Category Archives: election subversion risk

“In Wisconsin, G.O.P. Voters Demand the Impossible: Decertifying 2020”

NYT:

When she started her campaign for governor of Wisconsin, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican, acknowledged that President Biden had been legitimately elected.

She soon backtracked. Eventually, she said the 2020 election had been “rigged” against former President Donald J. Trump. She sued the state’s election commission.

But she will still not entertain the false notion that the election can somehow be overturned, a fantasy that has taken hold among many of the state’s Republicans, egged on by one of her opponents, Tim Ramthun.

And for that, she is taking grief from voters in the closing days before Tuesday’s primary.

At a campaign stop here last week, one voter, Donette Erdmann, pressed Ms. Kleefisch on her endorsement from former Vice President Mike Pence, whom many of Mr. Trump’s most devoted supporters blame for not blocking the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. “I was wondering if you’re going to resort to a RINO agenda or an awesome agenda,” Ms. Erdmann said, using a right-wing pejorative for disloyal Republicans.

Ms. Kleefisch’s startled answer — “don’t make your mind up based on what somebody else is doing,” she warned, defending her “awesome agenda” — was not enough.

“I’m going to go with Tim Ramthun,” Ms. Erdmann said afterward.

Ms. Kleefisch’s predicament illustrates how Mr. Trump’s supporters have turned fury over his 2020 election loss and the misguided belief that its results can be nullified into central campaign issues in the Republican primary for governor in Wisconsin, a battleground state won by razor-thin margins in the last two presidential elections. G.O.P. candidates have been left choosing whether to tell voters they are wrong or to engage in the fiction that something can be done to reverse Mr. Trump’s defeat.

Dozens of Republican voters and activists interviewed across the state in the last week said they wanted to see lawmakers decertify the state’s election results and claw back its 10 electoral votes, something that cannot legally be done. Nearly all of them pointed to a July decision from the conservative-leaning Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled that drop boxes used to collect ballots during the pandemic were illegal under state law, as evidence that hundreds of thousands of 2020 votes should be thrown out.

“Everybody that I’ve talked to voted for Trump,” said Cyndy Deeg, a food industry worker from Larsen, Wis. “He should be reinstated and resume the position, because he never surrendered it.”

There is no mechanism in Wisconsin law or federal law for a state to retract electoral votes or undo presidential election results two years after the contest, a fact Ms. Kleefisch finds herself explaining to voters, reporters and audiences of televised debates.

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“Exclusive: Trump-backed Michigan attorney general candidate involved in voting-system breach, documents show”

Reuters:

he Republican nominee for Michigan attorney general led a team that gained unauthorized access to voting equipment while hunting for evidence to support former President Donald Trump’s false election-fraud claims, according to a Reuters analysis of court filings and public records.

The analysis shows that people working with Matthew DePerno – the Trump-endorsed nominee for the state’s top law-enforcement post – examined a vote tabulator from Richfield Township, a conservative stronghold of 3,600 people in northern Michigan’s Roscommon County.

The Richfield security breach is one of four similar incidents being investigated by Michigan’s current attorney general, Democrat Dana Nessel. Under state law, it is a felony to seek or provide unauthorized access to voting equipment.

DePerno did not respond to a request for comment.

The involvement of a Republican attorney general nominee in a voting-system breach comes amid a national effort by backers of Trump’s fraud falsehoods to win state offices that could prove critical in deciding any future contested elections.

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“Five US States Will Decide If the 2024 Election Can Be Stolen”

Bloomberg:

In the last two years, Republicans have sought to remove state officials who wouldn’t manufacture votes and falsely declare him the winner. They changed the way elections are run in response to his conspiracy theories. Most importantly, they’ve nominated people who insist Trump won as candidates for US Congress and governor, and for offices that certify the outcome.

Has it worked?

To answer that question, a team of Bloomberg journalists set out to find which states are most vulnerable to political election interference—and what it means for elections this fall and in 2024, when the White House will once again be at stake. We dug into laws in all 50 states and scrutinized the thousands of election-related bills proposed nationwide since 2020. We consulted election-security experts, voting rights advocates, election lawyers, academics and current and former elections administrators as well as decades of political research to zero in on how elections work.

Election Risk Index: Explore the Data

The bumper-sticker version of what we found: The 2022 vote should be fine. The most far-reaching attempts by Republicans to overhaul election laws have so far stalled as Americans head into November’s midterm elections to decide governors in 36 states and control of the US Congress. So even though it’s a safe bet that at least a handful of candidates will follow Trump’s lead and claim their opponent cheated if they lose, it won’t be any easier than it was two years ago for them to overturn the results.

But the picture two years from now is shaping up to be much darker.

Trump and his loyalists are supporting people who deny the results of the 2020 election for governor in five key states this fall, more than enough to tilt a close 2024 presidential race away from the duly elected winner. Tight races this November in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin, and a possible Republican win in Pennsylvania, will determine who is in charge of making election decisions in states where the White House is won or lost. In all five of these states, Trump and his backers tried to overturn the results.

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Friday Facebook Fail: “Meta quieter on election misinformation as midterms loom”

AP:

Facebook owner Meta is quietly curtailing some of the safeguards designed to thwart voting misinformation or foreign interference in U.S. elections as the November midterm vote approaches.

It’s a sharp departure from the social media giant’s multibillion-dollar efforts to enhance the accuracy of posts about U.S. elections and regain trust from lawmakers and the public after their outrage over learning the company had exploited people’s data and allowed falsehoods to overrun its site during the 2016 campaign.

The pivot is raising alarm about Meta’s priorities and about how some might exploit the world’s most popular social media platforms to spread misleading claims, launch fake accounts and rile up partisan extremists.

“They’re not talking about it,” said former Facebook policy director Katie Harbath, now the CEO of the tech and policy firm Anchor Change. “Best case scenario: They’re still doing a lot behind the scenes. Worst case scenario: They pull back, and we don’t know how that’s going to manifest itself for the midterms on the platforms.”

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“Momentum Builds for Overhaul of Rules Governing the Electoral Count”

Carl Hulse for the NYT:

Determined to prevent a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, backers of an overhaul of the federal law governing the count of presidential electoral ballots pressed lawmakers on Wednesday to repair the flaws that President Donald J. Trump and his allies tried to exploit to reverse the 2020 results.

“There is nothing more essential to the orderly transfer of power than clear rules for effecting it,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and one of the lead authors of a bill to update the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, said Wednesday as the Senate Rules Committee began its review of the legislation. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate and the House to seize this opportunity to enact the sensible and much-needed reforms before the end of this Congress.”

Backers of the legislation, which has significant bipartisan support in the Senate, believe that a Republican takeover of the House in November and the beginning of the 2024 presidential election cycle could make it impossible to make major election law changes in the next Congress. They worry that, unless the outdated statute is changed, the shortcomings exposed by Mr. Trump’s unsuccessful effort to interfere with the counting of electoral votes could allow another effort to subvert the presidential election.

“The Electoral Count Act of 1887 just turned out to be more troublesome, potentially, than anybody had thought,” said Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the senior Republican on the rules panel. “The language of 1887 is really outdated and vague in so many ways. Both sides of the aisle want to update this act.”

But despite the emerging consensus, lawmakers also conceded that some adjustments to the proposed legislation were likely given concerns raised by election law experts. In attempting to solve some of the old measure’s problems, experts say, the new legislation could create new ones.

“It needs to be fixed,” Norm Eisen, an election and ethics expert and former special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, said of the Electoral Count Act after his testimony Wednesday. “But it needs to be fixed correctly.”

And in the House, a group of lawmakers led by members of the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack were drafting their own bill, which was expected to have major differences from the one agreed upon by a bipartisan group of senators.

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“Trump’s Pandora’s Box: Election-Denying Candidates are Refusing to Concede”

Axios on the new trend across the country. Here’s what I told them: “If people believe the other side is consistently stealing elections, first of all, you completely delegitimize people in office … but second, you create the conditions where people might be more willing to engage in fraud themselves as a way of trying to even the score.”

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“Trump Lawyer Proposed Challenging Georgia Senate Elections in Search of Fraud; On the day of President Biden’s inauguration, John Eastman suggested looking for voting irregularities in Georgia — and asked for help being paid the $270,000 he billed the Trump campaign.”

NYT:

John Eastman, the conservative lawyer whose plan to block congressional certification of the 2020 election failed in spectacular fashion on Jan. 6, 2021, sent an email two weeks later arguing that pro-Trump forces should sue to keep searching for the supposed election fraud he acknowledged they had failed to find.

On Jan. 20, 2021, hours after President Biden’s inauguration, Mr. Eastman emailed Rudolph W. Giuliani, former President Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, proposing that they challenge the outcome of the runoff elections in Georgia for two Senate seats that had been won on Jan. 5 by Democrats.

“A lot of us have now staked our reputations on the claims of election fraud, and this would be a way to gather proof,” Mr. Eastman wrote in the previously undisclosed email, which also went to others, including a top Trump campaign adviser. “If we get proof of fraud on Jan. 5, it will likely also demonstrate the fraud on Nov. 3, thereby vindicating President Trump’s claims and serving as a strong bulwark against Senate impeachment trial.”

The email, which was reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by people who worked on the Trump campaign at the time, is the latest evidence that even some of Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporters knew they had not proven their baseless claims of widespread voting fraud — but wanted to continue their efforts to delegitimize the outcome even after Mr. Biden had taken office.

Mr. Eastman’s message also underscored that he had not taken on the work of keeping Mr. Trump in office just out of conviction: He asked for Mr. Giuliani’s help in collecting on a $270,000 invoice he had sent the Trump campaign the previous day for his legal services.

The charges included $10,000 a day for eight days of work in January 2021, including the two days before Jan. 6 when Mr. Eastman and Mr. Trump, during meetings in the Oval Office, sought unsuccessfully to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to go along with the plan to block congressional certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. (Mr. Eastman appears never to have been paid.)

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“Democrats face blowback after boosting far-right Michigan candidate”

WaPo:

Democrats faceda backlash Wednesday — including from within their own ranks — after inserting themselves into a GOP primary in western Michigan, helping a far-right candidate who has embraced false claims about the 2020 election to topple a Republican who had voted to impeachDonald Trump.

Democrats this year have tried to interfere in multiple GOP primaries, using ads that appear to be attacks on more extreme candidates as a way to subtly promote those contenders. The idea is to line up opponents who the Democrats believe to be more easily beatable in the general election.

But Tuesday’s vote was the first in which the closeness of the outcome — Trump-endorsed challenger John Gibbs won with 52 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns — suggested that the Democrats’ meddling may have tipped the results.

Now, Democrats will see whether their high-stakes gambit to take out Rep. Peter Meijer will win them the seat in November. Regardless of what happens, critics say theattempt to boost Gibbs is reckless and undermines Democrats’ argument that they are the party upholding democracy.

“It’s cynical and dangerous,” said Richard Hasen, a UCLA law professor and director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project. “We know that the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party is doing a lot to undermine people’s confidence in the fairness and integrity of elections. The idea that Democrats would be willing to gamble on electing more of these people because they think they’ll be easier to beat in the general election really is playing with fire.”…

“Watching this unraveling inside my party has been utterly bewildering,” Meijer wrote. “The only thing that has been more nauseating has been the capacity of my Democratic colleagues to sell out any pretense of principle for political expediency — at once decrying the downfall of democracy while rationalizing the use of their hard-raised dollars to prop up the supposed object of their fears.”

Hasen, the UCLA law professor, echoed that sentiment.

“Democracy cannot be sustained by just having one party believing in it and helping to purge the other party of democracy-supporting members,” he said.

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“In 4 Swing States, G.O.P. Election Deniers Could Oversee Voting”

NYT:

With Tuesday’s primary victories in Arizona and Michigan added to those in Nevada and Pennsylvania, Republicans who have disputed the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and who pose a threat to subvert the next one are on a path toward winning decisive control over how elections are run in several battleground states.

Running in a year in which G.O.P. voters are energized by fierce disapproval of President Biden, these newly minted Republican nominees for secretary of state and governor present a growing risk to the nation’s traditions of nonpartisan elections administration, acceptance of election results and orderly transfers of power.

Each has spread falsehoods about fraud and illegitimate ballots, endorsing the failed effort to override the 2020 results and keep former President Donald J. Trump in power. Their history of anti-democratic impulses has prompted Democrats, democracy experts and even some fellow Republicans to question whether these officials would oversee fair elections and certify winners they didn’t support.

There is no question that victories by these candidates in November could lead to sweeping changes to how millions of Americans vote. Several have proposed eliminating mail voting, ballot drop boxes and even the use of electronic voting machines, while empowering partisan election observers and expanding their roles.

“If any one of these election deniers wins statewide office, that’s a five-alarm fire for our elections,” said Joanna Lydgate, the chief executive of the States United Democracy Center, a bipartisan legal watchdog organization. “It could throw our elections into chaos. It could put our democracy at risk.”

In Arizona, Republicans nominated Mark Finchem, who marched at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest Mr. Biden’s victory, for secretary of state, the top election official in the state. They also elevated Abraham Hamadeh, who called his opponents and other Republicans “weak-kneed” for supporting certification of the 2020 election, as their nominee for attorney general.

And with votes still being counted, Kari Lake, who has said she would not have certified Mr. Biden’s 10,000-vote victory in her state, held a slight lead in the G.O.P. primary for governor.

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“Several election deniers backed by Trump prevail in hotly contested primaries”

WaPo:

Several election deniers backed by former president Donald Trump prevailed in closely-watched primaries held Tuesday, as a nationwide battle over the future of the GOP played out in state and federal races across five states.

In Michigan, Rep. Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year, fell in defeat to John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who ran with the ex-president’s support and embraced his false claims of a stolen election. Meijer, who is in his first term, becomes the second GOP House member ousted in a primary after supporting the impeachment of Trump for inciting a riot with false claims of a stolen election. Meijer issued a statement conceding before the race was called.

In Arizona, state lawmaker Mark Finchem — part of a national coalition of far-right candidates who baselessly reject the 2020 election results and want to oversee the vote in 2024 — was projected to win the Republican nomination for GOP secretary of state. Blake Masters, a first-time candidate who spent most of his career in Silicon Valley as a protege of tech billionaire Peter Thiel and has said he thinks Trump won in 2020, was projected to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the state. Both were backed by Trump.

A third Arizona candidate supported by Trump, former TV news anchor Kari Lake, was in a tight race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination that had yet to be called by the Associated Press early Wednesday morning. In close competition was Karrin Taylor Robson, who has the support of Republicans who rebuffed Trump’s pressure to interfere with the 2020 election — including former vice president Mike Pence.

And in Missouri, Attorney General Eric Schmittwon his state’s GOP nomination for U.S. Senate — a relief to Republicans who had feared his scandal-plagued rival Eric Greitens would imperil an otherwise safely red seat and become a broader political problem for the party. As attorney general, Schmitt backed a Texas-led lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results in four key states Trump lost. Trump issued an unusual endorsement on the eve of the primary, announcing support for “ERIC,” a first-name shared by two rival candidates.

Jeremy Stahl for Slate:

Finchem’s role in Jan. 6 and the subsequent sham partisan election audit in Maricopa County—which ultimately found additional votes for Biden in the state, while making false claims of fraud—fueled his meteoric rise within the MAGA movement. He was one of Trump’s earliest endorsements of the 2022 midterm cycle, with Trump announcing in September that he was backing Finchem for his “incredibly powerful stance on the massive Voter Fraud…” This led to Finchem becoming one of the top fundraising secretary of state candidates in the country, raising more than $1.2 million.

If he wins, Finchem of course says he wants to decertify the 2020 election. (He says he would have never joined Arizona’s governor in certifying that election to begin with had he been in the job in 2020.) But his role in future elections is scarier.

In Arizona, the secretary of state, along with the governor, is charged with certifying all elections. So, if elected, Finchem could simply refuse to certify any democratic victory in any state, local, or federal election, citing the sorts of unspecified and unproven claims of fraud he has raised to say that 2020 should not have been certified.

Along those lines, Finchem has sued to end the use of “unsecure black box electronic voting machines” to count the votes in Arizona, joining the Trump-back gubernatorial candidate, Kari Lake.* An official audit after the 2020 election found those machines had conducted a near-perfect count (and even the manual recount conducted by the sham partisan audit in Maricopa County ended up verifying that machine count). But if Finchem says that any count conducted by voting machines is de facto fraudulent, he could try to refuse to certify an election on that basis alone.

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“Arizona Officials Warned Fake Electors Plan Could ‘Appear Treasonous'”

NYT:

Two Arizona Republicans recruited by allies of former President Donald J. Trump to join an effort to keep him in office after he lost the 2020 election grew so concerned about the plan that they told lawyers working on it that they feared their actions could be seen as treason, according to emails reviewed by The New York Times.

Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, and Kelly Townsend, a state senator, were both said to have expressed concerns to Mr. Trump’s lawyers in December 2020 about participating in a plan to sign on to a slate of electors claiming that Mr. Trump had won Arizona, even though Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won the state.

The scheme was part of a broader bid — one of the longest running and most complicated that Mr. Trump undertook as he sought to cling to power after losing the 2020 presidential election — to falsely manufacture a victory for him by creating fake slates of electors in battleground states who would claim that he had been the true winner.

Some of the lawyers who undertook the effort doubted its legality, and the emails, which have not been previously reported, were the latest indication that other key players also knew they were on shaky legal ground, and took pains to fabricate a rationale that could justify their actions.

Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer working for Mr. Trump’s campaign, wrote in a Dec. 11, 2020, email to other members of the legal team that Ms. Ward and Ms. Townsend had raised concerns about casting votes as part of an alternate slate of electors because there was no pending legal challenge that could flip the results of Arizona’s election.

“Ward and Townsend are concerned it could appear treasonous for the AZ electors to vote on Monday if there is no pending court proceeding that might, eventually, lead to the electors being ratified as the legitimate ones,” Mr. Chesebro wrote to the group, which included Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.

Mr. Chesebro wrote the word “treasonous” in bold.

Ms. Ward, who pushed for the electors plan to be kept secret, ultimately joined the effort and signed a document that purported to be a “certificate of the votes of the 2020 electors from Arizona” and claimed that Mr. Trump had won the state’s 11 Electoral College votes.

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