States United Action Statement in Response to Senate Failure to Advance the Freedom to Vote Act

Washington, DC — In reaction to the Senate failure to advance the Freedom to Vote Act, States United Action released the following statement from States United Action CEO Joanna Lydgate and Co-Chairs former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Ambassador Norman Eisen. 

“We are deeply disappointed by the Senate’s failure to even open debate on the Freedom to Vote Act. That is especially true since the vote failed on a party-line tally at a time when the democracy reforms in the bill earn widespread support from the American people and election administrators alike. 

While we remain hopeful there will be federal democracy reform on a bipartisan basis in the future, today’s vote is the latest example of the dangerous unravelling of a decades-long consensus across the aisle on the fundamental role the freedom to vote plays in ensuring our democracy is of the people, by the people, and for the people.  

As a nation, we are at an inflection point when it comes to protecting the will of the American people and safeguarding our federal elections from partisan interference. Access to the ballot box and the way elections are run are under attack in state houses across the country. This crisis requires swift and bold action from leaders at all levels of government. 

We must stand united against the anti-democratic efforts to politicize, criminalize, and interfere with election administration — and today’s Senate vote only adds urgency to the need for bipartisan leaders to speak out.”

States United spokespeople and experts are available for interviews on this story. 

Additional Resources:

  • The Freedom to Vote Act includes multiple provisions that limit election subversion attempts at the state level. The States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward released the report “A Democracy Crisis in the Making” documenting this alarming national trend and analyzing the more than 200 bills introduced in state houses seeking to politicize, interfere, and meddle with election administration. 
  • Following the passage of Texas’ SB1, an omnibus voter suppression bill, States United Action Co-Chairs former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Ambassador Norm Eisen joined Protect Democracy counsel Jess Marsden in an op-ed urging Congress to address election subversion.
  • The Freedom to Vote Act includes a number of provisions from S.1, The For the People Act, including automatic voter registration and early voting requirements. In March, the States United Democracy Center released a first-of-its-kind report, “The Impact of H.R.1 & S.1 on Voting: An Analysis of Key States.” The report examines how federal standards would affect federal elections in particular states, with a focus on how federal legislation would protect the freedom to vote and help thwart voter suppression efforts sweeping statehouses across the country. Much of this state-by-state analysis applies to the newly announced Freedom to Vote Act.

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About States United Action

States United Action is a nonpartisan section 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization with a mission to protect our elections and our democracy. States United Action advocates for policies that protect election integrity, hold democracy violators accountable, and prevent political violence that threatens to undermine the will of the American people, and amplifies the voices of state leaders and law enforcement leaders who share these values.

Bipartisan Legal Experts and the States United Democracy Center File Bar Complaint Against John Eastman

10.4.2021

Complaint: “The available evidence supports a strong case that the State Bar [of California] should investigate whether, in the course of representing Mr. Trump, Mr. Eastman violated his ethical obligations as an attorney by filing frivolous claims, making false statements, and engaging in deceptive conduct.”

Los Angeles, CA — The States United Democracy Center today filed a complaint against California bar member John Eastman for assisting in former President Trump’s attempts to discredit and overturn the 2020 presidential election results. The complaint requests that the State Bar open an investigation into Eastman’s conduct and is supported by 25 bipartisan signatories, including former federal and California state supreme court judges, numerous former Republican officials, leading law professors and the Bush and Obama White House ethics advisors.

The complaint offers strong evidence that the State Bar should investigate whether Eastman violated his obligations as an attorney by filing frivolous claims, making false statements, and engaging in deceptive conduct. Based on publicly available reports, it details Eastman’s actions from Election Day to January 6, 2021, when Congress’ electoral vote count was violently disrupted, and includes his work in the frivolous lawsuit Texas vs. Pennsylvania, his role in helping provoke the pro-Trump crowd at the “Stop the Steal” rally, and his authorship of wildly misleading legal advice to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count lawful votes from numerous states — all with the aim of ultimately delaying the election or throwing it to Trump.

“Across the board, John Eastman’s actions were anti-democratic — from his legal work to promote Trump’s frivolous claims in the Supreme Court, to the dangerous speech he delivered to disillusioned Trump supporters at the National Mall on January 6,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center. “There is strong evidence to support an investigation by the State Bar of California.”

“Individuals from every profession should be held to the highest of ethical standards and accountable for their actions. It is essential that policymakers and legal experts from both sides of the aisle stand up and fight against these anti-democratic actions taken by John Eastman and his peers,” said Christine Todd Whitman, Board Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center and former New Jersey Governor. “This bar complaint is one important step to ensuring our democracy prevails even in the face of unprecedented disinformation and attempts to overturn a free, fair election.”

“The 2020 election was evaluated as the most secure election in history, and the official results stood up against multiple recounts, legitimate audits, and at least 60 legal challenges,” said Ambassador Norm Eisen, Board Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center. “Yet enablers like John Eastman continued to incessantly and baselessly promote Trump’s Big Lie — a lie that led to a violent insurrection. States United is committed to holding these individuals accountable; our democracy depends on it.”

Key excerpts from the complaint include:

“There is no doubt that Mr. Eastman’s memoranda were wrong in their core claim that the Constitution gave Mr. Pence unquestioned and unreviewable authority to declare the Electoral Count Act and Concurrent Resolution unconstitutional and to refuse to count or delay the counting of the ‘swing state’ Electoral College vote certificates, even though those certificates were proper in form, had withstood all timely legal challenges, and were not opposed by any valid competing slate of electors. Other lawyers who looked at the question — many of them stalwart conservatives and Trump supporters — believed that that advice was absolutely wrong.

“Mr. Eastman’s advice, however, was not simply wrong — it was false or deceptive, in multiple respects. First, it rested on factual statements that were false or misleading, including the falsehoods that there were competing slates of electors and that there existed outcome-determinative fraud. Mr. Eastman also misleadingly omitted the fact that virtually every timely filed claim challenging the ‘swing state’ election results had failed. … 

“While a finding that unethical conduct caused harm is not required to support professional discipline, it is surely relevant here that Mr. Eastman’s conduct caused substantial harm and threatened to cause even more. Mr. Eastman’s conduct caused harm because it was intended to, and did, further Mr. Trump’s false narrative that in 2020 American political and judicial institutions at both the state and federal levels failed to ensure a free and fair election — when in fact those institutions did just that (even while conducting an election during a global pandemic). The damage of that corrosive lie to our collective life is incalculable. But the harm that Mr. Eastman’s conduct sought, but failed, to achieve — the jettisoning of those lawful results was far greater. Mr. Eastman’s conduct in seeking that outcome deserves the most searching of investigations, and, if the case outlined above is sustained, substantial professional discipline.”

This bar complaint against John Eastman is the latest action taken by States United and other legal experts to hold democracy violators accountable for their contributions to the January 6 insurrection. Learn more here.

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About the States United Democracy Center The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit https://statesuniteddemocracy.org/.

NEW: States United Democracy Center, Law Forward Outline Legal Risks and Concerns Created by Third-Party Election Reviews in Wisconsin

9.24.2021

Letter to County and Municipal Election Officials Details Potential State and Federal Election Security and Voter Protection Law Violations and the Unreasonable Cost to Wisconsin Taxpayers Created by Bad Faith Election Reviews

Washington, D.C. — The States United Democracy Center and Law Forward released a detailed analysis today outlining the numerous security risks and legal violations implicated by third-party election reviews like the one currently under way in Wisconsin. The analysis comes as Speaker Vos continues his push to review paper ballots, voting machines, and other 2020 election records in Wisconsin. Other efforts, including follow-up to the invalid subpoenas previously issued by Representative Brandtjen, remain possible as well. 

The report details top areas of concern: election security & integrity, improper exercise of authority, good governance & transparency, due process protections, voter protection, invalid legislative purpose, overbreadth, burdensomeness & vagueness, and unreasonable costs to taxpayers. In an open letter to county and municipal election officials sharing the analysis, the two leading election protection and democracy groups urge officials to consider the relevant state and federal laws outlined before formulating any response to requests tied to third-party reviews. 

“As in other states across the country, the third-party investigations into the 2020 election in Wisconsin led by Speaker Vos and Representative Brandtjen implicate state and federal election security and voter protection laws,” said Aaron Scherzer, Senior Counsel at States United Democracy Center. “The 2020 election was free, fair, and secure thanks to the hard work of dedicated local officials in Wisconsin and around the country. As these same officials navigate the post-2020 election landscape—which includes an unprecedented wave of third-party, partisan reviews—it’s critical they understand the legal and security issues at play and remain able to administer elections without partisan interference.”

“The fact is the 2020 election in Wisconsin was fair and accurate. The results reflect the will of Wisconsin voters,” said Jeff Mandell, Lead Counsel and President of Law Forward. “As our analysis suggests, any attempts to undermine those official results via these third-party reviews will likely conflict with established state and federal protections for voters, election officials, and election materials. The blatant waste of taxpayer dollars only adds to the reasons local officials should proceed with caution if asked to turn over election materials or otherwise participate in these bad faith efforts.”

The analysis concludes:

Even now, more than ten months later, legislators in Wisconsin have indicated their intent to conduct vague and murky investigations into the November 2020 election. The lack of clarity and transparency makes it difficult for municipal election officials and Wisconsin taxpayers to have any idea what to expect. At this point, what is clear is that one or more of these investigations could include unprecedented legislative subpoenas that raise novel questions of Wisconsin law. Additionally, the anticipated scope of those subpoenas—if recent political rhetoric and document preservation letters evidently sent by former Justice Gableman are to be believed—may run afoul of established protections that state and federal law provide for voters, election officials, and election materials.

In sum, election officials would be wise to proceed with caution upon receiving any subpoena in connection with investigations of the 2020 General Election. Such subpoenas are almost certain to face significant questions about their validity, both procedurally and substantively. Election officials will also need to weigh their existing legal duties before responding to requests for records or information. 

The bad faith election reviews in Wisconsin are part of a larger trend in states across the country sparked by the conspiracy theory-fueled work of the Cyber Ninjas in Maricopa County, Arizona. States United and Law Forward are national leaders in tracking these 2020 election reviews and convening bipartisan election experts to expose the legal, procedural, and cultural risks to states attempting these operations. Earlier this month, States United released an interested parties memo outlining the key ways in which the election reviews in Wisconsin mirror the problematic Cyber Ninjas effort in Arizona, including the lack of credibility, lack of transparency, cost to taxpayers, the bipartisan opposition, security risks and legal concerns, and lack of public support. 

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About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org

About Law Forward

Law Forward is a nonprofit law firm focused on protecting and advancing democracy in Wisconsin. We use impact litigation, the administrative process, and public education to protect Wisconsin’s fundamental democratic principles, and revive Wisconsin’s traditional commitment to clean and open government. For more information, visit www.lawforward.org.

Pennsylvania State Officials Sue to Block State Senate Subpoena Seeking Private Voter Information

9.23.2021

Lawsuit Contends State Senate Committee Unlawfully Issued Subpoena That Would Violate Privacy Rights of Millions of Pennsylvanians and Interfere with Right To Vote

Lawsuit Co-Counsel States United: Suit is “Important to Protect the Privacy and the Right to Vote of Pennsylvanians”

HARRISBURG — Citing the prospect of violations of privacy and voting rights, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of State, and the Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth, Veronica Degraffenreid, filed a lawsuit today asking the court to block a subpoena issued by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee last week. The complaint makes clear that official county audits and nonpartisan experts confirmed that the 2020 General Election and 2021 Municipal elections in the Commonwealth were free, fair, and securely administered. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro brought the case. The States United Democracy Center is acting as pro bono co-counsel in the lawsuit with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

The Senate subpoena seeks, among other things, the driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security Numbers for all registered voters in the Commonwealth. This confidential data would then be given to an unidentified third-party vendor without any known restrictions, and which may have connections to individuals and organizations that have perpetuated some of the most dangerous lies about the 2020 election. The lawsuit argues that the Senate subpoena, if enforced, would violate the right to privacy in the Pennsylvania Constitution and in the Commonwealth’s laws.

“Leaders in the Pennsylvania State Senate have launched an unfounded and unlawful investigation of the 2020 elections—an election marked by historic voter participation and referred to as the most secure election in history,” said Christine P. Sun, Legal Director of the States United Democracy Center. “This lawsuit is an important step to protect the privacy and the right to vote of Pennsylvanians. This subpoena is not a fact-finding mission but rather an attempt to keep the dangerous lies about the 2020 elections alive.”

Additionally, the lawsuit contends the subpoena was not issued for a legitimate legislative purpose; violates privacy and right to vote protections in the Pennsylvania Constitution; and exceeds the Intergovernmental Operations Committee’s authority. Specifically, the lawsuit points to the subpoena requesting information that, if provided, would violate:

  • the right to privacy under Article I, Sections 1 and 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution;
  • the right to free and fair elections under Article I, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution; and
  • federal law protecting critical infrastructure under 6 U.S.C. § 673.

“It’s deeply disturbing to see Pennsylvania legislators waste taxpayer dollars and risk exposing the personal information of millions, all for political games,” said former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center. “Legal action is necessary to block anti-voter efforts and to reinforce the free, fair, and secure 2020 election in Pennsylvania. It also underscores the need for bipartisan leadership to push back on the lies—this isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue, this is an American one.”

The complaint was filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The defendants in the case are Senator Cris Dush, Senator Jake Corman, and the Pennsylvania State Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee.

Today’s legal action is the latest in a series of efforts to push back on the partisan election investigation in Pennsylvania and similar investigations in states across the country. States United is a national leader in challenging bad faith election reviews and convening bipartisan election experts to expose the legal and procedural concerns and risks to our democracy these operations generate.

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About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org.

NEW LETTER: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s Recent Threat to Dismantle Fulton County Board of Elections Raises Serious Legal Concerns

9.20.2021

Washington, D.C. — Today, States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward sent a letter to the Georgia State Election Board expressing serious legal concerns regarding Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s recent threat to seek the removal of all five members of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections (Fulton BRE) based on the County’s selection of Cathy Woolard as Chair of the Fulton BRE. The letter explains that Secretary Raffensperger’s political disagreements with Woolard are an insufficient basis to suspend or remove the Fulton BRE members.

The letter warns that any attempt to seek the suspension or removal of the Fulton BRE members based on Ms. Woolard’s appointment would be contrary to Georgia Senate Bill 202 (S.B. 202). The newly-enacted law requires that specific standards must be satisfied prior to any election official being suspended or removed, none of which are satisfied by the Secretary’s disapproval of Ms. Woolard’s previous political affiliations.

While the Secretary of State does not have any power under S.B. 202 to initiate the process for removing board members, his comments may prove unduly influential. They inject partisanship into the process and have the potential to shape the state’s separate, ongoing review of the Fulton Board of Elections that includes the Secretary of State’s chief counsel as a member of the review panel.

“Though Secretary Raffensperger lacks the power to initiate the process for removing board members under S.B. 202, his threat underscores how the controversial bill could be used to inject partisanship into election administration,” said Ranjana Natarajan, Senior Counsel at the States United Democracy Center. “As Georgia navigates this new election landscape, it’s critical that trusted local election officials remain able to administer elections without partisan interference.”

The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections is made up of five members: two Democratic and two Republican appointees, and a chair appointed by the County Commission. During the hearing to select Woolard as Chair, both Democrats and Republicans supported her qualifications to serve as chairwoman.

“Undermining the bipartisan selection of Cathy Woolard to serve as Chair of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections seems to have no legal support. S.B. 202 does not authorize review or removal based on political disagreements,” said Mel Barnes, Staff Counsel at Law Forward. “If S.B. 202 is going to continue to inspire this kind of political theater—it’s deeply concerning and something we all must keep an eye on. The future of our democracy is at stake here.”

Earlier this year, the States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward released a report, “A Democracy Crisis in the Making,” which analyzed the nationwide trend of partisan state legislatures trying to seize control over election administration. The report put a spotlight on bills like S.B. 202 that increase the potential for partisan interference in our elections.

“S.B. 202 is part of an alarming nationwide trend of state officials attempting to interfere with trusted local election administrators by grabbing power for partisan ends.” said Sara Chimene-Weiss, Counsel with Protect Democracy. “Last week in Georgia, we saw firsthand how some leaders may use the law for partisan games. Even so, any efforts to use it must follow existing law that clearly defines various procedures and terms within it.”

The letter can be found here.

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About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org

About Protect Democracy

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government. For more information, visit protectdemocracy.org.  

About Law Forward

Law Forward is a nonprofit law firm focused on protecting and advancing democracy in Wisconsin. We use impact litigation, the administrative process, and public education to protect Wisconsin’s fundamental democratic principles, and revive Wisconsin’s traditional commitment to clean and open government. For more information, visit lawforward.org.

States United Action Statement on the Freedom to Vote Act

9.14.2021

Washington, DC — In reaction to the Senate unveiling the Freedom to Vote Act, States United Action released the following statement from States United Action Co-Chairs former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Ambassador Norm Eisen and CEO Joanna Lydgate. 

“The surge of attacks on the freedom to vote and the attempts to subvert our elections require leaders from all levels of government to act boldly to protect our democracy. Today, a group of U.S. senators took a big step in the right direction. The Freedom to Vote Act is a landmark compromise bill to protect the will of the American people and strengthen our elections. It takes best practices from red and blue states across the country and hinders attempts to politicize and interfere with election administration. We believe the compromise unveiled today goes a long way to address the dangerous election subversion trend sweeping the nation.” 

Additional Resources:

  • The Freedom to Vote Act includes multiple provisions that limit election subversion attempts at the state level. States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward released the first report “A Democracy Crisis in the Making” documenting this alarming national trend and analyzing the more than 200 bills introduced in state houses seeking to politicize, interfere, and meddle with election administration. 
  • Following the passage of Texas’ SB1, an omnibus voter suppression bill, States United Action Co-Chairs former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Norm Eisen joined Protect Democracy counsel Jess Marsden in an op-ed urging Congress to address election subversion.
  • The Freedom to Vote Act includes a number of provisions from S.1, The For the People Act, including automatic voter registration and early voting requirements. In March, the States United Democracy Center released a first-of-its-kind report, “The Impact of H.R.1 & S.1 on Voting: An Analysis of Key States.” The report examines how federal standards would affect federal elections in particular states, with a focus on how federal legislation would protect the freedom to vote and help thwart voter suppression efforts sweeping statehouses across the country. Much of this state-by-state analysis applies to the newly announced Freedom to Vote Act.

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About States United Action

States United Action is a nonpartisan section 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization with a mission to protect our elections and our democracy. States United Action advocates for policies that protect election integrity, hold democracy violators accountable, and prevent political violence that threatens to undermine the will of the American people, and amplifies the voices of state leaders and law enforcement leaders who share these values.

NEW POLL: Pennsylvania Voters Oppose Fake Election “Audit” Proposed by State Sen. Mastriano

7.30.2021

Polling Reveals the Audit Cannot be Trusted by Fourteen-Point Margin 

Washington, D.C. – States United Action released a new poll revealing that Pennsylvania voters oppose the fake 2020 election “investigation” proposed by State Senator Doug Mastriano and trust the official results already certified. The survey finds that seventy-four percent (74%) of Pennsylvania voters have heard at least a bit about the proposed investigation and that these voters already believe the audit cannot be trusted by a fourteen-point margin (47% to 33%). After all voters hear more background, they say they trust the official vote count already certified by Pennsylvania’s election officials more than any results from Sen. Mastriano’s attempted operation by a fifteen-point margin (53%-38%). The Mastriano-proposed “audit” closely mirrors the unpopular so-called “audit” happening in Maricopa County, Arizona, including having similar concerns around transparency, election security, and cost to taxpayers. 

“Pennsylvania voters get it: county officials have already certified and audited the 2020 election and this partisan attempt to conduct a fake ‘audit’ is just a sad sequel to the damaging situation playing out in Arizona,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Action. “We applaud the bipartisan leaders in the state who are pushing back on this bad faith effort. Pennsylvania voters deserve leaders who are focused on working for Pennsylvania families, not wasting time and taxpayer dollars on a conspiracy theory-based effort to rehash an already settled election.”

Conducted by The Mellman Group from July 15-20, via landline, cell, and text-to-online, the poll surveyed 600 registered voters in Pennsylvania, using a registration-based sample. In one of the nation’s most closely divided states, where President Joe Biden won by one percentage point, other key findings from the polling include:

  • Seventy-four percent (74%) of Pennsylvania voters have heard at least a bit about the proposed investigation. 
  • Those voters believe the audit cannot be trusted by a fourteen-point margin (47% to 33%). After hearing more background information, voters say they will trust the official vote count already certified by Pennsylvania’s election officials more than the results from this new investigation by a fifteen-point margin (53%-38%).
  • The most concerning aspects to respondents of Senator Mastriano’s so-called “audit” were the following: 
    • Need for a Republican Party that works in the best interest of Pennsylvanians and isn’t embroiled in division over a settled election.
    • Fact that Pennsylvania counties confirmed the results were accurate through audits required by state law.
    • Lack of transparency and security surrounding the investigation.
    • Cost to taxpayers of replacing election equipment due to potential security breaches resulting from this investigation. 
  • By a nineteen-point margin (57% to 38%), Pennsylvania voters believe that President Biden won the election in their state. 

Earlier this month, States United Action, Fair Fight Action, and United to Protect Democracy launched a first-of-its-kind web tool designed to track state-specific attacks on election integrity via sham election reviews, like the ongoing so-called “audit” in Maricopa County, Arizona and the proposed on in Pennsylvania. The tracking tool, found at NotAnAudit.com, details the commonalities between the chaos unfolding in Maricopa County and other attempts at fake investigations into the 2020 election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In June, States United Action released a poll that revealed Arizona voters oppose the fake “audit” in Maricopa County. The survey also found that a large majority (89%) of respondents have heard about the “audit” and that the more people know about the operation the more they distrust it. 

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About States United Action
States United Action is a nonpartisan section 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization with a mission to protect our elections and our democracy. States United Action advocates for policies that protect election integrity, hold democracy violators accountable, and prevent political violence that threatens to undermine the will of the American people, and amplifies the voices of state leaders and law enforcement leaders who share these values.

Domestic Extremism Expert and the States United Democracy Center Outline Support for Cases Against Donald J. Trump on January 6 Violence

7.28.2021

Washington, D.C. — On Tuesday, the States United Democracy Center joined Jared Holt, resident fellow of the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) at the Atlantic Council, to file an amicus brief in federal court in Washington, D.C., supporting three cases that allege that then-President Donald J. Trump intended his supporters to violently disrupt Congress’s count of the Electoral votes on January 6, 2021. The plaintiffs in these cases are eleven members of Congress and two U.S. Capitol Police officers, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby.

The brief focuses on the overwhelming public information that suggests Trump’s connection to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Additionally, the brief outlines the history of pro-Trump-related violence and then-President Donald Trump’s encouragement of that violence. It shows how he has coordinated with and promoted conspiracy-driven movements and individuals who have inspired extremist violence, including Alex Jones and QAnon.  

“Trump’s long—and public—embrace of his most extreme supporters’ violence provides more than enough support to move this case forward,” said Jared Holt, resident fellow of the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) at the Atlantic Council. “The events that unfolded on January 6, 2021 are the clear outgrowth of Trump’s cultivation of the most extreme elements of his base. From asserting that there were ‘good people on both sides’ in Charlottesville, to praising the ‘tough people’ among his supporters who can turn ‘very bad, very bad’ if needed, Trump has consistently and openly communicated to these supporters that he approves of and encourages their violence.”

“The wealth of publicly available information concerning Trump’s long history of cultivating political violence alone clears the legal bar for allowing these cases to move into the discovery phase,” said Christine P. Sun, Legal Director at the States United Democracy Center.  “Even to this very day, Trump continues to praise the most violent elements of his base while inundating them with false claims of election fraud in a desperate—and dangerous—attempt to overturn an election he soundly lost.”

Key excerpts from the brief are included below:

From asserting that there were “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville, to praising the “tough people” among his supporters who can turn “very bad, very bad” if needed, Trump has, for years, consistently and openly showed these supporters that he approves of them and their violence. As documented below, in the weeks leading up to January 6, Trump continued to court these most violent elements of his base while inundating them with false claims of election fraud. He did this knowing that his most extreme supporters were publicly pledging to use violence to keep Trump in office and proved that commitment by participating in armed and increasingly violent demonstrations in Michigan and elsewhere after the 2020 election. Indeed, given Trump’s increasingly desperate efforts to block the election results, it is more than plausible that Trump intended for those attendees to do whatever it took to disrupt the last step before Joe Biden’s victory became official—Congress’s January 6 count of the Electoral College votes—including committing the violence they said they were prepared to commit.

Trump, along with the rest of America, knew his supporters were capable of violence, because they had been committing violent acts in his name since even before he was elected. He knew it because they continued to commit violence and participate in armed demonstrations after the election, as Trump promoted baseless conspiracy theories about a stolen election. And he knew it because he repeatedly praised his supporters’ violent tendencies and even asked them to commit violence on his behalf.

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About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy.

Bipartisan State and Federal Prosecutors Outline Support for Crystal Mason in Key Texas Voting Rights Case

7.22.2021

FORT WORTH, Texas and Washington, D.C. — On Thursday, a bipartisan group of former state and federal prosecutors, along with the States United Democracy Center, filed an amicus brief in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in support of Crystal Mason, a Tarrant County woman who is appealing her conviction for illegal voting, arguing that her prosecution was “far outside the bounds of any reasonable exercise of prosecutorial power.” Cooley LLP and Susman Godfrey LLP served as co-counsel on the brief on a pro bono basis. 

Ms. Mason cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 election, believing she was eligible to vote. State election officials determined that she was not eligible to vote because she was, at the time, on supervised release for a federal conviction. Her ballot was not counted. Despite not knowing that she was ineligible, and despite the absence of intent or any harm, county prosecutors charged Ms. Mason with illegal voting. 

The brief lays out how the prosecution of Ms. Mason is inconsistent with Texas’s illegal voting statute and with the fundamental principles of prosecutorial discretion. Her prosecution also risks seriously undermining an already vulnerable public trust in the criminal justice system. The brief is also signed by a bipartisan group of eleven prominent former prosecutors from Texas and around the country, including seven members of the States United Bipartisan Advisory Board. The list of signatories: Donald B. Ayer, Gregory A. Brower, Paul Coggins, John Farmer, Jonathan S. Feld, Sarah R. Saldaña, Richard H. Stephens, Matthew D. Orwig, Joyce White Vance, William F. Weld, and Grant Woods (full bios below).

“As it stands, Ms. Mason’s prosecution lies far outside the bounds of any reasonable exercise of prosecutorial power, and threatens the integrity of our democratic process and our electoral integrity as a nation,” said Donald B. Ayer, former Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice under President George H.W. Bush. “The knowledge requirement alone makes the prosecution here unjustified since there was no showing Ms. Mason knew she was not allowed to vote. And going after someone like her without any legal basis fundamentally undermines the right to vote by intimidating people from submitting provisional ballots in ambiguous cases.”

“During my service as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas, I strove to use my power as a prosecutor to preserve the civil rights of all Texans,” said Sarah R. Saldaña, who served as U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Texas and Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Obama Administration. “As a proud Tejana who has continued to engage in the battle to preserve the voting rights of my community and others, I believe there will indeed be consequences for allowing the treatment of Crystal Mason to stand as a precedent for potentially disenfranchising thousands of likely voters. The decision of the district attorney’s office runs counter to what should be the goal of all prosecutors in Texas to do justice, and it risks harming the reputation and the functionality of the criminal justice system for all Texans.”

“This unjust prosecution of Crystal Mason exemplifies our country’s unfortunate relationship between race, voting, and criminal justice,” said Christine P. Sun, Legal Director at the States United Democracy Center. “Furthermore, as demonstrated by the breadth of the signers on this brief, upholding the right to vote is not a partisan issue — it is a matter of protecting and strengthening our democracy.”

Mason, who faces five years in prison, is not the only Black person who is being unfairly targeted by Texas prosecutors. At the same time, state lawmakers in Texas are working to disenfranchise thousands in the state and push false narratives about the prevalence of voter fraud. Ms. Mason’s case was in the news earlier this week for the stark contrast between her sentencing for an honest error at the voting booth (five years) and the first sentencing of a Jan. 6 insurrectionist (eight months). Ms. Mason is Black; the insurrectionist is white. On Wednesday, she met with Texas lawmakers in Washington, D.C. who are fighting to protect voting rights during the special session in the state legislature. 

Key excerpts from the brief are included below:

Prosecutors wield tremendous power.  The impact of their decisions regarding whether and how to seek to curtail individuals’ liberty can reverberate well beyond the specifics of any given case, in ways both positive and destructive.  Appropriately, our system imposes important checks on this power to help ensure it is used only to further the aims of justice.  This Court’s review of Appellant Crystal Mason’s conviction for illegal voting is one such check.  

Ms. Mason’s prosecution was far outside the bounds of any reasonable exercise of the prosecutorial power.

Crystal Mason’s conviction is fundamentally at odds with the plain language and intent of the illegal voting statute, Tex. Election Code § 64.012(a)(1), which does not prohibit a person from voting a provisional ballot when they do not know that they are ineligible to vote.  To leave Ms. Mason’s conviction undisturbed would permit prosecutors to effectively step into the shoes of Texas legislators and rewrite the law, transforming a statute targeting intentional fraud into a sweeping criminalization of good faith efforts to participate in the democratic process.

Prosecuting the submission of a provisional ballot by someone who incorrectly believes they are eligible to vote is inconsistent with the proper interpretation of the illegal voting statute and fundamental principles of prosecutorial discretion.  Ms. Mason’s prosecution undermines public trust in the law and those making prosecutorial decisions.

Ms. Mason’s prosecution sends the troubling message that casting a provisional ballot carries a serious risk, with a consequent chilling effect on the use of provisional ballots. Such chilling is likely to disproportionately impact minority voters, who tend to cast more provisional ballots.

Full biographies for signatories below.

Donald B. Ayer served as Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1989 to 1990; Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States from 1986 to 1989; and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California from 1981 to 1986.  He has argued nineteen cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gregory A. Brower served as Assistant Director and Deputy General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2016 to 2018; U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada from 2008 to 2009; and Inspector General of the U.S. Government Publishing Office from 2004 to 2006.

Paul Coggins served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas from 1993 to 2001, and was twice appointed as Special Assistant Attorney General for Texas.

John Farmer has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney, New Jersey Attorney General, Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, Dean of Rutgers Law School, and now serves as Director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics.  He has also served on New Jersey’s Executive Commission on Ethical Standards, Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, and the State Commission of Investigations.

Jonathan S. Feld served as an Associate Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice; Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey; Assistant Special Counsel to the Select Commission established by the State of Rhode Island to investigate the collapse of its privately-insured financial institution system; and Associate Independent Counsel for the investigation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sarah R. Saldaña served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas) from 2011 to 2014 and was appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee during her tenure.  Since 2004, she had served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the same office, both as a line prosecutor, including service as the District’s Election Officer, and as Deputy Criminal Chief of the Major Fraud and Public Corruption unit. Most recently, she served as Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2014 to 2017.

Richard H. Stephens served as Interim U.S. Attorney (twice), First Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.  In addition, he served as Assistant District Attorney for Dallas County, Texas. 

Matthew D. Orwig served as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas from 2001 to 2007.

Joyce White Vance is a distinguished professor of the practice of law at the University of Alabama School of Law.  She served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 2009 to 2017 and during 25 years with the office served as both the appellate chief and as a criminal prosecutor.

William F. Weld served as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts from 1981 to 1986; as the Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division from 1986 to 1988; and as Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 until 1997.

Grant Woods served as Attorney General of Arizona from 1991 to 1999.  General Woods was President of the Conference of Western Attorneys General and chaired the Civil Rights and Supreme Court committees for the National Association of Attorneys General.

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About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org.

States United Action, Fair Fight Action, and United to Protect Democracy Release Digital Tool To Track Sham Election “Audits” Across the Country

7.12.2021

Washington, D.C. — On Monday, States United Action, Fair Fight Action, and United to Protect Democracy launched a first-of-its-kind web tool designed to track state-specific attacks on election integrity via sham election reviews, like the ongoing so-called “audit” in Maricopa County, Arizona. The tracking tool, found at NotAnAudit.com, details the commonalities between the chaos unfolding in Maricopa County and other attempts at fake investigations into the 2020 election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Earlier today, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, Fair Fight Action, Protect Democracy and States United Action hosted a briefing to share the latest updates on the trend of fake election reviews and to highlight the threat they pose to our democracy and trust in our elections. 

“These fake election reviews are costing us more than time and taxpayer dollars; this is an organized attempt to undermine people’s faith in our elections,” said Joanna Lydgate, Founder and CEO of States United Action. “But, in this country, it’s the voters who choose our leaders – not the other way around. The American people deserve elected officials who are focused on governing and bringing us together, not fueling division over an election that has been proven fair again and again. Luckily, people aren’t buying it—the more Americans know about these so-called ‘investigations,’ the more they distrust them. We’re going to continue to put a spotlight on the truth: the 2020 election was free, fair, and accurate.”

The microsite details the similarities in these bad faith election reviews and spotlights the facts on the ground in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Each sham election review is fraught with election protection and security issues, lack of clear procedures and protocols, and links back to lies about the 2020 election that led to the January 6 insurrection. These efforts have been discredited by election experts and bipartisan leaders across the country. 

“Across the country, anti-democratic conspiracy theorists are using private, partisan investigations of election results in an intentional disinformation strategy that is undermining American democracy and fueling threats of violence and harassment against election workers and officials forced to repeatedly engage with dangerous propaganda,” said Esosa Osa, Research and Policy Director at Fair Fight Action. “These sham reviews have spread to at least four states and provided baseless fodder for a nationwide push to restrict voting as over 400 anti-voter bills have been introduced this year alone, including 216 bills directly undermining election administration. Not since Jim Crow have we seen such blatant, anti-democratic election subversion tactics used to suppress the vote in America. It is incumbent upon the media to report responsibly on these widely discredited investigations and help protect voters and election workers from the growing tide of dangerous election disinformation.”

“These bad-faith reviews are an unprecedented attack on the foundations of our democracy. What’s transpired in Arizona is embarrassing and dangerous to our democracy, and is not something that anyone should copy. Unprofessional, inexperienced partisans who have already expressed an interest in claiming fraud should not be given unfettered access to voters’ ballots and the government’s election machinery,” said Sara Chimene-Weiss, counsel at Protect Democracy. “Bi-partisan voices have condemned these ‘audits,’ and no one should take them seriously.”

NotAnAudit.com highlights the following reasons to trust the official results and oppose these attempts to undermine voters’ confidence in the integrity of our elections

  • IN ARIZONA: From November 4 through November 9, 2020, as required by Arizona law,  a physical hand recount of roughly 2% of in-person votes and 5,000 early voting ballots was conducted in all fifteen counties, including Maricopa County, and found no discrepancies.
  • IN GEORGIA: From November 11 through November 19, 2020, Georgia’s 159 counties conducted a hand audit of nearly 5 million ballots, and found no evidence of voter fraud.
  • IN MICHIGAN: The state conducted its most comprehensive series of audits in 2020-21, consisting of 250 different audits—the most in the state’s history and that confirmed the results of the election. The Secretary of State said that all of the audits provided “concrete evidence that November’s election was fair, secure and accurate, and that the results reflect the will of Michigan voters.”
  • IN PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania allows observers from each party to watch ballot counting. Their ability to get close enough was subject to a number of lawsuits that were all rejected and the courts held that observer requirements were complied with during the 2020 election.
  • IN WISCONSIN: Prior to certification of the election results, the Wisconsin Election Commission ordered a full, hand recount of close to 800,000 ballots in Milwaukee and Dane counties—the state’s two largest population centers—following a demand from the Trump campaign. Trump campaign observers observed the recount, and the Trump campaign paid approximately $3 million for it. That recount resulted in net gains for Biden’s vote totals and confirmed that Biden carried the state.

Also on Monday, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, Fair Fight Action, Protect Democracy and States United Action hosted a briefing to share the latest updates on the trend of fake election reviews and to highlight the threat they pose to our democracy and trust in our elections. Last week, the Brennan Center, the R Street Institute, and Protect Democracy released a report analyzing the spread of these “audits” and how they fail to measure up to legitimate audits by unbiased professionals. 

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About States United Action
States United Action is a nonpartisan section 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization with a mission to protect our elections and our democracy. States United Action advocates for policies that protect election integrity, hold democracy violators accountable, and prevent political violence that threatens to undermine the will of the American people, and amplifies the voices of state leaders and law enforcement leaders who share these values.

About Fair Fight Action
Founded by Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight Action promotes fair elections around the country, encourages voter participation in elections, and educates voters about elections and their voting rights. Fair Fight Action brings awareness to the public on election reform, advocates for election reform at all levels, and engages in other voter education programs and communications.

About United to Protect Democracy
United to Protect Democracy is a 501(c)(4) organization focusing on advocacy efforts to confront threats to our democracy.

Statement from Bipartisan Leadership at the States United Democracy Center in Response to SCOTUS Decision in Brnovich v. DNC

7.01.2021

Washington, D.C. — In response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brnovich v. DNC, the States United Democracy Center released the statement below from CEO Joanna Lydgate and States United Co-Chairs former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Ambassador Norman Eisen.

“In yet another anti-voting decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it even more difficult to fight racial discrimination at the ballot box. Today’s decision underscores the urgent need for strong leadership at the local, state, and federal levels to protect the freedom to vote. 

This ruling comes in the midst of a national assault on American elections. As Justice Kagan wrote in the dissent, “efforts to suppress the minority vote continue.” Sweeping voter suppression bills have been pushed in more than 40 states across the country—everything from limiting the hours when black voters traditionally go to the polls to adding barriers for disabled voters and the elderly to get absentee ballots.

While we are no strangers to working in an environment with weakened federal protections for voting, our local, state, and federal officials must be committed to using every tool available to make sure all eligible Americans can cast their ballots freely, fairly, and securely.  We have an opportunity to show the American people what bipartisan leadership looks like when it comes to protecting the freedom to vote, and that starts with our leaders in Congress. This fight is far from over.”

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The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org.

Independent Report Outlines Why the Maricopa County Election Review Results Should Not Be Trusted

6.22.2021

Washington, D.C. – In advance of the anticipated end of the Cyber Ninjas operations in Maricopa County seeking to review nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election, the States United Democracy Center released an independent report detailing why the review does not meet the standards of a proper election recount or audit and why the results cannot be trusted. 

Co-authored by election experts former Republican Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Dr. Barry C. Burden of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the report takes a nonpartisan and academic lens to reviewing the process, procedures, and practices utilized in Maricopa County. Based on a thorough review of the publicly available information, this report identifies seven core defects that undermine the review’s credibility and should call into question any of the review’s findings. The seven defects are: lack of transparency, lack of impartiality, problematic contracting, faulty ballot review process, unacceptable error built in, insufficient security, and false public allegations. 

In the excerpt of the report below, the co-authors detail why the Cyber Ninjas are unlikely to produce reliable results from their work: 

“The review of ballots and voting equipment being undertaken in Veterans Memorial Coliseum by Cyber Ninjas and other contractors deviates in significant ways from the procedures outlined in Arizona state law and best practices adopted around the country. As the contractors, who have little or no experience with election administration, have rapidly scaled up procuring equipment, establishing procedures, and hiring staff, significant problems have appeared. They include processing errors caused by a lack of basic knowledge, partisan biases of the people conducting the audit, and inconsistencies of procedures that undermine the reliability of the review and any conclusions they may draw. In particular, the operation lacks the consistency, attention to detail and transparency that are requirements for credible and reliable election reviews.”

A copy of this report is available here. 

6/20 The Next 10 Days

Last week, we learned more about the extent of the pressure ex-President Donald Trump put on the Department of Justice to investigate unsubstantiated claims of election fraud in 2020. While the emails released by the House Oversight Committee reveal DOJ leadership refusing to comply with requests from Trump and his allies, they underscore just how pervasive the Big Lie was at top levels of government. As Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro shared with MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace, “There was a pattern that began with the lies, that led to the litigation, that led to the efforts to disrespect the will of the people in my state of Pennsylvania and others that led to…the attempts to use the DOJ to overturn an election.” If you haven’t seen the emails, it’s worth taking a look.
 
In a stark and welcome departure from the previous administration, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a new plan to combat domestic terrorism, following a sweeping assessment of existing and emerging threats at the state and national level. The strategy is, in part, a response to the violent extremism that led to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and includes recommendations on how to confront the risks these threats pose to our democracy.
 
As we look ahead, the next ten days are critical for election protection and advancing the freedom to vote. Next week, the Senate will take up S.1, the For the People Act. While the current version of the bill faces an uphill climb in the chamber,  several senators and advocates have “expressed optimism” over a compromise plan proposed by moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. As a reminder, States United released a report detailing how the landmark voting rights bill would impact the states and thwart the worst of the voter suppression efforts sweeping the country.  And with only three decision days left on the calendar for the Supreme Court, we await the decision in the pivotal case of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. 

Here’s this weeks update:

National Updates

New York Times: “Manchin presents his wish list for a voting rights and ethics bill.” By Jonathan Weisman. (June 16, 2021)
“Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, showing some flexibility on major voting rights legislation, indicated on Wednesday that he opposed the blanket prohibition on all voter identification laws in the Senate Democrats’ current version and would not support public financing of elections.”
 
Axios: “Stacey Abrams says she supports Manchin’s voting rights compromise.” By Oriana Gonzalez. (June 17, 2021)
“Stacey Abrams said on CNN Thursday that she could ‘absolutely’ support the policy demands that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has outlined for a compromise on voting reform, including voter ID.”
 
Washington Post (opinion): “This is the Republicans’ back-up plan in case they can’t suppress enough votes.” By Fred Hiatt. (June 13, 2021)
‘“The commitment of many state legislatures to attacking the foundations of our democracy appears to have deepened,” says the report from Protect Democracy, States United Democracy Center and Law Forward. ‘The trend toward threatening election administrators with criminal penalties is more pronounced and aggressive, and attempts by legislatures to perform core elections functions has grown more brazen.’”
 
CNN: “‘Eyes on the prize’”: Two activists set aside personal threats to fight new voting restrictions.” By Fredreka Schouten. (June 17, 2021)
“This week, voting rights activists Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown will board a 53-foot bus and kick off a tour through the South. Their task: Rally public support for federal legislation to combat the raft of new state laws aimed at restricting voting rights.”
 
Bloomberg: “Republicans Fall Short in Voting-Rights Crackdown While Adding Hassle at Polls.” By Ryan Teague Beckwith, Allison McCartney, and Mira Rojanasakul. (June 17, 2021)
“Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., opened the door to a compromise on federal voting and campaign finance legislation Wednesday with a memo outlining provisions that he would support.”
 
Reuters: “Kamala Harris launches campaign for voting rights across U.S.” By Nandita Bose.” (June 16, 2021)
“U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday promoted the Biden administration’s efforts to advance voting rights when she met 16 fellow Democrats from the Texas state legislature who successfully blocked a bill they said would make it harder for Blacks and Hispanics to vote.”

State Updates

Arizona
 
MSNBC: “Why it matters that Republicans keep flocking to Arizona’s ‘audit.’” By Steve Benen. (June 16, 2021)
“Arizona Republicans’ utterly bonkers ‘audit’ of Maricopa County’s presidential ballots is reportedly nearing its end, but the damaging effects of the fiasco are just getting started. The conservative Washington Times reported overnight, for example, on the ridiculous ‘audit’ becoming a ‘mecca’ for Republican officials and candidates nationwide.”
 
Georgia
 
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “COVID grants for Georgia elections funded drop boxes and supplies.” By Mark Niesse. (June 17, 2021)
“Georgia election officials distributed about $192,000 in federal coronavirus relief money to counties last year, helping them pay for ballot drop boxes and personal protective equipment, according to state records.”
 
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia faith leaders rally in Washington, urge passage of federal election law.” By Tia Mitchell. (June 16, 2021)
“The worship service Tuesday night was the beginning of a multiday trip for the clergy and a small group of parishioners and local activists hoping to help change the minds of members of the U.S. Senate who thus far have been unwilling to commit to passing new voting laws.”
 
Michigan
 
Detroit News: “Michigan Senate leader Shirkey ‘watching carefully’ Arizona’s election audit.” By Craig Mauger. (June 16, 2021)
“Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Wednesday he’s been ‘watching carefully’ an effort to audit the election in Arizona’s largest county but he didn’t commit on whether he supports something similar in his state.”
 
North Carolina
 
The Times News: “North Carolina election bills unlikely to become laws after Senate votes.” By Gary Robertson. (June 17, 2021)
“North Carolina Senate Republicans pushed a trio of election measures through their chamber on Wednesday, including one that would prohibit counting mail-in absentee ballots that aren’t received by local officials by Election Day. But unlike other GOP-led legislatures in battleground states that have passed voting restrictions this year, North Carolina has a Democratic governor who could veto the measures, leaving Republicans powerless to override Gov. Roy Cooper if Democrats continue to stay united in opposition.”
 
Pennsylvania
 
Penn Live: “Poll results shows Pennsylvania residents largely in favor of tougher vote security measures.” By Charles Thompson. (June 17, 2021)
“A new survey of Pennsylvania voters shows widespread support for some of the most central – and controversial – planks of an election reform bill drafted by House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove, R-Spring Grove.”
 
Texas
 
Texas Tribune: “Vice President Kamala Harris says Texas is key example of why a new federal elections law is needed.” By Alexa Ura.“ (June 16, 2021)
“Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday pointed to Texas Republicans’ push for sweeping new voting restrictions as a key illustration of the need to restore federal oversight of elections.”

Social Media

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States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, Law Forward Release Updated Spotlight on Election Interference Schemes by State Legislators

Washington, D.C — The States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward released an update to their report, Democracy Crisis in the Making, which analyzed the nationwide trend of partisan state legislatures trying to seize control over election administration away from trusted, expert elections officials. As of early June, there have been at least 216  bills introduced in 41 states that would interfere with election administration. The update  spotlights two of the most alarming trends on the forefront right now in Arizona and Texas: criminalization of election administration and legislature-driven partisan reviews of settled elections.

The Texas spotlight in the update takes a closer look at some of the unprecedented ways S.B. 7, an omnibus voter suppression bill, seeks to criminalize election administration. In Arizona, the update takes a look at the sham election review taking place in Maricopa County. The report reads, “While Texas has blazed a new path in criminalizing election administration and possibly overturning election results, Arizona has demonstrated the consequences of direct legislative meddling in election administration. There, the legislature has ushered in new ways to sow confusion and distrust of our democratic systems: legislature-driven, post-election partisan ballot inspections, which they call an ‘audit.’”  

To put a spotlight on this alarming trend, the States United Democracy Center and Protect Democracy hosted a briefing today with bipartisan state leaders including Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, former New Jersey Governor and States United Co-Chair Christine Todd Whitman, and States United Democracy Center Outside Counsel and Senior Advisor Victoria Bassetti. The discussion focused on the current election interference landscape, particularly the increase in criminalization legislation. The concern is echoed in the report conclusion, which states:

“Many of the bills we have chronicled will force public officials who are attempting to administer elections to constantly look over their shoulder, comply with byzantine rules, seek permission for standard operating practices, work without being able to accept special funding in a crisis, and live in fear that a mistake will land them in a middle of a criminal investigation. They will know that even after they have professionally counted and certified the votes, their decisions may be subject to relentless and baseless attack. This is no way to run a democracy.”

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About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org

About Protect Democracy

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan, nonprofit with an urgent mission: to prevent our democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government. For more information, visit https://protectdemocracy.org/

About Law Forward

Law Forward is a nonprofit law firm focused on protecting and advancing democracy in Wisconsin. We use impact litigation, the administrative process, and public education to protect Wisconsin’s fundamental democratic principles, and revive Wisconsin’s traditional commitment to clean and open government. For more information, visit LawForward.org.

New Poll Finds Arizona Voters Oppose Sham Election Review in Maricopa County

Polling Reveals a Large Majority of Arizona Voters Know About the “Audit”; The More Voters Know About the Operation, the More Likely Voters are to Distrust It

Washington, D.C.–States United Action released a new poll revealing that Arizona voters oppose the sham election review in Maricopa County. The survey also finds that a large majority (89%) of respondents have heard about the “audit” and that the more people know about the operation the more they distrust it.  

“It’s no surprise that the more Arizona voters know about the sham election review in Maricopa County, the more they distrust it. It’s a mess created by members of the Arizona Senate and the unqualified companies running the whole thing,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Action. “The 2020 election results were litigated, certified and officially audited more than once in Arizona, and voters rightfully want their elected leaders focused on governing right now, not in disarray over an already settled election.”

Conducted by the Mellman Group on May 22-27, 2021 via landline, cell, and text-to-online, the poll surveyed 600 registered voters in Arizona, using a registration-based sample. In one of the nation’s most closely divided states, where Joe Biden won by less than one percentage point, other key findings from the polling include:

  • The more people know about the audit, the more likely they are to distrust it. Among the 41% who have heard a “great deal” about the audit, 56% believe it cannot be trusted, with only 34% reporting confidence in the audit.
  • Those voters believe the audit cannot be trusted by a ten-point margin (42% to 31%). After everyone hears more background information, voters statewide disapprove of the audit by an even larger 15-point margin (53% disapprove, 38% approve).
  • Arizona voters found that the strongest arguments against the audit were the need for a Republican Party that works in the best interest of Arizonans and isn’t embroiled in division over a settled election (44% very convincing, 13% somewhat convincing), and complaints about security breaches resulting from handing voting machines to private auditors, likely forcing Maricopa to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on new machines (44% very convincing, 12% somewhat convincing). 
  • A near majority (49%) would be less likely to vote to re-elect a state senator who supported the audit, while only a third (31%) were more likely to vote to re-elect, and 20% were unsure. Republicans, plus those independents who did not support Biden, who are also both angry about the audit and less likely to vote for a senator who supported it (4%) combine with Biden supporters (49%) to yield a clear majority (53%) opposing those backing the audit. With the GOP controlling the State Senate by a mere two-seat margin, the backlash against the audit could have a significant impact on the Republican Party’s prospects. By fifteen points, Arizonans believe Biden won fairly, not because of fraud (55% to 40%).

“This whole thing has been an embarrassment to Arizonans,” said Grant Woods, former Arizona Attorney General and States United Advisory Board member. “The people running this process are unprepared, unqualified, and potentially costing taxpayers millions of dollars to replace mishandled election equipment. I am proud of the state and local leaders from both parties who are calling this out for what it is: a sham. Arizona voters deserve local officials who are actually committed to good governance not chasing already settled elections.”

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About the States United Action 

States United Action is a nonpartisan section 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization with a mission to protect our elections and our democracy. States United Action advocates for policies that protect election integrity, hold democracy violators accountable, and prevent political violence that threatens to undermine the will of the American people, and amplifies the voices of state leaders and law enforcement leaders who share these values. For more information, visit https://statesuniteddemocracy.org/states-united-action/.

6/4 Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre

This week marked the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma, when Black Americans and their businesses were the targets of domestic terrorism that led to the murder of countless Black residents. In a speech memorializing the victims of this racist attack, President Joe Biden called on fellow Americans to remember that “this was a massacre—among the worst in our history, but not the only one. And for too long, forgotten by our history.”
 
When it comes to ending systemic racism in this country, there is much work to be done, and that includes ensuring our democracy reflects the will of the people, not just the will of some. President Biden showed he understood this by making the fight to protect and expand the freedom to vote central to his remarks and a top priority for his administration. He announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will take on a voting rights portfolio to make sure  access to the ballot box is protected at all levels of government, including securing the votes in Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
 
All of this is a reminder of both how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go. At the state level, there is progress to celebrate. In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 321 into law, making the Silver State the sixth to pass permanent mail-in voting. Vermont Governor Phil Scott  is likely to sign a similar vote-by-mail expansion bill that would send general election ballots to all active voters in the state.
 
We are continuing to keep our eyes on SB 7 in Texas, following a dramatic end to the legislative session last week. The voter suppression and election interference bill is likely to be a priority in a yet-to-be-determined special session. In Arizona, the more information comes out about the companies involved in the so-called “audit” in Maricopa County, the more concerning the chaotic operation becomes.  We are also monitoring Michigan and Pennsylvania as anti-voter and sham election review efforts are underway in both states.

National Updates

Washington Post: “With voting rights role, Harris takes on weightiest challenge yet as vice president.” By Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Mike DeBonis, and Sean Sullivan. (June 2, 2021)
“According to an aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, Harris emerged from that meeting with a request for Biden: Let me spearhead the administration’s battle against Republican voting restrictions. Now nearly a month later, during an event marking the centennial of the Tulsa race massacre, Biden formally announced Harris’s new portfolio on voting rights—placing the vice president squarely in the middle of a pitched partisan battle being fought at multiple levels of government.”
 
New York Times: “As G.O.P. Blocks Inquiry, Questions on Jan. 6 Attack May Go Unanswered.” By Luke Broadwater. (May 29, 2021)
“After many of the national tragedies we’ve experienced over the last 50 or more years, the response was to have a bipartisan investigation that would lay out the facts in a way that would be definitive,” said Michael Chertoff, who served as homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. “It builds trust. It shows the public at a time of crisis, we can all come together and put the good of the country ahead of partisan interests.”
 
Business Insider: “House committee to hold a public hearing on the January 6 insurrection in the wake of a 4th inspector general flash report.” By Lauren Frias. (June 2, 2021).
“The House Administration Committee will hold another public hearing on the Capitol riot in the wake of a flash report by the inspector general, which the chairwoman said revealed ‘disturbing inadequacies’ in the Capitol Police’s preparation and response to the attack. House Administration Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren announced Wednesday that the committee will host its fifth hearing on the events of January 6—more than any other congressional committee has held on the matter. The date of the hearing is yet to be set.”
 
NBC News: “New GOP voting laws target more than just voter access.” By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann, and Ben Kamisar. (June 3, 2021)
“Across the country, Republican-controlled state legislatures have done more than pass voting restrictions after losing the 2020 presidential contest. They’ve enacted or drafted provisions that create new election powers, change election administration and punish election officials who don’t perform their duties—which all have the potential of injecting chaos into the counting of the next presidential race. Here are just a few examples.”
 
NPR: “Experts Call It A ‘Clown Show’ But Arizona ‘Audit’ Is A Disinformation Blueprint.” By Miles Parks. (June 3, 2021)
“To Matt Masterson, the review of 2020 ballots from Maricopa County, Ariz., that’s currently underway is ‘performance art’ or ‘a clown show,’ and definitely ‘a waste of taxpayer money.’ But it’s not an audit. ‘It’s an audit in name only,’ says Masterson, a former Department of Homeland Security official who helped lead the federal government’s election security preparations leading up to November’s election. ‘It’s a threat to the overall confidence of democracy, all in pursuit of continuing a narrative that we know to be a lie.’”
 
KJZZ: “Pennsylvania Lawmakers Want To Import Arizona-Style Election Audit.”  By Ben Giles. (June 2, 2021)
Hobbs and election experts like Joanna Lydgate have been warning that the partisan Arizona audit could lead to similar efforts in other states. “Other states should be concerned about this circus coming to them,’ Lydgate said in May.”
 
Washington Post (opinion): “How to get to yes on voting rights reform.” By Jennifer Rubin. (June 3, 2021)
“If the Biden administration and Democrats are going to make good on their promise to use every tool to defend voting rights, they need a deliberate strategy for turning the tide in the Senate and a comprehensive litigation approach. So far, we have not seen either.”

State Updates

Arizona

Arizona Republic: “Who is looking at your ballot? These are the companies involved in the Arizona election recount.” By Ryan Randazzo, Jen Fifield, and Andrew Oxford. (June 3, 2021)
“Cyber Ninjas is not the only company involved in the effort, though. Here’s what we know about the companies that are reviewing or previously reviewed the 2020 election results in Maricopa County.”


Michigan

Detroit News: “Michigan committee advances bills expanding voting ID requirements.” By Craig Mauger.  (June 2, 2021).
“A Michigan committee gave its first approvals Wednesday to proposals in the controversial 39-bill Republican overhaul of the state’s election laws, setting up potential votes in the full Senate in the coming days.”

Nevada

8 News: “Gov. Sisolak signs permanent mail-in voting system into law” By David Charns (June 2, 2021)
Permanent mail-in voting is now the law of the land in Nevada following Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s signature. The governor signed Assembly Bill 321 into law Wednesday, making Nevada the sixth state to have such a system.
The law requires a Nevada voter to opt-out rather than opt-in to receiving a mail-in ballot

Pennsylvania

Wall Street Journal: “Pennsylvania Republicans Call for Election Audit Similar to Arizona’s.” By Alexa Corse.” (June 2, 2021)
“Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers visited an ongoing Republican-ordered audit of 2020 ballots here Wednesday and called for their state to conduct a similar review, the latest sign that political fighting over last year’s election is far from over.”

Texas

Texas Tribune: “Texas’ GOP leadership already at odds over plans for special legislative session.” By Patrick Svitek and Cassandra Pollock. (June 3, 2021)
“Texas’ top Republican leaders are already on a collision course over a special legislative session. Since House Democrats staged a walkout that killed Republicans’ priority elections bill for the regular session, the governor and the leaders of the state House and Senate have diverged notably in interviews about how they are planning for the overtime round.”

Houston Chronicle: “Texas Democrats call on Congress to help fight voting restrictions.” By Benjamin Wermund and Taylor Goldenstein. (June 2, 2021)
“As Texas Democrats drew national attention over the weekend, dramatically killing a massive package of election measures that would have reduced access to the polls, they said they wanted to make a larger point about what they view as Republican efforts to suppress the minority vote.”

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Public Radio: “Elections Commission Report: 13 Instances Of Possible Voter Fraud Referred To Prosecutors From November Election.” By Megan Hart. (June 2, 2021)
“Local clerks in Wisconsin referred 13 allegations of suspected voter fraud to district attorneys in relation to the November 2020 election, according to an annual report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission. That’s out of nearly 3.3 million votes cast in the election.Commissioners approved the document during a meeting Wednesday. State law requires WEC to compile an annual report on election integrity. The latest document includes a total of 41 suspected cases of voter fraud from incidents dating back to 2016.”

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5/28 Women on the front lines

This week, I joined Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in Americain an op-ed exploring how telling the truth about the 2020 election has led to violent threats against election officials, and women have been among the top targets. The piece explores the threats that female leaders like Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Congresswoman Liz Cheney have endured as they push back on the lies about the 2020 election.
 
In addition to safety concerns, Secretary Hobbs is now seeing attempts by the same lawmakers who are backing the scam “audit” in Maricopa County to strip her office of powers to administer and oversee elections. According to the Washington Post, the bill “takes away Hobbs’s ability to defend election lawsuits, transferring that authority to Attorney General Mark Brnovich,” and “only appl[ies]through the end of her term as secretary of state in January 2023.”
 
These kinds of election interference and power grab provisions are not unique to Arizona. In fact, the Texas state legislature is slated to pass SB7/HB6 in the coming days, which would make Texas the latest state to follow the troubling nationwide trend of state legislatures trying to interfere with elections, criminalize election administration, and suppress the vote. We analyzed these provisions and others in detail in our report, Democracy Crisis in the Making, released last month with Protect Democracy and Law Forward. This week, our partners at the Voting Rights Lab spotlighted SB7 and its criminalization portions.
 
The congressional effort to create a commission to look into the January 6 insurrection continues to face an uphill climb, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled down this week on his opposition to the  bill, which is  currently before the Senate.
 
At the state level, Maricopa County-like schemes to keep lies about the 2020 election alive are now underway or being considered in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  As former Arizona Attorney General and States United Advisory Board member Grant Woods has  said, “the whole thing is a sham.”

Here is this weekend update:

National Updates

Washington Post: “The GOP’s brazen move to strip power from a fraud-narrative-busting secretary of state — again.” By Aaron Blake. (May 27, 2021)
“To be clear, this isn’t law yet, and if the failure of another elections bill this week in the narrowly GOP-controlled state Senate is any indication, it isn’t a cinch to pass muster. But it has now passed through key committees in both the state House and the state Senate and is part of a budget proposal due for a vote this week. And this proposal might actually be more brazen than Georgia’s. It would effectively take away Hobbs’s ability to defend election lawsuits, transferring that authority to Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich. What’s more, in case there were any doubt this is targeted at Hobbs, the law would only apply through the end of her term as secretary of state in January 2023.)”

New York Times: “On Voting Rights, Biden Prefers to Negotiate. This Time, It Might Not Be Possible.” By Katie Rogers. (May 27, 2021)
“Mr. Biden’s long experience in working across the aisle in the Senate—and his evolution from opponent of school busing to proponent of using the government to address issues of racial equity—taught him crucial lessons about navigating politically combustible civil rights issues. Yet even with his decades of work on the topic, he faces especially wrenching decisions when it comes to the voting rights legislation. Known as the For the People Act, the bill is the professed No. 1 priority of Democrats this year. It would overhaul the nation’s elections system, rein in campaign donations and limit partisan gerrymandering. But after passing the House, it hit a wall of Republican opposition in the Senate.”

New York Magazine: “‘Election ‘Audit’ Fever Spreads Beyond Arizona.” By Ed Kilgore. (May 26, 2021)
“It has now been well over a half-year since the 2020 general election, and nearly six months since all 50 states certified the 2020 presidential vote’s winners and losers, awarding the White House to Joe Biden. Bizarre rituals like the endless and farcical election ‘audit’ in Maricopa County, Arizona, are drawing widespread mockery, even from Republican elected officials. But instead of serving as the last after-shock of Donald Trump’s fact-free effort to overturn his defeat, the audit fever seems to be spreading, as the Washington Post recently reported, from Arizona to Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, and now Wisconsin.”

Washington Post (opinion): “The Jan. 6 commission wouldn’t undermine criminal investigations.”  By Danielle Brian. (May 26, 2021)
“A continued lack of a common understanding of what took place on Jan. 6 will only accelerate a damaging rift forming in our democracy. A bipartisan congressional commission is key to gathering a set of facts that all Americans can trust and helping legislators ensure such an attack never happens again. Some opponents of the commission have recently argued that a special Jan. 6 commission would be duplicative and could interfere with criminal investigations already underway, but this line of thinking is misguided.” 

The Hill: “Democratic state legislators form voting rights council amid GOP push for restrictions.” By Tal Axelrod. (May 26, 2021)
“Democratic state legislators from across the country are forming a voting rights council as the party searches for ways to fight back against a wave of GOP-led states codifying restrictions to the ballot box. The council, which is being convened under the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), will ‘convene legislators to strategize about fighting GOP voter suppression—legislatively or judicially—and access national resources in the fight to preserve Americans’ political freedoms.’”

State Updates

Arizona

AP: “Arizona House rejects ID requirement for mail ballots.” By Jonathan Cooper. (May  27, 2021)
“The Arizona House on Wednesday voted down a bill that would have required voters to include identification with their mail-in ballots, a defeat for Republicans looking to impose more restrictive voting procedures. The bill was one of the most contentious of the dozens of voting rights bills that Arizona Republicans introduced following former President Donald Trump’s narrow loss in the longtime GOP stronghold. Influential business leaders, including the owner of the Arizona Cardinals, publicly urged lawmakers to reject it.”

Arizona Republic: Katie Hobbs slammed the sham ‘audit.’ So, of course, Republicans are after her power. By Elvia Díaz. (May 25, 2021)
“Arizona Republicans are taking the state’s top election official to the woodshed for criticizing the sham election audit and proposed voter restrictions. It can’t be just a coincidence that legislative Republicans are suddenly trying to yank election law enforcement from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs – a Democrat and vocal critic of the audit that has turned Arizona into a laughingstock.”

Washington Post: “The unresolvable dishonesty at the heart of the Arizona election review.” By Philip Bump. (May 26, 2021)
“In Arizona, the Republican-led state Senate authorized an effort to scrutinize the results not statewide but in one county, Maricopa, that alone accounted forBiden’s margin of victory. That effort is being conducted not by experienced auditors but instead by a firm that hasn’t done this work before and that is run by a guy who has actively embraced the sorts of fraud allegations for which no available evidence exists.”

MSNBC: “Arizona GOP’s election ‘audit’ going far worse than Trumprealizes.” By Steve Benen. (May 26, 2021)
Donald Trump has been watching the utterly bonkers election ‘audit’ in Arizona with great interest. In fact, a New York Times reporter recently noted that Trump has told people close to him that he believes the Arizona audit ‘could undo’ the results of the 2020 presidential election. There is no scenario in which any of that was true. On the contrary, a variety of prominent Arizona Republicans are increasingly mortified by this embarrassing fiasco. What’s more, as the Arizona Republic reported yesterday, the IT company that was in charge of running the day-to-day audit no longer wants anything to do with the partisan debacle.”

Georgia

Atlanta Journal Constitution: “Ballot inspection seeks elusive proof of fraud in Georgia election” By Mark Niesse & David Wickert (May 27, 2021)
Aided by a treasure hunter, the tea party and an unshakable belief that the presidential election was rigged, a group of skeptics may soon inspect Georgia absentee ballots in an attempt to find counterfeits.
The court-ordered review is the latest attempt to question results that have repeatedly withstood scrutiny, with no evidence of widespread fraud.

CNN: “After embracing Trump’s effort to overturn the vote, GOP congressman wants to run Georgia’s elections.” By Alex Rogers and Manu Raju. (May 26, 2021)
“Rep. Jody Hice says former President Donald Trump would’ve won the 2020 election in Georgia if it were ‘fair.’ He says that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent out 700,000 ballot applications to ‘illegal voters,’ and that there’s going to be ‘some fraud mixed up in there.’ To Hice,those ‘hundreds and hundreds of thousands of votes’ were potentially enough to ‘far outweigh’ President Joe Biden’s certified victory of roughly 12,000 votes in his state.”

Michigan

MLive: “Michigan Senate tweaks ID requirements in absentee voting bills; Benson still unimpressed.” By Samuel Dodge. (May 26, 2021)
“The Michigan Senate tweaked some of the more controversial parts of its election legislation package Wednesday, though Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson still voiced opposition to the proposed changes. The Senate Election Committee unanimously approved substitutes to two bills during a May 26 hearing. The first addressed a bill requiring absentee ballot applications to be submitted with a photocopy of personal identification, while the other prevents Benson’s office from mass-mailing absentee applications.”

Pennsylvania
WTAE: “Search warrant issued for Fayette County Elections Office after ballot issues” (May 20, 2021)
The Fayette County District Attorney has confirmed an active criminal investigation after reports of issues for voters on Election Day this past Tuesday.
Richard Bower has filed a search warrant for the county elections office.
“We’re investigating issues that resulted in problems with scanning in the ballots,” Bower said.
According to the search warrant filed for the Elections Bureau, there were voter complaints that “Republican and Democratic ballots were being rejected by the voting machines due to a missing bar-code.”

Wisconsin

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Top Wisconsin Republican Robin Voshires former cops to investigate November election.” By Patrick Marley. (May 26, 2021)
“Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is hiring retired police officers to investigate aspects of the November election, joining with Republicans from around the country who have questioned President Joe Biden’s victory. Vos, of Rochester, said he recognizes Biden narrowly won Wisconsin and is not trying to change the results with his taxpayer-funded investigation. He said he hopes the investigators can get to the bottom of issues Republicans have raised unsuccessfully in court, such as how the state’s largest cities used more than $6 million in grants from a private group to run their elections.”

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5/21 Enough is Enough

While the so-called “audit” of the Maricopa County 2020 Presidential Election results is on pause this week for graduation ceremonies, the chaos it has created continues. Over the past week, the Maricopa County Recorder and the Board of Supervisors both came out aggressively against the “fraudit” and called on the Arizona Senate to put an end to it. “Now it is time to say, ‘enough is enough.’ It is time to push back on the big lie,” said Supervisor and vice-chair Bill Gates, a Republican.

In effort to update the public and amplify the growing chorus of bipartisan voices in opposition to the “audit,” the States United Democracy Center convened a press briefing with Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and the three election experts—Elizabeth HowardJennifer Morrell, and Ryan Macias—who were granted access to observe the “audit.” The briefing stressed that while this “audit” is nothing more than a stunt, it poses a serious threat of duplication in other states. In fact, we’ve already seen similar attempts across the country—some that have been derailed, as in Michigan and California,and others that are gaining momentum, as in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

KNAU, the local NPR affiliate, ran a piece that quoted Secretary Hobbs. “What we’re seeing happen is not an audit. It is a fundraising stunt,” she said. The Arizona Star quoted the briefing extensively, including Morrell’s blunt assessment: “They’re making things up as they go along.”

The developments in Arizona only underscore how important it is for the country to have a nonpartisan assessment of the facts—both as they relate to the presidential election and to the January 6 insurrection. The legislation for an independent commission to investigate that horrific attack moved from the House to the Senate on Wednesday in a bipartisan vote, including 35 Republicans. It was a welcome step, but the commission seems to still need ten more Republican supporters, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out against the fact-finding effort.

Meanwhile, the steady simmer of voter suppression efforts continues state by state. This week, Iowa passed new restrictions on absentee voting. We are continuing to monitor the situation in Arizona, and we have our eyes on Texas as the state legislative session is slated to end this month.

National Updates

MSNBC: Michael Steele to congressional Republicans: If you won’t investigate the insurrection, who will?” (May 19, 2021)
“States United Advisory Board member, ‘Michael Steele reacts to Republicans in Congress opposing the creation of an independent commission to investigate January 6th, after a bipartisan deal was reached in the House.’”
 
Washington Post: “Lawmakers are targeting the courts that could shoot down voter suppression laws.” By Patrick Berry and Alicia Bannon. (May 19, 2021)
“But not only are states trying to restrict access to the ballot box, in many instances, they’re also trying to make it harder for voters to protect their rights in court. A new Brennan Center analysis identified at least 93 bills in 26 states introduced this year that threaten judicial independence by limiting courts’ power or injecting more politics into state judiciaries. According to the analysis, in at least eight of these states, bills have specifically targeted election-related cases.”
 
The Hill: “Watchdog group launches campaign pressuring companies to leave Chamber of Commerce over voting rights.” By Alex Gangitano. (May 20, 2021)
“A watchdog group launched an advertising campaign on Wednesday to urge major corporations to end their membership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over lobbying against voting rights legislation. The group, Accountable.US, noted that the Chamber lobbied against the For the People Act, which is the Democrats’ sweeping voting rights legislation that has passed the House and is stalled in the Senate. The ‘Drop the Chamber’ six-figure campaign starts this week with digital ads on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and other sites, targeting employees of Microsoft, Target and Salesforce.”
 
Washington Post: “Inspired by Arizona recount, Trump loyalists push to revisit election results in communities around the country.” By Amy Gardner and Rosalind S. Helderman. (May 19, 2021)
“The ramifications of Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country: In emails, phone calls and public meetings, his supporters are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count—wrongly insisting that Trump won the presidential race. The most prominent example is playing out in Arizona’s Maricopa County, where Republican state lawmakers have forced a widely pilloried audit of the 2020 vote. That recount is being touted as an inspiration by small but vocal cohorts of angry residents in communities in multiple states.”

State Updates

Arizona

Arizona
 
AZ Mirror: “
Arizona’s election auditors are ‘making it up as they go,’ expert observers say.” By Jerod MacDonald-Evoy. (May 19, 2021)
“Observers sent by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office to the Senate’s audit of the Maricopa County election shared concerns with reporters Wednesday saying that auditors are making up procedures as they go and that security issues continue to be a concern. ‘It’s bad for election security, it’s bad for voters, it’s bad for our democracy,’ Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Democracy Center, said about the audit. ‘This is about casting doubt on our election process because you didn’t like the outcome.’”
 
ABC 15: “
Views differ on Maricopa County election audit process.” By Mark Phillips. (May 19, 2021)
“On Tuesday, the team leading the audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results was praised by Senate Republican leaders. ‘I just want to commend the contractors,’ Senate Judiciary Chairman Warren Petersen said. ‘In spite of intense opposition and the intense efforts to shut this down.’ The Secretary of State’s observers said what they are witnessing on the floor of Veterans Memorial Coliseum is at times bizarre, incompetent, and always changing.”
 
Michigan
 
Detroit Free Press: 
Judge dismisses Antrim County election fraud lawsuit.” By Clara Hendrickson. (May 18, 2021)
“An Antrim County judge dismissed an election fraud lawsuit Tuesday that has served as a vehicle to advance the unfounded conspiracy theory that tabulators manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems switched votes last fall from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.”
 
Michigan Advance: 
“SOS says bill would halt absentee ballot counting, Republican says changes coming.” By Ken Coleman. (May 20, 2021)
“A Senate committee on Wednesday continued discussions on bills in a sweeping GOP voting restriction package that’s been widely criticized by voting rights activists and Democratic officials. During a two-hour meeting, the Elections Committee discussed several bills, including measures that would cut back the hours that ballots can be dropped off on Election Day and video surveillance of the vote-counting process. Four of the five members on the panel are Republican, with Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren) as the lone Democrat. Formal action on the bills was not taken.”
 
Bridge Michigan: 
“GOP targets no-ID ballots to cut fraud. Only 0.2% voted that way in Michigan.” By Jonathan Oosting. (May 19, 2021)
“Roughly 11,400 Michiganders voted in person without photo identification in 2020 after signing an affidavit to confirm their identity, a convenient but rarely used option that would end under a controversial Senate Republican election reform plan. Roughly 1 in 4 of those affidavits were signed in Detroit, but the practice was hardly limited to large cities or Democratic strongholds: Voters in 82 out of 83 Michigan counties used the option to vote without identification last year, according to state data released this week and analyzed by Bridge Michigan.” 
 
Georgia
 
CNN: 
“Trump allies seek to import Arizona’s election audit to Georgia.” By Eric Bradner. (May 19, 2021)
“In a bid to bolster former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 election, Trump’s Republican allies are now seeking Arizona-style audits in other swing states—including Georgia, where the former President’s false claims have set off an intraparty war. A day after Trump said in a statement that Georgia should follow Arizona’s lead, former Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump supporter who is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in next year’s GOP primary, proposed an audit Wednesday.”
 
Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
 “Georgia lawmakers under investigation for handing out snacks to voters.” By Mark Niesse. (May 19, 2021)
“Even before Georgia explicitly made it illegal to hand out pizza and chips to voters waiting in line, two state legislators were accused of breaking the law for doing so. State Reps. Roger Bruce and Matthew Wilson, both Democrats, are under investigation, facing allegations they gave gifts to voters in the form of snacks. The State Election Board recently voted to refer their cases to the attorney general’s office, and they’re facing potential fines.
 
Pennsylvania
 
Forbes: 
“Pennsylvania Becomes Latest Battleground State to Go After Giuliani And Election Lawyers Who Peddled The ‘Big Lie’.” By Alison Durkee. (May 19, 2021)
“Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and other state leaders are calling for lawyers who led post-election lawsuits trying to overturn the election results to be sanctioned—including attorney Rudy Giuliani—becoming the latest battleground state to go after GOP lawyers and plaintiffs who unsuccessfully challenged the vote count.”e to go after GOP lawyers and plaintiffs who unsuccessfully challenged the vote count.”

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