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.

###

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.

###

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. 

###

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.

###

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.

###

About the States United Democracy Center

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

About Protect Democracy

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

About Law Forward

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

States United Action Statement on the Freedom to Vote Act

9.14.2021

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

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

Additional Resources:

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

###

About States United Action

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

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

7.30.2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

7.28.2021

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

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

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

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

Key excerpts from the brief are included below:

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

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

###

About the States United Democracy Center

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

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

7.22.2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key excerpts from the brief are included below:

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

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

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

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

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

Full biographies for signatories below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

About the States United Democracy Center

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

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

7.12.2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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

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

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

7.01.2021

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

6.22.2021

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

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

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

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

A copy of this report is available here. 

Bipartisan State Leaders Applaud Corporate Leadership on Voting Rights; Urge Others to Speak Out

NATIONWIDE- Today a bipartisan coalition of more than 50 current and former state officials – governors, lieutenant governors, attorneys general, and secretaries of state – released an open letter thanking businesses for speaking out in support of voting rights and encouraging more to do so. The letter was organized by the States United Democracy Center, a new nonpartisan organization formed by the leaders who ran the Voter Protection Program in 2020. 

The letter applauds corporate executives for supporting voting rights and urges others to engage on the issue, including the excerpt below. The letter can be read in full here.

“When the foundation of our democracy – the freedom of citizens in our states to cast their ballots – is under attack, it is powerful and important when Americans speak up, especially those in leadership positions.

Companies, and the people who work for them, are vital parts of our communities. We’ve seen the power of corporate leadership in the past on issues foundational to our democracy. We’ve seen corporations rightly rally to the side of equal rights and racial justice. We’ve worked with state and local business leaders to confront the economic struggles of a global pandemic. And now, we need more companies to add their public support for protecting voting rights.”

The bipartisan letter follows hundreds of corporations uniting opposition to limiting access to the ballot box and the recently released letter from 72 Black business executives that called on corporations to protect the freedom to vote following the introduction of more than 360 bills aimed at restricting voting access that have been introduced across 47 states. Many of these bills are based on the same lies that led to violence during the 2020 elections, and add barriers to voting that disproportionately impact voters of color, the elderly, our veterans, and those with disabilities. 

“As voter suppression bills are introduced across the country, it’s powerful to see business leaders joining pro-democracy state officials in support of American voters,” said Joanna Lydgate, States United Democracy Center CEO. “We have long seen the power of business to create positive change in this country. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in our nation’s history, and now is the time to join with leaders from all backgrounds in protecting the freedom to vote.”

“As a former Governor, I know the impact the business community can and does have on issues foundational to our democracy. We all benefit from strong partnership and collaboration across sectors and states in protecting the freedom to vote. In 2020, we got a glimpse of how far anti-democracy forces are willing to go. Now, we must amplify pro-democracy officials and policies on both sides of the aisle to protect the will of the American people,” said former Governor Christine Todd-Whitman, States United Democracy Center Co-Chair. 

The letter was led by Governors Roy Cooper (NC) and Gretchen Whitmer (MI) and former Governors Arne Carlson (MN), Bill Weld (MA), and Christine Todd Whitman (NJ). Participating state leaders included: 

Governor Roy Cooper, North Carolina

Governor Arne Carlson, Minnesota (Fmr)

Governor Bill Weld, Massachusetts (Fmr)

Governor Christine Todd Whitman, New Jersey (Fmr)

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan

Governor John Bel Edwards, Louisiana

Governor Andy Beshear, Kentucky

Governor Kate Brown, Oregon 

Governor Steve Bullock, Montana (Fmr)

Governor Tony Evers, Wisconsin

Governor Jay Inslee, Washington 

Governor Janet Mills, Maine 

Governor Phil Murphy, New Jersey

Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia

Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota

Governor Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania

Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, Michigan

Lt. Governor Molly Gray, Vermont

Lt. Governor Michael Steele, Maryland (Fmr)

Attorney General Hector Balderas, New Mexico

Attorney General Clare Connors, Hawaii

Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, Nevada (Fmr)

Attorney General TJ Donovan, Vermont

Attorney General Keith Ellison, Minnesota

Attorney General John Farmer Jr., New Jersey (Fmr)

Attorney General Aaron Ford, Nevada 

Attorney General Aaron Frey, Maine

Attorney General Brian Frosh, Maryland

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey

Attorney General Maura Healey, Massachusetts

Attorney General Mark Herring, Virginia

Attorney General Jim Hood, Mississippi (Fmr)

Attorney General Letitia James, New York

Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Delaware

Attorney General Josh Kaul, Wisconsin

Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, Alaska (Fmr)

Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan 

Attorney General Karl Racine, District of Columbia

Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Illinois 

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon

Attorney General Josh Stein, North Carolina 

Attorney General Phil Weiser, Colorado

Attorney General Grant Woods, Arizona (Fmr) 

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, Maine

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Michigan

Secretary of State Jim Condos, Vermont

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, Oregon

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Rhode Island

Secretary of State Trey Grayson III, Kentucky (Fmr)

Secretary of State Jena Griswold, Colorado

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Arizona 

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, North Carolina 

Secretary of State Denise Merrill, Connecticut

Secretary of State Steve Simon, Minnesota  

Secretary of State Tahesha Way, New Jersey

*List in formation 

###

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org

RELEASE: Members of the Voter Protection Program Bipartisan Advisory Board Issue Statement on Importance of Counting All Legally Cast Votes

For Immediate Release

Contact: Mariam Ahmed, mariam.ahmed@berlinrosen.com, 832.387.7782

November 4, 2020

Members of the Voter Protection Program Bipartisan Advisory Board
Issue Statement on Importance of Counting All Legally Cast Votes

Washington, DC Today, the Voter Protection Program’s Advisory Board released the following statement asserting the importance of counting all legally cast votes before a winner is declared in the 2020 presidential election:

“In this as in every other election year, the election is not over until every legal ballot has been counted and the results are certified by the appropriate state authority. State leaders will not allow any candidate to steal the election. There are still hundreds of thousands of votes to be counted. No matter how long it takes, if our democracy is going to work, we need to respect the will of the people.”

This statement was signed by the following members of the Voter Protection Program’s Advisory Board:

  • Jennifer M. Granholm, Former Governor and Attorney General of Michigan
  • Tom Ridge, Former Governor of Pennsylvania and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Bill Weld, Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Assistant U.S. Attorney General, and Governor of Massachusetts
  • Christine Todd Whitman, Former Governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Jack Conway, Former Attorney General of Kentucky
  • Frankie Sue Del Papa, Former Attorney General of Nevada and Nevada Secretary of State
  • John J. Farmer, Jr., Former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Attorney General of New Jersey 
  • Jim Hood, Former Attorney General of Mississippi
  • Jahna Lindemuth, Former Attorney General of Alaska
  • Patricia Madrid, Former Attorney General of New Mexico
  • Tom Rath, Former Attorney General of New Hampshire and Director of the Legal Services Corporation under President George W. Bush
  • Grant Woods, Former Attorney General of Arizona and Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator John McCain
  • Donald Ayer, Former Deputy Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush and Principal Deputy Solicitor General 
  • Greg Brower, Former Assistant Director and Deputy General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada
  • Peter J. Koutoujian, Current Sheriff of Middlesex County, Massachusetts and President of Major County Sheriffs of America 
  • Sarah R. Saldaña, Former Director of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas
  • Joyce Vance, Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama
  • Ken Wainstein, Former Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, U.S. Attorney in Washington DC, and General Counsel to the FBI

###

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/ for more information. 

RELEASE: Voter Protection Program Holds Briefing on State vs. Federal Government Role in Safeguarding the Election with Former DOJ Officials and State Leaders

New “Federal Involvement Guidelines” Outlines the Limited Role of the Federal Government in Elections

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Voter Protection Program (VPP) held a press briefing with former federal officials and law enforcement leaders on the role of states vis-a-vis the federal government in safeguarding a free and fair election and ensuring every vote is counted. With continued movement in the courts on election-related issues and emerging concerns about federal involvement in the election, the VPP brought together leaders with decades of experience with voter protection issues to affirm the role of the states in running and certifying elections.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas expressed the primary role that state leaders, including state attorneys general and other elected state officials, play in ensuring every vote is counted, and working to protect against violations of voting rights like misinformation and interference, intimidation and suppression. “State leaders, not federal agencies, have the primary responsibility for protecting our democratic right to vote,” he said. “Let me be clear: New Mexico is in charge of our own election, and you can trust the office of the Attorney General and Secretary of State to protect the votes of everyone in our state.”

Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer added, “Here’s the big picture: The conduct of the elections, including elections for Federal offices, has always been the job of the States. For the DOJ or any other federal agency to interfere with a State’s administration of a free and fair election would cross a very clear red line. For a lot of reasons, we think such a radical departure from established practice is not going to happen.”

State governments have the primary responsibility to administer elections and enforce election law. Traditionally, the federal role has been limited to two areas: (1) Enforcing the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every eligible citizen has the right to vote, and (2) After all votes are counted and an election result is certified, prosecuting individuals who have committed federal election crimes. The Voter Protection Program released a “Federal Involvement Guidelines” as a reference guide to understand what federal election-related behavior is acceptable – and what behavior should raise concerns.

The scorecard follows other recently shared resources to help state attorneys general and their allies understand the rules and policies before, during, and after Election Day. Joanna Lydgate, National Director of the Voter Protection Program, said of the work of the VPP, “With these tools, state attorneys general, their allies, and key stakeholders will be better equipped to make sure the 2020 election is safe, fair, and secure. Every eligible voter must be able to vote, and every vote must be counted.” 

In the runup to the 2020 election, recent comments and actions by some federal officials have raised concerns of the possibility of unprecedented federal involvement – and potentially unlawful interference – in the conduct of elections and enforcement of election laws at the state and local level.

Former Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sarah Saldaña reiterated the primary role states play in protecting the election. “As the former head of ICE, one of the law enforcement agencies within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and a U.S. Attorney, I want to echo what you heard from my colleagues who work in the FBI and other federal law enforcement: As a general rule, federal officials do not get involved in the workings and administration of elections,” she said. 

Former Police Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department and Co-Chair of the  Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Community Policing, Chuck Ramsey, drew from his experience in state law enforcement leadership stating, “I have been a police officer and chief in three cities, and I’m here to tell you the federal government is not part of policing elections and ballot boxes. In my many decade career, the DOJ has never policed elections. If that were to happen now, it would be a major departure from the status quo and extremely troubling.”

Speaking from his experience as the former General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ken Wainstein, weighed in from a federal agency perspective saying, “I can say with confidence and clarity that the FBI never has interfered in – and has no interest in interfering in – the states’ handling of elections. State officials are responsible for running elections, not the federal government.”

States attorneys general, governors, and secretaries of state are working hand-in-hand with law enforcement leaders to safeguard the 2020 election and beyond from unwarranted interference, from any direction.

The Voter Protection Program advances strategies and recommendations to protect the election and make sure every vote is counted, with a specific focus on the unique tools available to state attorneys general, governors, secretaries of state, and law enforcement leaders. In addition to the scorecard to help understand what federal election-related behavior is acceptable, the VPP also shared this week an updated litigation update memo highlighting the courts’ recent election decisions and ongoing voting rights litigation across the country, and a blog post on the distinct roles of state and federal leadership in elections. 

The full recording of the briefing can be found here. If you would like additional information or to schedule a follow up conversation with state leaders and experts with the Voter Protection Project, please reach out to Mariam Ahmed, mariam.ahmed@berlinrosen.com.

###

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. 

RELEASE: Voter Protection Program Holds Briefing with State Elected Officials, Law Enforcement, and Other Leaders on Efforts to Protect Election Integrity

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Voter Protection Program (VPP) held a press briefing with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, Phoenix Chief of Police Jeri Williams and Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld to address ongoing bipartisan efforts to ensure safe, fair, and secure elections in 2020 and beyond. With Election Day less than two weeks away, continued movement in the courts on election-related issues, and concerns about disruption on and after November 3, the VPP brought together current and former leaders on the front lines of the effort to protect the vote.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein expressed the work state attorneys general are doing to prevent voter intimidation and other efforts to suppress voting and undermine the public’s confidence in this year’s election results. “Our right to vote is our highest and most important civic duty,” he said. “Government should be about making it easier to vote, not harder. That’s why my state attorney general colleagues and I are working to protect Americans’ right to vote. I will do everything in my power to ensure that every eligible vote counts and that North Carolinians can vote easily and safely. That’s my job — yours is to get out there and vote.”  

Over the past several months, state attorneys general — the top lawyers and law enforcement officers for their states — have already secured key wins to protect the integrity of the election. These include: successfully suing to stop changes to the U.S. Postal Service; defending expanded voting laws; prosecuting robocallers spreading misinformation; issuing legal advisories about voter intimidation; and taking quick action against unauthorized drop boxes and attempts to deploy private security forces to polling places.

The Voter Protection Program emerged earlier this year as a critical resource in the effort to safeguard the integrity of the nation’s elections. Joanna Lydgate, National Director of the Voter Protection Program, said, “The role of our state officials hasn’t changed — what’s unprecedented is the way they’ve united around the country to make sure every eligible vote is cast and counted. Americans should know there is a team of leaders equipped with the right tools to safeguard the election. All voters need to do is cast their ballots. 

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld sits on the Voter Protection Program’s bipartisan Advisory Board and shared the important role Republicans and Democrats must play in safeguarding the election. “Protecting the vote isn’t a partisan issue. State leaders and law enforcement across the country are working together to make sure every vote is counted,” he said.

Law enforcement leaders are working hand-in-hand with state attorneys general, governors and secretaries of state to ensure all voters are free to vote safely. Jeri Williams, Chief of the Phoenix Police Department and Voter Protection Program advisory board member, said, “Voter intimidation is illegal. The people of this great country deserve to vote their conscience as they see fit. Law enforcement is committed to working with election workers to provide an environment where everyone has safe access to the polls and every vote can be counted.”

The Voter Protection Program advances strategies and recommendations to protect the election and make sure every vote is counted, with a specific focus on the unique tools available to state attorneys general, governors, secretaries of state, and law enforcement leaders. This week, the Voter Protection Program released a toolkit on the limited role of the federal government in elections and shared a litigation update memo highlighting the courts’ recent election decisions and ongoing voting rights litigation across the country. Earlier this month, the VPP developed a toolkit on counter voter intimidation efforts. 

The full recording of the briefing can be found here. If you would like additional information or to schedule a follow up conversation with state leaders and experts with the Voter Protection Project, please reach out to Mariam Ahmed, mariam.ahmed@berlinrosen.com.

###

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. 

RELEASE: Newly-Launched Nonpartisan Voter Protection Program Brings Together State Leaders and Law Enforcement to Protect Election Integrity

For Immediate Release

October 16, 2020

Contact: Mariam Ahmed, mariam.ahmed@berlinrosen.com

Newly-Launched Nonpartisan Voter Protection Program Brings Together State Leaders and Law Enforcement to Protect Election Integrity

Amid efforts to suppress voting and undermine the public’s confidence in this year’s election results, a newly formed initiative, the Voter Protection Program (VPP), has emerged as a critical resource in the effort to ensure safe, fair, and secure elections in 2020 and in the future.

The Voter Protection Program advances strategies and recommendations to protect the election and make sure every vote is counted, with a specific focus on the unique tools available to state attorneys general, governors, secretaries of state, and law enforcement leaders. The VPP includes experienced litigators who have worked in state and federal government in both Republican and Democratic administrations, national experts on voting rights and election protection, communications professionals with expertise advising state officials, and a bipartisan Advisory Board of former governors, attorneys general, and leaders in local, state, and federal law enforcement.

“The Voter Protection Program is here to support the many leaders in state government and law enforcement across this country who are committed to the integrity of our elections. Attorneys general, governors, secretaries of state, law enforcement leaders: these are the red, white, and blue wall protecting our democracy. We want to make very clear to the American people that they should vote, they can do so safely, and we will make sure every vote is counted,” said Joanna Lydgate, National Director of the Voter Protection Program. 

The VPP seeks to be a “think and do” tank focused on the critical role of state attorneys general and other leaders in combating election interference and voter suppression. Over the past several months, state attorneys general — the top lawyers and law enforcement officers for their states — have already secured key wins to protect the integrity of the election. These include: successfully suing to stop changes to the U.S. Postal Service; defending expanded voting laws; prosecuting robocallers spreading misinformation; issuing legal advisories about voter intimidation; and taking quick action against unauthorized drop boxes. Among its resources, the VPP has launched a voter intimidation toolkit to help state attorneys general and other leaders make sure every American can safely cast their vote.

“This isn’t a partisan issue. Voting is a fundamental right in our democracy. The Voter Protection Program is here to protect that right and to let the American people know that they should have confidence in the integrity of our elections. The goal is to support and work with state leaders across the country to make sure every vote is counted,” said former New Jersey Governor and VPP Advisory Board member Christine Todd Whitman.

“Election officials, Republicans and Democrats, are guardians of our democracy and will ensure a free and fair election. They take their responsibilities very seriously. The American people should have trust in the most fundamental process in our democracy: our elections. We are working together, across the aisle, to make sure of it,” said former Governor of Pennsylvania and VPP Advisory Board member Tom Ridge.

“This election, just like every election in American history, the people will decide the outcome. In order to hold true to that history, we need to cut through the misinformation and fear mongering. We need to work together, across the aisle, to make sure voters feel confident casting their ballots. That work has never been more important,” said former Massachusetts Governor and VPP Advisory Board member Bill Weld.

“Across the country, the law enforcement community is working together to make sure this election is safe and fair and that every vote is counted. It’s all hands on deck, because we know that the integrity of our election is key to our success. We will make sure things go well, and that should be every patriotic American’s goal,” said Houston Police Chief and VPP Advisory Board member Art Acevedo.

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen unfounded attacks on the security of voting by mail, malicious efforts to undermine the U.S. Postal Service, encouragement of voter intimidation, and refusal to commit to accepting election results and a peaceful transition of power. These unprecedented attacks on our democratic process are dangerous and unacceptable. Now is the time for state leaders to step in to defend the integrity of the election,” said former Nevada Attorney General and VPP Advisory Board member Frankie Sue Del Papa.

“I served for many years as the Republican Attorney General of the state of Arizona, so I know a little something about public safety and enforcing the law. I can tell you this: state attorneys general will work with their partners in government and law enforcement to make sure we have a safe election, a fair election, and that every vote is counted. That’s what this Voter Protection Program is all about,” said former Arizona Attorney General and VPP Advisory Board member Grant Woods.

“Coming from New Hampshire, I take safe, secure, and accurate elections very seriously. As we confront attacks on the integrity of our system, we need to use every tool we have to ensure a free and fair election. As the former New Hampshire Attorney General, I cannot overstate the power of the states in that fight, or the role of the courts,” said VPP Advisory Board member Tom Rath.

“As a former Attorney General, I can tell you that state and local leaders are front and center when it comes to election integrity. There has never been a more important time to reinforce the power of our democracy—and send a message to those seeking to undermine it that we are paying attention. Voters can and should trust the system and the outcome of this election, just like we have for centuries,” said former Alaska Attorney General and VPP Advisory Board member Jahna Lindemuth.

“It’s so important for people to understand how what is happening in the courts affects their access to the ballot box. The American people need to have trust in our elections, and part of building that trust is demonstrating how elected officials are working together to protect voters and ensure a free and fair process,” said former Mississippi Attorney General and VPP Advisory Board member Jim Hood.

“There are concerns being expressed regarding the upcoming election. It’s understandable that voters would be confused, or even worse, fearful about casting their ballots. Let’s set the record straight: you should know that state leaders and law enforcement are working together right now, around the clock, to protect our citizens’ right to vote and to ensure the integrity of the election. I, for one, take great comfort in that,” said former ICE Director, former U.S. Attorney, and VPP Advisory Board member Sarah Saldaña.

###

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.