Category Archives: voter registration

“House committee subpoenas 15 Biden Cabinet secretaries to hand over documents on voter mobilization ‘scheme'”

That’s the Fox headline for the continuing swirl of nonsense around Executive Order 14019 – but as I’ve mentioned before, the reality of the alleged “scheme” is an instruction to federal agencies to help facilitate customer service in a profoundly nonpartisan way, and only as consistent with each agency’s legal authority.  (Disclosure: as mentioned before, in my role as a federal official, I had a hand in helping to implement the Executive Order.

Here’s the set of cover letters for the subpoena mentioned in the piece.  One of the cover letters is to the Department of Defense, and asserts that “Congress’s delegation of authority to the Department of Defense does not include using funds and resources to provide Americans with voter registration materials.”  Which, as just one example, is a pretty weird understanding of the NVRA’s designation of DOD recruitment offices (52 U.S.C. 20506(c)), not to mention UOCAVA’s requirements (52 U.S.C. 20301(b)(2) and (b)(5) and 20305), all of which very explicitly authorize (indeed, mandate) the Department of Defense to provide Americans with voter registration materials.

Agency implementation of the Executive Order varies, because different agencies have different touchpoints with the public and different legal authorities.  Agency brainstorming that hasn’t crystallized into final agency action hasn’t been made public, but individual agencies that have made concrete decisions have announced those efforts.  And the Administration has periodically posted updates on agency steps in connection with the Executive Order, including cooperation with a bipartisan roster of state election officials. 

Here are the updates I know of: Sept. 2021, Mar. 2022, Sept. 2022, Mar. 2023, Feb. 2024.  Since then, I’ve seen the SBA accept designation by Michigan as a voter registration agency (joining the Department of the Interior in Kansas and New Mexico, and Veterans Affairs in Kentucky and Michigan), pursuant to the express requirement of 52 U.S.C. 20506(b).  There may have been other releases I don’t know of (and I’d welcome reliable news of other agency actions).  But none of those announcements of agency efforts to implement the Executive Order amount to the mysterious nefarious boogeyman the House committee seems to be suggesting.

UPDATE: More in Roll Call.

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“Voter outreach groups targeted by new laws in several GOP-led states are struggling to do their work”


Florida is one of several states, including Kansas, Missouri and Texas, where Republicans have enacted voting restrictions since 2021 that created or enhanced criminal penalties and fines for those who assist voters. The laws have forced some voter outreach groups to cease operations, while others have greatly altered or reduced their activities.

The Florida law, signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last May, imposed a $50,000 fine on third-party voter registration organizations if the staff or volunteers who handle or collect the forms have been convicted of a felony or are not U.S. citizens. It also raised the fines the groups could face, from $1,000 to $250,000, and reduced the amount of time they are able to return registration applications from 14 days to 10 days.

A federal judge blocked portions of the law earlier this month, including the one targeting felons and those who are not citizens. Even so, the law had a direct effect on the operations of Equal Ground and other voter advocacy organizations in the state before the ruling.

The League of Women Voters in Florida, one of the plaintiffs, shifted away from in-person voter registration to digital outreach. Cecile Scoon, the league’s co-president, said the law stripped the personal connection between its workers and communities. Digital tools aren’t easy to use when registering voters and can be expensive, she said….

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Mike Johnson Plans to Introduce Legislation to Require Everyone to Provide Documentary Proof of Citizenship to Be Registered to Vote

What Speaker Johnson announced while standing next to Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago is not too far off from what I predicted, though it is even more draconian.

It’s not necessary, would disenfranchise many voters if it passed, and is extremely unlikely to pass.


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“A Georgia man created a tool to challenge voter registrations. Trump’s allies may use it.”

USA Today:

Election deniers and allies of former President Donald Trump want to help regular citizens ask election officials to clean the voter rolls. That effort has alarmed experts who worry that local government workers will be inundated with requests they cannot vet quickly enough, leading to disenfranchisement in 2024.

Anyone can create challenges using a software program called EagleAI Network that pulls in voter registration and history data from secretaries of state, property tax and land use data from counties, change of address records from the US Post Office, obituary data, and criminal records.

Experts cited myriad problems with a system that broadly takes public information and cross-references it to try to find people who shouldn’t be on the voter rolls.

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Must-read NYT: “Trump’s Allies Ramp Up Campaign Targeting Voter Rolls”


A network of right-wing activists and allies of Donald J. Trump is quietly challenging thousands of voter registrations in critical presidential battleground states, an all-but-unnoticed effort that could have an impact in a close or contentious election.

Calling themselves election investigators, the activists have pressed local officials in Michigan, Nevada and Georgia to drop voters from the rolls en masse. They have at times targeted Democratic areas, relying on new data programs and novel legal theories to justify their push.

In one Michigan town, more than 100 voters were removed after an activist lobbied officials, citing an obscure state law from the 1950s. In the Detroit suburb of Waterford, a clerk removed 1,000 people from the rolls in response to a similar request. The ousted voters included an active-duty Air Force officer who was wrongly removed and later reinstated.

The purge in Waterford went unnoticed by state election officials until The New York Times discovered it. The Michigan secretary of state’s office has since told the clerk to reinstate the voters, saying the removals did not follow the process laid out in state and federal law, and issued a warning to the state’s 1,600 clerks.

The Michigan activists are part of an expansive web of grass-roots groups that formed after Mr. Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat in 2020. The groups have made mass voter challenges a top priority this election year, spurred on by a former Trump lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, and True the Vote, a vote-monitoring group with a long history of spreading misinformation.

Their mission, they say, is to maintain accurate voting records and remove voters who have moved to another jurisdiction. Democrats, they claim, use these “excess registrations” to stuff ballot boxes and steal elections.

The theory has no grounding in factInvestigations into voter fraud have found that it is exceedingly rare and that when it occurs, it is typically isolated or even accidental. Election officials say that there is no reason to think that the systems in place for keeping voter lists up-to-date are failing.

The bigger risk, they note, is disenfranchising voters….

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Michael Morse on Voter List Maintenance in BU Law Review with Doug Spencer Response

Michael Morse has written Democracy’s Bureaucracy: The Complicated Case of Voter List Maintenance (B.U. L. Rev.):

This Article calls attention to the development and derailment of a novel cross-governmental bureaucracy for voter registration. It focuses specifically on voter registration lists as the vulnerable backbone of election administration. In short, the constitutional allocation of election authority has left a mobile electorate scattered across fifty different state registration lists. The result is more than a tenth of the electorate likely registered in their former jurisdiction and more than a third not registered at all. The solution, in the vocabulary of election officials, has become “list maintenance”—or, identifying when voters, previously registered at one address, subsequently move or die, often by matching administrative data or coordinating across agencies.

Part I traces the rise of national, but not federal, efforts to coordinate voter registration lists across states. In particular, it offers the first comprehensive account of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a non-profit corporation run by state chief election officials to facilitate list maintenance by pooling voter registration and other critical voter data, from state driver’s license records to the federal death file. But after a decade of growth ERIC has begun to unravel: nine Republican states have now quit the bipartisan effort. Part II argues that disjointed voter registration lists are an easily exploited democratic vulnerability, partly due to the unintended effects of federal privacy law. It explains how state voter registration lists often lack a unique national identifier, so efforts to simply compare state voter registration lists produce the appearance of fraud where none exists; how more reliable comparison requires supplementing registration lists with confidential administrative data, subordinating one form of legitimacy for another; and how private interest groups, engaging in what this Article terms “vigilante list maintenance,” increasingly use public, but necessarily incomplete, administrative records to further fan partisan narratives about fraud. Finally, Part III offers a series of policy solutions to both fortify list maintenance from attack and promote enfranchisement. It proposes trimming the scope of federal privacy laws to accommodate election administration; flipping the procedural and substantive framework for list maintenance; and expanding the government’s obligation to update, rather than cancel, registrations as voters move. Ultimately, this Article resists the familiar narrative that pits voter access against electoral integrity; a robust national, but not federal, bureaucracy for voter registration can promote both values.

Doug Spencer response, “Electoral Maintenance:” 

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the right to vote is fundamental because it is preservative of all rights, and yet in many cases legal protections for the right to vote fall short of protections for the other rights that voting is meant to preserve. Redefining the right to vote cannot solve this problem alone. Election administration has at least as much consequence on the right to vote as any particular definition or legal theory. In Democracy’s Bureaucracy, Michael Morse draws our attention to one of the most important yet understudied issues of election administration: voter list maintenance. In addition to his descriptive account of the novel way states have cooperated to perform list maintenance, Morse’s analysis provides a window into three pathologies of America’s election administration more generally. First, the mechanics of elections directly implicate the fundamental right to vote, raising questions of how stringently these procedures should be evaluated by courts. Second, political interference in the administration of elections can flip representative government on its head by insulating elected officials from political accountability and making elections less secure. Finally, several challenges related to the administration of elections are rooted in our electoral system that narrowly links geography and political representation. Relaxing this link may foster a more effective, responsible, and inclusive system of government. 

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“Eligible voters are being swept up in conservative activists’ efforts to purge voter rolls”

CBS News:

Voters eligible to cast ballots are already being swept up in a grassroots effort to purge the nation’s registration rolls ahead of the 2024 presidential election, a CBS News investigation has found. 

Fueled by doubts about the 2020 election, an army of conservative activists is poring over state voter lists, looking for registration errors that can be used to file what are known as voter challenges — questioning the registrations of thousands of Americans.

The undertaking, which includes the involvement of a lawyer tied to former President Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election, tends to affect minority or younger voters who may be statistically more likely to vote Democrat, according to local election officials. 

“It’s young voters, it’s people of color, and it’s people that are unhoused,” said Karli Swift, chair of the election board in DeKalb County, Georgia. “Those are generally the types of people that end up in voter challenges.” 

One of those hit with challenges was James McWhorter, who received a letter at the barbershop he manages in the middle of October from DeKalb County informing him that someone had challenged his voter status. The challenger, a woman named Gail Lee, argued McWhorter improperly registered to vote at a commercial address and snapped photos of his barbershop, which is located inside an Atlanta-area Kroger supermarket, as evidence.  

“I didn’t know Gail Lee from a can of paint,” McWhorter told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett. 

Since the two had never met, there was no way for Lee to know that McWhorter had registered to vote at the shop’s address in 2008 because he was homeless at the time. A veteran of the Gulf War, he was still trying to get back on his feet after years of struggling with PTSD and alcoholism.

“My friends, my family never knew I was displaced, never knew I was homeless,” McWhorter said, adding he would return to the barbershop after it closed and sleep in his chair and wash his clothes at a24-hour laundromat nearby.

Nevertheless, the letter made it clear that McWhorter’s voter registration could be canceled if he didn’t take action…

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“Alabama Secretary of State unveils new voter roll management system after ERIC withdrawal”

News from the States:

Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen Monday said the state would launch its own database of registered voters after withdrawing from a national one earlier this year.

Allen unveiled the Alabama Voter Integrity Database (AVID) to manage the state’s registered voter rolls, completing a goal to replace the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) system that the Secretary of State withdrew from at the beginning of the year.

“This is going to be an Alabama-based system,” Allen said. “This is not going to be something that we send to some private nonprofit, third party vendor, out of state. It is going to be something that we control, that we have access to at all times.”

Observers said Monday that Allen seemed to simply be creating a newer version of the system he left behind.

“The thing that struck me was that he is trying to recreate the ERIC system,” said Kathy Jones, president of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, referring to Allen. “That system is owned and operated by the secretaries of states of the member states. It is not a third-party nonprofit that he mentioned.”

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“Florida’s elections laws pose challenge for voter registration groups”

Tampa Bay Times:

Florida made it tougher to vote and engage in civic activities following baseless allegations from former President Donald Trump that his re-election in 2020 was stolen from him. In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill (SB 7050) to increase fines for violations by voter registration organizations, reduce the time to submit voter registration forms from 14 to 10 days, and bar non-citizens from handling voter registration applications.

The bill prevents groups from retaining personal information about people who sign up to vote and requires them to provide receipts to individuals who register. Third party voter registration groups and nonprofits such as as the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida chapter of the NAACP filed two federal lawsuits against the state regarding certain parts of the bill. Last week, a federal judge temporarily blocked DeSantis’ administration from enforcing parts of the legislation.

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