“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.”
March 22, 2022
Recent Supreme Court Ruling Alarms Voting Rights Advocates
Two weeks ago, the Voting Rights Gazette reported that the Supreme Court turned down two emergency requests regarding redistricting from Republicans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
The decision has set off alarm bells among voting rights advocates.
The cases concerned whether it was constitutional for state supreme courts to create congressional district maps. In North Carolina’s case, the State Supreme Court stepped in after it ruled that the legislature’s proposed map was an illegal gerrymander. In Pennsylvania’s case, the governor had vetoed the legislature’s proposed map.
What concerns voting rights advocates is that the decision, authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, stated that his decision was guided only by the fast-approaching midterm elections, not the underlying merits of the states’ claim. The merits, he stated, should be taken up in the future.
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, however, went further, writing that they would have blocked the maps from going into effect at all. Their dissent was based on what’s called the “independent state legislature doctrine.” This is the notion, popular on the right, that says state courts cannot second-guess election rules passed by a legislature, even if the result violates a state’s own constitution.
For those following Supreme Court rulings regarding voting rights, the independent state legislature doctrine would fly in the face of the 2019 Supreme Court case Rucho v Common Cause, which ruled that federal courts could not stop partisan gerrymandering, but state courts could. Whether the question will be revisited in the future is not known. https://bit.ly/3CLKm3f
Number of Democratic & Republican Congressional Districts May Be About Equal for First Time in 50 Years
For the first time in 50 years, the number of congressional districts that are expected to lean Democratic and Republican may be nearly equal, according to a New York Times analysis based on recent presidential election results.
It’s certainly not for lack of trying. Both Democrats and Republicans have created extremely gerrymandered maps to shield their incumbents from serious challenges. But thanks to efforts in some Democratic states to out-gerrymander Republicans, plus more maps being drawn by courts or nonpartisan-bipartisan commissions, the exact same number of congressional districts are expected to favor Republicans and Democrats—between 216 and 219 out of 435. The overall parity will still hold, says the report, even if the maps of the four remaining states without a final map lean Republican.
A party needs to secure 218 districts for a majority in Congress.
One caveat to this news: The Times report notes that there are more solidly Republican than solidly Democratic districts in the country, based on 2020 election results, which means Democrats will need to win around 60 percent of potentially competitive districts. https://nyti.ms/3JpJRhM
Michigan Election Officials Tell Legislators That Voting Infrastructure, Processes Need Changes ASAP
The president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, Mary Clark, and the president of the Michigan Association of County Clerks, Marc Kleiman, have issued a joint open letter to Michigan’s state and legislative leaders asking that legislators put aside partisan politics to improve personnel, infrastructure, and vote processing in Michigan as soon as possible.
The letter comes in the wake of a Republican-led effort to bypass voters with a petition drive to drastically tighten the state’s voting laws. Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing a referendum drive to put liberalized voting rules into the state’s constitution (see the March 8 Voting Rights Gazette, https://bit.ly/3MPG6V0). (see the March 8 Voting Rights Gazette, https://bit.ly/3MPG6V0).
Among the clerks’ demands:
—Provide funding assistance for staff and infrastructure, including drop box security and postage costs. The letter notes there was a more than 100% increase in absentee ballots in the 2020 election.
— Allow for the secure and transparent pre-processing of absentee ballots to provide accurate and timely election results. The letter notes that 19 other states currently process mail-in ballots prior to Election Day.
—Offer early voting as an option for Michigan voters.
—Move the statewide primaries from August to June. This would allow clerks more time to program and proof ballots for the general election, as done in 31 other states.
—Allow clerks to better clean Michigan’s voter rolls by removing deceased voters more quickly and eliminate the records of voters who move out of state.
“Real leadership is demonstrated by being willing to reach across the partisan aisle and create solutions,” wrote Clark and Kleiman in their joint letter. “…Improvements that lead to better run elections have the power to lessen the tensions of mistrust and unite us in a common goal of accessible and secure elections.” https://bit.ly/3hRXnOY
Meanwhile, the Michigan Democratic Party is taking no chances, given the ongoing fights over the validity of the 2020 election. It is recruiting volunteers now for everything from absentee-ballot-counting and election-day poll challengers to “cure team” members, whose job would be to contact those whose absentee ballots have been rejected by their election clerk. The effort, says the Party, is to ensure that all voters can access a ballot and have their votes counted in November. https://bit.ly/3Il4eLI
(Threat found outside the Jackson County, OR, county clerk’s office)
Survey Shows Nearly 8 in 10 Election Works Face Threats, Causing Many to Leave
Nearly 8 in 10 local election officials have experienced threats against them and their colleagues and nearly one in three know at least one election worker who has left their job, partly due to safety concerns, increased threats, or intimidation.
That’s according to a new survey of nearly 600 local election officials conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice from late January through mid-February.
“Nearly three times as many local election officials are very worried about interference by political leaders in how they and fellow local election officials do their jobs going forward as they say they were before 2020,” says the report, with 1 in 5 local election officials “very” or “somewhat unlikely” to continue serving through 2024.
The reason? According to the report, it’s politicians’ attacks on the system and stress, not just plans to retire.
While 71% said their local governments were supportive, a narrow majority of local election officials said state governments were either “not doing anything” to support them or needed to do more. As for the federal government? Eighty percent gave the federal government a failing grade on protecting election workers.
How bad is it? One in 6 have personally experienced threats. More than half have been threatened in person. Colorado’s secretary of state told colleagues in December that she personally had received 22 death threats in one week alone. More than half of surveyed election officials are also concerned that some of their incoming colleagues might believe that widespread fraud occurred in 2020.
“Our county clerks are really on the front lines here, as well as our elections division staff,” Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said at the December meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State, detailing vandalism at a county clerk’s office that said “next time bullets.” When there’s an attack on one of us, it’s an attack on all of us.” https://politi.co/3CR3Vr7 https://bit.ly/3KV3D55
Republican Election Officials in Michigan & Wyoming Push Back Against Voter Fraud Claims
Republican election officials in Michigan and Wyoming are actively pushing back on Republican claims that there was fraud in the vote counts of the 2020 presidential election.
In early March, Michigan’s Office of the Auditor General released a 67-page report debunking claims that dead people and ineligible people cast votes in the 2020 election.
The Office, headed by an appointee of the Republican-controlled legislature, found that only .03% of the total ballots were attributed to people who had voted before Election Day but died before Election Day. The report also found that 99.99% of the voters examined were within acceptable age parameters and 99.99% of the votes cast were not identified as a duplicate vote.
Said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the report affirmed “Michigan’s 2020 election was secure and the outcome accurately reflects the will of the voters.” https://bit.ly/3IgDxb3
In Wyoming, Republican Secretary of State Ed Buchanan told the Wyoming Chamber of Commerce that claims of a rigged presidential election were not true. Also not true? Allegations that Wyoming’s voting machines had been hacked, as claimed by MyPillow guy Mike Lindell.
The state’s voting machines, said Buchanan, are not connected to the internet and don’t have the capability to be connected to the internet, despite allegations to the contrary. That way, he told his audience, “Election results are not susceptible to being hacked or manipulated by nefarious actors…There’s not a scintilla of evidence, or even suspicion, that Wyoming’s elections were hacked, manipulated or anything of the sort.”
Nevertheless, Buchanan’s office is currently working with the University of Wyoming to develop a better method of auditing voting machines. https://bit.ly/3IlfqYE
(States whose voter rolls have been published by the Voter Reference Foundation)
Right-Wing Foundation Posting State Voter Rolls Online to Crowd-search for Fraud
A newly created foundation, the Voter Reference Foundation, has published on its website the names, birthdates, addresses and voting histories for millions of voters in several states to enable crowd-sourced hunting for supposed voter irregularities during the 2020 presidential election.
Headed by Gina Swoboda, a high-ranking official of the Arizona Republican Party and the Election Day operations director for the Trump 2020 campaign, the foundation has already posted voter rolls for at least 20 states. They include the 2020 battleground states of Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It intends to post the rolls of all 50 states by year’s end.
According to a wide-ranging investigation by ProPublica, the Voter Reference Foundation (VoteRef) is a project linked to a nonprofit group called Restoration Action and its related PAC. Both are led by Illinois insurance broker and one-time GOP Senate candidate Doug Truax. Restoration Action claims it “advocat[es] for policy changes and/or the election or defeat of candidates on the basis of time-tested conservative principles.”
But ProPublica has found that VoteRef’s origins and funders are actually linked to Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein, who is known for bankrolling far-right-wing candidates and groups.
The way it works is this: Visitors to the VoteRef website can scroll through data on more than 106 million people in a free, easy-to-use format. The data include personal identifying information of every voter and the years they voted, but not how they voted. VoteRef claims that the resultant crowd-sourcing has uncovered significant discrepancies between the number of voters and the number of ballots cast.
Various state election officials have warned VoteRef that its findings are fundamentally incorrect, and at least two states have taken action against the group. New Mexico has asked its state attorney general to start a criminal investigation because posting those data is illegal under state law. Pennsylvania demanded that VoteRef take down its voter information because state law prohibits publishing the voter rolls on the internet. VoteRef complied.
“This is simply another meritless example of election misinformation being disseminated to undermine well-founded faith in [our] election system, and from an organization led by at least one former member of the Trump campaign,” says Tracy Wimmer, director of media relations for Michigan’s secretary of state. https://bit.ly/3N4Guz5
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