Category Archives: election administration

“Two Election Workers Targeted by Pro-Trump Media Sue for Defamation”

Reid J. Epstein, N.Y. Times

“Two Georgia election workers who were the targets of a right-wing campaign that falsely claimed they manipulated ballots filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday against one of the nation’s leading sources of pro-Trump misinformation.”

Must admit I am not a big fan of defamation suits. Don’t individual election workers become public figures when there is an election meltdown? I guess I could be persuaded not. Maybe. Or maybe the claim is one of actual malice? I am left curious. And who knows may even get around to reading the complaint by tomorrow.

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“GOP targets Wisconsin elections system, nonpartisan director”

Political Wire notes this news item from NBC News.

” Wisconsin Republicans are working to discredit the bipartisan system they created to run elections in the state after President Joe Biden narrowly won last year’s presidential race, making the political battleground the latest front in the national push by the GOP to exert more control over elections.

Wednesday will bring a flurry of election-related developments in the state, with both the Wisconsin Elections Commission and a partisan legislative panel dissecting the 2020 presidential election. At the same time, Republican lawmakers are continuing to attack the state’s well-regarded election administrator in a pressure campaign to have her resign, an apparent attempt to install a GOP partisan in the position ahead of next year’s midterm elections.”

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“Trump allies work to place supporters in key election posts across the country, spurring fears about future vote challenges”

Washington Post takes a deep dive into the Trump team’s efforts to replace election administrators in swing states and its particular focus on Michigan.

“This is a great big flashing red warning sign,” said Jeff Timmer, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and a Trump critic. “The officials who fulfilled their legal duty after the last election are now being replaced by people who are pledging to throw a wrench in the gears of the next election. It tells you that they are planning nothing but chaos and that they have a strategy to disrupt the certification of the next election.”

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“Effort to breach Ohio county’s voting system draws FBI and state scrutiny”

Washington Post Exclusive by Amy Gardner, Emma Brown, and Devlin Barrett

Investigators are examining possible connections between an attempted breach of Ohio county’s election network and “an incident in Colorado earlier this year, when government officials helped an outsider gain access to the county voting system in an effort to find fraud.” A key question seems to be the role of MyPillow executive, Mike Lindell, an ally of Donald Trump. “Data obtained in both instances were distributed at an August ‘cyber symposium’ on election fraud hosted by . . . Mike Lindell.”

“Together, the incidents in Ohio and Colorado point to an escalation in attacks on the nation’s voting systems by those who have embraced Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud. Now, some Trump loyalists pushing for legal challenges and partisan audits are also targeting local officials in a bid to gain access to election systems — moves that themselves could undermine election security.”

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“Former Kentucky Secretary of State Faces Ethics Charges”

Carson Kessler, ProPublica

Former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, has been accused “of misusing her office for personal and political purposes” in an order filed by the state’s Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

The news comes nearly three years after ProPublica and the Lexington Herald-Leader investigated many of the same issues in a three-part series, extensively detailing Grimes’ “questionable” and “unprecedented” use of the state’s voter registration system as well as the “power grab” that gave her unusual sway over the State Board of Elections.” 

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“Wisconsin Republicans Push to Take Over the State’s Elections”

Reid J. Epstein, N.Y. Times

The ongoing effort seeks to eliminate the state’s bipartisan elections agency.

“Republicans in Wisconsin are engaged in an all-out assault on the state’s election system, building off their attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential race by pressing to give themselves full control over voting in the state.

The Republican effort — broader and more forceful than that in any other state where allies of former President Donald J. Trump are trying to overhaul elections — takes direct aim at the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, an agency Republicans created half a decade ago that has been under attack since the chaotic aftermath of last year’s election.”

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“Stephen Richer creates PAC to back ‘pro-democracy’ Republicans”

Jeremy Duda, Arizona Mirror

Maricopa County Recorder, Stephen Richer is stepping into the fray. Richer has been vocal in defending the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. His decision is likely to be controversial. Elected election officials generally eschew taking sides in party primaries.

“Richer, a Republican who was elected in 2020, has created a new political action committee called Pro-Democracy Republicans of Arizona. The PAC will run independent expenditure campaigns in favor of candidates in GOP primaries for legislative and county-level races who ‘acknowledge the validity of the 2020 election and condemn the events of January 6, 2021 as a terrible result of the lies told about the November election,’ according to a press statement on Wednesday announcing the committee’s formation.”

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EAC Commissioner Hovland calls on “Congress to act boldly and to stand up for our democracy”

Center for American Progress

Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Michael Sozan has this new interview with Election Assistance Commissioner, Ben Hovland. The interview also highlights successes of 2020 including the recruitment of poll workers.

“[T]he untold or under-recognized story of the 2020 election was the amazing job that state and local election officials did to conduct the best-administered election of my career during a global pandemic. . . .

Voters also did their part . . . We saw a record number of mail/absentee ballots as well as a record amount of early in-person voting.

It is also worth noting that Election Day would not have been nearly as smooth without the poll workers, including a new generation of younger poll workers, that signed up to work in polling places across the country in 2020. . . .

Finally, all of this was done and held up to immense scrutiny of every credible examination with no evidence of widespread voter fraud.”

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“The Desperate Scramble to Stop an Insider Election Threat”

The Atlantic

Judge of elections and inspector of elections are elected positions in Pennsylvania. The question of the day is how many Trump loyalists were elected to those positions in the recent election. The fear is that Trump loyalists, primed with false narratives of election fraud, could be running polling places across Pennsylvania in 2024.

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“Embattled election chief in Fulton County resigns”

Fredreka Schouten for CNN:

Richard Barron, who oversees elections in Georgia’s biggest Democratic county, is announcing his resignation Wednesday — following a tumultuous year that has included death threats against him and his staff and the potential takeover of election operations in the county by state officials.His announcement comes one day after municipal elections that he and other Fulton County, Georgia, officials said ran relatively smoothly.

Barron’s departure underscores the precarious position of election officials, who have faced unprecedented personal attacks in the last year and punishing new laws that threaten to sideline professional supervisors and install partisan actors in their stead.

Election observers have warned for months that the country could face a mass exodus of experienced election supervisors if the onslaught of threats continues, driven by relentless falsehoods that election fraud contributed to former President Donald Trump’s loss a year ago.

“I think we have a lot of cowardly elected officials who won’t let go of the ‘Big Lie’ because they are scared of their constituents,” Barron told CNN in an interview. “If they could have stood up, they could have put an end to this a long time ago.”

Barron said he’s faced a threat to “serve him lead,” and another that talked about “taking me out by hanging or a firing squad.” He previously told CNN that he had spoken with the FBI as part of an investigation into the threats.

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“Congress gives extra funding to the Pentagon but leaves elections vulnerable”

Votebeat:

Months after Democratic leaders in Congress backed away from providing billions of badly needed dollars to support local election improvements, we now learn that the Senate plans to add the very same amount of money to the Defense Department’s $715 billion budget — even though the Pentagon didn’t ask for it.

You read that right: Congress gave an extra $10 billion to the Pentagon but zero to elections, ignoring multiple warnings and research the past three years emphasizing that America’s crumbling, underfunded election infrastructure presents a national security risk.

It’s not as if the threats to elections are subtle. The last six years have brought us stunning misinformation circulated by hostile foreign nations; direct attacks by those countries on our election infrastructure; a violent insurrection at the Capitol spurred by a former president convinced he is the rightful leader of the country; and continued violent threats to election administrators. Meanwhile, election administrators have been screaming into the wind, trying to convince Congress that Windows 7 is not a sustainable operating system for elections. Anemic election budgets are also to blame for the paperless voting machine problem. Despite a recent push for paper-backed voting, several counties are stuck with paperless systems. That makes them frequent targets of election skeptics, especially amid the intense new attention on audits and claims of hacked machines.

Election security is a war in which America is losing ground. Our generals are our representatives, and county workers are the soldiers, being sent into battle against hostile nation states with broken guns and body armor made of cardboard. The combatants are not the U.S. government versus Russia, or the U.S. government versus China. It is your county clerk versus those massive, well-resourced countries, and our representatives have told them to figure it out on their own.

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“Gov. Greg Abbott’s pick for top Texas election post worked with Trump to fight 2020 results”

Texas Tribune:

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday appointed John Scott — a Fort Worth attorney who briefly represented former President Donald Trump in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania — as Texas’ new secretary of state.

As secretary of state, Scott would oversee election administration in Texas — a task complicated in recent years by baseless claims of election fraud from the highest levels of government fueled by Trump. The former president has filed a flurry of lawsuits nationwide and called for audits in Texas and elsewhere to review the results of the 2020 presidential elections. Trump’s own attorney general, Bill Barr, said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud nationwide, and in Texas, an official with the secretary of state’s office said the 2020 election was “smooth and secure.”

On Nov. 13, Scott signed on as counsel to a lawsuit filed by Trump attempting to block the certification of Pennsylvania’s election. A few days later, Scott filed a motion to withdraw as an attorney for the plaintiffs. Scott’s motion also asked to withdraw Bryan Hughes, a Texas state senator from Mineola who works for Scott’s law firm, as an attorney for the case.

Scott will eventually have to be confirmed by the Legislature which is not scheduled to meet until 2023.

Abbott’s announcement of Scott’s appointment did not mention his work for Trump — even has he has endured mounting pressure from Trump supporters to call for audit elections.

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“Trumpist county clerk barred after leak of voting-system passwords to QAnon”

Ars Technica:

A Colorado judge on Wednesday barred Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from supervising elections due to the leak of voting-system BIOS passwords to QAnon conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Mesa County registered elector Heidi Jeanne Hess had petitioned the court for a ruling that Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley are unable to perform the functions of the Designated Election Official for the November 2021 election.

The “court determines that the petitioners have met the burden of showing that Peters and Knisley have committed a breach and neglect of duty and other wrongful acts,” Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie Robison wrote in Wednesday’s ruling. “As such, Peters and Knisley are unable or unwilling to appropriately perform the duties of the Mesa County Designated Election Official. The court further determines substantial compliance with the provisions of the code require an injunction prohibiting Peters and Knisley from performing the duties of the Designated Election Official.”

In August, Watkins released photos of information on Dominion’s Election Management Systems (EMS) voting machines, including an installation manual and “BIOS passwords for a small collection of computers, including EMS server and client systems,” as we reported at the time. While Watkins, a former 8chan administrator, was trying to prove that Dominion can remotely administer the machines, the documents actually showed “a generic set of server hardware, with explicit instructions to keep it off the Internet and lock down its remote management functions.”

Peters, who promoted Trump’s conspiracy theory that voting machines were manipulated to help Joe Biden win the 2020 election, “‘holed up’ in a safe house provided by pillow salesman and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell” when the FBI began investigating her, according to an August 19 Vice News article. Her location was described as a “mystery” for a while, but she appeared at an event in Grand Junction, Colorado, last month.

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“No counterfeit ballots found by Georgia election investigators”

AJC:

Georgia election investigators were unable to find any counterfeit ballots among batches identified by Republican vote-counters, according to a court brief Tuesday, dealing a blow to a lawsuit seeking to inspect absentee ballots cast in last year’s presidential election.

The court document filed on behalf of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said investigators reviewed 1,000 absentee ballots from batches in Fulton County that allegedly contained “pristine” ballots with perfectly filled-in ovals and no fold lines. All ballots in those batches appeared to be legitimate.

“The secretary’s investigators have not uncovered any absentee ballots that match the descriptions given by affiants or otherwise appear to be fraudulent or counterfeit,” stated the 89-page response to the court by Georgia Assistant Attorney General Charlene McGowan.

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“Election Observation Post-2020”

Rebecca Green has written this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, Fordham Law Review). Here is the abstract:

The United States is in the midst of a crisis in confidence in elections, despite the many process protections baked into every stage of election administration. Part of the problem is that few Americans know just how rigorous the protections in place are, and most Americans have no concept of how modern elections are run. Election observation statutes are intended to provide a window for members of the public to learn about and oversee the process and to satisfy themselves that elections are fair and that outcomes are reliable. Yet in 2020, in part due to unforeseen pandemic conditions, election observation fell short. This Essay examines the shortcomings of modern election observation in the United States, looks at reform proposals on the table, and suggests several principles that should inform efforts to address the most worrisome shortfalls.

This is a really good piece that’s worth reading!

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