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Tag: mail in voting

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.)

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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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Who Will Defend Military Ballots From Trump?

At this moment, the president of the United States is threatening to "throw out" the votes of millions of Americans to hijack an election that he seems more than likely to lose. Donald Trump is openly demanding that state authorities invalidate lawful absentee ballots, no different from the primary ballot he mailed to his new home state of Florida, for the sole purpose of cheating. And his undemocratic scheme appears to enjoy at least nominal support from the Supreme Court, which may be called upon to adjudicate the matter.

But what is even worse than Trump's coup plot — and the apparent assent of unprincipled jurists such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is the Democratic Party's feeble response to this historic outrage. It is the kind of issue that Republicans, with their well-earned reputation for political hardball, would know how to exploit fully and furiously.

They know because they won the same game in Florida 20 years ago.

During that ultimate legal showdown between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when every single vote mattered, a Democratic lawyer argued in a memorandum to the Gore team that the validity of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be challenged. He had the law on his side in that particular instance — but not the politics.

As soon as the Republicans got hold of that memo, they realized that it was explosive. Why? Many of the late ballots the Democrats aimed to invalidate in Florida had been sent by military voters, and the idea of discarding the votes of service personnel was repellent to all Americans. Former Secretary of State James Baker, who was overseeing the Florida recount for Bush, swiftly denounced the Democratic plot against the soldiers, saying: "Here we have ... these brave young men and women serving us overseas. And the postmark on their ballot is one day late. And you're going to deny him the right to vote?"

Never mind the grammar; Baker's message was powerful — and was followed by equally indignant messages in the following days from a parade of prominent Bush backers including retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the immensely popular commander of U.S. troops in the Desert Storm invasion that drove Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. Fortuitously, Schwarzkopf happened to be on the scene as a resident of Florida.

As Jeffrey Toobin recounted in Too Close to Call, his superb book on the Florida 2000 fiasco, the Democrats had no choice but to retreat. "I would give the benefit of the doubt to ballots coming in from military personnel," conceded then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, during a defensive appearance on Meet the Press. But Toobin says Gore soon realized that to reject military ballots would render him unable to serve as commander in chief — and that it would be morally wrong.

Fast-forward to 2020, when many of the same figures on the Republican side are now poised to argue that absentee ballots, which will include many thousands of military votes — should not be counted after Election Day, even if they arrived on time. Among those Republicans is Justice Kavanaugh, who made the opposite argument as a young lawyer working for Bush in Florida 20 years ago. Nobody expects legal consistency or democratic morality from a hack like him, but someone should force him and his Republican colleagues to own this moment of shame.

Who can do that? Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party ought to be exposing the Republican assault on military ballots — and, by the same token, every legally valid absentee ballot — every day. But the Democrats notoriously lack the killer instinct of their partisan rivals, even at a moment of existential crisis like this one.

No, this is clearly a job for the ex-Republicans of the Lincoln Project, who certainly recall what happened in Florida in 2000. They have the attitude and aptitude of political assassins. They surely know how to raise hell over an issue like military votes — and now is the time to exercise those aggressive skills in defense of democracy.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.