Georgia County Employees Saved State’s Elections, But At What Personal Cost? | Christopher Alston/WABE

Deidre Holden has been Paulding County election director for 17 years and has lived in the county since she was 3. Holden remembers where she was when she first learned the pandemic was going to drastically alter her job. “I was actually in Nashville, Tennessee, when Secretary [Brad] Raffensperger made the announcement that we were going to postpone the election. And when that happens and you hear that, your wheels start turning on how you can make that work,” Holden said. County election directors like Holden earned praise for handling the strains of conducting a heated presidential election during a pandemic. While the stress has led some to resign and others are considering it, some are holding steadfast in their positions. The government response to the pandemic had an immediate effect on election departments because it meant quickly rescheduling the presidential preference primary originally slated for March 24 of last year. Like many of her colleagues, Holden had to deal with a drop in poll workers, and older workers who know elections best were the first to go because of their vulnerability to the virus.

Full Article: County Employees Saved Georgia’s Elections, But At What Personal Cost? | 90.1 FM WABE

National: House passes sweeping voting rights bill over GOP opposition | Brian Slodysko/Associated Press

House Democrats passed sweeping voting and ethics legislation Wednesday over unanimous Republican opposition, advancing to the Senate what would be the largest overhaul of the U.S. election law in at least a generation. House Resolution 1, which touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process, was approved on a near party-line 220-210 vote. It would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously bankroll political causes. The bill is a powerful counterweight to voting rights restrictions advancing in Republican-controlled statehouses across the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s repeated false claims of a stolen 2020 election. Yet it faces an uncertain fate in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it has little chance of passing without changes to procedural rules that currently allow Republicans to block it. The stakes in the outcome are monumental, cutting to the foundational idea that one person equals one vote, and carrying with it the potential to shape election outcomes for years to come. It also offers a test of how hard President Joe Biden and his party are willing to fight for their priorities, as well as those of their voters. This bill “will put a stop at the voter suppression that we’re seeing debated right now,” said Rep. Nikema Williams, a new congresswoman who represents the Georgia district that deceased voting rights champion John Lewis held for years. “This bill is the ‘Good Trouble’ he fought for his entire life.”

Full Article: House passes sweeping voting rights bill over GOP opposition

National: House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A sweeping elections bill passed by the House on Wednesday night would boost cybersecurity measures and focus on countering foreign interference efforts like the kind that affected the 2016 and 2018 elections. The bill, which the House passed on a mostly party-line vote of 220-210, marks a major effort by Democrats to tackle both voting reforms, such as increasing access to the polls through use of mail-in ballots, and cybersecurity upgrades. Among issues included in H.R. 1 is a requirement that states use voter-verified paper ballots as part of the election process, a move supporters have pointed to as a vital safety net to check votes in the event of election tampering. It also allocates funding to enable the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to give grants to states to replace outdated and potentially insecure voting machines, along with authorizing funds for states to carry out election audits. Further, states would be required to take steps to strengthen the security of voter registration databases against cyberattacks, test voting systems nine months before each federal general election, and mandate the director of national intelligence to submit a report to both Congress and each chief state election official detailing cybersecurity threats prior to federal elections. The White House would also be pulled into the effort to defend against threats to elections, with the president required to produce a national strategy to defend democratic institutions, and produce an implementation plan for this strategy, within 90 days of the bill becoming law.

Full Article: House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | TheHill

National: Voting machines using wireless technology increase fears over hacking | Ryan Lovelace/The Washington Times

A federal elections panel recently adopted new voting equipment standards despite an outcry from cybersecurity professionals who warned that the changes will leave America’s digitized ballot boxes more vulnerable to hacks. The new standards from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which lawmakers also protested, did not prohibit embedding wireless communications hardware into voting machines as long as it is turned off. The prospect of a flip of a switch opening wireless access to the ballot box exacerbates widespread fears that the U.S. voting system is not safe or reliable. Two dozen cybersecurity, computer science and election integrity professionals organized by the nonprofit Free Speech for People wrote to the commission to warn that the public’s faith in voting would crater further if the commission allows the wireless technology, such as wireless radios, chips and modems, which are more capable of connecting to the internet. “Public concerns about the security of our election infrastructure are higher than ever before. It is crucial that our election systems be secure and that our citizens trust that election systems are secure,” the cybersecurity professionals wrote to the commission. “Permitting the inclusion of wireless radios will both increase the vulnerabilities of the voting system and diminish voter confidence in the security of our election systems. Neither is acceptable.”

Full Article: Voting machines using wireless technology increase fears over hacking – Washington Times

National: Republicans Move to Control Voting After Record 2020 Turnout | Kane Farabaugh/VoA News

Months after record-high U.S. voter turnout propelled Democrats to victory in the 2020 elections, giving them control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans are attempting to reshape election laws in state legislatures across the nation. In state after state, Republicans seek to limit opportunities for early and absentee balloting that Americans flocked to last year — Democratic voters in particular. In America’s heartland, Iowa is among the first examples of the trend. More than 2 million Iowans were registered to vote in the 2020 general election, a record in a state with a population of just over 3.1 million. Of 1.7 million ballots ultimately cast in Iowa last November, more than 1 million were submitted through the mail as absentee ballots — also a record — as many voters shunned the polls during a pandemic. Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, won Iowa but lost the national election to Democrat Joe Biden. Now Republicans, who control Iowa’s state legislature, have passed a bill limiting early, in-person voting and shortening the time allotted for absentee ballot submissions. Republicans argue that expanded use of both could invite fraudulent balloting even if no evidence of widespread fraud emerged from the 2020 elections.

Full Article: Republicans Move to Control Voting After Record 2020 Turnout | Voice of America – English

National: A new government watchdog report highlights urgent federal cybersecurity risks | Tonya Riley/The Washington Post

Government agencies could have caught a massive Russian hacking campaign sooner if they had implemented urgent cybersecurity recommendations from the federal government’s top watchdog. That’s the message the Government Accountability Office gave the House’s top oversight committee yesterday following the release of its biennial report listing government programs at highest risk of mismanagement and abuse. “It certainly would have led to an earlier discovery of the attack,” U.S. Comptroller General Eugene L. Dodaro told House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) when asked about the GAO findings. “It’s hard to say … but we would have been better postured to detect the attack ourselves and to take quicker action,” he said, referring to the fact the campaign was uncovered by private cybersecurity firm FireEye months after Russian hackers accessed government systems. The GAO report provides an early blueprint for how Congress and federal agencies can work to address the significant cybersecurity issues raised by the hack of SolarWinds software, which led to the compromise of at least nine federal agencies. “[A]nother silent battle is being fought in our IT networks by cyber attackers intent on stealing our intellectual property and undermining our national security,” Maloney said during her opening statement. “The SolarWinds breach that came to light last December, as well as escalating and targeted cyberattacks that have drained millions of dollars from struggling hospitals, are just two examples of the threats we know about.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: A new government watchdog report highlights urgent federal cybersecurity risks – The Washington Post

National: American City & County’s 2020 Exemplary Public Servant of the Year Award | Derek Prall/American City and County

Every year, American City & County selects an outstanding public servant to honor as a recipient of our annual Exemplary Public Servant of the Year award. In the past, this award has been given to leaders who showed courage in the face of adversity, who made tough decisions to better their communities, or whose innovative solutions averted disasters. However, this year, we’re doing something a little different. Instead of profiling one specific leader, this year’s Exemplary Public Servant of the Year award is going to the country’s county clerks and election officials for their work in preserving American democracy during what was one of the most challenging elections in our nation’s history. Not only was there a global pandemic to contend with, but trust in our election processes were severely eroded. Poll workers and officials were required to make critical last-minute decisions on how to best hold an election during the worst health crisis this country has seen in over a century, all the while being demeaned and undermined from all angles. It’s for this fortitude, perseverance and sacrifice that has made the decision to honor and uplift these individuals. You quite literally pulled democracy back from the precipice, and for that we all owe you a debt of gratitude. Ricky Hatch, the clerk and auditor for Weber County, Utah, says that every year, year after year, election officials work tirelessly to ensure American democratic processes are perceived, but this year was entirely different. “We face enormous pressure from multiple sources, but the biggest pressure is what we put on ourselves to do things right,” Hatch says. “In 2020, people questioned our competency, our intelligence, our morals, and sometimes our parentage. We faced unsubstantiated allegations, protests and threats of violence. My car was vandalized twice. We worked 18-hour days for weeks and months.”

Full Article: American City & County’s 2020 Exemplary Public Servant of the Year Award – American City and County

National: How Trump’s stolen election lies are shaping the future of US voting | Alex Woodward/The Independent

“We are legislating on lies.” On the floor of Georgia’s House of Representatives on 1 March, state Democratic Rep Bee Nguyen warned her colleagues that the bill in front of them – a 66-page, Republican-backed proposal to drastically roll back voting access across the state – followed a months-long campaign from Donald Trump and his GOP allies to undermine millions of voters with baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and a “stolen” election. “Lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories that have gone unchecked by many members of this body who stayed silent,” she said. “Members of this body aided and abetted a deliberate misinformation campaign to sow seeds of doubt among Georgia voters with absolutely no facts or evidence.” The bill would, among other things, cut mail-in voting and early voting access, strip elections oversight from the state’s Secretary of State, and limit voting access that would disproportionately target Black voters. After a massive voter registration and enfranchisement effort among voting rights groups in the state, Joe Biden defeated the incumbent, and voters elected two Democratic senators, shifting the balance of power in Congress and affirming Mr Trump’s ejection from the White House.

Full Article: How Trump’s stolen election lies are shaping the future of US voting | The Independent

Arizona: Supreme Court Seems Ready to Sustain Voting Limits | Adam Liptak/The New York Times

The Supreme Court seemed ready on Tuesday to uphold two election restrictions in Arizona and to make it harder to challenge all sorts of limits on voting around the nation. In its most important voting rights case in almost a decade, the court for the first time considered how a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 applies to voting restrictions that have a disproportionate impact on members of minority groups. The court heard the case as disputes over voting rights have again become a flash point in American politics. The immediate question for the justices was whether two Arizona measures ran afoul of the 1965 law. One of the measures requires election officials to discard ballots cast at the wrong precinct. The other makes it a crime for campaign workers, community activists and most other people to collect ballots for delivery to polling places, a practice critics call “ballot harvesting.” Several members of the court’s conservative majority said the restrictions were sensible, commonplace and at least partly endorsed by a bipartisan consensus reflected in a 2005 report signed by former President Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of state under President George Bush. The Biden administration, too, told the justices in an unusual letter two weeks ago that the Arizona measures appeared to be lawful. But the letter disavowed the Trump administration’s position that the relevant section of the Voting Rights Act should not be widely used to keep states from enacting more restrictive voting procedures.

Full Article: Supreme Court Seems Ready to Sustain Arizona Voting Limits – The New York Times

Georgia: Why the G.O.P.’s Voting Rollbacks Would Hit Black People Hard | Richard Fausset, Nick Corasaniti and Mark Leibovich/The New York Times

After record turnout flipped Georgia blue for the first time in decades, Republicans who control the state Legislature are moving swiftly to implement a raft of new restrictions on voting access, mounting one of the biggest challenges to voting rights in a major battleground state following the 2020 election. Two bills, one passed by the House on Monday and another that could pass the Senate this week, seek to alter foundational elements of voting in Georgia, which supported President Biden in November and a pair of Democratic senators in January — narrow victories attributable in part to the array of voting options in the state. The Republican legislation would undermine pillars of voting access by ending automatic voter registration, banning drop boxes for mail ballots and eliminating the broad availability of absentee voting. The bills would restrict early voting on the weekends, limiting the longstanding civic tradition of “Souls to the Polls” in which Black voters cast ballots on Sunday after church services. Taken together, the new barriers would have an outsize impact on Black voters, who make up roughly one-third of the state’s population and vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Black voters were a major force in Democratic success in recent elections, with roughly 88 percent voting for Mr. Biden and more than 90 percent voting for Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the January runoff elections, according to exit polls.

Full Article: Why the Georgia G.O.P.’s Voting Rollbacks Would Hit Black People Hard – The New York Times

Georgia Takes Center Stage in Battle Over Voting Rights | Richard Fausset, Nick Corasaniti and Mark Leibovich/The New York Times

After record turnout flipped Georgia blue for the first time in decades, Republicans who control the state Legislature are moving swiftly to implement a raft of new restrictions on voting access, mounting one of the biggest challenges to voting rights in a major battleground state following the 2020 election. Two bills, one passed by the House on Monday and another that could pass the Senate this week, seek to alter foundational elements of voting in Georgia, which supported President Biden in November and a pair of Democratic senators in January — narrow victories attributable in part to the array of voting options in the state. The Republican legislation would undermine pillars of voting access by ending automatic voter registration, banning drop boxes for mail ballots and eliminating the broad availability of absentee voting. The bills would restrict early voting on the weekends, limiting the longstanding civic tradition of “Souls to the Polls” in which Black voters cast ballots on Sunday after church services. Taken together, the new barriers would have an outsize impact on Black voters, who make up roughly one-third of the state’s population and vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Black voters were a major force in Democratic success in recent elections, with roughly 88 percent voting for Mr. Biden and more than 90 percent voting for Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the January runoff elections, according to exit polls.

Full Article: Georgia Takes Center Stage in Battle Over Voting Rights – The New York Times

Louisiana: Trump conspiracy theories help stop plan to modernize voting equipment | David Hawkings/The Fulcrum

Louisiana’s unique standing as an election integrity risk, because it’s the only state without any paper trail for votes, is going to continue indefinitely. That’s because the top elections official on Wednesday called off his search to replace the state’s antiquated and entirely electronic fleet of 10,000 voting machines. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin acted amid a whipsaw of criticism. On one side are two election equipment manufacturers who filed formal complaints alleging the bidding process was tailored to favor the current vendor, Dominion Voting Systems. On the other side are influential fellow Republicans, furious that a $100 million contract might go to the firm that former President Donald Trump has put at the heart of his conspiracy theories about election rigging. Caught in the middle will be the state’s electorate, who will remain the only people in the country with no connection to the world of balloting best practices. Even as the threat of hacking raises significant worries about relying on computer chips and code to record and keep track of votes, that is all Louisiana has done for more than two decades. At least some jurisdictions in every other state either use paper ballots or keep a paper record of their tallies.

Full Article: Louisiana halts search for modernized voting equipment – The Fulcrum

Louisiana ends search for new voting machines amid criticism | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

Louisiana’s secretary of state decided Wednesday to shelve his search for new voting machines after a barrage of complaints about the bid process from election technology companies, the head of a state Senate oversight committee and his fellow Republicans. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin sent a letter to Paula Tregre, Louisiana’s chief procurement officer, announcing his decision, asking her to remove the bid solicitation from a state website and requesting that she dismiss protests filed by two companies that wanted to seek the work. “I am withdrawing the (request for proposals) to spend the next few months seeking to undo the damage to voter confidence done by those who willfully spread misinformation and disinformation,” Ardoin said in a statement. In his pointed letter to Tregre and a follow-up statement, the Republican secretary of state accused Tregre of mishandling complaints from the vendors about the bid process, defended his search effort and suggested critics were using national concerns about election integrity to derail needed replacement voting machines. “We cannot let election administration become just another political football for politicians or voting machine vendors to kick around, without any understanding or concern for the consequences,” he said. Ardoin said he’ll redo the search in the future, though he gave no date for that plan. It’s the second time the secretary of state has jettisoned his effort to replace 10,000 Election Day and early voting machines, many of which are decades old. Ardoin also ran into problems with a previous effort in 2018.

Full Article: Louisiana ends search for new voting machines amid criticism

Michigan post-election audit completed: What results showed | Clara Hendrickson/Detroit Free Press

Almost four months after the November presidential election, Michigan has completed its most comprehensive series of post-election audits in the state’s history, confirming the results, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday. The audits examined the ballots cast in the general election, the machines that tabulated those ballots and the election procedures used. “It is time for leaders across the political spectrum to tell their constituents the truth, that our election was the most secure in history, and the results accurately reflect the will of Michigan’s voters,” Benson said. Former President Donald Trump and his allies spent months spreading misinformation about Michigan’s election process and outcome. Polls consistently show a majority of Republican voters don’t trust the outcome of the presidential election.

Full Article: Michigan post-election audit completed: What results showed

Michigan’s most comprehensive election audit finds no widespread voter fraud | Russ McNamara/Michigan Radio

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says Michigan has finished the most comprehensive election audit in the state’s history. In short – there was no widespread voter fraud. Many of the allegations of impropriety were centered on the Democratic stronghold of Detroit. Benson says the audit proves again that those allegations were completely unfounded. “These efforts are dangerous, racist and undertaken for personal and political gain. They are also completely meritless as proven by these audits and must be treated as such in the future.” Benson says the very few ballot counting irregularities found were the product of deadlines, not misconduct. “They found that the reason many of the counting boards were left out of balance without explanation at the end of the county canvass was simply because canvassers ran out of time,” she said. “In fact, the net number of ballots out of balance was just 17.” Benson says the absentee ballot counting process could be improved by allowing poll workers to tally votes in the weeks before Election Day, and is calling on the state Legislature to allow that to happen.

Full Article: Michigan’s most comprehensive election audit finds no widespread voter fraud | Michigan Radio

Ohio: Trump’s Baseless 2020 Conspiracies Complicate Stark County’s Effort To Buy Voting Machines | Nick Castelle/NPR

A conspiracy theory sown by former President Donald Trump and his allies to cast doubt on his loss last year has trickled down to county-level politics, impeding one Ohio county’s ability to purchase new voting equipment ahead of local elections this year. The theory falsely claims voting machines made by a company called Dominion changed votes to swing the election in favor of now-President Biden. Multiple audits and recounts in states and counties that used the company’s equipment confirmed that the machines accurately recorded the vote totals last November. But those audits and recounts haven’t stopped Republican county officials in Stark County, Ohio, home to Canton, from slowing the procurement effort for new machines. Voters in the county twice voted for Barack Obama then twice — by double digits — for Donald Trump. The controversy started in December, when the bipartisan Stark County Board of Elections voted unanimously to replace its aging voting machines with new ones from Dominion. Since that vote, the county’s three top elected officials, all Republicans, say they’ve been getting an earful from voters.

Full Article: The Real World Impact Of A Voting Machine Conspiracy Theory : NPR

Virginia Department of Elections Says Audit Shows Election Integrity | Jaud Khalil/WVTF

The department collaborated with VotingWorks, a non-profit organization that helps conduct Risk-Limiting Audits, a method of assessing election systems. “Our risk measurement for the presidential election was .0000065117%,” said Ginny Vander Roest of VotingWorks in a meeting with election supervisors. “The risk measurement is the possibility that we might have missed something.” “The success of Virginia’s first statewide audit reaffirms our dedication to ensuring secure and accurate elections for our voters,” said Christopher Piper, Virginia’s Commissioner of Elections in a press release. “I am proud of the hard work that our election administrators do in the Commonwealth, and this audit further exemplifies the integrity and validity of the 2020 November General Election results.” The process of the RLA began on February 24, when Piper and others threw ten 20-sided dice to determined a random string of numbers. That string selects ballots randomly from across the commonwealth to make up a random sample of ballots. After those ballots are counted, officials compared the sample’s margin of victory to the margin from November. That comparison provides a measure of confidence that election software wasn’t faulty, either due to hardware, software, or human error. The audit does not assess the final count, but looks at the outcome of the election: a measure of confidence that the reported winner actually won. RLAs are cheaper than a recount and more accurate than a spot audit, according to Monica Childers of VotingWorks. She said this method of auditing election software provides a broader sample rather than a spot check in which a few voting machines or precincts are examined.

Full Article: Va Dept. of Elections Says Audit Shows Election Integrity | WVTF

National: Stolen-Election Myth Fuels G.O.P. Push to Change Voting Laws | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Led by loyalists who embrace former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election, Republicans in state legislatures nationwide are mounting extraordinary efforts to change the rules of voting and representation — and enhance their own political clout. At the top of those efforts is a slew of bills raising new barriers to casting votes, particularly the mail ballots that Democrats flocked to in the 2020 election. But other measures go well beyond that, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules for the benefit of Republicans; clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives; and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections, which were crucial to the smooth November vote. And although the decennial redrawing of political maps has been pushed to the fall because of delays in delivering 2020 census totals, there are already signs of an aggressive drive to further gerrymander political districts, particularly in states under complete Republican control. The national Republican Party joined the movement this past week by setting up a Committee on Election Integrity to scrutinize state election laws, echoing similar moves by Republicans in a number of state legislatures. Republicans have long thought — sometimes quietly, occasionally out loud — that large turnouts, particularly in urban areas, favor Democrats, and that Republicans benefit when fewer people vote. But politicians and scholars alike say that this moment feels like a dangerous plunge into uncharted waters.

Full Article: Stolen-Election Myth Fuels G.O.P. Push to Change Voting Laws – The New York Times

Louisiana Voting Machine Search a Political Minefield | Melinda DeSlatte/Associated Press

 If Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin needed another indication about the politically dicey nature of his work to replace Louisiana’s voting machines, he received a bracing and loud reminder during his luncheon speech to a group of Republican women. The women assembled at the Baton Rouge event interrupted his remarks, yelled questions, chastised his responses and accused the Republican elections chief of dodging their concerns. One woman shouted at him from a table, then moved closer to challenge him more directly, saying: “You work for us, and we are unhappy.” And those are people within Ardoin’s own party. “I hear you,” Ardoin repeatedly tried to tell the women. But it’s already clear Ardoin won’t be able to calm all the concerns. A dissatisfied leader of the Senate elections oversight committee Thursday pointedly urged Ardoin to shelve the bid process and redo it later. The secretary of state’s effort to replace 10,000 Election Day and early voting machines with newer, updated technology comes amid intense national scrutiny about the way people vote and the way elections officials tally those ballots. Despite dozens of court rulings upholding the presidential election results, supporters of Donald Trump continue to assert baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud in states the former president lost in November. They have targeted the current voting technology firm Louisiana uses, Dominion Voting Systems, for the unfounded claims. Some Republicans want to bar the company from being allowed to win another state contract — at odds with the public bid process.

Full Article: Analysis: La. Voting Machine Search a Political Minefield | Louisiana News | US News

National: Democrats launch sweeping bid to overhaul US election laws | Brian Slodysko/Associated Press 

Stacey Abrams, whose voting rights work helped make Georgia into a swing state, exhorted Congress on Thursday to reject “outright lies” that have historically restricted access to the ballot as Democrats began their push for a sweeping overhaul of election and ethics laws. “A lie cloaked in the seductive appeal of election integrity has weakened access to democracy for millions,” Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, said during a committee hearing for the bill, which was introduced as H.R. 1 to signal its importance to the party’s agenda. Democrats feel a sense of urgency to enact the legislation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when their narrow majorities in the House and Senate will be at risk. The bill, which good-government groups have championed, is advancing against a backdrop of Republican-controlled states seizing on former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen 2020 election to push legislation that would make it more difficult to vote. Democrats argue that voters of color, a key constituency for the party, would be disproportionately affected. It also comes on the cusp of a once-in-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts, a highly partisan affair that is typically controlled by state legislatures. With Republicans controlling the majority of statehouse, the process alone could help the GOP win enough seats to recapture the House. The Democratic bill would instead require that the boundaries be drawn by independent commissions.

Full Article: Democrats launch sweeping bid to overhaul US election laws

National: U.S. faces ‘unprecedented assault on democracy,’ White House says, backing election reform bill | Trevor Hunnicutt/Reuters

The Biden administration backed Democrats’ efforts to overhaul voting rules and turn over the process of drawing congressional districts to independent commissions on Monday, weighing in on a political fight that is likely to dominate Washington in coming years. The United States is facing an “an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country,” President Joe Biden’s Office of Management and Budget said in a statement. The House of Representatives is set to vote and likely to pass a sweeping election reform bill, HR-1, as soon as this week. Biden’s fellow Democrats have a majority in the House, but the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, where the measure would need support from all 50 members of that party caucus, plus 10 Republicans. Republicans have said the law would take powers away from states and raise fraud concerns. Democrats have been fighting to expand access to the polls through early voting, vote-by-mail and other measures, efforts that expanded as the coronavirus pandemic raged. Republicans have been fighting those efforts and pursuing measures to curb access to the polls. Former President Donald Trump, in his first public speech after his stinging Nov. 3 election loss to Biden, on Sunday proposed limiting absentee voting and days when Americans can vote.

Full Article: U.S. faces ‘unprecedented assault on democracy,’ White House says, backing election reform bill | Reuters

National: Why Republicans Are Moving To Fix Elections That Weren’t Broken | Steve Inskeep/NPR

Republican-led legislatures in dozens of states are moving to change election laws in ways that could make it harder to vote. Many proposals explicitly respond to the 2020 election: Lawmakers cite public concerns about election security — concerns generated by disinformation that then-President Donald Trump spread while trying to overturn the election. The Brennan Center, a nonprofit that tracks voting laws, says that 43 states — including key swing states — are considering 253 bills that would raise barriers to voting, for example by reducing early voting days or limiting access to voting by mail. Lawmakers in a different set of 43 states have proposed expanding voter access, but Republicans have prioritized new security requirements and shorter voting periods. In Georgia, which President Biden won by nearly 12,000 votes, legislators are considering multiple bills to restrict voting. The most significant, House Bill 531, is before a committee chaired by Republican Rep. Barry Fleming. He said Democrat Stacey Abrams campaigned to expand voter access after losing a governor’s race in 2018, and now Republicans want their own changes. The bill is “an attempt to restore the confidence of our public,” he said, because “there has been controversy regarding our election system.”

Full Article: Why Republicans Are Moving To Fix Elections That Weren’t Broken : NPR

National: Some local GOP leaders fire up base with conspiracies, lies | Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza, Juliet Linderman, Larry Fenn/Associated Press

A faction of local, county and state Republican officials is pushing lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories that echo those that helped inspire the violent U.S. Capitol siege, online messaging that is spreading quickly through GOP ranks fueled by algorithms that boost extreme content. The Associated Press reviewed public and private social media accounts of nearly 1,000 federal, state, and local elected and appointed Republican officials nationwide, many of whom have voiced support for the Jan. 6 insurrection or demanded that the 2020 presidential election be overturned, sometimes in deleted posts or now-removed online forums. “Sham-peachment,” they say, and warn that “corporate America helped rig the election.” They call former president Donald Trump a “savior” who was robbed of a second term — despite no evidence — and President Joe Biden, a “thief.” “Patriots want answers,” they declare. The bitter, combative rhetoric is helping the officials grow their constituencies on social media and gain outsized influence in their communities, city councils, county boards and state assemblies. And it exposes the GOP’s internal struggle over whether the party can include traditional conservative politicians, conspiracy theorists and militias as it builds its base for 2022.

Full Article: Some local GOP leaders fire up base with conspiracies, lies

National: CPAC goes all in on Trump’s false election fraud claims | Jane C. Timm/NBC

The nation’s largest conference of conservative activists will prominently feature former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud weeks after his stolen election lie fueled a riot that led to the deaths of five people. The agenda for the Conservative Political Action Conference, the influential right-wing summit best known as CPAC taking place in Florida this weekend, provides attendees multiple forums that appear to perpetuate conservative mythmaking around the 2020 election as well as ways to discuss the new wave of voting restrictions pushed by the Republican Party. The featured speaker is the former president himself on Sunday. The event includes seven speeches and panels about “protecting elections” over the long weekend, with 2020-specific themes like “Other Culprits: Why Judges & Media Refused to Look at the Evidence,” and “The Left Pulled the Strings, Covered It Up, and Even Admits It.”

Full Article: CPAC goes all in on Trump’s false election fraud claims

National: Supreme Court to again consider federal protections for minority voters | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post

With one contentious election behind it, the Supreme Court this week will consider the rules for the next and how federal law protects minority voters as states across the nation race to revamp their regulations. The court on Tuesday will review the shield provided by the Voting Rights Act (VRA), first passed in 1965 to forbid laws that result in discrimination based on race. The cases at the Supreme Court involve two voting regulations from Arizona that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Donald Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.” But the greater impact will be the test that the increasingly conservative court develops for proving violations of the VRA, as new laws are proposed and state legislatures begin redrawing congressional and legislative districts following the 2020 Census.

Full Article: Supreme Court to consider federal protections for minority voters – The Washington Post

National: Voting rights take center stage on Capitol Hill and at Supreme Court | Todd Ruger/Roll Call

To get a sense of the partisan and unsettled future of election laws in the United States, look no further than the debates on ballot collection teed up in Congress and at the Supreme Court this week. The House is expected to pass a sweeping election, campaign finance and ethics overhaul bill that includes a provision that would require states to allow voters to give their completed absentee ballots to someone else to drop off. Democrats generally consider laws that limit ballot collection alongside others that seek to disenfranchise minority voters who are more likely to vote for their candidates, such as requiring photo identification at polling places. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans already have balked at that provision on what they call “ballot harvesting,” and he highlighted it last week on the floor as allowing “paid operatives” to show up at polling places with “a big stack of filled-out ballots with other people’s names on them.” With Congress at an apparent partisan deadlock on federal legislation on the issue without a major change in Senate rules, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a pair of cases about Arizona’s ballot collection ban.

Source: Voting rights take center stage on Capitol Hill and at Supreme Court

Arizona Republicans lead national push to restrict the vote | Melanie Mason/Los Angeles Times

The national battle over voting restrictions was, for one sluggish February afternoon, waged in a cramped hearing room of Arizona’s House of Representatives. Separated by plexiglass barriers, Republican lawmakers steadily plowed ahead on bills that, put together, could make it harder for Arizonans to vote. Members of a House committee advanced a proposal to forbid the use of private money to help conduct elections, such as by buying equipment or funding voter education. They approved a bill making it a felony for an official to change any election-related date set in statute. They OKd a measure to preemptively forbid same-day voter registration, which the state does not currently offer. Each bill was portrayed by its proponents as a commonsense housekeeping measure to guard against wrongdoing, or even the perception of it. Voting rights advocates see a broader — and more damaging — agenda. “If you look at one of them, it may not seem that big a deal, but there’s 50 or more of them,” Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director of All Voting is Local, said in an interview. “They all add up to changing our election system in substantial ways to basically respond to the ‘Big Lie’” — that last year’s presidential election was stolen from former President Trump. Similar scenes are playing out in statehouses across the country, with a barrage of voting restriction measures snaking through the legislative process.

Full Article: Arizona Republicans lead national push to restrict the vote – Los Angeles Times

Arizona: Judge Rules State Senate Can Access 2020 Election Ballots | Bob Christie/Associated Press

A judge ruled Friday that the Arizona Senate can get access to 2.1 million ballots and election equipment from Arizona’s most populous county so it can audit results of the 2020 election that saw Democrat Joe Biden win in the state. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason’s decision comes after a protracted battled between the Republican-controlled state Senate and the GOP-dominated Maricopa County board over subpoenas issued by the Senate. The five-member Board of Supervisors argued that the ballots were secret, that the Legislature had no right to access them and that the subpoenas issued by Senate President Karen Fann were for an illegitimate purpose, among other arguments. The Senate’s lawyers contended that the constitution gives the Legislature the role of maintaining the purity of elections and make sure voter integrity is protected, that the subpoenas were legal and a proper use of legislative power. In his ruling, Thomason agreed with the Senate on all those arguments, saying the subpoenas “are legal and enforceable.” “There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas,” Thomason wrote. “The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas. The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections.

Full Article: Judge Rules Arizona Senate Can Access 2020 Election Ballots | Arizona News | US News

Georgia bills would replace bipartisan county election boards | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

With a quick vote last week, the Georgia General Assembly passed the first bill to break up a county’s volunteer, bipartisan elections board. It’s the beginning of legislation to remove equal political representation over local election offices across Georgia. Other county election boards could soon face the same fate as Morgan County’s, where replacement election board members would instead be chosen by the mostly Republican County Commission. Bills to change local elections management are being debated along with sweeping legislation to require ID for absentee voting, restrict drop boxes and limit weekend early voting in Georgia. These measures follow a two-month effort by Donald Trump and his Republican supporters to overturn the presidential election results despite state officials saying there was no evidence of widespread fraud. So far, legislators from Morgan and at least two more counties are pursuing the removal of bipartisan election boards, whose members were appointed by each party with a nonpartisan chairperson to break ties. Lawmakers are also considering similar changes in metro Atlanta and other counties, creating the possibility of politicized local elections oversight.

Full Article: Georgia bills would replace bipartisan county election boards

Kentucky House passes bills to allow early voting, weaken open records law | Joe Sonka/Louisville Courier Journal

The Kentucky House passed a bill Friday to allow three days of early voting and keep several other emergency measures enacted during Kentucky’s elections last year. The chamber also passed House Bill 312, which prohibits open records requests to government agencies from people outside of Kentucky, in addition to removing Franklin Circuit Court’s jurisdiction on appeals for records denied by the state legislature. House Bill 574, enshrining no-excuse early voting for the first time in Kentucky, passed easily through the chamber Friday with a 93-4 vote. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, Kentucky prohibited early voting by mail or in person unless a person could not vote on Election Day because of advanced age, illness, severe disability or temporarily residing out of the county or state — making its voting access laws one of the most restrictive in the country. Through executive action resulting from the COVID-19 emergency, Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams allowed three weeks of no-excuse, in-person early voting for the general election, along with setting up a new online portal for any registered voter to request an absentee ballot and cast it by mail or deposit it in a drop box. With those emergency measures expiring, HB 574 now requires three days of early voting on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before an election, which are held at voting centers where anyone in the county can vote. While the legislation keeps the online portal to request absentee ballots, it no longer allows every registered voter to request and submit such a ballot through the mail, reverting back to the exceptions in current law.

Full Article: House passes bills to allow early voting, weaken open records law