National: As America embraces early voting, GOP hurries to restrict it | Anthony Izaguirre/Associated Press

Nearly seven of every 10 voters cast their ballots before Election Day in 2020. Republicans are moving to make it harder for that to happen again, potentially affecting the voting preferences of millions of Americans. The GOP’s campaign to place new restrictions on mail-in and early voting in certain states will force voters to contend with new rules on what have quickly become popular and proven methods of casting ballots. Though it is difficult to forecast how exactly the changes will affect voter turnout in the years ahead, critics argue that the proposals target a voting method that has had growing appeal for both Democrats and Republicans, and will add additional and needless bureaucratic hurdles to casting ballots before Election Day. In just Georgia and Iowa, states where sweeping new voting restrictions already have been signed into law, more than 5 million voters used absentee or early in-person voting last fall. Restrictive early voting bills also are advancing in other politically important states where Republicans are in control, including Arizona, Florida and Texas. Altogether, nearly 27 million voters in those five states cast ballots in advance of the 2020 presidential election. “They’re trying to make it a hassle to vote,” said Dixie Davis, a 33-year-old seamstress in Fort Worth, Texas, who voted early in the last election. “I feel like voting should be convenient — it’s like the most basic service a government should provide in a democratic society.” The explosion of both early and mail voting in the 2020 election came after state officials across the country relaxed rules around who could cast ballots before Election Day in a one-time effort to avoid coronavirus spread at crowded polling places. Officials and experts have said the result was one of the smoothest elections in recent memory, without any of the widespread fraud alleged by former President Donald Trump and his allies.

Full Article: As America embraces early voting, GOP hurries to restrict it

National: As voting fight moves westward, accusations of racism follow | Acacia Coronado and Nicholas Riccardi/Associated Press

The Arizona Legislature was debating one of several Republican proposals to overhaul voting when GOP Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita said she’d had enough. “I don’t like to be characterized as supporting discriminatory laws!” she told Democrats, who say the legislation will hurt Latino and Native American voters. But Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada, a Latino from Phoenix, didn’t back down. “This will hurt my community. This will hurt my neighborhood.” “And,” he continued, “we’re going to continue bringing this up.” Indeed, Democrats are escalating their charges that the Republican push for tighter state voting laws is designed to make it hard for people of color to vote. As the fight moves from the Deep South to the Southwest, that’s put increased focus on the impact the proposals would have on Latino and Native American voters — groups with distinct histories of fighting for voting rights. “Arizona, Texas and several states in the Southwest have a long, sordid history of voter suppression, not only against African Americans but Latinos,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Fighting the new voting bills, he added, “is our No. 1 priority.”

Full Article: As voting fight moves westward, accusations of racism follow

Editorial: For 20 years, Republicans have groomed their voters to believe in fraud | Houston Chronicle

More than 80 percent of Texas Republicans think there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Despite there being no evidence that President Trump “won in a landslide” or that voting machines “deleted” votes, millions of Texans believe otherwise. Nationwide more than half of GOP voters claim President Biden didn’t win fair and square. Are these folks so easy to dupe? Are they blinded by partisanship? Are they being “unreasonable,” as former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell now claims they must be if they believe her unhinged assertions? While allegations of fraud are false — Trump’s big lie in the face of a hard loss — it’s not difficult to see how Republican voters needed little reason to believe. After all, the GOP has been grooming them for the last 20 years. Suppression efforts couched in the language of voter fraud are nothing new. In Texas, they go back to post-Reconstruction and efforts to curtail minority voting, but the Republican Party’s modern obsession with fraud can be traced to the 2000 election. “Bush versus Gore was a turning point,” Professor Edward Foley, who directs the election law program at Ohio State University, told the editorial board. “Suddenly, the image was that every vote really does matter, and that even a presidential election might come down to 500 votes.”

Full Article: Editorial: The Big Lie – For 20 years, Republicans have groomed their voters to believe in fraud

Arizona: Jovan Pulitzer, an icon among election fraud believers, will play a role in the election audit | Jeremy Duda/Arizona Mirror

Jovan Pulitzer, a favorite of election fraud conspiracy theorists who claims to have invented technology that can detect fraudulent ballots and whom Georgia’s Republican secretary of state recently derided as a “failed inventor and a failed treasure hunter,” will have a role in the Senate’s audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County. The audit will seek to “identify any ballots that are suspicious and potentially counterfeit,” according to the statement of work for the lead contractor, Cyber Ninjas. Pulitzer’s name does not appear in the document. But Ken Bennett, Arizona’s former secretary of state who’s serving as a spokesman for the audit, confirmed his involvement, though he said he’s unsure whether Pulitzer himself will be involved or whether the audit team will only be using his technology that Pulitzer claims can detect fraudulent ballots. Pulitzer’s involvement comes despite any evidence whatsoever that fraudulent ballots were cast in the general election, despite a lack of confirmation that his technology works as he claims, and despite questions about his credibility. Bennett said Doug Logan, the owner and CEO of Cyber Ninjas, told him that he consulted with Pulitzer while designing the process used to test the ballots, a process that Bennett said will include other people’s technology as well. He said his understanding is that all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County will be examined. Bennett said the Senate has not independently verified that Pulitzer’s technology actually does what he claims, but that other election officials he’s spoken with over the years have described similar technologies. “So, it doesn’t strike me as odd at all that he may have some technology to do the same thing,” Bennett said.

Full Article: Jovan Pulitzer, an icon among election fraud believers, will play a role in the Arizona election audit

Florida: Controversial ballot law heads to House floor | Renzo Downey/Florida Politics

The Florida House could soon vote on a measure Republicans say would increase election security, particularly around drop boxes. By a 16-8 vote, the House State Affairs Committee gave the final preliminary approval before the full House could consider the controversial bill (HB 7041). Democrats contend the stricter voting laws would make it harder for voters to use drop boxes. “We have 45 days of voting in the state Florida, three ways of voting,” Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the Spring Hill Republican carrying the bill, told the committee. “Anyone who says we’re restricting access to the ballot, I’m sorry, it’s just not accurate.” The bill comes despite Republicans, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, touting Florida’s 2020 election cycle as one of the smoothest and most secure in recent history. Ingoglia helped spearhead the state’s original drop box law, first used during the 2020 election cycle. “We should use every election as an opportunity to look back and identify things that we can do better,” Ingoglia said. Similar to a new election law that has come under fire in Georgia, the Spring Hill Republican’s bill would prevent people from attempting to influence a person’s vote within 150 feet of a drop box or polling place entrance. That would include a candidate handing out food or water to voters standing in line. Voting sites could only keep boxes available to the public during voting hours, and boxes must always be monitored by Supervisor of Elections personnel during those hours. During off-hours, offices could use security cameras to monitor secured boxes.

Full Article: Controversial ballot law heads to House floor

Georgia: Why Local Election Officials Take Issue With Many Parts Of New Law | Emma Hurt/NPR

Three weeks after it was signed into law, local election officials in Georgia are still trying to understand all the implications of the state’s controversial election overhaul. In a series of interviews, election officials said that while the Republican-led measure has some good provisions, many felt sidelined as the legislation was being debated, and believe that parts of it will make Georgia elections more difficult and expensive. One provision that particularly worries many officials is a new ability for the State Election Board to take over a county’s election management. The law empowers the state panel to take over if, in at least two elections within two years, the board finds “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence in the administration of the elections.” Tonnie Adams, chief registrar of Heard County on the Alabama state line, said this provision, coupled with another change — which replaces the secretary of state as board chair with an appointee of the General Assembly — are problematic. “The legislature now has three seats that they appoint on the State Election Board,” he said. “We thought that that was a gross overreach of power from one branch of government.”

Full Article: Why Local Election Officials In Georgia Take Issue With Many Parts Of New Law : NPR

Editorial: A partisan response to an imaginary crisis: Georgia voting law changes reflects badly on the state’s image | Mark Murphy/Savannah Morning News

The right to vote is one of the most fundamental privileges in any free nation. The capacity of voters to peacefully change the trajectory of government is a powerful tool, forcing elected officials to be held accountable for their actions on a regular basis. As originally ratified, the U.S. Constitution granted each state the right to determine voting qualifications for its residents. After the Civil War, there were three Reconstruction amendments that limited this discretion. The 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, was the most important of these, providing that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  Women were first allowed to vote after the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Unfortunately, southern states actively sought to disenfranchise racial minorities who tried to exercise their right to vote. Intimidation, outright voter fraud and so-called “Jim Crow laws,” which imposed voting restrictions like literacy tests, property ownership requirements, poll taxes, etc., were used to severely limit African American participation in the voting process in the south. The results were striking: In North Carolina, not a single Black voter was eligible to vote in any election from 1896 until 1904. In Louisiana, only 730 Black voters were registered to vote statewide in 1904 — less than 0.5% of the Black male population at that time.

Full Article: Georgia’s new election law, SB202, harms state’s image

Michigan: No, an algorithm did not manipulate election results | Clara Hendrickson/Detroit Free Press

Antrim County, the site of a human error that briefly produced inaccurate unofficial results on election night in November, remains the target of a misinformation effort that aims to sow doubt about the integrity of the 2020 election. A resident’s lawsuit against the county, filed in late November, helped fuel a debunked conspiracy theory that tabulators made by Dominion Voting Systems switched votes on behalf of Joe Biden, who was erroneously shown as having won the county on election night. Former President Donald Trump seized upon an analysis filed in the suit that was rife with inaccurate information to advance his claims of a stolen election. A hand recount of every ballot cast in Antrim County affirmed the results and Trump’s victory there. … David Becker, founder and executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Election Innovation & Research, called the allegations in the pleading “fantastical.” In an email to the Free Press, Becker said such a conspiracy would have had to be carried out by thousands of people and leave behind a mountain of evidence: meddling with the voter file, extra ballots that couldn’t be explained, voters who tried to vote but couldn’t because someone else had cast their ballots and audits confirming tabulators were tampered. “There is literally zero evidence of any conspiracy, involving thousands of people, in any state,” including Michigan, Becker wrote.

Full Article: Algorithm did not manipulate Michigan election results

Michigan: The ‘loophole’ Republicans could use to sidestep Whitmer on voting laws | Jane C. Timm/NBC

Michigan Democrats have promised that any bills that attempt to place new restrictions on voting won’t get past Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Those bills will not get signed into law,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, a Democrat, told NBC News of the proposals. He called the efforts part of an “anti-voter, anti-democratic participation movement that is sweeping Republican-led legislatures across the nation.” But the state’s GOP lawmakers, who enjoy majorities in both chambers but not enough to override a veto, have a unique option that could allow them to enact sweeping changes to elections in a critical presidential battleground without the governor’s support: a little-used quirk in the state’s ballot initiative process. “It’s like this special loophole where they get to cram through a whole raft of bills,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, the group that led the effort to use a ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting commission in the state a few years ago. Under the Michigan Constitution, citizens can put an initiative on the ballot if they gather a certain number of signatures — at least 8 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial race. This year, that would be about 340,000 voters’ signatures. But before an initiative reaches the ballot, the state Legislature has the ability to pass the proposed law with simple majority vote in each chamber, and such a measure cannot be vetoed. This process is rarely used: Just nine other initiatives have become law this way in the last 58 years, according to the state.

Full Article: The ‘loophole’ Michigan Republicans could use to sidestep Whitmer on voting laws

Montana Governor signs bills eliminating Election Day registration, tightening voter ID | Alex Sakariassen/Montana Free Press

Gov. Greg Gianforte has officially ended the state’s long-standing practice of allowing citizens to register to vote on Election Day, a change he said will help preserve the integrity of Montana’s elections, but that critics have decried as a blatant attack on voter rights. Under House Bill 176, which Gianforte signed into law Monday, Montana voters will now be required to register no later than noon on the day before an election. Gianforte also signed Senate Bill 169, meaning any voter who does not have a government-issued photo ID or a state concealed carry permit must produce two forms of identification in order to cast a ballot at the polls. Both bills passed the Legislature on largely party-line votes after months of heated testimony that made voting rules one of the more contested issues of the 2021 session. “Montana has a long history of secure, transparent elections, setting a standard for the nation,” Gianforte said in a statement announcing the changes. “These new laws will help ensure the continued integrity of Montana’s elections for years to come.” The new laws were specifically requested by Republican Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, who was present at the bill signing. Jacobsen also released a statement Monday saying “voter ID and voter registration deadlines are best practices in protecting the integrity of elections.”

Full Article: Governor approves changes to election law

Ohio: Progressive group circulates election bill; GOP lawmaker says it’s not final | Jessie Balmert Anna Staver/Cincinnati Enquirer

A progressive group published a draft of an Ohio election overhaul that would eliminate a day of early voting, require more forms of identification to vote early in person and allow drop boxes only during a statewide emergency. However, Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, says that draft won’t turn into proposed legislation. “What you have is not what will be introduced,” said Seitz, one of several lawmakers working on changes to Ohio election law. “Drafts are drafts. That’s all they are.” What changes will be introduced? Seitz wouldn’t share any details, but Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, said the fact that a draft like that exists at all says something about the “misguided notions” of her Republican colleagues. “They have had these false notions of we need to have more strict voter ID laws because of voter fraud, and that’s just not true,” Sweeney said. “That’s a lie, and it’s part of voter suppression.” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, has pushed for a way to request mail-in ballots online, the ability to update voter information at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and direction on how many ballot collection drop boxes each county should allow.

Full Article: Progressive group circulates Ohio election bill; GOP lawmaker says it’s not final

Pennsylvania: U.S. Supreme Court dismisses the last challenge over 2020 election | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

The U.S. Supreme Court closed the books on Pennsylvania’s 2020 election Monday, rejecting an appeal of a Republican congressional candidate’s unsuccessful challenge of the state’s mail-ballot deadlines. The case was the last of a torrent of litigation challenging the administration of Pennsylvania’s election, which drew intense scrutiny and several appeals to the Supreme Court. But the court repeatedly declined to intervene in the Pennsylvania cases, even as some conservative justices signaled potential interest. On Monday — five months and 16 days after Election Day, and three months into Biden’s presidency — the court vacated the previous judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, returned the case to the circuit court, and instructed it to dismiss the case as moot. No justices were listed as dissenting from the decision. The ruling means the state can count about 10,000 mail ballots that had arrived after Election Day. They were far too few to change President Joe Biden’s 81,000-vote victory in Pennsylvania but those votes hadn’t been included in the state’s certified vote count, leaving thousands of voters technically without a voice in the election. The Pennsylvania Department of State is now “reviewing the options” for those ballots, a spokesperson said Monday. The case resolved Monday, Bognet v. Degraffenreid, was one of several focused on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling that extended mail-ballot deadlines until three days after Election Day. That ruling was meant to address concerns that mail delivery delays would prevent votes from arriving on time.

Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court dismisses the last challenge over Pennsylvania’s 2020 election

Puerto Rico deserves to be a state. Will Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva help make it happen? | Matt Helder and José A. Cabrera/AZCentral

Puerto Ricans headed to the polls in November, just like every other American. But rather than Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, headlining the ballot was a simple question: Should Puerto Rico be admitted as a state? Yes or no. That’s because unlike every other American, Puerto Ricans are denied the right to vote for president, for U.S. senators and for voting members of the House of Representatives. While previous referendums in 2012 and 2017 demonstrated that Puerto Rico preferred statehood to varying degrees, the 2020 result conclusively showed that a majority of voters want statehood. In addition to the 53% of Puerto Rican voters who said “yes” to statehood, they also elected a second consecutive pro-statehood governor and reelected their pro-statehood congresswoman, Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, to carry their message to Washington, D.C.

Full Article: Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva is key to Puerto Rico becoming a state

In Texas, GOP voting bills zero in on Democratic Houston | Paul J. Weber/Associated Press

The nation’s next big voting battle underway in Texas would outlaw 24-hour polling places, drive-thru voting and make it a crime for elections officials to mail unsolicited absentee ballot applications. Put another way: Everything Houston — the state’s biggest Democratic stronghold — did to expand ballot access last year, when the threat of the coronavirus made voting in-person more hazardous. Amid a GOP-led campaign to tighten voting laws, Republican lawmakers in in Texas have been unusually explicit in zeroing in on Houston and surrounding Harris County as they push to tighten the state’s voting laws. One of the country’s largest and most racially diverse counties, Harris rolled out new ways to vote in 2020 on a scale like nowhere else in Texas. Although there is no evidence of fraud resulting from votes cast from cars or in the dead of night, Republicans are determined to prevent it from happening again. The effort is one of the clearest examples of how the GOP’s nationwide campaign to tighten voting laws can target Democrats, even as they insist the measures are not partisan. With Americans increasingly sorted into liberal urban areas and conservative rural ones, geography can be an effective proxy for partisanship. Proposals tailored to cities or that take population into account are bound to have a greater impact on Democratic voters. That’s likely the case in Georgia, where a new voting law prescribes the number absentee ballot drop boxes per county and uses a formula based on the number of registered voters or early voting sites. Election officials in the Atlanta area have said the change will slash the number of drop boxes available to their voters when compared to 2020 levels.

Full Article: In Texas, GOP voting bills zero in on Democratic Houston

Editorial: The Big Lie – If voter fraud is an epidemic, why can’t Texas find it? | Houston Chronicle

We dare you. Name a state official anywhere in this nation who yearns to snuff out voter fraud more than the steadfast soldiers of election security here in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott, in his feverish clairvoyance, declared voter fraud an “epidemic” way back in 2005, when he was still attorney general, and launched a unit to root it out. His successor, Ken Paxton, beefed up his election integrity unit last year, with prosecutors toiling more than 22,000 hours on the taxpayers’ dime hunting for polling improprieties. In November, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick topped them all by dangling a $1 million bounty, payable from his own campaign account, to anyone who came forward with information leading to a voter fraud conviction. So, if voter fraud is the scourge of our democracy, if it’s capable of stealing a presidential election, as some claim, if it’s widespread enough to qualify for “emergency” status in the state Legislature to ratchet up voting restrictions, then surely, the proof of its magnitude lies in Texas. Indeed it does. After 15 years of looking for election fraud among the 94 million votes cast in Texas elections since 2005, the Texas Attorney General’s office has dutifully prosecuted all of 155 people. Add to that 19 cases cataloged by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which include federal and county prosecutions, and you get a grand total of 174. That’s not a typo. It’s not 174,000 or 17,400 or even 1,740.

Full Article: Editorial: The Big Lie – If voter fraud is an epidemic, why can’t Texas find it?

National: U.S. to Sanction Russia, Expel Diplomats Over Alleged Election Interference, Hacking | Michael R. Gordon, Dustin Volz and Vivian Salama/Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration will impose a range of retaliatory measures against Russia on Thursday in response to Moscow’s alleged election interference, a widespread hacking campaign and other malign activity, according to people familiar with the matter. Using a new executive order, the measure will expand the existing prohibitions on U.S. banks trading in Russian government debt, two of the people said. Previous prohibitions targeting portions of Russian sovereign debt shook Russia’s markets and added to its economic woes. That order prohibits U.S. financial institutions from buying new bonds directly from Russia’s central bank, finance ministry and the country’s massive sovereign-wealth fund after June 14. Among other measures, 10 Russian diplomats will be expelled, including some due to allegations that Russia offered to pay bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. military service members, the people said. Sanctions will be imposed for Russia’s cyber intrusions, election meddling and occupation of Crimea.

Full Article: U.S. to Sanction Russia, Expel Diplomats Over Alleged Election Interference, Hacking – WSJ

Georgia’s Voting Law Will Make Elections Easier to Hack | Lawrence Norden and Gowri Ramachandran/Slate

When Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s new restrictive voting provisions into law, he claimed the controversial changes—including making it harder to request mail ballots and use drop boxes—are necessary to improve election security. These bills, of course, spring from the Big Lie about our elections, but there is another irony here. Much of the “election integrity” legislation in Georgia and around the country would actually weaken our election systems and reduce their capacity to recover from a technological problem, whether a malfunction or an attack. During the 2020 election, the increased variety in voting methods and the longer time frame for voting meant that, in many states, election officials were handling smaller groups of voters and ballots at once than they were in past elections. If a technological problem arose, the reduced crowds made it easier to diagnose and solve the problem and get voters voting again. For example, during early voting in 2020, Georgia’s statewide voter registration database was having trouble handling the logins of election staff across the state. The problem caused extremely long lines. Georgia officials weren’t able to fix it immediately, but within a few days the issue was addressed, lines improved, and voters who might have not been able to stand in long lines because of work or other obligations still had opportunities to cast their ballot. If there had only been one or two days for in-person voting, those voters might not have had another chance. And the lines would have been even longer, with many more voters showing up to cast their ballot at once. Many of the so-called election integrity bills would reduce the availability of ballot drop boxes—one bill in Florida would eliminate them entirely. During the 2020 election, drop boxes were a convenient voting option for many people who might have been concerned about the reliability of the post office: Voters could drop their absentee ballot into a nearby box instead of showing up to polling places on Election Day. This helped reduce the lines at polling places for those voters who preferred or needed the in-person option instead. Drop boxes helped all voters—absentee and in-person—by making sure they didn’t all show up to the polling place on Election Day, which would have made it harder for poll workers to deal with inevitable technical problems or cyberattacks. Even if fears of delays with the postal system subside in the future, cyberattacks or staffing cuts could result in slow mail service, or election officials could have trouble processing ballot requests quickly, leading to delays in voters receiving their ballots in time to mail them back. Drop boxes will help ensure the resiliency of the system.

Full Article: Restrictive voting laws don’t enhance election security. They threaten it.

National: Hundreds of corporations, business leaders, celebs sign statement against voting restrictions | Hannah Miao/CNBC

Hundreds of corporations, executives and celebrities released a statement Wednesday in opposition to “any discriminatory legislation or measures” that would restrict ballot access. Signatories include corporations such as AmazonBlackRock and General Motors and individuals such as Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and music star Ariana Grande. The statement is the latest and largest showing of corporate backlash to GOP-backed election bills in state legislatures across the country that civil rights advocates say will make it harder for minorities to vote. Ken Chenault, former American Express CEO, and Ken Frazier, chief executive of Merck, organized the statement, according to The New York Times, which first reported on the statement. The statement appeared in print advertisements Wednesday in the Times and The Washington Post. American AirlinesAppleBank of AmericaCiscoFacebookMicrosoftNetflixStarbucksTargetTwitter and Vanguard were among dozens of corporate names to sign the statement.

Full Article: Corporations, business leaders, celebrities sign statement against voting restrictions

National: Smartmatic Responds To Fox News Defense In $2.7 Billion Defamation Lawsuit | Ted Johnson/Deadline

Smartmatic said that Fox News cannot get a “Get Out Of Jail Free Card” to escape a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit, in which the company says that the network ruined its reputation when on-air personalities spread conspiracy theories and falsehoods about its role in the 2020 presidential election. “The Fox Defendants solicited and published calculated falsehoods about Smartmatic,” the company’s legal team said in a brief filed late on Monday in New York Supreme Court (read it here). “They enjoy no protection or immunity pursuant to the First Amendment or New York law.” Fox News and three on-air personalities, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs, are seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, which Smartmatic filed in Feburary. Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who represented the Trump campaign and appeared numerous times on Fox News shows, also were named as defendants. Smartmatic and another voting systems company, Dominion, became the source of false claims that they played a role in rigging the results of the election in favor of Joe Biden. Dominion sued Fox News last month. In their brief, Smartmatic’s lawyers wrote that the Fox anchors “were not innocent bystanders and the disinformation generated during their interviews was no accident.”

Full Article: Smartmatic Responds To Fox News Defense In $2.7 Billion Defamation Lawsuit – Deadline

National: Research undercuts idea that changes to absentee voting in 2020 benefited Democrats | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

President Donald Trump’s dishonest explanation of his 2020 election loss has evolved slightly over time. He was assiduous (a generous way of saying obsessive) about claiming even before Election Day that expanded access to absentee voting posed a risk to him given that mailed ballots were rife with fraud. They were not, despite Trump’s insistences. A conservative organization’s database of purported fraud cases includes only one example of criminal charges centered on fraud in the general election last year: a case in which a father signed his daughter’s ballot while she was at college. The utter lack of credible evidence of fraud prompted Republicans broadly and Trump eventually to shift their complaints to center on how absentee ballot access was increased, conflating their claims that changing those rules violated the Constitution with broad, necessarily vague claims that something, somewhere went wrong, costing the incumbent a second term. For decades, Republicans have used similarly nebulous allegations of fraud to advocate for changing voting rules in ways that tend to disproportionately disadvantage Democratic voters. At times they have been explicit in trying to lock out more Democrats. In the current moment, though, the offered arguments are different, using the same vagueness that Trump is using to rationalize losing to provide their own rationalizations for changes to existing laws. Often, those are framed as being necessary to prevent purported “fraud”; at other times, the changes are instead offered as a way to address “concerns” voters have about election security, concerns Republicans and Trump themselves amplified. It’s become something of a legislative protection racket: claim that there’s a threat and then offer to address the threat. The result? Changes to laws that add restrictions to the ability to vote, particularly by mail.

Full Article: Research undercuts idea that changes to absentee voting in 2020 benefited Democrats – The Washington Post

National: Biden’s Choice for Civil Rights Post Has Worked to Defend Voting Rights | Katie Benner/The New York Times

When Alabama’s Shelby County sued nearly a decade ago to strike down key pieces of the Voting Rights Act, a civil rights lawyer named Kristen Clarke helped to argue that the entire law should be upheld. A district court agreed, reaffirming that local governments with a history of discriminatory voting practices needed federal permission to change their voting laws. Though the Supreme Court ultimately overturned the lower-court ruling, the case helped establish Ms. Clarke as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for voting rights protections. Nominated by President Biden to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, she would if confirmed be likely to play a key role on the issue for the administration, which has made defense of voting rights a priority as states including Georgia work to enact laws that restrict access to the ballot box. Mr. Biden called Georgia’s recently passed legislation “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” and he and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland have said that the government must preserve the right to vote. “I will follow their lead in ensuring that the Civil Rights Division, if I am confirmed, is using the tools in its arsenal — the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Citizens Voting Act — to ensure that eligible Americans have access to the ballot in our country,” Ms. Clarke said on Wednesday during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ms. Clarke, 46, who would be the first Senate-confirmed leader of the Civil Rights Division to be a woman of color, testified alongside Todd Kim, a Justice Department veteran and Mr. Biden’s choice to run its Environmental and Natural Resources Division. Mr. Kim told senators that protecting the nation’s “shared interest in the environment and our natural resources” was a calling.

Full Article: Biden’s Choice for Civil Rights Post Has Worked to Defend Voting Rights – The New York Times

Arizona: A cybersecurity expert who promoted claims of fraud in the 2020 election is leading the GOP-backed recount of millions of ballots | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

The nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, Ariz., last fall are currently packaged in 40 cardboard shrink-wrapped boxes and stacked on 45 pallets in a county facility in Phoenix known as “the vault,” due to its sophisticated security and special fire-suppression system. But on order of the Republican-led state Senate, the ballots and the county’s voting equipment are scheduled to be trucked away next week — handed over for a new recount and audit spurred by unsubstantiated claims that fraud or errors tainted President Biden’s win in Arizona’s largest county. The ballots will be scrutinized not by election officials, but by a group of private companies led by a private Florida-based firm, whose owner has promoted claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent and who has been cited as an expert by allies of former president Donald Trump seeking to cast doubt on the election in other parts of the country. Trump supporters, including a lawyer who volunteered with his post-election legal team, have been raising private dollars to supplement $150,000 in taxpayer money that has been earmarked to fund the Arizona recount.

Full Article: A cybersecurity expert who promoted claims of fraud in the 2020 election is leading the GOP-backed recount of millions of ballots in Arizona – The Washington Post

Editorial: Arizona Senate is abusing its authority. End its election ‘audit’ now | Arizona Republic

Republicans in the Arizona Legislature have set aside dollars, hired consultants, procured the hardware and software to conduct what they call “an audit” of the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County. What they don’t have is the moral authority to make it credible. Their conduct post-election has been so nakedly partisan that whatever their audit finds, its results will not be believed. They’ll be mocked and derided. State Senate Republicans insist they are not trying to reverse the election, but are rather trying to build greater trust in the system. But how can anyone trust them? They have overreached from the beginning, abusing their subpoena power to try to criminalize a dispute with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. County officials resisted their demands to hand over county tabulating machines and ballots. The system had already gone through rigorous testing, established by election law. And even the Republican governor of Arizona and the Democrat secretary of state affirmed the integrity of the election.

Full Article: Arizona Senate is abusing its authority. End its election ‘audit’ now

Colorado: Pueblo County clerk posts photos of 2020 ballots for election integrity | Sara Wilson/The Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo County is posting images of most ballots from the 2020 general election online as a way for citizens to self-audit ballots to verify election results, following an election season rife with debunked claims of fraud in the voting process. “This year because of all of the disinformation — and I want to be specific, not misinformation but knowingly-told lies about the election — I made the decision that I wanted to put it all on my website,” Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz said. “I thought this was the perfect opportunity to show the integrity of our elections.” Ortiz, a Democrat elected to the clerk position in 2006, testified to the State Auditor’s Board in January that he would make ballot images available online. As of April 8, that promise is met. Puebloans can view the 89,155 vote records in two places: on a Google Drive that Ortiz set up or through a pilot program from Dominion Voting System, which requires an email registration. On the Dominion site, users can filter the ballots by precinct, district, electoral contest and whether or not the ballot was adjudicated. Those records show the original ballot and how the machine counted it so viewers can verify that if a voter bubbled in President Joe Biden’s name, the machine recorded it that way.

Full Article: Pueblo County clerk posts photos of 2020 ballots for election integrity

Georgia: Fulton County Elections will be more expensive, more complicated | Ben Brasch/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Having the eyes of the nation trained on you isn’t cheap. That’s why Fulton County spent a record-breaking $38.3 million to run the blockbuster 2020 election cycle. But officials expect elections costs to keep going up. To put the $38 million presidential pricetag into perspective: Fulton spent $9.9 million in 2016 and about $6.1 million in 2012. Compare the $11.1 million the county spent during the historic 2008 election to the $11.5 million the county plans to spend on the 2022 general election. Fulton elections head Richard Barron said Wednesday he expects it will cost $7.2 million to run this year’s municipal election, which includes the Atlanta mayoral contest. That doesn’t include the cost of a runoff. After a calamitous June primary — with some voters waiting hours in line, many because they never received mail-in ballots because Fulton’s system was overwhelmed — the county budgeted to administer the election.

Full Article: Fulton: Elections will be more expensive, more complicated

Georgia: Why Local Election Officials Take Issue With Many Parts Of New Law | Emma Hurt/Georgia Public Broadcasting

Three weeks after it was signed into law, local election officials in Georgia are still trying to understand all the implications of the state’s controversial election overhaul. In a series of interviews, election officials said that while the Republican-led measure has some good provisions, many felt sidelined as the legislation was being debated, and believe that parts of it will make Georgia elections more difficult and expensive. One provision that particularly worries many officials is a new ability for the State Election Board to take over a county’s election management. The law empowers the state panel to take over if, in at least two elections within two years, the board finds “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence in the administration of the elections.” Tonnie Adams, chief registrar of Heard County on the Alabama state line, said this provision, coupled with another change — which replaces the secretary of state as board chair with an appointee of the General Assembly — are problematic. “The legislature now has three seats that they appoint on the State Election Board,” he said. “We thought that that was a gross overreach of power from one branch of government.” Joseph Kirk, Bartow County’s elections supervisor, also took issue with the hypothetical scenario. The legislature could effectively “replace a bipartisan board [of elections] with a single appointee that has complete control over that department,” Kirk said. “So a person could come in, and hire and fire and discipline as they see fit. And as I read this law, I’m really hoping they never need to go that route.”

Full Article: Why Local Election Officials In Georgia Take Issue With Many Parts Of New Law | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Illinois: Human error at fault for McHenry County election issues | Kelli Duncan/Daily Herald

McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio released a report Wednesday on the problems his office encountered in reporting the April 6 election results, which led to a countywide vote recount and ultimately changed the projected outcome of several school board races. Tirio presented the report at a meeting of McHenry County Board members Thursday morning and began by apologizing to residents. “I know they expected to have the results on election night, and I apologize that they were not entirely accurate,” he said. “A more sincere, heartfelt apology to the candidates that were negatively affected — those that thought they had won and found out the following day that they hadn’t.” The report gave a step-by-step look into how the clerk’s office was alerted of the issue — causing the votes for a several school board races and other down-ballot races to be misreported — and what officials did in the two days that followed. It also gets to the heart of what caused the erroneous reporting. Essentially, the file used to print ballots was an earlier version than the ballot design used to program the county’s vote counting machines, or “tabulators,” the report states. The newer version had additional information about the term duration for school board candidates. The change shifted the ballot’s text so it no longer matched with the “target areas” programmed into the county’s tabulators, which tell the machine where to look for votes, according to the report and comments made by Tirio.

Full Article: Report: Human error at fault for McHenry County election issues

As Michigan G.O.P. Plans Voting Limits, Top Corporations Fire a Warning Shot | Reid J. Epstein and Trip Gabriel/The New York Times

At first glance, the partisan battle over voting rights in Michigan appears similar to that of many other states: The Republican-led Legislature, spurred by former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about election fraud, has introduced a rash of proposals to restrict voting access, angering Democrats, who are fighting back. But plenty of twists and turns are looming as Michigan’s State Senate prepares to hold hearings on a package of voting bills beginning Wednesday. Unlike Georgia, Florida and Texas, which have also moved to limit voting access, Michigan has a Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who said last month she would veto any bill imposing new restrictions. But unlike in other states with divided governments, Michigan’s Constitution offers Republicans a rarely used option for circumventing Ms. Whitmer’s veto. Last month, the state’s Republican chairman told activists that he aimed to do just that — usher new voting restrictions into law using a voter-driven petition process that would bypass the governor’s veto pen. In response, Michigan Democrats and voting rights activists are contemplating a competing petition drive, while also scrambling to round up corporate opposition to the bills; they are hoping to avoid a replay of what happened in Georgia, where the state’s leading businesses didn’t weigh in against new voting rules until after they were signed into law. The maneuvering by both parties has turned Michigan into a test case of how states with divided government will deal with voting laws, and how Republicans in state legislatures are willing to use any administrative tool at their disposal to advance Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraud and pursue measures that could disenfranchise many voters. The proposal puts new restrictions on how election officials can distribute absentee ballots and how voters can cast them, limiting the use of drop boxes, for example.

Source: As Michigan G.O.P. Plans Voting Limits, Top Corporations Fire a Warning Shot – The New York Times

Mississippi Secretary of State defends own comment about ‘woke’ voters | Emily Wagster Pettus/Associated Press

Mississippi’s top elections official says he thinks people are doing a “hatchet job” on him over comments he made in a television interview about “woke” and “uninformed” voters on college campuses. Secretary of State Michael Watson, a Republican, said March 26 on WLOX-TV that he opposes any move by the federal government to set new rules about voter registration or mail-in voting. “Think about all these ‘woke’ college university students now who would automatically be registered to vote, whether they wanted to or not,” Watson said. “Again, if they didn’t know to opt out, they would be automatically registered to vote. And then they receive this mail-in ballot that they didn’t even know was coming because they didn’t know they registered to vote. You have an uninformed citizen who may not be prepared and ready to vote, automatically it’s forced on them, ‘Hey, go and make a choice.’ And our country’s going to pay for those choices.”

Full Article: Mississippi official defends own comment about ‘woke’ voters

New Jersey early voting to cost millions more than planned for? | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

A comprehensive study of the cost of implementing New Jersey’s early voting law shows taxpayers will have to pony up $77 million — this year alone — just to pay for new voting machines and other essential hardware. That is almost four times the amount set aside in this year’s budget to finance the landmark law, and it does not include millions more needed for the hiring and training of poll workers, facility upgrades and a range of other ongoing expenses. “We’re very disappointed that the governor’s budget does not provide anywhere near enough money,” said John Donaddio, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, which carried out the study and based its findings on data from all 21 counties. “We have no indication where the rest will come from.” Donaddio said his group is seeking to delay the start of early voting, set to begin statewide in October, and may also file a complaint with the state Council on Local Mandates. The council has constitutional authority to effectively nullify state laws or regulations it deems “unfunded mandates” on local governments or boards of education. The governor’s office referred questions to the Department of State, which oversees all elections and maintains the statewide voter registration system.

Full Article: Early NJ voting to cost millions more than planned for? | NJ Spotlight News