The Republican chair of Arizona’s state House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill Wednesday that would give the Legislature authority to override the secretary of state’s certification of its electoral votes. GOP Rep. Shawnna Bolick introduced the bill, which rewrites parts of the state’s election law, such as sections on election observers and securing and auditing ballots, among other measures. One section grants the Legislature, which is currently under GOP control, the ability to revoke the secretary of state’s certification at any time before the presidential inauguration. “Notwithstanding Subsection A of this section, the legislature retains its legislative authority regarding the office of presidential elector and by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration may revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election,” according to the bill. “The legislature may take action pursuant to this subsection without regard to whether the legislature is in regular or special session or has held committee or other hearings on the matter.” A request for comment from Arizona’s secretary of state was not immediately returned. The move comes as the Arizona GOP has faced an intraparty fight after former President Donald Trump fueled baseless claims about the election after the state went to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election — the first time in 24 years a Democrat has won the state.
Arizona: Maricopa County to audit machines used in November election | Bob Christie/Associated Press
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors plans to vote to hire two firms to audit election equipment and software used in the November election that has been the focus of unsubstantiated claims of fraud from Republicans who question President Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona. Board Chairman Jack Sellers defended the accuracy of the vote count in the state’s most populous county but said Tuesday the board wants to do the audit to try to show doubters that the election was free and fair. “While I am confident in our staff and our equipment, not all our residents are,” Sellers said in a statement. “This is a problem.” Sellers said some people may never be satisfied, but it is better to err on the side of transparency to show the public that the election results were untainted. The board plans to vote to conduct the audit at its Wednesday meeting. The five-member board dominated by Republicans has previously said it wanted to do a full forensic audit once lawsuits filed by backers of former President Donald Trump concluded. Federal and state courts in Arizona rejected eight lawsuits challenging the election results. The GOP-controlled state Senate is seeking to do its own audit and issued subpoenas to the county in mid-December seeking access to copies of ballots, software used in vote tabulation machines and the machines themselves, among other items. The board fought that request in court, saying the Senate sought private voter information and access to ballots and secure voting machines but is currently negotiating with attorneys for the Senate to try to resolve the impasse.
What would it take to get you to vote in the next election? How about a $20 fine if you neglected the civic duty? Mandatory voting with a potential monetary penalty is just one of about 30 election-related bills that have been submitted to the General Assembly this session. Another bill, proposed by conservative lawmakers, could end…
Georgia Republican State Senator Proposes Law That Would Add Photo ID For Absentee Ballots | Christopher Alston/WABE
A new bill introduced in the Georgia Senate, if passed, would require voters to submit a copy of an approved form of photo identification when applying for and submitting an absentee ballot. The bill filed by freshman state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a Republican from Dallas, is the first measure introduced this session that would increase restrictions on absentee voting. Top Republican lawmakers have said they want to tighten security on the absentee process after Democrats’ record-breaking use of the method led to Republicans suffering major losses in November and January. If the law is passed, Georgians would have to scan and make a copy of their driver’s license, passport or another form of government-issued ID when they submit their ballot application, and again when they return the ballot itself. The new law would replace the current signature-verification process, which received heavy criticism from former President Donald Trump and his supporters following the presidential election. Trump insisted the process was fraudulent despite repeated assurances from Georgia’s election officials that absentee voting is secure. Multiple legislative hearings and federal court cases found no credible instances of voting irregularities that would call into question the results of the election.
Louisiana has resumed efforts to replace thousands of decades-old voting machines, with the state’s elections chief issuing a new solicitation for bidders Wednesday amid a political climate where such contracts are getting intensified scrutiny. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin already was going to face strong interest in his search for a contractor to update Louisiana’s voting system because allegations of improper bid handling derailed a previous effort to replace the machines in 2018. But the Republican elected official’s vendor search is expected to draw heightened monitoring because of the national debate over the presidential election and baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud by former President Donald Trump and his supporters. Ardoin understands the timing isn’t optimal, but he said the bid solicitation has safeguards he hopes will reassure people. Louisiana’s “voting equipment has been around for almost 30 years now, and I just don’t know how much longer they can last without us having major issues. It’s time to do this,” Ardoin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The timing may not be perfect, but it certainly gives the Louisiana people the assurance that I’m looking at it from the perspective of a secure, safe and transparent process and election system.” Louisiana’s current voting machine contractor, Dominion Voting Systems, has specifically been targeted by conservatives who claimed without evidence that its machines were easily manipulated and somehow to blame for Trump’s loss in other states. Trump won Louisiana’s electoral votes. Dominion has sued Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for spreading the unsubstantiated claims.
Michigan Attorney General Nessel files for sanctions against attorneys in election lawsuit | Clara Hendrickson/Detroit Free Press
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a motion Thursday for sanctions against the attorneys who brought a lawsuit that relied on conspiracy theories and misinformation in a failed attempt to overturn the state’s election in favor of then-President Donald Trump. The so-called “Kraken” lawsuit was filed by three Michigan attorneys and ex-Trump attorney Sidney Powell on behalf of presidential electors nominated by the Michigan Republican Party. U.S. District Judge Linda Parker denied the request to overturn the election after Michigan voters handed the state to now-President Joe Biden by more than 154,000 votes. In her opinion, Parker argued that the lawsuit appeared to be an effort to undermine faith in the democratic process. Explaining the request for sanctions, Nessel said, “These lawyers must be held accountable for betraying the trust placed in them as members of the bar.” She said the lawsuit played a role in fomenting the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump extremists. “By pursuing this suit that had no basis in either fact or law, they have only fueled the fire of distrust in our democracy that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.” The motion for sanctions filed by Nessel in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan argues that Michigan attorneys Greg Rohl, Scott Hagerstrom and Stefanie Junttila along with Powell, who is a licensed attorney in the state of Texas, pursued the lawsuit in violation of their oaths as attorneys, court rules and rules of professional conduct. Nessels’ motion for sanctions follows another filed by the city of Detroit.
Michigan: Expert witness list released in Antrim County voter case | Mardi Link/Traverse City Record-Eagle
An expert witness list filed as part of an ongoing lawsuit accusing Antrim County of voter fraud, includes far-right activists who previously challenged 2020 election results in several states, in coordination with former President Donald Trump’s legal team, court documents show. On the list is Russell Ramsland, of Texas-based Allied Security Operations Group, who signed an error-laden report accusing the county and Dominion Voting Systems of deliberately altering election results. Ramsland, among those conducting a court-ordered forensic examination of the county’s voting equipment, previously made inaccurate claims about election results in Detroit, and mistook voting jurisdictions in Minnesota for Michigan in court filings. The other witnesses include Col. James P. Waldron, Doug Logan, representatives of Atlanta-based software developer and data security firm, Sullivan Strickler, attorney Katherine Friess, C. James Hayes and Todd B. Sanders, documents provided by the state Attorney General’s office shows. Information on which of these witnesses assisted with the in-person exam, was not included in court filings. “What role each one played in the preparation of the report, my understanding is we won’t know until these individuals are deposed,” said attorney Haider Kazim, who is representing Antrim County.
New York: Decision awaited on contested ballots in Brindisi/Tenney race | Steve Howe/Utica Observer-Dispatch
The final ruling from state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte in the judicial review of contested ballots in New York’s 22nd Congressional District will come today. DelConte said his order, expected in the afternoon, will require certain affidavit and absentee envelopes to be opened and the ballots inside cast and canvassed. The final canvass will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1. The canvass will take place in the Oswego County Courthouse, and six of the counties in the congressional district will take part. Campaign representatives and election officials will appear for, in order, Oswego, Madison, Cortland, Herkimer, Chenango, Broome and Oneida counties, in half-hour increments. Republican Claudia Tenney and Democrat Anthony Brindisi can have up to three representatives at the canvasses. Tenney leads Brindisi by 29 votes at the latest unofficial tally. Any new challenges to the rulings of the election commissioners on Feb. 1 will be ruled on by DelConte in open court. The court proceedings will be streamed at viewing terminals in the Oswego, Oneida and Onondaga county courthouses. Final oral arguments were presented Jan. 22 after attorneys for both campaigns filed legal briefs Jan. 20. Approximately 1,100 contested ballots will fall under DelConte’s final decision, while more than 1,000 affidavit ballots are being canvassed by the Oneida County Board of Elections after 2,418 unprocessed online voter registration applications, submitted before the state deadline, were discovered.
North Carolina: One GOP legal claim failed in 2020 but could change how future elections are run | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press
Republicans around the country turned to an untested legal theory to challenge changes to state election laws during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent national election results. The theory, called the independent state legislature doctrine, would vest more authority in state legislatures to set rules for federal elections with fewer checks by other state bodies like courts or board of elections. North Carolinian Republicans used the theory, based on a strict reading of the U.S. Constitution’s elections clause, to challenge almost every stage of election governance. In the end, these efforts failed to change the results of the election. But they fanned the flames of a constitutional argument that could reshape the way states create rules for federal elections. The elections clause made its appearance in North Carolina’s elections when state House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate leader Phil Berger sued the State Board of Elections in September. The board had settled a separate lawsuit, pending state court approval, with a Democratic-backed group that would temporarily change some state election laws like allowing a longer window for by-mail ballots to be delivered. Moore and Berger argued in both state and federal courts that the Elections Board couldn’t actually enter into such an agreement, and a state court couldn’t ratify it, in part because neither had the authority to change state laws under the elections clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Ohio Secretary of State pushes changes after Trump-supporting vendor doesn’t deliver ballots | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is pushing new rules for absentee ballot vendors after a Northeast Ohio company that flew a Trump 2020 flag over its headquarters couldn’t keep up with production of ballots last year. Several counties cut ties with Cleveland-based Midwest Direct last fall when it failed to deliver thousands of absentee ballots on time during a general election that drew historic levels of voting by mail because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company had contracts with about 16 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Nine of them fired the company. Midwest Direct also received national attention for flying a Trump 2020 campaign flag over its headquarters as the former president criticized voting by mail. The company eventually removed the flag. Now LaRose is proposing that local boards of elections first get approval from his office before contracting for absentee ballot processing and get assurances in writing from vendors that they have the resources to handle the contract. They also have to consider “any action, appearance of impropriety, or political bias that the choice of vendor might impute on the board,” according to a draft of changes to the Ohio Election Official Manual.
Pennsylvania: Elections officials from Lehigh County, elsewhere tell lawmakers of problems with state’s aging electronic voter registration system | Ford Turner/The Morning Call
The electronic backbone of Pennsylvania’s election system — the software that holds every voter’s registration data and election participation — is being replaced, to the “rejoicing” of elections officials statewide. Lehigh County Election Board Chief Clerk Timothy Benyo used that word Thursday during a hearing as he and others spoke on the pending replacement of the State Uniform Registry of Electors system. The replacement plan started long before the partisan chaos of the presidential election. Snyder County Commissioner Joseph Kantz — with agreement from Benyo — ticked off a laundry list of complaints about the current system, which is nearly 20 years old. They include inadvertent sending of printouts to other counties, misplaced “batches” of voter applications in the system, and system downtime. “Focusing on the future, the Department of State is moving forward with a replacement system and all 67 counties are rejoicing with that announcement,” Benyo said. A company whose name was not given during the hearing has been selected to provide the new system that will host the so-called SURE database. A department spokesperson was not available to answer questions. “We are on a timeline that would actually deliver this before the primary of next year,” Department of State Deputy Secretary Jonathan Marks testified. Marks said counties would help customize the new SURE system over the next 12 months. Lebanon County Director of Elections Michael Anderson said the target implementation date is February 2022.
Texas: Harris County to spend $54 million on new voting machines, this time with paper backup | Zach Despart/Houston Chronicle
Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved spending $54 million on a fleet of new voting machines, choosing a model that produces a paper backup. The court unanimously selected the Hart InterCivic Verity machine to replace the e-Slate devices in use since 2002, which were also manufactured by the Austin election software company. “This has been thoroughly vetted. I’m very confident in the machines we’re selecting, in that they have everything that we’ve asked for,” said Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria. “They have triple data backups for election integrity and everything we need to keep elections safe.” The Verity model has a digital touch screen and more accessibility options for seniors and residents with disabilities. Longoria said her staff will determine whether debuting the 12,000 new machines is feasible for the May elections. For last year’s November general election, Harris County was the largest jurisdiction in the country to use a voting system that did not produce a paper backup, raising security concerns because elections could not be audited. “I’m so glad we’re getting paper ballots,” County Judge Lina Hidalgo said after voting to approve the new machines. “What a relief.”
National: Trump Pressed Justice Department to Go Directly to Supreme Court to Overturn Election Results | Jess Bravin and Sadie Gurman/Wall Street Journal
In his last weeks in office, former President Donald Trump considered moving to replace the acting attorney general with another official ready to pursue unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, and he pushed the Justice Department to ask the Supreme Court to invalidate President Biden’s victory, people familiar with the matter said. Those efforts failed due to pushback from his own appointees in the Justice Department, who refused to file what they viewed as a legally baseless lawsuit in the Supreme Court. Later, other senior department officials threatened to resign en masse should Mr. Trump fire then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Senior department officials, including Mr. Rosen, former Attorney General William Barr and former acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall refused to file the Supreme Court case, concluding that there was no basis to challenge the election outcome and that the federal government had no legal interest in whether Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden won the presidency, some of these people said. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin, also opposed Mr. Trump’s idea, which was promoted by his outside attorneys, these people said. “He wanted us, the United States, to sue one or more of the states directly in the Supreme Court,” a former administration official said. “The pressure got really intense” after a lawsuit Texas filed in the Supreme Court against four states Mr. Biden won was dismissed on Dec. 11, the official said. An outside lawyer working for Mr. Trump drafted a brief the then-president wanted the Justice Department to file, people familiar with the matter said, but officials refused.
National: Dominion voting machine firm sues Giuliani for more than $1.3 billion | Emma Brown/The Washington Post
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit Monday seeking more than $1.3 billion from Rudolph W. Giuliani, the lawyer for former president Donald Trump who played a key role in promoting the falsehood that the 2020 election was rigged. The 107-page complaint, filed in federal court in D.C., cites dozens of statements Giuliani made about Dominion — on Twitter, in appearances on conservative media shows and on his own podcast — to promote the “false preconceived narrative” that the election was stolen from Trump. That “Big Lie” not only damaged Dominion’s reputation and business and led to death threats against its employees, but also laid the groundwork for hundreds of people to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the complaint says. Five people died as a result of the attack, and dozens of law enforcement officials were injured. In a speech just before the Capitol was stormed, Giuliani spoke of “crooked Dominion machines” that were used to steal the election and suggested that Trump supporters conduct “trial by combat.” Federal officials have charged more than 135 people in connection with the riot, and more are expected to be charged as the investigation continues. “Having been deceived by Giuliani and his allies into thinking that they were not criminals — but patriots ‘Defend[ing] the Republic’ from Dominion and its co-conspirators — they then bragged about their involvement in the crime on social media,” the complaint says.
National: What we know about Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election | Philip Bump/The Washington Post
Let’s assume for the moment that former president Donald Trump’s efforts to undercut the results of the 2020 election began only when the sun rose the day after last year’s election. That’s not the case, clearly; Trump had been alleging for months that the results would be marred by fraud, part of an effort to inoculate his base against a seemingly likely loss. Even identifying the starting point as sunrise is a hedge, given that Trump began claiming in the middle of the night after polls closed that he’d won, based on the incomplete tally of cast ballots. But those assertions were different from what followed the election itself. Over the two months between President Biden’s victory being announced and the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who believed the lie that the election had been stolen, Trump repeatedly tried to somehow wrench a victory out of his rejection by voters. It was an effort that involved unprecedented attempts to persuade those he saw as allies to undo the results of a democratic election. Here is what we know of the breadth of those efforts as of writing.
Repeated claims and lawsuits focused on alleged fraud. The central effort undertaken by Trump was to continue his claims that the election was tainted by fraud. This is why he’d worked to establish all of that groundwork, of course: to be able to claim after the fact that votes cast by mail were necessarily suspect. This was his play all along, to suggest that only votes cast on Election Day — votes that skewed heavily for him — could be trusted. It convinced a lot of his supporters, but there’s no credible evidence that any significant electoral fraud was committed last year. Trump was never beholden to that “credible” qualifier, though, amplifying a truly dazzling number of already or soon-to-be debunked claims as though the sheer volume of allegations would itself serve as a substitute for evidence. That was explicitly how his team treated a series of affidavits collected from volunteers and supporters — documents presented as suggesting rampant fraud simply by virtue of their existence. No substantial fraud was ever uncovered from those documents or anything else.
National: The Justice Deparment’s inspector general opens an investigation into any efforts to overturn the election. | Katie Benner/The New York Times
A Justice Department watchdog has opened an investigation into whether any current or former officials tried improperly to wield the powers of the department to undo the results of the presidential election, his office announced on Monday. The announcement by the office of the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, followed a New York Times article that detailed efforts by Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division, to push top leaders to falsely and publicly assert that ongoing election fraud investigations cast doubt on the Electoral College results. That standoff prompted President Donald J. Trump to consider replacing the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and install Mr. Clark at the top of the department to carry out that plan. “The inspector general is initiating an investigation into whether any former or current D.O.J. official engaged in an improper attempt to have D.O.J. seek to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election,” Mr. Horowitz said in a statement. The investigation will encompass all allegations concerning the conduct of former and current department employees, though it would be limited to the Justice Department because other agencies do not fall within Mr. Horowitz’s purview. He said he was announcing the inquiry to reassure the public that the matter is being scrutinized. On Saturday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, urged Mr. Horowitz to open an investigation, saying that it was “unconscionable that a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people’s will.”
National: Trump and Justice Department Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General | Katie Benner/The New York Times
The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results. The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark. The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed? The answer was unanimous. They would resign. Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis. The previously unknown chapter was the culmination of the president’s long-running effort to batter the Justice Department into advancing his personal agenda. He also pressed Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels, including one who would look into Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election equipment that Mr. Trump’s allies had falsely said was working with Venezuela to flip votes from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.
National: After big hack of U.S. government, Biden enlists ‘world class’ cybersecurity team | Christopher Bing and Joseph Menn/Reuters
President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies. “It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber,” said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cybersecurity was demoted as a policy field under the Trump administration. It discontinued the Cybersecurity Coordinator position at the White House, shrunk the State Department’s cyber diplomacy wing, and fired federal cybersecurity leader Chris Krebs in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s Nov. 3 election defeat. Disclosed in December, the hack struck eight federal agencies and numerous companies, including software provider SolarWinds Corp. U.S. intelligence agencies publicly attributed it to Russian state actors. Moscow has denied involvement in the hack. Under a recent law, Biden must open a cyber-focused office reporting to a new National Cyber Director, who will coordinate the federal government’s vast cyber capabilities, said Mark Montgomery, a former congressional staffer who helped design the role.
Republican state legislators are advancing a rush of new bills aimed at limiting voting access, and especially access to voting by mail, in the wake of President Biden’s victory last year in the highest-turnout election in American history. The proposals come after months of pressure from former President Trump, who with the help of Republican allies spread false claims and conspiracy theories related to the election, including that widespread voter fraud cost him a victory. In many states, Republicans have used those claims to cite unspecified concerns about the integrity of their own elections, despite elections officials who show proof that counts were fair and accurate. Democrats and voting rights advocates counter that the proposals are thinly veiled attempts to restrict access to the polls. “In the last 10 years, we have seen some politicians try to enact changes to the rules of the game so that some people can participate and some people can’t,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Voting Rights and Elections Program. “Rather than competing for voters, there are some politicians that instead would prefer to lock people out of the process.” In some states, the new bills would roll back emergency voting provisions put in place during the pandemic. In others, the proposals go so far as to repeal long-standing practices implemented more than a decade ago with bipartisan support.
National: State Republicans push new voting restrictions after Trump’s loss | Zach Montellaro/Politico
Republican legislators across the country are preparing a slew of new voting restrictions in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s defeat. Georgia will be the focal point of the GOP push to change state election laws, after Democrats narrowly took both Senate seats there and President Joe Biden carried the state by an even smaller margin. But state Republicans in deep-red states and battlegrounds alike are citing Trump’s meritless claims of voter fraud in 2020 — and the declining trust in election integrity Trump helped drive — as an excuse to tighten access to the polls. Some Republican officials have been blunt about their motivations: They don’t believe they can win unless the rules change. “They don’t have to change all of them, but they’ve got to change the major parts of them so that we at least have a shot at winning,” Alice O’Lenick, a Republican on the Gwinnett County, Ga., board of elections in suburban Atlanta, told the Gwinnett Daily Post last week. She has since resisted calls to resign. The chair of the Texas Republican Party has called on the legislature there to make “election integrity” the top legislative priority in 2021, calling, among other things, for a reduction in the number of days of early voting. Jason Miller, a top Trump adviser, told the conservative site Just The News that Trump plans to remain involved in “voting integrity” efforts, keeping the issue at the top of Republicans’ minds. And VoteRiders, a nonprofit group that helps prospective voters get an ID if they need one to cast a ballot, said it is expecting a serious push for new voter ID laws in at least five states, while North Carolina could potentially implement new voter ID policies that have been held up in court.
Georgia pays $30,000 to settle lawsuit over Crosscheck purge program | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Georgia secretary of state’s office paid $30,000 to resolve a lawsuit over the state’s role in Crosscheck, a defunct program for canceling voter registrations. The settlement ended the lawsuit, but the plaintiffs didn’t get what they had sought: records showing that Gov. Brian Kemp, when he was secretary of state, had used Crosscheck to cancel Georgia voters. Though Georgia election officials contributed voter information to other states that participated in Crosscheck, they said they never used it on their own voters. They said the cancellations of 534,000 Georgia voter registrations in 2017 and 287,000 registrations in 2019 were done separately from Crosscheck. The settlement was obtained Friday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the Georgia Open Records Act. The Crosscheck program, which ended in 2019, collected voter registration lists from Georgia and other states to identify potentially invalid and duplicative registrations. Voting rights groups have criticized Crosscheck for inaccuracies that erroneously flagged legitimate voters. Greg Palast, a journalist who filed the lawsuit against Kemp, said it verified that Georgia participated in the effort to remove voters in dozens of states. Crosscheck was led by then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Georgia enrolled in the program from 2013 to 2017.
Bartow County election officials released a report Thursday from a voluntary audit confirming the results of Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senate runoffs. The audit found an 89-vote discrepancy from the original tally, a 0.2% difference, which Bartow election supervisor Joseph Kirk attributed to human error in the counting process. Candidates can request a recount in Georgia if the margin of victory is less than half a percent – Sen. Jon Ossoff won his race by 1.2%, and Sen. Raphael Warnock won by 2%. Even though the Senate races were close, neither was close enough to require a recount, but in the report, Kirk said they decided to perform the audit to discredit the “mountain of misinformation” that was spread leading up to the election. In particular, Kirk was trying to dispel rumors that the Dominion voting machines used for the first time this election cycle were subject to hacking or malfunction. “Rather than engage in speculation on whether or not the system changed votes after they were cast (it didn’t) or whether it was connected to the internet (it wasn’t), we choose to respond with the simple fact that we know every voter’s vote was accurately counted in Bartow County because we checked – one ballot at a time,” Kirk wrote in the report. Party monitors were present to observe the audit, and the monitors chose which of the Senate races was going to be audited by flipping a coin.
While it’s only 2021, a major question facing Democrats this year and next will be what to do about the presidential nominating calendar and whether Iowa, in particular, should retain its prized place at the front of the calendar in 2024. Iowa’s decades-long lock on the nominating process has been under threat since last year’s disastrous caucus, when results were delayed for days due in part to a faulty smartphone app that was supposed to make things easier for precinct captains when they reported results. Ultimately, The Associated Press never declared a winner in the contest because of problems with the vote count, which was administered by the Iowa Democratic Party. Iowa’s voters are also older, more rural and more white than many other states so it’s seen as increasingly out of step with the Democratic mainstream, which increasingly relies on voters of color and young people for its support. President Biden’s newly installed pick to lead the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison of South Carolina, will get a chance to shake up the calendar by appointing members to the party’s rules and bylaws committee. Unlike past presidents, Biden didn’t win in Iowa (he came in fourth, after former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) and owes no political debt to the complex caucus process. “I think on its merits that the Iowa caucus falls short of the values that we espouse as Democrats,” Julian Castro said. Castro served as housing and urban development secretary under President Barack Obama and ran for president himself in 2020.
Montana GOP considers ending Election-Day voter registration | Arren Kimbreil-Sannit/Missoula Current
Legislative Republicans debuted the first of their “election integrity” proposals Friday with a bill to end Election-Day voter registration in Montana, which has been on the books since 2005. The bill’s sponsor, Florence Republican Sharon Greef, said it’s a necessary solution to the long lines and hours-long waits on voting day in the last and prior elections — and something that could reduce the burden on the county offices that oversee polling places. “One of our biggest problems is trying to run an election in a decent way that is organized when you still have people coming in to register to vote (on Election Day),” said Doug Ellis, the top elections official (as well as clerk, recorder, treasurer and superintendent) in Broadwater County, in support of the measure. But several opponents of the bill testified Thursday that the solution to administrative burden at the county elections level isn’t to restrict voting, especially if it means cutting off late registration the Friday before election day, as Greef is proposing.
New Jersey: Historic audit of mail-in election is complete. The results are promising, officials say. | Steve Strunsky/NJ.com
Mariel Hufnagel said she asked for a recount after losing her bid for Eatontown Borough Council by just 10 votes in November not because she suspected foul play. Rather, the Democratic challenger said it was because the margin was simply too thin to risk letting what could have been a few chance counting errors defy the will of the people, particularly in an unprecedented election conducted almost entirely via mail-in balloting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. As it turned out, the recount only confirmed Hufnagel’s defeat. But she accepted the results, after the accuracy of the initial machine tally of the race’s 6,500 mailed-in paper ballots was largely borne out by a recounting of the ballots by hand. And although she was disappointed, her faith in the electoral process was unshaken. “I believe that our democracy has checks and balances in place, such as a recount, exactly for situations like this,” Hufnagel wrote in an email. “I am sure if the situation was flipped, the Republicans would do the same.” More than 6.2 million paper ballots were sent to registered voters for Nov. 3 races ranging from school board to president, and 4.4 million were returned and counted.
New York: Brindisi, Tenney campaigns lay out arguments on what ballots to count | Steve Howe/Utica Observer-Dispatch
The legal teams for both candidates in the race for New York’s 22nd Congressional District are preparing for final oral arguments in state Supreme Court on Friday. Those preparations were detailed in legal briefs filed Wednesday, which provide depth and legal backing to arguments already presented during the ballot-by-ballot judicial review by state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte. Republican Claudia Tenney of New Hartford leads Democrat Anthony Brindisi of Utica by 29 votes in the latest unofficial results. The race is a rematch of the 2018 election, which Brindisi won by less than 4,500 votes. An order from DelConte on Wednesday will require the Oneida County Board of Elections to correct errors in its canvass of affidavit ballots connected to 2,418 unprocessed online voter registration forms. The error correction and update tallies from Oneida County are due Wednesday, Jan. 27. On Thursday, Brindisi’s legal team reiterated its stance the court is limited to only reviewing the contested affidavit ballots based on registration and requested a stay on the order to canvass all of the affidavit ballots again. The Brindisi campaign objected to 60 affidavit ballots on the basis of registration, which were described as mostly young people and Democrats during court proceedings.
South Dakota Republican Secretary of State Steve Barnett on Friday testified that Senate Bill 24 would “create a system that provides South Dakotans with a useful tool” in terms of allowing online voter registration. However, the GOP-dominated Senate State Affairs Committee put a quick halt to the effort, passing an amendment to the original legislation that makes it so voters it would allow voters to change their address online, but not register to vote. Ultimately, Senate Bill 24, which had been intended to create an online voter registration interface allowing voters to register online, passed the committee with the amendment. Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said this “completely guts” the original bill. Currently, South Dakota is one of only 10 states that does not allow voter registration to occur online. There were multiple testimonies from the bill’s supporters, among them Barnett, while no one testified against the bill. However, Senate Majority Whip Jim Bolin, R-Canton, proposed an amendment that would only allow voters to change their address online, but not register to vote.
Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General | Katie Benner and Catie Edmondson/The New York Times
When Representative Scott Perry joined his colleagues in a monthslong campaign to undermine the results of the presidential election, promoting “Stop the Steal” events and supporting an attempt to overturn millions of legally cast votes, he often took a back seat to higher-profile loyalists in President Donald J. Trump’s orbit. But Mr. Perry, an outspoken Pennsylvania Republican, played a significant role in the crisis that played out at the top of the Justice Department this month, when Mr. Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse. It was Mr. Perry, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, who first made Mr. Trump aware that a relatively obscure Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, the acting chief of the civil division, was sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s view that the election had been stolen, according to former administration officials who spoke with Mr. Clark and Mr. Trump. Mr. Perry introduced the president to Mr. Clark, whose openness to conspiracy theories about election fraud presented Mr. Trump with a welcome change from the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president’s efforts to undo them. Mr. Perry’s previously unreported role, and the quiet discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Clark that followed, underlined how much the former president was willing to use the government to subvert the election, turning to more junior and relatively unknown figures for help as ranking Republicans and cabinet members rebuffed him.
Virginia Senate eases absentee voting requirements; House bans firearms at voting locations | yler Arnold/The Center Square
The Virginia Senate and House passed election-related bills Monday, including legislation that makes voting absentee easier. The Senate voted 21-19 to pass Senate Bill 1097, which would remove the requirement that all absentee ballots be filled out in the presence of a witness. The law currently requires a witness signature for an absentee ballot to be valid, although that requirement was temporarily halted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would eliminate the requirement permanently. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, received substantial support from Democrats who argued it would make voting easier and more accessible. Republicans warned it could compromise election security. House Bill 2081, which passed along a similar partisan divide in the House, would prohibit the possession of firearms on or near voting locations. The bill, sponsored by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, passed the chamber in a 53-47 vote. The legislation would prohibit possession of a firearm within 40 feet of any buildings used as a polling location. It would be applicable one hour before the building is being used for that purpose until one hour after. Violations would result in a Class 1 misdemeanor. Law enforcement officers and licensed armed security officers employed at the building would be exempt from the requirement. Any person whose private property falls within 40 feet of a polling place also would be exempt while occupying that property.
Washington: ‘I refuse to live in fear’: Secretary of State Kim Wyman reflects on threats and rebuilding trust in elections | Orion Donovan-Smith/The Spokesman-Review
On the morning of Jan. 6, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman was texting with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The Republican Spokane congresswoman planned to object to the certification of Electoral College results that would make President Joe Biden’s victory official. She told Wyman, a fellow Republican and the state’s top election official, she had concerns because of the tens of millions of Americans who believe there was widespread fraud in November’s election. Wyman, who had spent months responding to misinformation about the election, offered to address whatever concerns McMorris Rodgers had and told her to reach out. But before they could talk – and while two-thirds of House Republicans prepared to object to the election results – thousands of former President Donald Trump’s supporters marched from a rally outside the White House, where Trump repeated his baseless claim that the election was rigged, and stormed the Capitol. The violence, which left five people dead and dozens of police officers injured, was the culmination of a monthslong campaign by Trump and his allies to sow distrust in the U.S. voting system and eventually claim the election was stolen from him through a vast conspiracy. GOP lawmakers, cowed by Trump’s threats to unseat disloyal Republicans, largely gave credence to his election-rigging claims even as they outperformed expectations in their own races. As the rioters ransacked the Capitol, McMorris Rodgers had a change of heart and announced she would no longer object to the mostly symbolic count of Electoral College results. She was one of just two House Republicans to change course while the majority of GOP lawmakers heeded Trump’s demand to be “tough” and contest the results.