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By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times

After raising more than $400,000 for the police officer who killed an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo., two donation pages were shut down without explanation over the weekend.

On the crowdsourced fundraising site GoFundMe, “Support Officer Darren Wilson” and “Support Officer Wilson” — two separate pages with similar names — raised $235,750 and $197,620, respectively, for the officer who shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

A similar page for Brown’s family, run by the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, had raised $316,194 as of Monday afternoon.

The shooting triggered unrest and protests against the overwhelmingly white police force in mostly black Ferguson. Local and federal investigations are seeking to determine whether Wilson wrongfully killed Brown, 18.

Both donation pages appear to have stopped accepting contributions around the same time on Saturday, and as of Monday afternoon, the pages’ organizers had not explained why. If a visitor attempts to donate, a message appears that says: “Donations are Complete! The organizer has stopped donations.”

A spokeswoman for GoFundMe said the website had not halted the donations.

“Each and every GoFundMe campaign organizer is able to decide for themselves when they would like to stop accepting donations,” said the statement from GoFundMe spokeswoman Kelsea Little. “Organizers may also choose to begin accepting donations again at a later date.”

The “Support Officer Wilson” page is run by a St. Louis police charity called “Shield of Hope,” which has been certified by GoFundMe as a valid donation recipient.

The three officers listed on Shield of Hope’s state nonprofit records are Joseph Eagan, Timothy Zoll and Jeffrey Roorda. Zoll is a public information officer for the Ferguson Police Department, Eagan is a city council member for nearby Florissant, and Roorda is a Democratic member of the Missouri House of Representatives who is running for state Senate.

Roorda, a former police officer, sponsored a bill in January that would keep officers’ names secret if they were involved in a shooting, unless they were criminally charged. That bill went nowhere.

Eagan, the president of Shield of Hope, said in an email Monday that he had been traveling and that all public responses would come from Roorda, the group’s vice president. Neither Roorda nor Zoll have responded to requests for comment.

Nor has the Los Angeles Times been able to reach the anonymous founder of the “Support Officer Darren Wilson” page, a user called “Stand Up,” who has not been officially certified as a verified recipient on the donation page. GoFundMe’s spokeswoman vouched for the anonymous donor in a statement to the Times, however.

In contrast to the other Wilson page and the donation page for Brown, little information has been given to donors about who is running the anonymous fundraising effort.

In a message to visitors two weeks ago, the anonymous Wilson fundraiser page wrote that it was working with Shield of Hope to become a verified recipient. That has not happened. The fundraiser also gave out a pseudonymous Gmail account to users seeking more information, but has not responded to a request for comment sent to that account.

In its statement, GoFundMe spokeswoman Little said the anonymously run donation page had also been removed from its search results, adding that “this campaign no longer meets GoFundMe’s stated requirement of having a valid Facebook account connected.”

GoFundMe’s security policies encourage users to “only contribute payments to GoFundMe users they personally know and trust. … Unfortunately there is no way to 100 percent guarantee that a user’s GoFundMe donation page contains accurate or truthful information.”

But Little said GoFundMe “has been in contact with the campaign organizer and has no reason to question their authenticity.”

A popular Facebook page that has been organizing pro-Wilson efforts, called “Support Officer Wilson,” told followers this weekend that lawyers were working on a solution as to why the GoFundMe fundraisers had been shut down, but provided no more information. (The Facebook page is also run anonymously, and those remarks could not be independently verified.)

After the Times published a version of this story on its website Sunday, users who posted financial questions about the fundraisers said their comments were being deleted from the Facebook page. The comments objecting to the deletions also were deleted.

Photo: David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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