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Tag: mail in voting

Trump’s Amateur Sleuths Poised To Decry Another 'Stolen Election'

As Republican candidates, parties and groups are poised to legally challenge election results where they have lost or lag behind in the preliminary results, a parallel effort is underway in pro-Trump circles that likely will fabricate propaganda about illegitimate elections.

Candidates have long been able to challenge voters and ballots after Election Day during the vote count reconciliation process – called the canvass – which is before results are certified and recounts occur. But the efforts in Trump circles stand apart from these legal processes.

Trump Republicans and their allies are poised to gather “evidence” that frequently is not legally admissible in determining election outcomes, but can be exploited by propagandists to create distrust about voting, election officials, and the accuracy of voting systems.

“In some states, election deniers motivated by false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election are engaging in their own deeply flawed investigations to substantiate myths of widespread voter fraud,” reported the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School in a research paper released on Friday. “They have organized to engage in practices like amateur data matching with voter rolls, door-to-door canvassing to compare residents’ statements with voter records, and surveillance of mail ballot drop boxes. These error-ridden practices can disenfranchise eligible voters and strain election official resources.”

Among the most high-profile recent efforts has been surveillance of drop boxes in Arizona, a state where 80 percent or more of the voters cast mailed-out ballots. This effort includes taking photos and videos of individuals dropping off ballots and their car’s license plates. That tactic is among several to make the claim that legions of unregistered voters are casting ballots.

This tactic, apart from possibly intimidating voters, is an example of what the Brennan Center called an “error-ridden” practice. The address tied to a license plate may not be the same as a voter’s most recent registration information, especially if that voter recently moved.

Nonetheless, since the 2020 election, ex-Trump campaign workers and self-appointed data analysts have parsed voter rolls in swing counties in swing states to falsely claim that the rolls were rife with inaccuracies that could be exploited by Democrats to fabricate votes.

Initially, Trump activists started knocking on doors to verify if a voter’s address on their registration record was accurate, to ask if they voted in 2020 and gather personal information. That activity lead to accusations of voter intimidation by civil rights groups. Earlier this year, the focus shifted to filing mass challenges of voters’ credentials, such as in metro Atlanta in Georgia, where more than 60,000 challenges were almost entirely rejected by county election officials this past summer, who, nonetheless, had spent months investigating the complaints.

“Activists are being encouraged by those who claim the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ to perform their own amateur data matching. They are using National Change of Address lists, tax assessor data, a portal operated by government contractor Schneider Geospatial, public map services, and public voter data from multiple states to make inferences about current voter eligibility and past election legitimacy,” the Brennan Center report said. “In doing so, they are cobbling together incomplete datasets that can later become ‘evidence’ for candidates to baselessly challenge the legitimacy of the election if they lose.”

Those behind these efforts have waged recruitment drives to gather evidence for post-Election Day challenges or to generate fodder that almost certainly will be used for propaganda – filling media channels as some battleground states take more time to count their votes than others. (Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, for example, cannot start counting absentee ballots until Election Day. Florida, Arizona, and Nevada can start several weeks before.)

Whether led by ex-Trump White House officials or campaign lawyers based at Conservative Partnership Institute in Washington, or a looser collective of election deniers and self-appointed experts convened and funded by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, the ringleaders have instructed activists to use apps like Basecamp to coordinate their activities, and apps like VotifyNow to report incidents that they deem suspicious.

“In the upper left-hand corner is the menu tab that will bring up your voter integrity tools,” a VotifyNow tutorial said. “When you click on these buttons, such as mail-in ballot issues, you’ll see the app allows you to type in a brief description of any suspicious activity you notice, as well as upload a photo or video... That incident is then sent to our database to be analyzed and compared with other issues in your area.”

Needless to say, just because a citizen observer thinks that they are seeing something wrong does not mean that factually is the case, said Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor at the Democracy Fund, at a November 2 press briefing where threats to election officials were discussed.

“I’ve had some election officials tell me that these observers act like they’re going to find the body; that they are coming onto a criminal site or crime scene,” she said. “When you approach the information that way, when you don’t know what you are looking at, you’re going to find what [conspiratorial evidence] you are looking for.”

Nor are specious observations likely to be accepted as evidence in any post-Election Day administrative review or legal process. But what fails to meet a legal standard of evidence can succeed as disinformation.

“It is important to remember that all reliable evidence shows that our elections — including the 2020 election — are safe, secure, accurate, fair, and free of widespread voter fraud,” the Brennan Center said. “We cannot let these dangerous and defective schemes compromise our democracy.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

While Advocates Seek Election Reform, Republicans Busily Restrict Voting

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.

Targeting Battleground States

Seasoned advocates in battleground states say that Republicans have been pursuing a bottom-up strategy of targeting key decision points in the voting process that, collectively, could end up suppressing more votes than the winning margins in recent highest-stakes contests.

They point to new laws and policies in Georgia, Florida, Wisconsin, and Texas, where the GOP has foreclosed early voting options, imposed new rationales to disqualify voters or cancel their ballots, and, in Georgia, has purged longtime Democratic county election officials. They also are concerned about new legislation that may be introduced in early 2022.

Georgia, whose 2020 elections were key to Donald Trump’s defeat and the return of the U.S. Senate’s Democratic majority, offers many examples. (The state received a 100 percent grade in the Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform report, meaning it already complies with the suggested remedies.)

Beyond launching a state investigation of metro Atlanta’s Fulton County, which is seen as a precursor to a GOP-led takeover of its operations, pro-Trump Republicans’ partisan actions in Georgia also include a handful of smaller counties that have seen Democratic officials purged, polling place closures, and Sunday voting suspended, and more ballots disqualified during 2021’s municipal elections than in 2020’s presidential election.

“There’s a clear a pattern going on where they [pro-Trump Republicans] are burrowing into these counties,” said Ray McClendon, Atlanta NAACP political action chairman. “These [county] election boards are going to be hardened targets that you won’t be able to make heads or tails of how much they have rigged the system pro-Republican and anti-Democrat.”

“They’re going to tell you, ‘We’re just following the rules. There’s no requirement that we have Sunday voting. There’s no requirement that we have more than one polling place,’” said McClendon. “This is not a top-down strategy.”

News reports from local, regional, and national media confirm the overall pattern.

In rural Lincoln County, Georgia, county commissioners announced they would only stand up one polling place for 2022’s elections instead of seven. “We are not trying to suppress any votes; we’re trying to make it better,” Walker Norman, Lincoln County Commission chairman, told the local NBC TV affiliate. “If I thought it was suppressing anybody’s vote, I’ll be the first one with opposition to it.”

In Spalding County, south of Atlanta, several election commissioners in mid-2020—Black women and Democrats—were ousted under new authority given to local judges and county officials under SB 202, the GOP-led legislature’s response to the 2020 election. The new election board, led by Republicans, did not offer Sunday voting during 2021’s elections.

A Reuters investigative report found that Spalding’s Board of Elections (BOE) was among six county BOEs that had seen purges of Black Democrats under SB 202, which the federal Department of Justice has sought to overturn in a voting rights lawsuit filed in June 2021.

The six counties cited by Reuters—Lincoln, Troup, Morgan, Stephens, Pickens, and Spalding—supported Trump by large margins in 2020. But, collectively, the counties had more than 33,000 Biden votes, which was about three times Biden’s statewide victory margin over Trump. In contrast, in Fulton County, Biden beat Trump by more than 240,000 votes.

Similarly restrictive moves can be seen in Texas, said Andrea Miller, who heads the Center for Common Ground, which seeks to assist minority voters in Southern states.

“We’re currently dealing with the aftermath of the [2021] legislative changes in Texas,” she said, citing new rules over applying for a mailed-out ballot that have led to abnormally high rejection rates for the upcoming March 2022 primary elections.

“About 40 percent of the ballots are being rejected (which is a lot for Texas) and it is also taking nearly 30 days to get a ballot,” Miller said via email. “Seems Texas changed the length of your driver’s license number so if you have an old one, it doesn’t have nearly enough numbers and they ‘can’t find you in the system.’ The new law also requires that if you drop the ballot off, you must do so in person and you can only drop off your own ballot.”

Texas has also run out of voter registration forms, which the Texas secretary of state’s office has blamed on supply chain issues. (In his media briefing, Becker said that rejected absentee ballot applications were a failure by the state to educate the public, and the registration form shortage represented a failure to plan for implementing a new law.)

2022 State Legislation

Meanwhile, as 2022 begins, more legislation is looming. In Georgia, GOP legislators have introduced several bills to continue to foreclose voting options. One bill, sponsored by a state senator running for lieutenant governor, would prohibit the use of drop boxes to return mailed-out absentee ballots, which were a convenience during 2020’s COVID-19 outbreaks and alleviated polling place congestion on Election Day. In another battleground state, Wisconsin, a county judge ruled in mid-January that the ballot drop boxes were not properly authorized under state law in a lawsuit filed by a right-wing foundation. The state agency that approved their use in 2020 has been attacked by GOP lawmakers and is targeted in new legislation, Becker said.

Seen from the ground up, the purpose of the post-2020 legislation and related litigation is to allow newly empowered local Republicans to chip away at Democratic turnout, and, subsequently, to try to disqualify as many mailed-in ballots as possible, the NAACP’s McClendon said.

“They have become smart enough to know that they can’t justify just blocking people of color from voting,” McClendon said. “If they can just peel off a half a point from no Sunday voting, a quarter of a point from provisional ballots getting thrown out, another quarter of a point from people not properly filling out their ballot return envelope, they will get their numbers.”

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

It's Too Late To Erase Barr’s Role In Spreading Election Lies

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl has made waves with his recent piece in The Atlantic, titled "Inside William Barr's Breakup With Trump," recounting the former U.S. attorney general's story of a nasty falling-out with former President Donald Trump in the wake of Barr's public admission in early December that there was no evidence of voter fraud that Trump was alleging had stolen the election from him.

USA Today also gave a deferential treatment to Barr's current telling of the story, with a write-up of Karl's piece entitled "It's just a joke': Former AG William Barr derided Trump's false election claims."

However, none of this fawning coverage did anything to provide accountability for Barr's own prominent role in helping Trump build up a false public narrative of massive fraud in the months before the election.

Indeed, right before the 2020 election, ABC News had tracked some of Barr's "unfounded argument" seeking to sow distrust in the expanded use of mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, Karl had also reported on a Department of Homeland Security bulletin on Russian disinformation against mail-in voting, which sought to further spread Trump's own false claims. USA Today had also published a guest column in July by cybersecurity experts, debunking many of Barr's claims.

But now, Barr's actual record in this matter is left on the cutting-room floor.

Barr Pushed False Claims Of Voter Fraud

Karl wrote about Barr's informal review of various claims of voter fraud in the weeks following Election Day because he "knew that at some point, Trump was going to confront him about the allegations." As Barr told Karl, "If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bullshit."

However, Trump would have had every reasonable expectation that Barr would help him out — because throughout 2020, Barr mounted his own propaganda operation against the security of the upcoming election. Far from treating it like "bullshit," at this stage, the attorney general pushed multiple false claims that the Trump campaign would use to try and overturn the election from Election Day through January 6 — and which are even still in circulation today.

In the spring of 2020, Barr floated a conspiracy theory in an interview with The New York Times that "there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in." He then dug in on this idea again in September, telling CNN that he was "basing it on logic."

Election experts would explain all the ways such fraud was impossible, because real mail-in ballots have individual identifiers such as barcodes and signatures for tracking and processing, and they must be correctly printed on the right kind of paper to be scanned by each local ballot machine. However, Barr's claim still lives on today, with the QAnon-linked ballot "audit" in Arizona looking for such things as rumored bamboo fibers as evidence of fake ballots being flown in or secret watermarks that were placed as part of an elaborate sting operation for false ballots.

In September, Barr also asserted that mail-in voting would destroy the protections of the secret ballot: "There's no more secret vote. … Your name is associated with a particular ballot. The government and the people involved can find out and know how you voted. And it opens up the door to coercion." (This, too, was false, as there are safeguards in place to prevent a specific person's vote from being identified at the counting stage.)

Notably, in one interview with Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, Barr also sought to discredit the counting of mail-in votes as he painted a picture of the exact scenario that Trump and his allies would later seek to take advantage of — a "red mirage" followed by a "blue shift," in which Trump would appear to be ahead on Election Night before the counting of mail-in votes that were disproportionately cast by Democrats. "Someone will say the president just won Nevada," Barr offered hypothetically. "'Oh, wait a minute! We just discovered 100,000 ballots! Every vote will be counted!' Yeah, but we don't know where these freaking votes came from."

In the same interview, Barr also dismissed the idea that Trump would attempt to subvert the election result. "You know liberals project," Barr said. "All this bulls--- about how the president is going to stay in office and seize power? I've never heard of any of that crap. I mean, I'm the attorney general. I would think I would have heard about it." (Later, in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, Barr said in a statement that Trump's conduct that day was a "betrayal of his office and supporters.")

Nowhere in his Atlantic piece did Karl grapple with any of these statements. Instead, he simply left the reader with the impression that Barr knew after the election that claims of widespread voter fraud were "all bullshit."

Barr Said Claims Of Voter Fraud Would "Continue To Be Pursued"

At the end of his Atlantic piece, Karl gave a sympathetic slant to Barr's resignation as attorney general in late December, when Barr seemingly tried to leave on positive terms while separating himself from the disastrous efforts of Trump's inner circle to reverse the election res

Barr almost immediately began to regret his decision to stay. His statement on election fraud did nothing to deter Trump, who was now listening, almost exclusively, to Giuliani and others outside his administration. They were telling him that he was still going to win the election.
Two weeks later, Barr went down to the White House to tell the president that he planned to resign before the end of the year. It was their first meeting since their confrontation. To defuse the tension, Barr had written an effusive resignation letter, which he handed to the president when he got to the Oval Office. The letter praised Trump's record and played directly into his complaints about how he had been treated by Democrats, saying his efforts "had been met by a partisan onslaught against you in which no tactic, no matter how abusive and deceitful, was out of bounds."

To be exact, those quotes came from the second paragraph of Barr's published resignation letter. However, Karl omitted the very first paragraph of the full letter, in which Barr continued to publicly dignify Trump's efforts to sow mistrust in the election:

I appreciate the opportunity to update you this afternoon on the Department's review of voter fraud allegations in the 2020 election and how these allegations will continue to be pursued. At a time when the country is so deeply divided, it is incumbent on all levels of government, and all agencies acting within their purview, to do all we can to assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in their outcome.

Nowhere in that paragraph did Barr acknowledge that these allegations of fraud were all "bullshit," as he now puts it, but instead stated they would "continue to be pursued" as a valid concern for the American public.

Karl could have held Barr accountable for that opening paragraph. Instead, his piece said nothing about it.

While guest anchoring on Sunday's edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Karl touted his own "amazing interview" in which Barr "talked about what he really thought of Donald Trump's claims of election fraud." (Notably, Karl also did not correct former Trump administration official Sarah Isgur's false claim during the subsequent panel discussion that the Mueller Report "for the most part" had exonerated the Trump campaign of collusion with Russia in 2016.)

Republicans Trying To Restrict Voting May See Their Schemes Backfire

On February 22, Iowa legislators held a one-hour public hearing on a Republican election reform bill that had been introduced just days before and could achieve what Donald Trump's campaign had failed to do during 2020's election—curtail voting options for perceived Democratic voting blocs.

Iowa's House State Government Committee's first witness was Alan Ostergren, a conservative lawyer whose views typified those backing the legislation.

"This bill has needed improvements," he said, referring to its rollback of early in-person voting (from 40 days last fall to 18 days), ban on election officials sending voters an absentee ballot application, $10,000 fines for county officials and poll workers who err, and harder ballot access thresholds for third-party candidates. "It's also not voter suppression. That's name-calling. … No one ever defines what that term means. It just means that somebody is upset."

The majority of those testifying, however, opposed the bill and were specific.

"The way the bill is currently written will limit the voting options of older Iowans, Iowans with disabilities, Iowans with chronic health conditions, Iowans working multiple jobs and Iowans without reliable transportation," said Amy Campbell, representing the League of Women Voters and Area Agencies on Aging. "The bill does not allow the voter to call the [county] auditor and ask for an absentee ballot request form to be sent to them. Not all Iowans have printers [at home] and have the ability to go to the county seat to request an absentee ballot."

"I'm concerned about the provision… which, in effect, threatens county auditors and ordinary co-workers with fines and jail time for merely asking a disruptive observer to stop interfering with the process," said Emily Silliman, an election observer last year. "I witnessed a serious attempt to shut down the process."

Iowa's legislation is one of the most aggressive responses to 2020's record voter turnout in the presidential election. Iowa saw nearly 76 percent of its voters cast ballots, including 1 million people who voted early or with a mailed-out ballot. Nationally, about two-thirds of voters cast mailed-out ballots (66 million people) or voted in-person before November 3's Election Day (36 million people.) But not every battleground state with a Republican-majority legislature is poised to pass draconian voting bills as Iowa is, where GOP legislators fast-tracked a bill that they expect to be signed into law days after the hearing.

"You heard the majority of the folks who testify asking us to rethink this; slow down," said Iowa Rep. Mary Mascher, the House State Government Committee's ranking Democrat, at the hearing's close. "This has been fast-tracked, and usually that occurs when the majority party decides that they want to push something through quickly without people being able to fully understand what is actually in the bill."

Across the country, as state legislatures approach crossover deadlines, where a bill must pass one chamber to stay in play, election bills—some curtailing voting, some expanding voting—have led to a flurry of activity in a few swing states.

Arizona, which was tagged by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law as having the most anti-voter bills introduced in 2021, had seen the most extreme measures (voter purges, ending early voting, restricting mail ballots) proposed by Trump allies fall by the wayside. But on February 24, its Senate revived a bill that would purge about 200,000 voters from a list of automatic mail ballot recipients. It had failed one week before that when one Republican joined all Democrats in opposition.

Georgia, where two recounts affirmed Trump's loss and two Republican incumbent U.S. senators were defeated in January runoffs—giving Democrats full control in Washington—has also seen a spike in Republican bills to roll back voting options.

As the last week of February began, Georgia's Senate added a new ID requirement for returning a mailed-out ballot. By midweek, other measures with more sweeping restrictions began swiftly moving through its Houseand Senate.

The Georgia Senate passed a bill adding a voter ID requirement on February 23. That step, which adds work for voters and election officials, was backed by "91 percent of conservatives and 55 percent of liberals," according to a January poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But the later House and Senate bills are more punitive, such as imposing wider restrictions on absentee voting, limiting drop boxes for returning ballots, banning giving voters food or drinks as they wait outside polls, and disqualifying provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct.

"Georgia Republicans once again showed their contempt for voters as two of the worst voter suppression bills since Reconstruction continued to move quickly through the state legislature," said a statement by Fair Fight, a Georgia voting rights group, about the new bills. "SB 241 would end no-excuse mail voting, implement new ID requirements, and add witness requirements for mail voters—in essence, creating one of the most restrictive absentee voting laws in the entire country and resulting in some of the worst voter suppression since Jim Crow."

No Single Republican Narrative

But outside of national battleground states, some GOP-majority legislatures are putting into law some of the same expanded voting options offered in response to the pandemic—the same voting options that are under attack in swing states.

Idaho, a deep-red state where in 2020 about 400,000 voters cast absentee ballots and another 100,000 people voted early, is not changing these voting options. A unanimously passed Senate bill allows local election officials to contact voters if there is a problem with a returned absentee ballot—to fix it. The bill also allows officials to start processing absentee ballots before Election Day, so results can more quickly be tabulated on election night.

In Kentucky, where the Republican-majority legislature recently overrode vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on bills stripping him of emergency authority (such as ordering state residents to wear masks in the pandemic), bills have been introduced to add four days of early in-person voting, but not to continue its pandemic response of suspending requirements to get a mailed-out ballot.

"I still call it a pro-voter bill. They are doing the best they can with the kind of support they can get, and I feel like they should be commended for that," said Audrey Kline, national policy director at the National Vote at Home Institute, which helps state and local officials to implement voting via absentee ballots. "Obviously, I'd like it if everybody voted like Colorado [with mailed-out ballots], but you have a lot of competing forces [in Kentucky], and some of them are town clerks. If a reform doesn't work for them, it isn't going anywhere."

Similarly, Indiana's House passed a bill to slightly expand early voting hours. (It also backed off a draconian reform: a Senate proposal to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote. It was withdrawn after Indiana's secretary of state, a Republican, determined that requirement was unconstitutional.)

In a handful of states with GOP-majority legislatures and Democratic governors—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina—Republicans do not have sufficient members to override a gubernatorial veto. That means that passed bills rolling back voting options or adding bureaucracy will not likely become law. (Several just-introduced GOP bills in Wisconsin would face vetoes if passed by the legislature, local media has predicted.)

In Republican-led states in the Midwest and Plains, early and absentee voting options that may have been expanded in the pandemic are unlikely to become law, according to Electionline.org. In these states, Republicans who are seeking to roll back voting rights are meeting a mixed response.

The Arkansas legislature passed an anti-voter bill saying that voters who lack ID can no longer sign an affidavit swearing to their identity. That revision "would return us to the pure aspect of voter ID," a GOP lawmaker said. In contrast, in Nebraska, which has the country's only unicameral legislature, only one senator spoke in favor of a bill to curtail mailing out ballots and voting early.

Missouri, a red state where top officials reluctantly expanded absentee voting in response to the pandemic, is reverting to its pre-COVID-19 landscape. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said he expected this spring's municipal elections to take place without expanded no-excuse absentee ballots. "People want to vote in person," he said. But in St. Louis, the Board of Elections told reporters that some voters have asked if 2020's no-excuse absentee voting was still available. It's not.

Stepping back, the most restrictive election reforms appear to be concentrated in a few swing states—led by Trump-supporting legislators—not in all of the 23 states where Republicans control their state legislature and the governorship.

"None of these things fit into a tight neat narrative that Republicans are trying to destroy vote-by-mail," said Kline, when assessing the national reform landscape. "The states and the circumstances are just so unique. You cross the border from one state into another, and you're in a different ecosystem."

Democratic States Also Differ

Similarly, the notion that Democratic-led states are widely embracing an expansion of voting options following the pandemic is also not entirely accurate.

In progressive states like Maryland and Vermont, Kline said legislators have been studying options to expand early and absentee balloting. In Vermont, a Senate committee just passed a bill to mail all voters a ballot for all general elections In Maryland, lawmakers are considering a mix of expanded early and absentee voting.

In bigger states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, post-2020 reforms are on a slower track. News reports from New Jersey and Massachusetts suggest that municipalities are transitioning back to narrower pre-pandemic voting options for elections this March and April—which is akin to Missouri. (In Massachusetts on February 24, the House Speaker said he would extend the deadline for expanded voting by mail to June 30, and supported making the option permanent.)

In Connecticut, the state's Constitution would have to be amended to expand voting by mail, a years-long process. Red-led Alabama, by contrast, will extend all pandemic-sparked voting options for all of 2021's municipal elections, including for mayoral elections in Mobile and Birmingham later this year.

So far, 2021 has seen a few local elections, even as most cities will hold primaries and mayoral elections this year. Michael McDonald, the University of Florida political scientist who tracked the daily turnout numbers for early and absentee voters in the presidential election, said that it was too early to know if 2020's embrace of absentee and early voting would continue after the pandemic.

"When it passes, do normal patterns restore? That's the big question," he said.

McDonald, who is finishing a book on 2020's voting patterns, said that legislatures now adopting aggressive election reforms were mistakenly assuming the way that people voted during the pandemic would be "how everything is going to work in the future, and we have to take preventative action to affect future elections."

Many Republicans voted in person after Trump attacked voting by mail, he said, because "if Trump [had] endorsed mail-in balloting, he [might have] had to admit that the pandemic was real." But there was a late surge of Republicans who voted with mailed-out ballots, he said, especially as Election Day approached.

Historically, the biggest impact of voting with mailed-out ballots is to increase turnout for local elections, McDonald said. Thus, legislation to roll back this option—such as in Iowa and possibly Georgia—could backfire on the GOP.

"Interestingly, when you look at the studies, this is where these efforts hurt Republicans to some degree," he said. "The studies find it is more affluent people, higher educated, whiter, who fit the Republican profile, and are the ones who are more likely to be stimulated to vote by all-mail-ballot elections."

Kline raised another issue that could backfire on legislators who are pushing bills to add 'security' measures to the processing of returned mailed-out ballots: those requirements would end up costing county officials more time and money.

"There are costs," she said, citing Florida legislation that would require voters who sign up to automatically receive mailed-out ballots to update their request every two years. (The current law is every four years.) About 5 million Floridians voted with absentee ballots in the presidential election. If it conservatively costs each county $1 to process an absentee ballot request, Kline said that potential mandate could foist millions in new costs onto counties.

"A longer or more complex process costs more money—period," she said. "A couple of years ago, if I could walk up to a Republican legislator and say, 'Hey, I can save you a couple of million dollars on running elections more efficiently,' they would say to me, 'Sign me up.'"

As Kline noted, every state is a different political ecosystem. While not every red state is following Iowa's footsteps, it remains to be seen how far Georgia's GOP legislators will go to subvert voting rights.

On February 24, Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's Republican secretary of state who resisted Trump's call to "find" votes and declare him the winner of its presidential election, tweeted his response to the GOP bills racing through its legislature.

"We are reviewing bills," he said. "Once we see something that prioritizes the security and accessibility of elections, we'll throw in support. At the end of the day, many of these bills are reactionary to a three-month disinformation campaign that could have been prevented."

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute

Boebert Won With Mail Ballots, Now Wants To Kill Them

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) wants to strip a voting rights bill of a key provision that expands access to voting by mail — the very same voting method her state exclusively uses in conducting its elections.

Boebert filed an amendment to HR 1, the "For the People Act of 2021," that would expand access to the ballot in federal elections.

The provision Boebert wants stricken states: "If an individual in a State is eligible to cast a vote in an election for Federal office, the State may not impose any additional conditions or requirements on the eligibility of the individual to cast the vote in such election by absentee ballot by mail."

Colorado has been voting entirely by mail since 2013. Boebert — who has not raised any doubts about the legitimacy of her own victory in 2020 — was elected in 2020 entirely by absentee ballots.

But throughout her campaign, Boebert spread Donald Trump's lies that voting by mail was prone to fraud and has been pushing for restrictions to voting by mail.

"The 'For The Swamp' Act, HR 1, will make permanent law out of the mail-in ballots that we saw turn the 2020 election into an absolute mess," Boebert tweeted on Feb. 18. "The new norm will be waiting days & weeks for elections to be called — and even then who can be sure of the results given mail-in fraud."

Repeated investigations into the 2020 election have demonstrated that it was not marred by fraud.

Even William Barr, who served as Trump's attorney general, said as much.

Boebert's was one of the loudest voices pushing Trump's baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen, helping to incite the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who sought to block President Joe Biden's win from being certified.

On the day of the insurrection, Boebert tweeted, "Today is 1776" — a comment that's been widely criticized as having incited the mob.

Now Boebert is using lies about voter fraud to make it harder to vote.

Her amendment is one of a number from Republicans seeking to water down HR 1's intended goal of expanding access to the ballot.

The amendments will almost certainly not be added to the bill in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

The bill is slated to come up for a vote in early March and is expected to pass in the House.

However, it's unlikely HR 1 will make it to Biden's desk under current rules, with Senate Republicans likely to block it using the filibuster.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Karl Rove Signals GOP Donors To Push Rewrite Of Election Laws

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute

Hours after President Biden declared that "democracy has prevailed" during his inaugural address, longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove urged Republicans to pressure GOP election officials to create "a model election code" and change the two voting options that led to the 2020 presidential election's record turnout.

"Republicans should...encourage GOP secretaries of state and state lawmakers to develop a model election code," Rove wrote in a January 20 commentary for the Wall Street Journal titled "The Republican Future Starts Now."

"The job of proposing electoral reforms shouldn't be based on the unsupported claims of widespread fraud peddled by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell," Rove continued. "Instead, the goal should be to suggest measures that restore public confidence in our democracy. How do states with extensive mail-in and early voting like Florida and Texas get it right?"

Rove's commentary comes as Republican-majority legislatures in battleground states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona have proposed bills or convened hearings to review the laws that allowed people to vote early in person or with mailed-out ballots in 2020.

"Whenever Karl Rove writes a piece in the Wall Street Journal, the history of it suggests that Democrats should pay careful attention," said David Daley, author of Unrigged: How Americans are Battling Back to Save Democracy. "Because the Wall Street Journal is where Republicans can signal to their donor class their key projects."

In March 2010, Rove penned a Journal commentary openly discussing the GOP's REDMAP project, which targeted 107 state legislative seats that "would give them control of drawing district lines for nearly 190 congressional seats." REDMAP succeeded, creating GOP majority legislatures and congressional delegations in the otherwise purple states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Alabama.

The website of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model bills for social conservatives and economic libertarians, has not yet promoted election reforms on its website. However, ALEC linked to the Conservative Action project, which posted a defense of the GOP lawmakers who opposed certifying the Electoral College slates from Arizona and Pennsylvania. The expanded use of voting via mailed-out ballots and early voting must be examined, it said.

"The 2020 election was conducted in an unprecedented manner: largely by mail, and in a way that overwhelmed the capacities of many states. It is not at all unreasonable to review the manner in which votes were counted," said the Conservative Action Project memo, which was signed by more than 100 activists and organizations. "Indeed, if the goal is to restore faith in future elections, then a comprehensive review and analysis to determine what went wrong, what went right, and what is in need of reform should be a critical next step."

Daley, whose prior book, Ratf*cked, profiled REDMAP and its impacts on the past decade's political battles and extreme politics, said Rove's commentary was a warning sign.

"Whenever Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal, it not to be a public intellectual but to put ideas in front of the Republican donor class," he said. "It fits perfectly with much of the Republican strategy on voter suppression."

"So much of it sounds reasonable," Daley continued, referring to the suggestion that a model election code be developed and embraced. "How can you be opposed to a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission that is going to step back and ensure that our elections are free, fair, and secure? Except, that's not actually their intention, because we just had an election that was free, fair, and secure. And [Sens.] Hawley and Cruz and 130-plus Republicans in the House voted to decertify [the popular vote results and Electoral College slates from] Pennsylvania and Arizona—even after a Republican governor [in Arizona] signed off on certification."

Already, Republican legislators in 2020 battleground states held hearings where they are badgering statewide election officials —some elected Democrats, some career civil servants — about decisions they took last fall that made it easier to vote with absentee ballots.

For example, on Thursday in Pennsylvania, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, was pressed by Republican representatives for advising county election officials to count the returned mailed-out ballots of people who forgot to put their ballots in a secrecy sleeve. The state's Supreme Court subsequently ruled that the "naked" ballots should be disqualified.

"You disagree with the decision that was rendered by the Supreme Court?" Rep. Ryan McKenzie, a Republican, asked Boockvar.

"It doesn't matter whether I disagree with a decision rendered by the Supreme Court, because the Supreme Court's rule governs," she replied. "But what I would say is, and maybe this is part of your question, do I think that is the right approach for voters for making sure that every eligible voter's vote counts? No, I'd love to see the legislature change that law and say, 'Look, if a voter makes a mistake that does not have anything to do with their eligibility or their qualifications, such as a naked ballot, that vote should still count."

The Thursday legislative hearing was one of 14 that are slated in Pennsylvania to review voting laws and administrative rules that were in effect during the 2020 election. A separate GOP-sponsored proposal would create districts for electing state Supreme Court judges. If put into effect, it could become a judicial gerrymander to recast Pennsylvania's appellate courts—including the Supreme Court.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Georgia Runoff Turnout May Break Records As Suppression Tactics Fail

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Across Georgia, turnout in the opening week of early voting for two U.S. Senate runoffs has been robust and may even set records, despite ongoing Republican efforts to disqualify voters — efforts that courts keep rejecting.

On Thursday, two federal courts dismissed GOP lawsuits to challenge the state's processing of returned absentee ballots. The suits, filed by local and national GOP organizations, attacked procedures that had been created by Georgia's elected Republican officeholders, who have overseen Georgia's elections for years.

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Federal Courts Invite Republicans To Challenge Absentee Ballots

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Two countervailing forces are competing to determine the outcome of the 2020 elections' highest-stakes contests before the close of voting on November 3.

President Trump and his Republican allies are pursuing a full-court press where their success hinges less on winning popular vote majorities and more on disqualifying volumes of absentee ballots via lawsuits to be filed after Election Day—if preliminary results in a few key states are close. The Democratic Party and their allies, meanwhile, have been pushing their party's more highly motivated voter base to continue their turnout lead seen in early and absentee voting, so Republicans cannot gain traction when they turn to the courts to disqualify late-arriving absentee ballots, or cite other technicalities to disqualify votes.

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