Category Archives: The Voting Wars

“One year out: how a free and fair 2024 presidential election could be under threat”

Deep dive by Zachary Roth:

The last time America elected a president, it led to a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol and a failed coup that gravely damaged the political system and marred the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in U.S. history.

A year from now, the nation’s voters will decide another presidential contest — likely one that pits the same two candidates against each other. 

Despite a slew of arrests and felony convictions stemming from the events of Jan. 6, 2021, there’s little sign that those who attacked democracy last time have significantly moderated their outlook. 

Former President Donald Trump has warned that, if restored to power, he’ll seek retribution against his enemies. An unrepentant election denier runs one house of Congress. Threats of political violence, now commonplace, are said to have affected key voting decisions made by elected officials. And 3 out of 4 respondents to a recent poll think American democracy is at risk in the election, with nearly a quarter saying patriots may have to use violence to save the country.

“The United States electoral process, and indeed American democracy itself, is under great stress,” warned a September report by a group of election experts for the Safeguarding Democracy Project. “No longer can we take for granted that people will accept election results as legitimate.” 

Since the tumult of January 2021, politicians, advocacy groups, and media outlets have rightly warned about a range of threats to a free and fair 2024 election — from problems with voter access and election administration to the potential for violence and chaos, or outright subversion of results, in the post-election period. 

Perhaps less noticed has been the progress made toward shoring up the system — chiefly in the form of federal legislation making it harder to subvert a presidential election.

That’s why, with a year before voting culminates next November, it’s crucial to take stock of where the nation stands, and to identify where, in the view of election experts and voter advocates, the major vulnerabilities remain….

More, in reference to the ECRA:

But though the law on paper is clear, Foley said he worries about a massive glut of election litigation, all filed in the immediate pre- and post-election period in one close, pivotal state.

The result, and perhaps the intention, could be to overwhelm the courts, potentially delaying decisions until a state risks missing the Dec. 11 “safe harbor” deadline. That could mean its electoral votes might not be counted. 

“The American judiciary is not built for thousands and thousands of hours of attention to election matters,” said Foley. “So I think there are reasons to fear that something really gets out of hand in terms of litigation, and you start bumping up against those deadlines.”

That threat could be exacerbated by a little-noticed aspect of the Supreme Court’s June ruling in a major elections case, Moore v. Harper. 

The court rejected the claim, pushed by conservatives, that state legislatures have essentially free rein to make election rules, unconstrained by state courts. But, as the election law scholar Rick Hasen has noted, the justices did give themselves the power to second-guess state courts if they decide state courts went too far in regulating an election.

This authority, Hasen has written, is going to be “hanging out there, a new tool to be used to rein in especially voter-protective rulings of state courts. Every expansion of voting rights in the context of federal litigation will now yield a potential second federal lawsuit with uncertain results.”

Those statutory deadlines that Foley worries about also concern David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research. 

He warns that election deniers — including grifters looking to exploit Trump voters’ fears of a stolen election for financial gain — will be even more effective this time at sowing disinformation if their candidate loses on election night. That could lead to even more, and more unpredictable, political violence. 

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“Republicans Will Encourage Voting Before Election Day”

Walter Olson at Cato:

A more systematic benefit is that campaigns can save money and target their resources more effectively if supporters vote early. If a household is already recorded in the state database two weeks before Election Day as having voted, there’s no need to bombard it with last‐​minute mailings and phone calls.

There is also reason to believe that mail and drop box voting appeals to many constituencies among whom Republicans tend to do well, such as retirees and homemaking moms. In fact, until Trump chose to impose a different narrative, Republicans in many states were thought to be more skillful users of mail voting.

Partisan interest aside, there are two ways in which the interest of the nation as a whole is likely to be well served by the GOP’s return to course on this point. First, it abets distrust, polarization, and gamesmanship for one voting method to be seen as somehow “belonging to” one side. If early in‐​person voting is no longer perceived as a Democratic specialty, it will be easier for states to weigh impartially how much of it to schedule (from election administrators’ perspective, there are potential burdens in providing either too little or too much of it). Likewise for other methods.

The second ground for renewed optimism is that allowing voters to sort themselves more evenly between ballot channels will tend to dissipate the “red mirage” phenomenon in which one party jumps off to an early lead based on an early counting of votes that were cast its favored way, only to see that lead diminish and reverse as votes from the other party’s favored channels get counted.

It is hard to exaggerate how much damage the “red mirage” did in setting up the conditions for much of the public to be misled about the 2020 presidential election.

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Wisconsin: “Senate Republicans fire elections chief, setting the stage for a legal fight heading into the 2024 elections”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Fueled by lingering outrage over the 2020 election within the Wisconsin GOP, Senate Republicans voted Thursday to fire the state’s top election official — a move that catapulted Wisconsin’s election agency into a legal battle over who oversees voting in this battleground state heading into the 2024 presidential election.

In a party-line vote during a floor session in the state Capitol, the state Senate rejected the nomination of Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe, the leader of the state’s elections agency who has become a target of those who harbor intense distrust of election officials amid a baseless campaign by former President Donald Trump to sow doubt in the legitimacy of his 2020 election loss.

Minutes later on Thursday, Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit asking a Dane County judge to declare Wolfe is still administrator despite the Senate’s vote and to block Republican legislative leaders from appointing a new administrator.

Republicans argued they must fire Wolfe in order to address the lack of confidence, concerns Trump first fostered without evidence to back up his claims. Critics of Wolfe, many of whom in 2022 supported impossible efforts to decertify the 2020 election called for by Trump, applauded from the Senate Gallery following the vote.

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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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“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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“Why Tribalism Took Over Our Politics”


Ahead of his arrest on Thursday in Georgia, Donald Trump repeatedly told his supporters about the legal peril he faced from charges of election interference. But the danger wasn’t his alone, he said. “In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you,” he told a campaign rally.

It was the latest example of the Republican former president employing a potent driver of America’s partisan divide: group identity. Decades of social science research show that our need for collective belonging is forceful enough to reshape how we view facts and affect our voting decisions. When our group is threatened, we rise to its defense.

The research helps explain why Trump has solidified his standing as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination despite facing four indictments since April. The former president has been especially adept at building loyalty by asserting that his supporters are threatened by outside forces. His false claims that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election, which have triggered much of his legal peril, have been adopted by many of his supporters.

Democrats are using the tactic, too, if not as forcefully as Trump. The Biden campaign criticized Republicans in Wednesday’s presidential debate as “extreme candidates” who would undermine democracy, and President Biden himself has accused “MAGA Republicans” of trying to destroy our systems of government. 

The split in the electorate has left many Americans fatigued and worried that partisanship is undermining the country’s ability to solve its problems. Calling themselves America’s “exhausted majority,” tens of thousands of people have joined civic groups, with names such as Braver Angels, Listen First and Unify America, and are holding cross-party conversations in search of ways to lower the temperature in political discourse.

Yet the research on the power of group identity suggests the push for a more respectful political culture faces a disquieting challenge. The human brain in many circumstances is more suited to tribalism and conflict than to civility and reasoned debate.

The differences between the parties are clearer than before. Demographic characteristics are now major indicators of party preference, with noncollege white and more religious Americans increasingly identifying as Republicans, while Democrats now win most nonwhite voters and a majority of white people with a college degree.

“Instead of going into the voting booth and asking, ‘What do I want my elected representatives to do for me,’ they’re thinking, ‘If my party loses, it’s not just that my policy preferences aren’t going to get done,’ ” said Lilliana Mason, a Johns Hopkins University political scientist. “It’s who I think I am, my place in the world, my religion, my race, the many parts of my identity are all wrapped up in that one vote.”…

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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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“The 2020 Election Fueled a Crisis of Democracy. Voters Fear a Repeat in 2024.”


Americans are worried there will be another electoral crisis in 2024 because the aftermath of 2020 continues to reverberate through the nation’s politics.

Many Republicans refuse to acknowledge Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, saying they have lost faith in the electoral system. They also have doubts that 2024 will deliver a legitimate winner, while Democrats worry that Republicans will contest an outcome that doesn’t go their way.

This week’s indictment of Donald Trump ensures that divisions over 2020 will become a central element of the next presidential contest. The Republican then-president was accused of violating the law by working with others to organize fraudulent slates of electors to the Electoral College in several states and to impede the work of Congress in certifying the vote. That happened on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol. Trump pleaded not guilty to four charges at a hearing in a federal courthouse in Washington on Thursday.

Close to 70% of Republicans believe that President Biden didn’t legitimately win the election, several polls show, despite multiple federal and state investigations, as well as court decisions, finding no evidence of fraud extensive enough to have changed the result. Democrats are nearly uniform in believing Biden won fair and square….

In a CNN poll taken in July, half of respondents, including roughly equal shares from each party, said they thought it was very or somewhat likely that elected officials in the next few years would successfully overturn an election that their party didn’t actually win. An AP-NORC poll in June found that only 44% of Americans were confident that the 2024 election result would be tallied accurately, though Democrats believed far more than Republicans that votes would be properly counted.

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“16 States Made It Harder To Vote This Year. But 26 Made It Easier.”

538 rounds up changes in state voting laws so far this year:

Two years ago, the biggest battles in state legislatures were over voting rights. Democrats loudly — and sometimes literally — protested as Republicans passed new voting restrictions in states like GeorgiaFlorida and Texas. This year, attention has shifted to other hot-button issues, but the fight over the franchise has continued. Republicans have enacted dozens of laws this year that will make it harder for some people to vote in future elections. 

But this year, voting-rights advocates got some significant wins too: States — controlled by Democrats and Republicans — have enacted more than twice as many laws expanding voting rights as restricting them, although the most comprehensive voter-protection laws passed in blue states. In all, 39 states and Washington, D.C., have changed their election laws in some way this year. Here’s a rundown of the most important shifts.

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“‘Suppression’ or No, Most Voting‐​Law Changes Don’t Alter Partisan Outcomes”

Walter Olson at Cato on the Grimmer/Hersh paper. Here’s a key point made by Olson, which I tend to agree with: “[M]any old ideas about who votes for which party are no longer useful. ‘Voter suppression’ narratives often rest on the notion that poorer and less educated voters will be differentially discouraged by some requirement. Nowadays, however—if not 40 years ago—those groups overall may lean Republican.”

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“North Carolina elections at risk of chaos with Legislature’s proposed overhaul”

NBC News:

North Carolina lawmakers are considering not only a spate of new election restrictions but also a major overhaul of state and county-level election boards, alarming advocates who say some of the proposals could grind the state’s democratic apparatus to a halt.

The changes would restrict same-day registration and mail-in voting. They would also give new powers to the state Legislature, where Republican lawmakers have been emboldened by a new veto-proof majority, along with a new Republican majority on the state Supreme Court.

The three bills, which could be considered in House committee hearings as early as this week, come as North Carolina begins to institute new voter ID rules. The state Supreme Court had previously declared the photo ID requirements unconstitutional, but the new Republican majority reversed that decision earlier this year, allowing the law to be enacted.

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