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Lacking Evidence (And Lawyers), Arizona Trumpsters Want Midterm Overturned

Trump Republicans who are seeking to overturn Arizona’s 2022 general election are preparing to sue up to 15 counties with the hope that they find a judge who will be sympathetic to a litany of conspiratorial claims, according to recruitment and briefing materials sent Wednesday seeking lawyers, plaintiffs, and funds.

The materials from “Arizona Constitutional Advocates,” which do not specify which race, or races, they contend were improperly administered, also suggest that the supporters of losing Trump-affiliated candidates will sue whether or not they are represented by a lawyer.

Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and GOP secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem were defeated, according to the media’s preliminary projections. Neither contest, as of Thursday, would trigger a legal recount.

Lake, in her first statement since losing to Democrat Katie Hobbs, said Thursday that she was assembling the “best and brightest legal team… to right these wrongs.” That boast was at odds, however, with the materials circulated by her supporters to hastily assemble a lawsuit to try to block Hobbs’ victory.

“There is a narrow window of 5 days after the election Certification to file a suit-complaint that out election was flawed,” said minutes from a Wednesday meeting by the Gila County Election Integrity Team. “We need to prepare now!”

“If no attorneys, we as plaintiffs could represent ourselves,” it said, under a section entitled “The Plan.”

“The goal in getting the case to many counties [is] so we could find judges that are favorable to hearing the case as we’ve had about 6 rejections in the past 2 years for other voting suits in Maricopa County. As we know the judges can be part of the problem.”

Six documents described the strategy. Two are filing instructions and forms, and court fees, for Maricopa County Superior Court, which is based in Phoenix. The others are the group’s Wednesday minutes, “Election Fraud Claim Info for Possible Plaintiffs,” “Grounds [to sue],” and “Redress of Grievances,” which describes filing of affidavits -- and “How To Call In The Military.”

Many of the purported claims have been circulating in far-right circles since Donald Trump lost the 2020 election in Arizona and nationwide. Some claims are newer and based on glitches that led to 17,000 ballots not being accepted by scanners in Maricopa County’s vote centers on Election Day. Those ballots, whose ink was too light to be read, were set aside, secured, and counted later.

However, none of the 22 issues listed in “Grounds” document specified how general election votes were improperly cast, or improperly counted, in a manner that would alter outcomes – which is the legal threshold to contest an election.

“Anyone can file a lawsuit for the filing fee,” said Chris Sautter, an election lawyer who has specialized in post-election challenges and recounts since the 1980s. “If you’re not doing a recount, the vehicle by which you challenge an election result is a contest. And in an election contest, you have to demonstrate in your pleadings that were it not for the actions you were contesting that the result would be different.”

Sautter reviewed the briefing materials and said that they were vaguer than the 60 lawsuits filed by Trump’s lawyers after the 2020 election that led to every suit except one on a procedural matter being rejected by state and federal courts.

“This is all reminiscent of the kinds of cases that were filed by Trump and his allies following the 2020 election, only these seem to be worse,” he said. “They’re more amateurish. At least, with Trump, you had lawyers in those cases, who knew how to frame the cause of action [when filing a suit]. You’re not going to get anywhere by just going in pro se and representing yourself and throwing out a bunch of allegations that will be dismissed pretty quickly.”

Sautter also said suing in multiple counties to find a sympathetic judge was naïve.

“These people are not going to outsmart the system, which seems to be what they are trying to do,” he said.

The Newest Allegations

The first allegation is one that Trump Republicans raised before Election Day in a few red-run counties. A handful of activists had urged county supervisors to replace state-approved vote-counting computers with a hand count – which none of the counties had done recently. The activists claim the federal accreditation of the testing labs that approved technology used in Arizona had expired.

“If the Lab was not accredited, the voting machines were not certified,” the minutes said. “And if the voting machines were not certified, the vote count (canvass) cannot be certified… and the election cannot be certified.”

The next allegation – “failure of audit without remedy” – concerned Cochise County, which still wants to do a hand count. The county’s attorney “refused to represent them – a dereliction of duty,” the minutes said, referring to a county attorney who said that state law clearly barred a county-run hand count.

The next allegation – “disenfranchisement” – claimed that voters in Maricopa County whose ballots were rejected by scanners were blocked from voting.

“If you are in Arizona, and you are one of the many who was turned away at the polls, or you had your ballot rejected, or later learned your vote was not counted – then sign and notarize a statement saying you were disenfranchised,” the minutes said. “Email your signed affidavit to CountMyVote@azgop.org.”

Another document that listed 22 “Grounds for Election Complaints—Maricopa & Other Counties” was even vaguer. It cited the above claims, and then issues such as “Lack of county department transparency,” “registration problems,” “no day of election records,” and more long-standing complaints from Trump Republicans.

“People came to voting centers to specifically be able to have their vote counted the day of elections were thereby unable to have their vote counted the day of the election, and potentially compromised their voter intent,” it said, reviving Trump’s contention that only votes cast on Election Day should count.

Among the “resources” to be viewed by possible plaintiffs were videos from Rumble, a pro-Trump media platform, “If Arizona Gets Stolen, Here’s How to Fight It,” a YouTube interview with 2020 election conspiracy theorist Cleta Mitchell, a segment from InfoWars, the website run by Alex Jones, who recently lost a major suit for attacking the parents of school children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting.

“We seek bold trusted patriots who have had enough of stolen elections,” said a document seeking plaintiffs in 15 Arizona counties. “We’re working together to redress our claims at the courts and pray some judges hear our cases.”

Trump Gang Scrambling To File Suit Denying Kari Lake's Arizona Defeat

Diehard Trump Republicans inside and outside of Arizona who cannot fathom that Kari Lake is projected to lose Arizona’s 2022 governor’s race are frantically trying to assemble a lawsuit to block the certification of the victory by Katie Hobbs, a Democrat and Arizona’s current secretary of state.

“We need 3-5 Attorneys. Please call any you think might be interested and see if they are willing to support the cause without the retainers,” said the top item on a Tuesday email sent by the Gila County Election Integrity Team. “The suit will be prepared by experienced legal writers.”

“We need to reach and recruit voters or candidates in other counties to become plaintiffs and get them up to speed,” it continued. “Who can help? Please shake the trees.”

On Monday night, national media called the race for Hobbs, who won 50.4 percent — or 1,266,922 votes — compared to Lake’s 49.6 percent — 1,247,428 votes. Those results, based on counting 98 percent of the votes, is a bigger than the 0.5 percent margin in Arizona law that would trigger a recount.

“Arizonans know BS when they see it,” Lake texted on Monday evening.

Lake, a former Fox News broadcaster in Phoenix whose political rise was based on viewers’ familiarity with her and Lake’s mimicry of Trump’s stances, led by claims that his re-election bid was stolen, publicly had been criticizing the counting process in Maricopa County, its most populous county.

Officials in Maricopa County, which is run by non-Trump Republicans who spent much of 2021 fending off election conspiracy accusations, replied that Lake did not understand how election are run and were offensive – given that hundreds of thousands of mailed-out ballots had been returned on Election Day and election workers had been putting in 18-hour days to count votes.

Before Monday’s media projection of her loss, Lake had been telling nationally known 2020 election deniers – such as True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht – that she planned to fight any outcome but a gubernatorial victory.

In her podcast last Friday, Engelbrecht said that she had spoken to Lake and was inspired by Lake’s determination to keep fighting – unlike other Trump-endorsed candidates in Arizona who had conceded.

“It’s one of the reasons we came to Arizona because Kari Lake is not quitting in the face of such uncertainty,” said Engelbrecht, who, with Gregg Phillips, a fellow conspiracy theorist at True the Vote, had been jailed for contempt of court on Halloween in an unrelated defamation case where they had accused an election vendor of giving China access to voter data.

“Tuesday’s election… didn’t go quite like many felt that it would,” Engelbrecht said. “But I submit to you it was sort of the same song, second verse. The things that go wrong on Election Day, and went wrong in 2020, went wrong in 2022. Like [voting] machines going out, not enough paper [ballots], bad chain of custody [of ballots], the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, elections taking far too long to resolve… what we want to avoid is becoming the new normal.”

Phillips said that he and Engelbrecht, who voter fraud fabrications were featured in the misinformation-laced film about the 2020 presidential election by Dinesh D’Souza, 2000 Mules, said the goal was stopping Maricopa County’s certification of the victories by Hobbs and other Democrats in top statewide races. (Phillips, Engelbrecht, and D’Souza have been sued for defamation by voters who were falsely accused onscreen of illegally casting absentee ballots.)

“Our view of it is that you always have to stop the certification,” Phillips said. “Once the certification happens, pretty much the cat’s out of the bag; it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle and everything goes wrong. But we have really learned some interesting things here because of this delay [in counting].”

Phillips said the county’s use of an Arizona-based ballot printing and election technology, Runbeck Election Services, to pre-process mailed out ballots – to vet the authenticity of voters’ signatures on the ballot return envelopes – opened up several avenues to argue that Maricopa County did not follow state law.

“We can now define them inside certain large buckets,” he said. “Like chain of custody issues [transporting ballots securely, and] issues that they have in compliance with the law relative to signature verification.”

On Monday’s edition of the J.D. Rucker Show on Rumble.com, a pro-Trump online platform, New Jersey attorney Leo Donofrio outlined another line of legal attack. He focused on the response by Maricopa County to the intermittent breakdown of ballot printers in 30 percent of its 223 voting centers on Election Day.

Bill Gates, the Republican lawyer who chairs Maricopa County's board of supervisors, told voters that they could put their ballots in a secure box at the vote centers to be counted later, or they could go to another vote center.

That advice was no guarantee that these ballots had been counted, Donofrio said, and it put voters at risk for voting twice, which exposed them to criminal charges.

“There is no function [in voting systems] for a voter to check out of a polling location once they have checked in… That is a complete fiction,” he said. “It’s like [the 1977 song] Hotel California, J.D., ‘You can check in, but you can never leave.’”

The “Gila County Election Integrity Team” said they would be meeting on Wednesday and communicating via a group chat on Telegram, another social media site. It urged insiders to reach out to Andy Gould, a state appeals county judge, “to seek behind the scenes support,” and Mick McGuire, a retired general who ran unsuccessfully for the 2022 GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, to see “if he can help also with statewide supporters who would be plaintiffs, or perhaps he would, [as] he is high profile and well liked.”

Throughout the vote counting process and Lake’s attacks on election officials, Hobbs rejected the charges and urged Arizona to be patient.

“Despite what my election-denying opponent is trying to spin, the pattern and cadence of incoming votes are exactly what we expected,” Hobbs said Friday. “In fact, they mirror what [political trends] our state has seen in recent elections. We must remain patient and let our election officials do their jobs.”

Polls Miss Again As Voters Mobilize To Protect Elections and Abortion Rights

In 2022’s general election, the most consequential results were not just the defeat of Trump Republicans and continuing reaffirmation of abortion rights. It was what those choices by majorities of voters said about their expectations for American democracy. The electoral system did not sabotage the clear will of voters, but, instead, aided turnout by offering many options to vote, including mail ballots.

There is no single explanation for the still-emerging outcomes in blue and red states. Indeed, some red states saw Trump Republicans whose 2022 candidacies were launched by the U.S. Capitol insurrection win – or at least stay ahead as votes were being counted at the weekend.

But the rejection of Trump-backed candidates, support for core freedoms like abortion rights, record turnouts in key states – lifted by convenient mailed-out ballots, and civil servants’ ability to handle turnout and run an orderly process -- was not what many polls and pundits were forecasting before Election Day.

Indeed, the same outlets that on Veterans Day were reporting that “vote integrity and abortion” shaped the midterms were, for weeks, citing polls that said 2022’s voters mostly cared about the price of gas, food, and inflation. Democracy and freedom were not on the ballot, apparently, until it was discovered they were.

“The polls were telling us that people didn’t care about democracy or abortion. In fact, that’s what they cared about,” said one analyst in a Thursday briefing. “Our interest [is not] in who won this election, but that this country continued to have free and fair elections and that our freedoms continued to be protected… Any other narrative about what happened is going to leave us vulnerable again.”

Election Deniers Rejected

It’s easy to overlook that these outcomes were possible because the nation’s election infrastructure – the multitude of election officials and poll workers, and the technologies they use to verify voters and count ballots – did the job that most Americans have expected over the years. That assumption changed, of course, during the course of Donald Trump’s presidency, when Trump started attacking the accuracy of the system before he was elected, and especially after he was defeated in 2020. Millions of Republicans believed him and still do.

For the past two years, Trump and his allies hoped to create a path for a 2024 comeback by pushing national and state GOP organizations to back candidates for state constitutional offices that had varying degrees of authority to alter the rules surrounding access to a ballot, how votes are counted, and winners are certified. Many of those same candidates also embraced Trump’s belligerent attitude and vowed to revive culture wars – led by banning abortion.

That unofficial Republican Party platform, where many current GOP candidates claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, expressed little reluctance to tilting voting rules for the GOP’s benefit, and assailed many civil rights, became known as “election denialism” in the press and political circles.

The earliest returns on Tuesday night showed election deniers losing key state and federal races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. By midday Thursday, only five new election-denying candidates out of 94 seeking statewide office had been elected, according to the States United Democracy Center, a bipartisan pro-democracy organization that has been monitoring these candidates.

“Election Denial as a platform was a new tactic we saw this year, and the results show that it didn’t work,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of States United Action, its advocacy arm. “So far, most of the Election Deniers who have won statewide office were already sitting elected officials in states that voted for Trump.”

“We’re still waiting on results from Arizona, Nevada, and a few other states,” she said. “But Americans have already sent a clear message: They believe in our free and fair elections. And they don’t want Election Deniers to have power over their vote.”

The rebuke was even wider than States United’s tally. In Michigan, voters passed a ballot measure with a slate of election reforms to make voting more accessible and transparent. Nevada voters passed an expansive equal rights clause to their state constitution. Voters in Michigan, like California and Vermont, opted to add abortion rights to their state constitutions. Voters in red Kentucky, like Kansas this past summer, rejected proposed constitutional limits on abortion.

Many pre-election polls missed these pro-democracy and freedom sentiments. That conventional wisdom began to crack on Election Day, when the Associated Press’ Election Day poll of 94,000 voters – a much bigger sample than most pre-election polls – reported “about half of voters say inflation factored significantly in their vote,” but “slightly fewer voters — 44% — say the future of democracy was their primary consideration.”

The economy, of course, always matters. But democracy was on the ballot.

Still, The Election Isn’t Over

Meanwhile, anti-democratic threats from Trump Republicans remain.

While Democrats have preserved their U.S. Senate majority, the U.S. House, which President Joe Biden said on Wednesday may have a slim GOP majority, will have a GOP caucus filled with election deniers, including scores of representatives who voted against certifying the 2020 Electoral College after the insurrection.

In other battlegrounds, such as Nevada and Arizona, by Saturday evening it appeared that Democrats had defeated or were positioned to defeat most Trump Republicans. Nevada’s incumbent Democratic Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, was projected by the Associated Press to win her contest, preserving the body’s Democrat’s majority. Another Democrat, Cisco Aguilar, was projected to win the race for secretary of state. In Arizona, Democrat Adrian Fontes was projected to win the secretary of state race.

Masto, Aguilar and Fontes all defeated Trump Republicans who were among their state’s most vocal election deniers. However, some election deniers were winning high office. In Nevada, Joe Lombardo, a Las Vegas area sheriff endorsed by Trump, was elected governor. In Florida, Gov. Rick DeSantis, an authoritarian Republican, was returned to office. In deep red Wyoming, an election denier was elected as secretary of state.

As 2022’s election continues toward the process of officially certifying winners, it will be intriguing to see how the pro-democracy messages sent by voters will play out. In Arizona and Nevada, where the GOP ticket is led by candidates who not only rejected Biden’s victory, but also colluded with rogue county boards to take over counting ballots and declaring winners, some chaos is stewing.

These frays may be sideshows when compared to state and nationwide trends. But Trump and his allies have used local fights over election results and voting technology in a handful of counties to perpetuate his stolen election narrative and to sustain doubts about 2020, and to fundraise.

On Thursday, the Trump Republican-led board of supervisors in Cochise County, Arizona, announced it will meet next week to start a hand count that was blocked by a state court on Monday. The supervisors did not want to use a state-approved voting system, which reflects their distrust of computers that tally votes.

Initially, they wanted to hand count ballots and use those figures as the results – which a non-Trump Republican lawyer told me would let them create whatever totals they wanted. The hand count, which is likely to be stopped by the Arizona Supreme Court, is led by the former lawyer for the Cyber Ninjas, the Florida firm that oversaw the discredited post-2020 review sanctioned by state senators.

Voting rights lawyers are following these antics. In 2020’s post-election period, Trump and his allies filed more than 60 lawsuits filled with false claims but lacking in factual evidence – the basis of judicial rulings. He lost every suit except one. But they were a bonanza for creating stolen election propaganda in right-wing media.

In 2022, Trump Republicans claim they are better organized. They have recruited volunteers to gather evidence of malfeasance. If and how those reports are cited in future court filings, or surface in pro-Trump media, remains to be seen.

Most Conspiracists Sidelined

But what hovers over these ongoing developments in the 2022 general election is wide rejection of Trump Republican candidates and other signs that voters were moved by democracy issues and voted to protect elections and abortion rights.

The list of election deniers and rightwing culture warriors who lost bids for state office keeps growing, as tracked by States United Action.

Nationally, at least 42 million voters, a third of the electorate, cast mailed-out ballots, according to The National Vote at Home Institute, a non-profit that assists officials with this option. That usage will set a record for a midterm election and affirms that voters welcome flexible voting options and want to be heard.

Moreover, Election Day voting did not see widespread incidents of threats to election officials, or disputes among election workers and partisan observers, as many election insiders had feared. Nationally, officials administered an orderly process, even though some locales experienced glitches that delayed voters.

What stood out in the final Election Day briefing by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, were singular incidents where individuals with right-wing sympathies bullied or hurled “racial slurs” at voters waiting in line, and problems with voting sites near universities that were impeding students (which isn’t new). Such intolerance, which predates Trump, still lingers in his base.

But mostly, voters opted for candidates that did not want to subvert elections and to protect personal freedom. And today’s voting rules and infrastructure allowed record numbers of voters cast ballots and accurately recorded their choices.

“So far, new Election Denier candidates have only won around five percent of all races for statewide office,” said Thania Sanchez, State United Action’s senior vice president of research and policy development. “And there aren’t enough uncalled races left for that trend to shift much.”

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.

Accountability Looms For Media Outfits That Spread Lies About 2020 Election

A wave of litigation seeking accountability from media purveyors of smears and lies that falsely depicted the 2020 presidential election as "stolen" is percolating in courts around the country -- and heading toward trials or settlements in the near future.

These lawsuits augment the most high-profile investigations and prosecutions seeking accountability from Donald Trump and his White House and campaign aides for seeking to overturn the election’s result.

Indictments are anticipated from the probe conducted by Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, and possibly from the U.S. Department of Justice, whose investigation and prosecution of the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, is one of the largest in its history. (That said, some DOJ observers expect the first federal indictment of Trump to focus on his removal of government documents to his Florida home.)

While Trump faces 19 pending civil and criminal cases, according to JustSecurity.org, an online analytical forum, there are an additional 10 pending cases at various stages in state and federal courts that are targeting Trump allies in right-wing media and propaganda fronts.

The lawsuits allege the media-based provocateurs smeared election officials, local government workers, ordinary voters, and others by publishing false and defamatory claims about them, or additionally violated their civil rights by deploying illegal and violent tactics.

The suits stand apart from pending litigation by Dominion Voting Systems, one of the nation’s largest voting machinery makers, which is seeking $1.6 billion from Fox News for defaming its computer systems.

Many of these cases are being litigated with the help of ProtectDemocracy.org, “a nonpartisan nonprofit organization formed in late 2016 with an urgent and explicit mission: to prevent American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.”

Protect Democracy’s ongoing lawsuits include:

• A lawsuit against filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, True the Vote, Salem Media, and others involved in the 2020 election conspiracy film, 2000 Mules, for defamation and voter intimidation, on behalf of a Georgia man who was falsely accused of breaking the law in the movie and its related promotional materials.

• A defamation lawsuit against Rudolph Giuliani in federal court brought by two former election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss, who testified before the House Select Committee on January 6. In late October, a judge denied Giuliani’s motion to dismiss the case.

• A lawsuit that led to a settlement with One America News Network, known as OAN, for the pro-Trump network’s publication of false reports about the 2020 election. A similar suit in a Missouri court against The Gateway Pundit, another pro-Trump right-wing website, is moving toward discovery and interviews of witnesses under oath.

• A defamation lawsuit against Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, and Richard Hopkins, for spreading the lie after the 2020 election that the postmaster in Erie, Pennsylvania, was illegally backdating ballots at postal facilities. A state court denied motions to dismiss the case.

• A voter intimidation lawsuit in Texas in response to an incident in 2020 where the “Texas Trump Train” – a caravan of Trump-supporting motor vehicles – tried to force a Joe Biden campaign bus off a highway at high speed. Discovery has been proceeding.

These suits are in addition to other litigation involving election denial. Last week in Arizona, in a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters, a federal judge barred “unlawful voter intimidation” by Trump backers who were staking out ballot drop boxes, carrying guns, wearing body armor, and taking photos and videos of voters, some of whom they followed.

The media-centered lawsuits are part of a spectrum of litigation that seeks to unearth evidence about the broad national conspiracy by Trump and his allies to overturn 2020’s popular and Electoral College votes.

Notably, AmericanOversight.org, has filed public records requests for communications (e-mails, texts, and phone logs, for example) that have revealed the misconduct of Trump-allied activists, including the discovery of plans by state GOP officials and activists to forge fake Electoral College documents.

While it remains to be seen what will ensue from these lawsuits, they not only suggest that long-awaited legal accountability is looming, but underscore that spreading disinformation is a strategy deeply connected to more direct attempts to undermine election results and seize illegitimate power.

Trump And Imitators Again Attack Arizona Election, Exaggerate Glitches

Like sharks at a feeding frenzy, Arizona’s Trump Republican candidates, rightwing broadcasters, and even the ex-president himself, jumped on malfunctioning ballot scanners in one-fifth of Maricopa County’s 223 voting centers early on Tuesday to attack the election’s legitimacy.

Kari Lake, Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, tweeted “your provisional ballot… might not count” as people were voting.

Charlie Kirk, a right-wing radio host tweeted, “2 hour wait minimum… DON’T LET THEM DO 2020 AGAIN,” which quickly sparked 40,000-plus social media messages, according to Election Integrity Partnership, an academic consortium that monitors online disinformation.

Neither Lake’s claim about uncounted votes nor Kirk’s claim about wait times were correct. But that didn’t stop Donald Trump from jumping in.

“Reports are coming in from Arizona that the Voting Machines are not properly working in predominantly Republican/Conservative areas,” Trump posted on Truth Social shortly before 11 AM local time. “Can this possibly be true when a vast majority of Republicans waited for today to Vote? Here we go again? The people will not stand for it!!!”

By early evening, Trump again singled out Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and more than 60 percent of Arizona’s voters.

“To the people of Arizona, in particular, because that’s the one that’s come up right now, stay on line. Don’t leave,” Trump said. “Already a lot of people have left. And it’s very, very unfair what’s going on. Maricopa County – don’t leave. Stay there.”

What happened with Maricopa County’s paper ballot printers and scanners was not entirely clear – even after local Republican officials, who run Maricopa County and oversee its elections, posted a video reassuring voters that their ballots would count.

But what was clear was that the snafu, which inconvenienced some voters and likely was a due to set-up error, did not mean that its 2022 general election was being stolen in plain sight as Trump alluded.

The impulsiveness and ferocity of the Trump Republicans’ reactions to a regrettable but fixable error reveals much about their tribal mindset and paranoia. To start, they were not attacking Democrats. They were going after Republicans previously deemed insufficiently loyal.

It did not matter that Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, the senior election official, has repeatedly said that he voted for Trump in 2020. Richer and Maricopa County’s Republican-majority Board of Supervisors have defended their 2020 election as accurate and legitimate, which is heretical in Trump circles.

Part of the county’s defense was debunking every false claim made during 2021’s post-election audit led by the Cyber Ninjas, a Florida cybersecurity firm hired by the Arizona Senate’s Republican caucus. That review concluded that Joe Biden won but spent months casting doubt on the election, fueling the 2020 election denier narrative.

One day before Trump and the others pounced on Maricopa County’s snafu, Arizona’s election deniers suffered a stinging defeat in court. A rural county led by Trump Republicans who wanted to count this fall’s votes by hand – instead of using a state-approved computer system – was ordered to use the computers. Their legal team, which argued in court last Friday, included the Cyber Ninja’s lawyer, Brian Blehm.

In short, many Trump Republicans do not trust anything electronic in voting. They believe that counting ballots by hand is more precise. It’s not, as many studies have shown, due to the tedium. Nonetheless, candidates such as Mark Finchem, a state representative who is the GOP nominee for Arizona secretary of state, has vowed to outlaw voting system computers as he has campaigned this fall.

“There’s a pretty large contingent out there that wants to get rid of [voting] machines in total,” said Benny White, a lawyer and longtime data analyst for the Arizona Republican Party who is disliked by Trump Republicans – because his analyses traced and explained Trump loss. “They’re very ignorant [about the nuts and bolts of running elections]. But they’re very vocal. That’s what you are hearing.”

In rapid succession, Cochise County’s election administration rebellion was quashed. Maricopa County experienced voting system issues. And Trump Republicans reacted with outrage rather than perspective.

Nationwide, many states and counties experienced problems with their election systems on Tuesday, according to a briefing by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which runs the 866-OUR-VOTE election protection hotline and logged several thousand phone calls from voters seeking assistance across the country.

But unlike the Trump Republicans, the Lawyers’ Committee’s state directors did not make accusations of an illegitimate election. They told voters what to do – which often involved being patient. In a few cases, their volunteer lawyers intervened on voter’s behalf.

Ironically, that’s what Maricopa County’s Republican brass tried to do.

“We’re trying to fix this problem as quickly as possible,” said Bill Gates, Board of Supervisor chair, in a video posted online midday on Tuesday.

“And we also have a redundancy in place. If you can’t put the ballot in a tabulator, then you can simply place it here,” Gates continued. “This is a secure box where those ballots will be kept for later this evening where we’ll bring them in here to central count to tabulate them.”

Later Tuesday, the Republican National Committee went into court to seek to extend polling place hours. White said there was no doubt that some candidates would end up suing. Arizona counties must certify their election results in 20 days. Then candidates have 10 additional days to file challenges.

“The loser of one of these races will base an election contest on the improper printing of the ballots,” White said. “You can file at any time, but you have to wait until you get some results in order to have some evidence and some grounds to present to the court.”

Whether those suits will have any legal traction remains to be seen. But they will likely spark more propaganda that ignores facts – and reveals how little they know about the way voting systems actually work.[With votes still remaining to be counted, Mark Kelly is ahead in Arizona's U.S. Senate race and appears likely to win. Democrat Katie Hobbs maintains a smaller lead in the governor's race against election-denying Republican Kari Lake.)

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.

Battleground Courts Reject GOP Efforts To Block Voting And Create Chaos

On November 7, the eve of Election Day, judges in numerous battleground states issued rulings that rejected efforts by Trump Republicans to impede the casting and counting of ballots and replace state-approved vote-count verification processes with untested hand counts.

Those critical decisions, which push back on efforts to stymie voters and counting in Democratic strongholds such as the cities of Philadelphia and Detroit, came as the Department of Justice announced that it will send federal election monitors to 67 counties in 24 states across the country.

“The [DOJ] Civil Rights Division will monitor for compliance with the federal voting rights laws,” said the department, listing jurisdictions that are blue epicenters – cities and counties – in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The suits filed by Trump Republicans and their allies in national and state Republican Party organizations show the range of GOP efforts to stymie voters, disqualify mailed-out ballots, and create alternative vote counts that likely would clash with results produced by federal- and state-approved election systems.

In Wisconsin, a judge ruling from the bench rejected an effort to set aside and stop counting mail ballots cast by military service members. In neighboring Michigan, a judge rejected a lawsuit filed by Republican secretary of state candidate and election denier Kristina Karamo that would have imposed strict limits on counting Detroit’s mail ballots.

There were three rulings in Pennsylvania. The first rejected a GOP attempt to urge the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling on the date range (on mail ballot return envelopes) when the ballots could be accepted. The GOP wanted a narrower window.

(The high court also had ruled that ballot return envelopes had to be properly signed and dated by a voter. As of Monday, a Philadelphia election official said that 3,400 mail ballots had been rejected on these grounds, causing Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman’s campaign to file a suit seeking to count the rejected ballots.)

Another Pennsylvania ruling rejected an effort led by former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr that would have impeded Philadelphia’s ability to use electronic poll books to check in Election Day voters. The third ruling rejected an effort to impede election officials in Monroe County from starting to reach out to voters to “cure” – meaning fix – a mistake they made filling out their ballot return envelope.

In Georgia and New York, courts issued rulings to expand access for some voters who otherwise might be disadvantaged. Metro Atlanta’s Cobb County was told to accommodate 1,000 voters who did not receive requested mail ballots. In New York, a court rejected a GOP effort to prevent a polling place from being set up at Vassar College.

In Arizona, a state court stopped Trump Republicans associated with the notoriously sloppy post-presidential election “audit” led by the Cyber Ninjas, an IT firm selected by Republican state senators, from supplanting the state-approved counting and audit process with a manual hand count of every ballot before certifying winners.

In Arizona’s Cochise County, which is on the border with Mexico, Trump Republicans on the county board of supervisors sought to override the objections of their county’s election director and replace a count of all ballots by computer scanners with a hand count. The court said the supervisors, who are Trump Republicans, violated Arizona law.

“The Board of Supervisors has acted unlawfully,” Superiors Court Judge Casey McGinley held. “Defendants urge the Court to consider that permitting a full hand count audit would help ameliorate fears that the electronic count was incorrect, and that it ensures that every vote is counted and counted correctly. However, there is no evidence before this Court that electronic tabulation is inaccurate in the first instance, or more importantly, that the audit system established by law is insufficient to detect any inaccuracy it may possess.”

There will be more court rulings in comings days as the administration of the election shifts from the last day for casting votes – Election Day – to the counting of those in-person votes and processing of mail ballots, which, in many states, can still be received in coming days and will count as long as they were postmarked by November 8.

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.

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.

In Nevada, Trump Republicans Attack Veteran GOP Election Clerks

Yerrington, Nevada – For the past 24 years, Nikki Bryan -- a patient, professional, plain-spoken woman -- has overseen elections, the courthouse, and other municipal duties as the elected clerk in Lyons County, a ranching, retail, and manufacturing region of 60,000 people in northern Nevada east of Lake Tahoe.

As Bryan stood before the early voting site her staff had set up in the Lyon County Administrative Center’s foyer, with voting stations carefully placed below artwork celebrating the county’s rural culture, her voice had a touch of resignation.

Like more than half of Nevada’s county election officials since the 2020 who have resigned or decided not to run for re-election, Bryan is reluctantly retiring. There are many reasons, starting with 2021 election reforms that have increased the workload – by mailing every registered voter a ballot – and drawn criticism from voters upset that some traditional polling places had closed.

But the main reason, by far, was that local Republicans she has known for years, who supported Donald Trump and believed the 2020 election was stolen, have incessantly attacked Bryan, a Republican, on a daily basis – even after Trump beat Joe Biden two-to-one in Lyon County and 75 percent of the voters turned out.

“I don’t know what they want,” Bryan said. “I’ve done everything that I can do, and everything that I can think to do, to make everybody happy and it’s just not happening. There’s so much anger and so much distrust and so much rhetoric of things that are absolutely not true.”

Local Republicans not only believed lies that they heard from Trump and on pro-Trump media more than Bryan, a local official they knew and had re-elected for 20 years, but the lies have become articles of faith.

“People hear that [the election was stolen] and I guess they believe it because they’ve heard it over and over and over from multiple people,” Bryan said. “And I think at this point it’s not really lies. I mean, it is lies. It started with lies. But then when people believe it. They absolutely with all their soul believe there was fraud and all of that, that makes it difficult for us to try to keep the confidence in elections.”

Bryan, after nearly three and none-half decades working in the county, will retire and return to raising miniature horses, llamas, goats, and sheep on her two-and-one-half acres, focus on photography, be with her family and travel.

The traumatic close of her career is not unique. In central Nevada’s Nye County, Clerk Sandra Merlino retired this summer after 20 years in office after her county commissioners, led by Trump Republicans, wanted Merlino to hand count ballots, which she opposed. In Washoe County, where Reno the state’s second largest city is located, Registrar Deanna Spikula resigned after receiving death threats.

Even Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State, Barbara Cegavske, was censured by the Nevada Republican Party Central Committee in 2021 because she investigated Trump Republicans’ claims and found no evidence of voter fraud in 2020.

“Regrettably, members of my own political party have decided to censure me simply because they are disappointed with the outcome of the 2020 election,” Cegavske said. “My job is to carry out the duties of my office as enacted by the Nevada Legislature, not carry water for the state GOP or put my thumb on the scale of democracy. Unfortunately, members of my own party continue to believe the 2020 general election was wrought with fraud – and that somehow I had a part in it – despite a complete lack of evidence to support that belief.”

The appointees replacing the outgoing county clerks in Nevada’s Republican-majority rural counties include several 2020 election deniers. Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising example is Storey County’s Jim Hindle, who in 2020 signed forged Electoral College certificates in an attempt to certify Nevada’s votes for Trump.

In 2020, Biden won Nevada by more than 33,000 votes. Hindle, who is overseeing Storey County’s 2022 general election, is expected to be elected on November 8.

National Exodus Of Experienced Clerks

Nationwide, sizable numbers of experienced election officials are leaving the profession, according to a national survey of local election officials by the Reed College’s Elections & Voting Center and the Democracy Fund, a grant-maker and voting policy hub, released on November 2.

“Among the 2022 survey participants, close to one third of the election officials are eligible to retire before the 2024 election—and 39 percent of those eligible plan to do so,” it said. The study found increased workloads in rural counties with small staffs were a factor, but also cited “abuse, harassment, or threats.”

In a Wednesday press briefing, Reed College’s Paul Gronke said that 26 percent of officials had experienced a “confrontation in the workplace,” “18 percent had reported “verbal or physical abuse,” and 14 percent had experienced “a confrontation in a public place… about what happened in your work.”

Tammy Patrick, a former Arizona election official who is a senior advisor to the Democracy Fund, recounted what one local election director told her during the research. She said, “I used to be the pillar of my community. I would walk down the street. Everybody knew me… and now I am the pariah, because of what they heard and what they believe, that I personally have abdicated my duties and undermined and stole the election.”

Patrick said she was hearing from many local officials who were determined to stay on. But there were many who simply had enough.

“There are some that are doubling down and they’re like, ‘Not on my watch. I am not abandoning my post,’” she said. “Whereas there are others that said, ‘You what, I didn’t sign on for this.’ ‘I didn’t sign on for my kids to get followed home from school.’ ‘I didn’t sign on for my voice mail or answering machine at home to be full of vitriol.’ ‘I didn’t sign on for my staff to be breaking down in the office because of the way they’re being treated.’ ‘I didn’t sign on for our local law enforcement, in some instances, to say, “well I agree with the protesters.” I agree with the individuals who are storming your office.’”

The survey found that local election officials who self-identified as Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all said that they had been targeted, with the most populous jurisdictions receiving the most threats.

Internecine Distrust In Nevada

Every state is a political microcosm. In Nevada, what stands out is that even as its rural counties have Republican-led governments, many Trump Republicans have not relented in distrusting the fellow Republicans running their elections.

“They’re more willing to believe those statements that are coming across newscasts or podcasts or through social media than they are the person that’s been in their community and committed to the process for years,” said Humboldt CountyClerk Tami Rae Spero, a Republican, who has run elections in this northern county since 2003 and worked in the clerk’s office for a decade before that.

“Many people [Trump Republicans] are between a rock and hard place,” she said. “They’ve heard so much about the [in-person voting] equipment that they don’t want to use it. But they don’t want to vote the mail-in ballot either.”

It was discouraging that many doubters did not understand how elections were run, Spero said, including recent changes making it easier to vote – such as using a mailed-out ballot in a remote county where many people work in the region’s mines. Many people do not know how elections are run and are suspicious of what they don’t understand, she said, which translates into cynicism.

“The constant or virtually constant pushback from the public about something you’re committed to, and that you’ve sworn to uphold the law, has been trying,” she said. “But I have made the choice to run again. I did it because I believe that I made a commitment to the voters of this county when I first ran not to leave until I knew the job was done.”

Spero is likely to be re-elected as Humboldt County is deeply Republican. But she predicts that many voters will not believe 2022’s state and congressional results.

“Actually, the majority of our local races were determined in the primary,” she said. “But at the state level, especially with the type of secretary of state race we have this time [where the GOP nominee, Jim Marchant, is a 2020 election denier], I have the full expectation that there will not be an acceptance of whatever happens either way.”

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.

In Nevada County, A Harbinger Of The Chaos That Election Deniers Will Wreak

Pahrump, Nevada– One day after Nevada’s Supreme Court and Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske shut down a hand count of 2022 general election ballots in a rural county whose GOP leaders fell under the spell of 2020 election deniers, the man at the center of that political storm – Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf – was determined to resurrect the controversial process.

Standing outside the Bob Rund Community Center in Pahrump, an early voting site in a town of 45,000 located at the base of a desert county that stretches for 170 miles along Nevada’s western flank, Kampf said he spent a sleepless night writing a proposal to revive the hand count. It was stopped because observers were hearing how people voted, which is illegal in Nevada before voting ends.

“I didn’t get much sleep last night. I was working on my revised procedure,” he said on Friday, October 28. “The procedure was what I had conceived of before I even got into this office [in August], which was a silent process… They [Cegavske’s staff] might get it tomorrow.”

Inside the voting center on Friday afternoon, it was quiet. As a Democratic Party observer noted, there were more poll workers than voters. A Republican Party observer said there had been no trouble apart from one man trying to bring his gun inside (Nye is a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.”) He was told to leave it in his car. Another man who voted in the morning tried to vote again. Poll workers recognized him and told him to leave. The Democratic observer asked about a voter who put their absentee ballot on top of a drop box – not in it.

These mostly calm scenes belie the political issues and stakes raised by Nye County’s rebellion in election administration. Led by Trump Republicans who control the Board of County Commissions, Nye County has broken with how the rest of Nevada is conducting the 2022 general election in two major ways.

First, until it was halted on October 27, Nye County was conducting a hand count of 2022 general election votes that also were being counted on state-approved voting system computers. The hand count was an effort to assess the accuracy of the computers. Second, county officials want most voters to cast a hand-marked paper ballot, not a computer-marked ballot on a state-approved system.

Across Nevada, most 2022 general election voters will cast a mailed-out ballot – which is a hand-marked paper ballot. In 2021, Nevada’s Democrat-led legislature adopted this way of voting after it was used during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state also offers in-person voting before and on Election Day. Almost all Nevada counties use touchscreen computers for their in-person voting. These systems use software to record votes, which Nye County’s commissioners no longer trust.

If Nye County executes its plans, it could foreshadow what elections may be like in states should 2020 election-deniers win on November 8.

Political Theatre

The hand count has received the most attention and is a reaction to the distrust of computer voting systems by ex-President Donald Trump and his loyal followers. Last March, Jim Marchant, who became Nevada’s 2022 Republican secretary of state nominee, and several 2020 conspiracy theorists made a presentation to the Nye County Board of County Commissioners as the first stop on a statewide tour urging the banning of voting machines and adoption of hand counts.

The GOP-majority commission was swayed. It started pressuring the longtime county clerk, Sandra Merlino, to move to an all-paper, hand-counted election. She opposed that plan and resigned a few months later after 28 years of service in county government. Kampf, a retired corporate executive who specialized in supply chain controls and audits for Fortune 500 companies, was appointed interim clerk. He is expected to be elected on November 8.

Outside the Bob Rund Community Center on Friday, neither Kampf nor Frank Carbone, a Republican county commissioner standing with him, would say what they distrusted about computer voting systems. Instead, they said that their constituency – the 69 percent of county voters who voted for Trump in 2020 – had concerns that must be addressed.

“The Board of County Commissioners made a decision. It said they wanted to go to paper ballots. And that’s what we did,” said Carbone. “It has nothing to do with disliking machines. It had nothing to do with any of that process. The people said this is what they wanted.’”

So, on Wednesday, October 26, six teams of five people – plus political party observers, reporters, and voting rights lawyers watching – started reading aloud every vote that had been cast on a batch of 50 general election ballots and began to manually tally the votes. In 2020’s presidential election, roughly 25,000 votes were cast in Nye County. By day’s end, the teams only got through 50 ballots, because, among other things, counting mistakes were made.

Lawyers from the state’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter noted that they could hear the results, and on Thursday filed an emergency motion saying the hand count violated state law banning the release of results before the close of voting on Election Day.

Hours later, Nevada’s Supreme Court and secretary of state ordered the hand count to immediately stop. The high court told Nye County – meaning Kampf – to work out a hand count procedure that the secretary of state could approve. Kampf stayed up most of Thursday night revising his plans.

Kampf said his revised plan would have three members of each hand-counting team eye every ballot without saying aloud how people voted. They would write down the votes cast. If discrepancies appeared, a recount process would ensue and be documented. Thus, instead of speedy computer tabulators, there would be volunteers parsing bundles of 25 ballots, one contest at a time.

What gets lost in the political drama surrounding these details is that the hand count –which Kampf and Carbone said is to inspire public trust – has become a public relations sideshow. Even though Nye County’s GOP leadership wanted the hand count to replace the state’s official vote-counting process, that preexisting lawful system– as Nevada’s Supreme Court noted – remains in place. The hand count will have no impact on the official tabulation of votes in 2022’s general election. At this point, the hand count is merely an unofficial recount that may take months.

All Hand-Marked Paper Ballots

The more significant ongoing development, at least from an election administration perspective, is what has escaped notice by local and national media. That development is what Nye County is doing to ensure that almost every ballot cast will be a hand-marked paper ballot, not a computer-marked ballot.

In 2021, Nevada joined the handful of states that are mailing every registered voter a paper ballot. But not every voter will vote by mail. Nevada allows voters to opt out from receiving a mailed-out ballot, an acknowledgment that some Republicans, like their ex-president, do not trust any ballot that was not cast in person and counted on Election Day. It was not hard to find such voters in Pahrump.

“I didn’t ask for one,” said Bill Becht, who was manning a booth for the GOP candidate for sheriff. “I received one and promptly threw it in the trash.”

Every Nevada county also will have in-person voting sites. There people can register and vote on the same day. Those who do not want to use a mailed-out ballot can vote. And people with disabilities can use a computer voting station. In most counties, including Nye County before the 2022 general election, the in-person voting was done on a touchscreen computer made by Dominion Voting Systems – the vendor demonized by Trump and his ardent followers, which is currently suing Fox News and other defendants in a billion-dollar defamation case.

Dominion’s computer system has voters selecting their candidates by touching a large rectangular screen. The computer, in turn, records the choices on a thumb drive locked inside. After voting ends, the drive is removed by poll workers and taken to county headquarters where its subtotals are compiled into the overall results on a central tabulating computer. Each touchscreen voting station also prints the votes on a paper roll that can be seen, but not accessed, by voters. Nye County is the only Nevada County this fall that will not use the touchscreens except when requested by an infirm voter or person with disabilities.

At Nye County’s three early voting sites, there is only one touchscreen voting station set up. In contrast, at the community center in Pahrump, there were 36 privacy booths on four rows of tables, where voters would fill out their paper ballot by hand using a pen. An overflow room had additional privacy booths.

Poll workers checking in voters gave out pre-printed paper ballots. (There are 13 different ballots across the county, which vary by local races.) When combined with paper ballots mailed out by the state, Nye County has found a way to replace almost entirely all of its computer ballots with hand-marked paper ballots.

As of noon on October 29, 6,097 mailed-out ballots had been received by the county, the clerk’s office said. An additional 1,125 pre-printed ballots had been given out and cast in person at the early voting sites. Only 53 voters used the computer voting station for people with disabilities. Together, those ballots represented a 17.7 percent voter turnout.

In general, hand-marked ballots are praised by experts because they are a direct record of a voter’s intent. Jennifer Morrell, a former election official now with the The Elections Group, a consulting firm that assists officials, said that using all hand-marked paper ballots in polling places with one ballot-marking device for people with disabilities was not uncommon. "I've seen it in many jurisdictions across the country that operate a precinct polling location model."

Both Kampf and officials in the county clerk’s office stressed that they were making sure that the number of legal voters and ballots issued each day was the same – to ensure that no illegal votes were cast. Election officials routinely check this aspect of elections to prevent fraudulent voting or to trace illegal voting.

More Paper Means Later Results

The shutdown of Nye County’s hand count has halted that aspect of its election administration rebellion. It remains to be seen whether Secretary of State Cegvaske will accept Kampf’s proposal to restart that process.

But Nye County’s use of hand-marked paper ballots may have other Election Day impacts. If there is a heavy turnout on Election Day, particularly near the close of voting, it is likely that the tasks associated with counting all of the paper ballots will delay the release of its preliminary results until Wednesday, November 9, or later. Such late reporting in 2020 was criticized by Trump as an indication of a corrupt election, although that claim was factually inaccurate.

But if Nevada’s statewide and federal elections come down to the wire, Nye County – whose southern tier is in a U.S. House district now held by a Democrat – could be among the last of Nevada’s counties to report.

That delay would be due to several factors. The clerk’s office, where its central tabulating computers are located, is in Tonopah. That office is where all of the paper ballots are scanned and counted. (The scanner makes a digital image of every side of every ballot. Software then correlates a voter’s ink marks with the ballot’s layout of candidates and ballot measures.)

Tonopah is 168 miles and two-and-one-half hours to the north of Pahrump – on a two-lane highway locals call the “highway of death” because the speed limit is 70, it is unlit at night, and wild horses and burros wander onto the road.

That distance will delay the counting of the last tier of ballots from Pahrump, the county’s population center. Additionally, if the state allows the hand count to resume, Kampf’s staff in Tonopah has to fill out additional chain-of-custody paperwork so the paper ballots can be returned to Pahrump in batches of 25 ballots for the hand count. This will add more time to counting ballots.

Nevada, like many states, has taken steps to speed up its reporting of results. It allows county offices to preprocess mailed-out ballots before Election Day. That means signatures and identifying information on return envelopes can be vetted and the ballots taken out and run through scanners. Those computers will not display their subtotals until voting closes on Election Day.

The paper ballots given out at in-person voting sites can be counted starting on Election Day, which, in Nye County, will help the Tonopah office to get ahead of the ballots that will arrive after voting ends.

But Trump Republicans who oppose any form of voting other than in-person voting on Election Day and who expect results on Election Night are likely to be frustrated. Trump has said anything outside this window cannot be trusted. So even if Nye County is a harbinger of what elections may look like if election-denying candidates win this fall, some aspects of elections won’t change. Producing accurate results, even or perhaps especially in Republican-run counties, takes time.

“It would be nice to have the results by midnight on election night, but it won’t happen that way this time,” said Kelly Fitzpatrick, Nye County Democratic Party chair. “That’s another consequence of the Big Lie.”

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.

Hand Counting Halted In Nevada County As Court Rips Pro-Trump Official

One of the country’s most high-profile efforts by Trump Republicans to avoid using election system computers in 2022’s midterm elections and instead count votes by hand is coming apart at the seams.

Less than two days after Nye County, Nevada, began a controversial hand count led by an interim county clerk who is a 2020 election denier, Nevada’s Supreme Court and Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske issued consecutive orders late Thursday shutting down the operation until after Election Day, November 8.

The twin orders were narrowly focused on a hand-count process that interim County Clerk Mark Kampf created this fall and debuted on Wednesday. On its first day, only 50 ballots were hand counted. In the county’s 2020 presidential election, 30,000 ballots were cast by voters, suggesting a full hand count would not finish before the deadlines in state law.

Most of Nye County’s voters reside in its southern tier, which is located near Las Vegas. That location makes Nye County a potentially pivotal swing district in one of 2022’s battleground states.

Many of Nevada’s statewide and congressional contests are very close, according to numerous polls, including seats now held by Democrats. Among those are one U.S. House seat and a U.S. Senate seat.

The Nevada Supreme Court order agreed with an emergency motion filed by the Anerican Civil Liberties Union of Nevada earlier Thursday, which contended that the counting process violated other state election laws that require vote counts to remain secret until after Election Day.

The process created by Kampf, which led the ACLU to sue earlier this month, had two people reading aloud the choices made by voters on their ballots, and three other individuals tallying those results. When the hand count commenced on Wednesday, four teams counted 50 ballots and nearby observers – including ACLU lawyers – heard the voters’ choices. The observers also witnessed many counting errors, causing the teams to recount votes multiple times.

Nevada’s Supreme Court said that reading aloud the results violated state law and ordered the county to cease immediately. It also ordered the county and secretary of state to work out another hand count process that would begin after Election Day.

“Observers may not be positioned so as to become privy to the ballot selections and room tallies,” the court’s October 27 order said. “The specifics of the hand-count process and observer positioning so as not to violate this mandate is for respondents and the Nevada Secretary of State to determine.”

However, the secretary of state’s rebuke implied that the state and county might not agree on an acceptable hand count process.

“The current Nye County hand count process must cease immediately and may not resume until after the close of polls on November 8, 2022,” said Cegavske’s October 27 letter. “Further, no alternative hand counting process may proceed until the Secretary of State and Nye County can determine whether there are any feasible ‘specifics of the hand-count process and observer positioning’ that do not ‘violate the [Supreme Court’s] mandate.”

The issues at the center of the two orders are not the only problems shadowing Nye County’s handling of the 2022 general election.

In 2020’s presidential election, roughly three-quarters of the county’s voters supported Donald Trump. In late 2019, Nye County’s supervisors declared the county was a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” meaning that its citizens could carry weapons into public buildings.

On Wednesday, a female election worker with a gun tried to confiscate the notes taken by an ACLU observer. That incident was not the subject of orders by the state supreme court and secretary of state.

Other rural counties , which are less populous than Nye County, appear to have far more electronic voting stations per site than Nye County, where Kampf has opposed using the computers. How insufficiently deploying election equipment will affect the county’s voter turnout is an open question whose impact remains to be seen.

Most of Nye County’s voters are located in its southern tier, which is located near Las Vegas. That location makes Nye County a potentially pivotal swing district in one of 2022’s battleground states.

Many of Nevada’s statewide and congressional contests are very close, according to numerous polls, including seats now held by Democrats. Among those are one U.S. House seat and a U.S. Senate seat.

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.

Cynical Trump Knew He Lost in 2020 But Used The 'Big Lie' To Seize Power

Donald Trump knew within days of voting that he lost the 2020 presidential election. But he deliberately chose to incessantly lie about a stolen election as he pushed top federal and state Republican officials to subvert the vote – which they would not do. And then Trump turned to an armed mob that he cultivated to violently storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempted coup on January 6, 2021.

The fact that Trump was repeatedly told by his campaign managers, White House counsel, the U.S. Attorney General, family members, and others that he had lost the election – but chose to lie about the results and mislead millions of voters, including insurrectionists now being prosecuted – were among the many details in the latest session by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The committee dramatically ended its October 13 meeting by unanimously voting to subpoena Trump to appear, an unexpected development as hundreds of 2020 election-denying GOP candidates are seeking state and federal office in 2022’s general election on November 8.

The committee session, which also highlighted previously unreleased Secret Service records and texts showing that White House security, and other police and intelligence agencies were aware that an insurrection was planned and likely, underscores the extent to which Trump was not merely power-hungry, but knew from the immediate aftermath of voting that he had lost and was still willing to lie about it – and later prevented police agencies from stopping the rioters.

“First, as you will see, President Trump had a premeditated plan to declare that the election was fraudulent and stolen before Election Day – before he knew the Election results,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the committee’s co-chair. “Second, please recognize that Donald Trump was in a unique position – better informed about the absence of widespread election fraud than almost any other American.”

[The hearing also examined Trump adviser Roger Stone's role in preparing the Trump "Big Lie" strategy and advocating violence with his allies in the proto-fascist Proud Boys and Oath Keepers organizations. The committee's scrutiny of his conduct led to Stone's meltdown in real time.]

“President Trump’s own campaign experts told him that there was no evidence to support his claims,” Cheney continued. “His own Justice Department appointees investigated the election fraud claims and told him, point blank, they were false. In mid-December 2020, President Trump’s senior advisors told him the time had come to concede the election. Donald Trump knew the courts had ruled against him. He had all of this information but still he made the conscious choice to claim, fraudulently, that the election was stolen; to pressure state officials to change election results; to manufacture fake Electoral [College] slates; to attempt to corrupt our Department of Justice; to summon tens of thousands of supporters to Washington, knowing that they were angry, knowing that some of them were armed, he sent them to the Capitol.”

Thursday’s committee meeting, coming after a two-month break, was described by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee chair, as a summation of their investigation’s findings to date, and also as an exploration of “President Trump’s state of mind,”

“What did President Trump know? What was he told? What was his personal and substantial role in a multi-part plan to overturn the election?” Thompson asked.

As numerous polls have shown in the 21 months since the insurrection, tens of millions of pro-Trump Republican voters believed Trump’s lie that the election was stolen – taking the former president at his word. But all along, top White House staffers and a handful of others said that Trump occasionally said in private that he knew he had lost, those individuals testified under oath.

On December 11, 2020, after Trump’s allies lost a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court “that he regarded as his last chance of success in the courts,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said, the president was fuming.

Texts by Secret Service officers confirmed Trump’s anger and were projected on large screen behind the dais.

The panel then played a videotape excerpt of its interview with Cassidy Hutchinson, the top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was with Trump and Meadows shortly afterward.

“The president was fired up about the Supreme Court decision,” she testified. “The president is raging about the decision and how it’s wrong… The president said something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out. We need to figure it out. I don’t want people to know that we lost.”

There were other signs that Trump knew he lost – even if he would not say so publicly, Kinzinger said, saying these were the actions of a commander in chief who knew that that he would be departing. Trump gave the military signed orders to withdraw all troops from Somalia and Afghanistan, which Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee would be “catastrophic” and a “debacle.” (The order was not followed.)

However, in speeches, including at a rally on the Washington mall before Congress convened to ratify Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, Trump cited debunked conspiracy theories to claim that he had been cheated in his bid for a second term.

“It happened over and over again, and our committee’s report will document it,” said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA). “Purposeful lies, made in public, directly at odds with what Donald Trump knew from unassailable sources: the Justice Department’s own investigations and his own campaign. Donald Trump maliciously repeated this nonsense to a wide audience over and over again. His intent was to deceive.”

Millions of Republican voters were deceived and still believe that President Biden’s victory was illegitimate. More than 900 far-right militia members and radical Republicans who also believed Trump’s lies and followed his orders to storm the Capitol have faced federal prosecution.

While it is an open question whether Trump will ever sit before the House Select Committee, nearly 300 copycat 2020 election-denying GOP candidates are seeking top state and federal offices on this fall’s ballots.

They, privately, may not believe Trump’s lies. But they have parroted his election denying claims in the campaign – lies that the committee has shown that Trump knew all along were false. They want voters to believe that they are fit for office and will uphold the same constitutional oath that Trump knowingly and intentionally violated.

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.

Senate Advances Reforms To Prevent A Trump-Style Electoral Coup

Efforts to reform the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 law whose quirks and ambiguities became a roadmap for Donald Trump and his allies to try to subvert congressional certification of 2020’s Electoral College vote, moved a step closer in the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday.

The Senate Rules Committee, in a bipartisan 14-to-1 vote, approved a bill that clarified state and congressional procedures for the final stages of certifying presidential election results. The bill explicitly seeks to prevent the abuses that led to the insurrection on January 6, 2021.

“I’m pleased that we are where we are today,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who voted to send the bill to the full Senate. “Assuming that we make no changes here today, or, at most, technical changes, I’ll be proud to vote for it and to help advance it.”

The Electoral Count Act (ECA) was passed after one of the 19th century’s most disputed elections. Like 2020’s presidential election, that contest also saw states sending competing Electoral College slates to Congress and violence at the Capitol. The ECA, which took years to write, is notorious for garbled and dense passages that Trump’s most aggressive supporters sought to exploit to subvert Joe Biden’s victory in November 2020.

The remedy, The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act or S.4573, seeks to blunt the cornerstones of Trump’s attempted coup.

“The Electoral Count Act was largely overlooked for over 130 years, but it was at the center of a plan to overturn the 2020 election and the will of the American people, that, as we all know who work here, culminated in a violent mob desecrating the Capitol,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the rules committee. “They did this by making false claims that this law allowed the vice president to refuse to accept Electoral College votes that were lawfully cast, by recruiting state legislators to declare a failed election and appoint their own [presidential] electors, and by exploiting the fact that the law allows one single senator and one single representative to object to a state’s Electoral College votes and use baseless claims to delay the count in Congress.”

The bill is the result of a bipartisan group of 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans working for months to create a narrowly focused bill that prevents abuse by either party if their candidate loses. Klobuchar and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the rules committee’s ranking minority member, highlighted four primary areas in the legislation.

“The bill explicitly rejects, once and for all, the false claims that the vice president has authority to accept or reject Electoral [College] votes. It makes it clear that the vice president role during the joint session is ceremonial,” Klobuchar said. “Second, it raises the threshold to challenge the electoral votes [of any state] during the joint session of Congress to guard against baseless claims. Right now, just two people out of the 535 members can object and slow down and gum up the counting. This bill would raise the threshold to one-fifth of Congress.”

“It replaces the undefined and controversial ‘failed election’ clause [in the 1887 law] and ensures that states can’t overturn the results of an election,” Blunt said, referring to state legislatures overriding their state’s popular vote for president. “It provides for an expedited federal court process to ensure states issue [presidential Electoral College] certifications after the [popular vote result of the election] has been certified in their state.”

The only rules committee member to object to the bill and vote against it was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who claimed that it was a federal power grab.

McConnell, however, called the bill “common sense” and said that it – not a recently House-passed ECA reform bill – was the “only bipartisan compromise… [that can] become law.”

“It’s common sense… that the vice president obviously has no personal discretion or power over the presidential vote,” McConnell said. “It is common sense to protect states' primacy in appointing their electors, but also strengthen requirements that states publicize their rules before the elections and stick to them. It’s common sense to make technical fixes to other related laws like the Presidential Transition Act. And it's common sense that our colleagues leave chaos-generating bad ideas on the cutting-room floor.”

Several voting rights organizations praised the committee’s action. But they also noted that it was the only pro-democracy legislation that stood a chance of emerging from Congress after the 2020 presidential election, which they said was insufficient.

"Fixing the Electoral Count Act is critical, but it is not enough. It eliminates some avenues for election sabotage, but many others remain,” said Wendy R. Weiser, vice president of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

On the other hand, Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization opposing more authoritarian government, noted the reform was supported by many Republican senators.

“The bipartisan vote to advance the Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA) underscores the momentum and cross-ideological consensus… [to] strengthen presidential elections in the future,” said Genevieve Nadeau, Protect Democracy counsel. “We now call on Congress to finish the job and pass the strongest ECA reform possible by the end of the year.”

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.

Trump Allies Challenging Georgia Voters To Suppress Midterm Turnout

On August 29, eight cartons of notarized paperwork challenging 25,000 voter registrations were delivered by pro-Donald Trump “election integrity” activists to Gwinnett County’s election offices in suburban Atlanta. They were accompanied by additional paperwork claiming that 15,000 absentee ballots had been illegally mailed to voters before the county’s 2020 presidential election.

Two days later, the activists held a briefing on the filings. It was led by Garland Favorito, a soft-spoken retired information technology professional who has been agitating in Georgia election circles for 20 years and heads a non-profit called VoterGA. Favorito began by citing six lawsuits the group has filed against state and county officials – claiming counterfeit ballots, untrustworthy or illegal voting systems, and corrupt 2022 primary results. Then he turned to Gwinnett County.

“We are delivering today 37,500 affidavits challenging voter rolls and handling of the 2020 election,” said Favorito. “As a reminder, the presidential spread for the entire state of Georgia was 11,000 and change, not quite 12,000 [votes]. And we have 20,000 [allegedly improper voter registrations] just in Gwinnett alone. This number will increase as our analysis is ongoing.”

The Gwinnett challenges are not unique. In Georgia’s Democratic epicenters, Trump backers have been filing voter roll challenges since last winter targeting upwards of 65,000 voters. The state’s post-2020 election “reform” bill, S.B. 202, authored by its GOP-led legislature, allows an unlimited number of challenges.

While most of the claims put forth by Voter GA are easily refuted, the challenges individually targeting voters could have an impact in suppressing some number of votes this fall in Georgia, where polls find some statewide contests are very close.

“This is brazen voter intimidation with the express intent of suppressing minority votes,” said Ray McClendon, NAACP Atlanta political action chair. “The NAACP is working to inform voters of their legal remedies in order to protect their voting rights. We will not be bullied by these underhanded tactics.”

Bogus Attack On Absentee Voting

The voter challenges concern three areas, said Zach Manifold, Gwinnett County election supervisor, who patiently explained why most of VoterGA’s claims were mistaken and overblown. For example, the assertion that 15,000 voters were improperly sent an absentee ballot in 2020 was flat-out wrong, he said, and formally should not even be called a voter challenge.

“They’re not really voter challenges because they’re related to the 2020 election,” Manifold said. “Voter challenges are challenging [individual registered] voters going forward for an upcoming election, or to remove them from the rolls.”

The linchpin in this allegation hinges on whether a voter’s application for an absentee ballot was filed more than 180 days before the election.

“[They contend] our office should not have processed these applications because they were received more than 180 days before the election, which was the law at the time,” Manifold said.

The county elections staff investigated, he said, and found that the allegations were wrong, and, crucially, that VoterGA had overlooked a simple and obvious explanation.

“It appears that all of those, at least everything we have looked at – the few hundred that we sampled – were all valid [absentee ballot applications],” said Manifold. “They’re what we call rollover voters. You can apply for a ballot earlier in the year, before a different election, and roll it over [the absentee ballot request] throughout the whole cycle.”

The absentee ballot application on the county’s website offers this option. On page two, at item 12, a voter can check a box that says, “I opt-in to receive an absentee ballot for the rest of the election cycle.” In other words, these voters apparently had opted in. The voters and the county officials did nothing improper.

Neither Favorito nor Sheryl Sellaway, the media contact listed on VoterGA’s press release about the Gwinnett challenges, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Voter Suppression Scenario

A similar dynamic is at play with the 25,000 individual challenges to registered voters on the county’s rolls. But, unlike the false claim of illegal absentee voting in Gwinnett County in 2020, which perpetuates Trump’s stolen election lies, these forward-facing registration challenges could suppress an unknown number of votes from being counted in 2022’s November 8 election.

Such voter suppression is possible because under Georgia law, the challenges could force some number of infrequent, but registered, voters to go through extra hoops before their ballots would be counted. Should any of the challenged voters try to vote this fall in Gwinnett County, they would be given a conditional ballot. That ballot would not be counted unless the voter presented additional ID at a hearing after Election Day. Historically, most voters skip these hearings.

(This process is similar to what happens to voters who are not listed in precinct poll books. They are given a provisional ballot, which is set aside and not counted until the voter shows up at a county office or an election board hearing with ID, which, historically most of these voters never do.)

Manifold said that this tranche of VoterGa’s voter roll challenges was threading a needle that narrowly followed state law and avoided a 1993 federal law that bars larger-scale voter purges within 90 days of a federal election.

“Somebody could challenge somebody under [Georgia law section] 230 and put them into a challenge status all the way up to Election Day,” he explained. “What happens is that voter would vote a challenge ballot. It’s similar to a provisional ballot. And those ballots are adjudicated at the same meeting [after Election Day] where we do provisional ballots.”

“That puts the onus on the voter,” Manifold said. “The voter actually has to come to a hearing and say, ‘This is me.’ ‘I live here.’ ‘And you should count my ballot.’”

How many voters could find themselves in this situation is hard to predict, he said. About 22,000 of the voter registration challenges concern people who are infrequent voters or have not voted recently. VoterGA’s press release said it had used “a variety of public records to determine accuracy of the [voter registration] entries.” The release did not specify what public databases were used, but most of the affidavits cited the Postal Service’s change of address database. That database was not designed for vetting voter registration information.

Ironically, it appears that VoterGA’s efforts to winnow Gwinnett County’s voters rolls pales next to the county’s (and state’s) efforts to update these records.

Gwinnett County, which has 650,000 registered voters, has procedures dictated by state and federal law to contact infrequent voters before removing them from the rolls. Infrequent voters, people who may have moved or died are tracked via several government databases, Manifold said. In the past 12 months, the county has sent five notices by mail to alert these voters of their pending removal – and telling them what steps they must take to become active voters, meaning they would get a regular ballot in the next election. Normally, any infrequent voter who shows up would reactivate their registration status.

However, under VoterGA’s challenges – which name individual voters – those registrants would be shunted aside and given a conditional ballot. The county has assigned a team of workers to review these 22,000 voter registration challenges, Manifold said. So far, it has found that most of these individuals already are on the county’s radar, he said. But several thousand potential voters may not be.

“Almost 90 percent of the challenges that we have seen here are people that were already picked up in our conformation process,” Manifold said.

Manifold also said the current election cycle was the first one where Georgia was participating in an interstate registration data-sharing consortium, which helps to update its voter rolls and identify eligible but unregistered voters. Georgia also is among the states that automatically register voters as they get a drivers’ license.

Georgia’s automatic registration system -- run by another state agency whose primary function doesn't involve elections -- has led to some number of data-entry typos (misspellings, incorrect addresses) in the voter rolls, Manifold said. These errors appeared to be the reason for the third category of registration challenges from VoterGA, where 2,700 registration files were found with missing address information or could not be tied to a physical street address.

“We do want to get that information updated,” Manifold said. “There is some sort of data mismatch somewhere in the system, and that means that voters are not getting whatever we’re sending out.”

But VoterGA is not coming in and working with county officials to alert them to deficiencies in voter registration data that, if corrected, could lead to more voters casting ballots. They are making sloppy and easily refuted allegations about 2020 absentee voters that seek to perpetuate false narratives about that election. And they are filing voter challenges that could suppress and nullify the ballots cast by an unknown number of infrequent but legal voters later this fall.

“What this really is all about is to frustrate minority voters into staying home on Election Day,” said the NAACP’s McClendon. “Such efforts will only motivate those who believe in democracy to fight even harder to ensure all voters’ voices are heard.”

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.

How A Rural Colorado County Became An Epicenter Of Trump’s Big Lie

Colorado’s southwestern Mesa County is filled with desert lore. It’s also home to one of 2020’s stranger false stolen election narratives that keeps resounding like echoes in its canyons -- but offers lessons for 2022’s general election.

Tina Peters, Mesa County’s Clerk, was not a cultish election denier immediately before or after 2020’s presidential election. She did not make any accusations that her voting system’s computers had been secretly sabotaged when Sandra Brown, Mesa County’s back-office election manager, mistakenly double-counted 20,000 ballots in late October 2020—a procedural error during preprocessing ballots that Brown repeated in Mesa County’s municipal elections in April 2021.

But soon after April 2021’s elections, where a slate of conservatives who skipped a candidate forum all lost, the first of what became a parade of pro-Donald Trump, self-proclaimed election IT experts began telling Peters about anomalies with her county’s voting system computers. The anomalies were the same clichés about illegal voters and forged totals that had been put forth by Trump diehards in other states. Except the allegations were dressed up as statistics and technicalities. Peters, a businesswoman turned public official, was more than impressed.

As recounted in March 2022 indictments by Mesa County District Attorney Daniel Rubenstein, a Republican, and a recent New Yorker profile, Peters used a standard update of election software in late April 2021 to make unauthorized copies of her election system’s hard drives, software, and data. The apparent goal was gathering intelligence to show that the technology—made by Dominion Voting Systems—could not be trusted to produce accurate vote counts.

Trump’s lawyers and partisan IT specialists had made copiesof computer drives, software and data in December 2020 in Antrim County, Michigan, after a former state GOP leader turned state judge allowed it. The copies, of another Dominion system, were not to be shared. But they were soon leaked in Trump circles.

That effort, nonetheless, produced no evidence for any of Trump’s failed post-election lawsuits. Still, one day after the pro-Trump insurrection on January 6, 2021, some of the same data miners went to Coffee County, Georgia. There an election official let them copy the Dominion system’s drives, software, and 2020 data. Members of this loose cadre of IT experts showed up in Mesa County in late April—several weeks after back-office manager Brown again erred in using a computer as it was compiling vote subtotals in its municipal elections.

What happened next in Mesa County gets complex. It also reveals how a rare but recurring trend among a handful of local election officials—mistakes with setting up or using their system’s computers—can be exploited by partisans who claim that invisible forces are secretly stealing votes if their candidates lose.

In every cycle, there are some election officials who do not properly set up or use these computers—errors that usually are caught and corrected, but initially produce incorrect election results. This trend has been overlooked in the press coverage of the interstate plot by Trump’s IT gurus to steal election software and 2020 data.

The operational problems, however, are among the findings by the Independent Media Institute’s Voting Booth project, which has co-written a forthcoming guide about how election systems work. The co-author is Duncan Buell, a computer scientist who has studied voting systems, software, and data for more than a decade, and was an election official in Richland County, South Carolina, home to the state’s capital, Columbia. These errors recurred in each cycle that he studied.

In 2020’s general election, the programming, and operational mistakes were few and far between. Nonetheless, the errors that Trump’s IT squads seized upon—errors that were corroborated by post-election inquiries by other government bodies—helped fuel the lie that the presidential election was stolen.

Moreover, some of the election workers who made these mistakes—such as Mesa County’s Brown—and their elected superior—such as Peters—then fell under the spell of Trump’s conspiratorial IT squad—producing fodder for more false claims.

These trends—mistakes with programming or using election computers and rogue officials who abuse the public trust by making unfounded claims—offer warnings before 2022’s general election. Many 2020 election-deniers are candidates seeking state and federal office this fall. A few already have shown in their primaries that they will attack the process and technology if they fear they may lose.

Before 2020’s election, virtually all of the members of Trump’s IT squads did not know much about voting system computers or election administration safeguards. But they eagerly presented their credentials and claimed, that election computers had been hijacked, and, moreover, that no Dominion system should be trusted. Their unproven accusations became, and remain, fixtures in Trump circles.

“It wasn’t just Colorado,” said Walter Daugherity, a recently retired University of Texas lecturer in computer science and engineering, on an August 22 televised panel sponsored and hosted by Mike Lindell, a Trump ally who has spent millions to promote the stolen election fiction and whose actions are under investigation by federal authorities. “Everywhere across the country that had a Dominion trusted build [software] upgrade had the same thing happen.”

Daugherity was one analyst who received Mesa County’s pilfered data. He and Jeff O’Donnell, an IT analyst whose moniker in Trump circles is “the Lone Raccoon,” co wrote a series of reports concluding that Mesa County’s computers mysteriously allowed 20,346 presidential ballots to be counted twice. The double counting was not the fault of election officials, specifically back-office election manager Brown, they wrote, positing that an “external trigger,” “signal,” “software algorithm” or “pre-programming” had caused “unexpected voting patterns.”

Their speculation was one of many similar pronouncements in Trump circles. They accused Dominion of complicity in a scheme that would be illegal, if it were true.

“The report made claims which, if true, would indicate a crime was committed related to election fraud,” Mesa County District Attorney Rubenstein said via email on August 25. “I stand by the investigation that we conducted and am confident that there is no evidence of a crime being committed.”

Inside One Disinformation Bubble

Mesa County was among a handful of counties across America’s 8,000-plus election jurisdictions where Trump allies discovered glitches in administering the 2020 election. The glitches, which produced incorrect initial vote counts, were signs that Trump lost due to a vast conspiracy, they asserted.

That narrative, which continues today, ignores the most banal explanation of what happened in Mesa County and in jurisdictions such as Antrim County, Michigan. In both locales, county election officials erred with setting up or using their voting system’s computers, mistakes that initially were not noticed but were later caught and corrected.

The operational errors were recorded by the system’s computers, which keeps logs of every action—from ballot paper jams to vote counts. The errors were confirmed by other evidence, such as, in Mesa County, police investigators reconstructing the mistakes on the same equipment, parsing video footage from security cameras in the room where they occurred and interviewing witnesses. But conspiracy minded Trumpers, including O’Donnell and Daugherity, went looking for incongruities in computer logs and vote count databases, which, they said, masked programming that reassigned votes from Trump to other presidential candidates.

“The findings in this report were prepared by the authors as consultants to the legal team representing Tina Peters, the Mesa County Clerk,” the executive summary of their March 19, 2022 report said. “The findings provide evidence of unauthorized and illegal manipulation of tabulated vote data during the 2020 General Election and 2021 Grand Junction Municipal Election. Because of this evidence, which led to the vote totals for those elections being impossible to verify, the results and integrity of Mesa County’s 2020 General Election and the 2021 Grand Junction Municipal Election are in question.”

Among the incongruities they cited are batches of ballots that were not sequentially numbered in a results database. That can occur, several election experts explained, when batches of ballots with sloppy ink marks (made by voters) are detected by the software and set aside until the voter’s intent is determined. That process, called adjudication, is done in Colorado in the presence of political party observers. The batches are added to the database after the voter intent issues are resolved. (It was at this step where Brown failed to correctly use the system’s computers).

The Mesa County prosecutor took the duo’s report seriously and investigated. On May 19, 2022, Rubenstein sent a 24-page letter to Mesa County Commissioners and the Grand Junction City Council summarizing the investigation and debunking the vote-padding claims in the most pedestrian way. Two initial miscounts had occurred. The first was in 2020’s general election. The second was in municipal elections in April 2021. Both were “caused by direct action of the former Back Office Election Manager Sandra Brown.”

Investigators found that Brown had stopped and then restarted the computer during the adjudication process, including replacing one computer—without resetting the system. Brown did not call the vendor for assistance, the county prosecutor’s letter said. She was confused, tried to fix things, and erred—essentially double-counting votes at this stage in the process. Election judges from political parties witnessed this, as did an overhead video camera.

“No evidence exists that would indicate that Ms. Brown had any nefarious or criminal motive in those actions, but rather appears to have been trouble-shooting problems in the flow of the adjudication process,” Rubenstein wrote.

Human error in configuring and running election computers also sparked stolen election allegations in Antrim County, Michigan. There, the initial results in the conservative northern Michigan county were incorrect because one contest had been omitted on the ballots when configuring the system’s computers. Nobody caught the error until suspicious vote totals surfaced on Election Night. (Because one race was left out, votes were assigned to the wrong candidate in a tabulation spreadsheet, essentially bumping Trump votes down one line, where they were assigned to Joe Biden.)

In both counties, Trump supporters said that the entire state’s election apparatus was corrupt and demanded that the state’s certified results be thrown out. Beyond such hyperbole, a key observation emerges. Trump’s self-declared election experts were not looking at, nor may not even be aware of, the array of data sets, election records and administrative protocols that catch and correct the errors that occur. In Mesa County, for example, the district attorney’s report made this point.

“These actions were verified to have been done by her [Brown] through video evidence, corroboration of records, audit of randomly selected ballot images [created by ballot scanners], interviews with witnesses and experts, and recreation of certain scenarios using a test environment and prove that the conclusions of Report 3 [O’Donnell’s and Daugherity’s report] are incorrect claims of what may have occurred,” Rubenstein said. “At this time, no evidence suggests that these actions negatively impacted the election.”

In contrast, what the pro-Trump duo used as the basis for their inquiry—analyses built on Peters’ pilfered computer drives—is a thinner evidence base.

The pair, who were reached by email after their August 22 presentation at Mike Lindell’s “Moment of Truth Summit,” sent a rebuttal to Rubenstein’s summery where they rejected numerous assertions and questioned the district attorney’s expertise, evidence, and methods. (Rubenstein also noted they had lied about interviewing 11 people who had been in the room when Brown messed up.)

When asked by this reporter why they did not mention the DA’s review in their presentation at Lindell’s August 2022 forum—where O’Donnell said, “There is still no evidence that this was ever or even could have been something that was done by the clerk at the time”—O’Donnell replied that the DA’s investigation was a sham and said that my questions were “insulting.”

“We did not mention the DA’s report because it is such a sloppy ‘investigation’ that it deserves no recognition other than derision,” the “Lone Raccoon” said. “It is sad to me that somebody who is a ‘national political reporter’ would blindly fall fort the propaganda put by a small-time DA instead of actually doing their own research. However, that seems to be the rule these days.”

“Doing Their Own Research”

Perhaps my e-mail was too blunt when asking the pair if they were aware of other evidence that explained Brown’s incompetence (she was fired and faces charges related to the data breach); and what was their response to the D.A. saying they lied when they said they had talked to the party observers present (who spoke to police investigators) when Brown erred?

But I had done my “own research.” When reporting on the Cyber Ninjas’ review in Arizona in 2021, I had repeatedly seen the disinformation dynamic that I saw here. Partisans with forgone conclusions started to parse election records. Lacking prior experience in studying election systems, they did not understand where what they were seeing in the electronic records related to wider contexts and protocols. That didn’t stop them from putting forth doubts about the results. And I’d also heard about the duo’s missteps from a lifelong Republican and credible election data analyst.

Benny White, a former fighter pilot and lawyer who lives in Tucson, Arizona, has been an election observer and data analyst for the Arizona Republican party for years. He became a persona non-grata in Trump circles for analyses in early 2021 that found tens of thousands of ballots cast by otherwise loyal Republicans in the greater Phoenix area had not voted to re-elect Trump. (The voting patterns were found in the final spreadsheet of every vote cast in every race.)

Reached by phone, White said that the duo called him as they were parsing Mesa County’s tabulation-related databases. White recalled that he told them where their assumptions were mistaken, and what they were not considering because they were not familiar with election administration and safeguards that find and fix errors.

“These folks have no understanding or appreciation of election administration,” he said. “They’re looking at everything from a sterile, mechanistic perspective. There are problems that can be caused because of human interface in the system design where operators can make mistakes. And for that reason, I am always an advocate of having an independent body, whether it’s a knowledgeable person or a bipartisan group of overseers, that is present at all times to watch what’s going on and ask, ‘Why are you doing that?’”

For example, White recalled that the duo claimed that the county’s voting system “had done something nefarious because these ballots [during adjudication] weren’t all tabulated in sequence.” But that circumstance occurs if the voter’s intent on a ballot is in question, White said, in which case Dominion’s software “will hold that batch [of 1,000 ballots from] being included in the aggregate results… That was another thing that it seemed to me that Daugherity failed to understand.”

“He bases a lot of his conclusions on statistics, statistical analysis,” White said of Daugherity. “There have been single instances where he would tell me something, and I would say, ‘Walter, you’re not considering this other facet of what was going on in that particular election… You have to know more before you reach these conclusions.’”

Election administration is not simple. It takes years to understand election law, varieties in state rules and procedures, the voting system technology and all of the subsets of data created and compiled that add up to winners and losers. Trump’s IT squad might be forgiven for misunderstanding and misinterpreting what they saw, if they had been more humble and fair-minded. But they weren’t.

Their mindset is to create chaos and doubt, while claiming they are seeking the truth. The clearest evidence of that mindset is how they exploited human errors by election officials by not accurately contextualizing those mistakes, but repeatedly over claiming that an entire jurisdiction’s votes were suspect, and that the same election technology deployed nationwide must be rejected.

With scores of 2020 election-denying candidates running for state and federal office in 2022’s general election, this deceitful pattern is likely to recur.

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.

Trump Republicans Are A Greater Threat To Democracy Than Trump Himself

Three months before the 2022 general election, momentum is tangibly growing for holding Donald Trump and Trump Republicans legally accountable for a range of criminal activities tied to their ultimately violent effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

But Trump’s stepchildren – scores of current candidates who won’t accept the 2020’s election’s outcome and want to control future elections – will be on this fall’s ballots, underscoring that the anti-democratic threats posed by Trump Republicans have evolved and are not over.

“It’s time for every American to pay attention,” said a July 28 update by States United Action, a bipartisan organization opposing election deniers and defending representative government. “These aren’t just fringe candidates. Election lies are showing up in the platforms of politicians with years of government service as well as candidates seeking office for the first time.”

As of July 28, 22 states and the District of Columbia have held their 2022 primaries. More than 60 percent of secretary of state contests, whose responsibilities include overseeing elections, and 40 percent of races for governor and attorney general “currently have an election-denying candidate on the ballot,” States United Action reports. Their tally does not include scores of like-minded candidates seeking state legislative races and even law enforcement posts.

“This is America versus Trumpism,” as one analyst said on a late July briefing that sought to tie the impact of the hearings by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol to the less-widely recognized stakes in 2022’s general election.

“Across the country, politicians who won’t accept the result of the last election are seeking control over future elections,” States United Action said. “Election Deniers are now seeking these jobs and positions across the country in a coordinated attack on the freedom to vote.”

In coming weeks, political media may begin to assess the political paradox of looming threats by GOP authoritarians to expand their gains since 2020 – which include passing 50 state laws that “politicize, criminalize, or interfere with elections” –as against the prospect that Trump and his gang may at last face criminal charges for their failed coup.

In August, numerous states will hold primaries with election deniers seeking the top statewide offices – governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Those primaries include Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri on August 2; Wisconsin on August 9; and Florida on August 23.

Shifting Opinion On Trump Coup

Meanwhile, the House Select Committee’s investigations have shifted public opinion. When the committee's series of hearings began in June, there were still questions – at least among independents and moderate Republicans – about whether Trump and his enablers had committed crimes and whether the public would pay attention. After eight hearings, which will resume in September, it is clear that growing numbers of Americans are watching, there is no doubt Trump led an ultimately violent criminal conspiracy to overturn the presidential election, and the pressing question is whether there will be accountability under state and federal criminal codes.

The momentum for accountability also can be seen in revelations that the Justice Department is questioning a larger circle of Trump allies, including former members of his cabinet. At the same time, missing texts surrounding Trump’s actions on January 6 have grown from the Secret Service guarding Trump to top Department of Homeland Security officials. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has alerted many Trump aides and allies that they may face prosecution.

Election lawyers tracking these developments say that criminal charges are likely to be lodged first in Georgia – possibly before the general election. The DOJ is expected to act after the election (unlike 2016 when the FBI in late October reopened its inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails).

Polls have found that 60 percent of likely 2022 voters see Trump’s failed coup as criminal. Political independents – who vote sometimes for Republicans and sometimes for Democrats – are increasingly frowning upon Trump’s lies and tactics, expect accountability, and say they would not vote for 2020 election-denying candidates seeking office in 2022’s general election.

“Sixty percent of Americans say that they were not patriots and 63 percent say they were not bystanders,” pollster Celinda Lake said ar a late July briefing by Defend Democracy Project, a Washington-based group dedicated to the principle that voters determine election results.

2022’s Election Deniers

However, as the focus expands from holding the coup plotters accountable to countering ongoing power grabs by Trump Republicans, the challenge gets more complex.

In GOP-majority state legislatures, these authoritarians used 2020 stolen election lies and old cliches demonizing Democrats to pass new laws criminalizing small errors in the bureaucratic tasks conducted by election workers and established get-out-the-vote routines by campaign volunteers. The most common focus of the punitive laws is limiting the use of mailed-out ballots and restricting voters’ options to legally return them.

A related threat concerns a case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this fall. It involves the radical right-wing legal theory that was at the heart of Trump’s failed coup, the so-called independent state legislature doctrine. Its most extreme version claims that the Constitution only empowers state legislatures to set election rules and run elections, overruling state constitutions, state supreme courts, gubernatorial vetoes, election boards, and citizen initiatives. (Trump’s forged Electoral College certificates in seven states sought to delay Congress on January 6 and redirect the certification of 2020’s winner to GOP-majority state legislatures that would have backed Trump.)

These new laws and legal gambits are based on old lies and partisan prejudices. Since the 1980s, Republicans have been claiming that Democrats can only win if they fabricate voters and votes – so-called voter fraud. But Trump’s stolen election lies and failed coup, which can be called election fraud, have been seized upon by GOP opportunists.

Self-appointed election integrity activists have emerged and promoted themselves to Trump’s base and right-wing media as super patriots. These posers have raised millions from Trump voters by hawking conspiracy theories that have been debunked by credibleRepublicans. But their bogus analysis and lies, amplified by right-wing media, have enraged Trump’s base.

The consequence is that violent threats against election officials have escalated and not abated. This targeting has roiled the previously boring and bureaucratic field of election administration, which typically are county-level operations staffed by local civil servants.

For example, on July 29, a Massachusetts man was arrested for an alleged bomb threat against the Arizona secretary of state’s office. In Wisconsin, a pro-Trump sheriff in suburban Racine County is refusing to investigate pro-Trump activists who forged online ballot requests; they wanted to show the process was dishonest but instead were caught by election officials.

“In many ways, the Republican election officials have it worse than the Democratic election officials,” said David Becker, founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), a non-profit, non-partisan organization that has organized an election official legal defense network, in a late July media briefing.

“The Republican election officials know the [2020] election was secure. They did a remarkable job. Most, if not all of them, voted for Trump,” he continued. “And now they find themselves under attack and, unlike election officials in maybe deeply blue areas, when they go home at night, their own families, and friends… wonder if they helped steal an election because they have been lied to so much [by Trump and his boosters].”

Frontline Responses

Election officials have responded to this fraught new environment by tightening security and reaching out to local media and community leaders, hoping to inform the public that modern election administration is accurate and replete with checks and balances.

Numerous non-profit organizations have catalogued the danger signs and sought to respond. CEIR, for example, has organized a nationwide legal defense network to assist threatened local officials. Neal Kelley, who managed the nation’s fifth largest election district in Orange County, California, is now working with the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections, which seeks to train local police to protect election officials and voters from illegal threats and intimidation. Grassroots groups like Scrutineers, which educates activists about election administration, recently conducted non-violent conflict resolution training for election observers.

In many respects, defeating Trump Republicans in 2022’s general election is seen by these advocates of fair elections and representative government as the most tangible line of defense before the 2024 presidential election. As the House Select Committee’s disclosures continue and prosecutors move closer to indicting Trump Republicans for their 2020 offenses, the pro-democracy advocates hope Americans will put country ahead of party and vote this fall.

“An informed voter is a powerful voter,” said States United Action. “Election Deniers are on the ballot in many state primaries in August, including all 11 primaries for secretary of state. And pro-democracy candidates of both parties will be on the ballot in the general election this fall. It’s never been more important for our state leaders to believe in free, fair, and secure elections.”

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.

Poll: January 6 Hearings Pushed Independent Voters Away From GOP

More and more likely November midterm voters have tuned in to the House Select Committee hearings and overwhelmingly do not like what they see -- with 70 percent saying that Trump-aligned incumbents and candidates who push the lies that led to the Capitol insurrection should not hold public office, according to a new nationwide poll released Friday.

“Seventy percent of Americans say they’re starting to hear that there are candidates running that are still tied to the Trump Republicans, tied to the attacks on the country,” said Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, referring to its nationwide poll of 800 likely general election voters taken between July 13 and 17. “And people think they should not be running; people should be disqualified. But if they do run, they want to actively vote against them.”

Lake, a top Democratic pollster, explained: “Seventy percent of Americans agree with the statement, ‘I would not vote for anyone who’s supported or encouraged the attack on our country on January 6.’ That includes 97 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 39 percent of Republicans.”

The survey, which was taken before the select committee’s dramatic primetime hearing on Thursday, included other findings that showed sizable numbers of voters – possibly enough to affect outcomes this fall – are reaching strong conclusions about Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. Their emerging view is that Republicans are the political party that supports the use of violence to gain power.

“Sixty percent of Americans say that they [the insurrectionists] were not patriots and 63 percent say they were not bystanders,” Lake said, speaking at a briefing hosted by Defend Democracy Project, a Washington-based group dedicated to the principle that voters determine election results. “People are much more likely to think that the Republican Party is more inclined to resort to violence than the Democratic Party. This has been a major shift.”

“Two years ago, people thought the two parties were about equally inclined to violence, but that perception has changed pretty dramatically,” she explained. “The most important numbers here… are the independents. By [a margin of] 16 points, the independents say the Democrats are not inclined to violence. By 21 points, the independents say the Republicans are inclined to violence. This is a sea change in terms of attitudes, and a very, very important development that has come out of what has been revealed in the hearings.”

The select committee hearings, which will resume in September, began on June 9. In April, Lake’s polling found that 24 percent of likely voters were aware of the hearings. By June that number was 40 percent. By mid-July, 60 percent said that they had heard “a lot” about the hearings and an additional 26 percent said that they had heard “some” about the series of eight hearings.

“With all the distractions and all the things going on in the country, that is just a phenomenal level of penetration,” she said. When broken down by party, 96 percent of Democrats support the House investigation, as do 62 percent of independents, and 29 percent of Republicans.

Among independents, who may vote for either Democrats or Republicans depending on the election – and therefore are coveted swing voters – more than 70 percent found the following revelations from the hearings were “very” or “somewhat” concerning, Lake reported.

• Trump was told that his supporters had weapons and did nothing to stop them. (79 percent).

• Trump tried to get security removed because “they’re not here to hurt me.” (76 percent).

• Trump was told ahead of time that his January 6 rally could turn violent. (79 percent).

• Trump’s call for a January 6 rally and protest that he said, “will be wild.” (74 percent).

• Trump’s reported intimidation of January 6 committee witnesses. (73 percent).

• Trump’s former campaign manager saying he was “asking for civil war.” (75 percent).

• Trump’s stolen election lies, after he was repeatedly told that he lost. (73 percent).

• Rioters saying that Trump’s rhetoric “got everyone riled up." (73 percent).

The level of concern among independents dropped off when asked how worried they were “about a future January 6th-like attack on our country.” While 91 percent of Democrats were concerned, and 31 percent of Republicans were concerned, only 50 percent of independents said they were concerned. However, among people who Lake called “surge voters,” meaning they don’t usually vote in midterm elections but did in 2018, 91 percent were concerned.

“What are the three big takeaways here?” Lake said, summarizing her latest research about the House investigation's political impact.

“The public has been paying a lot of attention, even with everything that’s going on,” she said. “That is bipartisan. [And] it has an enormous penetration with independent voters.

“The public has concluded that this was not just a spontaneous one-and-done bystander event,” she continued. “They have concluded that this was planned. This was funded. This was encouraged and that it's continued. And then it was anchored on a number of actions by Trump Republicans, and by Trump himself, and a number of false claims.

“They are worried about the future. And they’re willing to take future action. They are stunned that there are candidates running for state and local office as well as Congress, who supported and encouraged the insurrection, the attacks on the country, and they want to vote against those candidates who they think shouldn’t be running to begin with.”

How The January 6 Committee Completed A Damning Indictment Of Trump

As Donald Trump’s mob attacked the Capitol, threatening Secret Service agents who called loved ones as they feared for their lives and members of Congress who scurried to don gas masks as they fled, Trump cloistered himself in an ornate White House dining room -- a scene depicted in testimony, video and even models of the White House during the Thursday night prime-time hearing of the House Select Committee on January 6.

Sitting there, as he watched Fox News’ coverage, Trump ignored repeated pleas from his staff, Republican leaders, and his family to call off the attack. Instead, he texted supporters to go easy on the Capitol Police but keep fighting for him, targeting Vice President Mike Pence, whom the mob was threatening to hang. He phoned US senators to urge them to continue what the mob began by postponing certification of the Electoral College vote ending his presidency.

After three hours, when the National Guard and FBI agents were mobilized to restore order – not by Trump, but by Pence and congressional leaders from both parties – only then did Trump consent to make a video telling his supporters go home. Trump began those remarks by reiterating his lie that the election had been stolen, and ended by telling the mob that they were patriots whom he loves.

“In our hearing tonight, you saw an American president, faced with a stark and unmistakable choice between right and wrong. There was no ambiguity, no nuance,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), co-chair of the select committee. “Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office, to ignore the ongoing violence against law enforcement, to threaten our constitutional order. There was no way to excuse that behavior. It was indefensible.”

“And every American must consider this,” Cheney continued. “Can a president who was willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6 ever be trusted with any position in our great nation again?”

Cheney’s remarks, which capped a series of eight hearings that will resume in September, tied together the committee’s goals of showing that Trump and his enablers committed crimes to try to overturn an election, insisting that they all be held accountable in court, and ensuring that federal legislative reforms be adopted so a presidential coup never happens again.

“There can be no doubt that there was a coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn an election overseen and directed by Donald Trump,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee chair, who appeared via video link due to his COVID-19 infection. “These facts have gone undisputed. And so there needs to be accountability: accountability under the law; accountability to the American people; accountability at every level, from the local precincts in many states, where Donald Trump attacked election workers for just doing their jobs, all the way up to Oval Office, where Donald Trump embraced the legal advice of insurrectionists that a federal judge said was coup in search of legal theory.”

Fresh Evidence Of Trump's Dereliction

The evidentiary part of Thursday’s hearing began by playing the police communications heard by White House security – the Secret Service and Situation Room – from the Capitol that a riot was brewing and then was underway. Trump, ensconced in the dining room next to the Oval Office, refused to call any police or military to quell the mob.

“Why did he not take immediate action in a time of crisis,” asked Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-IL, who presented evidence and questioned witnesses. “The mob was accomplishing President Trump’s purpose… President Trump did not fail to act during the 187 minutes between leaving the ellipse and telling the mob to go home. He chose not to act.”

The testimony included previously unknown details, such as the presidential motorcade idled for 45 minutes at the White House – because its staff was unsure if it would be taking Trump back to the Capitol. The committee has tried to obtain texts from Secret Service agents in this period, as well as phone logs and daily diaries, but has been told that they were erased or missing. Cheney said that several Secret service officials have hired “private counsel,” suggesting that the panel will be investigating what appears to be a cover-up.

The focus then turned to what Trump was doing as events unfolded at the Capitol. The panel played excerpts from the Fox News broadcast that Trump was watching at the White House, video of the riot captured by ceiling cameras at the Capitol, cameras worn by police, and videos shot by insurrectionists that were streamed on social media. These sources contrasted what was happening simultaneously as Trump sent the first of several tweets at 1:49 PM: a link to his speech at the ellipse where he urged supporters to converge on the Capitol and be strong. In other words, as the riot commenced, Trump encouraged it.

Trump’s second tweet, 35 minutes later, said that Pence did not have the courage to reject Electoral College votes on Trump’s behalf. That tweet, as footage shot by insurrectionists showed, enraged many rioters who hoped to find Pence – who they called a “traitor.”

The committee then played previously unseen footage of Pence and his security staff fleeing from a room where it had taken refuge near the House chamber. It included testimony that said several police guarding Pence were so scared – they were “running out of options,” as one put it – that they called family members to say goodbye to loved ones. (They all escaped.)

At around this time, Trump began calling senators to urge them to reject the Electoral College certification and send the matter back to state legislatures where the GOP held the majority.

As the insurrection continued, Trump began getting called from congressional leaders telling him to tell the rioters to go home. The White House staff, almost uniformly, tried to deliver the same message to Trump, according to a range of videotaped testimony. He received the same message from family members, which he initially ignored, including their prodding that he instruct the rioter to peacefully leave the Capitol.

Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary and special assistant to the president, was one of two live witnesses. She previously had worked on his campaign and told the hearing that she knew the mentality of his most fervent supporters, saying, “I’ve seen the impact that his words have on his supporters. They truly latch onto every word in every tweet.” (She resigned on January 6.)

The committee played videotape taken by insurrectionists. They heeded Trump’s tweet that said to go easy on the Capitol police. But, as their video showed, they noted that Trump did not tell them to stand down, nor to stop hunting for Pence or senior Democrats – which the rioters gleefully interpreted as orders to carry on.

After three hours, Trump was finally convinced to make a video telling the rioters to go home. That was not because he wanted to surrender, witnesses said, but because Pence and other congressional leaders from both parties – shown in previously undisclosed photographs – were huddled and talking to military leaders and the FBI, who both sent forces to quell the riot.

The hearing featured raw and previously unseen footage of Trump, coached by Ivanka, as he recorded the video telling the rioters to go home. He looked pained, said the election had been stolen, and told his mob they were patriotic and that he loved them. The hearing showed additional outtakes from a video that he recorded on January 7, where Trump said, “I don’t want to say the election is over,” (a statement that wasn’t released) and, as Kinzinger noted, Trump “showed no remorse.”

Overturning The Election

The select committee does not have authority to prosecute Trump and his co-conspirators. It can refer cases to the Justice Department, as it has when his allies, such as propagandist Steve Bannon, did not show up after being subpoenaed, or when Trump or his loyalists apparently tried to intimidate recent witnesses. But the committee can make a powerful public case and create a template for criminal prosecutions, which is exactly what the hearings have done. With an impressive presentation of compelling evidence, they have showed that Trump and his most extreme advisors created and executed a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The hearings have been finely crafted like a cinematic mini-series. Pro-Trump Republicans in the House refused to participate, leaving the committee’s members (including Republicans Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois) to narrate an unbroken storyline tied together by evidence that is dramatic, full of surprises, stunningly visual, and almost entirely delivered by Republicans who worked in close proximity to Trump. The evidence included videotaped interviews, live testimony, footage from protests, Trump speeches, documentary movies, police communications, as well as tweets, texts, and emails projected onto screens. Overall, the evidence spanned from April 2020 through the insurrection’s aftermath, with Thursday’s hearing – its second in primetime – focused on the events of January 6.

The committee's initial hearings showed that Trump and his allies knew he lost the election, and repeatedly told him so. White House staffers, 2020 campaign executives, top Justice Department officials, and Trump family members all told the committee on camera what they had told Trump. Former Attorney General William Barr, who pressed the FBI to investigate conspiracy theories in battleground states – a detail not known at the time – called Trump’s claims, on camera, “Bullshit,” “idiotic,” “stupid,” “complete nonsense” and “crazy stuff.”

Subsequent hearings focused on various schemes to overturn the election results by initially pressuring state officials – including GOP legislative leaders, election boards, governors, and secretaries of state – to rescind their certified results, and, in turn, appoint a pro-Trump slate of Electoral College members. The most infamous episode was in Georgia, where Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, a conservative Republican, rejected Trump’s demand to “find” votes in a phone call that was recorded. Raffensperger testified before the committee. That recording appears likely to serve as evidence for an indictment of Trump by the Georgia special grand jury under the supervision of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

The committee then traced how Trump pressured top Justice Department officials to send letters to battleground state legislators to “just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to the Republican congressmen.” When the DOJ officials refused, Trump tried to install a loyalist as acting attorney general. A threat of mass resignations and scandal forced him .to back off.

The committee revealed how Trump, frustrated with his failed efforts to push state officials to rescind Biden’s victory – which every credible lawyer, including White House staff, said was illegal – then turned to his most conspiracy-minded outside advisers.

Far-right Republican lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Cleta Mitchell, and provocateurs including longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, urged him to seize voting machines. (That didn’t happen.) Then they collaborated with white nationalists – Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters – whose ranks needed little persuasion to come to Washington for battle on January 6.

As that date approached, Trump pressured Pence, who would be presiding over the joint congressional session ratifying Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, to reject the votes from key states. (By then, more than 80 Republicans in seven states had signed fake Electoral College certificates at Trump's behest; an act for which they may soon face criminal prosecution.) On January 4, Pence told a Georgia rally that “come this Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress.” But he never intended to reject the legitimate electoral slates, Pence’s top aides told the committee. (The former vice president chose not to testify and the committee didn't subpoena him.)

On January 6, Trump, after a midday rally on the National Mall, expected to march with his mob to the Capitol. But he was unexpectedly diverted to the White House. Before his speech, Trump was told that most of the crowd was staying away from the stage because they did not want security to find their weapons, including knives, handguns, rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flagpoles. Trump was furious, witnesses testified, saying these people were not threatening him. He was even more furious when he discovered that he was being driven back to the White House and argued with his security detail, including grabbing the steering wheel.

These details and more were a prelude to Thursday’s hearing, whose timeline began shortly after a fuming Trump returned to the White House from a "Stop the Steal" rally shortly after noon on January 6.

The Call for Accountability

The eighth hearing concluded by summarizing what the committee has presented so far, issuing a call for criminal accountability, and announcing that the hearings will resume in September to present still more evidence and suggest reforms.

“Throughout our hearings, we’ve painted a vivid picture of the events of January 6,” said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), who is, like Kinzinger, a retired military officer. “The violence, the human toll, both emotional and physical, including the tragic loss of life, the threats to our Constitution, the rule of law and the danger to our nation.”

“In tonight’s hearing," continued Luria, "we’ve gone into great detail about the events of January 6,” which culminated in Trump’s unapologetic video remarks after the riot was quelled. “That was not a message of condemnation and just punishment for those who broke the law that we expect from a president, whose oath and duty is to ensure the laws are faithfully executed," she said. "But instead, it was his newest version of ‘stand back’ and ‘stand by.’”

“When we present our full findings, we will recommend changes to laws and policies to guard against another January 6,” said Kinzinger. “The reason that’s imperative is that the forces Donald Trump ignited that day have not gone away. The militant intolerant ideologies, the militias, the alienation and the disaffection, the weird fantasies and disinformation. They’re all still out there, ready to go. That’s the elephant in the room.”

These closing comments show that the committee is focusing on the future as well as the past. The biggest "elephant in the room" is what Cheney brought up when she asked every American whether Trump, who is preparing to announce his 2024 presidential bid, can “ever be trusted” in public office again.

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.