National: Biden calls on Congress to pass voting, elections reform bills | Max Greenwood/The Hill

President Biden in his address to Congress on Tuesday called on lawmakers to pass a sweeping set of elections and voting reforms that hold the potential to reshape the U.S. political landscape, from how campaigns are financed to the laws governing the decennial redistricting process. In his remarks to a joint session of Congress, Biden boasted that the 2020 election had seen the highest turnout in modern history despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. But instead of being celebrated, he said, the right to vote “is being attacked.” “If we truly want to restore the soul of America, we need to protect the sacred right to vote,” Biden said. “More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history in the middle of the worst pandemic ever.” He called on Congress to quickly pass H.R. 1, a wide-reaching elections reform bill already approved by the House, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would strengthen or reinstate parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. “Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send them to my desk right away,” Biden said. “The country supports it, and Congress should act now.” H.R. 1 seeks a broad overhaul of the nation’s political systems. Among the proposals included in the measure is a mandate for states to use nonpartisan redistricting commissions to draw congressional lines, as well as new financial disclosure requirements for super PACs and political nonprofits, often dubbed “dark money groups.” The bill would also create a set of national standards for voter registration and mail-in balloting. One provision would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, something that former President Donald Trump never did, despite decades of precedent.

Full Article: Biden calls on Congress to pass voting, elections reform bills | TheHill

National: What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About Mail-In Ballots and Early Voting in 2020 | Ryan Teague Beckwith/Bloomberg

What happened in the 2020 U.S. election? Here’s a quick summary that may sound familiar. Spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, states expanded early voting and voting by mail, leading to historic turnout that helped Joe Biden win. The problem: Almost everything about that summary is likely wrong. Recent studies have confirmed that changes to voting in 2020 had little or no effect on turnout, and even though Democrats took more advantage of mail voting, there’s no evidence that those voters wouldn’t have shown up anyway. And if there was a partisan benefit from expanding voting by mail, it probably helped Republicans, not Democrats. These misconceptions aren’t just a matter of historical interest. Along with other urban legends about how elections work, they appear to be driving legislation at the state and federal level that would change how elections are run in the future. State lawmakers across the country have filed more than 1,200 bills seeking to change voting laws, with Republicans looking to roll back early and absentee voting and Democrats seeking to make voter registration easier. In Congress, House Democrats have passed a bill, H.R. 1, that would require states to offer early voting and expand access to voting by mail, but it remains stalled in the Senate because of Republican opposition.

Full Article: What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About Mail-In Ballots and Early Voting in 2020 – Bloomberg

National: Biden allies launch voting rights initiative | Rebecca Shabad/NBC

An outside political group formed by allies of President Joe Biden is launching a voting rights initiative focused on strengthening pro-voter policies and protecting against suppression efforts. The nonprofit Building Back Together announced the project Wednesday, saying in a release that the group “will work to counter proposed changes to those laws that impede access, particularly for voters of color and historically disadvantaged and densely populated communities.” The group will focus first on a slew of battleground states, some of which have implemented laws that voting rights advocates say seek to prevent people from casting ballots. The states include Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, recently signed a highly restrictive voting measure into law that has prompted lawsuits and threats to boycott of businesses that haven’t voiced opposition to the legislation.

Full Article: Biden allies launch voting rights initiative

National: Veterans group shifts focus from military voting to bigger election reforms | Leo Shane III/Military Times

A group of high-profile veterans and defense leaders who last fall lobbied for military voters’ access to the polls is now shifting their campaign to ensuring free and fair elections for all Americans. Operation Protect Democracy, which grew out of the Count Every Hero Campaign founded last year, is calling for veterans to take a key role in election reform across the country and ensuring that all eligible voters have access to ballots in federal, state and local elections. Organizers said they were inspired to shift the message in part because of widespread misinformation about the 2020 presidential election results, and the attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. “The fact that veterans participated in that was troubling for us,” said retired Marine Corps Gen. Tony Zinni, chairman of the group. “And of late, legislation seems to be proliferating to try to restrict eligible voters in many ways and make it more difficult to vote.

Full Article: Veterans group shifts focus from military voting to bigger election reforms

Arizona: Elections experts call on Justice Department to send monitors to Arizona audit | Max Greenwood/The Hill

A group of election security and administration experts are asking the Justice Department to send federal monitors to Arizona as the Republican-led state Senate carries out an audit of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County in the state’s 2020 presidential election. In a letter to the top official at the Justice Department’s voting section, five elections experts from the Brennan Center for Justice, Protect Democracy and The Leadership Conference expressed deep concerns about how the audit is being conducted, warning that it has put ballots “in danger of being stolen, defaced, or irretrievably damaged.” “They failed to ensure the physical security of ballots by keeping doors unlocked and allowing unauthorized persons to access the ballot storage facility,” the letter reads. “They also risk compromising the integrity of the ballots themselves, using materials and technologies that will cause the ballot paper and marks to deteriorate, such as holding ballots to ultra-violet light without gloves. “And, by restricting access to the audit by nonpartisan observers, election administrators and voting machine experts, they are failing to ensure that the audit is transparent.” The letter also expresses concern that the state Senate and the firm it has hired to run the audit — a Florida-based company called Cyber Ninjas — “are preparing to engage in conduct that will constitute unlawful voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act and other federal laws.” At issue, they wrote, is a plan to “physically canvass” voters in Maricopa County as part of the audit, and to gather information related to their voting history.

Full Article: Elections experts call on Justice Department to send monitors to Arizona audit | TheHill

Arizona: Cyber Ninjas releases its election audit policies after court order | Jeremy Duda/Arizona Mirror

Following a judge’s ruling that the Arizona Senate’s election audit team can’t keep its policies and procedures secret, lead audit contractor Cyber Ninjas submitted nearly two hundreds pages to the court detailing its practices. The collection of policies and procedures covers guidelines for hand counting ballots, handling digital evidence, documenting chain-of-custody for ballots, rules of conduct for observers and other matters from Cyber Ninjas, as well as the subcontractors it’s working with. It also includes manifests for ballots and tabulation machines provided by Maricopa County election officials. The policies shed some light on the processes that auditors are using to count the ballots, a process being overseen by Wake Technology Services. Wake’s policies also describe the examination process for ballot, including checking the ballots for folds — early ballots are folded, while in-person ballots cast on election day aren’t — examining the thickness and feel of the paper, checking for discrepancies in the printing and scanning ballots with ultraviolet lights to “compare to representative specimens.” The policy documents don’t elaborate on what exactly the lights are supposed to show. Through Wednesday morning, audit employees had been shining UV lights on each ballot, though they haven’t been using the lights since later that afternoon. Auditors are also using technology purportedly invented by Jovan Pulitzer, an inventor and treasure hunter, that he says can detect fake ballots by examining the folds, or lack thereof, in the paper. Cyber Ninjas’ statement of work for the audit states that it will search for counterfeit ballots, despite a total lack of any evidence that any such ballots were counted in the 2020 general election. It’s unclear if all of the policies were drafted before the audit, or if some were implemented afterward. The documents state that policies on writing implements were updated after the audit began.

Full Article: Cyber Ninjas releases its election audit policies after court order

Arizona: ‘Crazy Times Carnival’ to take place on same grounds as election audit | Nicole Sadek/Arizona Republic

The Arizona State Fairgrounds announced Monday that a new carnival will kick off Thursday on the same grounds where a Maricopa County election audit is taking place. The “Crazy Times Carnival” is scheduled to run 11 nights outside the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where auditors are hand counting nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the November 2020 general election. Maintaining security at the coliseum has been a key concern during the audit. Jen Yee, a spokesperson for the fairgrounds, said the carnival will be fenced off, with the north lot set aside for audit parking. The fairgrounds marketing team brainstormed names for possible live events early in the pandemic “when the world first imploded,” Yee said. They came up with “Crazy Times Carnival” well before the Nov. 3 election or before anyone imagined a ballot recount happening inside the coliseum.

Full Article: ‘Crazy Times Carnival’ to take place on same grounds as election audit

Colorado lawmakers advance online voting for the blind over objections from election security experts, Homeland Security, Justice Department | Pat Poblete/Colorado Politics

A House panel on Thursday advanced a bill that seeks to allow blind or otherwise print-impaired voters to privately and independently vote by returning marked ballots online. But a host of federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, warned in a report to states ahead of last fall’s election the bill’s provisions would amount to a “high-risk” endeavor that could compromise election integrity by allowing hackers to manipulate ballots and election results “at scale.” Senate Bill 21-188 was carried through the Senate by Sen. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, where it passed on a near-party line vote. In the House, the legislation is sponsored Democratic Reps. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, and David Ortiz, a Littleton Democrat who now uses a wheelchair after a helicopter crash while serving in Afghanistan left him with little muscle control below his waist. The proposal seeks to build on legislation that allows voters with disabilities to access a ballot online, which Danielson championed in 2019. Under Danielson’s Senate Bill 19-202, a ballot can then be marked, printed and returned, which allows voters with disabilities to cast a ballot privately and independently. After being signed into law in May 2019, Danielson said Secretary of State Jena Griswold quickly implemented the legislation and it has largely been successful, save for one hiccup: few voters with disabilities have a printer.

Full Article: Lawmakers advance online voting for the blind over objections from election security experts, Homeland Security, Justice Department | Elections | coloradopolitics.com

Colorado: Federal judge in Denver dismisses class-action suit against Dominion, Facebook | Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics

A U.S. magistrate in Denver dismissed a class-action lawsuit that originated in Colorado against Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook and others accused of conspiring to cost Donald Trump last November’s election. U.S. District Court Magistrate N. Reid Neureiter issued a ruling less than 24 hours after arguments to dismiss the case Wednesday afternoon, because the plaintiffs who say they were harmed by unfair election tactics have the same problems as dozens of other failed cases have had: lack of standing. Denver lawyer Gary Fielder filed the class-action lawsuit against the election software company at the center of conspiracy theories about a stolen election, in addition to Facebook, its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, as well as a nonprofit that helped local governments prepare for last November’s vote. The suit asked not to turn over the results of the election but to penalize the defendants $1,000 for each of the more than 160 million voters, adding up to more than $160 billion. Neureiter said the suit was a  “generalized complaint” — meaning it was based on information that hasn’t been proven — and that it lacked enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” and failed to “plausibly allege violation of constitutional rights.”

Full Article: Federal judge in Denver dismisses class-action suit against Dominion, Facebook | Elections | coloradopolitics.com

Florida: Election reforms targeting voting by mail, drop boxes passes Legislature | Lawrence Mower/Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Legislature approved along party lines a multitude of changes to the state’s elections laws Thursday night, including a ban on possessing multiple vote by mail ballots and restrictions on the use of ballot drop boxes. Relenting on a number of ideas that were strongly opposed by county elections supervisors and Democrats, the bill now heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk is far less onerous than what Republicans were proposing over the last month. The bill does not ban drop boxes, an idea DeSantis endorsed earlier this year. It does not require someone show an I.D. when leaving a vote by mail ballot in a drop box, which elections supervisors warned would have created long lines. It also does not include the strict signature-comparison requirements for validating vote by mail ballots that some feared would require millions of Floridians to update their signatures with their county elections office.

Full Article: Election reforms targeting voting by mail, drop boxes passes Florida Legislature

Michigan Secretary of State: GOP bill would criminalize officials’ election Twitter posts | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

One of the 39 bills Michigan Senate Republicans proposed to overhaul the state’s voting laws would make it a crime for certain officials to share information about an upcoming election on Twitter or other social media platforms. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, raised the criticism Wednesday as the Senate Elections Committee began debating the proposal that seeks to bar the “name or likeness” of an official from appearing in any “communication” funded with public money that involves an election-related activity. The bill specifically defines communications as advertisements, billboards, mail or “social media posts.” Under the bill, a violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100. “Senate Bill 305 would inexplicably bar the most trusted sources of voter education and election information in our state — the secretary of state and election clerks — from educating citizens about the mechanics of voting,” Benson said in a statement. “At a time when misinformation is escalating and election administrators are the most reliable and informed voices available to counter it, this bill would ban them from doing so.”

Full Article: Benson: GOP bill would criminalize officials’ election Twitter posts

Montana Election Security Bill, Amended To Limit Who Can Handle Absentee Ballots, Headed To Governor | Kevin Trevellyan/MTPR

Legislation limiting who can handle absentee ballots during election season cleared the Montana Legislature Tuesday largely along party lines. An initially uncontroversial bill granting the secretary of state’s office rulemaking authority to boost election security was amended with the rule to prevent someone from turning in somebody else’s absentee ballot if they’re paid to do so. Sponsor and Ulm Republican Rep. Wendy McKamey said the provision is a needed voting safeguard. “We want to keep it as clear and transparent and uninfluenced by monies as possible,” Ulm said. Browning Democratic Rep. Tyson Running Wolf said the amendment prevents Indigenous get-out-the-vote groups from collecting ballots in rural tribal communities, disenfranchising residents who lack consistent access to mail service and polling places. “Ballot collection is the only way for many of the voters to make sure their vote is counted and voices are being heard,” Running Wolf said.

Full Article: Election Security Bill, Amended To Limit Who Can Handle Absentee Ballots, Headed To Governor | MTPR

New Hampshire: Windham selectman calls foul over audit representative selection | Julie Huss/The Eagle-Tribune

A selectman hopes to change the outcome of a recent vote to choose a representative to participate in a forensic audit of Windham’s election results and voting machines from the Nov. 3 general election. Bruce Breton released a statement this week, asking his fellow selectmen to reconsider a 3-1 vote taken April 26 that selected Mark Lindeman, co-director of the organization Verified Voting, as the town’s designee for the upcoming audit, citing conflicts of interest. … Breton said Lindeman has a definite conflict of interest representing Windham and New Hampshire’s citizens as a forensic auditor, citing Lindeman joining in to sign a letter to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, expressing opposition to the election audit currently taking place in that state’s Maricopa County. In the letter sent to Fann in Arizona, Verified Voting joined in with a long list of election law experts, administrators, voting rights experts and national security representatives to voice concern about the public being restricted from having access to the audit currently taking place on 2.1 million ballots from the November election. The letter urged Fann to grant public observation to representatives from nonpartisan American organizations and education institutions. “This audit, which will include recounting ballots cast for U.S. President, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, is a matter of concern to all Americans,” the letter read. “The Arizona Senate must not prohibit access to election administration and voting equipment experts from nonpartisan American organizations that support free, fair and secure elections.”

Full Article: Windham selectman calls foul over audit representative selection | New Hampshire | eagletribune.com

Texas Democrats ask for federal review of House Elections Committee after voting bill debacle | Lauren McGaughy/Dallas Morning News

Four Texas Democrats have asked the federal government to monitor the goings-on inside a state House committee after they accused the chairman of trying to avoid public debate on a divisive elections bill. On Thursday, Briscoe Cain, chairman of the House Committee on Elections, ultimately succeeded in getting his nine-member panel to approve Senate Bill 7, a GOP-backed omnibus bill that would tighten voting laws in Texas. Cain, a Deer Park Republican, first brought the bill up for a vote in the morning without any warning, Democrats on his committee complained, denying them the chance to notify the public so a public hearing could be held. But Thursday night, after the Republican majority committee voted down several amendments to the bill, it approved the legislation on a 5-4 vote along partisan lines. No public debate was heard. The incident prompted the committee’s Democrats to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and urge the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to review what happened and monitor the committee “if deemed appropriate.” The letter also accused Cain of repeatedly violating rules and “silencing opposing viewpoints.” “The way we have been treated is emblematic of the majority’s view on minority participation in our democracy. The viewpoints of minorities are an unimportant nuisance that is an obstacle to their continued control of Texas,” the signatories wrote, saying female Democrats “have been belittled, talked over, and disrespected.”

Full Article: Democrats ask for federal review of Texas House Elections Committee after voting bill debacle

Vermont Secretary of State announces completion of 2020 General Election Audit | Vermont Business

Today Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos announced the completion of the 2020 Vermont General Election Audit, which was conducted on April 28th at the Pavilion Auditorium located in Montpelier. No significant abnormalities or discrepancies were found between the audit results and the Official Returns of Vote. “Yesterday’s successful audit of the 2020 Vermont General Election has verified the accuracy, dependability and integrity of Vermont’s official November General Election results,” said Condos. “While the audit is an important administrative process required by state law, it also serves to give Vermont voters strengthened confidence in our election results. Every voter deserves to have peace of mind in knowing that when they cast their ballot it will be counted accurately.” Audits of General Election results are a nationally identified best practice and have been required by Vermont state statute since 2006. Every vote cast must be securely sealed by the Town or City Clerks in tamper proof ballot bags under strict chain of custody and retained in the vaults for 22 months following the election.

Full Article: Condos announces completion of 2020 Vermont General Election Audit | Vermont Business Magazine

Wisconsin: New legislation would require lawmakers to volunteer as poll workers | Jonah Chester/WORT

Today, a group of Democratic legislators introduced a bill that would require all elected state officials to serve as poll workers during elections. The legislation wouldn’t apply to members of the judiciary, but it would apply to Wisconsin’s Senators and Assembly members. The only exception is if the official is on the ballot. Representative Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton) said during a press conference today that the proposal will increase transparency in the state’s election processes. “By requiring our non-judicial state elected officials to receive the same training as election officials in their district, we can increase knowledge, understanding and confidence in an election administered fairly and without doubt,” Appleton said. Since the November Presidential election, Republicans at both a state and federal level have cast doubt on the process Last month, the Wisconsin State Assembly greenlit a committee-led investigation into Wisconsin’s Presidential election, granting that body the ability to subpoena testimony. Democrats, elections officials, voting rights advocates, state and federal courts have all said that there were no irregularities in the November election. Democrats and voting rights advocates say that election investigations — both in Wisconsin and elsewhere — are based solely on the repeated lies of former President Donald Trump.

Full Article: New legislation would require lawmakers to volunteer as poll workers – WORT 89.9 FM

Internet Voting is Still Inherently Insecure | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

Legislation for voting by internet is pending in Colorado, and other states have been on the verge of permitted ballots to be returned by internet. But voting by internet is too insecure, too hackable, to use in U.S. elections.  Every scientific study comes to the same conclusion—the Defense Department’s study group in 2004, the National Academy of Sciences in 2018, and others.  Although the internet has evolved, the fundamental insecurities are the same: insecure client computers (your PC or phone), insecure servers (that collect the votes), and Americans’ lack of universal digital credentials. Vendors of internet voting systems claim it’s different now:  they claim “online voting” is not “internet voting”; they say smartphones are not PCs, cloud-computing systems are more secure than privately hosted servers, dedicated apps are not web sites, and because blockchain.  So let’s examine the science.  Of course “online voting” is internet voting: your smartphones and laptops connect to servers and cloud servers through the public packet-switched network; even the phone network these days is part of the internet.  And if the voter sends a ballot electronically to an election office that prints and counts it, that’s certainly not a “paper ballot” in the sense that a voter can check what’s printed on it. Smartphones are client computers on that same internet.  Smartphone operating systems (Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android) have improved their security in recent years, but serious new exploitable vulnerabilities are continually discovered: about 25 per year in iOS (2018-2020) and 103 per year in Android.  And there are an unknown number of undiscovered vulnerabilities that attackers may be exploiting.  If you prepare a ballot on your smartphone voting for candidate Smith, you cannot be sure whether a hacker has caused your voting app to transmit instead a vote for Jones. Major cloud-computing providers such as AWS and Azure do a good job of securing their systems for the companies that they “host” (banks, retailers, voting apps).  But a bank or voting-app maker must write their own software to run in that cloud.  It’s difficult to get that software right, and bugs can lead to exploitable vulnerabilities that a hacker could use to change votes as they arrive.  AWS is not some sort of magical pixie dust that one sprinkles on software to make it unhackable.  Blockchain doesn’t help either: the vote can be hacked before it even gets into the blockchain.

Full Article: Internet Voting is Still Inherently Insecure

Arizona Election audit continues, but judge orders release of documents guiding the audit | Jerod MacDonald-Evoy/Arizona Mirror

The election audit ordered by Senate Republicans won’t be halted because Democrats shown that voter privacy has been violated, a judge ruled Wednesday. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Martin denied the Democrats’ request for a temporary restraining order, saying that they have not brought “substantive evidence” to prove voter privacy has or could be harmed by the audit. The Arizona Democratic Party and Maricopa County Democratic Supervisor Steve Gallardo filed the lawsuit to stop the audit. The original judge on the case ordered the audit to pause, but that didn’t happen because the Democrats were unwilling to pay the $1 million bond required. The judge initially assigned to the case, Christopher Coury, ruled last week that the auditors must comply with all laws governing the right to a secret ballot and the confidentiality of voter registration data, and to provide copies of all relevant policies and procedures to the court, which the audit team has never made public. He also ordered that the auditors use only red pens on the audit floor, an issue that came up after an Arizona Republic reporter who was working as a volunteer observer noted that the auditors were using blue pens. State election rules require that only red pens be used near ballots because the tabulation machines that are used to count them will read any markings made in blue or black ink. Coury recused himself from the case on April 25 after the law firm representing Cyber Ninjas told the court that one of its attorneys who had worked for Coury in the past would be joining the legal team. The case was then assigned to Martin.

Full Article: Election audit continues, but judge orders release of documents guiding the audit

Half a Year After Trump’s Defeat, Arizona Republicans Are Recounting the Vote | Michael Wines/The New York Times

It seemed so simple back in December. Responding to angry voters who echoed former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, Arizona Republicans promised a detailed review of the vote that showed Mr. Trump to have been the first Republican presidential nominee to lose the state since 1996. “We hold an audit,” State Senator Eddie Farnsworth said at a Judiciary Committee hearing. “And then we can put this to rest.” But when a parade of flatbed trucks last week hauled boxes of voting equipment and 78 pallets containing the 2.1 million ballots of Arizona’s largest county to a decrepit local coliseum, it kicked off a seat-of-the-pants audit process that seemed more likely to amplify Republican grievances than to put them to rest. Almost half a year after the election Mr. Trump lost, the promised audit has become a snipe hunt for skulduggery that has spanned a court battle, death threats and calls to arrest the elected leadership of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. The head of Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm that Republican senators hired to oversee the audit, has embraced Mr. Trump’s baseless theories of election theft and has suggested, contrary to available evidence, that Mr. Trump actually won Arizona by 200,000 votes. The pro-Trump cable channel One America News Network has started a fund-raiser to finance the venture and has been named one of the nonpartisan observers that will keep the audit on the straight and narrow. In fact, three previous reviews showed no sign of significant fraud or any reason to doubt President Biden’s victory. But the senators now plan to recount — by hand — all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, two-thirds of the entire vote statewide.

Full Article: Half a Year After Trump’s Defeat, Arizona Republicans Are Recounting the Vote – The New York Times

National: Schumer: Senate deadline for voting rights bill ‘probably by August or so’ | Joseph Choi/The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that the deadline for passing major election reform legislation “probably by August.” In an interview on “The Mehdi Hasan Show” set to broadcast on Sunday night, host Mehdi Hasan asked Schumer about the timeline for passing the For the People Act  – known as both H.R.1 and S.1 for being the first bill introduced this session in both the House and Senate – noting that Schumer’s position as Senate majority leader is threatened by the loss of a single Democratic senator. “I agree we have to move quickly,” Schumer says. “I would say that the deadline for S.1 is a little longer than you say. But it’s probably by August or so. We’re consulting the experts, when is the latest that S.1 can undo some of the despicable and frankly racist changes that these Republican legislatures have made or trying to make in the way people vote.” The New York senator said Democrats needed to remain unified to pass the bills they supported in a 50-50 Senate. “By definition, we need all 50. We’re working hard to obtain that unity. We’ve attained it on everything so far. On the major issues, when we have the minority, the three biggest issues were NCA, the horrible tax cuts of Trump and the impeachment, we were 100 percent united. On the three biggest issues so far here, the president’s cabinet with one exception which I regret, but everything else, with the impeachment trial and with ARP, we were united,” Schumer said.

Full Article: Schumer: Senate deadline for voting rights bill ‘probably by August or so’ | TheHill

Editorial: Republicans Aren’t Done Messing With Elections | Richard L. Hasen/The New York Times

A new, more dangerous front has opened in the voting wars, and it’s going to be much harder to counteract than the now-familiar fight over voting rules. At stake is something I never expected to worry about in the United States: the integrity of the vote count. The danger of manipulated election results looms. We already know the contours of the battle over voter suppression. The public has been inundated with stories about Georgia’s new voting law, from Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta to criticism of new restrictions that prevent giving water to people waiting in long lines to vote. With lawsuits already filed against restrictive aspects of that law and with American companies and elite law firms lined up against Republican state efforts to make it harder to register and vote, there’s at least a fighting chance that the worst of these measures will be defeated or weakened. The new threat of election subversion is even more concerning. These efforts target both personnel and policy; it is not clear if they are coordinated. They nonetheless represent a huge threat to American democracy itself. Some of these efforts involve removing from power those who stood up to President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The Georgia law removes the secretary of state from decision-making power on the state election board. This seems aimed clearly at Georgia’s current Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, punishing him for rejecting Mr. Trump’s entreaties to “find” 11,780 votes to flip Joe Biden’s lead in the state. But the changes will apply to Mr. Raffensperger’s successor, too, giving the legislature a greater hand in who counts votes and how they are counted. Michigan’s Republican Party refused to renominate Aaron Van Langevelde to the state’s canvassing board. Mr. Van Langevelde voted with Democrats to accept Michigan’s Electoral College vote for Mr. Biden as legitimate. He was replaced by Tony Daunt, the executive director of a conservative Michigan foundation that is financially backed by the DeVos family.

Full Article: Opinion | Republicans Aren’t Done Messing With Elections – The New York Times

Editorial: The Assault on Voting is an Assault on Local Democracy | Zachary Roth/Brennan Center for Justice

Last spring, in the weeks and months after life was first reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic, local governments stepped up to help save the 2020 election. Knowing that many voters might not want to risk their health by casting a ballot in person, cities like Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Houston, and Miami expanded access to mail voting by sending absentee ballots or ballot applications to all registered voters, sometimes with pre-paid postage, and by providing ballot drop boxes, among other moves. I suggested at the time that Republican-leaning rural counties in the same states might follow suit, in order to ensure that rural voters would enjoy the same expanded access as urban ones. A race to the top, in other words. I should have known that was too optimistic. After an election in which both mail voting and overall turnout soared, several GOP-led states, as we know, are desperate to restrict voting. And as part of that effort, they’re looking to clamp down on local governments’ authority to make voting easier — or in some cases, to run elections at all. Two states have already done so. Among the most dangerous parts of the sweeping voter suppression law Georgia passed last month is a provision that allows the state election board to suspend and temporarily replace local election officials. In practice, that means the state board — which, thanks to a different part of the law, will have a majority of members appointed by the GOP-controlled legislature — will be able to oust any local election official who seeks to expand access to the polls in ways the state doesn’t like. That could prevent county officials from taking individual on-the-ground conditions into account in order to devise election plans that best serve their voters. One part of the restrictive voting law Iowa passed last month could have a similar effect, making it a felony for local election officials not to follow guidance from the secretary of state. And a bill in Arkansas would likewise allow the state election commission to take over local election boards under certain circumstances — it failed once in committee but can be brought up again.

Full Article: The Assault on Voting is an Assault on Local Democracy | Brennan Center for Justice

Arizona: Journalists gain access to Senate-ordered election audit | Jen Fifield/Arizona Republic

After days of silence, on Tuesday journalists got limited access inside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the Arizona Senate’s contractors are attempting to hand count all Maricopa County ballots cast in the November election. Officials with Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, the private contractor leading the audit, were not present in the press area to answer questions, including how many of the nearly 2.1 million ballots have been reviewed since the audit got underway Friday. Ken Bennett, the Senate’s liaison for the audit, spoke to the media in a news conference outside the state Capitol for the first time since Friday, but he said he did not know how many ballots had been counted. “I have an estimate of what the number is,” he told reporters, offering that just shy of 100,000 ballots had been tallied. Bennett said he was confident the count could be completed before the Senate’s lease on the coliseum ends May 14. “We’re on track to get the job done in the time that we have,” he said. While there have been numerous concerns raised about the security of ballots and private voter information, Bennett said they were “making sure that everything is very secure.” “There’s nothing happening there that would violate the identity of any voters or any privileged voter information,” he said.

Full Article: Journalists gain access to Arizona Senate-ordered election audit

Arizona: GOP-backed recount of Maricopa County ballots appears on track to move forward after initial pause ordered by judge | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

An extensive effort to recount ballots from the November election moved forward in Phoenix on Friday as a private vendor hired by Republicans in the Arizona Senate began reviewing nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the state’s largest county. The recount of the ballots from Maricopa County was sought by Senate Republicans to examine unsubstantiated claims that fraud or errors tainted President Biden’s win. Election officials and the courts have found no merit to such allegations, and the GOP-led county board of supervisors has objected to the recount. After state Democrats filed a lawsuit this week to halt the proceedings, an Arizona judge on Friday ordered that the recount be paused for the weekend to consider their allegations that the process violates state laws governing the security of ballots. However, he required that the Democratic Party post a $1 million bond to cover the potential costs of a delay. On Friday afternoon, the state party said it would not put up the money, meaning the recount is on track to press ahead. Earlier this week, Senate Republicans exercised a subpoena to move voting equipment and ballots from county storage to the floor of the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where they have said a team of private companies will spend the next four weeks conducting a hand recount of ballots and a forensic audit of voting machines. Senate leaders have said the process is intended only to explore ways to improve the state’s elections, rather than to cast doubt on Biden’s 10,457-vote victory in Arizona over Donald Trump. But the recount has come under sharp criticism from election observers, voting rights advocates and Democrats, who have said it lacks independent oversight and could be used to further baseless claims about the 2020 election.

Full Article: GOP-backed recount of Maricopa County ballots appears on track to move forward after initial pause ordered by Arizona judge – The Washington Post

Arizona: Election conspiracies live on with GOP audit | Jonathan J. Cooper and Bob Christie/Associated Press

Months after former President Donald Trump’s election defeat, legislative Republicans in Arizona are challenging the outcome as they embark on an unprecedented effort to audit the results in the state’s most populous county. The state Senate used its subpoena power to take possession of all 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County and the machines that counted them, along with computer hard drives full of data. They’ve handed the materials over to Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based consultancy with no election experience run by a man who has shared unfounded conspiracy theories claiming the official 2020 presidential election results are illegitimate. The process is alarming election professionals who fear the auditors are not up to the complex task and will severely undermine faith in democracy. “I think the activities that are taking place here are reckless and they in no way, shape or form resemble an audit,” said Jennifer Morrell, a partner at Elections Group, a consulting firm advising state and local election officials, which has not worked in Arizona. Conspiracy theories about the election have proliferated across the country even before President Joe Biden’s victory but have had particular staying power in Arizona, which flipped to the Democratic column for just the second time in 72 years. Trump on Friday predicted the audit would reveal fraud and would prompt similar reviews in other states he lost. “Thank you State Senators and others in Arizona for commencing this full forensic audit,” the former president said in a statement. “I predict the results will be startling!”

Full Article: Election conspiracies live on with audit by Arizona GOP

Arkansas House rejects bill to lop day of early voting | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

A bill that would have eliminated early voting in Arkansas on the last Monday before Election Day failed on the House floor Tuesday. Senate Bill 485 by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, failed three times in a Senate committee before it was signed out and taken to the Senate floor, then took two tries to advance from a House committee. It failed in the House on a 43-39 vote, falling 12 votes short of the simply majority of 51 it needed to pass. House sponsor Rep. Justin Gonzales, R-Okolona, and supporters of the bill said it would provide more time for poll workers to get ready for Election Day without having to work long hours that Monday. Voting-rights organizations and lawmakers who opposed the bill equated it with voter suppression, and said election officials they’d spoken to didn’t see a need for a change. More than 30 people rallied in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday morning and lined the steps to the House chamber, urging lawmakers to vote down the bill. Arkansas has 13 days of early voting. If enacted, SB485 would have reduced that number to 12 and would have made the last Saturday before the election the final day of early voting.

Full Article: House rejects bill to lop day of early voting

California: The Newsom recall could cost $400 million. Who pays for it? | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

It’s well known that elections have consequences. They also have price tags. With signs pointing to a special election this fall at which voters could remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office, local officials from across California believe the cost of conducting the election could run as high as $400 million. The estimate is four to five times higher than rough guesses bandied about in recent months and is equal to a cost of about $18 per registered voter — more than double what local elections officials say was spent on California elections in 2018. It’s a price they say counties, which are struggling to cover pandemic-related costs for health and human services programs, will need the state to cover. “There is an urgency to this,” said Donna Johnston, the registrar of voters in Sutter County and president of the California Assn. of Clerks and Elected Officials. Johnston’s group bases its $400-million estimate on a preliminary tally of costs from the November 2020 election, for which every registered voter was mailed a ballot and in-person voting was subject to strict rules designed to minimize the risk of coronavirus infections.

Full Article: The Newsom recall could cost $400 million. Who pays for it? – Los Angeles Times

Florida: ‘Never heard of them’: Arizona GOP audit firm unknown even in home state | Marc Caputo/Politico

A successful ninja is unseen, unheard, stealthy. By that standard, the firm Cyber Ninjas — which Arizona Republicans chose to audit the ballots cast in 2020 in the Phoenix area — fits the bill: Almost no one involved in election or politics in Florida, the state where the company is headquartered, seems to have heard of it or knows anything about it. Nor do they know anything about Cyber Ninjas’ founder, Doug Logan, who registered his firm in the southwest Florida city of Sarasota in 2014, state records show. “Doug Logan? Cyber Ninjas? No. I don’t know these guys. Never heard of them,” said Christian Ziegler, vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida and a resident of Sarasota, echoing a dozen top Florida Republicans and elections professionals interviewed by POLITICO. The firm’s relative anonymity is a curious anomaly in Florida, one of the nation’s biggest battlegrounds, where top political players are typically familiar with companies that provide election services and technology. In a state like Florida — a place synonymous with razor-close elections and recounts for more than two decades — Cyber Ninjas’ absence of name identification and its lack of experience in election audits among insiders stands out. And it calls into question Arizona Republicans’ claim that the company is right for the controversial job of auditing the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, which encompasses the Phoenix metro area. The 2020 presidential results there have drawn national attention as a result of baseless claims of election fraud.

Full Article: ‘Never heard of them’: Arizona GOP audit firm unknown even in home state – POLITICO

Georgia elections official slams Arizona audit as ‘neither transparent nor, likely, legal’ | Jordan Williams/The Hill

A Georgia elections official slammed an audit of ballots cast during the 2020 elections in Maricopa County, Ariz., as “neither transparent, nor likely, legal.” The audit of Maricopa County — the largest county in Arizona — comes as Republican lawmakers in the state seek to back former President Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was tainted by voter fraud. Such claims by Trump and his allies have largely been disputed. Elections officials at the state and federal levels — including former Attorney General William Barr — have said that the 2020 elections were not subject to widespread voter fraud. Gabriel Sterling, a top elections official in Georgia, decried the audit as an attempt to “undermine confidence in elections.” “This ‘audit’ in Arizona is another step in undermining confidence in elections. This process is neither transparent nor, likely, legal,” Sterling said on Twitter. “Any ‘findings’ will be highly suspect now that chain of custody has been violated by partisan actors,” he added.

Full Article: Georgia elections official slams Arizona audit as ‘neither transparent nor, likely, legal’ | TheHill

Illinois: Attempted extortion of elections board executive director involved ‘flirtatious’ messages, demand for $3,000, letter indicates | Ray Long Rick Pearson/Chicago Tribune

Illinois’ top elections official told board members he became the victim of an internet extortion scheme after he exchanged “flirtatious” messages and sent a picture to a person he met online. Steven Sandvoss, who is on administrative leave until his resignation takes effect at the end of June, detailed his encounters in a letter to the State Board of Elections in which he said a threat was made to “ruin” him if he didn’t pay $3,000. Sandvoss said he did not make any payments and the online threats stopped, according to the letter, which the Tribune obtained. Sandvoss, 55, the board’s executive director, has had high-level federal security clearance following a Russian hacking incident in the 2016 election cycle that compromised personal data of 76,000 Illinois voters. Sandvoss told board members that “at no time did I indicate (to the person online) that I worked” for the elections board.

Full Article: Attempted extortion of Illinois elections board exec involved ‘flirtatious’ messages, demand for $3,000, letter indicates – Chicago Tribune