Category Archives: election administration

“North Carolina May Increase Odds of Gridlock with Even-Numbered Elections Boards”


For over 120 years, the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) has consisted of five members, all appointed by the governor, with no more than three from a given political party. County elections boards have the same partisan composition. Those bodies oversee just about every step of the democratic process, and their odd-numbered makeup means they must reach a decision in any vote they take.

State Republicans are close to upending that longstanding system. Senate Bill 749, which is nearing its final vote in the legislature, would instead give all of those boards an even number of members, expanding the state board to eight members while shrinking county boards to four. 

Because Democrats currently control the governor’s mansion, they also hold a majority on these election boards heading into the 2024 elections. This bill would deprive them of that edge; instead, all boards would be equally split between Republicans and Democrats. 

The bill would also shift power to appoint members of the state elections board from the governor to the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate. The changes could lead to tie votes along party lines on both local and state election boards, and the bill is largely silent about how such deadlocks would be resolved.

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“‘Where’s Celia?’ An Arizona elections official becomes the target of a virtual manhunt by GOP activists on a public records crusade.”

Jen Fifield for Votebeat:

They started searching for her in late January.

“Where’s CELIA NABOR?” one member of the angry online mob wrote. “Find her,” another wrote. Track her phone, credit cards, social security number, and social media, others suggested. It was time for her to “face the music.” “COULD SHE BE AT HOME????” someone wrote, posting her address. 

And then, that same night, after 2 a.m., someone started banging on Celia Nabor’s door. 

She lay frozen in bed in her suburban Phoenix neighborhood, terrified, wondering if one of her online harassers had come to follow through on the threats. Then, as abruptly as it had begun, the pounding stopped. 

Nabor never found out who knocked on her door that night. What she did know was that the trouble had started earlier that week. On Jan. 30, GOP activists began spreading false information about her, based partly on documents acquired through records requests searching for fraud in Maricopa County’s elections, where Nabor helped oversee early voting.

They said Nabor was dodging a request to answer questions, prompting others to claim she had helped the county steal the election for Democrats. But that wasn’t true.

We The People AZ Alliance — a Phoenix-based political action committee funded primarily by Patrick Byrne and his organization The America Project — employed what’s become a familiar playbook among allies of former President Donald Trump: Barrage local election offices with public records requests, then twist real records to make routine actions seem suspicious. 

The organization dug into Nabor’s work, asking for copies of all of her texts and her emails. They asked for information on how she and the employees under her performed their jobs and whether they were disciplined. They wanted protocols and contractor names and contracts and more. 

Extensive requests such as these are a complex piece of the ballooning number of public records requests to election offices across the country, according to Votebeat’s review of hundreds of public records requests and logs. 

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David Levine: “Countering the Distortion of Election Administrator Errors”

The following is a guest post from David Levine:

On September 1, Harris County, Texas’ two-year-old elections department was eliminated after the Texas Legislature passed legislation earlier this year abolishing it and the State Supreme Court refused to stop the legislation from taking effect. This effort was fueled in large part by unsupported allegations that Harris County mishaps during the November 2022 general election – such as problems with voting machines, paper ballot shortages and long waiting times – impacted certain local contest results. Harris County, the nation’s third largest, is now in the unenviable position of reverting back to splitting its election duties between the county clerk and the tax assessor-collector — a traditional model for administering elections in Texas that many counties have moved away from in recent years out of a desire to have a nonpartisan elections official helping ensure elections are conducted impartially – while preparing for local elections in November and a presidential election in 2024.

Those who think that what transpired in Harris County could not happen elsewhere should think again. In July, Krysia Sikora and I published a report that found that administrative mistakes have been used to cast doubt on U.S. elections across the country. Examining mistakes made in Harris County’s November 2022 election, as well as recent elections in Antrim County, Michigan and Maricopa County, Arizona, we found that administrator errors are not simply being scrutinized to improve the quality of elections; they are often being distorted to try and undermine the integrity of electoral processes.

In Antrim County, election officials initially misreported – and quickly corrected  –  unofficial 2020 election results by up to several thousand votes that showed a big victory for Joe Biden in an historically Republican area. Although the county and its partners took numerous steps to resolve the mistake, including a manual count of all votes cast for president, the discrepancy triggered an avalanche of lawsuits and conspiracies baselessly alleging that the county’s voting machine vendor had “rigged” the voting machines. The error and the response to it gained national attention and contributed to former President’ Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

In Maricopa County, roughly 60 vote centers reported on the morning of the 2022 midterm elections that their voting machines were having issues counting ballots, which in some cases led to lines of close to two hours. In response to these problems, Maricopa County officials quickly and correctly encouraged voters to either deposit ballots into a secure ballot box so they could be subsequently counted at Maricopa County’s central counting facility, or visit nearby voting centers with shorter wait times to cast their ballots.  Unfortunately, some voters, perhaps at the urging of influential right-wing personalities, chose to ignore this guidance and instead waited in line.  Even after the reasons for the voting machine problems were identified in subsequent investigations and corrected – it turned out that the toner on some ballots printed on site was not dark enough for the vote-counting machines to read – some losing Arizona candidates continue to maintain there was election malfeasance, targeting Maricopa election officials. To cite just one example, Kari Lake, Arizona’s 2022 Republican nominee for governor called for Maricopa County’s election officials to be “locked up” after she lost and repeatedly sought to overturn the election results. While her efforts were  not successful in the short term, neither were they entirely in vain.

Election officials and their partners are not defenseless in the face of these kinds of threats. Our report provides suggestions, such as conducting tabletop exercises for different threat scenarios and developing crisis communication plans, to reduce the likelihood of election mistakes and mitigate their impact. We also suggest nonpartisan election observation, as was done in Fulton County, Georgia for the November 2022 midterms, to help ensure any mistakes are properly contextualized. 

Notwithstanding such efforts, in an age defined by polarization and election denialism, where the integrity of the information environment is far from certain and experienced election officials continue to leave in droves, the weaponization of election mistakes is unlikely to disappear, or even dissipate, before 2024. It is imperative that election officials and their partners confront this head on to ensure that legitimate election results continue to be affirmed, not overturned.

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We’ve Issued a Major New Report, “24 for ’24: Urgent Recommendations in Law, Media, Politics, and Tech for Fair and Legitimate 2024 Elections”

Back in March, the UCLA Law Safeguarding Democracy Project held a conference, Can American Democracy Survive the 2024 Elections?

Following the conference some of the participants met as an ad hoc committee to consider recommendations in law, politics, media, and tech for fair and legitimate elections in 2024. The goal was to convene a cross-ideological, interdisciplinary and broadly diverse group of election experts to consider ways to bolster both the actual fairness of the upcoming elections as well as public confidence in them.

Today, under the auspices of SDP, the 24 members of the Ad Hoc Committee for 2024 Fairness and Legitimacy released a new report: 24 for ’24: Urgent Recommendations in Law, Media, Politics, and Tech for Fair and Legitimate 2024 Elections.

Here are what I see as some of the key takeaways of the report:

  • The United States’ election system continues to be under great stress, especially after the last election was conducted during a pandemic and with unprecedented attacks on the integrity of the election system. There are reasons to worry 2024 could be worse
  • SDP convened a group that is really ideological diverse and is multidisciplinary, with scholars and leaders in law, media, politics and norms, and tech
  • 24 leaders came up with 24 recommendations for fair and legitimate 2024 elections; all of these can be put in place before the 2024 elections
  • Recommendations aimed not only at fair elections but at public acceptance of results across the political spectrum
  • Recommendations made to journalists, social media companies, government bodies, election officials, bipartisan Congressional and state leaders committed to democracy and the general public
  • Among key recommendations: states need to draft laws now to deal with how to handle election emergencies; courts need to resolve as soon as possible challenges to the qualifications of candidates to run for President under the Fourteenth Amendment; news organizations need to invest resources into training journalists on how elections are run, especially local and non-English language news outlets; election administrators need to harden their systems against “insider threats”—the actions of election workers or officials attempting to sabotage results

Below the fold, I share the summaries of the 24 recommendations; full recommendations are in the report itself. In upcoming weeks, we will look for opportunities to share our recommendations with specific constituencies to whom they are addressed.

In early news coverage, Zach Montellaro of Politico writes, “Election Experts Warn American Democracy is ‘Under Great Stress’ Ahead of 2024.” Read the full report for details.

Continue reading We’ve Issued a Major New Report, “24 for ’24: Urgent Recommendations in Law, Media, Politics, and Tech for Fair and Legitimate 2024 Elections”
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Wisconsin: “Senate elections committee votes against keeping elections chief Meagan Wolfe”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Republicans who control the state Legislature took a step Monday toward firing Wisconsin’s top election official, setting the stage for a court battle over who leads this battleground state’s system of elections just months before voters begin casting ballots in the 2024 presidential contest.

Members of the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection voted 3-1 by paper ballot against the reappointment of Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe − a move Democrats refused to acknowledge as legal after the Democratic Attorney General and the Legislature’s nonpartisan attorneys concluded earlier this month the Senate was taking up an appointment that was never made.

The legal opinions were based on the Wisconsin Elections Commission failing to produce four votes to reappoint Wolfe at the end of her term in June, with Democratic members citing a recent Supreme Court ruling that said appointed officers like Wolfe may stay in their positions beyond the expiration of their term unless they are removed….

Republican leaders of the state Senate have forced a vote on Wolfe’s future anyway as they continue to feel pressure to act over discontent within the base of the GOP over the 2020 election and false claims leveled by former President Donald Trump, who is the frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race.

The full state Senate could vote on firing Wolfe as early as Thursday.

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“Houston-area elections office dismantled as contentious Texas law takes effect”


The election administrator’s office in Texas’ most populous county – Harris County, which is home to Houston – has been dismantled to comply with a new state law passed by Republican legislators that officially takes effect Friday.

The law, known as SB 1750, shifts responsibility for elections and voter registration to the county clerk and the county tax assessor-collector. Critics have cast the measure, along with a second newly enacted law, as a power grab by Texas’ GOP-led legislature to disrupt how elections are run in an increasingly blue bastion of this traditionally red state.

The elimination of the election administrator’s position comes just weeks before the start of early voting in the race for Houston mayor and other local offices, and it marks one of several efforts by Republicans around the country to exert more control over election administration ahead of 2024’s consequential presidential and congressional contests.

A separate state law – known as SB 1933 and also passed this year – authorizes the Texas secretary of state, who is appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, to order “administrative oversight” of a county elections office, if complaints are filed and there’s reason to believe there’s a recurring pattern of problems with election administration.

SB 1750 and SB 1933 apply to counties with a population of more than 3.5 million and 4 million people, respectively – criteria met only by Harris County.

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“Is Frank LaRose proving that Ohio needs a neutral, non-partisan elections chief?”

Kevin Johnson oped in Ohio Capital Journal:

What would the NCAA do if the head referee in the Ohio State-Michigan game spent his free time leading rallies and fundraisers for the Wolverines? Even if he assured fans he’d be neutral for the game itself, Buckeye nation would never believe him. 

This scenario just happened in the political arena, in the campaign surrounding the Aug. 8 Issue 1 ballot initiative. 

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose plannedcampaigned for, solicited money for, and bent state rules for the “yes” vote in that election. During the final weeks of the campaign, he was a declared candidate for U.S. Senate with a personal interest in taking sides to gain GOP support. Though implications for the abortion ballot initiative in November have dominated news coverage of August’s Issue 1, this leadership failure atop the state’s election system should not be ignored. Ohio Elections need neutral referees just as much as sports do. 

LaRose brushed off accusations of conflicts of interest, saying campaigning occurred outside his “official function.” But imagine a judge publicly giving advice to help one side win a case before him; he’d still be sanctioned if he did so outside his court room. Likewise, open public bias from election administrators shouldn’t happen, whether within official functions or not. 

LaRose is hardly alone. Research found that one-third of secretaries of state serving since 2000 endorsed a candidate running in a race under their supervision, and 20% lost lawsuits in circumstances where secretaries’ actions arguably favored their political party. Tellingly, these partisan acts occurred at a higher rate among the subset of secretaries who ran for higher office — as LaRose is now. 

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“After long legal battle, voter ID arrives in NC. But could it be gone again by 2024?”


After a decade of false starts — and millions of dollars spent fighting over the issue at the ballot box and in the courtroom — North Carolina voters are now required to show photo identification to cast a ballot in person.

The new voter ID requirement is a victory for conservatives. They’ve pushed for stricter voting laws, saying rules like voter ID are needed to improve voters’ faith that elections aren’t being rigged. Such concerns have skyrocketed among Republicans in recent years due to former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

It’s also a setback for progressives and civil rights activists. They say the law isn’t actually intended to fight voter fraud, which is rare already. Instead, they say, it’s being put in place to make voting harder for poor people, minorities and college students — all of whom tend to support Democrats.

“Five years ago, North Carolinians made it clear that they supported enshrining in our constitution a requirement to show a photo ID to vote,” said Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, a chairman of the state senate’s election law committee. “Since then, far-left activists and their allies in the executive branch have tried everything to stop this commonsense measure from becoming a reality.”

North Carolina’s first attempt at voter ID, in 2013, was ruled unconstitutional — one piece of a broad set of election law changes that federal courts found Republican lawmakers had written to intentionally discriminate against Black voters.

State lawmakers tried again in 2018, as Newton referenced, asking voters to add an ID requirement to the state constitution. Voters agreed, and the voter ID amendment passed in 2018 with 55% support. But it had been held up in court. Then, earlier this year, the North Carolina Supreme Court signed off on voter ID, reversing the court’s own decision from just a few months prior that had found voter ID to be racially discriminatory and unconstitutional.

That judicial flip-flop coincided with the elected Supreme Court’s majority shifting from Democrats to Republicans. It allowed voter ID rules to go into place starting Thursday, when the first city council races of 2023 began….

Although Republicans have now won the main state-level lawsuit against voter ID, there’s still a federal lawsuit moving forward, filed by the NAACP and other civil rights groups. And more could be filed if problems arise now that voter ID is actually being used.

Irving Joyner, a professor at North Carolina Central University’s law school and longtime NAACP attorney, said they’re hoping to see things move faster in their federal lawsuit now that the 2024 elections are imminent. The two sides are currently fighting over what evidence should be allowed at trial, but court records indicate that a ruling should be made soon.

Once that’s settled, the next fight could be over when to hold the trial — a consequential decision. If the NAACP wins and voter ID is ruled unconstitutional yet again, it would matter a great deal whether that ruling comes before or after next November’s presidential election.

“We have sought to provide the judge with a schedule that will get us into trial in the early part of 2024 to give the judge plenty of time to consider the evidence that we are presenting,” Joyner said. “… But you never know. The state is trying to string it along, out until after the 2024 election.”

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“RNC launches ‘Bank your Vote’ ad blitz ahead of debate to push Republicans to vote early in 2024 elections”

Quite notable from Fox News:

The Republican National Committee says it’s going “all in” ahead of Wednesday’s first GOP presidential nomination debate to encourage voters to turn in ballots early.

The recently-launched “Bank Your Vote” campaign seeks to motivate pre-Election Day balloting among Republicans ahead of the 2024 presidential election. The RNC effort aims to educate GOP voters on absentee voting, ballot collection and early in-person voting. 

The RNC ad blitz, shared first with Fox News Wednesday, includes a 30-second ad that will appear on the Rumble live stream of the debate, a Fox News-hosted showdown in Milwaukee….

Former President Donald Trump, who appears in the new RNC ad, released a video last month encouraging Republicans to vote early, backing the RNC’s effort.

For over 2½ years, Trump has repeatedly spotlighted unproven claims that massive fraud in early and absentee voting led to the 2020 presidential election being stolen.

But since launching his 2024 presidential campaign last November, Trump has appeared to slowly embrace efforts to encourage Republicans to vote early in person or cast an early absentee ballot.

During a recent Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity, Trump said he would encourage Republicans to vote early. But he also claimed people make “phony ballots” and charged “a lot of bad things happen to those ballots.”

Due in part to Trump’s rhetoric, Democrats have enjoyed a sizable early voting advantage the past couple of years over Republicans.

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“Texas Supreme Court denies request to delay new election law despite lawsuit challenging it”


new Republican-backed Texas law that dictates how elections will be run in the Democratic stronghold of Houston and its surrounding county will take effect as scheduled next month despite a lawsuit seeking to overturn it, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Officials in Harris County, which is the state’s most populous, had sought to put the law, which abolishes its elections administrator’s office, on hold. Last week, a judge in Austin temporarily blocked enforcement of the law after calling it unconstitutional. The judge’s order was short-lived, as the state attorney general’s office appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

In its brief order, the high court denied Harris County’s request to stop the law from taking effect Sept. 1. It also ordered oral arguments in the lawsuit to take place Nov. 28.

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“Virginia becomes the latest state to leave nonpartisan election security pact”

NBC News:

Virginia formally withdrew from an election information-sharing pact Thursday, becoming the latest state under Republican control to leave the nonpartisan program, which became the subject of conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

“Virginia’s resignation from ERIC is effective August 10,” a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Elections confirmed.

The Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC, is an information-sharing group designed to help member states spot voters who should be removed from their voter rolls, including those who are dead and those who move to different states. The system also flags potential cases of double-voting — a voter’s casting ballots in more than one state — which are then used to investigate potential instances of voter fraud.

In a letter notifying the group of Virginia’s intention to leave the agreement, Susan Beals, the commissioner of Virginia’s Elections Department, cited concerns about the pact’s “increasing and uncertain” costs, as well as an “inconsistent enforcement” of membership criteria, as factors leading to its withdrawal….

On Thursday, Democrats accused Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin‘s administration of withdrawing from “a system designed to prevent voter fraud — without a replacement.”

Marcus Simon, the deputy leader of Virginia’s House Democrats, said the commonwealth’s Republicans are letting election conspiracies dictate policy decisions “even as evidence continues to mount showing the big lie was part of a conspiracy to defraud the United States,” which he said makes Virginia’s “election less secure.”

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“US election officials are quitting at an alarming rate”

The Guardian:

Over the last four years, at least 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have had to replace their election directors due to retirements, resignations and other career moves. Patrick Gannon, a spokesperson for the state Board of Elections, said that’s a significantly greater level of turnover than the state has seen before.

Similar trends hold true across the rest of the United States. A Boston Globe analysis of data from the US Vote Foundation found that county election official turnover had spiked after the 2020 election in battleground states like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. According to a 2022 survey by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, 20% of officials serving at the time said they planned to leave their posts before the 2024 presidential contest.

Those filling the vacancies are entering a high-pressure environment, especially in North Carolina, where Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden by fewer than 75,000 votes. Over 25% of the state’s county election directors have personally experienced threats, according to a March poll by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Election Data and Science Lab, and 85% say their work-related stress has grown since 2019.

Update: Pat Gannon of the NC State Board of Elections writes to say: “[W]e are now up to exactly 50 of NC’s 100 counties have (or are currently seeking) new election directors since 2019. More than 30 directors will be working their first presidential election in 2024.”

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