In Focus This Week
Flagged tweets with election misinformation continued to spread both on and off platform
New study from NYU finds intervention on one platform doesn’t stop the spread
Before and after the 2020 presidential campaign, Twitter flagged hundreds of Donald Trump’s tweets as election misinformation, either attaching a warning label or blocking engagement with the tweet entirely. Although blocking engagement effectively limited their spread, messages with warning labels spread further and longer on Twitter than did those without labels, according to a new study. Moreover, the blocked Twitter messages were posted more often and received more visibility than other messages on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit.
The paper, authored by researchers at New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics (CSMaP), appears in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review.
“These data cannot tell us whether Twitter’s warning labels worked or not,” says Zeve Sanderson, co-author of the paper and executive director of CSMaP. “It’s possible Twitter intervened on posts that were more likely to spread, or it’s possible Twitter’s interventions caused a backlash and increased their spread.”
“Nonetheless, the findings underscore how intervening on one platform has limited impact when content can easily spread on others,” added paper co-author and research scientist Megan A. Brown. “To more effectively counteract misinformation on social media, it’s important for both technologists and public officials to consider broader content moderation policies that can work across social platforms rather than singular platforms.”
For the study, the team identified 1,149 political tweets from then-President Donald Trump posted from November 1, 2020 through January 8, 2021. Of these, 303 received a “soft intervention” from Twitter (they were labeled as disputed and potentially misleading, but the platform did not remove or block them from spreading), 16 received a “hard intervention” (they were labeled with a warning message and blocked from engagement), and 830 received no intervention. The authors also identified these same messages on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit and collected data from those platforms, where they may not have limited the posts due to differing content moderation policies.
The research yielded two findings:
- While hard interventions limited the further spread of those messages on Twitter, tweets that received a soft intervention actually spread further than messages that received no intervention at all.
- Messages that received hard interventions on Twitter spread longer and further on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit than messages that received either soft or no interventions on Twitter.
In addition, the authors note, this study was possible because data from these platforms has been made publicly available, either through the platforms themselves, third-party tools, or other researchers.
“Research on social media’s impact on society has made tremendous strides in the last decade. But our work has often been hampered by a lack of platform transparency and access to the necessary data,” observes NYU Professor Joshua A. Tucker, a co-author of the study and co-director of CSMaP. “Increasing data access is critical to measuring the ecosystem-level impact of content moderation and producing rigorous research that can inform evidence-based public and platform policy.”
The paper’s other authors included CSMaP’s other co-directors, Jonathan Nagler, a professor in NYU’s Department of Politics, and Richard Bonneau, a professor in NYU’s Department of Biology and Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
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Election News This Week
California Recall News: Ballots are in the mail in California for the September 14 gubernatorial recall. In parts of the Golden State officials are making alternate plans for voters displaced by wildfires. Bill O’Neill, registrar of voters for El Dorado County, told the Modesto Bee that he’s heard from many voters in his area displaced by the Caldor Fire. “We’ve had a lot of calls, a lot of emails,” O’Neill said. O’Neill said that he and his staff have been out to evacuation sites, both formal and informal, to meet with residents and to offer them options when it comes to voting. “We want the last thing that they ever have to think about to be, ‘How do I vote in this election?’” O’Neill said. In Yolo County, the county is partnering with Dignity Health to launch a new vote-by-mail collection pilot program. On the 14th, a deputized Ballot Drop Box retrieval team from the county elections office will visit Dignity Health Woodland Memorial Hospital to retrieve ballots. Vote-by-Mail ballot collection will be open to all individuals working within the facility and any patients that have their Vote-by-Mail ballot and envelope ready to be collected. In San Joaquin County, some voters were confused the sample ballot, which was sent with the official ballot in a cost-saving measure, had the word “official” printed on top of it. Austin Erdman, the interim San Joaquin County registrar of voters, said the sample and official ballots were mailed out together in an effort to save taxpayers money from having them sent separately. “It’s a cost-saving measure and also because [of] the size of the vote-by-mail. We’re trying to save trees,” Erdman explained. In Los Angeles County, authorities are investigating why 300 unopened vote-by-mail ballots for the upcoming recall election were found – along with a gun, drugs and stolen mail – in a car parked at a Torrance convenience store. The discovery was made Aug. 16 The registrar’s office told a local television station that these ballots had been sent out but were not filled out and returned by voters. They said there is no indication the ballots were taken specifically in an attempt to influence the results of the recall vote, as there was other stolen mail found with them. “There’s nothing to indicate this was focused on the election,” the county registrar’s office said. In San Bernardino County, a ballot drop box was vandalized in the town of Ontario. “As two county drop boxes were vandalized at the same location, it does not appear that ballots for the September 14, 2021 California Gubernatorial Recall Election were the target of the vandalism,” Bob Page, registrar of voters, said in a statement. “We are doing all we can to make sure our elections are safe and secure.”
Coronavirus Updates: Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said that he won’t be seeking to expand absentee-by-mail voting, increase the early voting period or enact a coronavirus emergency plan for the fall elections, amid the state’s latest COVID-19 surge. Since the pandemic began, the state has offered more ways for people to absentee vote in a half-dozen elections — including last year’s presidential and congressional elections — and boosted the number of early voting days for some of those elections because of the risks of the coronavirus. But Ardoin said he doesn’t intend to submit an emergency plan for the Oct. 9 and Nov. 13 elections to lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards for consideration. He said only a tiny percentage of voters used the prior COVID-19 emergency rules to submit absentee ballots, and he said vaccines are widely available for those interested. With municipal elections on Nov. 2, Connecticut clerks say they’re adjusting to a new normal. As was the case in the 2020 general election, and due to a provision in the state budget passed this legislative session, all voters will be able to check the COVID-19 box as a reason for voting via absentee ballot. “We were given direction from the Secretary of the State’s Office that we’re allowed to use COVID as the reason for voting absentee. Anyone who’s afraid of contracting COVID or expects they’ll be sick, it’s the same policy that we used last year,” Groton Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher said. Kate Wall, president of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association, confirmed that an email was sent to town clerks from the Secretary of the State’s Office in recent weeks saying clerks could send out absentee ballot applications to all voters if they’d like, but it’s not mandated. Federal COVID-19 relief money that went toward sending out absentee ballot applications to eligible voters, which the state Secretary of the State’s Office did last year, will not be available to municipalities this year. In Summit County, Ohio, an order requiring the public to mask up in county buildings includes the early voting site for the general election, which begins in less than two months however Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro’s office said it would look the other way when it comes to the early voting center, though the public will be asked to mask. Although the secretary of state’s office has yet to issue any statewide guidance for 2021 elections with regard to masking, the office said it is aware of the situation in Summit. “All lawfully registered Summit County voters who wish to vote early in-person must be allowed to do so,” LaRose spokesman Rob Nichols said. “And local public officials cannot unilaterally add extra preconditions to an individual’s fundamental right to vote.” Shapiro’s staff, as well as Democrats and Republicans on the board of elections, say masks won’t be a barrier to voting.
Lifesaver: Back in June during the New York primary, Robert Ramsey, a poll worker on Staten Island had just stepped out to take a break during his day working the polls at the Staten Island Technical High School when he collapsed. Lucky for Ramsey, Elections Surveyor Michael Arvanites had stopped by the location in his role as a troubleshooter and began CPR after being alerted to the situation. “I put my ear to his chest, couldn’t hear a heartbeat,’’ Arvanites recalled. “I started hand-only CPR and he came out of it and grabbed my arm. Right around then, Mike Cusick had flagged down the firefighters and they took over.’’ Carolina Ramsey credited Arvanites for saving her husband’s life. “Mike came running out, he’s an Eagle Scout,’’ she said. “The CPR revived him. He was dead.’’Once transported by ambulance to Staten Island University Hospital, Robert Ramsey received emergency treatment, then underwent coronary bypass and aortic valve replacement surgery. Arvanites, who learned CPR as an Eagle Scout, refused to take all the credit. He instead praised a great group effort by poll workers, police and firefighters. His Elections Co-Surveyor Robert Bozza helped too, he said, and one of the coordinators, Lori Lamirata, brought water to everyone on a very hot day and kept the crowd at bay to allow rescue efforts to take place.
Voting Machine Mystery: Someone get Jessica Fletcher on the horn, we’ve got a mystery to solve in Cass County, Indiana. A large, heavy, old-style voting machine has been alone in a Cass County 4-H Fairgrounds building for a few years, collecting dust but not votes. What is known is that it hasn’t been used in an election in at least 25 years. And it’s so old, it predates the internet. What is unknown is exactly who it belongs to. According to the Pharos-Tribune, most likely, it was given to the Cass County Historical Society earlier this century. However, the Cass County Clerk’s Office and the Cass County Election Board are sorting that out and are getting help from the community. The machine, which measures 6 feet long, 4 feet high and 3 feet wide, was in a storage building at the fairgrounds. Now that they’re cleaning up the building, the fairgrounds staff has to do something with what is left. “I don’t think we can just get rid of a voting machine,” Lynn Korniak, Purdue 4-H Extension director said. So she contacted Cass County Clerk Destry Richey, and Richey contacted the Indiana Secretary of State’s Election Division and previous Cass County Clerk Beth Liming. It’s older than the eight years Liming was clerk, and Liming believes that the machine is one of a set that the Cass County Commissioners scrapped.
Personnel News: Damion Butler has joined the Scotland County, North Carolina board of elections. Patsy Sheppard has been appointed to the Bladen County, North Carolina board of elections. Alex Wan has stepped down as the chair of the Fulton County, Georgia board of elections. Austin Simko is stepping down as the Andover, Massachusetts town clerk. Jo-Ellen Reilly has retired as the Lebanon County, Pennsylvania bureau of elections and voter registration deputy director. Michael Anderson is stepping down as the chief clerk of the Lebanon County, Pennsylvania bureau of elections and voter registration. Longtime Vance County, North Carolina Elections Director Faye Gill has announced her retirement effective Oct. 31. Bay County, Michigan Clerk Cynthia Luczak is retiring after 17 years.
Research and Report Summaries
Arizona Ballot Review: In advance of the anticipated end of the Cyber Ninjas operations in Maricopa County seeking to review nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election, the States United Democracy Center released an independent report detailing why the review does not meet the standards of a proper election recount or audit and why the results cannot be trusted. Co-authored by election experts former Republican Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Dr. Barry C. Burden of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the report takes a nonpartisan and academic lens to reviewing the process, procedures, and practices utilized in Maricopa County. Based on a thorough review of the publicly available information, this report identifies seven core defects that undermine the review’s credibility and should call into question any of the review’s findings. The seven defects are: lack of transparency, lack of impartiality, problematic contracting, faulty ballot review process, unacceptable error built in, insufficient security, and false public allegations.
In the excerpt of the report below, the co-authors detail why the Cyber Ninjas are unlikely to produce reliable results from their work: “The review of ballots and voting equipment being undertaken in Veterans Memorial Coliseum by Cyber Ninjas and other contractors deviates in significant ways from the procedures outlined in Arizona state law and best practices adopted around the country. As the contractors, who have little or no experience with election administration, have rapidly scaled up procuring equipment, establishing procedures, and hiring staff, significant problems have appeared. They include processing errors caused by a lack of basic knowledge, partisan biases of the people conducting the audit, and inconsistencies of procedures that undermine the reliability of the review and any conclusions they may draw. In particular, the operation lacks the consistency, attention to detail and transparency that are requirements for credible and reliable election reviews.” A copy of this report is available here.
Federal Legislation: House Democrats have passed legislation that would strengthen a landmark civil rights-era voting law weakened by the Supreme Court over the past decade, a step party leaders tout as progress in their quest to fight back against voting restrictions advanced in Republican-led states. The bill, which is part of a broader Democratic effort to enact a sweeping overhaul of elections, was approved on a 219-212 vote, with no Republican support. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the late Georgia congressman who made the issue a defining one of his career, would restore voting rights protections that have been dismantled by the Supreme Court. Under the proposal, the Justice Department would again police new changes to voting laws in states that have racked up a series of “violations,” drawing them into a mandatory review process known as “preclearance.” The practice was first put in place under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But it was struck down by a conservative majority on the Supreme Court in 2013, which ruled the formula for determining which states needed their laws reviewed was outdated and unfairly punitive. The court did, however, say that Congress could come up with a new formula, which is what the bill does. In many cases, the new bill wouldn’t apply to laws enacted in the years since the court’s 2013 ruling. That likely includes the wave of new Republican-backed restrictions inspired by Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election. One provision in the bill would ban many types of voter ID laws, including those already on the books.
Missouri: A meeting of a Missouri House elections committee was dominated by conspiracy and misinformation, as lawmakers heard hours of testimony about election security that often had little to no basis in truth. Several people speaking to the panel also recommended changes to the Show-Me State’s ballot initiative process, recommending that it be more difficult for voters to directly amend the state’s constitution or pass laws. The bulk of false information surrounding elections came from those who attended or followed a conference in South Dakota hosted by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. Trish Vincent, who serves as Ashcroft’s chief of staff, told the committee the state has “a very secure system” with “layers of security.” Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller, the only county official to testify to the committee Tuesday, said he and other local officials “welcome scrutiny,” but are confident in their ability and security to conduct and certify election results. The only technological hiccups they’ve encountered, Schoeller said, were not with election machines but with registration ones.
Pennsylvania: Three ordinances aimed at amending Allegheny County’s elections policies were introduced at county council this week. All three sought to amend the administration code to “establish a uniform policy” for various election policies, like public observation of voting machine testing procedures, observation of state-mandated election audits and public review of all videos taken within election facilities. These ordinances were proposed “to foster transparency in the election process within Allegheny County,” according to the ordinance documents. The measures were sent to council’s Committee on Government Reform without discussion. Pennsylvania law already permits the county Board of Elections to appoint “watchers at primaries and elections,” however, even with amendments as recent as 2020, it doesn’t expressly allow for public viewing of the pre-election setup or the testing of voting machine hardware.
South Dakota: The South Dakota Board of Elections voted unanimously to propose legislation that would let registered voters in the state update their information online. The measure will be offered in the 2022 session that opens January 11. “A number of states (45) have the ability to do this,” Secretary of State Steve Barnett told other board members. The Legislature blocked his office’s attempt in the 2021 session at online voter registration. The Senate voted 21-13 for a version allowing registered voters to make changes online but specifically prohibiting online registration. The House State Affairs Committee failed 6-7 to pass a more-amended version that allowed online registration in some instances. Barnett said he sensed an appetite among lawmakers for allowing registered voters to make changes online.
Texas: By a 9 to 5 party line vote, a House committee advanced Senate Bill 1. The bill adds an extra hour of required early voting hours, moving it from eight hours to nine, and it increases the number of counties that are required to provide at least 12 hours of early voting each weekday of the second week of early voting. But it also creates a new window for early voting — between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. — to forbid Harris County’s efforts to provide overnight voting for shift workers and others for whom typical hours don’t work. The bill also makes it a state jail felony for local election officials to distribute unsolicited applications for a mail-in ballot, even to voters 65 and older who automatically qualify to vote by mail, or to provide applications to local groups helping to get out the vote. The legislation grants poll watchers “free movement” at polling places and makes it a criminal offense to obstruct their view or distance the watcher “in a manner that would make observation not reasonably effective.” The bill also says poll watchers cannot be removed from the polling place for violating the law or the election code unless they were previously warned their behavior was illegal. The bill heads to the chamber’s Calendars Committee, which is then expected to place it on an agenda so it can be taken up by the full House as soon as this week.
Alabama: An attorney for the Libertarian Party of Alabama asked an 11th Circuit panel to overturn a federal judge’s order rejecting the party’s challenge to a law which allows some political parties to get a free copy of the state voter registration list while others are charged a fee. A free electronic copy of Alabama’s voter registration list is provided to every political party that satisfies the ballot access requirements for an election. The list contains information for every legally registered voter in the state, including their name, address and voting history. Parties can meet the access requirement either by achieving at least 20% of the entire vote cast for a state officer in the prior general election or by filing a petition with signatures of at least 3% of qualified voters who cast a ballot in the last gubernatorial election. The political parties that do not qualify for a free copy of the list are charged one cent per voter record. An attorney for the Libertarian Party of Alabama told a three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court Tuesday that a copy of the complete statewide list would cost nearly $36,000. The party claims the law violates its 14th Amendment equal protection rights and First Amendment free speech rights.
Arizona: The Arizona Court of Appeals said that the state Senate must turn over records from the contractor hired to conduct the review of Maricopa County’s 2020 election. It’s the second consecutive day that a court has ruled against the Arizona Senate in its fight over records related to the audit, including email and other communications. The Court of Appeals said in its order that documents from Cyber Ninjas, the lead contractor on the audit, are public records. A Superior Court judge already ruled the same way, but the Senate appealed the decision. Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said she would appeal this decision, too. The Senate has argued that it will turn over records in its possession but does not need to provide records held by Cyber Ninjas because they are not covered by the Arizona Public Records Law. The courts have disagreed. “The Senate defendants, as officers and a public body under the (records law), have a duty to maintain and produce public records related to their official duties,” the Appeals Court judges wrote in Thursday’s decision. “This includes the public records created in connection with the audit of a separate governmental agency, authorized by the legislative branch of state government and performed by the Senate’s agents. … The requested records are no less public records simply because they are in the possession of a third party, Cyber Ninjas.”
The Arizona Supreme Court said it will not decide the issue of whether all of the documents in the hands of Cyber Ninjas that show how it has conducted its audit. are subject to public disclosure until at least Sept. 14. The full court kept in place a stay that had been granted by Kathryn King. She had agreed to delay the order from the state Court of Appeals requiring the Senate to immediately produce anything in the hands of the private firm it hired to conduct the review of the 2020 general election.
California: A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has upheld a tentative ruling denying a Long Beach community group’s request that the court step in and require county election officials to locate and sort Measure A voter ballots free of charge so a hand-recount can continue. Judge Mitchell Beckloff issued a tentative ruling Aug. 13 denying the Long Beach Reform Coalition’s request, and after hearing oral arguments from the county and the coalition’s legal teams, issued a final order upholding his initial decision. Beckloff ruled that the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Clerk Dean Logan acted within the law by passing on recount costs that approached $240,000 to the coalition because the law stipulates that the costs of recounts are to be paid by the requestors. The sum would have been most expensive in county recount history. “The notion respondent complied with the law in connection with the Measure A recount undermines any claim respondent acted arbitrarily,” Beckloff wrote in his final order.
Attorneys filed papers in Los Angeles in opposition to a lawsuit seeking to have the gubernatorial recall election called off or the ballot drastically changed before the Sept. 14 deadline to submit ballots. Lawyers for California voters Carla Endow, Lisa Long and Marllus Gandrud filed the motion in federal court to intervene in litigation brought by two other voters against Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who is conducting the recall election. The Aug. 14 lawsuit filed on behalf of plaintiffs Rex Julian Beaber and A.W. Clark seeks a preliminary injunction to halt the recall election or — falling short of that — to add Gov. Gavin Newsom to the ballot as a candidate. The suit argues that the state’s recall provision violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by allowing sitting governors to be replaced by candidates who have received fewer votes. Over 1 million ballots have been received by election officials.
Georgia: U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee ruled against a broad ban on photographing voted ballots Friday, throwing out a part of Georgia’s new election law while allowing the rest of it to stand. The decision is the first time a judge has invalidated a section of the 98-page voting law, which also limits ballot drop boxes, requires more ID to vote absentee and allows the state government to take over county elections. Boulee rejected the law’s sweeping prohibition of photographing or recording any filled-out ballot, finding that such far-reaching restrictions violate freedom of speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Boulee upheld other parts of the law fought in the lawsuit, including a requirement that voters request absentee ballots at least 11 days before election day and a prohibition on election observers communicating information to anyone other than election officials. “The court recognizes that a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy that should be granted sparingly, especially when it enjoins enforcement of a statute, but finds it is appropriate here given the constitutional rights at stake and plaintiffs’ satisfaction of the requisite burden,” Boulee wrote in a 39-page order. Seven other lawsuits opposing the law, including a case by the U.S. Department of Justice, are also pending.
The Georgia Supreme Court upheld a Long County election where seven people cast illegitimate ballots, less than the nine-vote margin in the race. The ruling ends a yearlong case that sought a new election for probate judge after the losing candidate alleged double-voting, nonresident voting and incomplete absentee ballot documents. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that six people voted twice and one person wasn’t a resident of Long County, located in southeast Georgia. But those improper votes fell short of the number needed to overturn the election. “Those seven ballots were not sufficient to place the results of the election in doubt given the nine-vote margin of victory in this case,” Justice Carla Wong McMillan wrote in a 7-0 decision. Former Long County Probate Judge Bobby Harrison Smith lost to Teresa Odum 1,375 to 1,366.
A self-described voting watchdog organization and a Republican state legislator who represents a suburban Atlanta district are suing to prevent the state’s continued use of an electronic voting system that uses a barcode to verify how a ballot is cast. The nonprofit VoterGa and Rep. Philip Singleton argue in the petition filed in Fulton County Superior Court that the current Dominion Voting Systems ballot marking devices violate state law because voters cannot be certain that the scanned QR codes accurately reflect their votes. The paper ballot voters are given to scan into a computer lists printed names of selected candidates that are supposed to be captured by the barcode. “The primary (claim) in this petition is this system is illegal because it accumulates in-person votes that are hidden in QR Code,” VoterGA founder Garland Favorito said. “The QR code is unverifiable to the elector even if you have a code reader.” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is dismissive of the lawsuit. “Last year in the largest recount in U.S. history, it was proven that the QR code and the plain text both reflect the voter’s choice,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “An academic study showed that voters do review their ballots. This lawsuit is a waste of time and taxpayer money and will fail.”
Idaho: Idaho Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled the state’s new law on citizen-led ballot initiatives to be unconstitutional and said it infringed on the public’s right to enact laws outside of the Idaho Legislature. The opinion ruled in favor of Reclaim Idaho, the organization that spearheaded the successful Medicaid expansion initiative in 2018 and sued the Idaho Legislature in May. The Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, a coalition of mostly Idaho attorneys, also joined Reclaim Idaho’s lawsuit. The state’s highest court ruled that the law would have infringed on a fundamental right for a citizen-led initiative. The Legislature and Secretary of State’s Office “failed to present a compelling state interest for limiting that right,” the Supreme Court wrote. “Ultimately, the effect of SB 1110 is to prevent a perceived, yet unsubstantiated fear of the ‘tyranny of the majority,’ by replacing it with an actual ‘tyranny of the minority,’ ” the Supreme Court wrote in its opinion, adding that the law conflicts with “the democratic ideals that form the bedrock of the constitutional republic created by the Idaho Constitution.” The new law is now void. The Idaho Legislature will have to pay Reclaim Idaho and the committee their attorney fees for the lawsuit, on top of the fees paid its own attorney to defend the law.
Maryland: The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that Annapolis may use a vote-by-mail system for upcoming local elections. The court ruled appellants, Herb McMillan and George Gallagher, two Republican candidates who have argued the city’s new election system does not follow City Code, failed to show that their appeal was “desirable and in the public interest,” according to the order signed by Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. “I am happy that the petition was denied. We believe mail-in-voting will be necessary going forward, especially as we focus on public health precautions and navigate our way out of the pandemic,” City Attorney Mike Lyles said in a statement. “Our team has worked to ensure the integrity of this election despite attempts to disrupt it with this legal action.” With the ruling, the city may now proceed with mailing out ballots on Aug. 30 to registered Democratic voters in the three contested primaries in Ward 3, Ward 4 and Ward 8 for the upcoming Sept. 21 primary election.
Michigan: Judge Linda V. Parker of the Federal District Court in Detroit ordered sanctions to be levied against nine pro-Trump lawyers, including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, ruling that a lawsuit laden with conspiracy theories that they filed last year challenging the validity of the presidential election was “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.” In her decision, Parker ordered the lawyers to be referred to the local legal authorities in their home states for possible suspension or disbarment. Declaring that the lawsuit should never have been filed, Judge Parker wrote in her 110-page order that it was “one thing to take on the charge of vindicating rights associated with an allegedly fraudulent election,” but another to deceive “a federal court and the American people into believing that rights were infringed.” “This is what happened here,” she wrote. In her decision, Parker accused Powell and Wood of abusing “the well-established rules” of litigation by making claims that were backed by neither the law nor evidence, but were instead marked by “speculation, conjecture and unwarranted suspicion.” “This case was never about fraud,” Parker wrote. “It was about undermining the people’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so.”
Minnesota: U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz ordered two lawsuits filed by Mike Lindell and MyPillow against Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic transferred to the District of Columbia, where a judge recently ruled that the defamation suit against Lindell over his claims that those companies helped steal the 2020 election can continue. At a hearing conducted last week via teleconference in Minnesota, Schiltz described the “tremendous overlap” between the cases in Minnesota and D.C. Attorneys for Lindell and MyPillow said they preferred to continue litigating in Minnesota but would not stand in the way of a transfer. “Your lawsuit here is basically saying that lawsuit out in D.C. is illegal,” Schiltz said. “I understand you’re alleging it is part of a bigger conspiracy … but the lawsuit in D.C. is the centerpiece of your lawsuit here, and it kind of seems strange that we would take discovery and litigate whether the D.C. lawsuit is a good lawsuit here while you’re out in D.C. taking discovery and litigating whether the D.C. lawsuit is a good lawsuit out there.”
Nebraska: In a 17-page opinion, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled election commissioners are to be appointed and not elected. The ruling said, “It is apparent that the Legislature did not intend for election commissioners and deputy chief election commissioners to be recognized as county officers.” Instead, the court said, election commissioners and their deputies are to be recognized as county employees. The court case looked at a 1913 law known as the Election Act which allows the governor of a state to appoint an election commissioner in counties with a population over 100,000 people (Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy Counties). The law also allows an election commissioner to appoint a chief deputy election commissioner of the opposing party. A 2019 opinion by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson questioned the constitutionality of appointing election commissioners and their deputies in Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy Counties. In response to the opinion, Gov. Pete Ricketts refused to appoint a Douglas County Election Commissioner and Peterson later filed a lawsuit.
New Jersey: Teaneck Town Clerk Doug Ruccione has once again rejected petitioners for the One Town One Vote initiative in their efforts to move the township’s local elections from May to November. The petitioners have, in return, filed suit to force a referendum onto the ballot. On July 29, Ruccione rejected the first petition from the group of organizers, citing what he said was an insufficient number of signatures and other deficiencies in the petition. His rejection letter gave the petitioners ten days to collect more signatures and resubmit. In the following ten days, the organizers collected another 2,100 signatures, bringing the total to 3,450, and submitted them to Ruccione on August 9. They also indicated they would sue if the petition was rejected once again. Ruccione said he would review the new petition by August 13, but soon afterwards pushed his own deadline back to August 18. On Friday Ruccione said that while his office has still only reviewed 655 of the 2,100 new signatures, he is rejecting the petition once again, on the grounds that it did not sufficiently correct other the errors present in the first petition.
North Carolina: A North Carolina Appellate court has restored voting rights to an estimated 55,000 North Carolinians on parole or probation for a felony. GOP state lawmakers, who were defending the law in court, plan to appeal Monday’s ruling to a higher court. But if the ruling is upheld on appeal, then people convicted of felonies in North Carolina will regain their right to vote once they leave prison. “Everyone on felony probation, parole or post-supervision release can now register and vote, starting today,” the challengers’ lawyer, Stanton Jones, said in a text message after the ruling came down. It’s the biggest expansion of voting rights in North Carolina since the 1960s, said Daryl Atkinson, co-director of Durham civil rights group Forward Justice and a lawyer for the challengers in this case. The law’s challengers argued that felon disenfranchisement laws were explicitly created to stop Black people from voting in the years after the Civil War and coincided with a widespread campaign to accuse newly freed Black people of felonies — troubling trends, they said, which have continued into the current day. If the ruling survives on appeal, North Carolina will be the only state in the South to automatically restore voting rights to people after they leave prison. Legislative leaders have replaced state government attorneys with a private lawyer to defend them in litigation challenging the rules on when felony offenders can get their voting rights restored.
Ohio: Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath has dismissed Dominion Voter Systems as party to a lawsuit filed by a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit seeking to reverse the county’s procurement of the company’s machines. The lawsuit, filed in May by Look Ahead America LLC, steers clear of any explicit allegation that Dominion voting machines were used to defraud the 2020 presidential election. Look Ahead accused the Stark County Board of Elections of violating open meetings laws as it considered its eventual recommendation that the County Commission (which was also dismissed from the lawsuit Friday) buy new machines from Dominion. Heath wrote in an order of dismissal that the law “does not extend nearly as far” as Look Ahead seeks. She said Ohio’s Open Meeting Act laws don’t give courts the power to “invalidate” decisions of a body that may have violated the act. It also doesn’t allow them to invalidate a decision by the county commission, which isn’t even accused of violating any open meetings law, Heath determined. “Plaintiffs further do not explain how the Open Meetings Act can in any way restrain the commercial activity of a private company [Dominion] several degrees removed from the initial decision of the BOE,” she wrote.
Pennsylvania: JoAnn Sebastiani, former director of the Westmoreland County Election Bureau, claimed in a federal lawsuit against all three county commissioners that she was “scapegoated,” belittled and discriminated against before she was fired without adequate cause. Sebastiani, 63, had been on the job for 10 months when she was fired in June for what commissioners said was a series of errors and office leadership failures that plagued the election bureau during the November 2020 presidential election and the May 2021 primary. According to the four-count lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Sebastiani claimed commissioners routinely criticized her work, blamed her for staff mistakes and refused to take responsibility for their roles in creating problems that arose both before and after the elections. Sebastiani also accused commissioners of political coercion and claimed the secretary for Commissioner Sean Kertes ordered her to switch her voter registration from Democrat to Republican.
Social Media: According to a report in The New York Times, Facebook has approached academics and policy experts about forming a commission to advise it on global election-related matters, said five people with knowledge of the discussions, a move that would allow the social network to shift some of its political decision-making to an advisory body. The proposed commission could decide on matters such as the viability of political ads and what to do about election-related misinformation, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential. Facebook is expected to announce the commission this fall in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections, they said, though the effort is preliminary and could still fall apart.
Opinions This Week
Alabama: Noncitizen voting
California: Universal voting
Delaware: Voting rights
Ohio: Voting rights
Pennsylvania: Ballot review
March On For Voting Rights: On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King led 250,000 people on a historic March On Washington. There, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, calling on the nation to rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. At the time, Black Americans were living under the tyranny of laws—called “Jim Crow” laws— that legalized racial discrimination. His speech that day has become one of the defining moments in American history. Today, state legislatures are pushing America back to the Jim Crow era with laws that reinstate systemic discrimination at the ballot box. That is why, on August 28, 2021—58 years to the day after his father’s march—Martin Luther King III will help to lead Americans on another march to demand federal voting rights protection. When: August 28. Where: Washington, DC and cities throughout the country.
NISGIC Annual Conference: The 2021 NSGIC Annual Conference will be held September 20 – 24 as a hybrid event at the Renaissance Dallas Addison Hotel and leveraging technology to provide for virtual participation, as well. The safety and comfort of conference participants are paramount. We will be following all guidance in place at the time of the conference and working closely with venues to ensure full care is given. We understand that not all conference attendees will be able to join us in person. Those participating virtually can expect a rich experience with interactive plenary presentations, networking opportunities, and participatory workshops and other sessions. (We’re so sure you’re going to enjoy the experience, we urge you to consider participating from home or another space where you can give it your full attention.) Whether you attend in-person or virtually, the NSGIC Annual Conference is the hub of critical connections for state, local, tribal, and federal GIS policymakers and coordinators, private sector partners and solution-providers, and other leaders in the geospatial ecosystem. Like nowhere else, the NSGIC Annual Conference is a place where relationships are built, information is shared, and collaborations are born. When: September 20-24. Where: Hybrid—Dallas & Virtual.
National Conference of State Legislators Legislative Summit: The Legislative Summit is NCSL’s premier annual event and provides a platform for legislators, staff and other public policy professionals to learn from the nation’s foremost experts, as well as each other, about solutions to the country’s most pressing issues. Watch for registration and hotel details in early June 2021. When: November 3-5. Where: Tampa, Florida
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Campaign Manager, Bipartisan Policy Center— BPC is currently seeking candidates for a new role—Campaign Manager—to support the work of the Elections Project. The Elections Project explores and analyzes the entire election ecosystem, from voter registration to casting a ballot to the counting and finalizing of results. Its goal is to help policymakers enact sustainable bipartisan policy reforms, informed by election officials, that improve the voting experience for a diverse electorate. The Elections Project most recently launched the Business Alliance for Effective Democracy. BPC created the Business Alliance to provide an objective forum designed to facilitate proactive corporate engagement on polarizing election policy issues. The Alliance—comprised largely of Fortune 100 companies—focuses on concrete actions that corporate stakeholders can take to shore up our democracy in this fraught political moment. The Elections Project also runs BPC’s Task Force on Elections. This group of 28 state and local election administrators seeks achievable, bipartisan policy solutions that can be implemented well across the country. The Task Force forms the basis of the Elections Project’s focus on state-based policy reforms for voting. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Communications Manager, Sarasota County, Florida— This position of Communications Manager is responsible for the development, implementation and evaluation of communication initiatives for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections. These communication efforts include sharing timely and relevant elections-related information with voters, media, government agencies and internal staff through written and electronic communication mediums. This nonpartisan and nonpolitical position supports the mission and responsibilities of the supervisor of elections, provides guidance and leadership to temporary and permanent office staff regarding all communications activities. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Administrator, Bell County, Texas—From being an expert on election law to understanding election machine technology to being a detail-oriented person while still seeing the big event that is an election, the Elections Administrator must take ownership of the entire election process from start to finish. This position directs the daily operations of the elections office to ensure the lawful conduct and integrity of Federal, State, County, and local elections. The Elections Administrator performs the duties and functions of the Voter Registrar for the county; performs election-related duties as may be required by federal, state, and/or local law; is responsible for the conduct of elections, to include but is not limited to: preparing ballots, ordering ballots, furnishing and maintaining election equipment and supplies. Deadline: September 16. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Director, Boulder County, Colorado— The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office has an opening for an Elections Director that serves at the pleasure of and reports directly to the elected Clerk and Recorder. The Elections Director position is within the Deputy of Elections job classification. The Elections Director is one of the office’s six Leadership Team members, third in command of the Clerk and Recorder organization and oversees a staff of twelve permanent Elections Staff members (and upwards of 600 election judges during certain election times). The Elections Division provides comprehensive elections services for Boulder County, including voter records, voter services, ballot processing, technical and logistical support, and end-to end election administration. Commitment to building an inclusive, forward looking, continual improvement, and supportive work culture is required. This position leads the team and is accountable for the execution of compliant, accurate, accessible and transparent elections for a county of nearly 250,000 voters. This position will ensure the integrity and accuracy of the election management processes in accordance with federal and state laws, Secretary of State rules and Clerk and Recorder policies. Salary: Hiring Range: $89,256 – $128,544. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Executive Director, South Carolina Election Commission— The Executive Director is the chief executive officer of the State Election Commission and has the responsibility for the overall direction and management of the Agency, ensuring the mission, goals and objectives are accomplished. The Executive Director also serves as the chief state election official for the State. The position has supervisory authority over county boards of voter registration and elections and is responsible for the oversight of the statewide voter registration system, conduct of elections, certification of election results, hearing election protests and appeals, statewide electronic voting system and administration of mandatory training and certification program for county election officials. Provides supervisory authority over county boards of registration and elections. Oversees statewide voter registration system, statewide voting system and other election related technologies used to conduct elections. Oversees a compliance audit program of county boards. Keeps commission members informed about election related matters, commission meetings, election certifications and protests and appeals. Establishes policies and sets strategic direction of the agency. Works with public and private partners to protect the state’s critical election infrastructure. Ensures agency operates efficiently, cost effectively and according to state fiscal and human resources guidelines and state law. Oversees public relations and agency outreach efforts to ensure the agency maintains a positive public image. Serves as liaison with General Assembly. Attends legislative meetings, presents testimony and budget requests. Represents the agency with advocacy groups, political parties, partners and other customers. Oversees statewide training efforts for county and municipal election officials and poll workers. Seeks opportunities for agency growth, innovation and improvement. Salary: $114,933 – $178,168. Deadline: September 7. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Executive Director, National Vote at Home Institute— NVAHI (“Vote at Home”) is now accepting applications to fill its top leadership position of Executive Director. Vote at Home’s Executive Director will serve in a chief executive role and report directly to the board of the National Vote at Home Institute (a non-partisan, 501 c (3) organization). National Vote at Home Institute is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to making sure every American can vote in secure, safe, accessible, and equitable elections by expanding and improving vote by mail, absentee and early voting processes and supporting election officials, Secretary of States, Commissioners, and boards. The Vote at Home Executive Director shall be responsible for managing all aspects of the organizations’ operations, including: Strategy. Recommending, implementing, and effectively executing all VAH policies and key strategies and programs as approved by the board. Budget. Fundraising and budget administration, to ensure Vote at Home’s financial sustainability and the effective and efficient expenditure of available funds. Management. The proper management and supervision of all staff, contractors, and contracts to promote diversity and equity, ensure a collaborative and productive workplace, and comply fully with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. Partnerships. The creation of collaborative partnership relationships with other key organizations and individuals to help promote and amplify VAH’s work. Communication. The effective communication, in a wide variety of public and private forums, of Vote at Home’s vision, mission, key strategies, and core messages. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Services Specialist, Contra Costa County, California — Are you an innovator and high achiever? Service driven? Dedicated to quality? The Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Elections Division is currently recruiting an Elections Services Specialist. The Elections Services Specialist position will be assigned to one of the functional sections of the Elections Division as a Voter Services Specialist, Candidate Specialist, Election Day Operations Specialist, Precinct/Mapping Services Specialist, Warehouse Specialist, or IT and Voting System Operations Specialist. Salary: $57,122.04 – $69,432.12. Deadlines: Sept. 5. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Services Technician, Contra Costa County, California— The Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Elections Division is currently recruiting for two (2) Voters Services Technicians. The Elections Services Technician position will be assigned to one of the functional sections of the Elections Division as described below: As a Voter Services Technician, you will: Conduct daily processing of voter information in database systems Perform vote by mail functions including processing voter requests for ballots and signature verification of returned ballots; Examine petitions and conducts signature verification of petitions; Review voter eligibility and assists in processing provisional ballots; and Provide phone, in-person, and email customer services. Salary: $50,024.40 – $60,804.96. Deadline: Sept. 5. Application: for the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Technical Specialist, Buncombe County, North Carolina— This position is part of a team managing physical election equipment and associated software. Primary responsibilities include preventative maintenance of voting machines, logic and accuracy testing, supply management, leading the mock election process, preparing laptops for voting locations, security monitoring, and in-house technology troubleshooting. The primary purpose of this position is to provide specialized technical work supporting election-specific systems related to voting equipment, elections software, audits, and precinct compliance. The ideal candidate will have excellent communication and organizational skills as this position requires significant coordination with outside departments and vendors. Responsibilities include budgeting and leading a team of personnel during elections to support voting locations. Overtime, including some weekends, is required during election periods. Warehouse management experience and IT experience preferred. Salary: $22.50-$29.81. Deadline: Aug. 31. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Information Security Officer, Virginia Department of Elections— The State Board, through the Department of Elections (ELECT), shall supervise and coordinate the work of the county and city electoral boards and of the registrars to obtain uniformity in their practices and proceedings and legality and purity in all elections. It shall make rules and regulations and issue instructions and provide information consistent with the election laws to the electoral boards and registrars to promote the proper administration of election laws. Ensuring the integrity and accuracy of the administration of elections through the administration of the state-wide voter registration system, campaign finance disclosure application and other agency applications and solutions. Ensuring that the systems perform to the expectations of the users and conform to applicable federal and state laws and Board rules and regulations. Leads ELECT’s Information Security Program to ensure ELECT Systems remain confidential, integrity is maintained, and ELECT systems remain available for all users. Ensures ELECT systems meet federal, Commonwealth of Virginia and agency security standards. The position will work with ELECT development teams, network service providers and security staff of the Commonwealth of Virginia to ensure security requirements are included in SDLC activities. Responsible for creating and maintaining security policies, artifacts, tracking vulnerability remediation and updating system security plans to meet changing business, security and technology requirements. Responsible implementing and monitoring security controls for ELECT’s information technology systems. Oversees Information Security Program, ELECT’s Data Privacy Program and ELECT’s Locality Security Program including Voting Systems and Voter Registration System Security. Salary: Up to $150,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Policy Analyst, Bipartisan Policty Center— BPC is currently seeking a Policy Analyst to support the work of the Elections Project. The Elections Project explores and analyzes the entire election ecosystem, from voter registration to casting a ballot to the counting and finalizing of results. Our goal is to help policymakers enact sustainable bipartisan policy reforms, informed by election officials, that improve the voting experience for a diverse electorate. The Policy Analyst will play a central role in the development and implementation of the Election Project’s research and advocacy priorities. This analyst role is new and will include all existing priorities of the Elections Project as well as build on newer efforts focused on federal voting reforms. The Policy Analyst must be well-versed in election administration, eager to promote free and fair elections through evidence-based policy research. The position will report to the Director of the Elections Project Matthew Weil and work closely with others on BPC’s elections team. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Poll Worker Coordinator, Hillsborough County, Florida— These may include but are not limited to poll worker record maintenance, developing process and writing procedures, training and mentoring temporary staff, implementation of services, and back-up to management on daily tasks and supervision of staff. Coordinate poll worker recruitment, assignments, and scheduling. Provide oversight, audit and instruction to temporary employees on data entry and maintenance of poll worker records. Process and audit poll worker applications entered into the database for accuracy. Process poll worker payroll and training related forms. Assist in analyzing and resolving issues with poll worker applications, assignment requests, training completions, and other Poll Worker Services areas. Provide supervision, training and instruction to temporary staff. Champion and implement paperless workflows using available technologies, resources and tools. Communicate internally with other department and outside agencies. Respond to poll worker inquiries via email, text message, phone, or face to face. Provide friendly, courteous customer service and resolve issues in a timely manner. Assist, as needed, with securing training facilities, Early Voting sites, and Election Day polling places. The Supervisor of Elections will require all applicants scheduled to attend an on-boarding session on or after August 30, 2021 to show proof of being fully vaccinated before their employment can begin. Fully vaccinated is two full weeks after final vaccination shot. Salary: $36,000-$46,000, Deadline: September 16. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Registrar of Voters, San Diego County, California— The Registrar of Voters of the County of San Diego is an executive management position reporting to the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer. The Registrar leads the Department and provides eligible citizens of San Diego County with widespread and ongoing opportunities to register and vote in fair and accurate elections for all federal, state and local offices and measures; and provide access to the information needed to utilize the initiative, referendum, and recall petition processes. Salary: $170,000 – $190,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Research Director, Center for Election Innovation and Research— The Research Director will report to the Executive Director and lead CEIR’s research initiatives. These initiatives include, but are not limited to, matters pertaining to voter registration, voter access, election integrity and security, and election policy, generally. The Research Director will set goals aligned with CEIR’s mission and provide the research team with strategic direction on how to reach those goals, all while ensuring the rigor, integrity, and quality of all research activities. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Director of Election Security, CIS— CIS (Center for Internet Security) is the trusted guide to confidence in the connected world. CIS collaborates with the global security community to lead both government and private-sector entities to security solutions and resources. CIS is an independent, not-for-profit organization. The Senior Director of Elections Security works within the Operations and Security Services (OSS) Department at CIS and reports to the Vice President of Elections Operations. The Senior Director of Elections Security partners with key internal and external stakeholders and experts in the elections and standards communities to lead CIS efforts in developing best practices, processes, and tools to support the security of elections systems. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Vice President of Election Operations and Support, CIS— CIS (Center for Internet Security) is the trusted guide to confidence in the connected world. CIS collaborates with the global security community to lead both government and private-sector entities to security solutions and resources. CIS is an independent, not-for-profit organization. Reporting to the Executive Vice President for Operations and Security Services (OSS), the Vice President for Election Operations will oversee all elections-related efforts within CIS, most importantly the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) and related elections community support sponsored by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This position will also manage election-related projects and activities that are funded by third parties or self-funded by CIS. The Vice President for Election Operations will lead an organization comprised of the CIS staff working on election-related efforts and will be responsible for outreach to U.S. state, local, tribal, and territorial election offices as well as private sector companies, researchers, and nonprofit organizations involved in supporting elections. This position may work remote in the US, with travel to our offices in Albany, NY and Washington, DC as needed. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voter Registration Specialist, Wake County, North Carolina Board of Elections— The Wake County Board of Elections is currently seeking an experienced customer service professional to join our Voter Registration Team. The ideal candidate will be a detail-oriented, data entry guru with exceptional attention to detail and organizational skills. As a part of the Voter Registration Team, you are responsible for connecting written information with computer data. Salary: Hiring Range: $17.49 – $23.60. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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