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.

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.

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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5/14 The Accountability Era, Chapter 2

Dear All,
 
Today, States United Democracy Center Executive Chair Norman Eisen, Co-Chair Governor Christine Todd Whitman and I wrote a piece for Newsweek about where we are as a nation four months after the January 6 insurrection. It follows a piece that we penned for CNN in mid-February, arguing that the era of accountability for ex-President Donald Trump had begun. We are now in the second chapter of that era and, while we’ve made progress, the road to securing our democracy is anything but smooth. 
 
“The violent insurrection of January 6 led to a bipartisan impeachment and trial of then-President Donald Trump, and our view that the era of accountability had arrived,” we wrote. “Four months later, it is well under way—but so is a furious backlash from the adversaries of democracy. Those of us who believe in free and fair elections must redouble our efforts.”
 
On Wednesday, House Republicans chose lies over truth by voting to remove Representative Liz Cheney from the party’s number three leadership position.  Cheney has refused to accept the lies that contributed to the insurrection, and she has been vocal in her opposition to former President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories. Prior to the closed-door vote, she reportedly told her fellow Republicans that we “cannot let the former president drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy. Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country.”
 
Speaking of  efforts to unravel our democracy, the “fraudit” in Arizona went on hiatus this week. Stretching into its third week, there seems to be “no firm end date for the audit.” And with graduation ceremonies set to take place in the venue where the “fraudit” is taking place, the entire operation was required to reassess next steps and has now been extended.
 
In 2020, telling the truth about the election was often met with threats of violence—and sadly that trend persists. In a response to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’s plea for the state Senate to come to terms with the already twice-audited results, she received death threats. The threats were so serious that Governor Doug Ducey ordered Department of Public Safety protection for Hobbs and her family.
 
In addition to concerns about the Arizona “fraudit” spreading to other states and the wave of voter suppression bills sweeping the country, we have also been focused on putting a spotlight on another dangerous trend pushed by anti-democratic forces: election interference and manipulation. In his latest New York Times column, Tom Friedman cited our new report on the topic. More on that below.
 
Have a great weekend,

Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center
 
 
 
Here is this week’s update:

National Update

New York Times (opinion): “The Trump G.O.P.’s Plot AgainstLiz Cheney—and Our Democracy.” By Thomas L. Friedman. (May 11, 2021)
According to a new report by Protect Democracy, Law Forward and the States United Democracy Center, ‘Across the country, state legislators are proposing bills that would give partisan state legislators greater control over elections while hamstringing experienced state and local election administrators who have traditionally run our voting systems. . . .
 
“‘Many of the bills would make elections more difficult to administer or even unworkable; make it more difficult to finalize election results; allow for election interference and manipulation by hyperpartisan actors; and, in the worst cases, allow state legislatures to overturn the will of the voters and precipitate a democracy crisis.’
 
“Had these bills been in place in 2020, it added, ‘they would have . . . raised the prospect that the outcome of the election would have been contrary to the popular vote.’”
 
Talking Points Memo: “Manchin Compromise Idea For Voting Rights Gets A Shot Across the Bow From Cornyn.” By Tierney Sneed. (May 13, 2021)
“It didn’t take long for a supposedly bipartisan compromise on voting rights legislation that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is floating to get dumped on by a key Republican. At a Thursday Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to vote on one of President Biden’skey Justice Department nominees, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) didn’t call out Manchin by name. But he referenced a proposal Manchin has recently floated—first to a local news outlet, and then more explicitly in an interview Wednesday with ABC News—for addressing voting rights.”
 
Washington Post: “The making of a myth: Russell J. Ramsland Jr. sold everything from Tex-Mex food to light-therapy technology. Then he sold the story that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.” By Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis, Jon Swaine, and Josh Dawsey. (May 9, 2021)
“Key elements of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump took shape in an airplane hangar here two years earlier, promoted by a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream.”
 
FiveThirtyEight: “Republicans Have Made It Harder To Vote In 11 States So Far.” By Nathaniel Rakich and Elena Mejia. (May 11, 2021)
“But Georgia is hardly the only state that’s made it harder to vote this year. Republican lawmakers have now enacted new voting restrictions in a total of 11 states—Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.”
 
CBS: “What we know about the ‘unprecedented’ U.S. Capitol riot arrests.” By Clare Hymes, Cassidy McDonald, and Eleanor Watson. (May 11, 2021)
“The Department of Justice told CBS News that as of May 6, approximately 440 defendants had been arrested since the attack. The government has said in court filings that in addition to the more than 400 people who had already been charged, federal prosecutors still expect to charge at least 100 more. Prosecutors have called the case ‘unprecedented’ in scale, and the government said in a March court filing that the Capitol attack ‘is likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.’”
State Updates

States United

 
Arizona
 
TIME: “Arizona Enacts Mail Voting Restrictions. Here’s What to Know.” By Sanya Mansoor. (May 11, 2021)
“Arizona’s governor signed a bill Tuesday that could take more than 100,000 infrequent mail voters off a voting list that automatically delivers ballots by mail to voters—in a state where President Joe Biden clinched victory in 2020 by less than 11,000 votes. Arizona has ensured that all eligible voters receive ballots by mail in every election cycle for more than a decade through its Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). Many of Arizona’s voters—more than 70%—are on this list and almost 90% voted by mail in 2020.”
 
New York Times: “Why a Lifelong Republican Views Arizona’s Recount as Wrong.” By Jennifer Medina. (May 11, 2021)
One of the most outspoken Republican critics of the audit is Bill Gates, who was re-elected as a Maricopa County supervisor in 2020, and along with other supervisors helps oversee the county’s election procedures. Mr. Gates is a lifelong Republican who once worked as an election lawyer for the party. He considers himself a loyal member of the G.O.P. and points to former President Ronald Reagan as an inspiration for his interest in politics. But he is horrified at the partisan audit taking place in his district, saying that the recounts Arizona already conducted had sufficiently validated the results of the election.”
 
Michigan
 
Detroit Free Press: “Setting the record straight on claims made in support of Republican election bills.” By Clara Hendrickson. (May 12, 2021)
“Michigan’s Senate Elections Committee has held three hearings so far on GOP-backed election bills that would place new requirements on voters. Republicans have sold their 39-bill legislative push as an effort to beef up election security and restore faith in the election process. Voting rights advocates and election officials say some of the proposals would disenfranchise voters by making it harder to vote.”
 
Texas
 
New York Times: “Exchange Over ‘Purity’ of Vote Puts Texas G.O.P. Firebrand in Spotlight.” By Dave Montgomery and Nick Corasaniti. (May 12, 2021)
“The sponsor of Texas’s voting bill stumbled through questioning as he did not know the origin or some of the language in the bill, like the ‘purity of the ballot box’ came directly from discriminatory language in Texas’ Jim Crow past.”

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5/7 All Eyes on Arizona

Dear All,
 
Yesterday, the States United Democracy Center hosted a press briefing with Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and the election experts who have been granted access to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum to observe the so-called “audit” in Arizona. This was the first time the election experts have spoken jointly to the press, and parts of the press briefing were carried on MSNBC. The three specialists, Elizabeth HowardJennifer Morrell, and Ryan Macias, and I were joined by Secretary Hobbs, former Arizona Attorney General and States United Advisory Board member Grant Woods. We discussed the letter sent by the U.S. Department of Justice to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and heard directly from the expert observers about what they are witnessing on the ground. During the briefing, Secretary Hobbs warned about the potential for similar antics in other states. “They’re writing the playbook to take this across the country,” she said.
 
Looking ahead to next week, we are preparing for the Senate mark-up of S.1, the For the People Act. We’ve updated our H.R.1/S.1 state impact report to include analysis of Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, West Virginia, and updated fact sheets for Georgia (post-SB202 passage) and Florida (post-SB90 passage). As a reminder, the report examines how the For the People Act affects federal elections in particular states, with a focus on how the legislation would protect the freedom to vote and help thwart voter suppression efforts sweeping statehouses across the country. The full report and previous state impact fact sheets are available on our resources page here.
 
I’ve also included below a round up of some of the issues we are tracking as we prepare for more voter suppression efforts at the state level, with Governor Ron DeSantis signing a bill this week (SB90) and similar legislation likely on the move in Texas next week.
 
Finally, I wanted to share that the States United Democracy Center received recognition from Fast Company for this year’s “World Changing Ideas Awards” under the categories of “On The Rise” and “General Excellence.” We are grateful for the opportunity to continue supporting state leaders and fighting alongside our partners to protect American democracy.
 
 
Sincerely,

Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center

Here is this week’s update:

National Update

New York Times: “Constitutional Challenges Loom Over Proposed Voting Bill.” By Adam Liptak. (May 6, 2021)
“If the sweeping voting rights bill that the House passed in March overcomes substantial hurdles in the Senate to become law, it would reshape American elections and represent a triumph for Democrats eager to combat the wave of election restrictions moving through Republican-controlled state legislatures. But passage of the bill, known as H.R. 1, would end a legislative fight and start a legal war that could dwarf the court challenges aimed at the Affordable Care Act over the past decade.”
 
Politico: “Trump attorney, other allies launch voter fraud organization.” By Alex Isenstadt. (May 6, 2021)
“Former President Donald Trump has been fixated on election fraud since leaving the White House, and now a group of prominent allies are launching a new initiative focused on it. The American Greatness Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group aligned with the ex-president, is set to unveil the formation of the Election Integrity Alliance on Wednesday, which it says will be ‘focused on ending election fraud and strengthening election safeguards by providing information, resources, endorsements of allies’ efforts, and solutions to secure free and fair elections.’”
 
Washington Post: “Democrats tweak marquee voting bill as they seek path out of Senate.” By Mike DeBonis. (May 5, 2021)
“Congressional Democrats have tweaked their marquee voting-rights, campaign-finance and ethics bill ahead of a Senate committee vote next week, addressing concerns raised by elections administrators but forgoing a more radical rewrite of the legislation. The changes to the For the People Act come after the bill passed the House on a largely party-line vote in March and ahead of a critical vote Tuesday in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee that could advance the legislation to the floor.”
 
Newsweek: “Trump’s Facebook Appeal Called Oath Keepers Parasites, Separated Them From ‘Genuine’ Supporters. By Jenni Fink. (May 5, 2021)
“In appealing for him to be allowed back on Facebook, former President Donald Trump’s team sought to distance the former president from the Capitol riot and separate his ‘genuine’’ supporters from members of the militia group, the Oath Keepers. Trump’s defenders referenced a federal complaint against the Oath Keepers in their appeal of Facebook’s decision but rejected there was a connection between Trump and the militia members.”
 
CBS News: “Major U.S. sports unions sign letter opposing voting rights changes in Georgia and other states.” By Caitlin O’Kane. (May 4, 2021)
“Major professional sports unions in the U.S. are taking a stand against restrictive voting rights bills proposed in several states, including Georgia, where a controversial bill passed in March. The Basketball Players Union, Major League Soccer Players Association, National Football League Players Association and United States Women’s National Team Players Association are among the nine unions that signed a letter Monday, condemning legislation ‘that if passed, could make it harder for ordinary citizens to cast their ballots in future election seasons.’”

State Updates

Arizona
 
KOLD News 13: “Arizona election workers are concerned over Maricopa County vote county.” By Bud Foster. (May 6, 2021)
“The Arizona Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods held a media briefing to once again warn of the dangers they see coming from the GOP recount of 2020 votes in Maricopa County. The Republican Party is recounting the 2.1 million votes that were cast in Maricopa County during the last election that President Joe Biden won. ‘They lost and they can’t get over it, they don’t want to get over it,’ Woods said. ‘Because they want to continue to sow doubt about the election, not just in Arizona but across the United States.’ The Republican Party, led by Senate President Karen Fann, has leased the Phoenix Memorial Stadium to host the recount, or audit as they call it.”
 
The Washington Post: “Arizona Republicans push back against Justice Department concerns, setting up possible clash over Maricopa County recount.” By Rosalind S. Helderman. (May 6, 2021)
“Arizona officials involved with a Republican-commissioned recount of the November presidential election in the state’s largest county on Thursday brushed off concerns raised by the Justice Department this week, raising the possibility of a clash between state and federal authorities over the audit. Pamela S. Karlan, who heads the Justice Department’s civil rights division, wrote a letter to the president of the Arizona state Senate on Wednesday suggesting that the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months following a federal election.”
 
Florida
 
The New York Times: “Florida and Texas Join the March as Republicans Press Voting Limits.” By Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein. (May 7, 2021)
“Florida and Texas are critical Republican-led battleground states with booming populations and 70 Electoral College votes between them. The new measures the legislatures are putting in place represent the apex of the current Republican effort to roll back access to voting across the country following the loss of the White House amid historic turnout in the 2020 election.”
 
Forbes: “Civil Rights Groups Sue Florida Moments After DeSantis Signs ‘Voter Suppression Bill’ Into Law.” By Alison Durkee. (May 6, 2021)
“Florida-based civil rights groups sued state and local election officials Thursday to block new restrictive voting measures immediately after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed them into law, arguing the new requirements will disenfranchise voters including voters of color, seniors and younger voters.”
 
Michigan
 
Michigan Advance: “GOP pushes bills to restrict the use of ballot boxes on Election Day.” By Allison Donahue. (May 6, 2021)
“The state Senate Elections Committee took up a number of bills Wednesday centered around ballot drop boxes, including bills that would cut back the hours ballots can be dropped off on Election Day and require video surveillance of drop boxes. One of the most controversial bills on the table at Wednesday’s meeting was Senate Bill 286, introduced by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan). The bill initially proposed stopping voting through drop boxes at 5 p.m. on the day before Election Day. McBroomoffered a change to the bill that would extend the proposed deadline to 5 p.m. on Election Day.”
 
Ohio
 
AP: “Ohio is the latest state to see GOP-backed voting law rewrite.” By Julie Carr Smyth. (May 6, 2021)
“Ohio became the latest state Thursday where Republicans are proposing a significant rewrite of state election laws, an effort that comes despite sweeping GOP victories in the state last year and a smooth election. Legislation introduced in the Ohio House calls for prohibiting placement of ballot drop boxes anywhere but at a local elections office, eliminating a day of early voting, shortening the window for requesting mail-in ballots and tightening voter ID requirements—all restrictions the House Democratic leader has criticized as ‘modern Jim Crow laws’ targeted at disenfranchising voters of color.”
 
Texas
 
The Guardian: “Texas lawmakers race against the clock to push through new voting restrictions.” By Alexandra Villarreal. (May 7, 2021)
“Texas lawmakers are locked in a fight over legislation that would further restrict voting access, as Republicans lean on procedural moves to avoid public testimony and keep eleventh-hour negotiations behind closed doors. The Texas House of Representatives on Thursday evening started debating Senate Bill 7 (SB7), which would make it more difficult to cast a ballot in a state already infamous for being the hardest place to vote nationwide. Democrats were raring for an all-night battle, armed with more than 100 amendments.”
 
ABC News: “Restrictive Texas voting bill advances to floor vote.” By Alisa Wiersema. (May 6, 2021)
“After weeks of debate and political maneuvering, the nation’s next showdown over state voting rights lands in Texas on Thursday, when the Republican-backed House Bill 6—which seeks to revise the state’s election laws—heads to a floor vote. As written, HB 6 states the path to ensuring ‘election integrity and security’ will come through ‘increasing criminal penalties’ and ‘creating criminal offenses,’ which Democrats and voting rights activists said amounts to voter suppression tactics that would disproportionately affect communities of color.”

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4/29 We Spy Election Interference

Dear All,
 
This week, I was joined by Ambassador Norm Eisen, Executive Chair of the States United Democracy Center, and Jessica Marsden, Counsel at Protect Democracy, in an op-ed for CNN that put a spotlight on a dangerous trend: majorities in state legislatures taking power away from trusted state and local election officials.
 
Headlined, “The threat to US democracy goes beyond voter suppression,” the piece highlights a recently released report by States United, along with Protect Democracy and Law Forward, that analyzed how partisan actors in the states are trying to politicize, criminalize, and interfere with elections. This week alone, election interference provisions moved forward in FloridaNorth Carolina, and Texas.
 
Although these election interference schemes have largely flown under the radar, the challenges we face to free and fair elections are not lost on our nation’s leaders. Before a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden called on lawmakers to protect voting. In the nationally televised address, he remarked that voting rights are “being attacked” and “if we truly want to restore the soul of America, we need to protect the sacred right to vote.” The President specifically called on Congress to “pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act” and to send it to his desk “right away.” Last month, we released a report that outlined how H.R.1 would impact the states and provide clarity for federal election procedures.
 
I’ve included below a round up of some of the issues we are tracking here at States United as we prepare for more late-night state legislative sessions, next steps in the controversial so-called “audit” in Arizona (which we refer to as the “fraudit”), and the upcoming Senate mark-up of the For the People Act.
 
Sincerely,

Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center
 
Here is this week’s update:

National Update

Bloomberg: “Corporate Activism on Voting Rights Echoes Role in LGBTQ Battles.” By Joshua Green. (April 29, 2021)
“With voter restrictions spreading to Florida, Arizona, and other states, the pressure on corporations to respond shows no signs of letting up. Veterans of past social justice fights say the current one reminds them of another political battle that gripped corporate America five years ago and could play out the same way: the push for LGBTQ equality.”
 
CBS News: “Biden calls Capitol riot ‘a test of whether our democracy could survive.’” By Victoria Albert. (April 29, 2021)
“President Biden on Wednesday called the Capitol riot ‘a test of whether our democracy could survive,’ and called on Americans to ‘prove democracy still works.’ ‘The insurrection was an existential crisis—a test of whether our democracy could survive,’ Mr. Biden said during his address to a joint session of Congress. ‘And it did.’”
 
Washington Post: “Four months later, there’s been little political accountability for the Capitol riot.” By Philip Bump. (April 28, 2021)
“A key lesson of the past four years is how Republican officials view Trump’s base often drives their political responses. There’s little apparent appetite within that base for a thorough review of Jan. 6 and certainly no appetite for anything that would cast Trump or other Republicans as having erred in either promoting election conspiracy theories or trying to block the final election results.”
 
New York Times: “Half a Year After Trump’s Defeat, Arizona Republicans Are Recounting the Vote.” By Michael Wines. (April 25, 2021)
“It seemed so simple back in December. Responding to angry voters who echoed former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, Arizona Republicans promised a detailed review of the vote that showed Mr. Trump to have been the first Republican presidential nominee to lose the state since 1996. ‘We hold an audit,’ State Senator Eddie Farnsworthsaid at a Judiciary Committee hearing. ‘And then we can put this to rest.’”

State Updates

Arizona
 
MSNBC: “‘A dangerous, dumb thing’: Clumsy Arizona GOP audit stunt risks harming faith in elections.” (April 27, 2021)
“Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs talks with Rachel Maddow about why Arizona Republicans risk causing damage to democracy beyond their own state as they push their election audit stunt with low regard for fairness, transparency, or security of the ballots.”
 
USA Today: “Fact check: No evidence election audit in Maricopa County has found widespread election fraud.” By Devon Link. (April 28, 2021)
“Despite numerous county audits that confirmed the initial election results and several fruitless lawsuits from former President Donald Trump’s campaign and its allies, the Republican-led state Senate said it would conduct the audit to ensure the integrity of Arizona’s election system.”
 
Florida
 
CNN: “Florida House passes controversial voting bill that would add new restrictions.” By Dianne Gallagher, Wesley Bruer, Jade Gordon, and Kelly Mena. (April 29, 2021)
“After several hours of contentious debate, the Republican-controlled Florida House passed its version of a controversial bill that would add new restrictions to the voting process. The bill, SB 90, passed on a party-line vote of 77-40 on Wednesday. The bill now goes back to the Senate with a slew of changes, after the House adopted a ‘strike-all amendment’ that brought SB 90 closer to a similar bill that had been moving through the House. The legislation, as amended by the Florida House, would create a long list of restrictions.”
 
Georgia
 
Atlanta Journal Constitution: “Sen. Tim Scott defends Georgia voting law in GOP response to Biden.” By Patricia Murphy and Greg Bluestein. (April 29, 2021)
“Using Gov. Brian Kemp’s frequent refrain, Scott said Republicans support making it ‘easier to vote and harder to cheat.’ He also called the new law ‘mainstream,’ and described the ways he said the bill will expand, not reduce, opportunities for Georgians to vote.”
 
Michigan
 
The Detroit News: “Secretary of State Benson: GOP bill would criminalize officials’ election Twitter posts.” By Craig Mauger. (April 28, 2021)
“Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, raised the criticism Wednesday as the Senate Elections Committee began debating the proposal that seeks to bar the ‘name or likeness’ of an official from appearing in any ‘communication’ funded with public money that involves an election-related activity.”
 
Texas
 
Axios: “Voting groups fear Texas about to exceed Georgia’s limits.” By Stef W. Kight. (April 29, 2021)
“Local advocacy groups, big business and former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke are fighting a pair of Texas voting bills they brand as suppressive, each of which could pass the Republican-controlled legislature as soon as next week. Why it matters: Advocates say Texas’ pending changes are worse than those that recently caused an uproar and boycotts in Georgia. The fight comes as the Texas population is rapidly growing and diversifying—and turning more Democratic.”

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States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, Law Forward Put Spotlight on Election Interference Schemes by State Legislators in New Report

WATCH: Livestream with Bipartisan State and Local Election Officials: HERE

Washington, D.C.:  Today, the States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward released a report analyzing the emerging nationwide trend of partisan state legislatures trying to seize control over election administration away from trusted expert elections officials. As of early April, there have been at least 148 bills introduced in 36 states that would interfere with election administration. The new report, Democracy Crisis in the Making: How State Legislatures are Politicizing, Criminalizing, and Interfering with Electionsanalyzes more than 50 of the worst bills across the country and finds an alarming pattern in what appears to be a clear reaction to the 2020 election.

To put a spotlight on this alarming trend, the States United Democracy Center and Protect Democracy hosted a livestream discussion today with bipartisan state leaders and local election officials, including Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, and Senior  Advisor on Elections at Democracy Fund Voice Tammy Patrick. The discussion focused on how many of these bills threaten to make elections unworkable, render results more difficult to finalize, prevent election officials from responding  to natural disasters and public health emergencies, and starve local officials of resources to run elections. The group of bipartisan leaders also highlighted concerns that many of these bills are based on the same lies about the 2020 election that led to the insurrection on January 6th. They noted that had some of them been in place last year, the odds that the election would have been decided contrary to the will of the people would have increased significantly.

“Let’s be very clear, the bills we are seeing introduced across the country are not based in fact: they are  based on lies and conspiracies around the 2020 election,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “Maneuvers like these shift power away from trusted local officials, and ultimately harm voters. It’s important we all stay vigilant and shine a light on this effort because it will directly impact the integrity and accessibility of future elections.”

“Elections have run smoothly for decades, thanks to the balance of power between state legislatures, state election officials, and local election officials – this system relies on synergy between bipartisan leaders,” said Trey Grayson, former Secretary of State of Kentucky. “Adding in partisan bureaucracy to the process threatens elections. As we saw recently in Kentucky, we need to make elections more efficient, not less.” 

“Local election officials ensure that elections run smoothly, fairly, and securely,” said Senior Advisor on Elections at Democracy Fund Voice, Tammy Patrick.  “Interfering with the work they have been doing for years is a threat to democracy.  Giving these trusted professionals the autonomy and resources to do their jobs is how we keep elections safe, and ensure every vote is counted.” 

“Our joint report sheds light on the troubling nationwide trend of state legislatures proposing legislation that intentionally interferes with the ability of state and local election officials to do their job, and potentially even the results of the election,” said Jess Marsden, Counsel at Protect Democracy. “This is an alarming pattern that appears to be a clear reaction to the 2020 election and could lead us down an anti-democratic path toward an election crisis.” 

“We are seeing politicians who didn’t like the results of the 2020 election trying to change the rules by interfering with the way elections are run,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Democracy Center. “The 2020 election saw record turnout and was praised as the most secure in American history, thanks to the incredibly hard work of state and local election workers, who adapted to an unprecedented set of challenges. Americans do not want state lawmakers politicizing, criminalizing, or interfering with the way elections are run in this country.” 

“In an act of revenge for the 2020 election outcome, anti-democracy leaders have advanced an unprecedented set of measures to attack our election system,” said Norm Eisen, Chair of States United Democracy Center. “Had the worst of these proposals been in place last November, they might have resulted in a different outcome. And if we let them pass now, they will threaten our democracy in the future. This report is part of the effort to prevent that.”

The live stream is available to watch on Protect Democracy’s Twitter. If you are interested in speaking with any of the speakers or organizing groups, reach out to Claire Connolly, claire.connolly@berlinrosen.com  

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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: Report Details the Impact of the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) on Key States

NEW: Report Details the Impact of the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) on Key States

As the Senate Holds First Committee Hearing on the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1), the VPP Report Analyzes the Impact of the Bill on Nine Key States: AZ, FL, GA, MI, MN, NV, PA, TX & WI

Washington, D.C. — In advance of the first Senate hearing on the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) in the Senate Rules & Administration Committee, the Voter Protection Program released a new report, “The Impact of H.R.1 & S.1 on Voting: An Analysis of Key States.” The report examines how the For the People Act affects federal elections in particular states, with a focus on how the legislation would protect the freedom to vote and help thwart voter suppression efforts sweeping statehouses across the country. The report follows the introduction of more than 250 bills in more than 40 states seeking to block access to the ballot box and comes as Georgia lawmakers are pushing to finalize an omnibus voter suppression package before the session adjourns. 

Joanna Lydgate, National Director of the Voter Protection Program, said, “In the fight to save our democracy, states are too often overlooked until it’s time to cast our ballots. But the fact is that states are at the center of the battle, with more than 250 bills aimed at restricting voting rights moving in state legislatures across the country. The For the People Act is a must pass piece of federal legislation to protect states against these dangerous attacks on the freedom to vote. Our latest report looks at how H.R.1/S.1 would impact key states and proactively safeguard voting rights, enhance election security, and strengthen our democracy.”

In this first in-depth look at state impacts, the report details how H.R.1/S.1 intersects with current law in nine key jurisdictions: Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. These states include places that set records for voter registration and participation as well as those that saw the most aggressive attempts to undermine the will of the American voters in 2020. 

Ambassador Norman Eisen (ret.), Voter Protection Program Chair, said, “American democracy is at a crossroads. Our new report is a first in-depth look at how the For the People Act takes the best practices from states across the country to protect the freedom to vote—and helps prevent some of the worst efforts to block access to the ballot box. We do a deep dive into nine key states that shaped the voting debate in 2020 and continue to be on the frontlines today. The overall impact of H.R.1/S.1 is clear: voters in every state we surveyed will see a notable improvement on the ground as they cast their ballots—and that is what matters most.”

Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former two-term Governor of New Jersey and Voter Protection Program Advisory Board member said, “As the Senate prepares for their first hearing on H.R.1/S.1 this week, it is crucial our leaders in Washington stay focused on the heart of our democracy: the American voter. The new VPP report puts a spotlight on how the bill provides the states with the ability to continue doing just that—and to prevent the continued barrage of attacks on the freedom to vote. At a time when some of our nation’s leaders are still clinging to the Big Lie as a way to cling to power, it is imperative that we bring current and former leaders together to show support for efforts like the For the People Act, which strengthen our states and help secure our elections.”

Following the deluge of at least 60 meritless lawsuits filed in federal and state courts across the country challenging the results and integrity of the 2020 election, the VPP released a report, “Countering Lies about the 2020 Presidential Election,” which examines election cases in key states and debunks the false claims that helped fuel the conspiracies that incited a violent mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. This in-depth analysis refutes each election myth, state by state and case by case. The myths these lawsuits perpetuated contributed to insurrection on January 6, 2021 and continue to be used as the basis for voter suppression attempts at the state and national level. 

The Voter Protection Program advances nonpartisan strategies and recommendations to protect the integrity of the election and the will of the American people, with a specific focus on the unique tools available to state attorneys general, governors, secretaries of state, and law enforcement officials.

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About the Voter Protection Program

The Voter Protection Program (VPP) is a nonpartisan organization with a mission to ensure safe, fair, and secure elections. Visit www.voterprotectionprogram.org for more information.

Statement from Bipartisan Leaders of the Voter Protection Program in Support of S.1

Statement from Bipartisan Leaders of the Voter Protection Program in Support of S.1

The Voter Protection Program (VPP) released the statements below in support of S.1, the For The People Act,  from VPP National Director Joanna Lydgate, VPP Chair Ambassador Norman Eisen, and VPP Advisory Board member and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

Statement from Joanna Lydgate, Voter Protection Program National Director:

“We applaud the U.S. Senate for swiftly taking up the For the People Act, S.1, on the heels of the passage of this landmark democracy reform package in the House of Representatives.

In Congress and in state legislatures across the country, the battle to protect the right to vote is unfolding. Our lawmakers at all levels of government have an obligation to ensure that our elections are free, fair, and secure. The For the People Act is the critical first step our leaders in Congress must take.

S.1 builds on the best and most effective practices from states across the country — red and blue — to strengthen our democracy and sustains the power of the American people, the foundation of our republic. 

We urge the Senate to move quickly to send S.1 to President Biden’s desk — and we look forward to working with state leaders across the country to demonstrate how S.1 builds on the historic success of the 2020 election.”

Statement from Ambassador Norman Eisen, Voter Protection Program Chair:

The For the People Act is one way to live up to the American promise of a government by and for the people. This bill will block some of the ugliest attempts to suppress the vote that we are seeing at the state level, and it will make our elections safer. The reforms in S.1 are supported by a majority of Americans, including most Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. And the momentum behind the legislation continues to build as current and former state leaders across the country back this once-in-a-generation reform effort.”

The American people demonstrated in the 2020 election and since that, they want and need many of the changes included in the For the People Act. The Senate should act quickly to ensure we can keep our democracy strong.”

Statement from Christine Todd Whitman, Former New Jersey Governor, Voter Protection Program Advisory Board member:

Americans across the political spectrum are concerned about the security of elections and protecting the freedom to vote. It is of the utmost importance for leaders of both parties to come together to address concerns, confront misinformation, and improve the systems that protect and secure the freedom to vote. Passing the For the People Act is a big first step in the right direction and should be a bipartisan effort.

The For the People Act offers a structured, uniform update to the efficiency and safety of the voting process across the United States. The For The People Act does not supersede state laws; rather it bolsters good state laws and works to fill critical gaps in others, all under the power of Congress to regulate federal elections and ensure the preservation of our democracy. Although the bill is not the only solution needed in this historic moment, the progress S.1 makes for the foundations of our democracy is vital.”

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VPP Outside Counsel Ambassador Norm Eisen’s Statement On U.S. Supreme Court Denying Cert On Two 2020 Election Cases

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court denying certiorari in the two remaining 2020-election related cases (Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Degraffenreid; Corman v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party), Ambassador Norm Eisen, Outside Counsel to the Voter Protection Program released the following statement:

“The decision by the high Court today to refuse to take up the remaining 2020 election-related cases from Pennsylvania underscores what we know to be true: that election was safe, secure, and accurate. These challenges were brought to undo the will of the voters, and the Court decisions today should remove the unwarranted shadow cast over Pennsylvania’s election administration–and the 2020 election writ-large.”

“The fact that three dissenters saw it differently and would have granted unmerited review is a reminder that our elections remain vulnerable to future interference from many directions. That is why we need decisive and broad Congressional action to safeguard them such as HR 1.”

New Report Details the Myths and Facts of the 2020 Election

New Report Details the Myths and Facts of the 2020 Election

As Congress Considers Impeachment and State Legislatures Across the Country Head Into Session, the VPP Report Debunks the Myths that Fuel Conspiracies Around the 2020 Election

Washington, D.C. — During the November 2020 election season, a deluge of at least 60 meritless lawsuits were filed in federal and state courts across the country challenging the results and integrity of the election. None of these cases were successful in changing the results of the election. The lawsuits lacked any basis in fact or law but nevertheless helped convince many Americans that the election was stolen. Unfortunately, the myths these lawsuits perpetuated contributed to the tragic events of January 6, 2021, and continue to hold sway with a distressing number of people and elected officials. 

Today, the Voter Protection Program released a report, “Countering Lies about the 2020 Presidential Election,” which examines election cases in key battleground states and debunks the false claims that helped fuel the conspiracies that incited a violent mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. This in-depth analysis refutes each election myth, state by state and case by case. 

Joanna Lydgate, National Director of the Voter Protection Program, said, “The mob that violently attacked the U.S. Capitol did not come out of nowhere. It was born of lies pedaled everywhere from Twitter feeds to rallies to the barrage of bad-faith litigation whose sole purpose was to keep election conspiracies alive. More than 100 members of Congress objected to the certification of our free and fair election, and there is another wave of mischief coming in the form of bogus investigations in state legislatures, based on conspiracy theories that have been disproved over and over. This VPP report exposes the myths manufactured to divide America and reinforces the strength of our democratic process.”

The VPP report comes as Congress considers impeachment of the President for the second time for his role in inciting the violent attack on the Capitol building during the Joint Session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote. Additionally, a number of state legislatures are preparing to rehash these already debunked claims by conducting months long sham investigative hearings and preparing to introduce bills to suppress the vote. 

Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former two-term Governor of New Jersey and Voter Protection Program Advisory Board member said, “As we saw firsthand last week, spreading false claims about election integrity is not only irresponsible–it is dangerous and incites individuals and groups to commit violence. We hope this report will restore public trust in our election process and thwart any attempts to repackage these election lies in statehouses across the country.”

The Voter Protection Program advances strategies and recommendations to protect the integrity of the election and the will of the American people, with a specific focus on the unique tools available to state attorneys general, governors, secretaries of state, and law enforcement officials.

If you would like additional details about the report or to speak with state leaders and experts with the Voter Protection Project, please reach out to Asha Merz, asha.merz@berlinrosen.com.

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About the Voter Protection Program

The Voter Protection Program is a nonpartisan initiative of the Progressive State Leaders Committee, a 501(c)(4) organization. Visit https://statesuniteddemocracy.org/about/ for more information.