their removal. But voting in person during that window won’t count as casting a mail ballot.

Full Article: Voting rights battles: Latest news and developments – CNNPolitics

National: Group that can’t find systemic voter fraud eager to help combat systemic voter fraud | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

Mother Jones magazine published video on Thursday obtained by the group Documented and depicting a donor meeting in Arizona last month hosted by the advocacy group Heritage Action. You’re likely familiar with the nonprofit conservative think tank Heritage Foundation; Heritage Action is its sibling that raises often-anonymous money to focus on political advocacy. In the video from the meeting in Tucson, the organization’s executive director, Jessica Anderson, boasts about the group’s efforts to influence legislation aimed at restricting voting in states. “We’re working with these state legislators to make sure they have all of the information they need to draft the bills,” Anderson says at one point. “In some cases we actually draft them for them.” She also tells the donors, according to Mother Jones’s Ari Berman and Nick Surgey, that the organization has also “hired state lobbyists to make sure that in these targeted states we’re meeting with the right people” to advance the proposals. At another point, she and her colleague Hans von Spakovsky discuss a call with a number of secretaries of state a few weeks prior. They brag that they’d managed to share information with “the best conservative secretaries of state” without a single leak to their political opponents. This sort of privacy is a focal point; Anderson also crows about the work the organization did in Iowa that “honestly? Nobody noticed.” Both Anderson and von Spakovsky have ties to the Trump administration. Anderson worked in the Office of Management and Budget as an associate director. Thanks to his years of focus on the issue, von Spakovsky was an instrumental part of former president Donald Trump’s ill-fated voter-fraud commission that collapsed early in his term. Given that shared background, it’s not surprising that Anderson articulated Heritage Action’s goal as being to “take the fierce fire that is in every single one of our bellies to right the wrongs of November.”

Full Article: Group that can’t find systemic voter fraud eager to help combat systemic voter fraud – The Washington Post

National: Conservative group boasts of secret role in voting laws | Nicholas Riccardi and Anthony Izaguirre/Associated Press

The head of a national conservative group told supporters it secretly helped draft legislation in Republican-controlled statehouses across the country as part of a coordinated network of organizations pushing to tighten voting laws across the country. Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, made the claim during a recent meeting with supporters in Arizona. A recording of the event was released by the liberal investigative website Documented, which made a copy available for The Associated Press to review. Heritage Action confirmed its authenticity. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” Anderson said of legislation written for state lawmakers. “Or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation, so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.” Anderson’s comments shed additional light on precisely how well-funded national organizations have seized on false claims about the 2020 election to try to tighten state voting laws. While it is known that Heritage Action and several other groups are working with state lawmakers on legislation, it is rare to hear a leader detail how a group masks involvement to give the bills the appearance of broad political support. Anderson gave the example of Georgia, where she said an activist affiliated with Heritage had given a letter outlining the group’s recommendations to key legislators. The activist first had the proposal signed by thousands of other activists. Other states where she said the group helped write bills included Iowa and Texas — though in Iowa, the authors of the voting legislation said they never spoke with Heritage. In a statement Friday, Anderson said: “Heritage Action is proud of our work to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. That work begins at the state level through our grassroots and continues in state legislatures throughout the country.”

Full Article: Conservative group boasts of secret role in voting laws

National: Here’s How Disinformation Drives Voting Laws | Maggie Astor/The New York Times

When State Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Iowa spoke in February in support of a restrictive voting bill he was sponsoring, he made what might once have been a startling acknowledgment: He could not point to any problems with November’s election that demonstrated a need for new rules. But many Iowans believed there had been problems, he said. And that was reason enough to allow less early voting, shorten Election Day polling hours, put new limits on absentee balloting and forbid counties to have more than one ballot drop box. “The ultimate voter suppression is a very large swath of the electorate not having faith in our election systems,” Mr. Kaufmann, a Republican, said in defense of his bill, which was signed into law in March. “And for whatever reason, political or not, there are thousands upon thousands of Iowans that do not have faith in our election systems.” Former President Donald J. Trump’s monthslong campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election didn’t overturn the results. But his unfounded claims gutted his supporters’ trust in the electoral system, laying the foundation for numerous Republican-led bills pushing more restrictive voter rules. The bills demonstrate how disinformation can take on a life of its own, forming a feedback loop that shapes policy for years to come. When promoted with sufficient intensity, falsehoods — whether about election security or the coronavirus or other topics — can shape voters’ attitudes toward policies, and lawmakers can cite those attitudes as the basis for major changes.

Full Article: Here’s How Disinformation Drives Voting Laws – The New York Times

National: Manchin, Murkowski call on Congress to reauthorize Voting Rights Act | Sahil Kapur/NBC

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, wrote a letter Monday calling on Congress to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, seeking to jump-start a debate on a bipartisan path to bolstering voting access. “Protecting Americans’ access to democracy has not been a partisan issue for the past 56 years, and we must not allow it to become one now,” they wrote to the top four congressional leaders. While the letter didn’t name the bill, a Manchin aide said the senators are referring to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aims to require states with a recent record of discrimination in voting rights to get federal pre-approval before changing their election laws. The Supreme Court in 2013 gutted the formula established by Congress to determine which states are subject to the rule, calling it outdated. The issue has since languished on Capitol Hill, with Republicans uninterested in re-establishing a “preclearance” requirement, and GOP-led states around the country moving to pass restrictive voting laws. The Manchin-Murkowski letter is designed to show that there is some bipartisan support for the cause of protecting voting rights. It comes as Manchin faces progressive criticism for being the lone Democratic holdout on the “For The People Act,” a sweeping bill that aims to allow more ballot access and that all states must follow. The Democratic-controlled House approved that bill but it hasn’t taken up the bill named for John Lewis. Manchin has insisted that any attempt to overhaul federal voting laws have support from both parties.

Full Article: Manchin, Murkowski call on Congress to reauthorize Voting Rights Act

Arizona: Key figures who pushed 2020 election conspiracies are now boosting audit | Will Steakin/ABC News

More than six months after the 2020 election, several members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle are pouring millions into a renewed push to challenge the election’s outcome — an effort that has gained new life in Arizona as it captivates the former president and many of his followers. In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, a sprawling collection of Trump loyalists, fueled by a host of baseless conspiracies involving disproven claims of widespread voter fraud, failed over and over again to overturn the election results in the courts. And while the effort resulted in dozens of unsuccessful lawsuits, many of the same Trump supporters — from a former Overstock.com CEO to longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon — have reemerged as key forces boosting the Republican-backed Arizona audit of the 2020 election results. The audit, which comes after two previous audits found no evidence of fraud sufficient to invalidate President Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona and Maricopa County, has not only commandeered the attention of the MAGA movement but also of Trump himself, who has continued to push false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump has repeatedly issued email statements encouraging the audit, while behind the scenes he’s been making periodic calls to get updates from those involved, including Arizona Republican chair Kelli Ward, according to people familiar with the situation. “Some very interesting things are happening in Arizona,” Trump said in late April during remarks at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a video posted online. The former president even tipped his hat to a growing right-wing conspiracy that suggests the Arizona audit could be the first domino to fall in a series of events that returns him to the White House.

Full Article: Key figures who pushed 2020 election conspiracies are now boosting Arizona audit – ABC News

Arizona: Cyber Ninjas, UV lights and far-right funding: inside the strange Arizona 2020 election ‘audit’ | Sam Levine/The Guardian

One of the first things you see when you step outside Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the ageing arena in Phoenix, is the Crazy Times Carnival, a temporary spectacle set up in the parking lot. In the evenings, just as the sun is setting, lights from the ferris wheel, the jingle of the carousel and shrieks of joy fill the massive desert sky. Inside the coliseum – nicknamed the Madhouse on McDowell – there is another carnival of sorts happening. The arena floor is where the Arizona senate, controlled by Republicans, is performing its own audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa county, home of Phoenix and most of the state’s registered voters. The effort, which comes after multiple audits affirming the results of the November election in the county in favor or Joe Biden, includes an examination of voting equipment, an authentication of ballot paper, and a hand recount of the nearly 2.1m ballots cast there. Republicans in the state legislature are simultaneously considering measures that would make it harder to vote in Arizona, which Biden carried by about 10,000 votes in November. The review – unprecedented in American politics – may also be one of the clearest manifestations to date of Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud and the conspiracy theories that spread after the election (the former president and allies have loudly cheered on the Arizona effort). Far-right conspiracy theorists appear to be connected to the effort and the firm hired to lead the charge, a Florida-based company called Cyber Ninjas, has little experience in elections. The firm’s CEO has voiced support for the idea that the election was stolen from Trump. Election experts are watching the unfolding effort with deep alarm, pointing out that officials are not using a reliable methodology – they hesitate to even label it an audit – and will produce a results that will give more fodder for conspiracy theorists. More troublingly, they worry the Arizona audit could be a model for Republicans to try elsewhere.

Full Article: Cyber Ninjas, UV lights and far-right funding: inside the strange Arizona 2020 election ‘audit’ | Arizona | The Guardian

Editorial: Arizona is now ground zero in Republicans’ war on voting | The Washington Post

Undeterred by the backlash to Georgia’s new anti-voting law, Arizona Republicans have made their state ground zero in the party’s spurious efforts to question the 2020 election results and restrict voting. First, they insisted on running a chaotic “audit” of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, without the expertise or the safeguards to do so credibly; that nightmare continues, and the results could seriously harm faith in U.S. elections. Then, Arizona Republicans imposed what they call “fixes” to state election law, including a new voting restriction that is pointless — if your goal is to make elections simple and fair. Before about a decade ago, Arizona had been a model in expanding ballot-box access. Large numbers of Arizonans continue to cast ballots by mail. In fact, the state automatically mails ballots to some 75 percent of its voters, who are on Arizona’s permanent early voting list. But President Donald Trump turned against absentee voting last year, as it became clear that many Democrats would use the method to avoid voting in person during the covid-19 pandemic. Then he lost the November presidential election by failing in places such as Arizona. Though extreme scrutiny, including two examinations of the Maricopa County count, confirmed that result, Mr. Trump continues to promote the lie that Arizona’s results were fraudulent. He issued on Saturday more wild claims that Maricopa County Recorder Steven Richer, himself a Republican, called “unhinged” and “insane.”

Full Article: Opinion | Arizona is now ground zero in Republicans’ war on voting – The Washington Post

Georgia: Latest lawsuit over voting law objects to election takeovers | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

An election integrity organization sued over Georgia’s voting law Monday, challenging provisions that allow state takeovers of local elections, shorten absentee ballot deadlines and change absentee ID requirements. The case is the seventh federal lawsuit trying to throw out parts of the voting law. It was filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, five county election board members and several voters. The lawsuit opposes allowing the State Election Board to replace county election boards after performance reviews. A temporary county election superintendent appointed by the majority-Republican board would have broad authority to certify elections, fire staff, decide on voting locations, spend tax money and set policy. “The takeover provisions are so egregious and dangerous to every concept of free and fair elections that they must be stricken from the law before they undermine Georgia’s elections,” said Marilyn Marks, executive director for the Coalition for Good Governance. The litigation also takes issue with “impractical” absentee ballot deadlines that require voters to request a ballot at least 11 days before an election, leaving little time to vote by mail in runoffs. The voting law shortened the period between general elections and runoffs from nine weeks to four weeks.

Full Article: Latest lawsuit over Georgia voting law objects to election takeovers

New Hampshire: Voter machine audit comes up with new totals in Windham | Kevin Landrigan/New Hampshire Union Leader

The first review in the forensic audit of Windham election returns has produced different vote totals than were reported right after the Nov. 3 election. The four Republican candidates for state representative in Windham each got roughly 220 more votes through an audit of automated vote counting machines than reported on Election Day. Meanwhile, Kristi St. Laurent, the top-finishing Democrat, got about 125 fewer votes from the audit than announced Nov. 3. The audit of the four AccuVote machines used to count ballots in Windham wrapped up over the weekend. Volunteers began Monday the hand recounting of all ballots cast in the races for state representative, governor and U.S. senator. Mark Lindeman, a member of the three-person audit team, urged the volunteers to carefully examine ballots with fold lines in them as the automated voting machines improperly counted some of them as votes. “In some cases fold lines are being interpreted by the scanners as valid votes,” Lindeman said. “That’s something we especially want to encourage to look for at the table.”

Full Article: Voter machine audit comes up with new totals in Windham | State | unionleader.com

New Hampshire: Windham vote auditors point to ballot fold lines as possible source of discrepancies | Adam Sexton/WMUR

Independent auditors examining vote discrepancies in the 2020 state representative race in Windham are zeroing in on fold lines across ballots as a potential explanation for significant changes in vote tallies from the November machine count and a subsequent hand recount. The work of closely examining each of Windham’s 10,000 ballots from the November 2020 election is expected to last three days, but auditors and volunteers at the secure audit facility in Pembroke could be inching closer to an explanation for the discrepancies. “Something we strongly suspect at this juncture, based on various evidence, is that in some cases, fold lines are being interpreted by the scanners as valid votes,” said independent auditor Mark Lindeman. Auditors said the scanners could be interpreting the fold lines as a vote when they go through a “vote target,” or a candidate’s name on the ballot. They said a lot of Windham’s ballots appear to have fold lines across the target of a Democratic state representative candidate.

Full Article: Windham vote auditors point to ballot fold lines as possible source of discrepancies

New Jersey among nation’s worst in making sure elections are secure. Why haven’t we fixed that? | Jonathan D. Salant/NJ.com

After President Donald Trump and his Republican allies singled out Georgia and Arizona in falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, both states recounted their votes and found no significant problems. That’s not so easy to do in New Jersey after each election. It’s one of just six states that do not require a paper trail that allows election officials to check that voting machines were not hacked and the results not tampered with. “New Jersey is increasingly behind the curve here,” said Mark Lindeman, acting co-director of Verified Voting, a national nonprofit election verification organization. While New Jersey could do an audit last year because so many ballots were cast by mail, that was a one-shot deal due to the coronavirus pandemic. Going forward, the Garden State will remain an outlier unless the state comes up with the estimated $60 million to $80 million needed to replace county voting machines. “That’s totally the problem,” said Eileen Kean, a Monmouth County elections commissioner. “It’s really a very, very expensive undertaking.” Voting experts said that a paper trail will do more for election security than all of the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican state legislatures, including both Georgia and Arizona. The new laws focus on voter identification to curb in-person ballot fraud, which studies have shown is virtually non-existent, or making it harder to vote by mail despite an election that Trump administration officials said was the most secure in history even with expanded absentee voting.

Full Article: N.J. among nation’s worst in making sure elections are secure. Why haven’t we fixed that? – nj.com

Pennsylvania: A new wave of election directors step in to fill state’s many vacancies — with little training and varying experience | Marie Albiges/Philadelphia Inquirer

Among the most stressed-out folks in local government this week will be the former manager of the USA Field Hockey team, a congressman’s past chief of staff, and an ex-political science professor. They’ll all be running elections in Pennsylvania for the first time during Tuesday’s primaries — and they will do it under the microscope of a skeptical GOP electorate galvanized by Republicans in the state legislature.After what election directors described as a “nightmare” election in 2020 — in which huge changes to Pennsylvania’s voting process were complicated by the pandemic and partisan misinformation fueled by former President Donald Trump and his allies — at least 25 of their peers left their jobs. Five months later, most of those positions have been filled, but not everyone has the same level of experience as their predecessors. For the newest election directors, their first real test will come Tuesday, when thousands of Pennsylvanians will cast a ballot in the primaries. “The view from the consumer side of the counter, and the view from this side of the counter, is tremendously different,” said Bob Morgan, who started as Luzerne County election director a mere six weeks ago after leaving a job as U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwight’s chief of staff. “It’s a little bit like drinking from the firehose.”

Source: A new wave of election directors step in to fill Pa.’s many vacancies — with little training and varying experience

Texas: Just How Strict Will Republicans’ Voting Bill Be? | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

Texas Republicans on Monday resumed their push to pass a major voting bill with an array of restrictions, moving the bill to a closed-door panel of lawmakers who will hash out the final version of the legislation. But much of the suspense surrounding the panel, known as a conference committee, centers not on whether the legislation will pass the G.O.P.-controlled Legislature, but on what measures it will include when it does. After a late-night scramble of last-minute negotiations among lawmakers last week, it looked as if recently introduced voting options, such as drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, would survive Republicans’ initial attempt to ban them. The version of the bill passed by the State Senate would have prohibited those types of voting, but the House version passed last week made no mention of either provision. However, State Senator Bryan Hughes, the Republican sponsor of the initial bill and one of the committee members who will shape the final version behind closed doors, said in an interview last week that he would like to see the provisions banning drive-through voting and 24-hour voting added back to the final bill. “It makes sense,” Mr. Hughes said, citing internal polling suggesting that Texas voters preferred standardized hours for early voting across the state. “So there’s some predictability and people are confident that the rules are being followed.” The conference committee will meet this week to start crafting a final version of the bill, which would then be sent for a final up-or-down vote in both chambers. The Senate announced its members — made up of four Republicans and one Democrat — on Monday, and the House will make its appointments when the chamber convenes on Tuesday.

Full Article: Just How Strict Will Texas Republicans’ Voting Bill Be? – The New York Times

Wisconsin disabled community opposes election law changes | Scott Bauer/Associated Press

Wisconsin voters with disabilities urged lawmakers on Wednesday to reconsider two Republican-backed bills passed by the state Senate that would make it more difficult to cast absentee ballots as part of the broader GOP push to make it harder to vote by mail following Donald Trump’s defeat. Advocates and those with disabilities said the two measures put people with physical challenges at a particular disadvantage. Disability Rights Wisconsin estimates that 23% of registered in voters in the state have some sort of disability, based on data from the American Association of People with Disabilities. “Ultimately, they’re harming a very large minority,” said Stephanie Birmingham, who has the condition osteogenesis imperfecta and uses a wheelchair. Birmingham, who lives in Sturgeon Bay, joined others on a virtual news conference to speak out against the bills. One of the measures that the Wisconsin Senate passed on Tuesday would prohibit anyone other than a member of a voter’s immediate family, a legal guardian, or a non-family member designated by the voter in writing from returning a completed absentee ballot for another person. Violators would be guilty of a felony. That is a particular hardship for people who may not have an immediate family member alive or nearby to return a ballot, said Melanie Ramey, of Madison, who has low vision due to macular degeneration. It could also make it more difficult to find someone willing to return a ballot because doing so would carry the risk of being charged if a person doesn’t have the appropriate paperwork, said Andy Thain, of Thorp, who has cerebral palsy. “That’s going to dramatically reduce my options and make it more difficult to vote,” Thain said.

Full Article: Wisconsin disabled community opposes election law changes

The making of a myth: How the election-fraud myth was spread by Russell Ramsland and the Texas security company ASOG | Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis, Jon Swaine and Josh Dawsey/Washington Post

Key elements of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump took shape in an airplane hangar here two years earlier, promoted by a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream. At meetings beginning late in 2018, as Republicans were smarting from midterm losses in Texas and across the country, Russell J. Ramsland Jr. and his associates delivered alarming presentations on electronic voting to a procession of conservative lawmakers, activists and donors. Briefings in the hangar had a clandestine air. Guests were asked to leave their cellphones outside before assembling in a windowless room. A member of Ramsland’s team purporting to be a “white-hat hacker” identified himself only by a code name. Ramsland, a failed congressional candidate with a Harvard MBA, pitched a claim that seemed rooted in evidence: Voting-machine audit logs — lines of codes and time stamps that document the machines’ activities — contained indications of vote manipulation. In the retrofitted hangar that served as his company’s offices at the edge of a municipal airstrip outside Dallas, Ramsland attempted to persuade failed Republican candidates to challenge their election results and force the release of additional data that might prove manipulation. “We had to find the right candidate,” said Laura Pressley, a former Ramsland ally whose own claim that audit logs showed fraud had been rejected in court two years earlier. “We had to find one who knew they won.”

Full Article: How the election-fraud myth was spread by Russell Ramsland and the Texas security company ASOG – Washington Post

The Unfolding Disaster in Arizona | David A. Graham/The Atlantic

Of all the flaws in the perplexing “audit” of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Arizona, the hypocrisy shines through most clearly. As Donald Trump and his allies grasped at straws to cast doubt on the results of last year’s presidential race, they settled on a few common complaints. They said that the election process was tainted by procedures that had been hastily changed in the lead-up to voting, that it was run by partisan hacks, that outside observers were provided insufficient access to oversee the process, and that the election was corrupted by private money given by philanthropists to boards of elections to help them adapt to the pandemic. Now, more than six months after the election, the circus in Arizona, ordered by the state Senate, has become the last stand of the denialists. The review has attracted the close attention of Trump himself, who has fired off repeated, blustery statements about the count from his Mar-a-Lago exile. But Arizona is committing all the same sins that Trump’s supporters have been denouncing, using a brazenly partisan process run by apparently unqualified parties, with procedures kept secret and subject to change. Observers are being asked to sign nondisclosure agreements, reporters have been kicked out of the site, and the exercise is being largely funded by interested outside parties—even though the Arizona legislature recently passed a law that prevents local boards from accepting outside funding. If this is what it takes to conduct the count, the cure is worse than the disease—except that there is no disease, because there’s no evidence of widespread fraud in Maricopa County, and this is no cure. The point of election audits is to make voters feel more secure about the state of elections, but this one is certain to leave people feeling less confident about the process. “The goalposts keep moving,” Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund, told me. “There will never be satisfaction, because the answer is not going to change. Joe Biden won Arizona free and fair and he is our legitimate president. There’s a portion of our electorate that will not believe that, because they continue to be told that the election was stolen.”

Full Article: The Unfolding Disaster in Arizona – The Atlantic

National: ‘Do or die’: Democrats plan revisions to sweeping voting rights bill in Senate committee | Sahil Kapur/NBC

The Senate is headed for a showdown over Democrats’ sweeping voting rights and election overhaul bill as a key committee plans to mark up the legislation Tuesday. The bill, the For The People Act, goes before the Democratic-controlled Rules Committee when Congress returns from recess. Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and the lead sponsor, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., plan a “manager’s amendment” with a series of changes to the bill from the House-passed version. The Democrats’ revisions would mostly extend deadlines, ease some rules and add flexibility for states to implement parts of the bill. Democrats don’t expect Republican support for the final version, but they won’t need it to send the bill out of committee to the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised floor consideration of the bill, known on Capitol Hill as S.1, after it goes through committee. Democrats as well as Republicans are expected to offer other amendments, and aides are bracing for what could be days of markup. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has made it a priority to kill the bill, is expected to participate in the committee, an aide said. GOP-led states like TexasFlorida and Georgia have advanced voting restrictions that President Joe Biden and other Democrats have compared to Jim Crow laws that disenfranchised nonwhite Americans. The bill seeks to impose a national standard for voting rights, which Republicans decry as a partisan power grab to supersede state autonomy.

Full Article: ‘Do or die’: Democrats plan revisions to sweeping voting rights bill in Senate committee

National: Democrats tweak marquee voting bill as they seek path out of Senate | Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post

Congressional Democrats have tweaked their marquee voting-rights, campaign-finance and ethics bill ahead of a Senate committee vote next week, addressing concerns raised by elections administrators but forgoing a more radical rewrite of the legislation. The changes to the For the People Act come after the bill passed the House on a largely party-line vote in March and ahead of a critical vote Tuesday in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee that could advance the legislation to the floor. The legislation is meant to curtail state-level pushes to restrict voter access, such as the nationally controversial effort in Georgia, and President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) have all called the bill one of the Democratic Party’s top legislative priorities. The For the People Act, however, presently has no viable route to enactment in the 50-50 Senate. The tweaks made Tuesday aren’t likely to change that. Republicans are uniformly opposed to the bill, meaning it will be unable to clear a Senate filibuster, which can be defeated only with a 60-vote supermajority. While many activists and some senators are eager to change the chamber’s rules to allow the bill to pass with a simple majority, multiple Democratic senators have expressed misgivings about doing so.

Full Article: Democrats change voting bill, HR1 – The Washington Post

National: Lawmakers want greater resources, authorities for CISA to protect critical infrastructure | Tonya Riley/The Washington Post

Leading voices in Congress say the nation’s top cybersecurity agency needs better resources to handle growing threats to critical services like water and power. One step: centralizing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s authority to track vulnerabilities in industrial control systems that power the nation’s critical infrastructure, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) said yesterday. The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee touted legislation he helped introduce earlier this year that would grant CISA leadership the authority to coordinate federal response to such vulnerabilities. Concerns about cybersecurity threats to the systems powering America’s critical infrastructure have escalated after a cybercriminal attempted to poison a water plant on Oldsmar, Florida earlier this year. A series of foreign attacks on popular software used by critical systems, including SolarWinds and Microsoft exchange, have also underscored the need for better protective efforts.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Lawmakers want greater resources, authorities for CISA to protect critical infrastructure – The Washington Post

National: Fox News made me do it: Capitol attack suspect pulls ‘Foxitis’ defense | Luke O’Neil/The Guardian

The lawyer for a Delaware man charged over the Capitol attack in January is floating a unique defense: Fox News made him do it. Anthony Antonio, who is facing five charges including violent entry, disorderly conduct and impeding law enforcement during civil disorder, fell prey to the persistent lies about the so-called “stolen election” being spread daily by Donald Trump and the rightwing network that served him, his attorney Joseph Hurley said during a video hearing on Thursday. Antonio spent the six months before the riots mainlining Fox News while unemployed, Hurley said, likening the side effects of such a steady diet of misinformation to a mental health syndrome. “Fox television played constantly,” he said. “He became hooked with what I call ‘Foxitis’ or ‘Foxmania’, and became interested in the political aspect and started believing what was being fed to him.” Antonio’s segment was somehow only the second most notable part of the hearing. Another defendant shouted obscenities, sending the proceedings into near chaos at one point.

Full Article: Fox News made me do it: Capitol attack suspect pulls ‘Foxitis’ defense | US Capitol breach | The Guardian

National: Despite GOP rhetoric, there have been fewer than two dozen charged cases of voter fraud since the election | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

On Election Day last year, a man named Ralph Thurman allegedly walked into Sugartown Elementary School in Malvern, Pa., to cast his vote. He allegedly asked whether he needed to produce identification and was told he didn’t. He then allegedly asked if he could vote for his son and was told he couldn’t. He left. Forty-five minutes later, Thurman (again, allegedly) returned, wearing sunglasses. He claimed to be his son and asked for a ballot. Somehow, the people at the polling place saw through his scheme. Thurman faces felony fraud charges. Before 2020, this is how President Donald Trump claimed voter fraud worked: People would vote, leave, come back in a hat and vote again. There was never evidence that this happened with any regularity, particularly given the challenge of pulling it off (as Mr. Thurman can attest). There was even less evidence that there was somehow a secret cabal orchestrating widespread fraud that could swing a federal election, something Trump suggested had been responsible for his 2016 popular-vote loss. With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Trump switched his focus. Out were the multiple-hatted fraudsters; in were vague allegations of fraud committed through absentee ballots. Out, too, was a casual, hand-wavey allegation of rampant fraud, replaced by a concerted, hyperactive insistence on it. That accelerated after Trump lost his reelection bid and continues even now, six months later: The 2020 election, he and his party claim, was riddled with illegal votes. Yet for all of those claims and even with the Republican Party’s concentrated focus on the idea during the past six months, there remains no credible evidence that any significant fraud occurred. There’s lots of putative evidence, sure, random affidavits in which nonexperts allege weirdness or claims about ballot nefariousness that is quickly debunked. But even after months and months and months of formal and informal scrutiny, there have been no demonstrated examples of systemic efforts to commit voter fraud.

Full Article: Despite GOP rhetoric, there have been fewer than two dozen charged cases of voter fraud since the election – The Washington Post

National: Sidney Powell Can’t Be Let Off the Hook for Lies, Dominion Says | Erik Larson/Bloomberg

Dominion Voting Systems Inc. blasted former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell for telling a judge that her claims about a vast election-fraud conspiracy were merely opinions in order to dodge the company’s $1.3 billion defamation suit. Powell repeatedly and falsely claimed in public that she had proof Dominion rigged the 2020 election against Donald Trump, saying she could “hardly wait to put forth all the evidence” and that “you would have to be a damn fool” not to believe it, Dominion said in a filing late Monday against Powell’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. “Powell did not even attempt to couch her accusations as opinions,” Dominion said in the filing in Washington federal court. “She leveled the falsehoods as deadly serious assertions of fact backed by evidence that she claimed would prove that Dominion had in fact stolen the 2020 election.” Powell’s conspiracy theory and other disinformation preceded a deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a mob of Trump supporters, and Trump continues to claim the election was stolen, even though his own attorney general said he hadn’t found evidence of fraud that would have affected the result. Letting Powell off the hook for her statements now would effectively create a “propaganda exception” for defamation liability, the company said. Powell didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Full Article: Sidney Powell Can’t Be Let Off the Hook for Lies, Dominion Says – Bloomberg

Editorial: Republicans aren’t just making it harder to vote. They’re going after election officials, too. | Joshua A. Douglas/The Washington Post

The right to vote is under attack, as are the people who protect that right. Multiple states have passed or are considering new restrictive voting rules in response to the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen. There is, of course, no evidence of massive voter fraud in 2020 — and President Biden legitimately won the election — but that has not stopped unscrupulous politicians in states such as Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Florida and Iowa from considering new strict rules on absentee balloting, the ability to use a drop box, and even providing food or water to voters waiting in line. These attacks on our democracy have received much attention. Far less noticed, however, have been provisions in these laws that penalize local election officials who administer our elections. Iowa, in addition to limiting voter access by cutting early voting days and forbidding local election officials from mailing out absentee ballot request forms without a specific request from a voter, will now make it a crime if election workers violate the new rules. Florida has enacted a rule that limits ballot drop box availability to only during early voting hours, and provides that, “If any drop box at an early voting site is left accessible for the return of ballots outside of early voting hours, the supervisor is subject to a civil penalty of $25,000.” A Texas proposed bill would subject a local registrar to fines if the registrar fails to mail out notices demanding proof of citizenship to individuals otherwise deemed ineligible to vote. It would also criminalize election workers who “distance or obstruct the view of a [poll] watcher in a way that makes observation reasonably ineffective.” Arizona legislators want to make it a felony for an election worker to mail an early ballot to a voter who has not requested one.

Full Article: Opinion | Republicans aren’t just making it harder to vote. They’re going after election officials, too. – The Washington Post

In Arizona, a Troubled Voting Review Plods On as Questions Mount | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Directly outside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum near downtown Phoenix, the Crazy Times Carnival wraps up an 11-day run on Sunday, a spectacle of thrill rides, games and food stands that headlines the Arizona State Fair this year. Inside the coliseum, a Republican-ordered exhumation and review of 2.1 million votes in the state’s November election is heading into its third week, an exercise that has risen to become the lodestar of rigged-vote theorists — and shows no sign of ending soon. Arizona’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs noted the carnival’s presence outside the coliseum when she challenged the competence and objectivity of the review last week, expressing concern about the security of the ballots inside in an apparent dig at what has become a spectacle of a very different sort. There is no evidence that former President Donald J. Trump’s narrow loss in Arizona’s presidential election in the fall was fraudulent. Nonetheless, 16 Republicans in the State Senate voted to subpoena ballots in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and two-thirds of the state’s vote in November, for an audit to show Trump die-hards that their fraud concerns were taken seriously. As recently as a week ago, officials said the review would be completed by May 14. But with that deadline a week away, only about 250,000 of the county’s 2.1 million ballots have been processed in the hand recount that is a central part of the review, Ken Bennett, a liaison between those conducting the review and the senators, said on Saturday. At that rate, the hand recount would not be finished until August.

Source: Arizona Voting Review Faces More Questions – The New York Times

Arizona’s Republican-run election audit is looking for bamboo-laced “China ballots.” | Jeremy Stahl/Slate

On Wednesday, a member of the Arizona election audit team that has been heavily touted by former President Donald Trump revealed that its examination of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County will include a “forensic” analysis of ballots to determine if the paper is made of bamboo—in order to determine whether or not China delivered tens of thousands of fraudulent ballots to tip the state to Joe Biden. If that sounds much too crazy for an audit that was initiated by the Republican-led Arizona Legislature and whose communications are being spearheaded by the Republican former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, it very much is not. On Wednesday, audit liaison John Brakey told a reporter from the local CBS affiliate in Phoenix that the audit team was checking to see if 40,000 Biden ballots were smuggled into Arizona from Asia by checking the paper’s fiber to try to detect bamboo. “There’s accusations that 40,000 ballots were flown in and stuffed into the box and it came from the southeast part of the world, Asia. And what they’re doing is to find out if there’s bamboo in the paper,” Brakey told Dennis Welch of CBS5 News. Welch asked Brakey a series of follow-ups, such as “Why do you check for bamboo?” and “This is part of what you’re looking for?” and he answered that others were searching for the bamboo ballots because “people in Southeast Asia … use bamboo in their paper processing” and “this is part of the mystery that we want to un-gaslight people about.”

Full Article: Arizona’s Republican-run election audit is looking for bamboo-laced “China ballots.”

Arizona: Department of Justice asks state Senate to respond to concerns about election audit | Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is asking Arizona Senate President Karen Fann to respond to concerns the department has about the security of ballots and potential voter intimidation as the Senate’s contractors perform an audit of November’s presidential election in Maricopa County. In a letter sent to Fann on Wednesday, Pamela S. Karlan, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the division, asked for Fann’s response to its concerns with an explanation of “the steps that the Arizona Senate will take to ensure that violations of federal law do not occur” during the audit. The department’s concerns may have been prompted in part by a letter it received Thursday from three organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, asking the department to dispatch federal monitors to oversee the audit. That letter raised the same concerns that the department said it has, regarding the security of ballots and potential voter intimidation. The Arizona Senate got the county’s 2.1 million ballots, voting machines and private and public voter information last month after issuing subpoenas to the county that a court ultimately upheld. The Senate then handed over the ballots, machines and information to private contractors to perform the audit, which began at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on April 23 and is ongoing.

Full Article: Justice Department asks Senate to respond to election audit concerns

Arizona: Observers report ballots and laptop computers have been left unattended in recount, according to secretary of state | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

Ballots have been left unattended on counting tables. Laptop computers sit abandoned, at times — open, unlocked and unmonitored. Procedures are constantly shifting, with untrained workers using different rules to count ballots. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) on Wednesday sent a letter outlining a string of problems that she said observers from her office have witnessed at a Republican-led recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona’s largest county. In the six-page letter, Hobbs wrote that elections are “governed by a complex framework of laws and procedures designed to ensure accuracy, security, and transparency” but that the procedures governing the ongoing recount in Phoenix “ensure none of those things.” Former Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett (R), who is acting as a spokesman for the audit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the audit’s Twitter account, @ArizonaAudit, tweeted  that Hobbs’s allegations were “baseless claimes [sic].” “The audit continues!” read the tweet. On Wednesday, a top official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division wrote in a letter to the state Senate president that information reviewed by the department “raises concerns,” asking that the Arizona Senate provide information to ensure federal laws were not being violated. She wrote that reports suggested that ballots were “not being adequately safeguarded by contractors at an insecure facility, and are at risk of being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed.”

Full Article: Observers report ballots and laptop computers have been left unattended in Arizona recount, according to secretary of state – The Washington Post

Arizona: Maricopa Co. Sheriff says election audit risks law enforcement | Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone called the Arizona Senate’s demands for its audit of Maricopa County’s presidential election “mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible.” Penzone said the law enforcement agency would be at risk if the county turned over the state Senate’s intensified demand for certain routers, or digital copies of the routers. The Senate also is demanding certain administrative passwords to voting machines that county officials say they do not have. Providing the routers could compromise confidential, sensitive and highly classified law enforcement data and equipment, he said in a statement on Friday. “The Senate Republican Caucus’ audit of the Maricopa County votes from last November’s election has no stopping point. Now, its most recent demands jeopardize the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office,” Penzone’s statement said. The county has provided all 2.1 million voter general election ballots, voter information and election equipment in response to state Senate subpoenas. The Senate gave the election materials to private contractors, which allowed the audit and recount to get underway at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on April 23. But the county did not deliver certain routers that the state Senate sought in its original subpoenas, according to Senate liaison Ken Bennett,

Full Article: Maricopa Co. Sheriff says Arizona election audit risks law enforcement