Starting in early spring, as the coronavirus took hold, a conservative lawyer at the forefront of raising alarms about voting by mail held multiple private briefings exclusively for Republican state election officials, according to previously unreported public records.
The lawyer, the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, is a leading purveyor of the notion that voter fraud is rampant, claims that have been largely discredited.
Among the participants in these meetings has been an official from the office of Georgia’s secretary of state; the secretary, Brad Raffensperger, recently elevated concerns about voter fraud by contending that 1,000 Georgians had voted twice in elections this year.
GOP congressional staffers and a Trump administration appointee have also joined in these meetings, which were open to officials from states across the country, including Missouri and Nevada, the records show. No Democratic state election officials appear to have been invited….
The meetings come as voting access has become one of the central flashpoints of the upcoming presidential election. More Americans are expected to vote by mail this year than ever before because of the health risks posed by COVID-19. President Donald Trump has repeatedly and baselessly asserted that mail-in voting is rife with problems. Echoing von Spakovsky, he asserted on Twitter in July that the upcoming presidential vote will be the “most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”
Experts have said voting by mail carries little risk of fraud. Since it is widely believed that more Democractic voters will vote by mail than Republicans, von Spakovsky’s proposals, if adopted, could suppress Democratic turnout in one of the most consequential presidential elections in a generation.
Secretaries of state, who oversee statewide voting and work with county election officials, have broad leeway to act in ways that can limit or expand the franchise. While most are partisan elected officials, they are expected to carry out policies that benefit everyone.
This bit also caught my eye:
There are indications that von Spakovsky has been influential within the Trump administration as well. During the August virtual briefing, state election administrators were told that Cameron Quinn, a Department of Homeland Security official, would now be their “liaison to the election community,” according to emails that a participant from Washington state sent to his colleagues.
The announcement of her role apparently came as a surprise to Washington officials, including the state’s director of elections, the emails show. The director, a member of a five-person committee that regularly interacts with DHS over election security matters, told her colleagues that there is a point of contact within the agency — and it’s not Quinn.
It turned out Quinn participated in the meeting without notifying her new boss beforehand, according to people familiar with the matter. Her appointment to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division within DHS that monitors election systems for foreign hacking attempts and communicates with state officials about them, had only been announced within the agency a day earlier, they said.
It’s not clear whether Quinn is still in contact with state elections officials. A division spokeswoman confirmed Quinn was not yet an employee in the division at the time she participated in the meeting but declined to answer additional questions.