voter suppression

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Mississippi: Jones County election commissioner’s social media comment about Black voters causes uproar | Lici Beveridge/Mississippi Clarion Ledger

A social media comment with racial undertones made by a Mississippi election commissioner sparked outrage across the state on the same weekend state legislators voted to retire the flag and its Confederate emblem. “I’m concerned about voter registration in Mississippi,” the commissioner wrote. “The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too.” Gail Welch’s comment caused an uproar Sunday, as screen shots of the comment spread quickly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Welch said she has received calls and messages from all over the country about the post. On Facebook, dozens of people shared their thoughts on the Welch’s words. One Mississippi lawmaker said he doesn’t know if Welch meant what she said, but her words give an impression of racism. “It’s those kind of things that people say until somebody brings it to their attention and then it’s not what they said or it’s not what they meant,” said Sen. Juan Barnett, whose district includes part of Jones County.

Full Article: Mississippi election commissioner accused of making racist comments.

Pennsylvania: The Trump campaign is suing Pennsylvania over how to run the 2020 election | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

The Trump reelection campaign sued Pennsylvania state and county elections officials Monday, saying mail ballot drop boxes were unconstitutional in the way they were used in the June 2 primary election and asking a federal court to bar them in November. “Defendants have sacrificed the sanctity of in-person voting at the altar of unmonitored mail-in voting and have exponentially enhanced the threat that fraudulent or otherwise ineligible ballots will be cast and counted in the forthcoming general election,” says the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Instances of voter fraud are rare, and there is virtually no evidence of successful widespread conspiracy to commit fraud via mail ballots. (An alleged effort in Paterson, N.J., last month quickly raised flags, and last week the state attorney general charged four men in the scheme.) The lawsuit says mail ballot drop boxes violate the state and federal constitutions because elections officials are making decisions outside of what the law allows, taking the power to make law away from the legislature. The suit also argues that state and county elections officials set up different rules and policies across the state, creating a patchwork system that violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

Full Article: Trump campaign sues Pa. over 2020 election mail ballot drop boxes.

National: Trump ignores Covid-19 risk in renewed attack on ‘corrupt’ mail-in voting | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Donald Trump has continued to suggest that fear of contracting Covid-19 is not a good enough excuse not to appear at the polls, and that Americans should only be able to vote by mail under limited circumstances. Trump is wrongfully conflating no-excuse vote by mail, a system where anyone can request a ballot, and universal mail-in voting, a system where all registered voters are mailed a ballot. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia allow anyone to request an absentee ballot, but just five have universal vote by mail. While fraud is extremely rare in mail-in voting, the New Jersey case Trump referenced occurred in a local election held entirely by mail and was caught as ballots were being counted. The president and his campaign have repeatedly tried to make the false distinction as part of an effort to explain why Trump and many other administration officials have voted by mail, even though they staunchly oppose the practice.

Full Article: Trump ignores Covid-19 risk in renewed attack on 'corrupt' mail-in voting | US news | The Guardian.

Georgia: Absentee voting program embraced by Georgia voters, then abandoned by Republican Secretary of State | ark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When election officials mailed absentee applications to nearly 7 million Georgia voters, they responded in droves. Absentee voting rates skyrocketed, from 6% of all ballots cast in the 2018 general election to over half of the votes cast in this month’s primary. A record 1.1 million voters cast absentee ballots in the primary, avoiding human contact during the coronavirus pandemic. Voters won’t have the same easy access to absentee voting again. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who started the absentee ballot request program in April, decided against mailing ballot applications to voters for the presidential election, when turnout is expected to reach a new high of 5 million. He said it would be impractical and too expensive to repeat the effort this fall. Instead, Raffensperger plans to create a website where voters can request absentee ballots on their own. All registered voters are eligible to cast absentee ballots. The move is likely to reduce requests for absentee ballots.

Full Article: Georgia absentee voting effort ended before high turnout election.

New Jersey: What alleged voter fraud in Paterson, New Jersey tells us about November — and what it doesn’t | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

At some point it becomes blurry whether President Trump is defending a position because he believes it or because he refuses to lose the debate. He has been claiming for four years that American elections are subject to massive, widespread voter fraud, for example, and continues to make those claims despite a complete lack of evidence. Yes, some fraud occurs, but that doesn’t mean that it occurs widely, much less without detection. This is an important distinction, so it’s worth reiterating. It is the case that your car could be stolen. Auto theft exists. There are even local gangs who steal cars regularly and sell them for parts. It is not the case, though, that there exists a national ring of car thieves who operate without detection, purloining and selling millions of cars a year. That auto theft exists does not strengthen the argument that auto theft exists at a scale in which the system of auto ownership is imperiled.

Full Article: What alleged voter fraud in Paterson, N.J., tells us about November — and what it doesn’t - The Washington Post.

Pennsylvania: Trump campaign sues Pennsylvania over mail-in drop-off sites for ballots | Mark Scolforo/Associated Press

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, the national Republican Party and four Pennsylvania members of Congress sued Monday to force changes to how the state collects and counts mail-in ballots under revamped rules. The federal lawsuit filed in Pittsburgh claims that as voters jumped to make use of the greatly broadened eligibility for mail-in ballots during the June 2 primary, practices and procedures by elections officials ran afoul of state law and the state and federal constitutions. It claims the defendants, which are the 67 county election boards and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, “have inexplicably chosen a path that jeopardizes election security and will lead — and has already led — to the disenfranchisement of voters, questions about the accuracy of election results, and ultimately chaos” ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. A spokeswoman for Boockvar, a Democrat, declined comment about the litigation, as did the head of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, whose members administer elections. The head of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party called the lawsuit an effort to suppress votes as a campaign tactic, noting Democrats far outpaced Republicans in getting their voters to apply for mail-in ballots ahead of the primary.

Full Article: Trump campaign sues Pa. over mail-in drop-off sites for ballots - pennlive.com.

Wisconsin: Appeals court limits Wisconsin early voting to 2 weeks before election, stops voters from receiving ballots via email, fax | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In a sweeping decision that took more than three years to come out, a panel of federal judges on Monday reinstated limits on early voting and a requirement that voters be Wisconsin residents for at least a month before an election. The three judges also banned most voters from having absentee ballots emailed or faxed to them and told a lower court to continue to tweak the system the state uses to provide voting credentials to those who have the most difficulty getting photo IDs. The unanimous decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago was mostly a setback for the liberal groups that challenged Wisconsin’s voting laws, but it did give them some victories. The appeals court upheld a decision that allows college students to use expired university IDs to vote and barred the state from requiring colleges to provide citizenship information about dorm residents who head to the polls. A lower court judge struck down many of Wisconsin’s election laws in 2016 because he found they disproportionately affected the ability of minorities to vote. But the appeals judges concluded GOP lawmakers wrote the laws to help their party, and not specifically to discriminate against anyone based on race.

Full Article: Wisconsin early voting limited as appeals court tightens election law.

Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds signs law limiting Iowa secretary of state’s powers in elections | Ian Richardson/Des Moines Register

Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed into law new restrictions that will prevent Secretary of State Paul Pate from mailing ballot request forms to Iowans in November’s election without first seeking approval from legislators. The law will also prohibit county election officials from decreasing the number of polling places by more than 35% during an election. The legislation was passed by state lawmakers after Pate and county election officials took similar steps before the primary because of the coronavirus pandemic. Leading up to the primary, Pate extended the mail-in voting period from 29 to 40 days and mailed ballot request forms to every registered voter in Iowa. The primary had record turnout, with nearly 80% of those casting ballots voting absentee. But Republicans in both chambers of the Legislature looked to limit Pate’s power, with some saying he had pushed the limits of his authority and that another secretary of state could use the same powers in an effort to reduce voter turnout.

Full Article: Gov. Kim Reynolds signs law limiting Iowa secretary of state's powers in elections.

National: Klobuchar: Trump’s opposition to expanded mail-in voting is a ‘blatant effort to suppress the vote’ | Rebecca Klar/The Hill

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called President Trump’s opposition to expanding access to vote-by-mail amid the coronavirus pandemic a “blatant effort to suppress the vote.” Klobuchar accused Trump of trying to scare voters with unsubstantiated claims that more mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud in an effort to aid his bid for reelection in November. “He said it himself. I would love to break news on your show that I had some special thing, but he has said that the vote by mail is going to hurt him in his election,” Klobuchar said Wednesday in an interview with The Hill’s Steve Clemons. “So what does he do, which is his typical playbook? He then claims that it’s fraudulent to scare people in a blatant effort to suppress the vote,” she added. Trump has railed against mail-in voting, as Democrats have pushed to expand the option amid the coronavirus pandemic. Klobuchar pushed back on the president’s claims. “He says it is fraudulent, yet if you look at a state like Oregon, which is nearly 100 percent vote by mail … the fraud rate is like 0.0000001 percent or something like that. It’s crazy,” she said.

Full Article: Klobuchar: Trump's opposition to expanded mail-in voting is a 'blatant effort to suppress the vote' | TheHill.

National: ‘An embarrassment’: Trump’s justice department goes quiet on voting rights | Sam Levine/The Guardian

The Department of Justice (DoJ), the agency with unmatched power to prevent discrimination at the ballot box, has been glaringly quiet when it comes to enforcing voting rights ahead of the 2020 election, former department attorneys say. Amid concern that the attorney general, William Barr, is using the department to advance Trump’s political interests, observers say the department is failing to protect the voting rights of minority groups. Remarkably, while the department has been involved in a handful of cases since Donald Trump’s inauguration, it has largely defended voting restrictions rather than opposing them. The department’s limited public activity has been striking, particularly as several states have seen voters wait hours in line to vote and jurisdictions are rapidly limiting in-person voting options because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “It just seems like there’s nobody home, which is tragic,” said William Yeomans, who worked in the department’s civil rights division, which includes the voting section, for over two decades. “This is especially sad considering the plethora of voting issues crying out for action, from Georgia to Wisconsin.” Until late May, the justice department had not filed a new case under the Voting Rights Act, the powerful 1965 law that prohibits voting discrimination, during Trump’s presidency. (In 2019, it settled a Voting Rights Act case in Michigan that was filed in the final days of the Obama administration.)

Full Article: 'An embarrassment': Trump's justice department goes quiet on voting rights | US voting rights | The Guardian.

Kentucky: State votes amid COVID-19, suppression claims as late voters are allowed into polling site | Phillip M. Bailey and Joe Sonka/Louisville Courier Journal

Kentuckians streamed into polling places across the state on Tuesday during a historic primary election that withstood a global pandemic and outside worries of voter suppression. When polls opened at 6 a.m., a line had formed at the lone voting location in Jefferson County — the cavernous Kentucky Exposition Center at the state fairgrounds. Those who showed up throughout the day described their experience as quick and easy, with most saying the traffic entering and leaving the parking lot was the most difficult task. Conflict erupted, though, when the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office closed the doors at 6:03 p.m., just after the announced time for voting to cease throughout the state, leaving a crowd of about 50 people outside. About a dozen voters pounded on the glass doors and shouted, “Let us in!” The campaign of state Rep. Charles Booker, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, sought an injunction to allow the polling place to stay open until 9 p.m., according to a tweet from campaign manager Colin Lauderdale.

Full Article: Kentucky primary: Election Day marked by COVID-19, suppression claims.

Wisconsin: Lawsuits aim to ease rules limiting Wisconsin college voters | Kayla Huynh/Wisconsin State Journal

On the day of the Wisconsin spring primary in February, Peter German was determined to vote. In between strained breaths, German — a freshman from West Bend attending UW-Madison — said he had been running from building to building in an attempt to cast his ballot. “I haven’t missed an election yet,” he said. The previous day, he tried to register to vote at the Madison City Clerk’s office with no luck. He lacked the required form of identification and documents under Wisconsin’s voter ID law, implemented in 2015 after a series of legal battles. On Feb. 18, Election Day, he again could not vote because he did not have a voter-compliant photo ID card. This sent German crisscrossing campus for nearly an hour, where he was finally able to cast his ballot — thanks to a freshly printed student voter card. As German learned, for students living away from home, Wisconsin is one of the most difficult states in which to vote. Student IDs issued by state colleges and universities in Wisconsin are not sufficient for voting, requiring students to go through additional hoops if they wish to vote using their college address.

Full Article: Lawsuits aim to ease rules limiting Wisconsin college voters | Crime | madison.com.

Iowa: Vote by mail: After record primary turnout, Iowa Senate Republicans try to limit vote-by-mail in presidential election | Nicole Goodkind/Fortune

Iowa set a new record for primary election turnout this month after secretary of state Paul Pate sent applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters. More than 520,000 ballots were cast, according to Pate’s office, beating the previous record of 450,000 set in 1994. Now, Republicans in the state senate are trying to prevent him from doing the same in the general election this November. The Iowa Senate State Government Committee advanced a 30-page bill on a party-line vote late last week that would prohibit Pate, also a Republican, from proactively sending applications for mail-in-ballots to all registered voters. Anyone who wanted a mail-in ballot would need to submit a written request on their own and show proof of valid voter identification. The bill would prohibit the secretary from taking emergency election action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The secretary can make changes in cases of extreme weather or during wartime, it says, but not during a health crisis. It also prevents Pate from making any changes to the early or absentee voting process, even in an emergency.

Full Article: Vote by mail: After record primary turnout, Iowa Senate Republicans try to limit vote-by-mail in presidential election | Fortune.

National: GOP recruits army of poll watchers to fight voter fraud no one can prove exists | Jane C. Timm/NBC

Republicans are recruiting an estimated 50,000 volunteers to act as “poll watchers” in November, part of a multimillion-dollar effort to police who votes and how. That effort, coordinated by the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, includes a $20 million fund for legal battles as well as the GOP’s first national poll-patrol operation in nearly 40 years. While poll watching is an ordinary part of elections — both parties do it — voting rights advocates worry that such a moneyed, large-scale offensive by the Republicans will intimidate and target minority voters who tend to vote Democratic and chill turnout in a pivotal contest already upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Some states allow poll monitors to challenge a voter’s eligibility, requiring that person’s ballot undergo additional vetting to be counted. In Michigan, for example, a challenged voter will be removed from line and questioned about their citizenship, age, residency and date of voter registration if, according to election rules, a vote challenger has “good reason” to believe they are not eligible. They are required to take an oath attesting that their answers are true and are given a special ballot.

Full Article: GOP recruits army of poll watchers to fight voter fraud no can prove exists.

Iowa: Senate Republicans propose limiting election officials’ powers during emergency | Ian Richardson and Stephen Gruber-Miller/Des Moines Register

Three days after a statewide primary election that saw record turnout due largely to coronavirus-related absentee voting, Iowa Senate Republicans advanced legislation that would prevent election officials from repeating some of the same steps in the general election. The legislation would prohibit county auditors from reducing polling locations by more than 35% during an emergency and prohibit the secretary of state from mailing absentee ballot requests without a written voter request. Iowa election officials took both of those actions before Tuesday’s primary to ease both voting and election administration during the virus. Republicans have said they want to write guidelines to provide clarity for campaigns ahead of the November federal elections. But Democrats on Friday said the changes would suppress votes, and the amendment also drew outcry from local election officials.

Full Article: Senate Republicans propose limiting election officials' powers during emergency.

Editorials: Bill Barr’s strategy to undermine confidence in the 2020 election | Perry Grossman/Slate

We are in the midst of a lethal pandemic. There are also unprecedented protests against police brutality and curfews in place. And the attorney general of the United States is using his time to actively undermine confidence in the integrity of the November elections by floating nonsense conspiracy theories about counterfeit absentee ballots. Republican attempts at voter suppression are nothing new. What’s new is the chaos element that Barr’s remarks inject into the 2020 election cycle. It’s an attempt to foment a climate in which Trumpian authoritarianism can take center stage over liberal democracy. For decades, Republicans have used false claims of voter fraud to justify voter suppression efforts. For example, in the 1981 race for governor of New Jersey, the Republican National Committee and the state party executed a voter-caging scheme by mailing out letters targeting thousands of primarily Black and Latinx New Jersey voters using an outdated voter registration list. They then used the bounced-back mail to try to purge those voters from the rolls. That same year, Republicans deployed a group of off-duty police officers wearing armbands identifying themselves as members of the “National Ballot Security Task Force,” armed and carrying walkie-talkies, to patrol polling places in minority neighborhoods on Election Day. They posted signs reading: “WARNING THIS AREA IS BEING PATROLLED BY THE NATIONAL BALLOT SECURITY TASK FORCE.” These tactics resulted in a consent decree against the RNC’s “ballot security” programs that remained in place for the next 25 years, but Democrats lost that 1981 gubernatorial race by fewer than 2,000 votes.

Full Article: Bill Barr’s strategy to undermine confidence in the 2020 election..

National: As Trump attacks voting by mail, GOP builds 2020 strategy around limiting its expansion | Amy Gardner, Shawn Boburg and Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post

President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort by conservatives to limit expansion of the practice before the November election, with tens of millions of dollars planned for lawsuits and advertising aimed at restricting who receives ballots and who remains on the voter rolls. The strategy, embraced by Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee and an array of independent conservative groups, reflects the recognition by both parties that voting rules could decide the outcome of the 2020 White House race amid the electoral challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Helping drive the effort is William Consovoy, a veteran Supreme Court litigator who also serves as one of Trump’s personal lawyers. Consovoy’s Virginia-based law firm is handling a battery of legal actions on behalf of the RNC, several state GOPs and an independent group called the Honest Election­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­s Project, which is connected to a Trump adviser. The legal firepower and direct involvement of the national party reflect a major escalation in the conservative battle over voter fraud and voting rights, which until this year had primarily been waged by lesser-known groups with far fewer resources. The tactics of those organizations are now being embraced by new players with connections to influential figures in the president’s orbit. Thanks in part to Trump’s focus on the topic and his assertion that widespread mail balloting would harm Republicans, claims about the high risks of voter fraud have become central to the GOP’s 2020 playbook.

Full Article: As Trump attacks voting by mail, GOP builds 2020 strategy around limiting its expansion - The Washington Post.

National: Americans doubt elections as Trump discredits voting systems | Evan Halper/Los Angeles Times

The diatribes are as unnerving and unrelenting as they are untrue: An incumbent president warning that the nation’s voting systems are cauldrons for fraud and ripe for rigging, seemingly setting the groundwork to discredit the results should he lose in November. But while such rhetoric lacks precedent in the Oval Office, scholars say it’s a familiar playbook that President Trump is using — and one that has already had a malignant impact on public trust in American democracy. Trump’s repeated warnings of mass robbing of ballots from mailboxes, rampant forgery and flocks of illegal immigrants being permitted to hijack elections have been debunked by voting officials across party lines. Nevertheless, evidence increasingly shows that Americans are losing faith in the integrity of the nation’s elections, putting the U.S. in unaccustomed company. “I have only ever thought about these things before in an authoritarian setting,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former senior intelligence officer who led the U.S. government’s strategic analysis on Russia and is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank. “Now the same indicators are relevant here.”

Full Article: Americans doubt elections as Trump discredits voting systems - Los Angeles Times.

National: Trump’s Mail-In Voting Fraud Claims Draw Republican Critics | Shaun Courtney/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump‘s unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail will result in massive fraud in November has prompted worried protests from an increasing number of luminaries from within his own party. “It’s actually disappointing because it means you’re trying to sow the seeds of doubt in a process that has been so much a part of Americans’ history,” former Homeland Security Secretary and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said about the president’s vote-by-mail tweets. “It flies in the face of what I think both parties should be focused in on, and that’s creating options that are safe and secure for all voters, particularly during the pandemic.” Ridge is the Republican face of VoteSafe, a bipartisan campaign to ensure that every U.S. state and territory has secure mail-in ballots and safe, in-person voting sites during the Covid-19 pandemic. The group, also led by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, launched May 21. By politicizing access to voting for a perceived short-term political gain, Trump risks undermining one of the basic tenets of American democracy, Ridge and other former leaders of the Republican Party say.

Full Article: Trump’s Mail-In Voting Fraud Claims Draw Republican Critics - Bloomberg Government.

Editorials: Republicans would rather undermine California’s elections than honorably take their lumps | Los Angeles Times

Making it safe to vote during a pandemic shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But Republicans, including and especially the president, are turning it into one. This week, the state and national Republican Party organizations filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order mandating that every registered voter receive a vote-by-mail ballot as a hedge against the likelihood that the coronavirus will still be circulating in November (though in-person vote centers will still be available). No one should have to risk the fate of the many Wisconsin residents who had to cast ballots in the April primary in person. Fifty-two people who participated were later found to have contracted COVID-19. The lawsuit claims that the governor’s emergency authority doesn’t extend to setting rules about voting and that only the Legislature has the power to do so. Maybe, maybe not. The governor’s emergency authority is so broad and vague that it’s possible a federal judge may agree. But it’s largely irrelevant because the Legislature is moving a bill (Assembly Bill 860 by Palo Alto Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman) to codify the governor’s order. And even if it didn’t, the vast majority of Californians already choose to vote via mail ballots. But halting mail ballots is probably not the intent of the lawsuit. What seems more likely is that Republicans are seeding doubts in the legitimacy of California’s election returns in expectation of a drubbing in November. That’s a game that President Trump has been playing for months, as he continues to falsely claim that mail ballots lead to fraud (drawing his first Twitter fact-check disclaimer on Tuesday).

Full Article: Why the GOP wants to stop you from voting - Los Angeles Times.