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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: voter fraud

Texas Attorney General Pursued Bogus Cases Against Election Workers

In the GOP-led crusade to promote groundless allegations of fraud in the 2020 election, an effort that has largely scrutinized voters,Texas attorney general Ken Paxton — election denier and afterthought to the rally that preceded January 6 — has been working an angle more extreme than his counterparts.

The top law enforcement official -- who once sneaked out of his home and fled on a truck driven by his wife to escape a subpoena -- has bared his animus against a pillar of American democracy: election workers.

An investigation by ProPublica, published Wednesday, found that Paxton, a Trump super-fan who played a key role in the ex-president’s failed 2020 coup, opened at least 390 cases into alleged electoral misconduct between January 2020 and September 2022 but secured only five election-related convictions.

Ten of those probes delved into baseless allegations of election crimes and misconduct by poll workers, many of whom, the Washington Post reported, are considering leaving their posts after a relentless barrage of right-wing harassment that has hindered their jobs and jeopardized their safety.

One of Paxton’s election-worker probes, ProPublica noted, was spurred by a Bexar County GOP chair, Cynthia Brehm, who refused to certify the results of her re-election bid after a landslide defeat to her challenge, citing an “active investigation” by Paxton’s office into the “severely compromised” results.

The publication also noted that allegations of obstructing a poll watcher were all Paxton’s office needed to open most of its election-worker probes. The shocking animosity over unfounded claims led to mass resignations by unhappy poll workers, who unwittingly undertook fending off conspiracy theories and tolerating threats of physical harm as part of the job.

Texas is one of few states that impose criminal penalties for obstructing a poll watcher, partisan volunteers monitoring election sites, including impeding the individual from moving about the polling place as they please — an “offense” that’s punishable by up to one year behind bars.

Paxton’s election-worker probe also encompassed Democratic-leaning cities, investigating election officials, some of whom are elderly citizens, with as little as complaints made by voters to go on.

According to ProPublica, Paxton had attempted to prosecute local election official Dana DeBeauvoir, who spent nearly 40 years in service of her county government., for asking a maskless poll watcher who was photographing ballots and recording polling place proceedings, both of which violated the rules, to leave the polling site.

The watcher flew into a rage, “screaming and banging on the window of the room where votes were being counted” before the police arrived and removed her from the scene, DeBeauvoir told ProPublica.

To DeBeauvoir’s shock, a county official informed her weeks later that Paxton’s office had opened a criminal investigation into her conduct. “I never felt more alone,” DeBeauvoir told the paper. “Everything that was being said was completely untrue. And I could not defend myself.”

In an unusual move, however, Paxton brought DeBeauvoir’s case before a grand jury in a conservative county, not in Travis County, where the incident took place, the publication noted. However, that grand jury declined to indict DeBeauvoir.

A representative for Paxton did not respond to requests for comment on the case.

Although Paxton’s last-ditch attempt to grasp unilateral authority to pursue criminal charges for perceived election fraud was rejected by Texas’ highest criminal court last month, the conservative provocateur has spared no effort and expense to push the Big Lie.

Despite the slew of legal issues Paxton is facing, including an FBI investigation into his alleged aiding of one of his top donors, voters will have their say in Paxton’s tenure before the courts do, as the controversial conservative is up for reelection in the midterms.

Paxton’s office didn’t respond to ProPublica’s request for comments, but his crusade against confidence in the country’s elections is still ongoing.

Trump-Backed Arizona Republican Boasted About Committing Vote Fraud

The Trump-backed GOP candidate for Arizona attorney general has in the past disseminated anti-Semitic tropes, called for cutting U.S. funding to Isreal, and seemingly admitted to voter fraud, the Phoenix New Times reported Tuesday.

Abraham Hamadeh, a 31-year-old first-timer in the political sphere, emerged victorious in Arizona’s crowded GOP primary after his advocacy for the Big Lie — that widespread voter fraud derailed former President Trump’s “victory” in the 2020 election — won him Trump’s “complete and total” endorsement.

Hamadeh embraced many of Trump’s baseless allegations about the 2020 election and said, were it up to him, he would not have certified Arizona's 2020 general election results. Hamadeh vowed during his campaign that he would use the attorney general's office to “prosecute crimes of the rigged 2020 election.”

“Abe Hamadeh knows what happened in the 2020 election, and will enforce voting laws so that our elections are free and fair again,” Trump said in his endorsement.

According to the Phoenix New Times, in a slate of posts starting in October 2008, Hamadeh, then a 17-year-old aspiring WWE wrestler, allegedly admitted that he illegally voted and altered his mother’s vote on her absentee ballot for then-Senator Barack Obama for President.

“Obama is getting all of this crap simply cause hes black, he has an Arab name, hes the only senator who is black in the Senate, he is successful, and he is a Harvard Law graduate, they're scared they might have a smart man in the white house,” Hamadeh wrote.

In a follow-up post, he admitted, “No, I cannot vote. I just submitted my mother’s absentee ballot, she votes who I vote for, she voted for Ron Paul, and I’m saddened that I had to vote for Barack Obama, but it was the right thing I had to do.”

“Under Arizona law, it's a felony for a person to knowingly mark a ballot "with the intent to fix an election for that person's own benefit or for that of another person" or to possess anyone’s early ballot other than your own. It's also illegal for anyone younger than 18 to cast a ballot,” the New Times noted in its report

Hamadeh also proposed radical, eugenics-like ideas for election reform: that only educated Americans who passed an intelligence test be allowed to vote, “not people who just go to a DMV and sign up to vote,” per the New Times.

“Based on Barack Obama's intelligence I casted my vote for him yesterday through absentee,” Hamadeh wrote, seemingly admitting to underage voting.

Besides calling John McCain a “radical fascist,” Hamadeh peddled anti-Semitic talking points in 2007 and advocated for the United States to stop funding Israel a year later.

"If you think Jews arent big in america (2%) how come 56% of them are CEO'S ... Jews are influential and for the most part rich," Hamadeh wrote in a post. "its good we're targetting Arabs now, next will target Jews."

Hamadeh’s campaign did not deny the substance of the New Times’ allegations but said that Hamadeh made the comments at issue in his youth, “well before their minds were even fully developed,” so it should not be an issue in 2022.

“Abe Hamadeh is the youngest statewide candidate in the country, and one of the first to be scrutinized on his digital footprint dating back to a time when he was 16 years old, the same time he thought he would grow up to become a wrestler in the WWE," said Erica Knight, a spokesperson for Hamadeh’s campaign told the New Times.

“We are entering a new era of political opposition where candidates who have lived through their adolescent years on the internet are being judged and criticized based on comments they made well before their minds were even fully developed. It is now our responsibility to be careful where we draw the line," Knight added.

When HuffPost asked the Hamadeh campaign to clarify whether its candidate actually altered his mother’s vote, the campaign deflected by referring the paper to the candidate’s Wednesday tweet.

Hamadeh’s challenger, Kris Mayes, the Democratic candidate for Arizona attorney general, slammed him for his hypocrisy, anti-Semitic views, and radical utterances.

“It’s shocking that the Republican candidate for attorney general in Arizona admitted to engaging in voter fraud, and it’s equally offensive that he made so many anti-Semitic and sexist remarks,” Mayes said on Wednesday in an interview with HuffPost. “It’s just inexcusable and disqualifying.”

Mark Meadows Was Registered To Vote In Three States At Once, Officials Say

Mark Meadows, former White House Chief of Staff for the Trump administration and purveyor of election fraud conspiracies, is facing increased scrutiny and fresh allegations of voter fraud after the Washington Post reported Friday that he was registered to vote in three states at the same time.

Meadows was registered to vote in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia at the same time for three weeks, election records obtained by the Post show. However, Meadows was purged from North Carolina’s voter roles last week by the State Board of Elections in an investigation by North Carolina’s attorney general and the State Bureau of Investigations into whether he had committed voter fraud.

The investigation kicked into gear after a New Yorker report that Meadows had registered to vote with the address of a mobile home he didn’t own and never lived in. The previous owner of the Scaly Mountain mobile home was shocked to learn that Meadows had listed that address because his wife had spent only two nights there, despite renting the place for a few months, the New Yorker added.

According to the Post, Meadows is still a registered voter in both South Carolina and Virginia. A representative for South Carolina Elections, Chris Whitmire, told the AP that Meadows and his wife, Debbie Meadows, registered to vote in March 2022, two weeks after the New Yorker published its report.

“[March 2022] is when [Meadows] became active,” Whitmire added in his response to the AP, implying that Meadows had yet to vote in South Carolina.

Meadows was a congressman from January 2013 until March 2020, after which he took up the post of then-President’s Trump fourth and final chief of staff. After Trump lost the 2020 presidential elections, Meadows joined a far-right institute that purported to promote “election integrity” and pushed lies of election fraud.

In an August 2020 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Meadows whined about the inaccuracy in states’ voter rolls, saying, “I don’t want my vote or anyone else’s to be disenfranchised. … Do you realize how inaccurate the voter rolls are, with people just moving around? … Anytime you move, you’ll change your driver’s license, but you don’t call up and say, ‘Hey, by the way, I’m re-registering.’”

Apparently, Meadows didn’t tell Virginia he was re-registering when he signed up to vote in the Virginia gubernatorial elections the following year, a race Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin ended up winning.

Voter role inaccuracies evidently didn’t matter to Meadows anymore when he registered to vote in South Carolina last month, despite already being a registered voter in Virginia and North Carolina at the time.

In July 2021, Meadows splashed nearly $1.6 million on a three-story waterfront home in South Carolina, per the Post. While using the abandoned motor home in North Carolina as an address for his voter records, Meadows sold for $370,000 a Sapphire home where his mother lived and from which she voted for many years.

A representative for Mark Meadows refused to comment, and requests for comment left at the retirement community where his mother now resides went unanswered.

‘Election Integrity’ House Candidate Voted Twice In 2016 Primary

Matt Mowers, a former Trump administration official who is now running for a House seat in New Hampshire, voted twice in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, once in New Hampshire and one in New Jersey, the Associated Press reported. Some election experts say Mowers' double voting could be a violation of federal law.

Mowers was the New Hampshire director of then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's failed presidential campaign when he voted in the 2016 New Hampshire primary.

After Christie dropped out of the race, Mowers voted in the primary in New Jersey, using his parents' address for his voter registration there, the AP reported.

Federal law explicitly prohibits people from "voting more than once" in "any general, special, or primary election" for president.

"What he has done is cast a vote in two different states for the election of a president, which on the face of it looks like he’s violated federal law," University of Minnesota Law School professor David Schultz told the AP. "You get one bite at the voting apple."

Not all experts agree that Mowers violated the law, however. Steven Huefner of The Ohio State University law school told the AP, "With the right set of facts, it could be construed as a violation, but it's just not at all obvious to me that it is. It is a pretty murky question." The AP noted as well that the statute of limitations on Mowers' actions has run out.

Mowers, for his part, has made "election integrity" one of the pillars of his campaign.

According to his campaign website: "Nothing is more important or sacred than each American’s right to vote. To protect that right, we need to ensure that elections are secure, and the integrity of our electoral systems is strong. Just like President Trump, Matt supports establishing effective voter ID laws, regular audits of elections to verify vote totals and provide every American citizen with the certainty that their vote counts."

Mowers is not the first former Trump aide to be accused of voter fraud.

Former Rep. Mark Meadows, who served as Trump's chief of staff, is under investigation after he registered to vote in North Carolina in September 2020 claiming that his home address was a mobile home that he had neither lived in nor owned. In March 2020, Meadows had sold his North Carolina home when he left his House seat to work in the White House in March 2020.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, razzed Republicans after the latest allegation of a Trump official committing voter fraud emerged.

"Someone alert @GOPLeader, because the voter fraud has been found," the DCCC tweeted.

Despite ongoing Republican charges that voter fraud was responsible for Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election, it is actually exceedingly rare.

A Brennan Center for Justice report released in 2007 found that "most alleg­a­tions of fraud turn out to be base­less and that most of the few remain­ing alleg­a­tions reveal irreg­u­lar­it­ies and other forms of elec­tion miscon­duct," according to the center's website.

The few reports of voter fraud following the 2020 election have been about Trump voters.

Mowers, who worked as a senior adviser at the State Department during Trump's tenure, is running for the seat in New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District against incumbent Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas.

He ran against Pappas in 2020 and lost by 5 points.

Mowers faces a crowded GOP primary against at least six other Republicans, including GOP state Rep. Tim Baxter, former Trump White House aide Karoline Leavitt, and Gail Huff Brown, the wife of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

Reprinted with permission from Ameican Independent

Billionaire Outfit Recruits Trumpists To Fabricate ‘Voter Fraud’ Claims

At a wedding hall in rural northwest Wisconsin, an evangelist hollered a question to an eager crowd of conferencegoers: “Who thinks Wisconsin can be saved?”

He was answered with enthusiastic whistles and cheers. The truth, he said, would be revealed. “We need transparency!”

The subject: the nation’s election systems. The preacher was among a group of conservative speakers, including politicians, data gurus and former military officers, who theorized on the mechanics of voter fraud in general — and specifically distrust in the voter rolls, the official lists of eligible voters.

“Voter rolls are very, very important to the process,” Florida software and database engineer Jeff O’Donnell told the gathering of 300 in late January in Chippewa Falls, deeming the rolls “the ground zero” of what he called Democratic plots to steal elections. The only way former President Donald Trump could have lost his reelection campaign in 2020, O’Donnell said in an interview, was if voter rolls had been inflated with people who shouldn’t have been able to cast ballots.

Ever since Trump failed to convince the world that he lost the 2020 election because of fraud, like-minded people across the country have been taking up the same rallying cry, revisiting that vote with an eye toward what will happen in 2022.

Now, a new group is stepping into a more conspicuous role in that world by providing easily accessible tools for people in Wisconsin, other Midwest battleground states and, eventually, the entire country to forge ahead with a quest to prove election irregularities.

Calling its work unprecedented, the Voter Reference Foundation is analyzing state voter rolls in search of discrepancies between the number of ballots cast and the number of voters credited by the rolls as having participated in the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

The foundation, led by a former Trump campaign official and founded less than a year ago, has dismissed objections from election officials that its methodology is flawed and its actions may be illegal, ProPublica found. But with its inquiries and insinuations, VoteRef, as it is known, has added to the volume in the echo chamber.

Its instrument is the voter rolls, released line by line, for all to see.

In early August, the foundation published on its website the names, birthdates, addresses and voting histories for 2 million Nevada voters, information that is normally public but only available on request, for a fee. It claimed to have found a significant discrepancy between the number of voters and the number of ballots cast, despite being warned by state election officials that its findings were “fundamentally incorrect.”

In the months since, VoteRef has reported similar discrepancies in rolls posted for 18 other states, including the 2020 election battlegrounds of Michigan, Georgia, Ohio and Wisconsin. Most recently, it added Texas. It intends to post the rolls of all 50 states by year’s end.

“Voter File Transparency site adds Michigan; large discrepancy found,” read a headline on a Dec. 6 press release put out by the organization, which is led by Gina Swoboda, a high-ranking officer in the Republican Party of Arizona.

The project is still in its early stages, and the people at the Chippewa Falls conference did not mention VoteRef specifically.

Still, the VoteRef initiative is an important indication of how some influential and well-funded Republicans across the country plan to encourage crowdsourcing of voter rolls to find what they consider errors and anomalies, then dispute voter registrations of specific individuals. Visitors to the VoteRef site are able to scroll through data on more than 106 million people in a free, easy-to-use format. The VoteRef data includes personal identifying information of every voter and the years they voted, but not how they voted.

People line up at a polling place in Franklin, Wisconsin, on Nov. 3, 2020. VoteRef has posted that state's voter rolls. Credit:Chang W. Lee/The New York Times via Redux

VoteRef’s methods have already led to pushback from state officials. The New Mexico Secretary of State believes posting data about individual voters online is not a permissible use under state law and has referred the matter to the state attorney general for criminal investigation.

And an attorney for the Pennsylvania Department of State notified VoteRef in January that state law prohibits publishing the voter rolls on the internet and asked that the data be removed. VoteRef complied.

ProPublica contacted election officials in a dozen of the states where VoteRef has examined voter rolls, and in every case the officials said that the methodology used to identify the discrepancies was flawed, the data incomplete or the math wrong. The officials, a mix of Democrats and Republicans, were in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“The accuracy and integrity of Michigan’s election has been confirmed by hundreds of audits, numerous courts and a GOP-led Oversight Committee analysis,” said Tracy Wimmer, director of media relations for Michigan’s secretary of state.

“This is simply another meritless example of election misinformation being disseminated to undermine well-founded faith in Michigan’s election system, and from an organization led by at least one former member of the Trump campaign,” Wimmer said.

VoteRef, records show, is an initiative of the conservative nonprofit group Restoration Action and its related political action committee, both led by Doug Truax, an Illinois insurance broker and podcaster who ran unsuccessfully in the state’s GOP primary for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

A ProPublica review found that VoteRef’s origins and funders are closely linked to a super PAC predominantly funded by billionaire Richard Uihlein, founder of the mammoth Wisconsin-based packaging supply company Uline. A descendant of one of the founders of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, Uihlein is a major Trump supporter and a key player in Wisconsin and Illinois politics. Among his political donations: $800,000 in September 2020 to the Tea Party Patriots political action committee, a group that helped organize the Jan. 6 rally that led to the Capitol insurrection.

Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth Uihlein, have contributed in excess of $30 million combined over two decades to mainly Republican candidates on the state and local level, particularly in Illinois and Wisconsin, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign donor information. The total includes money given to groups that advocate on behalf of candidates as well as direct contributions.

Voter rolls are public information, typically used by campaigns to identify potential supporters, target messages or persuade people to go to the polls. Journalists and some businesses also at times use the rolls for newsgathering or commercial purposes.

VoteRef has said its aim is to increase transparency in the elections process, echoing the language used to justify door-to-door address checks, painstaking ballot audits and other efforts that Trump supporters are continuing to employ to parse the 2020 election. To publicize the results of its analysis of ballot inconsistencies, it crafted press releases that then were parroted on sites that purport to be legitimate news outlets and were connected to a media network that received large sums of money from VoteRef.

“VoteRef is the beginning of a new era of American election transparency,” Swoboda, VoteRef’s executive director, said in its Nevada press release. “We have an absolute right to see everything behind the curtain.”

Until a few months before the 2020 election, Swoboda, a resident of Scottsdale, a Phoenix suburb, was a professional in Arizona’s election system, working as the campaign finance and lobbying supervisor in the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Swoboda then served as Election Day operations director for the Trump campaign in Arizona, according to a sworn court affidavit she gave in Arizona in November 2020 as part of Trump’s legal challenge to election results there. She described how she took complaints from people who thought poll workers allowed defective ballots to be submitted, in what later became known as “SharpieGate.” (Votes made with a Sharpie do count, the state said.)

She and others associated with VoteRef declined to be interviewed for this story. But Swoboda did respond via email.

“In each of the states we’ve researched to date, the election data math simply doesn’t add up,” she wrote. “That requires reform. We seek to spur this reform through the sustained spotlighting of inaccuracies or wrongdoing.”

Flawed Methodology

As of late February, VoteRef showed 431,173 more ballots cast overall than people credited by voter rolls with having participated in the 2020 election.

To those unschooled in the mechanics of elections, VoteRef’s approach could seem reasonable: Compare the total number of ballots cast in the Nov. 3, 2020 election with the number of current voters on the rolls who have recorded histories of having participated in the vote.

For example, the VoteRef table for Nevada shows 8,952 more ballots cast than individuals credited with voting, based on histories obtained in February 2021.

“Theoretically, these numbers should match,” VoteRef claimed in an August press release.

But there are valid reasons the numbers do not match.

Nevada election officials explained it this way in a press release: “If ‘John Doe’ votes and has his ballot counted in Lander County, then moves to Mineral County, once he is registered in Mineral County, he will show no vote history because he has no vote history in Mineral County. The farther away from the election the data is acquired, the more it will have changed.”

In Connecticut, there were 1,839,714 ballots cast in 2020, according to VoteRef, but the group’s examination of voter histories in October, 2021, showed 1,802,458 people voting. VoteRef’s conclusion is that there was a discrepancy of 37,256 ballots.

But state election officials said that the registration database is “live,” and voting histories of those who moved out of state or died in the months after the election would have been removed from the rolls, accounting for the discrepancy.

“The list is not a static list,” said Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill. “It changes all the time.”

In Michigan, where VoteRef found a difference of more than 74,000 votes, an elections official said that state’s qualified voter file also constantly changes as it's updated, making the data the foundation relied on in late May 2021 — more than six months after the election — out of date.

In a recent email to ProPublica, Swoboda conceded as much.

“It's up to election officials who run election offices to reconcile their data, not the Voter Reference Foundation, which merely publishes their information in a consumer-friendly format,” she said. “Of course, our election experts are well aware of the time lag between certification and data pulls — we posted the documents online for all to see!”

Federal law requires that election supervisors make reasonable efforts to update voter lists, but provides leeway in how states carry out the task. The law prohibits administrators from removing people for simply not voting in repeated elections, unless notices go unanswered and officials wait for two federal election cycles before putting the voters on an inactive list.

Counties haven’t always done a good job, however, in maintaining the voter rolls, leading some people to distrust the system. One of VoteRef’s key aims is to task ordinary people with the chore of finding anomalies.

Scrutinizing Voter Rolls and Neighbors

In announcing the launch of its website, the Voter Reference Foundation touted it as a “first of its kind” searchable tool for all 50 states “that will finally give American citizens a way to examine crucial voting records.”

“Citizens will be able to check their voting status, voting history, and those of their neighbors, friends and others. They will be able to ‘crowd-source’ any errors,” the press release stated.

The group’s backers have encouraged scrutiny outside of one’s own household.

“With you can find out who voted and who didn’t. Did your aunt who died 10 years ago ‘vote’ after she died? Did your ‘neighbor’ who moved to another state vote? Did 55 votes emerge from a five-unit apartment complex?” Jeffrey Carter, a partner in a venture capital group who earlier had appeared on Truax’s podcast, wrote on the newsletter site Substack in December.

Matt Batzel, whose organization American Majority recently highlighted VoteRef’s efforts in Wisconsin, said in an interview with ProPublica that VoteRef’s vision is for citizens to detect and then report potential problems with the voter rolls, such as people who are registered to vote at vacant lots or unusually high numbers of votes coming from nursing homes.

Election experts say the type of work being done by VoteRef risks leading to further misinformation or being weaponized by people trying to undermine the legitimacy of the past election or give the sense that voter fraud is a more encompassing problem than it’s proven to be. Or it could be used to harass or intimidate valid voters under the guise of challenging their legitimacy.

Even without any clear evidence of fraud during the 2020 election, the vast, decentralized election system still is drawing scrutiny from those who believe that the system can be easily manipulated. At the daylong voter integrity conference in Chippewa Falls, speakers invoked war imagery, spoke of coverups, and urged people to “expose the tactics” of the political left. The group — saluted via video by Trump acolyte and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — is seeking to put like-minded individuals in vote-certifying secretary of state offices nationwide.

The voter rolls have been targeted, too, by others in Wisconsin, including special counsel Michael J. Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice and Trump supporter who the state’s Republican Assembly speaker appointed in June to conduct a review of Wisconsin’s administration of the 2020 election. On March 1, Gableman released a report blasting what he called “opaque, confusing, and often botched election processes.”

Gableman urged the Legislature to consider legal methods to enable citizens or civil rights groups to help maintain election databases.

“As it stands, there is no clear method for individuals with facial evidence of inaccurate voter rolls to enter state court and seek to fix that problem,” he wrote. He envisioned a system that “could even provide nominal rewards for successful voter roll challenges.”

While information about voters is available in most states, it comes at a cost and with limits on how it can be distributed to avoid having some private information be easily accessible.

In January, an official with the Pennsylvania Department of State wrote to Truax warning that it appeared that the Voter Reference Foundation had “unlawfully posted Pennsylvania-voter information on its website” and demanding that the organization “take immediate action” to remove the information.

Soon, Pennsylvania data disappeared from the website. Swoboda declined to answer questions about the matter. Attempts to reach Truax were unsuccessful.

In New Mexico, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver also said the undertaking is not an allowable use of voter data. By state law, she said, the rolls can only be used for governmental or campaign purposes.

“Having voter registration data ‘blasted out across the internet’ violates state law limiting use of the voter rolls solely for campaign or government activities,” she said. In December, Toulouse Oliver’s office referred the matter to the state attorney general for investigation and possible prosecution.

Associates of the Voter Reference Foundation dismiss these privacy concerns.

"You are joking, right?” said Bill Wilson, chairman of the conservative-leaning Market Research Foundation of Fairfax, Virginia, which paid more than $11,000 to the state of Virginia in March 2021 for the voter roll data and shared it with the Voter Reference Foundation.

“Big tech, both political parties and big media have no interest or concern for privacy and have mountains of data on individuals that is shared and sold on an hourly basis. You called me at my home, after all.’’

Support in GOP Circles

Restoration Action/PAC describes itself on its website as an “effective dynamo against those trying to destroy our country.” It produces ads on behalf of state and national candidates, castigates Planned Parenthood, “biased liberal media” and “Big Tech” and advocates for fair elections.

Truax, the group’s head, frequently assumes the role of news anchor to host the First Right video podcast, interviewing far-right conservatives. In early June last year, he introduced his audience to VoteRef, telling them: “We helped create the organization, and we’ll have much more to say about it in the coming weeks.”

Richard Uihlein’s quiet role was essential. He’s been the primary funder of Restoration PAC since its inception in 2015, contributing at least $44 million, according to the data from OpenSecrets. In May 2021, Federal Election Commission records show, Uihlein donated $1.5 million to Restoration PAC. That same month, the Voter Reference Foundation was incorporated in Ohio.

Two weeks after the Uihlein donation, money started flowing from Restoration PAC to a media network that did some data procurement and analysis for VoteRef, with payments totalling more than $955,000 as of the end of 2021, the FEC records show.

The network, which includes Pipeline Media, is operated by Bradley Cameron, a Texas business strategist, state corporation records show. Brian Timpone is listed as a manager at Pipeline Media. He made headlines a decade ago after his firm, then called Journatic, came under fire for outsourcing hyperlocal news offshore using phony bylines.

In recent months, VoteRef has released press releases about its activities that have been turned into stories on sites owned by Metric Media, which Cameron leads, according to his online profile. The sites mimic legitimate news outlets but print press releases, shun bylines, do little to no original reporting and rely on automated data. “New website to publish which Arlington residents voted, did not vote in gubernatorial election,” read an Oct. 28 headline in the Central Nova News of Virginia, a Metric Media site.

Uihlein did not respond to calls or emails from ProPublica seeking comment. Cameron and Timpone also did not reply to messages seeking an interview.

Political figures with ties to Trump have been touting the efforts of VoteRef.

Among them: former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, an immigration hard-liner appointed by Trump to serve as acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Cuccinelli now heads the Election Transparency Initiative, a Virginia organization opposed to expanding early voting or easing registration requirements. The initiative, a project of the conservative group Susan B. Anthony List, says it partners with The Heritage Foundation’s political arm.

House Committee Issues Subpoena to Top Trump Fundraiser Kimberly Guilfoyle

Cuccinelli spoke in September to about 100 party loyalists at a gathering at a suburban Milwaukee hotel about how they could use the VoteRef tools and become involved in securing the elections process.

Similarly, J. Hogan Gidley, former national press secretary for the 2020 Trump campaign, promoted the work of VoteRef on Philadelphia conservative talk radio before Christmas.

“We’re doing some work with them, too. We know the folks over there really well,” said Gidley, who is now with the America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit packed with Trump administration alums.

Truax, meanwhile, brought in Swoboda for his podcast last summer. They talked about the Arizona ballot audit and briefly referenced her work with the Voter Reference Foundation.

“It always feels like to me that the states, in general, have gotten a little sloppy in different areas, and just you know nobody’s really paying a lot of attention to it,” Truax said.

He added: “Now I think as conservatives we’re in a place we really got to pay a lot more attention. There’s a lot of energy now on this.”

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Trump's Crazy Voter Fraud Lies Yielded A Surprising Benefit

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With voting rights legislation and the Build Back Better Act stalled in the Senate, some liberals and progressives are complaining that President Joe Biden hasn’t been getting enough done. But journalist S.V. Dáte , in an article published by HuffPost on December 29, stresses that Biden has been a major success in terms of getting “progressive judges” on the federal bench — and Date argues that former President Donald Trump played a role in Biden’s achievement, even though that wasn’t his intention.

Dáte explains, “The former president’s sabotage of two Georgia Senate runoffs in early January with his endless lies about ‘massive fraud’ having cost him reelection almost certainly cost the two Republican incumbents their seats, giving Democrats control of the chamber and the ability to push through judicial nominations without a single GOP vote.”

A year ago, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was still Senate majority leader. But that changed when, in Georgia, Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were elected to the Senate — giving Democrats a narrow majority. Trump’s message to GOP voters in Georgia was that since Democrats rigged those Senate races, it was pointless for Republicans to vote. And that message did not serve the GOP well.

Of course, there was nothing “rigged” about those two runoffs. Democrats did a better job getting out the vote in Georgia, whereas Trump’s nonsense claims about widespread voter fraud discouraged Republican turnout.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor in Virginia, agrees that Trump’s actions in Georgia ultimately gave Biden a chance to get more federal judges confirmed — something they wouldn’t have been able to do had Republicans maintained control of the Senate.

"Trump handed it to them,” Tobias told HuffPost. “They just wouldn’t have had the votes. I don’t know what they would have done.”

Dáte notes that “of the 40 Biden judges confirmed so far — 35 more are already in the pipeline — a full 80 percent are women.”

“Those nominees would have faced a much tougher path in a Senate run by Mitch McConnell with a 52-48 Republican majority, which appeared as if it would be the outcome in November 2020 after the votes were counted in Georgia with no candidate in either of the two Senate races receiving over 50 perecent,” Dáte observes.

Tobias said of Biden’s federal judicial nominees, “I think very few of those people would have been confirmed. Biden would have pulled back and.… chosen more moderates, picked more people who were less ideologically liberal.”

HuffPost also interviewed the American Enterprise Institute’s Norman Ornstein, who agrees that had McConnell remained Senate majority leader, Biden would have had a much harder time getting his judicial nominees confirmed.

Ornstein told HuffPost, “If Biden were able to get a half dozen judges through — most likely, only district courts — in a McConnell-led Senate, that would be because Mitch was feeling especially generous. And Mitch does not feel generous.”

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida's Bipartisan Election Officials Urge Republicans To Stop Repeating Big Lie

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although Florida is a swing state, it has become a hotbed of MAGA extremism — from Gov. Ron DeSantis and Rep. Matt Gaetz to former President Donald Trump's operation at a Mar-a-Lago. But not everyone in Florida politics appreciates Trumpism or the Big Lie. And the bipartisan Florida Supervisors of Elections, according to Politico's Gary Fineout, are sending out a message urging political candidates to "tone down the rhetoric and stand up for our democracy."

Fineout notes that "the association is made up of members of both parties, and (its) current president is a Republican: Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox."

Without actually mentioning Trump by name, the Florida Supervisors of Elections stated, "During and after the 2020 Presidential Election, the integrity of our democracy has been challenged by misinformation, disinformation and malinformation that sows discord and undermines trust in America's electoral process. Many of us have been threatened by our fellow citizens who have been led astray by these deceptions."

The association went on to say, "False claims of fraud do not strengthen our elections. Instead, they degrade confidence in the institutions, and discourage citizen participation in our democracy."

Gaetz, Fineout observes, has "refused to say if President Joe Biden legitimately won the election." And DeSantis' campaign, promoting the Big Lie in a fundraising e-mail, claimed, "In the 2020 election, Democrats tried every trick in the book. They used the pandemic as an excuse to change election laws in ways that are unconstitutional and ripe for fraud and abuse in our elections. This included the mass sending of unsolicited mail-in ballots, bans on voter ID, ballot harvesting, and unattended ballot drop boxes in states across the country."