“Your place for all the information you need about voting rights,
voter suppression, and voting trends to prepare you to fight in the 2022 election.”
April 5, 2022
New Supreme Court Ruling Shows Open Hostility to Voting Rights, Say Experts
In a 2017 Supreme Court case regarding Wisconsin gerrymandering, Chief Justice John Roberts worried about the Supreme Court making decisions on gerrymandering cases because any decision would inevitably favor one political party or the other. This, he said, would “cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court in the eyes of the country.”
Just five years later, the Supreme Court has done just the opposite–it has inserted itself into Wisconsin’s ongoing gerrymander saga with a ruling that, experts say, makes crystal clear the court’s hostility towards voting rights.
“The way this case was handled is quite bizarre and is another signal of a conservative supermajority of the Supreme Court showing increasing hostility to section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” says Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine and a nationally recognized expert in election law and campaign finance regulation. “The Court did so on skimpy briefing with no oral argument or a chance to fully consider the issues.”
The case is this: Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, refused to accept heavily gerrymandered maps created by Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated legislature, leaving the Wisconsin Supreme Court with the task of choosing a map. The court, on February 23, decided to adopt the governor’s maps, which added another majority-minority district around Milwaukee. That was in keeping with requirements of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, according to the ruling. Republicans appealed to the Supreme Court.
On March 23, the Supreme Court ruled that either the Governor or the Wisconsin Supreme Court misapplied the rules, saying they should have looked to see “whether a race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity.” The case was sent back to the state.
The ruling, says Hasen, is “hostile to minority voting rights without giving a full opportunity for airing out the issues and pointing out how this will further hurt voters of color.” https://bit.ly/35ugjAS
On March 24, Governor Evers went back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, stating that it should allow him to submit additional evidence showing that his map is better than the one submitted by the Republican legislature. Republicans, meanwhile, have asked the court to adopt the Legislature’s map. No date has been set yet for a hearing. https://bit.ly/3DxAPNJ
Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida’s Voter Suppression Law, Places State Back into Pre-clearance Status
A federal judge in Florida last week has permanently blocked Florida’s Senate Bill 90—the bill that, among other things, criminalizes helping voters waiting in line, places onerous limits on ballot drop-box use, and requires unnecessary warnings regarding third-party voter registration drives.
In a particularly fierce ruling, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker pointed to what he called Florida’s “grotesque history of racial discrimination in voting.” He stated that racism was a motivating factor in SB 90’s adoption and placed Florida back into pre-clearance status for 10 years under the Voting Rights Act. Pre-clearance status means Florida will need to obtain federal approval before passing new laws related to those three issues.
Democratic Gerrymanders Struck Down in Two States
State courts in Maryland and New York have struck down congressional redistricting maps submitted by Democratic-majority legislatures because they were deemed too partisan.
On March 25, Anne Arundel County Senior Judge Lynne A. Battaglia struck down Maryland’s congressional map, calling it an “extreme partisan gerrymander” that violated the state constitution. Not only were the districts not compact, as required by the constitution, she ruled, but the maps also violated the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech and free elections clauses. She gave the legislature five days to create a new map, which they did. https://wapo.st/37hp0io
Yesterday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced he would sign the new map created in response to the ruling. The new map reverses a change that made Democrats more competitive in the state’s lone Republican congressional district. https://bit.ly/3DA9tq9.
Then, on March 31, New York State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister ruled that New York’s new congressional and legislative maps defied a 2014 voter-backed constitutional amendment intended to end partisan gerrymandering.
Similar to what happened earlier this year in Ohio, the New York constitutional amendment created a bipartisan independent commission that was supposed to create a single map to present to the legislature to adopt or reject. Instead, political infighting resulted in two separate maps, one drawn by Democrats and one by Republicans. With that impasse, it was left to the Democratic-controlled state legislature to create a new map.
The court has given the legislature until April 11 to create a new map. Otherwise, it will appoint someone else to do it.
Democrats are appealing the decision, resulting in an automatic stay of the ruling. https://wapo.st/3iWwutN
Republicans Pushing Bills to Prohibit Machine-Counting of Ballots
Republican legislators in at least six states are pushing bills to require that all votes be hand-counted instead of tabulated by machine. So far, they have been unsuccessful.
It’s a trend based on the conspiracy theory that election machines around the country were hacked and votes were flipped in 2020. Among the states with bills banning machine tabulation: Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Washington, West Virginia, and Nevada.
In Nevada, for instance, a Republican candidate for secretary of state, Jim Marchant, convinced the Nye County Board of Commissioners to formally urge the county’s election clerk to abandon machine counting (the county attorney told the board they couldn’t demand it). “We’re going to do our best to get rid of the voting machines in Nye County,” Marchant has said, “and then we are going to go to other counties here in Nevada.”
Responded Nye County Clerk Sandra Melino, “Imagine hand counting 31,000 ballots … I really have no idea how long it would take” (https://politi.co/3J0LdyF)
Meanwhile, in Missouri, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee heard a bill calling for all ballots to be hand-counted, with video surveillance. It would prohibit not just electronic voting systems, but also electronic tabulators. All testimony was opposed to the bill, and no vote was taken on it. https://bit.ly/3iZoI2C
In New Hampshire, however, where local Republican activists had been pushing for hand counts in all elections, voters themselves threw cold water on the idea. There, it’s the state’s House Election Law Committee that decides the issue. Despite the fact that some small towns do hand-count their ballots, the committee decided to hear what voters statewide had to say during the state’s early March town elections. According to the committee’s chair, Republican Barbara Griffin, not one town supported eliminating ballot-counting devices. https://bit.ly/3wYa8R6.
And in Arizona, where a bill to require hand counts has been stalled by the Republican speaker of the House, the bill’s sponsor admitted that it wouldn’t work in large counties like Maricopa.
Why? Says former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, “At well over 2.6 million voters, if we got 80 percent turnout, you could expect a hand count to take something in the neighborhood of two to three months, at best. It would probably cost into the tens of millions of dollars.” https://politi.co/3J0LdyF
Election Officials Warned of Ongoing Phishing Campaigns That Could Compromise Election Systems
The FBI last week notified all US election and other state and local government officials about invoice-themed phishing emails that could be used to harvest officials’ login credentials.
The warning was prompted by a campaign in October 2021 that targeted election officials in at least nine states with bogus invoices that, if opened, could have provided “sustained, undetected access” to election officials’ accounts by stealing their login credentials.
“These emails shared similar attachment files, used compromised email addresses, and were sent close in time, suggesting a concerted effort to target US election officials,” according to the FBI’s notification.
Making this a difficult attack to identify–one of the emails used in the attack apparently came from a compromised U.S. government official’s email account. Because they expect continued, targeted phishing campaigns or other cyber attacks on election officials during the 2022 election season, the FBI is urging proactive protective measures at all levels of election offices, including state, local, territorial, and tribal offices, to prevent future attempts to harvest credentials or compromise an election office’s voter systems.
Says Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor on elections for the nonpartisan Democracy Fund, “Unfortunately, election officials are still inundated with unnecessary and frivolous distractions rehashing previous elections. We must focus on the 2022 tasks at hand…and ensure that attempts like this are not successful.” https://bit.ly/36Bc7QD https://bit.ly/3uEesSE
Editorial: People in Glass Houses, Voter-Fraud Edition
When voter Debra Meadows filled out a North Carolina early-ballot application for herself in October 2020 and also dropped off her husband’s absentee ballot, no one at the time thought anything of it.
The only problem? She claimed a dilapidated mobile home in North Carolina as the couple’s permanent residence, but neither she nor her husband had ever lived there. They actually lived full-time in northern Virginia. Makes sense, considering Debra Meadows’ husband is Mark Meadows, who at the time was chief of staff to then-President Donald Trump.
Mark Meadows, of course, has been and continues to be a chief purveyor of voter-fraud lies. The couple are now under investigation for committing a Class I felony for fraudulently answering the question “where you physically live… under penalty of perjury.”
This is just the most high-profile case of voter fraud to tarnish the Republican push to delegitimize the 2020 election. In late 2021 and early 2022, four residents of a Florida retirement community made famous by Trump were arrested for committing voter fraud by casting ballots in more than one state. Two of the four were registered Republicans. There’s also the case of Republican voter Donald Kirk Hartle, a Las Vegas voter, who sent in a mail ballot in the name of his late wife.
In fact, investigations in several states continue to show that not only did little to no fraud occur nationwide, but what little did occur could not possibly have changed any state’s election outcomes.
For instance, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recently announced that a review of voting records to determine whether non-citizens voted in the 2020 election came up empty. The state uses a program to check for citizenship. The review found that, despite over a thousand people with ‘unverified’ U.S. citizenship trying to register to vote, none actually were able to cast a vote. Said Raffensperger, “Hopefully, that’s another allegation of 2020 we can put to rest.” (https://bit.ly/36EXWda ) As for other claims of fraud, the state so far has referred a total of two 2020 voter-fraud cases to prosecutors.
In Arizona, it’s a similar scenario. Despite the state’s continuing efforts to prove voter fraud in the 2020 election, the state’s Republican attorney general has so far filed only 12 fraud cases. In Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County, the district attorney received 33 referrals of possible voter fraud but has filed just six criminal cases, all against people alleged to have registered or voted despite being felons. In fact, a Washington Post survey of six swing states turned up just 39 cases of people charged with illegal activity related to the November 2020 election. Most, as in Milwaukee, were felons who thought they were allowed to vote.
Says Milwaukee County District Attorney John T. Chisholm, “The types of misconduct that occur…have almost no capacity to alter an election. Generally, they’re very limited, short-term bad decisions by individual actors, not some vast conspiracy.” (https://bit.ly/3INf6Co https://cnn.it/3uEYyY70).
–Terry Maher, Editor