4/14 Warned to Hold Back on Jan. 6

Dear All,

Hundreds of companies and corporate executives—including Amazon, BlackRock, Google, and Warren Buffett—have joined the fight against “any discriminatory legislation” that increases barriers to voting. The statement, which ran as a two-page advertisement in today’s New York Times, “represents the broadest coalition yet to weigh in on the issue, coming after few big companies spoke up before a restrictive voting law passed in Georgia last month.”
 
But there are notable name brands that refused to sign this particular statement. They include Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot, JPMorgan Chase, and Walmart. Leadership at some of these businesses have recently put out statements on voting issues or have done internal outreach to employees.
 
While some see the larger campaign against voter suppression as a sign that corporations are ignoring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s warning to “stay out of politics,” some in the U.S. Senate are seeking to punish businesses for supporting voting rights. Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Josh Hawley introduced a bill to “end MLB’s special immunity from antitrust laws,” specifically mentioning the league’s decision to move the all-star game from Georgia. It looks like the threats aren’t ending anytime soon.
 
In other Capitol Hill-related news, today reports broke that the Capitol Police “were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob” during the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. Additional details of the failures in preparation and response on January 6th were revealed in a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Reuters: “U.S. Senate to consider hate crimes bill in potential filibuster test.” By Makini Brice and David Morgan. (April 14, 2021)
“The U.S. Senate will take up hate crime legislation on Wednesday intended to combat violence against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, in a potential first major test this Congress of the Senate procedural tool known as the filibuster.”
 
NPR: “What We Know About The Suspect Who Planted Bombs Before The Capitol Riot.” By Tim Mak. (April 14, 2021)
“More than three months after the U.S. Capitol riot, a bomb-maker remains on the loose. A majority of the public’s attention has been focused on the hundreds of people who have been charged for their role on Jan. 6. But the night before, someone committed a different crime: The person placed two explosive devices near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and that person is still at large.”
 
Politico: “Prosecutors: Oath Keepers appeared to stash Jan. 6 firearms at suburban Comfort Inn.” By Kyle Cheney. (April 13, 2021)
“Members of the Oath Keepers, the paramilitary extremists who played a central role in storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, appeared to stash firearms at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Va., prosecutors indicated in a late Monday court filing.”
 
Washington Post: “Stacey Abrams’s fight against voter suppression dates back to the Revolution.” By Karen Cook Bell. (April 13, 2021)
Abrams’s efforts embody how Black women have been at the forefront of movements to address inequity, social oppression and freedom for the Black community for centuries. In fact, African American women waged their political battles against slavery using similar forms of grass-roots activism. Black women employed escapes from slavery, petitions to courts for freedom, written testimonies of racial violence and organized protests as strategies to ensure freedom, equality and justice for themselves and their communities. These informal and formal political strategies were important forms of Black women’s political activism.”
 
TIME: “Corporations Struggle to Back Voting Rights and Protect the Bottom Line.” By Philip Elliott. (April 13, 2021)
“The task is inherently impossible. If anyone has figured out how to position a corporation as a socially conscious neighbor who still chases profit while keeping useful lawmakers close without appearing to fund their disinformation, there’s money to be made in D.C. right now.”
 
FiveThirtyEight: “It’s Not Just Georgia: More Than A Dozen Other States Are Trying To Take Power Away From Local Election Officials.” By Nathaniel Rakich. (April 13, 2021)
Importantly “attempts to diminish local control of elections are not limited to Georgia. As part of the hundreds of election restrictions Republican legislators have proposed so far this year, at least 13 other states have passed or are considering bills that would handcuff local election officials (in some cases, literally).”
 
NBC: “Top private law firms plan ‘SWAT teams’ to fight voting restrictions in court.” By Jane C. Timm. (April 12, 2021)
“More than a dozen of the country’s top law firms have committed to join forces to challenge voting restrictions across the country, adding legal might to the corporate pressure campaign opposing Republican-led attempts to overhaul elections in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s loss.”
 
Washington Post (Opinion): “Corporations can’t just bemoan voter restrictions after they become law.” By Jennifer Rubin. (April 12, 2021)
“There may be other steps corporations are willing to sign on to, but it is essential that a critical mass of companies employing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of employees exercise their immense power at the state and federal levels as responsible corporate citizens.”

  

State Updates


Arizona
 
Bloomberg: “Arizona Says Keep Your Money, Zuckerberg: Ballots & Boundaries.” By Alex Ebert. (April 13, 2021)
“Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said he signed the ban (H.B. 2569) ‘to avoid any possible allegations of wrongdoing.’ Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) described it on Twitter as a move ‘to satisfy the conspiracy theorists within his own party.’”
 
Georgia
 
CBS 46: “Fulton County commissioners take legal action against voting law.” By Mea Watkins. (April 13, 2021)
“Fulton County commissioners held a news conference Tuesday to announce legislation to prepare a legal challenge to Senate Bill 202, Georgia’s new controversial voting law.”
 
NPR: “‘Emancipation’ Moving Production Out Of Georgia Due To New Voting Laws.” By Anastasia Tsioulcas. (April 12, 2021)
“Director Antoine Fuqua and actor Will Smith, who together are producing the upcoming 1860s-set film Emancipation, announced Monday that they are moving the film’s production out of Georgia due to the state’s newly enacted voting laws.”
 
Michigan
 
The Guardian: “Michigan executives sign letter opposing voting restriction efforts.” By Sam Levine. (April 14, 2021)
“The letter comes as Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature is weighing a suite of new voting restrictions in one of the most closely fought battleground states in America. Among the letter’s signatories were the CEOs of the American automotive titans Ford and General Motors, as well as executives from Quicken Loans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and all four major Detroit sports teams.”
 
The Detroit News: “GOP leader sticks with Michigan voting plans despite opposition of GM, Ford.” By Jordyn Grzelweski and Beth LeBlanc. (April 13, 2021)
“The Republican-controlled state Senate is soon expected to start hearings on wide-ranging legislation that would require photo identification to vote in person, ban the unsolicited statewide mass mailing of absentee ballot applications and restrict the hours in which people could drop their ballot in curbside boxes.”
 
Pennsylvania
 
WITF: “Taxpayers footed Pa.’s bill for election lawsuits. Costs went into the millions.” By Julia Agos. (April 14, 2021)
“The cost of Trump’s effort, along with other election-related lawsuits, hit taxpayers. The Pennsylvania Department of State paid law firms over $3.4 million for work on election-related lawsuits filed before and after election day by any group or political party, according to invoices obtained by WITF through a Right-to-Know request. All but one of the suits brought by Trump and his allies, before and after the election, failed. Yet they accounted for more than $1.9 million of the overall cost incurred by DOS.”
 
York Daily Record: “Elections in Pa.: Directors, county officials describe ‘breaking point,’ need for reform.” By Teresa Boeckel. (April 12, 2021)
“Pennsylvania’s election rules remain the same for the 2021 municipal primary, at least for now, despite talks about reform to make it an easier process for both voters and workers.”

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news.

4/12 Meeting the Moment

Dear All,

On Friday, Voter Protection Action, our 501(c)(4), brought together a bipartisan group of state leaders from across the country to discuss the coordinated voter suppression effort sweeping state houses and to share best practices for protecting access to the ballot box. The bipartisan group included current and former governors, lieutenant governors, state attorneys general, and secretaries of state (many released statements after the call). They were joined by Joanna Lydgate, Norman Eisen, former Governor Christine Todd Whitman (NJ), and former attorneys general Jahna Lindemuth (AL), Grant Woods (AZ), Tom Rath (NH), and John Farmer (NJ).
 
The convening was covered in today’s Washington Post as “a chance to build on the momentum coming from Georgia. . . . [and] discuss how to keep the spotlight on other states where similar measures are under consideration.” On the broader voting rights landscape, VPP CEO Joanna Lydgate told the Post, “This is really a watershed moment. . . . We’ve all come to understand the consequences of lies and disinformation and conspiracy about voting.”
 
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper both noted to the Post their expectation that more businesses, including sports teams, would be weighing in soon. “Georgia is not a one-off,” Benson said. “Georgia is the first state. There’s Texas, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Wyoming.” “What’s important is to try to stop them in their tracks, before they become law,” said Cooper. “We were talking about ways to do that, and getting businesses to put pressure on legislators even before they take votes.”
 
In a separate meeting of note over the weekend, more than 100 corporate leaders met on Saturday for a first-of-its-kind gathering (virtual, of course) to discuss the restrictive voting efforts in 47 states. They even broached the idea of pulling their political donations.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Stateline: “Nation has Georgia on its mind, but many states are making voting easier.” By Matt Vasilogambros. (April 11, 2021)
“There have been efforts by states such as Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont and Virginia to expand voting by mail, early voting and voter registration. In Kentucky, which did not have early voting before the pandemic, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a bipartisan measure that will establish a three-day early voting period.”
 
Wall Street Journal: “With Georgia Voting Law, the Business of Business Becomes Politics.” By Chip Cutter, Suzanne Vranica, Alison Sider. (April 10, 2021)
“Now, business leaders are facing new pressures from progressive activists to prove that those commitments were more than just talk. As activists press companies to condemn new voting legislation, CEOs are again finding themselves walking a difficult line on emotional, political issues, risking blowback from all sides.”
 
CNN: “Polls show majority of Republicans mistakenly think the 2020 election wasn’t legitimate.” By Harry Enten. (April 11, 2021)
“Poll of the week: A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that 55% of Republicans falsely believe Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was the result of illegal voting or rigging. Additionally, 60% of Republicans incorrectly agree that the election was stolen from Republican Donald Trump. These polls are the latest to indicate that Republicans mistakenly think that the 2020 election wasn’t legitimate, when it clearly was.”
 
NPR: “Who Are The Oath Keepers? Militia Group, Founder Scrutinized In Capitol Riot Probe.” By Ryan Lucas. (April 10, 2021)
“In April of 2009, a bespectacled former Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate took the microphone at a small rally just outside of Boston to introduce his new self-styled militia. ‘I’m Stewart Rhodes,’ he said. ‘And I’m the founder of Oath Keepers.”
 
NBC (Opinion): “Manchin’s filibuster defense contradicts the Senate legacy he claims to protect: The senator from West Virginia says he sees himself as a defender of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd. If we review Byrd’s legacy, however, it’s clear Manchin is not doing that.” By Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21. (April 12, 2021)
“So his party is forced to take notice when Manchin declares, as he did in a Washington Post opinion piece last week, ‘There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.’ Manchin also challenges the use of reconciliation as not good for the future of the country, and he seeks a bipartisan solution to the democracy reforms in S. 1. Yet Manchin’s positions here go against a legacy he has long insisted he is committed to protecting.”
 
Deadline: “The Battle Over The Filibuster Counters The Myth Of ‘Mr. Smith.’” By Ted Johnson. (April 11, 2021)
“Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) seemingly dashed any hopes of Democrats abolishing the filibuster anytime soon when he wrote last week that the legislative maneuver was a ‘critical tool’ to protecting ‘our democratic form of government.’ That’s a far different view than that of former President Barack Obama, who called it a ‘Jim Crow relic,’ along with a slew of other critics. But an idealized view of the filibuster as a force for good isn’t an outlier; it’s the way that many students, of past generations and even today, are first exposed to it, via the 1939 Frank Capra classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
 
Atlantic (Opinion): “How to Stop the Minority-Rule Doom Loop: The next two years might be America’s last chance to protect the basic democratic principle of majority rule.” By Adam Jentleson, author of “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate.” (April 12, 2021)
“President Joe Biden came into office facing four ‘converging crises’: COVID-19, climate change, racial justice, and the economy. But after a few weeks of fast action on a pandemic relief plan, a fifth crisis will determine the fate of the rest of his administration, and perhaps that of American democracy itself: the minority-rule doom loop, by which predominantly white conservatives gain more and more power, even as they represent fewer Americans.”
  

State Updates

Arizona
 
KOLD: “Arizona activists, faith leaders decry ‘voter suppression’ bills.” By Kiera Riley. (April 9, 2021)
“The Arizona critics echoed a sentiment that voting rights advocates have repeated throughout the country, saying the rush to restrict voting recalls the days of ‘Jim Crow,’ when Black voters routinely were segregated and disenfranchised by state laws and oppressed under the stamp of government policy and often-violent regimes.”
 
Georgia
 
The Guardian: “Georgia governor claims MLB All-Star voting rights move hurts Black voters.” By Guardian staff and agencies. (April 10, 2021)
“It’s minority-owned businesses that have been hit harder than most because of an invisible virus, by no fault of their own,” [Governor] Brian Kemp said. “And these are the same minority businesses that are now being impacted by another decision that is by no fault of their own.” 
 
 
Michigan
 
Detroit Free Press (Opinion): “Pistons exec to Michigan lawmakers: Restricting voting rights will cost state.” By Arn Tellum, vice-chairman of the Detroit Pistons. (April 12, 2021)
“For the Detroit Pistons, voting access and voting rights are pillars of a social justice platform that grew out of last summer’s protests over the death of George Floyd and other people of color at the hands of police. Pistons players have spoken personally about the anguish of Black Americans, channeling their pain and outrage into a plan of action.”
 
North Carolina
 
WCNC: “‘The truth is, our elections are very, very secure,’ Winthrop professor debunks basis for restrictive voting laws.” By Ben Thompson. (April 10, 2021)
“Despite a long list of proposals in state capitols promising to secure our elections, the U.S. doesn’t have a problem with election fraud, according to Dr. Scott Huffmon. ‘This is a solution that can’t quite find the real problem,’ said Huffmon, professor of politics at Winthrop University.”
 
Texas
 
KXAN Austin: “‘I don’t see voter suppression’ – Speaker Dade Phelandefends House Bill 6 from corporate critics.” By John Thomas and Wes Rapaport. (April 11, 2021)
“Controversial election legislation is moving forward at the State Capitol. House Bill 6 advanced out of committee on a party line vote, and now waits for a vote on the House floor. Democrats have criticized the bill, and others like it which tighten voting rules, as amounting to voter suppression. Some large businesses have issued statements against the bills. ‘I have the phone numbers of several of those individuals,’ House Speaker Dade Phelan said Wednesday, adding that he planned to call business leaders who have come out against HB 6. ‘I’m going to ask them to pull up House Bill 6 on their computers and point to me where in that bill they see voter suppression.’”

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news.

4/7 Three Ways to Fight Voter Suppression

Dear All,

Last night, Ambassador Norm Eisen, the Voter Protection Program’s board chair, and Joanna Lydgate, VPP’s CEO, responded to Georgia’s new law that will challenge the ability of many voters in that state to cast their ballot in a piece for CNN. They suggest “three shots” to address “this sickness in our body politic.”
 
Specifically, they call for filing necessary litigation against legislation like what became law in Georgia; passing the For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1), “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish nationwide rules for federal elections, using some of the best practices in the states and blocking some of the worst”; and urging state and local leaders to use their great power to advance democratic reforms.
 
They also highlight the “first in-depth look at how this legislation would affect the states,” VPP’s new report, which focuses on the impact S.1 would have in places like Georgia.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

CNN: “Ten more members of Congress join NAACP lawsuit against Trump and Giuliani for conspiring to incite US Capitol riot.” By Jessica Schneider. (April 7, 2021)
“Ten members of Congress who were in the House gallery as rioters breached the Capitol on January 6 are adding their names to the lawsuit first filed in February against former President Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. The lawsuit, first brought by House Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson and the NAACP, accuses Trump and Giuliani of conspiring with extremist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to incite the riot at the Capitol.”
 
PolitiFact: “What’s in Georgia’s new voting law that lost it the All-Star Game.” By Amy Sherman. (April 7, 2021)
“Georgia’s new voting law has ignited a fight over whether the law expands or shrinks access to the ballot. Republican lawmakers changed voting rules after Democrats won 2020 and 2021 statewide races thanks to strong turnout among Black voters. . . . We reviewed the substance of the law and spoke with experts about its impact. The long and complicated piece of legislation has both the potential to expand voting as well as restrict it.”
 
AP: “Groups: Census privacy tool could hurt voting rights goals.” By Mike Schneider. (April 5, 2021)
“A new method being used for the first time by the U.S. Census Bureau to protect people’s privacy in 2020 census data could hamper voting rights enforcement and make it harder for congressional and legislative districts to have equal populations, according to a report from two leading civil rights groups.”
 
LA Times: “Dianne Feinstein signals she’s open to abandoning Senate filibuster for voting rights.” By Jennifer Haberkorn. (April 6, 2021)
“A senior staffer to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) signaled Tuesday that the senator would support circumventing the long-standing filibuster rule to enact a voting rights bill with only 50 votes in the Senate. . . . The idea of eliminating the filibuster or making it harder to do has gained momentum among Senate Democrats concerned Republicans would use the tool to block all of President Biden’s agenda.”
 
Fortune: Mitch McConnell wants corporate America to stay out of politics—unless it involves donations.” By Nicole Goodkind. (April 6, 2021)
“Republicans are unhappy with the amount of political influence corporations have in U.S. politics and are weighing tax hikes as punishment. Yes, this is the same GOP that supported the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the landmark 2010 case that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose political candidates. And yes, this is the same GOP that voted in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate in 2017 from 35% to 21% and who have been aggressively fighting a proposed increase in the rate to 28%.”
 
Footwear News: “After Donating $1 Million to Georgia Voting Rights Groups, Patagonia Calls on More CEOs to Step Up.” By Katie Abel. (April 7, 2021)
“After donating $1 million to voting rights groups in Georgia, Patagonia is calling on more business leaders across the country to step up for the cause. The effort comes as major players from Coca Cola to Major League Baseball to Delta take a stand against the restrictive laws in the latest wave of corporate activism. Many key GOP leaders, including former President Donald Trumpand Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, continue to rally behind the measures and have warned companies to stay on the sidelines. But Patagonia is undeterred—and the company made one of the strongest statements about the issue so far.”
 
FiveThirtyEight: “Why We Are (And Should Be) Talking About Voting Rights Right Now.” A discussion between FiveThirtyEight’s Sarah Frostenson, Alex Samuels, and Nathaniel Rakich, as well as Julia Azari, an associate professor of political science at Marquette University. (April 7, 2021)
“Georgia’s new voting law has captured headlines for all the ways in which it makes voting harder. . . . But understanding the effects of laws like Georgia’s is complicated. There’s not really solid evidence one way or the other that this law will hurt Democrats or help Republicans. It’s also a point that elides a more fundamental one: If one party increasingly supports anti-democratic measures, does anything else outweigh that?”
 
CBS News: “Ex-national security officials call for commission to investigate Capitol attack.” By Nicole Sganga. (April 7, 2021)
“Precisely three months after the January 6 assault on the Capitol, dozens of former senior national security, military and elected officials from both sides of the aisle urged lawmakers in Congress to establish an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the attack.”

State Updates

Arizona
 
Arizona Daily Star: “Voting rights groups: Tactics in Arizona election audit are illegal, intimidating.” By Howard Fischer. (April 6, 2021)
“In a letter Tuesday to Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the lawyers said the plans—which include knocking on doors and contacting people—‘constitute voter intimidation.’”
 
The Guardian: “The next Georgia: Texas and Arizona emerge as voting rights battlegrounds.” By Sam Levine. (April 6, 2021)
“As Georgia Republicans face backlash over new sweeping voting restrictions, activists in other states are escalating efforts to oppose similar restrictions advancing in other states. Texas and Arizona have emerged as two of the next major battlegrounds over voting rights. Texas Republicans last week advanced legislation that would limit early voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and give partisan poll workers the ability to record voters at the polls, among other measures. In Arizona, Republicans are moving ahead with an audit of ballots from the presidential race while also advancing legislation that would make it harder to vote by mail.”
 
Georgia
 
Huffington Post: “Atlanta Mayor Signs Order Meant To Fight Georgia’s Voting Restrictions.” By Sanjana Karanth. (April 6, 2021)
“‘The voting restrictions of SB 202 will disproportionately impact Atlanta residents ― particularly in communities of color and other minority groups,’ Bottoms said in a statement. ‘This Administrative Order is designed to do what those in the majority of the state legislature did not―expand access to our right to vote.’”
 
Kentucky
 
New York Times: “Why Kentucky Just Became the Only Red State to Expand Voting Rights.”
By Nick Corasaniti. (April 7, 2021)
Jennifer Decker has solid conservative credentials. A first-term Republican state lawmaker in Kentucky who used to work for Senator Rand Paul, she represents a county that voted for Donald J. Trump last year by nearly 30 percentage points. Yet at a time when many of her Republican counterparts around the country are racing to pass stringent new restrictions on voting—fueled in part by Mr. Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election—Ms. Decker’s first major bill swerved. It aimed to make it easier for people to vote in the state.”
 
Maine
 
ABC/WMTW 8: “Bill would create permanent online voter registration system in Maine.” By Phil Hirschkorn. (April 6, 2021)
“Maine was the first state in the country to adopt same-day, in-person voter registration in 1973. Nearly 50 years later, Maine could become the 41st state to implement online voter registration. A bill being debated in Augusta would create an online registration system over the next two years, with a goal to launch in 2023.”
 
Michigan
 
Newsweek: “Democrats Fear Michigan Will Follow Georgia in Tightening Voting Restrictions.” By Jack Dutton. (April 6, 2021)
“Michigan Senate Republicans, led by Senator Mike Shirkey, on March 24 introduced 39 ‘election reform bills,’ which if passed, mean there are much stricter thresholds to being able to vote.”

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news.

4/5 – Getting Down to Business

Dear All,

By pulling the All-Star Game from Atlanta, Major League Baseball sent more than a brushback pitch to Governor Brian Kemp and his allies for increasing barriers to voting that will disproportionately affect Black and brown voters in Georgia. Not quite the “shot heard ‘round the world,” but other states have certainly been put on notice by corporate leaders, and other states are bidding for the All-Star Game (more on that in the State Updates below). In solidarity with Governor Kemp, Texas Governor Greg Abbott opted out of throwing out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ opening game. Georgia lawmakers also threatened to reverse a tax break that benefits Delta after the company spoke out against the state’s law to restrict voting rights.
 
Coca-Cola, which joined Delta in speaking out, has long been the world’s most popular non-alcoholic drink brand. Nonetheless, the companies have come under recent criticism from former President Donald Trump and his supporters who have declared that they won’t bow to corporate pressure.
 
It’s worth noting that business leaders have not always been supportive of voting rights. According to a new report by Public Citizen, a national non-profit organization representing consumer interests, corporations “have contributed $50 million since 2015 to state legislators supporting voter suppression bills, including $22 million during the 2020 election cycle.” 

Here is today’s update:

National Update

New York Times: “Inside Corporate America’s Frantic Response to the Georgia Voting Law.” By David Gelles. (April 5, 2021)
“Companies like Delta are caught between Democrats focused on social justice and populist Republicans. They face major political consequences no matter what they do.”
 
The Hill: “McConnell: Corporations shouldn’t fall for disinformation on voting laws.” By Alexander Bolton. (April 5, 2021)
“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday warned companies like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines to ‘stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex’ in reaction to their executives criticizing a new Georgia voting law that critics say would make absentee voting harder and create new restrictions.”
 
New York Times: “Companies Can’t Stay on the Political Sidelines.” By Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jason Karaian, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch, Ephrat Livni, and Sarah Kessler. (April 5, 2021)
“Corporations have increasingly taken social and political stands, often spurred by the policies of former President Donald Trump. But the dispute over voting rights is different, presenting a ‘head-spinning new landscape for big companies,’ The Times’s David Gelles writes. Both political parties consider the issue a priority, so companies face potentially steep consequences no matter what they do.”
 
Reuters: “Half of Republicans believe false accounts of deadly U.S. Capitol riot: Reuters/Ipsos poll.” By James Oliphant and Chris Kahn. (April 5, 2021)
“Since the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have pushed false and misleading accounts to downplay the event that left five dead and scores of others wounded. His supporters appear to have listened.”
 
CNN: “MLK was killed 53 years ago. His fight for Black voting rights has yet to be won.” Op-ed by Dean Obeidallah. (April 4, 2021)
“On April 4, 1968, a White gunman shot and killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. More than 50 years later, the fight he waged to ensure Black Americans had equal access to vote is still very much alive.”
 
PolitiFact: “Claims about HR 1 keep pouring in. Here are all of our fact-checks in one place.” By Louis Jacobson. (April 5, 2021)
“Over the past few weeks we’ve checked about 20 statements related to H.R. 1. A few of them are accurate, but most of them exaggerate or otherwise misrepresent aspects of the bill. Here’s a rundown of what we found.”
 
NPR: “Oath Keepers Founder Is Under Scrutiny, Court Documents Show.” By Ryan Lucas. (April 5, 2021)
“The Oath Keepers are a far-right militia group. Court documents indicate Stewart Rhodes, the group’s founder, is being scrutinized in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.”

State Updates

Arizona
 
Fox 10: “Could Arizona voting laws get pushback? Bills in the legislature would make voting stricter.” By Brian Webb. (April 4, 2021)
“Georgia’s governor vows to defend his state’s new voting law against lawsuits and boycotts. Republican Brian Kemp made the comments on April 3, one day after Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star game out of Atlanta.”
 
KJZZ: “Arizona Groups Press Companies On Voter Bills.” By Matthew Casey. (April 2, 2021)
“Business leaders are under pressure to denounce GOP voting bills in Arizona and other states. Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill has signed onto a letter by Greater Phoenix Leadership, along with other CEOs, urging the legislature not to pass three senate bills that they say would disenfranchise voters.”
 
KOLD News 13: “23 voter suppression bills in Arizona legislature.” By Bud Foster. (April 1, 2021)
“Some people call them voter suppression bills, while others defend them as protecting election integrity. There are 23 bills left at the Arizona state legislature winding their way to the system, and some may end up on Governor Doug Ducey’s desk to be signed into law or possibly vetoed. They are sponsored by Republican lawmakers.”
 
 
Georgia
 
New York Times: “What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does.” By Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein. (April 2, 2021)
“Go page by page through Georgia’s new voting law, and one takeaway stands above all others: The Republican legislature and governor have made a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections, making absentee voting harder and creating restrictions and complications in the wake of narrow losses to Democrats. The New York Times has examined and annotated the law, identifying 16 provisions that hamper the right to vote for some Georgians or strip power from state and local elections officials and give it to legislators.”
 
Michigan
 
Detroit Free Press: “Benson declines invitation to testify at Senate Oversight hearing, citing election lies.” By Clara Hendrickson and Dave Boucher. (April 5, 2021)
“Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson declined an invitation to testify at a Senate Oversight Committee hearing Monday, voicing concerns that the hearing would provide a platform for misinformation about the November 2020 election and advance election bills introduced by Senate Republicans that Benson opposes.”
 
Axios: “Dominion Voting Systems demands ex-Michigan lawmaker retract baseless fraud claims.” By Orion Rummler. (April 4, 2021)
“Dominion Voting Systems demanded on Friday that ex-Michigan state Sen. Patrick Colbeck retract claims that the company rigged the 2020 election in Michigan, and accused the former lawmaker of waging a ‘disinformation campaign.’”
 
North Carolina
 
PolitiFact: “Voter impersonation is rare, North Carolina’s Roy Cooper says’” By Paul Specht. (April 5, 2021)
“With Georgia lawmakers adopting new voter identification requirements, CNN’s Jake Tapper sought perspective from a politician who’s witnessed a similar push for election security in the South: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.”
 
Pennsylvania
 
GoErie (Opinion): “Rep. Ryan Bizzarro: Voting rights attacks are happening nationwide – and they are coming to PaVoting rights attacks are happening nationwideand they are coming to Pa.”(April 5, 2021)
“The least partisan thing we can imagine is the fundamental right to vote. When we talk with Republicans and Democrats—people, not politicians—there is little debate. Anyone who is lawfully registered should be able to vote, securely and conveniently. What we saw happen in Georgia this week, and what is proposed here in Pennsylvania, is the opposite of that.”
 
AP/CBS: “2 Pennsylvania State Senators Invite MLB To Host 2021 All-Star Game In Pittsburgh.” (April 2, 2021)
“Two state senators are inviting Major League Baseball to host the 2021 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. Senators Jay Costa and Wayne Fontana wrote a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Friday saying Pittsburgh can host the game.”
 
Pennsylvania Capital-Star: “Poll: Most Pa. voters don’t believe American democracy is working for all.” By John L. Micek. (April 2, 2021)
“The Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which involved an unsettlingly large number of Pennsylvanians, and the stubborn endurance of the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, revealed deep fissures in the way that Americans think and feel about the political process. But how deep do those fissures run? And can they be repaired? Recent polling by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., attempted to answer both questions, and delivered some decidedly mixed results. The polling did indicate Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly believe that members of Congress who voted against certifying the election results acted improperly (31% approve, 61% disapprove).”
 
Wisconsin: 
 
NPR: “Milwaukee Makes Its Case For The 2021 MLB All-Star Game.” By Megan Hart. (April 5, 2021)
“After Major League Baseball announced last week that it’s moving the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta, it didn’t take long for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to make his pitch. On Friday, Barrett sent a letter to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred offering up Milwaukee as a possible replacement site. Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley joined the effort with a letter to Manfred on Saturday.”
 
News & Independent: “Election lawsuits cost Wisconsin taxpayers nearly $3 million in 2020.” By Karyn Saemann. (April 4, 2021)
“The legal fight over Wisconsin’s 2020 elections cost taxpayers nearly $3 million in private attorneys, according to bills obtained by WisPolitics.com. And legal bills were still rolling in, as Gov. Tony Evers has indicated he’ll try to recoup some of his costs from those who filed the suits. The bulk of the legal tab was the nearly $2.4 million GOP lawmakers spent in more than a half-dozen federal lawsuits that began ahead of the April election and stretched through the fall. It also includes the successful suit they filed with the state Supreme Court to prevent Evers from moving the April election via executive order.”
 
Madison.com (Opinion): “Rep. Jonathan Brostoff and Sup. Marcelia Nicholson: Wisconsin senators must support voting rights bill.” (April 3, 2021)
“Earlier this month, the U.S. House took a democracy-affirming step that is sorely needed as we confront some of the biggest threats to our rights in recent memory. It passed the ‘For the People Act,’ a comprehensive bill that shores up voting rights and goes after corruption and secretive big spending in politics. Now the Senate has to act, as a wave of anti-democratic measures in legislatures around the country is threatening to engulf our democracy.”

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news.

4/1 – Corporate Accounting

Dear All,

Governor Brian Kemp and state lawmakers are facing increasing pressure in Georgia from some of the state’s most prominent corporations. The fact is that supporting voter suppression is bad for business. Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola have called the recently signed SB 202 voting law “unacceptable.” But is it time to boycott businesses that are still holding out? Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams says not yet, writing in a USA Today op-ed: “I ask you to bring your business to Georgia and, if you’re already here, stay and fight. Stay and vote.”
 
Unfortunately, Georgia isn’t the only state that should be feeling the corporate and public heat. Today, the Brennan Center for Justice updated its accounting of voting rights legislation in the states. The nonpartisan law and policy institute found: “As of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states. That’s 108 more than the 253 restrictive bills tallied as of February 19, 2021—a 43 percent increase in little more than a month.”
 
This all while six dozen powerful Black business executives have been outspoken in an organized effort to “directly call out their peers for failing to stand up for racial justice”—which, according to the New York Times, is a historic first. The group is calling on companies to fight the wave of voting restrictions moving through state legislatures.

The pressure from the business community is a step in the right direction, as is the significant rise in the number of bills to expand the freedom to vote. According to the Brennan Center, there have been more than 100 voting rights expansion bills introduced since the original round-up in February, bringing the total to 843 bills in 47 states.

Some housekeeping: we are trying a slightly different format for the VPP National and State updates. In addition to the recap above, we will share a set of national and state-specific clips that we find helpful in understanding the latest developments in the democracy protection arena. We hope you like it, and as always, we welcome your feedback. 

Here is today’s update:

National Update

CNN: “Hillary Clinton backs repealing the filibuster for voting rights bills.” By Dan Merica. (March 31, 2021)
“Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has added her name to the chorus of top Democrats who believe it is time to get rid of the Senate filibuster specifically to pass bills relating to voting rights.”
 
The Hill: “Ben Shapiro faces backlash for comparing long lines at polls to Disneyland.” By Celine Castronuovo. (March 31, 2021)
“Conservative commentator and Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro on Wednesday received backlash on social media for comparing lines at election polling places to lines at Disneyland while criticizing claims that Georgia’s new sweeping voting law is racist.”
 
CNN: Jamie Dimon speaks out on voting rights even as many CEOs remain silent.” By Matt Egan. (March 31, 2021)
“JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is speaking out in defense of voting rights in the wake of Georgia’s restrictive voting law and as other battleground states consider similar actions. The company’s ’employees span the United States and as state capitals debate election laws, we believe voting must be accessible and equitable,’ Dimon said in a statement”

State Updates

Arizona
 
AP: “CEO of firm eyeing ballots appeared to make political posts.” By Bob Christie. April 1, 2021)
“The CEO of a company hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to lead a recount of all 2.1 million ballots cast in the state’s most populous county in November appears to have posted sympathetically about election conspiracies in a now-deleted Twitter account. Senate President Karen Fann announced Wednesday that an independent audit of the election in Maricopa County would use four firms, with a Florida-based cyber security company called Cyber Ninjas leading the effort. The Senate contends the audit is needed to ensure that President Joe Biden’s win was legitimate.”
 
Georgia
 
Georgia Public Radio: “Here Are All The Lawsuits Challenging Georgia’s New Voting Law.” By Stephen Fowler. (March 30, 2021)
“The fight over Georgia’s sweeping new 98-page voting law has moved from the legislature to the courts, as a number of civil rights groups have filed lawsuits challenging various parts of the omnibus as unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act.”
 
Michigan
 
CNN: “Michigan voting rights battle looms as Republicans plan to side-step Whitmer veto.” By Eric Bradner. (March 31, 2021)
“Michigan is emerging as the latest battleground in Republicans’ nationwide push to restrict voting rights, with GOP officials planning to end-run Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s all-but-certain veto of proposed restrictions and progressives beginning to mobilize to stop them.”
 
New Hampshire
 
AP: “New Hampshire delegation defends voting rights legislation.” By Holly Ramer. (March 31, 2021)
“Members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation are defending their support of sweeping legislation to overhaul U.S. elections against criticism from Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
 
Tennessee
 
Tennessee Lookout: “As GOP shifts strategy from election lawsuits to laws, voting rights advocates warn of Tennessee.” By Nate Rau. (March 31, 2021)
“As Republican-led legislatures continue a systematic push to pass laws they say are aimed at ratcheting up election security, voting rights advocates in Tennessee worry the entire nation could soon look a lot like the Volunteer State where voter turnout and voter registration figures are among the lowest in the country.”
 
Texas
 
NBC: “Texas Senate passes restrictive new voting bill.” By Jane C. Timm. (April 1, 2021)
“The Texas Senate in the early morning hours Thursday passed a package of election bills that would put new restrictions on voting in the state. The final version of the Senate Bill 7 is not yet online for review, but the original version of the bill banned overnight early voting hours and drive-thru early voting, while restricting how election officials handle mail voting.”
 
Virginia
 
ABC 8News: “Gov. Northam approves Voting Rights Act, making Virginia the first state to approve its own.” By Amelia Heymann. (March 31, 2021)
“Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Wednesday that he approved the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, making the commonwealth the first state in the U.S. to enact its own voting rights act. ‘At a time when voting rights are under attack across our country, Virginia is expanding access to the ballot box, not restricting it,’ Northam said.”

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news.

3/30 – Conservatives 💗 the For the People Act

Dear All,

In a blockbuster piece for the New Yorker, Jane Mayer obtained a recording of a private call with a policy adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and leaders of top conservative groups, discussing the strong public support for voting rights, including the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1). Speaking among themselves, they admitted that conservative voters “were actually as supportive as the general public” when given neutral descriptions of the voting legislation. On the call, Kyle McKenzie, a researcher for a Koch-run advocacy group, told attendees “there’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts.” This includes some provisions of the bill, like the public financing of campaigns, that are so popular among voters that there is “no message they can devise [that] effectively counters the argument that billionaires should be prevented from buying elections.”

Despite the high marks that the freedom to vote gets from the American public, efforts continue at the state level to put up barriers to the ballot box. In fact, the governor and state legislature in Georgia even eroded the power of the secretary of state to oversee elections. The media and some state leaders panned this move as punitive against Secretary of State Brad Raffensbergerfor failing to kowtow to Trump’s demands to undermine the 2020 election.

The Georgia bill, SB 202, signed into law late last week, gives state officials the authority to usurp the powers of county election boards. Opponents in the state see this as a power grab that allows Republicans to seize control of how elections are administered in heavily Democratic areas, disqualifying voters and ballots as they see fit. Josh McLaurin, a Democratic representative in the Georgia House told Vox, “I think the provision for state takeover of local election processes is a natural choice for a party whose election policy is driven by Trump’s ‘big lie.”

Meanwhile, in Leader McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, the General Assembly passed a broad measure to increase access to voting. It passed overwhelmingly 91-3 and now goes to Governor Andy Beshear for his signature.

Some housekeeping: we are trying a slightly different format for the VPP National and State updates. In addition to the recap above, we will share a set of national- and state-specific clips that we find helpful in understanding the latest developments in the democracy protection arena. We hope you like it, and as always, we welcome your feedback. 

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Associated Press: “Georgia’s new GOP election law draws criticism, lawsuits” (March 29, 2021)

New York Times: “Corporations, Vocal About Racial Justice, Go Quiet on Voting Rights”(March 29, 2021)

USA Today (Opinion): “We need a voting rights champion like Vanita Gupta at Justice, and fast: GOP ex-officials.” By Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and former U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada and top FBI official Greg Brower (March 29, 2021)

Ms. Magazine: “Law Enforcement Officers Keep Arresting Black Women Elected Officials: The imagery of Georgia Rep. Park Cannon being dragged away this week at the state Capitol follows several arrests in recent years involving elected Black women. Black women on the receiving end say it’s an effort to silence their growing political power.” (March 29, 2021)

NBC: “‘An inflection point: Congress prepares for battle over massive voting rights bill.” (March 28, 2021)

State Updates

Florida

Forbes: “Another Ban On Water For Voters: Sweeping Florida Bill Would Make It A Crime.” (March 29, 2021)

Georgia

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Jolt: To boycott or not to boycott? Georgia Democrats’ new question after SB 202” (March 29, 2021)

New Jersey

CNN: “New Jersey lawmakers approve bills expanding voting rights as GOP-led states move to restrict access” (March 30, 2021)

North Carolina:

The Hill: “North Carolina lawmakers push to repeal Jim Crow-era voter literacy test: They’ve been trying since the 1970s.” (March 30, 2021)

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection

3/22 – Is Georgia a Bellwether?

Dear All,

On Wednesday, the Intelligence & Counterterrorism Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee will be holding a hearing on “State and Local Responses to Domestic Terrorism: The Attack on the U.S. Capitol and Beyond.” Testifying as witnesses will be Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, and District Attorney of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County John Chisholm.

This federal oversight comes as the same lies about the 2020 election that sparked the Capitol attack are being used as the justification for more than 250 bills across 43 states aimed at increasing barriers to voting and curbing voting rights. As we closely monitor that effort, all eyes turn to Georgia, where the House is considering a wide-ranging bill to greatly restrict voting. What happens in Georgia is seen as a potential bellwether for bad bills in other states.

Ahead of the Senate Rules & Administration Committee hearing on the For the People Act (H.R.1) this week, there have been some heated conversations about the implementation of the bill and what it means for the states. Danielle Lange, Voting Rights Director at the Campaign Legal Center, addressed underlying concerns head on and stressed the importance of passing H.R.1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R.4). The Voter Protection Program will have more information to share this week on how H.R.1 would benefit the states.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Southern Heat: With eyes on the omnibus voter suppression bill in the Georgia House, the conversation is also turning toward the more than 40 other states where legislation with similar goals are being pushed. The Georgia bill would “impose identification requirements for absentee voting; limit the use of ballot drop boxes; disqualify most provisional ballots cast outside of voters’ home precincts; [and] make it a misdemeanor to provide food or soft drinks to voters as they wait in line.” With the March 31 adjournment of the Senate fast approaching, there are less than five legislative workdays to finalize any changes to the election-related legislation.

Voting Rights or Bust: When discussing the filibuster with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press this past weekend, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock couldn’t have been clearer on the priority he puts on voting rights. The senator said, “we have to pass voting rights no matter what, and it’s a contradiction to insist on minority rights in the Senate, while refusing to stand up for minority rights in the society.”

State Updates

Nevada: Last week, Democratic state legislators introduced a bill, Assembly Bill 321, to continue universal mail-in-voting in Nevada. Using the record voting participation in 2020 as a proof point, Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson said “we know that it’s safe . . . that it’s been very effective, so I think it made the argument for itself about why it should continue.” Although Republicans and Democrats in the state have generally been on opposite sides of voting legislation this session, when speaking about one of the bill’s authors, Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus said that she believed that the “intent is good.”

Michigan: As efforts to restrict voting access continue in the Great Lake state, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called for expanded access to the ballot. “Michigan voters elected me because I promised to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in Michigan elections,” Benson said. “And that’s exactly what I did in the 2020 elections, which saw millions of voters utilize new expanded voting rights, and was audited more than any election in state history.”

North Carolina: Late last week, Republican State Senators Warren DanielRalph Hise, and Paul Newton filed the Election Integrity Act, Senate Bill 326, which “would prevent the collection of any absentee ballots after 5 p.m. Election Day or the date of the primary regardless of when the voter mailed the ballot.” According to Newton, the “goal of the bill is to bring clarity, simplicity and a clear set of rules to ensure everybody’s on the same footing . . . and the overarching goal is to really restore trust, restore confidence in the election process.” The bill sponsors did not consult the state’s bipartisan election commission on the draft of the bill, and Newton admitted the bill would “likely result in litigation.”

Cruz’s Clarion Call: Senator Ted Cruz pushed state legislators to strengthen their efforts to restrict voting access and increase barriers to voting. According to a recording obtained by the Associated Press, Texas’ junior senator claimed H.R.1 would “[lead] to voting by millions of ‘criminals and illegal aliens.’”

Minority Rule?: In a lengthy Mother Jones piece, Ari Berman explores the national and state-by-state effort to influence who gets elected and how. Berman claims that the “only real way to reverse minority rule is through big structural reforms like abolishing the Electoral College, eliminating the filibuster, ending partisan gerrymandering, enshrining a fundamental right to vote in the Constitution, and giving statehood to Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico so as to make the Senate more reflective of the country.”

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news.

3/17 – VPP Speaks…

Dear All,

Today, as the U.S. Senate took up S.1, the For The People Act, the Voter Protection Program released statements urging its passage. VPP National Director Joanna Lydgate, VPP Chair Ambassador Norman Eisen, and VPP Advisory Board member and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman noted that S.1 builds on the best and most effective practices from states across the country, and that a majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle support the reforms in the bill
 
This legislation would be the most significant democracy reform bill in decades. It would play a major role in defending against an unprecedented effort to suppress voting rights in states throughout the nation, especially in the southern states (according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center).
 
Here is today’s update:

National Update

State by State: In an updated report, the Brennan Center for Justice explored in detail how the more than 250 bills across 43 states are aimed at increasing barriers to voting and curbing voting rights. The Brennan Center pulled no punches in clearly stating the stakes: “Fueled by the Big Lie of widespread voter fraud and often discriminatory in design, these bills have the potential to dramatically reduce voting access, especially for Black and brown voters.” But not all hope is lost. After going state by state and analyzing each restrictive bill, the Brennan Center report concluded “that The For the People Act (H.R.1/S. 1) would thwart virtually every single one” of the bad bills in the states. The nonpartisan law and policy institute also includes a handy—and searchable—table that “outlines each of the major themes of the pending state voter suppression bills and explains how the For the People Act would address them.”
 
CNN also generated a useful summary of the report with an additional section of Q&A, which covers the key states to watch, outlines how these policy changes could alter the outcome of future elections, and discusses why these changes are being pushed now.
 
Makin’ History: Mother Jones’s Ari Bermanauthor of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” broke down why H.R.1 is the most significant legislative effort to reform our democracy in decades. His just over two minute video report is well worth the time.
 
Reports from the South: The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a new report exploring how “the election systems in the Deep South in 2020 suffered from an array of shortcomings, making it harder for many voters—particularly from communities of color—to safely cast their ballots and posing a serious threat to the integrity of our overall democratic system.” SPLC’s latest report “found that voting systems were hampered by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, bureaucratic mismanagement and systemic and well-organized efforts to suppress the vote, intimidate voters and spread online disinformation.” They took a hard look at five particular states in which the organization has offices: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

State Updates

Arizona: Yesterday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah ordered the state’s Republican Party and its attorneys to pay the Secretary of State’s Office $18,238. The agency has said that it had to spend more than $152,000 in defending itself from the state party’s failed attempts to undermine the election outcome. In a blistering ruling, Judge Hannah wrote, “Arizona law gives political parties a privileged position in the electoral process on which our self-government depends. The public has a right to expect the Arizona Republican Party to conduct itself respectfully when it participates in that process. It has failed to do so in this case.”

In replying to the order, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said that the “damage inflicted upon our democracy by frivolous lawsuits and conspiracy theories can’t be measured in dollars.” Despite the Court’s clarity in its ruling, Arizona GOP attorney Jack Wilenchik is confident that “it will be reversed” on appeal.

Michigan: Residents of Genesee County, the fifth most populous county in the state, gathered to protest the efforts to increase barriers to voting and to erode voting rights. The organizer of the event, county Clerk-Register John Gleason, asked, “Why are we not pursuing the path for 100 percent participation (in elections) rather than trying to subdue and limit participation?” and declared, “this was the best election Michigan ever ran.”

Nevada: Yesterday, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske announced that “staff had inventoried the contents of boxes that state Republican leaders delivered to the capital on March 4 and found far fewer complaints of alleged election fraud than state Republican Party Chair Michael McDonald had claimed.” McDonald claimed to have “proof of more than 120,000 instances of voter fraud that called into question the integrity of the 2020 election.” As a reminder, despite repeated claims by McDonald and others, there is no evidence of widespread irregularities or election fraud in Nevada.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania continues “to review its process, taking in feedback from its residents and from other states that laud the vote-by-mail system.” This week, two of Utah’s leading elections officials, Justin Lee, Utah Director of Elections, and Sherrie Swensen, Salt Lake County Clerk, provided insight into their state’s vote-by-mail system to legislators in Pennsylvania who are reviewing vote-by-mail ballots following criticism during the 2020 election. Lee and Swensen declared that “vote by mail has worked well for us in Utah.”

Texas: Governor Greg Abbott touted the recent voter restriction omnibus bill, Senate Bill 7, as “election integrity” legislation while speaking at State Senator Paul Bettencourt’s district office in Houston. Under the headline, “Abbott unveils voting integrity legislation despite low instances of Texas fraud,” a report by the local ABC affiliate noted not all Texans see the bill the same way. Ahead of the event, a protest took place, including Harris County community leaders who see Abbot and the lawmakers behind Senate Bill 7 as seeking to suppress the vote.

Virginia: Yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam announced that he “restored the civil rights of more than 69,000 Virginians” using new eligibility criteria that mirrors a proposed change to the Constitution of Virginia that would automatically restore voting rights to individuals upon completion of their sentence of incarceration. According to a CNN report, under current law, “Anyone convicted of a felony loses an array of civil rights, including the right to vote . . . The state Constitution gives the governor the sole power to restore most of those civil rights. This could change in the coming years. During session this year, legislators approved a constitutional amendment that automatically restores the civil rights of any individual, upon completion of their sentence of incarceration. The constitutional amendment has to be passed again by the General Assembly in 2022 before going to a voter referendum.

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news.

3/15 – Filibuster (and Georgia) On My Mind

Today, the New York Times has the definitive piece on H.R.1, the For the People Act, and the  current voting rights fight, calling it “the most consequential political struggle over access to the ballot since the civil rights era, a fight increasingly focused on a far-reaching federal overhaul of election rules in a last-ditch bid to offset a wave of voting restrictions sweeping Republican-controlled state legislatures.”

While VPP Advisory Board member and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman called for bipartisan support for H.R.1 and other pro-democracy measures in a Newsweek op-ed, the Times reports that this entire effort “increasingly appears to be on a collision course with the filibuster.”

On the 60-vote threshold in the U.S. Senate, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, and VPP Chair Ambassador Norm Eisen noted in an op-ed for USA Today last week: “There’s no time to wait while state-level suppression bills gain steam. The Senate’s anti-majoritarian filibuster rules should not stand in the way of H.R. 1’s consideration.” The trio go on to remind us that the filibuster rules have “a long history of propping up racist policies, and if they clear the way for a new wave of voter suppression disproportionately targeting Black and brown Americans, that shameful history will add a new chapter.”

As democracy denial continues to run rampant among some, including former President Donald Trump, VPP Advisory Board member and former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer and VPP Chair Eisen wrote that they “believe the combination of civil cases and a pair of rapidly accelerating state criminal investigations make for a potent force to combat the ex-president’s ongoing wrongdoing,” in a Washington Post op-ed.

National Update

Now or Never?: In regard to voting rights, Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote, called the current dynamics at the state and federal level “a once-in-a-generation moment.” For H.R.1 to get to President Joe Biden’s desk, supporters of the bill will either need 60 votes in the Senate or “will have to convince a handful of moderate holdouts to change the [filibuster] rules, at least for this legislation.” There is at least one area of bipartisan agreement right now: the stakes couldn’t be higher.
 
Voting Rights First: Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams told CNN’s Jake Tapper that, while she doesn’t believe the Senate needs to fully eliminate the filibuster, they ought to carve an exemption into the filibuster for bills protecting democracy. 
 
Both Sides: VPP’s Whitman wrote in Newsweek that the Big Lie “continue[s] to put our public safety at risk—just as we saw unfold on the conspiracy-fueled January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. If we do not act quickly, we risk continued harm to the bedrock of our democracy: free and fair elections.” Whitman calls for Democrats and Republicans to come together in protecting the freedom to vote through legislation like H.R. 1 and on accountability efforts like a commission on the January 6 attack.
 
From the White House to the Big House? While former President Donald Trump was able to successfully delay personal accountability while occupying the White House, he is POTUS no more. VPP’s Ayer and Eisen offer that: “Trump is a private citizen. His friends in Congress are less reliably loyal. He must defend himself. This is not to say that exacting justice will be easy — as a private businessman, Trump was notorious for using the law as a weapon.” The pair outline the combination of civil cases and state criminal investigations that indicate legal woes in the ex-President’s future, before signing off with the reminder to us all that “It is not easy to be involved in politics if you are broke and in jail.”

State Updates

Georgia: In USA Today, Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown, co-founders of the Black Voters Matter Fund, warned that voting restriction measures in Georgia may soon come to other states around the country. Citing the biblical adage that “to whom much is given, much is required,” they laid down the line. “Black voters literally risked their lives to vote during this pandemic” and “Black voters helped to save a democracy that has barely ever saved [them].” The co-founders close their piece by demanding President Biden honor the legacy of Bloody Sunday by “using every tool at his disposal” to “ end the filibuster and pass these two vital voting rights bills.”

Additionally, Georgia-based corporations are under increasing pressure to join the fight for voting rights, with an organized campaign targeting Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, Aflac, and other Georgia-based companies

North Carolina: This week, when asked about potential bills to limit voting in the Tar Heel State, Republican State Senate leader Phil Berger said that we’ll “see some legislation.” North Carolina was home to some of the most bitter fights over voting in the past decade. While states like Georgia and Arizona are considering bills to limit absentee by mail voting, North Carolina has been quiet in 2021 -– so far. As the local NPR affiliate reported, “everyone is waiting for that to change.” According to Berger, it’s no longer a matter of if — it’s only a matter of when and what.

Texas: Texas legislators introduced a slew of restrictive election bills, taking particular aim at early voting. More than two dozen bills are under consideration in the legislature, including efforts to tighten ID requirements and voter rolls, limit early voting, and increase the penalties for errors. NBC reported that, “the broad interest—and a mandate from the governor to prioritize election legislation—makes changes to Texas’ election law likely this year.”

Social Media

Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news!

3/10 – The Devil’s Congressional Pin?

Yesterday, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine joined VPP Chair Norm Eisen in an op-ed for USA Today warning that there’s no time to wait while state-level voter suppression bills gain momentum. America may regress to historic levels of disenfranchisement unless dedicated ranks stand up to protect access to the ballot box by taking actions like passing H.R. 1, the For the People Act. 

Talk around reforming the Senate filibuster continues to pick up steam and, along with it, confusion. As with many consequential decisions of the upper chamber in this Congress, one figure has outsized influence on the outcome right now: Senator Joe Manchin. Advocates for reform were given some hope when Manchin seemed to signal a path forward, but today he made himself perfectly clear (at least for now) that he supports the 60 vote threshold. Given the history of the Senate as a “kill switch,” opponents of the filibuster point out that using this tool to prevent the needed expansion of voting rights would be rolling back the clock to voter suppression of the past. Opponents of H.R. 1 aren’t convinced.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Regression Risk: “HR 1 offers a stark alternative to this regression to Jim Crow, building on the best and most effective practices from states around the country — red and blue — to strengthen our multiracial, inclusive democracy,” wrote FroshRacine, and Eisen in USA Today. “There’s no time to wait while state-level suppression bills gain steam. The Senate’s anti-majoritarian filibuster rules should not stand in the way of HR 1’s consideration. They have a long history of propping up racist policies, and if they clear the way for a new wave of voter suppression disproportionately targeting Black and brown Americans, that shameful history will add a new chapter.”

Manchin’s Machinations: Speaking with Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd on Sunday, Senator Joe Manchin seemed to indicate that he would support requiring a “talking filibuster” if a senator insisted on the higher threshold of 60 votes to pass legislation, instead of a simple majority. When asked by a reporter about his comments on Sunday, the senior senator from West Virginia replied in frustration: “I want to make it very clear to everybody: There’s no way that I would vote to prevent the minority from having input into the process in the Senate. That means protecting the filibuster . . . It must be a process to get to that 60-vote threshold.”

51>60: Is a tool with a history of being used to enforce racist laws in fact racist itself? Former deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry ReidAdam Jentleson, has a new book out tracing “the history of the filibuster, which started as a tool of Southern senators upholding slavery and then later became a mechanism to block civil rights legislation.” Jentleson’s book describes its use by both parties.

H.R.1: NBC News takes a deep dive into the 791-page bill and explores what it actually does, including how it would make it easier for voters to vote and stay on the rolls, restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences, reform gerrymandering, increase election cybersecurity, and create public financing for congressional elections.

The Devil Went Down to Congress?: While speaking to Fox News, Senator Mike Lee issued a warning of biblical proportions on H.R.1. “Everything about this bill is rotten to the core. This is a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself,” said Senator Lee. It’s unclear if the senator knew that the bill’s author was Rep. John Sarbanes who has attended the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore, MD since childhood.

State Updates

Arizona: On Monday, the State Senate voted along party lines to “to require voters to include identification paperwork with their mailed ballots, insisting their motives aren’t racist as Democrats contended the measure would have an outsized impact on voters of color.” State Rep. Reginald Bolding, who is opposed to the effort, said that “there is a systemic effort in limiting the amount of people going to the polls.” Sen. Kelli Townsend, who voted to pass the bill, claimed that the Senate minority was asking them to “look the other way when there are irregularities.” Despite repeated audits in Maricopa County of the election results, there is no evidence of anything close to widespread irregularities.

Staci Burk, a Pinal County resident, shared in a Facebook post over the weekend that she purportedly saw “ballots shredded and in dumpsters behind the Maricopa County Ballot tabulation center” and declaring “physical evidence collected.” In response, Megan Gilbertson, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department, noted that those “ballots weren’t cast in the 2020 general election. State law requires counties to keep all ballots for 24 months after an election is canvassed.” Gilbertson also posited that they might be sample ballots which are printed on the same paper as the real thing. “The ballot shown in the picture could be any one of those things. What it is not is an official voted ballot from the November General Election. The 2.1 million voted ballots from the November General Election are safe and accounted for in a vault, under 24/7 surveillance,” she said.

Michigan: Yesterday, the State House passed a series of election reforms including those that were recommended by the auditor general in 2019. According to the Detroit Free Press, the wide-ranging measures include: a pair of bills that require voters with unknown birth dates and those who haven’t voted in a long time to take steps to ensure their registration isn’t cancelled. Some Democratic lawmakers are accusing their Republican colleagues of crafting legislation based on misinformation about the security of Michigan’s election. Other bills passed by the House seek to ensure clerks  stay current with their election training, consolidate precincts, require clerks to create a permanent absent voter list, and expand the number of voting jurisdictions that establish designated counting boards to process and count absentee ballots.

Georgia: Our nation’s oldest living president spoke out against the efforts of the State Senate to limit voting rights. A former governor of Georgia, President Jimmy Carter, released a statement, saying, in part, “I am disheartened, saddened, and angry. Many of the proposed changes are reactions to allegations of fraud for which no evidence was produced—allegations that were, in fact, refuted through various audits, recounts, and other measures. The proposed changes appear to be rooted in partisan interests, not in the interests of all Georgia voters.”

Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams tweeted that the bill, SB 1485, is “is a coordinated attack on voting rights. GOP-led legislatures in GA, AZ & NH are pushing dozens of bills to make it harder for people of color & young people to vote. We voted in Nov & instead of listening, they are trying to shut us out of the process.” The legislation, which moves next to the Georgia House, “would get rid of no-excuse absentee voting and limit those who can apply to vote by mail” and “curtail the criteria for absentee voting to those aged over 65, the physically disabled and military or overseas voters, as well as put in place other restrictions.”

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3/8 Ex-Wives for Democracy Protection

Today, the U.S Supreme Court rejected the final challenge brought by former President Donald Trump in his quest to overturn  the 2020 election results. Lies, like those used to justify the lawsuit rejected today, incited the rioters who attacked our Capitol on January 6 and were recently rebuked by one of the ex-president’s top allies, Senator Lindsey Graham. The FBI continues to meticulously track down suspected participants in the deadly insurrection, sometimes with help from their former spouses, and has already arrested 300.

Yesterday, on the 56th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to expand voting access and ensure that every vote is counted. The order comes on the heels of the House’s passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1), a bill that protects voters’ rights and enhances election security, and in the face of more than 250 bills in state legislatures throughout the country aiming to restrict voting access. This year’s commemoration of the violent attack by Alabama state troopers on peaceful civil rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge is the first time the annual event took place without the late Rep. John Lewis, who was among the leaders of the march and who suffered a brutal beating there at the hands of police.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

SCOTUS Rejects Trump (Again): Former President Donald Trump’s appeal of lower court rulings that upheld Wisconsin’s handling of mail-in ballots was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court today. This was not an unexpected result, but significant nonetheless, as it represents the end of legal efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Trump lost nearly every one of his dangerous attempts to  nullify the will of the voters through litigation.

Voting Executive Order: President Joe Biden’s Executive Order signed on Sunday directs federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information. The order includes directing heads of all federal agencies to submit a “strategic plan” to the White House within 200 days on how their departments can promote voter registration and participation. The order also requires the federal chief information officer to coordinate across federal agencies to “improve or modernize” federal websites and digital services like Vote.gov that provide election and voting information. A senior administration official said the executive order was meant to show that the President was doing what he could to support expanding access to the ballot box.

“Bloody Sunday” in Memory of Hero: It was 56 years ago that Rep. John Lewis, then 25 years old, had his skull cracked by Alabama state troopers for peacefully marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  It was a month earlier, in 1965, that “a white state trooper shot and killed Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young voting rights activist, in Marion, Ala. His murder sparked protesters to organize the Selma-to-Alabama marches.” This weekend was the first commemoration of the annual event since Rep. Lewis’s death and comes as leaders in Washington are working toward re-introducing H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, later this year.

No Evidence: In response to former President Trump’s speech last week at CPAC, in which he falsely claimed that there was widespread voting fraud in the November elections, Senator Lindsey Graham spoke out against those lies. Senator Graham stated it clearly: “I haven’t seen evidence of a bunch of dead people voting. I haven’t seen evidence of people under 18 voting in Georgia, like was claimed.”

Ex-Wives Join FBI Hunt: The FBI has made nearly 300 arrests of suspected participants in the January 6 insurrection; it expects that up to 500 rioters remain at large. Mobilizing across 55 of its 56 field offices in the effort, the agency has also expanded its “wanted” gallery of more than 200 suspects. Aiding in the search is Forrest Rogers, who runs the twitter handle @1600PennPoochRogers said it makes their search easier that many of the rioters “didn’t wear masks.” Once a potential identification is made and contact information found, Rogers swiftly passes them along to the FBI. One of the types of people who has been most helpful to Rogers: “ex-wives.”

Misinformation Campaign Targets Latinos: On issues ranging from voting to COVID, Latino Americans were the targets of a broad “largely undetected movement to depress turnout and spread disinformation about Democrat Joe Biden,” conducted on social media, often through automated accounts.  The effort is particularly hard to spot because “misinformation originally promoted in English is translated in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua and elsewhere, then reaches Hispanic voters in the U.S. via communications from their relatives in those countries” and is “often shared via private WhatsApp and Facebook chats and text chains.” Although social media platforms have cracked down on misinformation more recently, this disinformation campaign appears to be continuing on a range of additional topics.

State Updates

Arizona: In the wake of Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason’s ruling last month to allow the Senate access to Maricopa County election equipment and the county’s 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election, the State Senate is still working to find a place to store the subpoenaed ballots. Last Wednesday, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers told Senate President Karen Fann in a letter “that the ballots had been loaded onto trucks and were ready to go, even including a photo of one truck filled with ballots.”

A national report compiled by Rep. Zoe Lofgren “lists public social media posts from Members of the U.S. House of Representatives who were sworn-in to office in January 2021 and who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election,” including a state-by-state breakdown. Out of the nearly 2,000 page report, Arizona’s portion of the report  is the longest at 257 pages, including 177 pages from Rep. Paul Gosar, which seemed to be the longest of any individual covered in the document. Reps. Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko were also prominently featured.

Georgia: The Georgia Senate approved a sweeping election bill, SB 241,  today that would constrain who may vote with an absentee ballot. The bill, which passed the Senate in a 29-20 vote, requires voters to be 65 years old or older, absent from their precinct, observing a religious holiday, providing constant care for someone with a physical disability, working “for the protection of the health, life, or safety of the public during the entire time the polls are open,” or be an overseas or military voter to qualify for an absentee ballot.  The bill aims to undo a 2005 law allowing no-excuse absentee voting. It heads next to the Georgia House.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law released a new resource that details how legislative efforts to restrict access to voting will disproportionately impact Georgia’s Black voters. In its in-depth report, the Center concludes: “The state is considering restricting mail voting in response to a shift in the racial demographics of the voters who use it, but wants to keep mail voting available for older, whiter mail voters. The same is true for early in-person voting: Republicans in the Peach State want to end Sunday voting, a day disproportionately popular among Black voters.”

Attorney John Floyd, the Georgia prosecutor enlisted by District Attorney Fani Willis to help with the probe exploring former President Donald Trump, is a top expert on racketeering with a national profile. This is seen as a sign that “racketeering could feature prominently in the investigation.”

Wisconsin: Last week, some leaders in the State Senate “started circulating a package of ten bills that would, among other requested changes: stiffen the criteria to vote as indefinitely confined. Under current law, people who self-elect that they cannot get to the polls because of age, illness, infirmity or disability do not have to provide a photo ID to vote absentee.” Yesterday, Senator Melissa Agard and Senator Duey Stroebel discussed some of the proposed changes to the state’s laws governing access to voting on the local television station WBAY-TV.

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3/3 – For the People Act, Scene 1

Today, the House of Representatives is set to pass the For the People Act (H.R. 1), a bill that will protect voters’ rights and enhance election security. Yesterday, H.R. 1 lead sponsor Rep. John Sarbanes, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon joined VPP Advisory Board member and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and VPP Chair Ambassador Norm Eisen for a press briefing to discuss the impact the landmark legislation will have on the states and the growing support for the bill from state leaders.  Although former Vice President Mike Pence pushed the lie that there was widespread voter fraud in an op-ed opposing H.R.1, Eisenurged leaders yesterday on the call  to “keep an open mind as to what will happen next in the Senate. Anybody who is prematurely predicting the demise of this critical bill is not paying attention to all the evidence.”

Today, the Capitol Police announced that they uncovered intelligence about a possible plot by militia to breach the U.S. Capitol tomorrow as part of a fringe conspiracy theory, largely pushed by supporters of QAnon, that former President Donald Trump will regain power tomorrow, March 4.  This follows on the heels of testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray before the Senate yesterday that the January 6 insurrection was “an inspiration to a number of terrorist extremists,” both domestically and internationally.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

The VRA at SCOTUS: Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court justices asked skeptical questions about the need for restrictive voting laws during oral arguments in two cases concerning new impositions on Arizona voters: Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee. Seen as an important test for the landmark Voting Right Act, these cases may decide the fate of Section 2 of the VRA, one of the remaining mechanisms in federal law to combat voting laws that discriminate on the basis of race. Experts interpreted the Justices’ questions as sending mixed signals over which restrictions will stand under their application of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. These cases are expected to be decided before July.

H.R. 1: Today, the House is expected to pass the For the People Act (H.R. 1), a bill that will protect voters’ rights and enhance election security. If signed into law, this sweeping election protection bill would remove many barriers to the right to vote, reform the gerrymandering process through independent redistricting, require the release of tax returns for presidential candidates, and ensure greater electoral security. 

Echoing those opposing H.R. 1, former Vice President Mike Pence published an op-ed in the conservative outlet The Daily Signal, repeating the lie that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 elections—a claim that his administration’s own attorney general disputed at the end of last year, declaring that he had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

Plot Against U.S. Capitol: Today, the Capitol Police announced that intelligence information pointed to a “possible plot” to attack the Capitol tomorrow. Followers of a fringe conspiracy theory, widely pushed by supporters of QAnon, believe that on March 4, former President Donald Trump will regain power. The date carries significance as the time when U.S. presidents had been inaugurated until 1933, when in inauguration was changed to January 20.

FBI Director Speaks: In his first public remarks since the January 6 attack on the Capitol, FBI Director Chris Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that those attacks were “an inspiration to a number of terrorist extremists,” both domestically and internationally. Despite claims from some, he noted that there is  “no evidence” that Antifa played a role. He called the insurgency “domestic terrorism” and warned that this threat was “metastasizing across the country.”

New (Real) Research on Fake News:  The Cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University released a report  finding that while misinformation —  so-called “fake news” —  gets more engagement on Facebook, it’s largely a phenomenon of right-wing sources. The research outfit found that “fake news” from the far-right doesn’t suffer from the “misinformation penalty” that news sources from other places across the political spectrum face.

State Updates

Arizona: Yesterday, the Arizona Senate voted to pass a measure to restrict the state’s popular  “permanent early vote list.” The measure would purge registered voters from the list who did not vote in four consecutive elections, including both primary and general elections. The list allows voters to automatically receive an Early Voting Ballot for every election in which they are eligible to vote. Following Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason’s ruling last week to allow the Senate access to Maricopa County election equipment and the county’s 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election, the controversy continues. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors met yesterday for an executive session that was closed to the public to discuss what was happening regarding the 2020 presidential election and the State Senate. The issues have yet to be resolved, but even after the Arizona Senate successfully sued for access to 2.1 million ballots, it has nowhere to store them.

Georgia: House Speaker David Ralston announced a plan to offer free Georgia ID cards that could be used for travel, banking, and voting. The cards would be used to potentially comply with the strict ID requirements that House Bill 532 would impose on absentee voting. Despite strong opposition, a measure to restrict voting rights passed the Georgia House along party lines by a vote of 97 to 72. It has been noted that the passage of this bill would have an outsized impact on Black voters who make up about one-third of the state’s population. District Attorney Fani Willis’ probe exploring former President Donald Trump and his associates is moving toward a grand jury seeking witnesses, subpoenas, and documents that may shed light on the pressure exerted by Trump and associates on Georgia officials in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. 

Michigan: On Tuesday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the completion of the most comprehensive series of post-election audits in the state’s history. “It is time for leaders across the political spectrum to tell their constituents the truth, that our election was the most secure in history, and the results accurately reflect the will of Michigan’s voters,” Benson said.

Pennsylvania: Despite the trend of other Republican Party organizations at the state level censuring those Members of Congress who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, the Pennsylvania GOP narrowly voted to not censure Senator Pat Toomey, who voted to convict the former president.  However, by a narrow margin of 128 to 124 they voted for a “strong rebuke” of the sitting senator. They did proceed with censuring Governor Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and other statewide officials. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a letter to the editor from Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania,  calling for passage of the  For the People Act, to ensure that all the state’s registered voters would be able to vote.

Wisconsin: After considering complications stemming from the COVID-19 crisis, special voting deputies will once again be allowed to deploy to nursing homes under new guidance that was given yesterday by the state’s Elections Commission for the upcoming election on April 6. The decision by the Commission also meant that they may also more frequently contact voters whose addresses may have changed so as to more easily resolve  instances in which a voter has been wrongly thought to have moved. This is all while some state lawmakers have started circulating a set of 10 bills that would increase barriers to voting in the state.

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3/1 March Madness

Federal and state initiatives to expand and strengthen voter protection laws continue, as do federal and state efforts to suppress the vote propelled in no small part by baseless voter fraud claims. Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), perpetuating the “Big Lie” narrative. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two voting-related cases that could gut the Voting Rights Act. As Congress continues to debate the For the People Act (H.R. 1), the House is scheduled to hold a floor vote on the election-protection bill this Wednesday.

Tomorrow, March 2nd at 1:30pm ET, the Voter Protection Program will host a press call to discuss the impact of H.R. 1 on the states, especially those confronted with proposed  voter suppression legislation. The call will feature Rep. John Sarbanes, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon and will be joined by VPP Advisory Board member and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and VPP chair Ambassador Norm Eisen. To join the call, please contact Emma Thomas, emma.thomas@berlinrosen.com.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

SCOTUS Updates: Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases concerning new impositions on Arizona voters: Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee. Both cases call for the removal of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Voting rights advocates explain that a ruling in favor of gutting Section 2 could further dismantle protections against racial discrimination at the polls. Several influential officials at the state and federal levels have voiced support for weakening Section 2 or removing it entirely. Voting rights advocates worry that the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority will ultimately gut the VRA, paving the way for further state-level restrictions.

H.R. 1: This week, the House prepares to advance the For the People Act (H.R. 1), the sweeping election protection billLast week, during a House committee hearing on the billopponents voiced concerns about its impact, while supporters sponsoring the bill said the proposed reforms are not controversial, but rather necessary to protect the functioning of our nation’s democracy. The bill was a major point of discussion at CPAC this weekend, with many speakers branding the bill as a “power-grab” by Democrats. The bill is expected to pass in the House, where a floor vote will be held this Wednesday. The bill’s prospects in the Senate remain to be seen, with some predicting that the rules requiring 60 votes to move legislation could come under pressure if this vital bill is filibustered and prevented from receiving the up or down majority vote it deserves.

CPAC: Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) over the weekend, former President Donald Trump continued to make false claims about the November 3 election outcome, and attacked his perceived adversaries, including members of his own party who have criticized him or voted for his impeachment or conviction. Baseless conspiracies of election fraud remained a topic of discussion during CPAC, with no fewer than seven panels devoted to the topic.

The Big Lie‘s Many Layers: As the nation continues to explore what led to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, some observers are focusing their attention on state-level developments. Recent analysis has uncovered that disinformation spread at the state level had an equal—if not greater—impact on fueling citizens’ anger and propensity for violence about false allegations of voter fraud. Just as national leaders like former President Trump, members of his administration, his campaign officials, and members of Congress spread misinformation about the 2020 election on a national level, state-wide and local officials did so as well. The spread of misinformation at all levels of government allowed falsehoods to take greater root, and ultimately cultivated enough anger to pave the way for the violence of the January 6th attack.

Protections for the Court:  Last Wednesday, the House Appropriations subcommittee disclosed a request from federal judges asking Congress to include $113 million in the American Rescue Plan. The request for special funding seeks to protect court buildings and court employees from being harmed if another attack similar to the January 6th insurrection were to happen again. The unusual request signals that the nation still faces the threat of disinformation-fueled violence.  The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed the House on Saturday morning, but does not include provisions for the requested $113 million.

State Updates

Arizona: Even after numerous audits found that Arizona’s 2020 elections were safe, secure, and free of fraud, a judge ruled Friday that the State Senate’s subpoenas requesting access to Maricopa County’s 2020 election records were “legal and enforceable.” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason’s ruling will allow the Senate access to Maricopa County election equipment and the county’s 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election. Meanwhile, state lawmakers introduced a new proposal to amend the state’s Constitution to give lawmakers final review over election results. Current Arizona law gives independent state election officials final review of results—by transferring that power to lawmakers, the proposal would allow for political bias to unfairly interfere with the election verification process.  

Georgia: Efforts to restrict voting in Georgia are making their way through the legislature, and a number of proposed changes advanced late last week. On Friday, the Senate Ethics Committee approved a bill that would end automatic voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting in the state. The House Election Integrity Committee passed similar voting restrictions last Wednesday, approving a bill that would shorten the amount of time before runoff elections, require photo IDs for absentee voting, and restrict ballot drop box locations. After considerable pushback, the committee struck an especially troubling piece of the legislation package that would have eliminated Sunday voting. This restriction would have affected Georgia voters who participate in “Souls to the Polls” events, an overwhelming number of whom are Black voters.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s probe into former President Trump’s effort to overturn election results in the state continues on, with District Attorney Fani Willis urging patience as prosecutors evaluate the evidence diligently and fairly. Meanwhile, two other counties in the state have filed to recover legal fees stemming from the Trump campaign’s frivolous lawsuits—based on unfounded claims of voter fraud—to overturn the state’s election results.

Michigan: This Thursday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers is expected to consider a petition calling for the formation of a new “Patriot Party” in the state. Some of former President Trump’ supporters have called for the creation of a national, pro-Trump Patriot Party to rival the GOP establishment, which has traditionally espoused more moderate platforms. The petition in Michigan is the first-of-its-kind nationwide—if approved, it could pave the way for other states to form their own in-state Patriot Party. The Patriot Party’s proposed platforms have been scrutinized for their dangerous uplifting of conspiracy theories, misinformation, and extremist views. 

Virginia: State lawmakers in Virginia are on track to approve legislation that would significantly boost statewide voting protections. The first-of-its-kind in the South, the Virginia Voting Rights Act seeks to address the controversial 2013 Supreme Court ruling that resulted in changes to voting laws in states with histories of racial discrimination are not subject to federal approval. Following the Court decision, many Southern states and cities introduced more voter restrictions, photo ID requirements, voter roll purges, and polling locations cuts. By introducing this comprehensive voting protection legislation, Virginia breaks from that practice by making voting more accessible. The bill requires the Virginia Attorney General to approve any changes to voting laws, allowing the state AG to sue if changes disproportionately affect voters based on their race or minority group status. It would also require election officials to provide voting materials in foreign languages and would prohibit at-large municipal elections if they hamper the voting power of racial minorities.

Wisconsin: Newly released data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission revealed that a conservative group nearly succeeded in purging 17,000 residents from voter rolls ahead of the 2020 presidential election. In 2019, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty almost succeeded in removing 232,000 voters who had changed addresses  from the state’s voter registry. Of the voters flagged for removal, nearly 17,000 ended up confirming that they wished to remain registered at the same address. If the 2019 purge had been approved, these 17,000 residents would not have been able to vote in the 2020 election—ultimately 11,000 of these voters did indeed cast a ballot in the 2020 election The measure, which was blocked by lower courts back in 2019, is currently pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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2/24 H.R. 1 On Deck


With misinformation about the 2020 election continuing to spread, and with questions remaining about the January 6th insurrection, Congress is taking steps to explore that terrible event, its prelude and its aftermath. This week, and next, Congress is holding multiple hearings to dig into election misinformation and the violence that followed. Congress is also preparing to advance the sweeping election-protection bill, H.R. 1, next week.

In an op-ed for USA Today, Voter Protection Program communications director Lizzie Ulmer joined outside counsels to the VPP Ambassador Norm Eisen and Katherine Reisner to address the persistence of misinformation, and what must be done to prevent falsehood-fueled violence. They emphasized the importance of refusing to allow leaders to continue to promote the Big Lie that the election was stolen, and of pursuing legal, regulatory, and public discourse avenues to hold those who do accountable. “All of us who believe in the truth must be more committed to it than those sustaining the lie,” they wrote.

National Update

SCOTUS Updates: Next week, the Supreme Court will hear two voting-related cases that will potentially put key components of the Voting Rights Act on the chopping block. The cases, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, concern new impositions on Arizona voters: one suit takes issue with a law requiring voting officials to completely discard ballots cast in the wrong precinct and the other addresses new prohibitions on “ballot collection.” With these two cases on deck, voting rights advocates worry that the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a ruling that will gut what remains of the Voting Rights Act’s protections against racial discrimination at the polls.

Senate Revisits the Riot: Yesterday, the Senate held a hearing to evaluate the security failures during the deadly January 6th riot. Facing questions about the security breakdown that allowed rioters to successfully storm the Capitol building, three former top Capitol security officials gave conflicting testimony. Some blamed failures on intelligence agencies, while others blamed members of the Capitol Police itself for the security breach. As Congress continues its investigation into the January 6th attack, the composition of the independent commission investigating the insurrection has come under scrutiny. Republicans demanded equal representation on the commission as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepared an initial discussion draft contemplating seven Democrats and four Republicans on the commission.

DeJoy in the Hot Seat: Today, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform questioned Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and other U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Board members about delivery delays and the financial crises facing the national mail service. The USPS came under fire for significant delays in delivering absentee and mail-in ballots among other essential mail in August of last year. The delay in delivery time was especially concerning in states where ballots would be tossed if not received by tight deadlines after Election Day. Thankfully, state AGs and other litigants obtained nationwide injunctions and court supervision significantly mitigating the harm. The hearing exploring USPS’s financial crises and delivery failures comes as President Biden announced today that he will nominate a former USPS executive, a voting-rights advocate, and a former postal union leader to the USPS governing board.

H.R. 1 Progresses: The For The People Act is slated for debate in the House next week, and the Committee on House Administration has scheduled this first hearing on the bill for tomorrow. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows will provide testimony on the election reform package along with Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams and Professor Guy-Uriel Charles. Bellows has voiced public support for the monumental voting rights legislation, reaffirming that its provisions are necessary to protect voting rights, limit big-spending in politics, and reduce undemocratic gerrymandering processes. With the bill on deck in both chambers, the legislation has generated heartening approval as well as significant pushback. Today, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh led a coalition of 21 state Attorneys General in support of the bill. This week, 15 Republican Secretaries of State signed a letter opposing the act, and former Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli is leading a newly-announced 5 million dollar campaign against H.R. 1. The bill is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House, but its passage in the Senate is still unclear given the intense Republican opposition and the current filibuster rules requiring 60 votes to move legislation from floor debate to a vote.

253 and Counting: Yesterday, the Brennan Center for Justice released an update to their report on state efforts on voting rights. According to the analysis, actors in 43 states have introduced 253 bills this year alone to restrict access to the ballot box. The report illustrates the unprecedented scale and intensity of the efforts to suppress the vote.

Cable Carriers Criticized: Today, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on cable news’ role in spreading misinformation related to the 2020 election. The hearing explored how cable news networks and cable providers may have contributed to the January 6th insurrection by featuring commentary that increased viewers’ anger and warped their sense of the truth. On Monday, members of the panel sent a letter to AT&T, Verizon, Roku, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Charter, DISH, Cox, Spectrum, Altice, Hulu, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) about their decision to carry Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN which repeatedly parroted false claims of election fraud in the months leading up to the election and the January 6th Capitol attack. The hearing has received pushback from right-leaning channels alleging that whatever content they choose to feature is protected under the First Amendment and is therefore off-limits for censorship. Members of the panel stated that the purpose of the hearing is to explore whether cable providers bear responsibility for the content featured on networks they choose to host.

Lawsuits Abound: Dominion Voting Systems filed multiple defamation lawsuits against high-profile figures who falsely advocated that the election was fraud-filled and “stolen” from former President Trump. So far, the voting technology company has sued Trump campaign election lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, as well as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Now, Dominion has pledged to file more lawsuits against individuals who disparaged the company’s name by spreading lies about election fraud. The company stated it was “not ruling anyone out.”

State Updates

Arizona: Two independently-conducted audits released on Tuesday confirmed that the 2020 election in Arizona was fraud-free. The latest results reaffirmed the conclusion of previous audits– that the state’s election process was devoid of fraud, cheating, or illegitimacy. These newly released audits come on the heels of Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear an election lawsuit from Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward, claiming she was denied due process when challenging the state’s election results. Ward’s attempt to block the state’s certification was based on the same argument of election fraud that multiple audits– including those released Tuesday– have since been disproven.

Georgia: As multiple bills to restrict voting make their way through the Georgia legislature, former Senator Kelly Loeffler launched a new voter engagement organization to rival those that worked to galvanize voters for the 2020 election. In 2018, Stacey Abrams launched Fair Fight to help engage minority voters who have faced decades of voter intimidation and disenfranchisement. Loeffler’s group, Greater Georgia, is intending to target those who feel their voice is unheard, though it is yet unclear which specific group of voters the group is seeking to engage.

Kansas: Lawmakers in Kansas are looking to make the deadline for mail-in ballots to count in the state’s elections more restrictive. Current law allows for a “trickle-in” period, where ballots can be legally counted if they are postmarked by 7 pm on Election Day and arrive at the county elections office up to three days after election day. The proposed changes would significantly shorten this window, requiring that ballots arrive by 5 pm the day after Election Day. Although post office delays– not voter fraud– are the main reason why ballots may arrive a few days late, lawmakers supporting these latest restrictions argue that shortening the trickle-in period would increase confidence in tallying procedures.

Michigan: On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released criminal charges against two men who threatened public officials over election results. Clinton Stewart was charged for leaving a threatening voicemail for Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens, and Daniel Thompson was charged for threatening phone calls he made to Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Senator Debbie Stabenow. Nessel issued a powerful statement about these latest charges: “To those who think they can threaten public officials by hiding behind a keyboard or phone, we will find you and we will prosecute you, to the fullest extent of the law. No elected official should have to choose between doing their job and staying safe.”

Nevada: On Monday, state lawmakers in Nevada unveiled a new bill to require proof of identity at the polls. According to the bill, the Department of Motor Vehicles would have to issue voter identification cards to Nevada voters who don’t have a driver’s license. The bill would also require Nevada’s Secretary of State to crosscheck voter registration lists to ensure dead people are not on the lists, addressing the Trump campaign’s unfounded allegations that 1,500 ballots belonging to deceased voters were counted in Nevada.

Tennessee: Lawmakers in the Tennessee State House have introduced a bill to allow fingerprint technology for voter identity verification. Under the proposed bill, the state election commission and county election commissions would be permitted to match fingerprints of voters against existing state databases to confirm their identity. The bill does not lay out the logistical steps for how the law would be implemented or enforced.

Wisconsin: State lawmakers have introduced a new package of legislation that doubles down on the Trump campaign’s baseless allegations of election fraud by implementing sweeping restrictions on mail-in voting. The bill would restrict who is eligible to vote by mail by tightening the requirements for which voters can be considered “indefinitely confined” and therefore able to vote absentee. The bill would also prohibit the automatic sending of absentee ballots to these voters, instead opting to automatically send a ballot application. Among other changes, absentee voters would have to present their photo identification anytime they apply for an absentee ballot– current law only requires voters to present photo identification one time.

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2/22 SCOTUS Decision Day

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the two most important  remaining 2020-election related cases (Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Degraffenreid and Corman v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party). In response, Ambassador Norm Eisen, outside counsel to the Voter Protection Program, issued a statement stressing that the Court’s decision “underscores what we know to be true: that election was safe, secure, and accurate,” and “should remove the unwarranted shadow cast over Pennsylvania’s election administration–and the 2020 election writ large.” As to the three Supreme Court justices who dissented from the decision to deny certiorari to these cases, Eisen calls this “a reminder that our elections remain vulnerable to future interference from many directions.” As Forbes notes, the Court is still considering whether to hear several post-election cases including some of Sidney Powell’s other “Kraken” cases, though none are likely to succeed. These cases were filed in hopes of overturning the will of the American voters and to undermine public trust in the free and fair election administered in 2020. For a comprehensive analysis of all the myths and facts about the election, the Voter Protection Program’s January report, “Countering Lies about the 2020 Presidential Election,” dispels the mistruths. That includes those  used to justify the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Big Tech Faces the Heat: Social media and tech companies have faced unprecedented public scrutiny for their role in allowing misinformation to spread on their platforms in the months leading up to the 2020 election and January 6th riot. Congress has expressed an interest as well, with the House Energy and Commerce Committee announcing that top executives of Twitter, Facebook, and Google will testify next month. The hearings, scheduled for March 25, will feature testimony from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai about their respective companies’ efforts to curb misinformation related to coronavirus and the presidential election. This testimony may also influence lawmakers’ thinking as to new antitrust legislation, which Congress is slated to consider in coming weeks.

Insurrection Fallout: This weekend, it was reported that six Capitol Police officers were suspended and 29 more were being investigated for their alleged roles in the attack on the U.S. Capitol last month. Specifics on the reasons for suspension are not yet public, but a spokesperson said any behavior “not in keeping with the Department’s Rules of Conduct will face appropriate discipline.” Meanwhile, the New York Times shared new details about how confused and disorganized  decision-making among security and military officials burned precious time as the rioting at the Capitol spiraled out of control.

The January 6th Commission: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol has met with a positive response. The proposal received bipartisan support, with many heralding it as a way to unify the country through the impartial pursuit of truth and accountability. Former members of the 9/11 commission voiced similar hopes, declaring that an independent review of the riot is a necessary step in the national healing and reconciliation process. Others view the information-seeking commission as insufficient, calling for an accompanying criminal investigation. To create a 9/11-style commission on the events on January 6th, Congress must pass legislation for President Biden to approve.

Legislative Priorities: Now that the second impeachment trial of former President Trump has concluded, lawmakers in Congress are making plans for their legislative priorities for 2021. Voting rights are the subject of intense debate. A sweeping elections and reform bill, the For The People Act, is scheduled for debate in the House of Representatives in the first week of March, and House Democrats have indicated unanimous support for the legislation. Meanwhile, some lawmakers in the Senate have begun to voice support for removing the filibuster in order to move their legislative priorities– like the For The People Act — forward.

State Updates

Florida: On Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled a new series of proposed election laws requiring voters to request mail ballots more frequently than they already do, prohibiting ballot collection, and restricting the use of ballot drop boxes. This wave of restrictions comes even after Gov. DeSantis publicly praised the security of Florida’s 2020 election, calling it “the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country.” Voting rights advocates scrutinized the move to impose further restrictions, deeming them unnecessary given that there was no credible evidence of fraud.

Georgia: On Thursday last week, state lawmakers introduced a massive omnibus bill– HB 531– which would impose unprecedented restrictions on voting. Voting rights advocates have sounded the alarm that the bill’s proposals would disproportionately affect Black voters. The bill would eliminate the option to vote early on the two Sundays prior to the election, clashing with events like “Souls to the Polls” that encourage church-going Black voters to get out the vote on the Sunday prior to Election Day. Despite the widely-confirmed evidence that Georgia elections were secure and fraud-free, a recent poll shows that 40% of all Georgia voters (and 75% of Georgia Republicans) believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 president election.

Iowa: Two bills to shorten Iowa’s early voting period and restrict absentee ballots received initial approval in the Iowa House and Senate last week. The bills would shorten Iowa’s early voting period from 29 to 18 days, bar auditors from sending absentee ballots to voters unless the voter specifically requests them, and prevent auditors from setting up satellite early voting sites unless voters expressly petition for one. Under the proposed laws, auditors who fail to comply with the new restrictions would be charged with criminal penalties.

Michigan: The Michigan Republican Party did not re-nominate Aaron Van Langevelde, a state canvassing board member who voted alongside two other members to certify Michigan’s electoral votes for President Biden. Langevelde received criticism from members of his own party, who had intensely pressured him to delay certification of Michigan’s election results. Langevelde was replaced by conservative activist Tony Daunt.

Officials in Michigan are beginning to pursue accountability for lawyers who peddled former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud by presenting and arguing on the basis of false information in court. The city of Detroit has asked a District Judge to institute monetary fees against lawyers like Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and others, and to prevent them from working in Michigan courts in the future. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Attorney General Dana Nessel have requested state bar associations to initiate grievance proceedings against these lawyers, a move applauded by VPP. Leaders across the country are pursuing similar accountability measures.

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2/18 Voting Rights Take Center Stage

In the weeks since the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers, prosecutors, and members of the public have sought justice for the reprehensible events of that day, exploring multiple avenues by which to denounce misinformation and hold accountable those who spread it. As detailed in our CNN op-ed earlier this week, the accountability era is only just beginning. Through legislation, lawsuits, and regulatory action, leaders are working to strengthen our democracy.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Voting Rights Teed Up: With the For The People Act slated for Congressional debate during the first week of March, the landmark legislation is receiving renewed attention for its sweeping proposals. The bill received praise for tackling issues like the excessive influence of money in politics and undemocratic gerrymandering practices. The Act also enshrines voting protections on a national scale, which would help protect against extreme state-specific efforts to restrict voting. While the bill makes its way through Congress, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill would like to see President Biden take White House action to protect democracy. Just yesterday, 20 Senators signed onto a letter urging the President to sign nearly a dozen executive actions to protect voting and target big money in politics.

Legal Woes Persist: Though former President Trump was acquitted by the Senate, he still faces multiple lawsuits in state and federal criminal courts. House Homeland Security chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson and the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit three days ago in a D.C. court alleging that Trump’s actions on January 6th violated the Klu Klux Klan Act by conspiring to prevent public officials from carrying out their duties by force, intimidation, or threat. Multiple House lawmakers are expected to support the lawsuit in the coming days, either by joining as plaintiffs or by voicing support for the suit. Trump is facing at least two other high-profile legal actions in the states. Amidst this flurry of court activity, news broke that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who is facing multiple lawsuits in his own capacity, will no longer represent the former President in “any legal matters.”

The January 6th Commission: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol has met with a positive response. The proposal received bipartisan support, with many heralding it as a way to unify the country through the impartial pursuit of truth and accountability. Former members of the 9/11 commission voiced similar hopes, declaring that an independent review of the riot is a necessary step in the national healing and reconciliation process. Others view the information-seeking commission as insufficient, calling for an accompanying criminal investigation. To create a 9/11-style commission on the events on January 6th, Congress must pass legislation for President Biden to approve.

Infighting Continues: Former President Trump issued a fiery response to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who denounced Trump as responsible for inciting the January 6th riot after voting to acquit him on grounds that convicting a former president would be unconstitutional. Trump’s scorching remarks underscore the growing rift between members of the Republican Party, some of whom have pledged fealty to the former President and his continued use of false claims that the election was stolen. Others have tried to distance themselves from the misinformation and conspiracy theories earning bipartisan support, including from Democrats, who are defending some of their GOP colleagues accused of being tied to QAnon.

Facebook Review: As Facebook’s independent Oversight Board considers whether to make the platform’s ban on the former President’s account permanent, new research highlights the misleading content in Trump’s previous posts– and the company’s lackluster response. According to a new analysis by Media Matters, roughly a quarter of Trump’s 6,081 Facebook posts from last year contained extreme rhetoric or misinformation. Yet, a report from The Markup confirms that the social media company was less likely to label Trump’s misinformation-filled posts as “false” or “misleading,” instead opting for more evasive labels like “missing context” or attaching a generic warning about election integrity.

State Updates

Arizona: Senate Bill 1069, a law that would purge voters from Arizona’s permanent early voting list, failed in a 15-15 vote Tuesday evening. Republican Sen. Paul Boyer joined with his Democratic colleagues to block the bill. Boyer’s colleagues retaliated against the lawmaker for his vote in an unusual way, recalling his bill to expand school vouchers which had previously passed on Monday.

Rep. Mark Finchem was back in the headlines yesterday after he filed a 10-page ethics complaint against Democrats in the Arizona legislature. The complaint alleges that his colleagues “conspired, maliciously and in bad faith, to have me (and others) punished for exercising my First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and contest the legitimacy of the recent Presidential election.” Finchem was a vocal leader in the “Stop the Steal” movement, regularly promoting false claims of election fraud, even calling for an “election integrity hearing” to make his case. Finchem is currently crowdfunding from his supporters online the $15,000 he owes for this hearing.

Florida: On Tuesday, the Florida State Senate Senate Ethics and Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 90, which restricts mail-in voting in the state. The bill advanced along party lines, with Democrats arguing that changes to current absentee voting laws were unnecessary, given that the 2020 election passed without any significant incidents, errors, or confusion. Current law allows mail-ballot requests to stay active for two general election cycles unless the voter opts out. The bill would allow only one vote-by-mail application per election cycle and would require those who requested absentee ballots in 2020 to reapply for them in 2022.

Georgia: Today, lawmakers in the Georgia State House released a sweeping elections bill, House Bill 531, that would shrink the window in which voters can request an absentee ballot and eliminate early voting on Sunday, a day that is known to be a high turnout day for Black voters and for “souls to the polls” events. Yesterday, a Georgia Senate subcommittee approved two bills that would require voters to provide an approved excuse and a photo ID to receive an absentee ballot. The two bills, Senate Bill 71 and 67, will now advance to the full Senate Ethics committee. Senate Bill 89, which would require an elections officer in the Secretary of State’s office to oversee counties’ performance, and Senate Bill 93, which would only allow mobile voting buses in case of emergencies, also passed the subcommittee Wednesday morning.

State lawmakers are floating constitutional changes that would allow them to protect Trump from a guilty verdict in l Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ probe of his phone call asking Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. Senate Republicans introduced Senate Resolution 100, a constitutional amendment that would require a statewide grand jury to rule on any crime relating to voting and election law violations. The amendment would require local prosecutors– like Willis— to empanel a jury composed of members outside their district.

Michigan: In a radio interview Tuesday, Michigan’s Senate Majority Leader State Sen. Mike Shirkey falsely claimed that dead people voted in the state’s 2020 election. “Too many dead people voted and there was too much confusion at absentee counting boards, which is going to be the new reality,” Shirkey stated, arguing that President Biden would not have won the state without the numbers from these dead voters. These allegations have no factual basis.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Dana Nessel won dismissal of a lawsuit from Tony Daunt, executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund. Daunt sued Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Director of Elections Jonathan Brater last June alleging that voter registration lists were inadequately maintained. “The dismissal of this case is yet another example of a speculative claim and baseless allegations made during the 2020 election that ultimately proved unsustainable,” Nessel said. “I applaud Secretary Benson and her staff for their ongoing work in voter list maintenance registration, as well as their commitment to transparency, integrity and accuracy in Michigan’s elections.”

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2/16 Impeachment Strikes Back

The Senate acquitted former President Donald J. Trump in his second impeachment trial this weekend. While Trump was not ultimately convicted, the trial does represent the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history, and the arguments presented laid the groundwork for what comes next outside of Congress: accountability. Indeed, the first civil action against Trump and others involved in the insurrection was filed today, with more that is sure to follow.

In an op-ed for CNN, former Governor of New Jersey and VPP advisory board member Christine Todd Whitman joined Ambassador Norman Eisen and Joanna Lydgate, VPP outside counsel and national director respectively, to describe this new, post-impeachment time as the era of accountability. Highlighting the power of investigations, prosecutions, and litigation, they emphasize that state leaders and civil society organizations like the VPP have potent tools to bring democracy violators to justice. They also call attention to “the courageous votes of seven Republicans to hold Trump accountable [that show] the bipartisan opportunity for the road ahead.”

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Impeachment Concludes and Accountability Begins: The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump came to a close over the weekend, with the Senate acquitting Trump on a 57-43 vote in favor of conviction. Even though a bipartisan majority voted to convict Trump, House impeachment managers fell 10 votes short of the 67 necessary for conviction. The managers mounted an extraordinary case, using lots of visual evidence, some not previously seen. During the final vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the former President in a floor speech condemning his actions, but maintaining that the Senate did not have constitutional authority to convict a public official who has since left office. In his harshest rebuke of the former President to date, McConnell asserted that Trump was indeed responsible for inciting the January 6th riot, and pointed to the criminal courts and civil liability as possible ways to pursue accountability.

While the vote for conviction was bipartisan, questions have been raised about the supposed impartiality of those judging the impeachment allegations. Many of the Senators who voted to acquit Trump had also peddled the same misinformation about election fraud that fueled the January 6th riot. Sens. Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee were spotted entering a Capitol room that Trump’s lawyers were using to prepare for their arguments, raising the possibility that the Senators were unusually entangled in the impeachment defense for those intended to be impartial jurors.

As predicted by VPP’s CNN op-ed, the resolution of the impeachment trial was not an end but a beginning. Rep. Bennie Thompson filed suit today in the U.S. District Court in D.C. against Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and two militia groups. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants participated in a conspiracy to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1985 (1). The case was assigned to Obama appointee Judge Amit Mehta.

Facing the Fallout: The seven Republican Senators– Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Mitt Romney (UT), Lisa Murkowski (AL), Pat Toomey (PA), and Ben Sasse (NE)– who voted to convict former President Trump have faced significant blowback from their own party. Mere hours after the vote, Sen. Bill Cassidy was censured by the Louisiana Republican Party. State lawmakers in multiple Pennsylvania counties (Clarion, Lawrence, Washington, York and Centre County) voted to censure Sen. Patrick Toomey, and Sen. Richard Burr were censured by the North Carolina Republican Party last night. In Utah, while some politicians are circulating a petition to censure Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican Party released a statement Tuesday accepting the opposite votes cast by Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee at last week’s impeachment trial.

H.R. 1 On Deck: House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyerannounced in a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday that H.R. 1, which contains changes to campaign finance, voting, and ethics laws, is slated to come to the floor the first week of March. The House passed H.R. 1 last Congress, but legislation not signed into law expires at the end of each Congress and thus must go through the process again.

Domestic Extremism Threat: Five members of the far-right Proud Boys group have been charged with criminal conspiracy for their role in the January 6th riot attack. The Proud Boys was one of the chief facilitators of the riot, helping to organize it, transport members to the Capitol, and participate in the attack itself. Other far-right militia groups like the Oath Keepers and the Boogaloo Bois have also been identified as key facilitators of the attack. These charges come after Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys leader, blamed Trump for deceiving both him and his members into participating in the attack.

Recognizing the ongoing domestic threat white nationalists and far-right extremists pose, lawmakers have called for enhanced investigations into these groups. A group of lawmakers have already called for a bipartisan commission and special report to investigate the January 6th attack. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also called for the creation of a special panel– similar to the one created in the wake of 9/11– to investigate the insurrection.

Big Tech Has a Say: Yesterday, Parler went back online more than a month after Amazon kicked it off its technical cloud computing support system. The conservative social media platform housed over 12 million users before it went offline and is now back at semi-functioning capacity. Parler did not provide details about its new hosting service, which is reported to be using cloud hosting company SkySilk to support its return. Trump supporters flocked to the platform as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube banned accounts and flagged content that promoted misinformation. In contrast to these other platforms, Parler promised unconditional free speech. Since the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, platforms that either actively encouraged the riot– as right-wing radio did— or allowed users to spread misinformation that fueled the attack– as Parler allows– have come under fire for their role in fomenting violence.

Last week, Twitter CFO Ned Segal confirmed that the platform’s ban on Donald Trump’s account is indeed permanent. Additionally, Twitter banned Project Veritas’s account last week for repeatedly violating Twitter’s private information policy. For months, Project Veritas had promoted conspiracy theories and other misinformation about election fraud. It was followed by millions of former President Trump’s supporters as well as his two sons, Eric and Don Jr. Twitter also announced the release of Birdwatch, a new method of crowdsourcing misinformation flags. Birdwatch will allow Twitter users– all 192 million– to link context and information directly below a questionable tweet.

Meanwhile, Facebook is continuing to scale down political content on the platform. Starting this week, it will cut down on political content for users in three different countries and will start doing the same for American users in the coming weeks. The announcement comes as Facebook’s Oversight Board will consider whether to match Twitter and make Donald Trump’s ban from the platform permanent. The Board is expected to reach a decision either this week or next.

State Updates

Arizona: Today, the Arizona State Senate will vote on Senate Bill 1069, legislation that would purge voters from the state’s permanent early voting list (PEVL). The bill would allow voters to be removed from the list if they fail to vote in two consecutive election cycles. This bill was introduced amidst the wave of anti-voting legislation, a response to the baseless claims of election fraud and former President Trump’s loss in Arizona’s 2020 presidential election. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs highlighted that this bill would disproportionately target independents, the overwhelming majority of whom do not vote in state primaries. Hobbs shared on Twitter an op-ed from the Arizona Republic, which demonstrates that Independents would simply have fewer elections to establish a “two consecutive elections” voting pattern, and are therefore at greater risk of removal from the PEVL.

Georgia:  Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expanding her criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump and his allies’ effort to overturn the state’s election results. The probe will now examine the call between Sen. Lindsey Graham and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Graham asked if Raffensperger had the power to throw out all mail-in ballots from certain counties in the state. The probe will investigate whether Graham’s comments on the call violated state law.

The Georgia state bar sent a disciplinary complaint to pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood, who worked on behalf of the former President’s campaign to dispute Georgia’s election results due to unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. The bar will formally explore whether Wood committed professional violations by spreading misinformation in his legal challenges of the state’s election results.

Michigan: An audit of Michigan’s presidential election results was completed this weekend, confirming, yet again, the accuracy of the certified results. With a less than one percent margin of error, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson stated that, “This statewide audit process affirms what election officials on both sides of the aisle have said since November – that Michigan’s election was conducted securely and fairly, and the results accurately reflect the will of the voters.” Benson has proposed multiple changes to the state election law in order to protect voting rights and make election administration easier, more transparent, and more streamlined. One of these proposed changes is allowing an audit prior to vote certification, a measure she hopes will be risk-limiting and increase confidence in election results. The other changes include making Election Day a state holiday, allowing early in-person voting, and prohibiting open-carry of a firearm around or near polling places.

Pennsylvania: Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are calling for a formal investigation into the involvement of other state lawmakers in the January 6th riot. State Sen. Doug Mastriano has already publicly admitted to attending the rally, but some state officials suspect that there may have been more like him. They are calling for a federal investigation in hopes that it will unveil the true extent of lawmakers’ involvement– from spreading false claims of election fraud, to helping Pennsylvania-based rioters find transportation to the Capitol, to even attending the riot itself.

Some state lawmakers are calling for a new method of electing state court judges in Pennsylvania, a move that would increase the probability of conservative-leaning judges serving on the courts. Currently, judges are decided based on a state-wide election; these lawmakers are proposing that judges be voted on by judicial districts that would be drawn up by the conservative majority in the legislature. The proposal– a new type of judicial gerrymandering– is raising alarm for its potential to blur the lines separating the judiciary and legislative branches, allowing for one to hold undue influence over the other.

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2/10 A Jury of the American People

Yesterday, the Senate voted to continue with the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump. Today, the House impeachment managers began making their case to the Senate, as the nation anxiously watched. That the eyes of the country are upon them is not lost on the impeachment managers. As Ambassador Norm Eisen and Katherine Reisner, both outside legal counsels to the Voter Protection Program, shared yesterday in a joint op-ed for CNN: “The impeachment managers will remain keenly aware that they are addressing two audiences: The jury of 100 senators, of course, but perhaps more importantly, that of the American people.” The trial will allow the public to see for themselves the evidence implicating Trump for inciting violence and to witness their senators vote on whether to convict him.

Meanwhile, access to the ballot box is in the crosshairs of state legislatures across the country, where legislation making it harder to vote continues to appear. In the wake of such threats, lawmakers and advocates are taking action to protect the franchise.

National Update

National Voting Protections: State lawmakers across the country continue to introduce legislation to restrict voting access, and some national leaders are now championing these voter suppression efforts. The Chair of the Republican National Committee recently stated that purging voter rolls and pulling back vote-by-mail expansions was a top priority. But congressional lawmakers are determined to fight back, introducing legislation that would both protect and expand voting rights. The most notable effort is the For the People Act, a bill praised by pro-voting activists and lawmakers for its comprehensive, nationwide voting protections, anti-gerrymandering provisions, and reduction of the influence of money in politics. As the bill’s probability of gaining 60 Senate votes looks increasingly unlikely, advocates are floating abolishing the filibuster to pass the legislation.

Impeachment Round 2, Day 2: The second impeachment trial of former President Trump is well underway, with Wednesday marking the second full day of proceedings. Tuesday’s arguments left many observers — lawmakers and citizens alike — surprised. The arguments from Trump’s top defense lawyers, David Schoen and Bruce Castor, were recognized by both sides of the aisle as rambling and hard to follow at best. Members of Trump’s inner circle, his allies in the Senate, and even the former President himself universally panned the defense’s performance. This follows increasing doubts about the Trump legal team’s preparedness; the team was hastily assembled after Trump’s first picks quit mere days before the trial. Questions about Trump’s lawyers’ fealty have also arisen in recent days, after news broke that one of the impeachment defense lawyers, Michael T. van der Veen, previously filed a lawsuit against the former president over his voter fraud claims.

By contrast, the House impeachment managers were better prepared, successfully convincing Senator. Bill Cassidy to join five other GOP Senators in voting to proceed with the trial. This reversal is particularly notable, given that Sen. Cassidy voted in favor of Sen. Paul Rand’s motion to dismiss the trial on grounds that it was unconstitutional merely two weeks ago.

Trump’s Timeline: Trump’s past comments are in the spotlight as the impeachment trial continues. As Trump’s defense team argues that his speech on January 6th was not incitement, others have pointed to Trump’s larger, established pattern of spreading misinformation and mistrust in the election as evidence of a months-long campaign to mislead the public, framing violence as the only recourse to address his (baseless) claims of fraud. These statements date as far back as April 2020 and only increase in their frequency and intensity in the months leading up to the election. The review of Trump’s past behavior makes his reported “glee” watching the mob storm the Capitol in real-time — as reported by a former White House aide — even more disturbing.

Social Media Struggles: Congress is the latest entity to take interest in social media companies’ role in failing to curb the rampant spread of misinformation that occurred across prominent social platforms in the months before the election. As lawmakers continue to investigate the January 6th riots, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has demanded information from Parler, a conservative-leaning social media platform, about its ownership, financing, and foreign business agreements. Parler must provide this information by February 22.

According to a media responsibility report released Monday, social media titans like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube were more ineffective at curbing misinformation than their smaller competitors. The report finds that smaller platforms like Reddit, TikTok, and Pinterest were both faster to respond to misinformation and more drastic in their proposed countermeasures than bigger companies. Fox’s First Amendment Fight: Fox News has asked for the Smartmatic defamation lawsuit against the network to be dismissed on grounds that any false claims the channel made were protected under the First Amendment. Earlier this week, Smartmatic, a voter technology firm, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News for disparaging the company’s reputation by repeatedly spreading false statements. An analysis of the network’s coverage by The Washington Post reveals that Fox mentioned Smartmatic and Dominion significantly more than other cable networks, and often referenced the companies in statements containing false information. In a similar defamation case filed by Dominion Voting Services against prominent election fraud lawyer Sidney Powell, the accused has been called out for evading legal consequences of her election-related activities. Dominion recently alleged that Powell crossed state lines, refused to complete necessary waivers, and evaded service of process for weeks to delay the lawsuit.

State Updates

Arizona: Arizona has been increasingly recognized as the state with the greatest number of fast-moving, anti-voting bills up for consideration. Proposals to introduce more restrictions on absentee voters, cancel automatic early ballots for certain voters, and changes to the recount rules are all on the table, with some up for consideration as early as this week. The State Senate’s motion to hold the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in contempt for failing to comply with subpoenas failed on Tuesday. State Sen. Paul Boyer voted against the measure, which would have called for the supervisors to be arrested, drawing condemnation from members of his party.

To counter the unprecedented push to roll back voting, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs partnered with State Sen. Martin Quezada to draft SB 1667, a bill that would expand voting rights, bolster election security, and improve election administration. According to Sec. Hobbs, “The Committee has already heard far too many bills that create barriers for voters. It’s time to hear a bill that actually strengthens our democracy.”

Georgia: On Monday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger opened a probe into former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the state’s election results. Prosecutors in Fulton County followed with a similar effort, initiating a criminal investigation into Trump’s activities, including his widely-publicized phone call with Secretary Raffensperger where he instructed Raffensperger to “find” more votes. The criminal investigation will be led by Fani Willis, the recently elected prosecutor in Fulton County.

Michigan: Yesterday, Michigan State Sen. Mike Shirkey was caught on video alleging that the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol was “all staged” and that Trump supporters were not involved in the riots. His comments were widely rebuked, and Shirkey has since apologized. False statements — even ones that have since been rescinded or apologized for — cause lasting damage in misleading the public and eroding public confidence, as the January 6th mob showed. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued a strong statement countering Shirkey’s lies: “To be clear the only ‘hoax’ around here is the false myth that our elections — here in Michigan and across the country — were anything but a secure and accurate reflection of the will of the people.”

South Carolina: Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott are facing a potential censure from their party’s state lawmakers. The Republican Party in Aiken County, South Carolina will convene on Thursday to discuss censuring the two Senators for certifying President Biden’s electoral college votes during the Congressional Joint Session on January 6th. State lawmakers from Arizona and Wyoming have issued similar retaliatory censures for members of their party that did not go along with the baseless claims of voter fraud and instead voted to certify the election. South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice has already been censured by the party for voting to impeach the former President.

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