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December 17, 2020

December 17, 2020

In Focus This Week

The 2020 Voting Experience and Goal for Reform

By Matthew Weil
Bipartisan Policy Center

The pandemic election presented previously unthinkable complications for election administrators. It also exacerbated known—and exposed new—weaknesses in the entire election ecosystem that require attention from federal, state, and local policymakers.

The Bipartisan Policy Center on December 15th convened secretaries of state, election directors, local election administrators, and other experts for the first of what will likely be many comprehensive reviews of the lessons learned in 2020. The event was co-sponsored by the Healthy Elections Project, the Democracy Fund, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Hewlett Foundation.

The insights on vote casting, counting, cybersecurity, and funding couple with how election administrators made rapid changes during a presidential election must now be turned into durable policy reforms that improve the voting experience in 2022 and 2024.

While it is impossible to detail all seven panels during the six-hour day, several recurring themes spanned the event. One was the impact of misinformation and disinformation on undermining confidence in the legitimacy of the election. The Georgia Secretary of State compared it to a game of whack-a-mole. EAC Vice Chair Don Palmer noted that the EAC stands behind the voting systems the Commission has certified in reference to concerns about vulnerabilities or fraud claimed against various vendors.

Election officials and experts understand that this misinformation is politically motivated, and that the claims are baseless. However, we should expect that the misinformation campaigns and resulting erosion in confidence very well could influence policymaking in 2021 regardless of whether it is based in reality. This could materialize as restrictions on voting by mail and curtailing other options for voters other than in-person Election Day voting.

Another thread touched on attacks against the government officials and other volunteers responsible for running elections in this country. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger noted that his family had received repeated harassment, including someone breaking into his daughter’s home and threats directed at his wife.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver talked about the credible death threats she has received.  “When I originally sought to come into election administration as a career…I never thought that my life would personally be under threat for the work that we do to ensure our democracy continues,” said Secretary Oliver. “At Christmastime, I can’t be with my 11-year-old son right now to ensure that he is safe and in a protected location while I continue to do my work.” These threats are beyond the pale.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson put it succinctly from the perspective of the several chief state election officials at the event: “We personify an election. We personify the voters. We personify democracy in our role as chief election officers. And in that job we do have to, in some ways, take what is thrown at us…as a way of guarding and enabling every other voter in our state to have their voice heard.” She added, “We will take a punch so someone else can vote.”

One other persistent topic of discussion was the was the need for consistent, reliable funding to ensure election officials have the tools they need to serve the voters. EAC Chair Ben Hovland spoke of the successes his agency had at dispersing $400M in CARES Act funding to the states on a very short timeframe. But he also noted that in inflation-adjusted dollars, the EAC’s funding is at just 68% of what it was in FY2010. And that’s after a large year over year increase in FY2020.

Tiana Epps-Johnson, executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, walked the audience through the nearly $350M in private philanthropic funding her organization sent to 2,500+ local election jurisdictions in 49 states. She said that CTCL is “deeply proud of this work, but it was a massive public policy failure that it was required.”

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs added that “we have to take the partisanship out of this whole equation. Election funding needs to be predictable and stable. I don’t know what we would have done without that private grant to implement our public education campaign.”

Election officials have a lot to be proud about when looking back at the 2020 election, and BPC was honored to serve as a venue to share even a small handful of stories from those on the front lines. This unusual election year could very well turn to an unusual year of policymaking for all those interested in improving the voting experience of the future.

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Election News This Week

Disinformation: Not only is all politics local, but so apparently is most disinformation. The MIT Technology Review took a look at data to determine which states saw the most election disinformation in 2020. Data shows that during the election, disinformation was highly targeted locally, with voters in swing states exposed to significantly more online messages about voter intimidation, fraud, ballot glitches, and unrest than voters in other states. In a data set provided by Zignal Labs, MIT Technology Review looked at mentions across social media of over 30 terms related to voter suppression or intimidation, fraud, technical errors, and unrest that focused on a particular polling location. Our sample of 16 states found that between October 1 and November 13, swing states had more than four times the amount of such mentions: a median of 115,200, while non-swing states saw a median of 28,000 related mentions. According Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at Tuft University’s Fletcher School this local focus is typical of effective disinformation campaigns, which are usually pinned to a specific place and slice the target audience into its smallest, stereotyped parts. “Clever misinformation” is organized, he says, in the same way that political campaigning is.

Threats to Democracy: According to Reuters, the harassment campaign against U.S. election officials following President Donald Trump’s defeat took an ominous turn on last week after a website surfaced that accused them of “treason” and included photographs and home addresses, drawing the attention of U.S. intelligence agencies. The site, along with several associated social media accounts, included photographs of Republican and Democratic officials, with rifle crosshairs superimposed on them. Experts who track right-wing extremists said they did not know who was behind the online effort, which includes several websites and associated social media accounts. But they described it as a serious threat. “This is absolutely terrifying,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “This is among the most threatening websites I’ve seen.” Internet records hide the identity of whoever set up the site. Cybersecurity experts helping with election security said one of the pages was hosted in Russia, and some records include accounts registered through Yandex, a Russian email platform. Those links do not necessarily mean that the Russian government is behind the effort, the experts said. The website also to assassinate election officials and governors in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania Washington and Wisconsin, as well as employees of voting-machine manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems. In a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, former CISA Director Chris Krebs testified that he has not seen anything that would change his opinion that the 2020 election was secure and urged Republicans to call out baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. “This is not the America I recognize. It’s got to stop. We need everyone across the leadership ranks to stand up,” Krebs said during testimony. “I would appreciate more support from my own party, the Republican Party, to call this stuff out and move on. … We have to move on.”

Matt Masterson is stepping down as a senior advisor at CISA, a role he’s held since 2018. Masterson will join the Stanford Internet Observatory, a team of academics and tech experts led by former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos, which works on election security and social media challenges. At Stanford, “We’re going to unpack what we’ve learned over the last few years [on election security],” Masterson told Cyberscoop, including “what more needs to be done on a broader level.” Masterson said he wants to continue to tackle disinformation campaigns, which could extend to the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. Experts fear that a large swath of Americans are distrustful of the efficacy of the vaccine, in part because of conspiracy theories that spread online. Despite the string of departures from CISA, Masterson said that, with the career officials still there, the agency’s election security work is in good hands. “The community knows them and trusts them,” Masterson said. “And they’ll build on the success we’ve had in the last three years.”

Even Lakers’ haters have to agree with this choice! LeBron James was named Time Magazine’s Athlete of the Year for 2020, but thehe honor had nothing to do with his work on the court this year, but with the work he did off the court to help empower, voters, especially Black voters, to get out and vote. In June he launched More Than A vote, a nonprofit designed to get more people to the polls. The group pushed for sports arenas to be used as polling places on the grounds that they could allow for social distancing while accommodating large numbers of voters. In the hope of keeping lines moving and locations open, they recruited young people to replace older poll workers who were sidelined by fears of COVID-19. “When you have somebody of LeBron’s stature setting the tone, it makes it that much easier for everyone to get on board,” says 11-time WNBA all-star Sue Bird

Personnel News: Outgoing Maricopa County, Arizona Recorder Adrian Fontes will join Pima County Recorder-elect Gabriella Cázares-Kelly’s transition team as an interim chief deputy recorder. Jesse Evans was not reappointed for 2021to the Athens-Clarke County, Georgia board of elections. Bruce Newby, the Wyandotte County, Kansas election commissioner, will retire from his position February 1. Newby had been the top election official in Wyandotte County since 2006. Tim Snow is retiring as the Kalamazoo County, Michigan clerk after serving the county for 24 years. Douglas County, Nevada Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lewis is resigning. Shelby Watchilla is resigning as the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania elections director effective Dec. 25. Pima County, Arizona Recorder F. Ann Rodriquez is retiring after 28 years on the job. The county is honoring her years of service by dedicating the fountain in the courtyard of the Historic Pima County Courthouse to her. Melissa Bliss has resigned as the Three Rivers, Michigan city clerk.

In Memoriam: Penny Lynn Brooks, longtime deputy director of the Athens County, Ohio board of elections died on December 11. She was 68. Brooks had served on the board of elections since 1973. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement from the Athens County Democratic Party, Athens County Democratic Volunteer of the Year, Ohio Election Official Volunteer of the Year, and honored by the Ohio Senate as having the most years of Public Service with the Board of Elections. Her life was dedicated to making sure everyone had the right to vote.

Legislative Updates

Federal Legislation: Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) who serves as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee launched an effort this week to beef up criminal penalties for threats against election officials, which have escalated dramatically as President Trump has pressed baseless voter fraud claims following his electoral loss. Scanlon urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a letter to investigate serious threats against election officials and poll workers that have come amid an increasingly hostile campaign of post-election misinformation. She also introduced a bill that would build on existing election-related legal protections and broaden criminal punishment against perpetrators. Scanlon’s legislation would broaden a current federal law that protects voters to include protections for election officials.

Arizona: Arizona Senate Republicans said Tuesday they sent subpoenas to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors seeking images of all mail-in ballots counted during the 2020 general election and a large pile of other records. Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said she anticipates the county will conduct an audit of the election results but that if it does not, the Senate would proceed with its own. One subpoena calls for images of every mail-in ballot and another calls for the county to provide access to a range of election equipment for “forensic analysis.” According to The Arizona Republic, County officials have said machinery cannot be accessed while litigation over the election is ongoing, as equipment could be considered evidence in a case. If litigation is wrapped up by the end of the week and the county can proceed with its own audit, the subpoenas could be withdrawn, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who issued the subpoenas after a hearing on the election with local officials on Monday. The subpoenas otherwise set a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday.

Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, is reviving a proposal he sponsored two years ago that would permit outside parties to pay for recounts. State law currently only permits recounts under extremely narrow circumstances if races are particularly close. For a statewide contest, recounts are only triggered if the margin of victory is 200 votes or one tenth of one percent of the total votes for both candidates. Senate Bill 1010 would allow anyone to request a recount in a race, conducted either through the tabulation machines that election officials use to count ballots or a much more intensive hand count, regardless of the margin of victory. But whoever makes the request would have to foot the bill. The requester would have to post a bond for whatever amount a superior court judge deems sufficient to cover the costs.

Colorado: The state’s Republican-led Legislative Audit Committee convened a meeting on election integrity at the Colorado Capitol, featuring GOP election officials as witnesses, as well as a prominent member of the president’s post-election legal team. According to Colorado Public Radio, the hearing was a departure from the bipartisan committee’s usual work.  Typically the audit committee meets to hear the results of investigations into state departments, agencies and enterprises. The committee cannot audit counties, which administer elections, or private companies, which make the equipment for those elections. About a dozen people testified at the committee’s invitation, and none presented evidence of widespread voter fraud in Colorado. Most spoke instead to the strength of the state’s system and some suggested areas of improvement. “There is no one in Moscow, nobody in Beijing, nobody in Antifa, nobody in the Trump campaign that has changed a single ballot in the state of Colorado because you physically can’t do that unless you broke into the clerk’s office, you bypass the cyber locks,” said former Secretary of State Wayne Williams. “You somehow circumvented the 24-7 video surveillance and the security protocols that are in place.”

Hawaii: Hawaii Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago plans to ask the Legislature for changes to Hawaii’s mail voting system that could make it easier for officials to open more in-person voting sites and give voters more time to fill in their ballots. In a report to the state Elections Commission, Nago said the Office of Elections plans to propose several measures. Chief among them is one that would give county election officials more flexibility than currently allowed under the law to open more voter centers, an issue that came to a head on Nov. 3 when thousands of voters waited for hours in lines outside Hawaii’s eight voter. The elections office proposal is similar to a bill that died in the last days of the 2020 session.

Michigan: Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulous told the State Senate Oversight Committee that he stands by his company’s work and shot down unfounded allegations that the results may have been manipulated. According to Poulous, Dominion is the victim of “a dangerous and reckless disinformation campaign aimed at sowing doubt and confusion over the 2020 presidential election.” According to The New York Times, Poulos assured the committee that his company had no connections to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, or George Soros, the billionaire financier who is a subject of conspiracy theories on the right. “The comments about our company being started in Venezuela with Cuban money with the intent to steal elections are beyond bizarre and are complete lies,” Poulos added. “My company started in my basement, which happened to be in Toronto.”

The Michigan House granted additional power to its Oversight Committee, which is investigating claims of irregularities in the Nov. 3 election. The House voted Tuesday to give the committee subpoena power, giving members authority to compel witnesses to testify and provide documents. The Oversight Committee plans to begin by issuing subpoenas for documents and election records from Detroit and Livonia. “Regardless of our political affiliations, we should all agree that we must do more to restore the public’s trust in our voting procedures,” said Republican State Rep. Triston Cole of Mancelona. “We can begin that process by conducting a thorough and complete investigation that gets to the bottom of these reports and delivers the answers voters deserve. The Oversight Committee needs full access to accurate information to make sure that happens.” He said the Oversight Committee likely will look into Antrim County’s election system after the clerk initially reported a landslide win for Democrat Joe Biden on Election Day even though the county traditionally supports Republicans overwhelmingly.

Missouri: A resolution, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hill, R-St. Charles, calls six states won by President-elect Biden on Nov. 3 to “conduct investigations into voter fraud and if they do not, we demand that Congress refuse to certify their electors.” The measure, which is symbolic and carries no weight of law, was co-signed by 66 of the Missouri House’s 163 members. House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said Thursday he will assign Hill’s proposed resolution to a committee that will determine if the measure should be presented to the House in an extraordinary session as early as next week. The proposed resolution, which has not been posted on the House’s website, will say the Missouri House has “no confidence” in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin’s presidential election results. The resolution calls for election results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to be invalidated and demands the legislatures in those states “call themselves into a special session to investigate the election results and, if needed, exercise their authority under Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution to elect new electors.” A House committee approved the resolution 6-3.

North Dakota: Grand Forks County saw record voter turnout in the 2020 election. But when compared to other areas of the state and country, the local record was broken by a relatively modest margin. Now, some Grand Forks legislators are calling it an outlier that needs to be examined further.  Sen. Scott Meyer, R-Grand Forks, says he believes the relatively low turnout is due in large part to Grand Forks’ more transient populations: UND students, active duty airmen and their families who live on Grand Forks Air Force Base, who might reside in North Dakota for longer than the requisite 30 days but who might still use a driver’s license issued by another state. Meyer – along with Sen. Curt Kreun, R-Grand Forks, and Rep. Emily O’Brien, R-Grand Forks – is in the early stages of preparing legislation that aims to make it easier for qualified Grand Forks County voters who aren’t necessarily permanent residents to vote.

Texas:  State Rep. Michelle Beckley wants to bring countywide voting centers to Denton County, which would allow residents to vote at any polling location in the county. To do so, she is pushing a bill in the Legislature to allow counties with paper-based ballots, like Denton, to participate in the state’s countywide polling place program. “You run for office and you want to increase voter turnout,” said Beckley, a Carrollton Democrat who considers this bill her top priority for the 2021 session that begins next month. “You just need to make it easier and less confusing.” Currently, to operate a countywide polling program, a county must use all electronic equipment to count votes. Denton County uses paper-based ballots that voters fill out by hand and are then scanned electronically into the voting system. Beckley’s bill would add language into the election code allowing counties that use such technology into the state’s countywide vote center program.

Legal Updates

Arizona: Pinal County Superior Court Judge Kevin White jettisoned a lawsuit claiming widespread election fraud in Arizona, saying the plaintiff had no standing to challenge the state’s election results because she was not registered to vote. White also said former Gilbert Public Schools Board President Staci Burk had waited too long to file her complaint, and allowing it to proceed would “circumvent the strong public policy supporting prompt resolution of election cases.” Burk filed the case Dec. 7, seven days after state officials certified Arizona’s Nov. 3 results. Voters have a five-day window to bring election contests. Ahead of the hearing, an attorney for the secretary of state submitted a signed declaration from the state’s elections director stating Burk was not a registered voter for at least 10 years, indicating she did not have the legal authority to contest a state election. Burk countered with a claim that state law requires those contesting elections only be eligible to register to vote.  The judge disagreed with Burk’s assessment, noting in his ruling that “plaintiff by her own admission was not registered to vote for the 2020 general election.” “She therefore does not qualify to contest the election under (state law) because she was not an ‘elector’ of the state and county in which she resides,” White wrote. “She lacks standing to challenge an election in which she did not vote and could not vote.”

Arkansas: A lawsuit challenging Democrat Ashley Hudson’s 24-vote victory in a west Little Rock House district was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by a Pulaski County circuit judge on Tuesday. The judge, Mackie Pierce of the 6th Judicial Circuit, at times appeared frustrated with Sorvillo’s request to have the court intervene more than a month after the election and on the heels of other legal challenges filed by the three-term lawmaker. “I don’t think I have jurisdiction in this matter whatsoever,” Pierce said. Pierce dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that Sorvillo and his attorneys cannot file a new lawsuit along similar grounds. However, Pierce noted that Sorvillo still has a remaining avenue open with the Arkansas Claims Commission, a quasi-judicial body.

Florida: A long-running legal battle over Spanish-language ballots for Puerto Rican voters in 32 Florida counties will move forward, after a federal judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit. The case centers on allegations that elections officials have not complied with part of the federal Voting Rights Act related to Spanish speakers who were educated in Puerto Rico. Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker last year issued a preliminary injunction requiring 32 counties to take a series of steps, including providing Spanish-language ballots and materials, in time for the March 2020 presidential primary election. in an order last week, Walker said the case should move forward because “there remains a live controversy between plaintiffs and defendant over the necessary scope of relief.” After last week’s order, Walker on Monday denied the plaintiffs’ request to certify the 32 elections supervisors as a class of defendants.  The counties — Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Hernando, Highlands, Indian River, Jackson, Lake, Leon, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Pasco, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Sumter, Taylor and Wakulla — don’t share enough in common to be grouped together, the chief judge wrote.

Georgia: U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones declined to force the state to immediately restore to voting rolls thousands of people who were removed last year. Voting rights organizations, including the Black Voters Matter Fund, sued Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger earlier this month, challenging the removal of what they said were hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from Georgia’s rolls. ones said he would not grant the immediate restoration of voters to the rolls because they have had a year to reregister if they were removed incorrectly and, if the secretary of state’s office did reinstate them, it would cause confusion. “Plaintiffs acknowledge that they do not know how many people on their list of cancelled registrations may have re-registered before December 7, 2020,” Jones wrote in his ruling. “Thus, the risk of dual registrations and voter confusion is high.”

The New Georgia Project and Democracy Docket have filed lawsuits against four Georgia counties for failing to offer sufficient early voting for the Jan. 5 runoff election. The groups say Bibb, Clarke, Houston and Paulding counties are not offering early voting on a Saturday during three weeks of early voting, which they say is required by state law. Bibb also will not offer early voting on Dec. 31. Election officials have said state law requires weekend voting only for a primary or general election, not for a runoff. In a release announcing the lawsuits, the voting rights groups said the lack of early voting “threatens to disenfranchise voters in this critical election.” The lawsuits were filed in the superior courts of the respective counties this week. They seek emergency orders forcing the counties to offer additional early voting.

Idaho: Idaho Fourth District Judge Ronald Wilper dismissed ACHD Commissioner Rebecca Arnold’s appeal of the results of a recount in her tight race against Alexis Pickering. Arnold contended Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane and Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts misapplied the law in how they conducted the recount and requested the ballots be counted by hand and some ‘newly discovered’ absentee ballots be thrown out. Wilper was not swayed by Arnold’s complaint. He said her request for a hand count would not result in higher accuracy and could result in human error.  “Inherent in Ms. Arnold’s appeal is the contention that a hand-count of all 31,468 ballots, or at least the hand-count of all the ballots from the four precincts used for the test would result in a more accurate count than vote tabulating machines,” he said. “While this argument has some appeal, the Court is not convinced that hand-counts are more accurate than machine counts. This is because the element of human error is introduced in any hand-count, especially a hand-count of thousands of ballots.”

Kansas: The Supreme Court declined Monday to revive a Kansas law that required showing specific proof-of-citizenship documents before registering to vote, ending a fight that had continued for years. A trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit had declared it unconstitutional. It was championed by former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a Republican who had led the short-lived voter fraud commission President Trump formed to try to substantiate his unproven claims that millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States were voting. The court did not give a reason for rejecting the appeal of the state’s new secretary of state, Scott Schwab. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) had opposed the effort asking for Supreme Court review.

Massachusetts:  A handful of failed Republican candidates have scaled back the scope of their challenge to the results of the Nov. 3 election in Massachusetts and one — former 9th Congressional District hopeful Helen Brady — has dropped out of the lawsuit altogether. But John Paul Moran, a former 6th Congressional District candidate who’s spearheading the legal challenge, told the Boston Herald the four remaining plaintiffs are forging ahead undeterred. “Our goal here is we want free and fair elections that are done legally and constitutionally,” Moran said. “Everybody benefits from that, so we think the whole public should be on our side.” Moran, Brady, former 5th Congressional District candidate Caroline Colarusso and former state representative hopefuls Ingrid Centurion and Craig Valdez sued the state, GOP Gov. Charlie Baker and Democrat Secretary of State William Galvin last week seeking to throw out millions of ballots cast in the November election over their claims pandemic-related changes to voting laws were “unconstitutional.” The group was initially looking to bar the state from selecting electors and transmitting certified election results to the Electoral College. On Wednesday, the day before U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs was set to hold a hearing on their request, attorney Gregory Hession — who the plaintiffs brought on as counsel after filing the lawsuit — requested it be called off. Hession wrote in his filing that he had reviewed both sides’ arguments — “concluding that the plaintiffs would not be able to meet their burden of proof for the court to issue a preliminary injunction at this time.” But he said the withdrawal “does not forfeit any other causes of action set out in the complaint.”

Michigan: Judge Kevin Elsenheimer of the 13th Circuit Court ruled last week that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson could intervene in a lawsuit filed by Antrim County resident William Bailey. While Bailey purportedly filed the lawsuit to settle the outcome of a local marijuana proposal, his attorney Matthew DePerno made much broader electoral claims. During a procedural hearing that was supposed to focus on whether Benson had a stake in the election lawsuit, DePerno alleged a team of Trump-aligned investigators had found “significant errors” during a recent review of 22 voting machines in the county. DePerno did not provide any of this evidence during the hearing, saying the results of the review are preliminary. The only specific allegations he mentioned involved voting machines having unsecured data ports or not having magnetic security tape. In the same case this week Elsenheimer vacated his earlier order to keep the results private and now voters will have a chance to review a report generated by a recent examination of Antrim County’s voting machines. Attorneys from the Michigan Attorney General’s office — representing Michigan’s Secretary of State — agreed the information should be released, so long as any proprietary source code from Dominion voting machine software is redacted and the Secretary of State be allowed to rebut the report’s contents.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) has requested a formal opinion from Attorney General Dana Nessel regarding potential violations of Oaths of Office by Michigan State Representatives and Representatives-elect as well as Michigan U.S. Congressmen. The potential violations included signing on, through amicus briefs, to the Texas v Pennsylvania et al lawsuit that was dismissed for lack of standing by the Supreme Court of the United States, last week. “Elected Officials in Michigan swear an Oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan,” Byrum stated. “We look to them to uphold the ideals enshrined in our founding documents, which includes free, fair, safe, and secure democratic elections. The partisan actions of these Congressmen and Representatives that sought to overturn the results of the November Election run counter to those ideals and they must be held accountable for them.”

New Jersey: Assignment Judge Julio Mendez ruled last week that Atlantic County must recount an additional 4% of the 143,000 ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election, on top of the 2% recently recounted for a state audit, to determine whether results are accurate in the at-large freeholder race. Mendez ruled that the hand recount must be completed no later than Dec. 18. “Following the additional recount, the Board will adjust the final numbers if appropriate, and provide the results to all parties and the Court,” Mendez wrote. He also ordered the recount “shall be conducted as an open public meeting and members of the public and the press shall be free to observe.”


New Mexico: Outgoing President Donald Trump’s campaign filed a federal lawsuit this week against the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, alleging the use of drop boxes to collect absentee ballots in the general election violated state law. The filing — which came as members of the Electoral College in New Mexico and nationwide met to cast votes formalizing Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory — asks the court to delay action by electors or vacate their certification until the case is resolved. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver implemented the drop boxes as an option for voters who chose to cast ballots by mail amid the surging COVID-19 pandemic. The presidential election drew a record number of voters who requested mail ballots. The Trump campaign argues in the complaint, however, that a drop box is not an option for returning a mail ballot under the New Mexico Election Code, and that not all such boxes in the state remained secured at all times. It asks the U.S. District Court to order Toulouse Oliver to conduct a statewide canvass of absentee ballots and an investigation into the drop boxes.

New York: New York Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead denied a request to block the implementation of ranked choice voting in the upcoming special city council election in 2021. In a three-page decision, Edmead made clear it was the imminent mailing of military ballots scheduled to go out this Friday that persuaded her from ordering any relief that could inadvertently disenfranchise those overseas voters. “This Court is disinclined to take any action that may result in the disenfranchisement of even one voter or take any action that may result in even one voter’s ballot being nullified,” Edmead wrote. Frank Carone, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, who is also counsel to the Kings County Democrats, said he planned to file an appeal.  “Although we did not get to the substantive merits, the Court was clearly concerned about the timing to mail overseas ballots to our service men and women,” said Carone.But what is now clearly apparent is that there has been a serious failure to comply with the requirements of the Charter and State law, that our application was clearly timely, since it was only revealed last week that the City had not done what it was required to do, and that we will seek relief in the Appellate Division.”

State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte told election officials he wants to resolve disputes in the undecided House race between Rep. Anthony Brindisi and Claudia Tenney by the start of the new Congress on Jan. 3. According to Syracuse.com it was the first time DelConte set a goal for ending the review of challenged ballots in the 22nd Congressional District – a process that has dragged on for more than a month after the election. DelConte told lawyers for the eight counties in the district that he wants to meet with them privately Friday “to address the scheduling and logistics for resuming review of all challenged envelopes and ballots as safely and efficiently as possible.” The judge said his goal is to start reviewing disputed ballots on Monday, Dec. 21.

Tennessee: The state of Tennessee asked a panel of judges to reinstate a voting law that requires first-time voters to cast ballots in person, arguing the restriction helps ensure the integrity of elections. The state asked the Sixth Circuit in October for a decision without oral arguments so the law could be reinstated before the November election, but the Cincinnati-based appeals court refused and instead scheduled this week’s hearing. In his brief to the appeals court, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett argued U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson lacked jurisdiction to issue the injunction because Sweet failed to meet absentee voting eligibility requirements that were wholly unrelated to the first-time voter law. Hargett said Richardson “overstated the burden imposed by the first-time voter requirement,” a burden he called minimal at most, and argued the ruling impacted the ability of the state to verify voters and ensure the integrity of its elections.

Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out the Texas lawsuit that had become a vehicle for Republicans across the country to contest President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. In a few brief sentences, the high court said it would not consider the case for procedural reasons, because Texas lacked standing to bring it. “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections,” the court wrote in an unsigned ruling Friday evening. Texas sued this week to challenge the election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin on the basis that those states implemented pandemic-related changes to election procedures that, Texas claimed, were illegal and cast into question the election results. “Let us be clear,” attorneys for Pennsylvania wrote in the state’s reply brief. “Texas invites this Court to overthrow the votes of the American people and choose the next President of the United States. That Faustian invitation must be firmly rejected.” Texas’ lawsuit leaned heavily on discredited claims of election fraud in swing states. Election officials and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr have said there is no evidence of election fraud on a scale that could have swayed the results.

Former Houston Police Capt. Mark Anthony Aguirre was arrested this week after allegedly running a man off the road and restraining him with a pistol in an attempt to prove a nonexistent massive voter fraud scheme in Harris County in exchange for more than $250,000, prosecutors said. Aguirre claimed to believe the victim was hiding about 750,000 fraudulent ballots within his truck and home, with Hispanic children being used to sign the ballots because their fingerprints would not appear in any databases, according to prosecutors. “He crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed,” read a statement from Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. “His alleged investigation was backward from the start – first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened.”

Washington: Former gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman requesting an audit of ballots, vote counting machines and results in six Western Washington counties. Culp, who has refused to concede, has made allegations of voter fraud in the days since he lost the election to incumbent Jay Inslee. Wyman has maintained there is no evidence of such claims. The Culp campaign alleges there were multiple issues with the November election, like sending 10,000 ballots to the deceased and not running failed ID act software on their voter database. Culp’s lawsuit also alleges his rights were violated because of an unlawful election, saying Wyman and the state of Washington allowed illegal votes to be cast. The lawsuit now seeks an audit of votes cast in King, Clark, Thurston, Pierce, Kitsap and Skagit counties.

Wisconsin: The state Supreme Court ruled this week it is up to Wisconsinites to determine whether they face challenges that allow them to vote absentee without providing a copy of a photo ID. Under state law, people can vote absentee without showing an ID if they say they are indefinitely confined because of age, disability or infirmity. Two county clerks this spring contended voters could meet that status because of the coronavirus pandemic and a stay-at-home order issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. The state Republican Party sued directly with the state Supreme Court and the justices quickly issued an initial order that said the advice from the county clerks was faulty. The clerks rescinded their advice. In its final decision, the justices concluded it was up to each voter — not clerks or anyone else — to decide when they qualify as indefinitely confined. In addition, they found the pandemic and the stay-at-home order — which has since been struck down — did not render all voters indefinitely confined.

Opinions This Week

National Opinions: Election results | Voter fraud claims, II, III, IV, V | Election security, II, III | Disinformation | Election suspicion | Election integrity | Defrauding voters | Repairing democracy

Alaska: Absentee voting

Arizona: Election system | Maricopa County

California: Voting age | Vote by mail, II, III

Colorado: Audit committee

Connecticut: Voting rights

Florida: Broward County | Election integrity | Voting inequities | Trust in elections

Indiana: Election integrity, II

Iowa: Absentee voting

Kansas: Texas lawsuit | Threats

Kentucky: Election officials

Massachusetts: Vote by mail | Attacks on election

Missouri: Texas lawsuit | Post-election violence

Nebraska: U.S. Supreme Court

New York: Ranked choice voting

North Dakota: Barriers to voting

Ohio: Voting barriers

Oklahoma: Election results

Pennsylvania: Voting glitches | Vote by mail | Election audit

Texas: Voter fraud allegations

Virginia: Faith in the election | Ex-felon voting rights

Wisconsin: Election results

EAC Clearie Awards

EAC Clearinghouse 2020 Awards Information

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) invites submissions for its fifth annual national Clearinghouse Awards. The Clearinghouse Awards, also referred to as the “Clearies,” honor the enterprising spirit and hard work of election officials across the country. In the challenging circumstances created by the COVID-19 crisis, the Clearies offer the opportunity to recognize the resourcefulness of officials who adjusted their efforts to account for the ever-evolving pandemic. This year, the EAC is also pleased to offer a new category distinguishing cybersecurity and technology initiatives that improve election security of voting systems and strengthen U.S. elections.



The EAC will present awards in the categories of:

  • Improving Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities,
  • Outstanding Innovations in Elections,
  • Best Practices in Recruiting, Retaining, and Training Poll Workers,
  • Creative and Original “I Voted” Stickers, and
  • Outstanding Innovation in Election Cybersecurity and Technology.

Jurisdictions of all sizes are encouraged to submit their work. Entries must be received by Friday, January 8, 2021. Submissions will be judged on innovation, sustainability, outreach, cost-effectiveness, replicability, and the generation of positive results.

“The 2020 Clearie Awards will help recognize the innovation and hard work of election officials across the nation during an extremely well-run general election with record turnout,” said EAC Chairman Ben Hovland. “Election officials did an amazing job this fall as they navigated unprecedented health concerns due to COVID-19, a substantial increase in early and mail or absentee voting, and poll worker shortages. The best practices developed from 2020 will be highly valuable for future elections. The EAC Commissioners look forward to honoring these hard-working public servants who do so much to serve voters and further our democracy.”

The 2020 Clearies will build on the successes of past years, encouraging innovations in election administration and publicizing achievements across the elections community. Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), the EAC is charged with serving as a clearinghouse for election administration information. The Clearies and the efforts they celebrate play an important role in helping the EAC fulfill this mission.

The 2019 winners of the Clearie Awards can be found here.

More information on submission guidelines can be found here. All submissions should be sent to the EAC at clearinghouse@eac.gov.

Upcoming Events

IGO 2021 Mid-Winter Conference: IGO will hold its mid-Winter conference in-person in Phoenix. Elections-related sessions include seminars on the 2020 election, adapting to ever-changing elections during a pandemic, ransomware and cybersecurity and effective communication strategies. Where: Phoenix, Arizona. When: Jan. 22-28.

NASS 2021 Winter Virtual Conference: Registration and more information coming soon. When February 2-5. Where. Online.

Job Postings This Week

electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to mmoretti@electionline.org.  Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.

Certification Project Manager, Hart InterCIvic— The Certification Project Manager manages state and federal certification projects of our Hardware and Software products, under the direction of the Sr. Director of Product Management.  The Certification Project Manager must be able to exercise sound judgment and interact with regulatory authorities in a professional manner, particularly in high-pressure situations. Essential Duties and Responsibilities (Other duties may be assigned): Submit state/federal certification application materials; Plan for and coordinate logistics for onsite state/federal certification activities; Lead onsite state/federal certification activities; Provide follow up to state/federal certification activities. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Deputy Director of Voter Services, Hillsborough County, Fla.— The Supervisor of Elections administers all federal, state, county, municipal and special district elections in Hillsborough County. It’s our responsibility to process all voter registration applications received from qualified Florida residents, and also to educate Hillsborough County residents about registering to vote. We issue Voter Information Cards to all newly registered voters, and reissue those cards when there are changes to a voter’s registration information or polling place. Maintaining our voter database is a huge undertaking and one we take great care with. We hold countywide elections, as well as municipal elections for the City of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace, and work with the county and municipalities periodically on reapportionment, redistricting and drawing precinct boundaries. Candidates for county, district and special district offices file and qualify for candidacy with our office. We also receive the forms and financial reports that candidates, committees and political parties are required to file. And our office verifies and certifies all petition signatures for candidates and ballot initiatives. Responsible for planning, organization and management of voter services units, including onboarding and training; eligibility and registration; Voter Focus reports; list maintenance; and Vote By Mail operations. Salary: $65,000. Deadline: Dec. 29. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

IT Security Analyst, North Carolina State Board of Elections— The Information Technology Security Analyst is responsible for the monitoring and review of agency security systems and associated data, and ensuring that the configuration of agency systems, applications and networks are in compliance with agency security policies. This position requires a technical background, with problem solving, critical thinking, documentation skills, and the ability to communicate complex topics clearly and effectively. The primary goal of this position is to provide security support, monitoring of security solutions, logging of security events and support additional security systems and solutions on a day to day basis. From time to time, this position is also required to identify, plan, document, execute, and report on continuous improvement activities related to security and other tasks as assigned  Successful candidates will demonstrate the desire and ability to learn skills to grow into activities required for the position where the candidate does not currently possess such skills. This position will be subject to a background check. DHS carries all security clearances for SBE. This position may require the receipt and ongoing maintenance of a security clearance. Salary: $61,972.00 – $100,892. Deadline: Dec. 17. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

IT Security Engineer, North Carolina State Board of Elections— The Information Technology Security Engineer is responsible for the operation of agency security infrastructure, technical security guidance in the application of best practices, and ensuring that the configuration of agency systems, applications and networks are in compliance with agency security policies. This position requires broad technical expertise, sophisticated problem solving and critical thinking, excellent documentation skills, security experience, and the ability to communicate complex topics clearly and effectively. The primary goal of this position is to ensure the proper function of agency information security systems and solutions on a day to day basis. This position is also required to identify, plan, document, execute, and report on continuous improvement activities related to security and other tasks as assigned. Successful candidates will demonstrate the desire and ability to learn skills to grow into activities required for the position where the candidate does not currently possess such skills. This position will be subject to a background check. DHS carries all security clearances for SBE. This position may require the receipt and ongoing maintenance of a security clearance. Salary: $74,987.00 – $121,857.  Deadline: 12/17. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Training Manager, Hillsborough County, Fla.— The Supervisor of Elections administers all federal, state, county, municipal and special district elections in Hillsborough County. It’s our responsibility to process all voter registration applications received from qualified Florida residents, and also to educate Hillsborough County residents about registering to vote. We issue Voter Information Cards to all newly registered voters, and reissue those cards when there are changes to a voter’s registration information or polling place. Maintaining our voter database is a huge undertaking and one we take great care with. We hold countywide elections, as well as municipal elections for the City of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace, and work with the county and municipalities periodically on reapportionment, redistricting and drawing precinct boundaries. Candidates for county, district and special district offices file and qualify for candidacy with our office. We also receive the forms and financial reports that candidates, committees and political parties are required to file. And our office verifies and certifies all petition signatures for candidates and ballot initiatives. Responsible for designing, developing, and executing training programs for election-cycle employees. Employs training delivery methods best suited for the audience, timeframe and space constraints. Salary:$48,000. Deadline: Dec. 29. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.


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