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.

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

6.22.2021

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

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

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

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

A copy of this report is available here. 

6/4 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.”

Social Media

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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.”

Social Media

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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.”

Social Media

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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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