All posts by Rick Hasen

“Rightwing sheriffs’ groups ramp up drives to monitor US midterm elections”

The Guardian:

Two groups of rightwing sheriffs that echo some of Donald Trump’s false claims about widespread voting fraud in 2020 are ramping up drives to monitor this year’s elections for potential voting and election fraud.

The two Arizona-led groups together boast over 350 sheriffs as members nationwide, and have forged various ties with Texas-based True the Vote, which has a history of making unverified claims of voting fraud, spurring watchdogs and law enforcement veterans to voice alarms of looming threats to voting rights and election workers.

The burgeoning sheriffs’ drive to investigate so-called voting fraud was evident at a secretive Arizona meeting on 13 August that drew a crowd of some 200 allies, including former sheriff Richard Mack and current sheriff Mark Lamb, who each lead sheriffs’ groups. The True the Vote chief, Catherine Engelbrecht, arranged the event, Mack told the Guardian.

The gathering lasted about seven and a half hours and featured talks by Engelbrecht and Lamb, the sheriff of Pinal county, Arizona, who teamed up in June to create ProtectAmerica.Vote. to promote a larger role for sheriffs in election monitoring, said Mack.

“I totally support what they’re doing,” said Mack, who leads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which has thousands of members around the country, including hundreds of sheriffs.

The event, to which Mack invited several of his staff and two former law enforcement officials, provided “more evidence of quite extensive election fraud”, said Mack. “There’s no way anyone in this country should be trusting computers to tabulate votes.” The meeting, which was covered live by the conservative Right Side Broadcasting Network, was held at a venue “ that was very surreptitious”, added Mack, former sheriff of Graham county, Arizona.

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Quote of the Day

“I can’t tell you the number of times somebody said, ‘You don’t have to believe the election is stolen, the important thing isn’t believing it, it’s saying it. . . . That is what a Republican is supposed to do right now.”

–Defeated Republican member of Congress Peter Meijer, quoted in the NYT.

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“Facebook has a midterm strategy. Trump won’t be part of it.”

Politico:

Facebook will not move up its timeline for reviewing its decision to suspend Donald Trump, regardless of whether he announces he’s running again for president, a top company executive told POLITICO.

In sticking to its January timetable, Facebook has decided to keep Trump off the world’s largest social media platform even if he becomes a declared presidential candidate before then. The platform’s timeline will also be unaffected by the recent FBI search of Trump’s residence in Florida.

Trump is widely expected to run in 2024, with an announcement possible before the midterms.

“We’re going to stay on that timeline,” Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said in an interview. Facebook blocked Trump following posts the company said violated its incitement of violence policy during the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The company later set a date of Jan. 7, 2023, for a decision on whether to reinstate him.

If Trump announces that he’s running for president in 2024, it may increase outside pressure on Facebook to make a call more quickly. Many Republicans have already argued that the company is unfairly silencing Trump on a platform used by millions of Americans, and Trump’s potential opponents do not face similar restrictions. Meanwhile, some of Trump’s critics have called for a permanent ban.

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“Robin Vos says Michael Gableman could lose his law license over 2020 election review, records violations”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman could lose his law license over his conduct during the taxpayer-funded review of the 2020 election — but he stopped just short of calling for it.

“It’s really a decision the courts have to make. I mean when you have a client and you decide to besmirch the very client that is paying you, I’m not a lawyer but I think that is against the legal code or the legal ethics or whatever it is,” Vos said. “But that’s for somebody else to decide.”

Vos spoke to reporters Tuesday evening after the Republican caucus. He said he has not had contact with Gableman since firing him Friday.

The decision to revoke Gableman’s law license would be made by the Office of Lawyer Regulation, the agency of the Wisconsin Supreme Court that receives grievances relating to lawyer misconduct, Vos said.

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True the Vote’s Gregg Phillips Continues the Election Fraud Grift

Daily Beast:

Earlier this year, election-fraud conspiracy theorist Gregg Phillips shot to fame on the right as one of the stars of 2,000 Mules, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s quasi-documentary attempt to prove the 2020 election was stolen. Since the movie’s release in May, however, Phillips has claimed he has proof of election fraud that was “10 times” bigger than 2,000 Mules.

On Saturday, Phillips vowed to finally release his information in front of a crowd of more than 100 conservative conspiracy theorists and influencers at an exclusive gathering he dubbed “The Pit.” But what was meant to be Phillips’s moment of triumph ended in disaster, as police ushered Phillips from his own afterparty for bringing a gun and warned him not to return.

illips’ ouster from his event marks the latest blunder for election-fraud conspiracy theorists. For Phillips and his organization, True the Vote, it’s yet another time they’ve tried and failed to prove election fraud.

Phillips’ weekend initially went according to plan, with a rogue’s gallery of QAnon promoters and other far-right figures meeting at an “undisclosed location” near Scottsdale, Arizona to hear Phillips’ much-hyped announcement. Dubbed “The Ripcord,” as in Phillips’s constant threats to “pulling the ripcord www” and releasing his purported evidence.

The big reveal, however, turned out to be a massive flop, with Phillips merely directing his fans to a partially built website that appears to offer supporters a chance to pay money to see proof of election fraud.

That disappointment didn’t stop Phillips and the conservative pundits in his entourage from heading to Scottsdale’s Hotel Valley Ho for the after-party. Soon after the event began, though, hotel security noticed that Phillips was armed with a gun, a violation of hotel policy.

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“Poll worker shortage looms ahead of Georgia election”

AJC:

Poll workers, the essential employees needed to run elections, are in short supply in Georgia as early voting is set to begin in just over two months.

“Help wanted,” say election officials who are struggling to find thousands of personnel amid a tight labor market and a contentious political environment.

They’re pushing to hire more people before a worker deficiency turns into a bigger problem, though there’s still time to meet recruitment goals and avoid the risk of short-staffed polling places in Georgia’s midterm elections.

All the largest counties in metro Atlanta are trying to find new hires between now and Election Day. Tuesday is Help America Vote Day, an effort to reach potential poll workers through in-person events and social media ads.

“This is a moving target,” said Keisha Smith, elections director for DeKalb County. “We’re looking to expand and to bring in new people until Election Day. I worry about everything … but we’re on track to meet our numbers.”

Poll worker shortages at this point before a major election aren’t unusual, but they could turn into a bigger problem, as they did when health concerns about the coronavirus led many people to abandon plans to work the 2020 election….

The temporary job comes with relatively low pay and long hours, making it difficult to hire people in Georgia with its 2.9% unemployment rate.

Workers also faced threats from those who believed the 2020 election was stolen, such as Shaye Moss, a Fulton poll worker who told a congressional committee that she received hostile Facebook messages and went into hiding.

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“Securing U.S. Elections: A Method for Prioritizing Cybersecurity Risk in Election Infrastructure”

New Rand report:

U.S. election systems are diverse in terms of governance and technology. This reflects the constitutional roles reserved for the states in administering and running elections but makes it challenging to develop a national picture of cybersecurity risk in election systems. Moreover, it requires each state and jurisdiction to evaluate and prioritize risk in the systems it oversees. With funding from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, researchers from the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center have developed a methodology for understanding and prioritizing cybersecurity risk in election infrastructure to assist state and local election officials.

Key Findings

  • Election systems consist of multiple components (voter registration, pollbooks, voting machines, tabulation equipment, and official websites) that are administered and controlled at different levels, depending on the state.

Prioritizing risk across system components requires evaluating three factors

  • The first is the likelihood of a successful attack, using fault tree analysis to determine the level of sophistication needed based on security controls implemented on each system component.
  • The second is the scale of impact of an attack, based on whether a successful attack could affect a single location, a jurisdiction, or an entire state.
  • The third is the severity of an attack, as measured by the extent to which it would impede election officials’ efforts to carry out election processes.

Recommendations

  • Officials can use the ratings or scores on likelihood, scale, and severity to prioritize efforts to protect the election infrastructure in their care.
  • Armed with an understanding of potential adversaries’ tiers, the capability required to execute a particular type of attack on a particular component, and the scale and severity that such an attack would have if successful, election officials can direct protective resources toward the types of prevention and remediation that make most sense for their specific jurisdictions.
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“Independent State Legislatures and Presidential Elections: Addressing Misconceptions About Current Law and Prospects for Reform”

Genevieve Nadeau and Helen White for Just Security:

During the recent Senate Rules Committee hearing on Electoral Count Act reform, Senator Angus King (I-ME) asked a question that seems to be on many minds: What is the independent state legislature theory and how would it impact the casting and counting of electoral votes under the Electoral Count Act? The bipartisan panel of experts was clear in response. The Electoral Count Act, current or reformed, would continue to constrain state legislatures even if the Supreme Court adopts the independent state legislature theory and frees state legislatures from state-level checks on their power to regulate federal elections. Indeed, these two areas of election law have little to do with one another. But with the landscape developing quickly and the stakes high, it is helpful to explore the issues in detail.

We offer this analysis, adding to the work of Professors Rick PildesNed FoleyDerek Muller, and Rick Hasen (among others), as well as organizations including the Cato Institute, in an effort to bring more clarity to two topics that are now among the most urgent in election law.

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“Giuliani Is Told He Is a Target of Trump Election Investigation in Georgia”

NYT:

Lawyers for Rudolph W. Giuliani have been told that he is a target of a criminal investigation in Georgia into election interference by Donald J. Trump and his advisers, one of Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers said on Monday.

Mr. Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power as his personal lawyer, emerged in recent weeks as a central figure in the inquiry being conducted by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., which encompasses most of Atlanta. Earlier this summer, prosecutors questioned witnesses before a special grand jury about Mr. Giuliani’s appearances before state legislative panels in December 2020, when he spent hours peddling false conspiracy theories about secret suitcases of Democratic ballots and corrupted voting machines.

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“Trump-allied lawyers pursued voting machine data in multiple states, records reveal”

WaPo:

A team of computer experts directed by lawyers allied with President Donald Trump copied sensitive data from election systems in Georgia as part of a secretive, multistate effort to access voting equipment that was broader, more organized and more successful than previously reported, according to emails and other records obtained by The Washington Post.

As they worked to overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat, the lawyers asked a forensic data firm to access county election systems in at least three battleground states, according to the documents and interviews. The firm charged an upfront retainer fee for each job, which in one case was $26,000.

Attorney Sidney Powell sent the team to Michigan to copy a rural county’s election data and later helped arrange for them to do the same in the Detroit area, according to the records. A Trump campaign attorney engaged the team to travel to Nevada. And the day after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol the team was in southern Georgia, copying data from a Dominion voting system in rural Coffee County.

The emails and other records were collected through a subpoena issued to the forensics firm, Atlanta-based SullivanStrickler, by plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit in federal court over the security of Georgia’s voting systems. The documents provide the first confirmation that data from Georgia’s election system was copied. Indications of a breach there were first raised by plaintiffs in the case in February, and state officials have said they are investigating.

“The breach is way beyond what we thought,” said David D. Cross, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, who include voting-security activists and Georgia voters. “The scope of it is mind-blowing.”

A drumbeat of revelations about alleged security breaches in local elections offices has grown louder during the nearly two years since the 2020 election. There is growing concern among experts that officials sympathetic to Trump’s claims of vote-rigging could undermine election security in the name of protecting it.

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“Doug Mastriano Plans to Use His Secretary of State Pick to Disrupt Pennsylvania Elections”

Bolts:

Doug Mastriano is a Donald Trump loyalist, and an ardent proponent of the former president’s baseless conspiracies about the 2020 election. He was outside the capitol on Jan. 6th, brought supporters to D.C. that day, and has been subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the riots. Now, Mastriano is also the GOP nominee in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race in November. His victory would hand over control of a large swing state to a hard right election denier in the lead-up to the next presidential race.

“He has revealed the Deceit, Corruption, and outright Theft of the 2020 Presidential Election, and will do something about it,” Trump said of Mastriano when he endorsed him in May. 

A centerpiece of Mastriano’s promise to revamp the state’s election system is to flex the governor’s authority to choose Pennsylvania’s secretary of state.

“As governor, I get to appoint the secretary of state. And I have a voting reform-minded individual who’s been traveling the nation and knows voting reform extremely well,” Mastriano told Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for Trump, in an April interview. “That individual has agreed to be my secretary of state.”

Mastriano rarely talks to the news media and mostly conducts interviews in far right venues, where his narrative about the 2020 election will not be questioned. As such, he has not publicly named the person he would name for secretary of state, though reporting from HuffPost and the Philadelphia Inquirer  revealed some possible contenders among his like-minded allies. Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to an interview request for this article.

He has made it clear he would use many of the levers at his disposal to change rules he portrays as rife with corruption. “I saw better elections in Afghanistan than in Pennsylvania,” Mastriano, who spent much of his career in the U.S. Army, said during his campaign. He could work with the legislature, for instance, to pass new voting restrictions like rolling back mail-in voting or adopting harsh voter ID laws, measures he has promoted in the past. He has also proposed forcing voters to re-register and has said he could decertify all election machines in the state.

The ability to reshape the secretary of state position gives him more options than he might have in a state where the position is an elected office.

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“Election deniers march toward power in key 2024 battlegrounds”

WaPo:

First came Kristina Karamo, a community college instructor from Detroit who claimed without evidence that she witnessed fraud as a 2020 election observer — and who in April became her party’s pick for secretary of state, Michigan’s top election official, after repeatedly touting those claims.

Next was Doug Mastriano, the firebrand state lawmaker from Pennsylvania who urged his colleagues to throw out Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. In May, Mastriano secured the GOP nomination for governor, a position with the power to certify the state’s slate of presidential electors.

Finally, this month, Arizona Republicans nominated Kari Lake for governor and Mark Finchem for secretary of state. Both are outspoken election deniers who have pledged that they would not have certified Biden’s victory in their state.

The winners fit a pattern: Across the battleground states that decided the 2020 vote, candidates who deny the legitimacy of that election have claimed nearly two-thirds of GOP nominations for state and federal offices with authority over elections, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Had those candidates held power in 2020, they would have had the electoral clout to try something that the current officeholders refused: overturning the vote and denying Biden the presidency.

“We would have won,” Finchem told supporters in an email. “Plain and simple.”

Whether they could have succeeded in practice is a matter of vigorous debate among scholars, who cite the potential for court challenges and other means of upholding the results.

But the experts agree on one thing: A close presidential contest that comes down to the outcome in states where officials are willing to try to thwart the popular will could throw the country into chaos. It would potentially delay the result, undermine confidence in the democratic system and sow the seeds of civil strife on a scale even greater than what the nation saw on Jan. 6, 2021.

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