Monthly Archives: December 2022

“Jan. 6 transcripts detail numerous warning signs of potential for violence before Capitol attack”

Ryan Reilly for NBC News:

Transcripts of interviews with law enforcement officials released this week by the Jan. 6 committee reveal the panel learned that numerous security concerns had been raised in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol.

Many of the revelations came in interviews with high-ranking individuals such as former Secret Service and White House official Anthony Ornato; former executive director of the National Capitol Threat Intelligence Center Donell Harvin; former Deputy FBI Director David Bowdich; Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee; former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund; and House Staff Director Jamie Fleet.

But some of the new information came from questions posed to those officials by Jan. 6 committee staffers based on details they had gathered in the course of the 18-month investigation.

Much of that information, mentioned by investigators during the interviews, was not included in the appendix of the committee’s final report that addressed law enforcement and intelligence failures. For the most part, Jan. 6 committee leaders decided against focusing the final report on how law enforcement came to be so underprepared for the attack.

The new revelations add to a growing body of evidence from news reports and court proceedings that illustrate how federal law enforcement officials were in possession of ample information that indicated Jan. 6 was going to be violent. As NBC News first reported last month, staffers were informed that chapters prepared by committee staff — including material focused on law enforcement and intelligence failures — would be cut from the final version.

Among the revelations from the transcripts: One FBI employee wrote in a Dec. 26, 2020, memo about planning for Jan. 6 that was unfolding on a pro-Trump forum called TheDonald.

“They think they will have a large enough group to march into DC armed, and it will outnumber the police so they can’t be stopped,” read the notification in the eGuardian system, which is meant to help federal, state and local law enforcement officials coordinate. “They believe that since the election was stolen, that it’s their constitutional right to over take the government and during this coup no U.S. laws apply. Another group of Proud Boys will be in DC already and are planning on blocking the roads with their cars in order to stop traffic.”

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Must-Read: “After election debacle in Oakland, what’s next for ranked choice voting?”

Mercury News:

The revelation this week of an unprecedented error in Alameda County’s counting of election results has upended an Oakland school board race. But more lasting damage could be done to the reputation of ranked choice voting, a novel “instant runoff” format that is growing in popularity around the country.

Mike Hutchinson, the third-place finisher in a race for Oakland Unified’s District 4 school board seat, was told by election officials Wednesday that he may actually have won the race due to a technical mistake in how the county’s Registrar of Voters tabulated ranked-choice results.

The mistake itself involved a simple switch — a feature in the county’s election software that was incorrectly turned on, rather than left off. As a result, ballots where a first-choice candidate was missing were incorrectly counted.

“We incorrectly had the software set so that it did not elevate those votes when there wasn’t a vote in the first-choice column,” Registrar Tim Dupuis said in an interview Wednesday. “It was an error, and after being notified we immediately took that seriously and did the research to validate it.”

County officials are scrambling to figure out the process for re-certifying election results after they were formalized Dec. 8, and Dupuis hinted that it could require legal action on the part of the candidates involved. He could not be reached Thursday for an update on what steps need to be taken for Hutchinson to be rightfully elected.

The school board race is the only one that was affected, the registrar says. But it could not come at a worse time for election officials who are trying to allay fears about the legitimacy of results provided to the public.

The debacle could particularly be a black eye for ranked-choice voting. The system allows voters to select more than one candidate for a particular race by ranking them in order of preference and redistributes votes from the lowest performers until one candidate secures majority support and is declared the winner. The system eliminates the need for a separate runoff election when no candidate gets a majority of votes.

Ironically, the error affecting Hutchinson’s totals was detected by advocacy groups working to get jurisdictions around the country to adopt the format. They noticed a discrepancy while reviewing all of Oakland’s election results, which indicated that a special category of votes wasn’t being counted until the second round of ranked-choice results. The error was also caused by a decision made by the registrar’s staff, not a flaw in the election software.

“This is a learning moment for all of us, and I think it’s crucial we maintain transparency around the process no matter what,” said Rob Richie, the CEO of FairVote, which successfully lobbied for Oakland to first implement ranked choice in the city’s 2010 elections.

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“The ‘Red Wave’ Washout: How Skewed Polls Fed a False Election Narrative”


In the election’s immediate aftermath, the polling failures appeared to be in keeping with misfires in 2016 and 2020, when the strength of Donald J. Trump’s support was widely underestimated, and with the continuing struggles of an industry that arose with the corded home telephone to adapt to the mass migration to cellphones and text messaging. Indeed, some of the same Republican-leaning pollsters who erred in 2022 had built credibility with their contrarian, but accurate, polling triumphs in recent elections.

But a New York Times review of the forces driving the narrative of a coming red wave, and of that narrative’s impact, found new factors at play.

Traditional nonpartisan pollsters, after years of trial and error and tweaking of their methodologies, produced polls that largely reflected reality. But they also conducted fewer polls than in the past.

That paucity allowed their accurate findings to be overwhelmed by an onrush of partisan polls in key states that more readily suited the needs of the sprawling and voracious political content machine — one sustained by ratings and clicks, and famished for fresh data and compelling narratives.

The skewed red-wave surveys polluted polling averages, which are relied upon by campaigns, donors, voters and the news media. It fed the home-team boosterism of an expanding array of right-wing media outlets — from Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast and “The Charlie Kirk Show” to Fox News and its top-rated prime-time lineup. And it spilled over into coverage by mainstream news organizations, including The Times, that amplified the alarms being sounded about potential Democratic doom.

The virtual “bazaar of polls,” as a top Republican strategist called it, was largely kept humming by right-leaning pollsters using opaque methodology, in some cases relying on financial support from hyperpartisan groups and benefiting from vociferous cheerleading by Mr. Trump.

Yet questionable polls were not only put out by Republicans. The executive director of one of the more prominent Democratic-leaning firms that promoted polls this cycle, Data for Progress, was boasting about placing bets on election outcomes, raising at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Other pollsters lacked experience, like two high-school juniors in Pennsylvania who started Patriot Polling and quickly found their surveys included on the statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight — as did another high school concern based at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

Shaping perceptions across the ideological spectrum, the steady flow of data predicting a red wave prompted real-world decision-making that members of both parties now say could have tilted the balance of power in Congress.

“These frothy polls had a substantial, distorting impact on how people spent money — on campaign strategy, and on people’s expectations going into the election,” said Steven J. Law, the chief executive of the Republicans’ Senate Leadership Fund, which poured $280 million into the midterms. Its own private polling showed no red wave at all.

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North Carolina: “AG: Meadows won’t face voter fraud charges in North Carolina”


 Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff to President Donald Trump, won’t face voter fraud charges related to his 2020 registration and absentee vote in North Carolina, the state’s attorney general announced Friday.

Meadows, a former western North Carolina congressman who worked for Trump during his final months in the Oval Office, was an outspoken proponent of the ex-president’s baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. Meadows drew the attention of government attorneys when details that he was simultaneously registered to vote in North Carolina and two other states surfaced.

Based largely on the findings of a voter fraud investigation completed by the State Bureau of Investigation, Attorney General Josh Stein told The Associated Press that there isn’t sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution of Meadows or his wife, Debra….

Stein said career prosecutors within his department recommended that charges not be pursued. In a memo to Stein, those attorneys said evidence showed Meadows and his wife had signed a yearlong lease for the Scaly Mountain residence that was provided by their landlord. Cellphone records indicated Debra Meadows was in and around Scaly Mountain in October 2020, the memo said, and her husband qualified for a residency exception in state law because he was in public service in Washington.

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“Santos, a Suburban House and $11,000 in Campaign Payments for ‘Rent'”


The company was called Cleaner 123, and over the course of four months, it received nearly $11,000 from the campaign of George Santos, the representative-elect from New York who appears to have invented whole swaths of his life story.

The expenditures were listed as “apartment rental for staff” on Mr. Santos’s campaign disclosure forms and gave the address of a modest suburban house on Long Island. But one neighbor said Mr. Santos himself had been living there for months, and two others said that they had seen Mr. Santos and his husband coming and going, a possible violation of the rule prohibiting the use of campaign funds for personal expenses.

The payments to Cleaner 123 were among a litany of unusual disbursements documented in Mr. Santos’s campaign filings that experts say could warrant further scrutiny. There are also dozens of expenses pegged at $199.99 — one cent below the threshold at which federal law requires receipts.

The travel expenses include more than $40,000 for air travel, a number so exorbitant that it resembles the campaign filings of party leaders in Congress, as opposed to a newly elected congressman who is still introducing himself to local voters.

It is not known if the spending was in fact illegal, or merely unusual. Federal and local prosecutors said this week that they would begin inquiries into Mr. Santos’s finances and background.

Mr. Santos, a Republican, was elected in the Third Congressional District, a consequential swing district in Queens and Long Island, after a failed bid for the same seat in 2020. He has come under intense scrutiny after a New York Times investigation revealed that he misrepresented details of his education, work history and property ownership, along with a previously undisclosed criminal charge in Brazil.

The story also raised questions about Mr. Santos’s financial circumstances, which disclosures show have improved drastically since 2020, when he reported earning just $55,000 a year….

Paul S. Ryan, an election law expert, said that the expenditures could be an effort to hide illegal use of campaign funds, given the leeway with reporting receipts below $200. If so, he said, Mr. Santos’s attempt to hide the pattern could put him in further legal trouble, adding: “I consider deployment of this tactic strong evidence that the violation of law was knowing and willful — and therefore meeting the requirement for criminal prosecution.”

Unusually for a candidate who was relatively new to politics, Mr. Santos also appears to have used his campaign accounts to fund trips across the country, along with local hotel stays, according to a review of his campaign expenditures by The Times.

Over the course of his campaign, Mr. Santos spent $30,000 on hotels, $40,000 on airfare and $14,000 on car services — and campaign records suggest he also retained a campaign vehicle.

The spending was funded by a campaign war chest of more than $3 million amassed by four fund-raising committees during the 2022 campaign cycle. The money came from small-dollar donors, longtime Republican contributors on Long Island and elsewhere and the campaign committees of other Republican candidates. The biggest givers lavished Mr. Santos with the maximum allowable amounts, in some cases directly, in others via a Republican super PAC or the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

A hefty chunk of the total came in the form of a $700,000 loan from Mr. Santos himself.

The source of Mr. Santos’s wealth has been surrounded by some mystery: He has said on financial disclosure statements that his company, the Devolder Organization, is worth more than a million dollars; the statements also show that he earned millions between salary and dividends over the past two years. But the disclosures do not name any of the clients who helped Mr. Santos earn such a fortune — an omission that could pose legal problems for Mr. Santos, campaign finance experts say.

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Arizona: “Pinal County election results: 500-vote discrepancy was ‘human error'”

Arizona Republic:

Three months after a disastrous primary, Pinal County seemed to pull off a smooth Election Day in November.

But the county made errors in counting some ballots, officials said as a 500-vote discrepancy between certified election tallies and recounted results came to light on Thursday.

“The purpose of a recount is to ensure accurate vote totals are put forth, as it is reasonable to expect some level of human error in a dynamic, high-stress, deadline intensive process involving counting hundreds of thousands of ballots,” county officials said in a statement. “The recount process did what it was supposed to do — it identified a roughly 500 vote undercount in the Pinal County election attributable to human error.”

The county, which runs south and east of Maricopa County, is home to about 450,000 residents and has experienced rapid growth in recent years. About 140,000 voters cast ballots there in the November election….

And the Pinal County discrepancy, which officials say can be chalked up to paper jams and staff error, put more egg on the face of a county that already had endured a tumultuous election cycle.

It’s also fueled those who distrust the results. Hamadeh made clear hours after the recount results were released that he is not giving up his election challenge, issuing a statement calling for an inspection of “all of the ballots” and saying thousands of provisional ballots from the Nov. 8 election had not been counted.

People cast provisional ballots if there is doubt about their eligibility to vote. These ballots can remain uncounted if election officials determine the voter is not qualified to participate.

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My 2022 Opeds and Commentaries

Here they are, in reverse chronological order:

I’ve Been Way More Worried About American Democracy Than I Am Right NowSlate, November 14, 2022

The Courts are the Only Thing Holding Back Total Election Subversion, The Atlantic, November 2, 2022

An Arizona Court Seems to Think Voter Intimidation Isn’t Voter IntimidationNBC News Think, November 1, 2022

The Supreme Court is Headed for a Self-Imposed Voting Caseload Disaster, Slate, October 26, 2022 (with Nat Bach)

The Truly Scary Part About the 1.6 Billion Conservative DonationSlate, August 23, 2022 (with Dahlia Lithwick)

What the Critics Get Incredibly Wrong About the Collins-Manchin Election Bill, Slate, July 25, 2022

It’s Hard to Overstate the Danger of the Voting Case the Supreme Court Just Agreed to HearSlate, June 30, 2022

No One is Above the Law, and that Starts with Donald TrumpN.Y. Times, June 24, 2022

The Jan. 6 Committee Should Be Looking Ahead to Election Threats in 2024Wash. Post, June 8, 2022

The One Group That Can Stop Elon Musk from Unbanning Trump on Twitter, Slate, May 10, 2022

Facebook and Twitter Could Let Trump Back Online. But He’s Still a DangerWashington Post, Mar. 9, 2022

How Supreme Court Radicalism Could Threaten Democracy Itself, Slate, Mar. 8, 2022

How to Keep the Rising Tide of Fake News from Drowning Our DemocracyN.Y. Times, Mar. 7, 2022

North Carolina Republicans Ask SCOTUS To Decimate Voting Rights in Every StateSlate, Feb. 25, 2022

What Democrats Need From Mitch McConnell to Make an Election Reform Deal Worth ItSlate, Jan. 4, 2022

No One is Coming to Save Us from the ‘Dagger at the Throat of America,’ N.Y. Times, Jan. 7, 2022

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“COVID-19 and Voter Turnout and Methods in the 2020 US General Election”

Paul Hernnson and Charles Stewart have posted this draft on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

COVID-19 caused worldwide disruption to virtually every aspect of human life, including elections. This study assesses the impact of COVID death rates, convenience voting policies, and partisanship on voter behavior in the 2020 U.S. general election. Using a new data set comprising county and some state data, we demonstrate that countywide COVID-death rates depressed turnout somewhat from 2016 levels, and it contributed to increased use of mail and early-in-person voting options. We also show that the availability of different options structured the methods voters used to cast a ballot. Our results reveal that the emergence of voting policies as a salient issue contributed to a new partisan gap in voter behavior.

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“Arizona: ‘Assessing our options’: Hamadeh calls for hand count, explores legal avenues in AG race”

Arizona Republic:

Republican candidate for attorney general Abe Hamadeh and his attorneys are continuing to question results and exploring legal options after a statewide recount showed a significant vote gain in his favor.

With almost 2.51 million votes cast in the statewide race for attorney general, Hamadeh lost by 280 votes, according to the recount results announced Thursday in a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The race went immediately to an automatic recount because the vote differential between the candidate was less than half a percentage point. Before the recount, Mayes led by 511 votes.

Hamadeh, on Twitter, called for a hand count of all the the ballots.

“We MUST get to the bottom of this election. Transparent elections are fundamental to a democracy. A discrepancy this big in the recount calls for an inspection of ALL the ballots.”

In another post, Hamadeh said, “Katie Hobbs and SOS Office abused our courts and made a mockery of the justice system. They knew the results of the recount was going to show a LARGE discrepancy due to tabulation errors and fought against our election contest knowing this. They deceived the courts.”

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