“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.”
February 22, 2022
Only Non-partisan Database for Cross-state Sharing of Voter Data Now Subject of Right-wing Conspiracy Theory
Worried about people registered to vote in more than one state? Maybe about dead people voting?
Then you’d certainly be a fan of the only national database that allows states to securely share voter registration data across state lines. The database also links to government agencies like the Social Security Administration and state DMVs. A slam-dunk, right?
Wrong. That database, the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, is now the subject of a right-wing conspiracy theory that claims ERIC is really a left-wing voter registration drive masquerading as an impartial database, and it’s caused Louisiana to become the first state to leave the program.
The basis of the claim comes from the right-wing website, The Gateway Pundit, which claims the Open Society Foundation, founded by George Soros, was one of the donors who helped fund the creation of ERIC in 2016. Worse yet, claims The Gateway Pundit, it was a former “experienced Democrat election lawyer” in the Justice Department, David Becker, who created the ERIC architecture.
Becker, however, says they’ve got it backwards. ERIC’s sole purpose is to enable states to keep their own voter data up to date.
“When you move away from a state,” says Becker, “you don’t call your old state and say, ‘Please take me off the voter lists.’ So to get really strong data that someone moved to another state — got a driver’s license there or maybe registered to vote — that’s really powerful information.”
ERIC now includes more than 30 states, including states as different as Kentucky and Connecticut. According to ERIC’s website, more than 500,000 dead people alone have been removed from voter rolls since its founding (https://ericstates.org/who-
The conspiracy theory, however, has already caused ERIC to become an election issue in at least one state—Alabama—where one Republican candidate for secretary of state has already announced he would withdraw the state from ERIC should he be elected.
Says Becker, now head of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, those who claim ERIC is some kind of left-wing database apparently don’t really care about actual election integrity. “They only care that their side wins,” he says. “That is the most anti-democratic idea that I can imagine.” https://n.pr/3rSHBtj
Supply Chain Issues, Lack of Funds Pose Under-the-Radar Threat to 2022 Elections
Fewer polling places, reduced access to early voting or mail ballots, delayed security upgrades. Signs of more voter suppression?
No, it’s the fallout from rising security threats, supply-chain disruptions, and escalating costs for basic materials such as paper ballots, which have risen as much as 50%, according to estimates. Says the executive director of the non-partisan Center for Tech and Civic Life, Tiana Epps-Johnson, “The scale of the need is in literally the tens of billions of dollars.”
Democrats last year proposed as much as $20 billion in new federal election spending in their domestic policy bill, but that bill has gone nowhere. Meanwhile, a group of 33 Senate Democrats led by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar called on President Biden to include $5 billion in new federal election spending in his upcoming 2023 budget. Unfortunately, it would be available for the 2024 election but not for the 2022 election.
Among the problems facing election officials nationwide:
— The supply chain for paper. Needed for ballots, mail-voting envelopes, voter registration forms and more, costs have increased up to 50% nationwide. The county clerk of Wisconsin’s Dane County, for example, says that fully one-third of his budget goes toward these costs.
–The popularity of mail-in voting has also meant higher costs for postage.
–The need to offer better pay for election workers because vacancies have increased due to workers quitting because of threats of violence.
The supply chain issues are already affecting Texas’ March 1 primary. In Cameron County, for instance, late information on new voting requirements meant the county could not place its order for special ballot envelopes early enough to avoid the crunch. As of mid-February, the envelopes still had not arrived, so Cameron County Elections Chief Remi Garza sent three of his staff members on a four-hour road trip to San Antonio, where a local printer had the envelopes in stock (https://wapo.st/3JBRelW).
Republicans, unfortunately, seem unwilling to approve any new election spending, claiming that unused money from the previous election should be used up first. The only problem? Those funds are either earmarked specifically for voting machine upgrades or were only available for the 2020 election.
“This should be a bipartisan priority,” says Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) “Unfortunately, it’s not.” https://wapo.st/34PB49Z
Texas’ SB1 Voter Supression Law Already Causing Headaches
Back in November, Democracy Docket’s Marc Elias made a statement that laid bare the real reason Republicans are enacting so many draconian anti-voter laws: “Complex and restrictive rules create a larger pool of disputed ballots that can be used to justify post-election challenges…,” he wrote. “The goal of these new provisions is to manufacture fraud where none exists.”
And now, Texas is proving his point. With less than a week to go until its March 1 primary, election officials throughout the state are experiencing never-before-seen rates of rejections for absentee ballot applications and, worse yet, for already completed ballots received by mail by election officials.
It’s all thanks to Texas’ new SB1 voter suppression law which, among other things, requires a confusing set of information that must be written by the voter on the outer envelope of an application or ballot.
How bad are things? In Harris County, home to Houston, election officials say that 35% of absentee ballot requests had to be rejected at the beginning of the request window because they lacked the identification number required under Senate Bill 1. For already completed ballots received by mail, the figure was 40% of roughly 3,600 returned ballots, rejected for the same reason. In Williamson County, home of an Austin suburb, the rejection rate for completed ballots during that period was about 25%.
The situation has caused Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to ask the Justice Department to intervene because of what she called “an alarmingly high number of vote-by-mail applications and ballots that have been flagged for rejection during this year’s primary election” (https://bit.ly/34YCizA).
Compounding the problem: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent a mass mailing of voter applications to GOP Texas voters with return envelopes addressed to the Texas Secretary of State’s office instead of the required local election offices. The resultant delay means some Republican voters might not get to vote on March 1 (https://bit.ly/3JCyFhD) .
Voters are notified about missing information and given the chance to correct problems, but it’s questionable that everyone will be able to do so by March 1. Said one 76-year-old voter, “It feels like people were just sitting up late at night thinking up ways to discourage people from voting.” https://wapo.st/3JBRelW
Your Vote’s Already Been Decided
For a country that prides itself on the notion that we can vote in the candidates we like and vote out the stinkers, this statistic is pretty appalling: of the 335 congressional districts drawn so far in the the redistricting that happens every 10 years, only 27 of the 335 are considered competitive, according to the FiveThirtyEight report. It is not expected to increase much more when all redistricting is done.
The result? In the majority of races, your vote won’t matter—redistricting has already decided the result for you.
Some decline in competitive seats can be attributed to population decreases and shifts, but most is due to aggressive gerrymandering efforts by both Democrats and Republicans to protect incumbents. In Texas, for example, the redistricting process has reduced the number of competitive districts from 12 to one, despite the fact that 93% of Texas Democrats and 76% of Texas Republicans don’t approve of gerrymandering (https://uh.edu/hobby/tx2022/
The result: Politicians no longer feel the need to engage in bipartisan compromise to please the general population. They only need to worry about fending off primary challengers. The general election, after all, has already been decided. https://bit.ly/36nv1tG
(Want to learn more about how your vote’s already been decided? David Pepper, author of Laboratories of Autocracy, will be discussing this very issue at the Indivisible Illinois statewide meeting on March 2. The meeting is sponsored by the Indivisible Illinois Vote-by-Mail Taskforce, home of the Voting Rights Gazette. Go to https://bit.ly/3p0L1rZ to register for the meeting.)
QAnon Candidates for Chief Election Officials Form Alliance
If you’ve been reading the Voting Right Gazette over the past few months, you know that ever since last fall, several key swing states now have candidates running to serve as chief election officials who either believe President Biden stole the election or are QAnon believers.
Now at least eight of them have apparently formed an alliance in which they share tactics and tips for success. The goal, according to the QAnon influencer who came up with the idea, is to “get to a lawful election this time around and get to the right result.”
This influencer managed to convince Jim Marchant, a former Republican lawmaker who is running to become chief election official in Nevada, to run for secretary of state instead of Congress. The influencer then urged him to put together a coalition of other like-minded secretary of state candidates.
Says Travis View, a leading QAnon watcher, it would be “ ruinous for democracy if people involved with QAnon got into positions of power where they have actual influence in determining the results or legitimacy of elections.” https://bit.ly/3gV0YLQ
Meanwhile, Tina Peters, the Mesa County, Colorado, election official who is under investigation for allowing someone to copy and send voter data from her Dominion voting machines to hackers last May, plans to run for secretary of state in Colorado. Shortly before announcing her run, she gave a speech at an event hosted by a far-right group whose president has called for mass executions of politicians he believes to be “traitors.” That includes the state’s current secretary of state, Jena Griswold. https://bit.ly/3LLQ6ho
Happy Birthday, George!
Today being George Washington’s 290th birthday, your editor decided to browse through his many quotes. I leave you with this one.
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.” –Farewell Address, 1796