Category Archives: The Voting Wars

“Advocates worry Biden is letting U.S. democracy erode on his watch”

WaPo:

Voting rights advocates meet once every week or two with White House officials via video conference, and in almost every session, an advocate speaks up to say that President Biden must do more, that American democracy is under threat and the president is not meeting the challenge.

At one such meeting earlier this year, a Biden aide responded that Democrats would simply have to “out-organize” the other side, according to multiple advocates familiar with the exchange who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting. The comment infuriated advocates, who believe they are watching former president Donald Trump actively and perhaps permanently undermine faith in U.S. elections.

“There’s been a lot of anger and frustration with that line from the White House, which was communicated as a response to advocates wanting the White House to do more,” said Aaron Scherb, legislative director of Common Cause, a longtime pro-democracy group….

Activists want Biden to provide a loud, clear voice against these moves, from prime-time speeches to regular denunciations of especially egregious actions. Beyond that, they say he should throw himself into passing voting rights legislation and more aggressively go after states that are politicizing their election systems.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said the account of the meeting with voting rights advocates was false. “No White House official has ever said that our strategy relied on ‘out-organizing’ anti-voter laws,” Bates said. “The president and vice president’s approach is comprehensive, and it includes passing voting rights legislation and using executive authority, the bully pulpit, the convening power of the White House, organizing, and a host of other tools.”

Still, in the months since taking office, Biden’s time and energy have largely been focused elsewhere…

Biden also makes another argument, one that particularly exasperates activists: The best way to strengthen democracy, he contends, is to show that it works, by passing the infrastructure and other bills.

But even inside the administration, some worry that too much emphasis on enacting Biden’s spending priorities could come at the expense of the need to safeguard democratic institutions.

And the approach is deeply unsatisfying to those who see the threat to democracy as akin to a house on fire. Biden’s hope that Americans will support Democrats, and democracy more broadly, if he delivers results, could be torpedoed by restrictive voting laws that make it harder to cast ballots in the first place — or by undemocratic forces with the power to reject the results of the 2022 or 2024 elections.

“Stacking election administrators and providing access to the means to control the levers of elections” is a growing threat, said Sophia Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

Polls suggest that the advocates’ concern is warranted, in that the public’s faith in democracy is being badly eroded.

Surveys consistently find that about 1 in 3 Americans — and more than 6 in 10 Republicans — doubt the legitimacy of the 2020 election, despite overwhelming evidence that it was fairly decided. A CNN poll in September found that 52 percent of Americans were not confident that U.S. elections reflect the will of the people.

And changes are underway across the country that could exacerbate that distrust.

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“Will Georgia voting laws reduce turnout? Maybe not, studies show”

AJC:

When Georgia Republicans passed a new voting law, voting rights groups feared democracy-shattering barriers would undermine elections.

But a body of research on voting rules such as those in Georgia doesn’t support the narrative that turnout will decline significantly because of the law.

Studies in Georgia and across the nation indicate that almost all voters who want to vote will find a way to cast their ballots despite tougher ID requirements, limits on ballot drop boxes and a shorter early voting period before runoffs.

While Georgia’s law reduces the ease of voting in several ways, particularly for those using absentee ballots, that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of people will be prevented from casting ballots in upcoming elections, such as this fall’s race for Atlanta mayor or next year’s statewide vote.

Still, even relatively small numbers of voters unable to participate could swing election outcomes in Georgia, a battleground state where November’s presidential election was decided by fewer than 12,000 votes.

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“Republican lawsuits over Pennsylvania’s mail voting law have some Democrats quietly worried”

Jonathan Lai for the Philly Inquirer:

Two years ago this month, Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg reached a deal on the most significant changes to Pennsylvania election law in decades — including greatly expanded mail voting.

But now, a year after a presidential race in which Donald Trump’s lies about mail voting and Pennsylvania’s results sowed distrust of the electoral system among his supporters, someRepublicans are intensifying efforts to undo a law their party almost universally supported.

The law known as Act 77 is facing perhaps its most serious court challenges yet. Republicans filed two lawsuits this summer saying it violates the state constitution. Democrats had hoped courts would quickly throw them out, but the cases have instead been combined and continue to move forward. The national and state Democratic Party organizations asked Friday to join the litigation in defense of Act 77.

During oral arguments in one case, a panel of judges aggressively questioned lawyers representing the state, in what one Democratic observer described as “skepticism and hostility.” The hearing raised fears among Democrats that the state court might soon rule against the law.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration would almost certainly appeal a loss to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where a majority-Democratic bench has generally sided with the state on election issues. But while few believe the Supreme Court would ultimately throw out Act 77, some Democrats and good-government advocates worry that even a temporary loss could create significant challenges.

They worry about how such a setback would be received in a political environment already highly charged on elections issues. And regardless of how the courts rule, they fear the ongoing litigation will continue undermining already-tenuous public trust in the electoral system — just as Republican leaders begin talking with Wolf again about changing election law.

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“Voting Laws Roundup: October 2021”

Brennan Center:

he 2020 federal election drew the United States’ highest voter turnout in more than a century, breaking records despite the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to undermine the election process with the Big Lie of a stolen election.

In a backlash to this historic voter participation, many state lawmakers have proposed and enacted legislation to make it harder for Americans to vote, justifying these measures with falsehoods steeped in racism about election irregularities and breaches of election security.

In all but seven states, regular legislative sessions are now over.footnote1_blodiq21  Between January 1 and September 27, at least 19 states enacted 33 laws that make it harder for Americans to vote.

At the same time, lawmakers in many states responded to Americans’ eagerness to vote by making it easier for eligible voters to cast their ballots. Between January 1 and September 27, at least 25 states enacted 62 laws with provisions that expand voting access.

But this expansive legislation does not balance the scales. The states that have enacted restrictive laws tend to be ones in which voting is already relatively difficult, while the states that have enacted expansive laws tend to have relatively more accessible voting processes. In other words, access to the right to vote increasingly depends on the state in which a voter happens to reside.

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“GOP to massively step up 2022 poll watching efforts in Michigan and across U.S.”

Detroit Free Press:

The GOP will massively increase its poll watching and election litigation efforts in 2022 and beyond after so far failing to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election through a series of lawsuits and audits, a top Republican National Committee official said Friday.

Josh Findlay, election integrity director for the RNC, said one problem with GOP operations in 2020 was that attorneys for former President Donald Trump and other conservative groups went to court too late.

Going to court on Election Day is “not going to be effective,” Findlay told attendees at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, held every other year on the northern Michigan island that can only be reached by ferry or private plane, and where motorized vehicles are generally banned.

Findlay acknowledged another problem — one that both nonpartisan judges and Democrats said in response to allegations of voter fraud and irregularities put forward by Republican poll watchers in Detroit. There, large numbers of volunteers were recruited by the GOP, in many cases at the last minute, to go to the TCF Center in Detroit while absentee ballots were being counted after the Nov. 3 vote.

Many were barred from entering or required to leave, in some cases because of  social distancing rules, resulting in a chaotic scene in which crowds of people were banging on the windows of the counting room and shouting as election workers tried to complete the count. More significantly, many scenes the poll watchers witnessed and described as evidence of possible fraud were discounted by judges after election experts testified that the witnesses lacked knowledge and training and simply did not understand what they were seeing, interpreting normal election processes, such as the presence of blank ballots needed to duplicate military ballots and damaged absentee ballots, as signs of malfeasance.

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“Texas secretary of state’s office auditing four counties’ 2020 elections months after an official called the statewide process ‘smooth and secure'”

Texas Tribune:

The Texas secretary of state’s office announced late Thursday that it has begun a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 general election in four Texas counties: Collin, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant. But the statement from that agency did not explain what prompted the move.

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas in 2020. And earlier this year, an official for the agency called the 2020 election in Texas “smooth and secure.”

Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for the office, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The announcement came hours after Republican former President Donald Trump requested Gov. Greg Abbott add an election audit bill to this year’s third special session. While Trump lost his reelection bid, he did win in Texas.

Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria characterized the audits as an attack on Texans’ trust in elections.

“While other people continue the political posturing and petty fights of the past, we will continue preparing for this November’s elections,” she said in a statement. “We encourage Harris County residents to register to vote by the October 4 deadline.”

Elections officials in Collin, Dallas and Tarrant counties did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Thursday.

It was unclear if Trump’s request spurred the announcement from the secretary of state’s office. Texas does not currently have a secretary of state. Former Secretary of State Ruth Ruggero Hughs, who oversaw the 2020 elections, resigned when the Texas Senate refused to confirm her appointment. Abbott has not yet picked a replacement. A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a question about the audits late Thursday.

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“Pa. Senate Democrats sue Republicans to block election review subpoena”

Philly Inquirer:

Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate sued their Republican colleagues Friday evening to block them from subpoenaing voter records as part of a review of the 2020 election.

The lawsuit argues that the Republican effort unconstitutionally tramples on the separation of powers by stepping on the courts’ power to investigate and rule on election disputes and on the executive branch’s power, given specifically to the state auditor general, to audit how elections are run. The lawsuit also contends that the subpoena violates state election law because it requests voters’ private information, including driver’s license numbers and the last four digits of Social Security numbers.

Senate Democrats “ask this Court to prevent violation of the Pennsylvania Election Code and the Pennsylvania Constitution through [Republican lawmakers’] untimely election contest and to protect the rights of the approximately 6.9 million Pennsylvanians who cast votes in the 2020 General Election, including protection from the unlawful disclosure of their private information” in the state voter database, the suit reads.

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“Harassed and Harangued, Poll Workers Now Have a New Form of Defense”

Michael Wines for the NYT:

It is perhaps a metaphor for the times that even the volunteer who checked you into the polls in November now has a legal defense committee.

The Election Official Legal Defense Network, which made its public debut on Sept. 7, offers to represent more than just poll workers, of course. Formed to counter the waves of political pressure and public bullying that election workers have faced in the last year, the organization pledges free legal services to anyone involved in the voting process, from secretaries of state to local election officials and volunteers.

The group already has received inquiries from several election officials, said David J. Becker, the executive director of the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation and Research, which oversees the project. Without getting into details, Mr. Becker said their queries were “related to issues like harassment and intimidation.”

The network is the creation of two powerhouses in Republican and Democratic legal circles, Benjamin L. Ginsberg and Bob Bauer. In a Washington Post opinion piece this month, the two — Mr. Ginsberg was a premier G.O.P. lawyer for 38 years and Mr. Bauer was both a Democratic Party lawyer and White House counsel in the Obama administration — wrote that such attacks on people “overseeing the counting and casting of ballots on an independent, nonpartisan basis are destructive to our democracy.”

“If such attacks go unaddressed, our system of self-governance will suffer long-term damage,” they said.

Mr. Ginsberg, who has broken with his party and become a scathing critic of former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims the 2020 election was stolen from him, and Mr. Bauer are themselves election experts. The two men together chaired the Presidential Commission on Election Administration established by former President Barack Obama in 2013, which called — with limited success — for modernizing election procedures and equipment to make voting easier and more secure.

In an interview, Mr. Bauer said he and Mr. Ginsberg were recruiting lawyers for the Legal Defense Network, hoping to build out an organization “so in any state where this happens, we’re in a position to provide election officials who are under siege with legal support.” Dozens already have signed on to the effort, with many more anticipated to join them soon, Mr. Becker said.

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“Democrats propose a compromise bill on voting rights.”

Carl Hulse for the NYT:

In introducing a scaled-back version, Democrats hoped to demonstrate to Mr. Manchin — now deeply invested in the measure as one of the chief authors — that Republicans would never sign on to a voting rights bill and, in doing so, wear down his opposition to weakening the filibuster. President Biden has come under mounting pressure from progressive activists to take a more active role in the push to overturn the filibuster to enact voting rights legislation.

Mr. Schumer noted that Mr. Manchin believed that the voting rights effort should be bipartisan.

“We are giving him the opportunity to do that with a bill that he supports and that he modified,” Mr. Schumer said. “If that doesn’t happen, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. As I’ve said, all options are on the table.”

Mr. Manchin wasted little time in trying to win over the main opponent of the effort. By Tuesday evening, he was meeting privately with Mr. McConnell in his Capitol office to discuss the bill and “to see if there was a pathway forward,” though he would not disclose the details of their chat.

“I’m working on the voting thing very hard, and I’m out there talking to every Republican I can,” Mr. Manchin told reporters. “I think voting is basically the foundation of our whole democracy.”

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“LDF Releases Report Detailing Voter Suppression in 2020 Election Season”

Release:

Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) released its highly anticipated Democracy Defended report, which documents and analyzes election-related activities undertaken by LDF during the 2020 election season, provides documentation of barriers faced by Black voters in target states for LDF’s Prepared to Vote (PTV) and Voting Rights Defender (VRD) projects, and offers solutions for policy makers, election administrators, and community members to ensure fair access to the vote across the nation.

“It is a mistake for people to assume that because an election produced a reliable result that it ran smoothly,” explained LDF Associate Director-Counsel Janai Nelson. “Our work during the 2020 elections revealed that failures at the state and federal levels to ensure fair, safe, and easy access to the ballot caused significant burdens for Black voters and other voters of color, as well as people living with disabilities. 

“Further, this report shows how the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder— which took away crucial protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to safeguard against discriminatory voting legislation — has allowed burdensome policies and intimidation tactics to spread and multiply across the country. Additionally, Democracy Defended makes clear why relying on non-profit organizations, community organizers, and individual volunteers and voters to save our democracy is not sustainable. The burden to act rests on our elected leaders at every level, but especially Congress.

“The markers of a successful election are the ability of all voters to have unencumbered access to the ballot box and to have those votes counted. This is not the democracy we have today. Time is of the essence to stop the wave of voter suppression laws and the intimidation of voters and election officials. Until these attacks are put to an end by government officials, our democracy will continue to be in peril.”

On the state level, all states must:

Enact voting laws that ensure the franchise is available to every citizen.

Facilitate voter participation in elections by offering the widest range of options, including online and same-day registration, vote-by-mail, and early voting.

Repeal discriminatory voting laws that adversely impact the ability of people of color to register and to vote.

Utilize available federal funding to improve election administration procedures.

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“Election Officials on Radar of Rich Donors, Thanks to Trump”

Bloomberg:

The once-obscure state-level job of overseeing elections has emerged as a prime target for wealthy donors and national organizers from both parties seeking an edge in the 2022 midterms that could shift control of Congress away from Democrats.

Republicans are backing secretary of state contenders who echo Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him through voter fraud, with donors including Richard Uihlen. 

Democrats have also seen an exponential increase in the amount of money they’re raising for the role, which is often sought as a stepping stone to higher statewide office.

Secretaries of state, the officials who control voter registration, ballot counting and election equipment in many states, including some key presidential battlegrounds, were thrust into the center of Trump’s campaign to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory last November. Trump accused some of them of allowing cheating, particularly Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger, who took his dispute with Trump public.

The heavy political focus on what is designed as a bureaucratic job administering elections could undermine the credibility of the electoral system, said Martha Kropf, a professor of political science and public administration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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More Disputes Over Fulton County, GA Election Administration and a Possible State Takeover

AJC’s The Jolt:

The Fulton County Commission could tap former Atlanta City Council president Cathy Woolard as the next chairwoman of the troubled elections board. And Republicans are up in arms. 

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued some of the most forceful comments, saying he’d seek to remove the entire county’s election board under the new elections law that narrowly passed the Legislature. 

He and other critics noted that she has lobbied for Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams after her election defeat. 

“Appointing such a blatantly partisan and conflicted individual, who is literally on Stacey Abrams’s payroll, will do incredible damage to the already terrible reputation Fulton has for running elections,” said Raffensperger in a statement. 

While Woolard hasn’t commented, her allies have defended the potential appointment. 

State Rep. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, mocked Raffensperger for arguing she’s conflicted because of her lobbying work by drawing a line between Brian Kemp’s refusal to step down as secretary of state during his run for governor. 

“How does that compare to Kemp overseeing his own election in 2018, my dude??” he tweeted.

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“Texas’s New Law Is The Climax Of A Record-Shattering Year For Voting Restrictions”

538:

The Texas law is likely the culmination of the large-scale Republican push to restrict voting access this spring and summer — the policy byproduct of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent. At this point in the year, most state legislatures are now out of session, so we are close to being able to close the book on our tracking of these restrictions for 2021. Based on data from the Brennan Center for Justice and the Voting Rights Lab as well as our own research, we now count 52 new voting restrictions that have been enacted this year in 21 different states. And 41 of the 52 were sponsored primarily or entirely by Republicans.

In total, state legislators proposed a whopping 581 voting-restriction bills this year — 89 percent of them sponsored by Republicans. Most (402) were rejected or failed to pass before a key deadline, but 42 of those passed at least one state-legislative chamber before dying, and another eight would have become law had they not been vetoed by their state’s (usually Democratic) governor.1 And technically, 127 voting-restriction bills are still alive, including 20 that have passed at least one chamber. However, these bills are mostly either blocked by Democratic governors or languishing in committee (putting them still quite far away from passage). So the number of voting restrictions enacted here in 2021 likely won’t rise very far, if at all, beyond 52.

Even if nothing else passes, though, that is still a staggering number by historical standards. The Brennan Center for Justice has tracked the number of new voting restrictions enacted every year since 2011, and no year has even come close to 2021: The previous high was the 19 voting restrictions enacted in 2011,2 the year after Republicans took full control of several state governments in the 2010 election. In recent years, the number of new restrictions has typically been in the single digits. (For example, 2020 saw only seven new voting restrictions become law.)

The sheer number of bills — both enacted and proposed — really emphasizes what a big priority tightening election laws has become for the GOP since the 2020 election. But it’s also important to remember that a single law can contain numerous far-reaching voting restrictions. And as such, Texas’s Senate Bill 1 is probably the most comprehensive voting-restriction law passed since Florida’s SB 90

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“Gov. Greg Abbott signs Texas voting bill into law, overcoming Democratic quorum breaks”

Texas Tribune:

Though delayed by Democratic quorum breaks, Texas has officially joined the slate of Republican states that have enacted new voting restrictions following the 2020 election.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 1, sweeping legislation that further tightens state election laws and constrains local control of elections by limiting counties’ ability to expand voting options. The governor’s signature ends months of legislative clashes and standoffs during which Democrats — propelled by concerns that the legislation raises new barriers for marginalized voters — forced Republicans into two extra legislative sessions.

SB 1 is set to take effect three months after the special legislative session, in time for the 2022 primary elections. But it could still be caught up in the federal courts. Abbott’s signature was both preceded and followed by a flurry of legal challenges that generally argue that the law will disproportionately harm voters of color and voters with disabilities.

On top of two federal lawsuits filed last week, three new lawsuits, including one in state district court, were filed Tuesday shortly after it became law.

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