In Focus This Week
Behind the Curtain of Post-Election Canvassing, Audits, and Certification
A New Report from the Bipartisan Policy Center
By Matthew Weil and Christopher Thomas.
Debates about voting policy tend to center on the parts of the process voters interact with most, such as the number of days of early voting or availability of mail voting options. It is, however, the way states approach the period that begins as polls close that can shape whether voters have confidence in election results.
The canvassing and certification period is a black box for most Americans who rarely think about what goes into counting, certifying, and auditing ballots once they are cast. During an era of close contests and hyperpolarization, there is minimal room for error and ample opportunity for misinformation and misunderstanding. In 2021, the perceived need for further analysis of election results gave rise to a series of semi-private, unofficial audits. [These exercises are not audits (official activities conducted by election authorities) as they do not meet wildly acknowledged professional standards of an audit or recount.] These audits cast doubt on the American voting process, despite being unable to find any evidence to support their claims of fraud.
While there is always room for progress in how elections are run and certification is performed, there is a clear need for public education about how existing policies uphold election integrity. Policymakers, elected officials, and public figures seeking security improvements must invest in strengthening these existing processes, and not throw money towards unproven, unofficial audits that only stand to threaten our democracy.
Our hope is that this paper will inform the debate surrounding election integrity by giving a behind-the-scenes look into the canvassing and certification process. As with any component of the American voting process, the post-election period is unique in each state. This paper is not meant to as a manual for certification, or as a comprehensive survey of existing policy. Rather, it is intended to highlight the three main components of the post-election period that largely apply across the country: unofficial results reporting, canvassing and certification, and audits.
There will always be a segment of the electorate that believes something must have gone wrong if their preferred candidate did not win. Policymakers looking to strengthen the system have real options for improving how canvassing and certification are administered, but at some point, no amount of technical improvements will convince all voters that the election was legitimate. Policymakers must pair meaningful improvements to certification with rigorous public education and civic engagement to better communicate to voters how our election system already works to fight fraud and protect integrity. This careful balance of investment in election administration with civic education is what is needed to move the needle on ending this vicious cycle of recriminations between parties.
Read the full report here: https://bipartisanpolicy.org/explainer/behind-the-curtain-of-elections/
Matthew Weil is the director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project.
Christopher Thomas is a fellow with the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Democracy Project with 40 years of experience in election administration.
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Prebunking the California Election Worked
Prebunking the California Election Worked
By Melissa Ryan
If you live in reality Newsom’s win was fairly straightforward. After early reports suggesting the Newsom might be in trouble, the polling and conventional wisdom, in the end, was that California voters would not vote to recall. However, if you live in the MAGA Cinematic Universe Newsom’s victory might be suspect, and all that voter fraud leading Republican candidate Larry Elder and Donald Trump warned you about may have come to pass.
Claiming voter fraud before the election even happens is now a staple of Republican campaigns. Trump has actually been running this play since the 2016 election when he claimed that it was rigged against him long before election day. In 2020 Trump and his allies made preemptive claims of voter fraud and rigging from the start of his reelection campaign, and as a result, his base was primed to believe that Joe Biden had somehow stolen the election, a view that persists to this day in MAGA-Land.
But while the Big Lie debunked conspiracy lives on, the California version of it fizzled almost immediately. And unlike Donald Trump, Larry Elder actually conceded the race. Why did the GOP’s voter fraud myth collapse so quickly from the political conversation? There are a few reasons for this including that California is an obviously blue state and Elder’s desire to run for office again probably helped him realize that conceding a loss might inspire his base more than claiming elections are now a lost cause. But I think the biggest reason for it is that both media outlets and political operatives did a good job of prebunking.
Prebunking is a strategy for inoculating people from disinformation before they’re exposed to it. It’s gotten a lot of buzz in the disinformation space over the past year. First Draft News has a good prebunking explainer that gives a good overview of the concept:
A good prebunk addresses people’s concerns, speaks to their lived experience and compels them to share that knowledge. Prebunks are empowering: The whole point is about building trust with your audience instead of simply correcting facts.
There are three main types of prebunks:
- fact-based: correcting a specific false claim or narrative
- logic-based: explaining tactics used to manipulate
- source-based: pointing out bad sources of information
I have a lot of complaints about how politics and elections are covered in American media, but by and large media outlets got this part of covering the California Recall right. As Elder, Trump, and others started to make their predictable claims that the Recall would surely be rigged, political media pushed back. They covered these claims as baseless and as a staple political tactic of the GOP. They tied Elder’s comments into the broader narrative and warned that most Republican candidates would continue to make these false claims. The election is over but the press continues to point out that lies about rigging and voter fraud will continue into next year’s midterms.
The Recall is one of the clearest examples of successful prebunking I’ve seen. Both from the press coverage and the press outreach that clearly went into making it happen. This kind of coverage doesn’t happen in a vacuum and we should also give credit to the campaign staffers, political operatives, advocates, and researchers who worked to frame what the Elder campaign and the GOP overall were attempting to do. Even in far-right online communities talk of voter fraud faded pretty quickly. I even saw some arguments over whether voter fraud would even be possible in such a blue state or whether Elder even had a chance in the first place. This suggests to me that prebunking might have pierced the MAGA bubble, even if just a little bit.
We’ve talked a lot in this newsletter about how predictable the Right is. Their strategies and tactics don’t change. That predictability is part of why prebunking works so well. If you’d like to learn more about how to work prebunking into your work or personal conversations here are some resources to get started.
- A Guide to Prebunking: a Promising Way to Inoculate Against Misinformation (First Draft News)
- How Civil Society Can Combat Misinformation and Hate Speech Without Making It Worse (Harvard Kennedy School. Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy)
- A New Way to Inoculate People Against Misinformation (Behavioral Scientist)
The above article is an excerpt from Ctrl Alt-Right Delete, a newsletter devoted to covering the rise of far-right extremism, white nationalism, disinformation, and online toxicity, delivered on a weekly basis to more than 16,000 subscribers.
Melissa Ryan authors Ctrl Alt Right Delete, a weekly newsletter. She’s spent a decade leading digital campaigns for nonprofits and political races, including EMILY’s List, Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the New Organizing Institute, and Senator Russ Feingold.
Election News This Week
U.S. Department of Justice: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is “seriously and urgently investigating” how states are changing voting procedures or redistricting to ensure they are not violating federal voting rights. “We are seriously and urgently investigating and examining other changes in procedures and practices, and particularly looking at all the redistricting that’s done as a consequence of the decennial Census,” Garland said during an interview at the New Yorker Festival. “We are worried about attacks on voting systems, attacks from an Internet security point of view. We are worried about attacks on secretaries of state and administrators of elections and even poll workers,” he said, adding he had established a task force to investigate these threats. Garland acknowledged that the Justice Department’s legal powers to address voting rights have been weakened, thanks in part to a 2013 Supreme Court case that gutted a key section of the Voting Rights Act, and urged Congress to pass new legislation to restore its authority. “Are our tools weakened? Yes they are,” Garland said. “But our passion hasn’t weakened.”
More Money, More Workers?: This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order raising the minimum pay for poll workers on Election Day from $200 to $300. The move is designed to prevent a shortage of poll workers for the upcoming election season, which also includes nine days of in-person early voting for the first time in the state. “We must ensure that we have the roster of poll workers we will need so every voter is properly, quickly, and accurately checked in and able to cast their vote,” Murphy said during a briefing. “This is the unsung work of the women and men who help run our elections at local polling places across our state.” According to WHYY, some South Jersey county election officials said they were facing a shortage of poll workers. Burlington County, for example, had enough workers for the nine-day early voting period, according to county spokesman Dave Levinsky, but was still seeking workers for Election Day on Nov. 2. “We’re hopeful the increase will provide a greater incentive for citizens to sign up to perform this important civic duty,” he said. Some local elections officials said they would have preferred that the governor activate the National Guard to help with the election as happened in 2020. The governor said activating the guard and raising poll worker pay again is not off the table. “You have to leave the door open for anything to make sure that we’re properly staffed,” Murphy said.
Bloody Sunday: A new project by Auburn University professors Richard Burt and Keith Herbert and a group of honors students is working to identify more of the hundreds of people who participated the Bloody Sunday voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. The project has established a Facebook page where people can look through photographs of March 7, 1965, and identify themselves or others in the black-and-white images. Online since August, the page is titled “Help us identify the Selma Bloody Sunday Foot Soldiers.” It features multiple images of marchers who are labeled with red numerals, and users can add the names of people they recognize in the comments section. Some people already have been identified, and the creators hope more will be as word spreads about the page, particularly in Selma, where the effort is being promoted. A class at Selma High School is helping as students enlist relatives to help identify marchers. “By taking a fresh look at Bloody Sunday, our research has revealed rich details about how the march unfolded that prior historians have overlooked. We intend to help those in Selma who want to do more to preserve and interpret the historic landscapes connected to this seminal event,” Herbert said. As marchers are identified, they get messages through the social media platform offering the chance to share their stories in the future. Hebert said students are learning how to communicate with diverse groups as they collect information about one of the best-known events of the civil rights movement.
Almost as Exciting as Voting During Fat Bear Week: Voters in the Lake and Peninsula Borough, Alaska now have the option to cast their ballots via email in local elections. During the election held this week, in addition to by mail, voters could also cast their ballots digitally. Borough Clerk Kate Conley said there has been an option to vote remotely via fax for decades. Last month, the borough assembly agreed to update its code to allow voting by email as well. To do so, a voter first has to pick up the phone and call the borough clerk. “I send them an email with the ballot and some other paperwork — there’s like four pages to it. They fill that out and email it back to me, and that’s it. That’s as simple as it is,” Conley said. Just like with a mail-in ballot, voters will need two witnesses. In the ordinance that approves voting by email, the borough assembly cited the logistical hurdles voters face, such as limited post office hours. “Mail must be transported by airplane, often going hundreds of miles and passing thru up to five post offices,” it said, adding that those difficulties mean ballots arrive late to the borough offices in King Salmon every year. In other Alaska voting news not related to fat bears voter in Parker are getting a new “I Voted” sticker this election and we have to agree that it’s pretty awesome. And speaking of Fat Bear Week, congratulations to Otis who won the 2021 vote and proves that fat and old is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle.
Personnel News: Barb Queer is retiring from the Ashland County, Ohio board of elections. Devon Houck is the new Ashe County, North Carolina board of elections director. Ronald Rutkowski is stepping down as the Berks County, Pennsylvania director of elections. Jose Luis Castillo is the new Webb County, Texas elections administrator. Kitty Porta has recently retired after two decades as the Eden Prairie, Minnesota city clerk. Emily Ethington has been appointed to serve as the Sarpy County, Nebraska election commissioner. Former Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel has announced her bid for Nevada secretary of state. Sandra Bonnette has been named the new registrar of voters in Rapides Parish, Louisiana. Michigan Republican Rep. Beau LaFave has announced his candidacy for secretary of state. Tim Fliehman has been appointed to the Darke County, Ohio board of elections. Alldrein Murray has been sworn into the Chatham County, Georgia board of elections. Kathy Pietanza is the new Democratic elections commissioner in Rockland County, New York.
Federal Legislation: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) has introduced legislation aimed at restoring the power of the Voting Rights Act, reinvigorating their push to protect voting rights against a slew of voting restrictions enacted in Republican-led states. The House of Representatives passed a version of the legislation, named for the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia, earlier this year. Leahy introduced the bill, saying that “tens of thousands of Americans are being disenfranchised under the guise of state law.” “This tidal wave of voter suppression efforts seeks to bend the arc of equal justice and equal rights backward,” Leahy said on the Senate floor. “We should not allow that to stand. Action in Congress is desperately needed.” The legislation would update the Voting Rights Act to strengthen sections that were gutted by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision and 2021 Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decision. The Shelby County decision gutted Section 5 of the law, which allowed the Justice Department to screen voting changes in states with a history of racial discrimination. The Brnovich decision, which was decided earlier this year, upheld a pair of Arizona voting restrictions that Democrats said threatened to suppress the vote of racial minorities. Advocates decried the ruling as a weakening of Section 2 of the VRA, which barred racially-targeted voting policies.
Massachusetts: Senate Democrats released an elections overhaul bill touted as a way to remove obstacles to the ballot box and to build on changes that suddenly gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill (S 2545) goes beyond enshrining changes already embraced on a temporary basis, allowing prospective voters to register for the first time or update their registration and cast a ballot on the same day, a change known as same-day registration. It would also create new supports for voters with disabilities and impose additional requirements on correctional facilities to ensure the thousands of incarcerated residents still eligible to vote can access ballots. Under the Senate bill, voters would permanently be able to cast early ballots by mail in any election. The secretary of state would be required to launch an online application portal and to send applications for mail-in ballots by July 15 in every even-numbered year, with applicants able to request ballots for the primary and the general elections. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues said the prepaid postage carries a minimum price tag of about $2 million to $3 million per year. Officials would also need to offer in-person early voting periods — two weeks before general elections, one week before primary elections — ahead of presidential or state primaries, biennial general elections, and municipal elections held on those days. Cities and towns could opt in to offer early voting for municipal elections not held concurrently with a state election. Voters with disabilities could request accommodations including electronic and accessible instructions and an electronic voter affidavit. Sen. Barry Finegold, who co-chairs the Election Laws Committee, said lawmakers continue to consider other online voting options but are “just not there yet.” The bill would also require correctional facilities to help eligible incarcerated residents register to vote, apply for and return mail-in ballots, and understand their voting rights. The secretary would need to enroll Massachusetts in the multi-state Electronic Registration Information Center by July 1, 2022 under the bill. The bill also includes some reforms that direct sheriffs and other correction officials to help incarcerated and eligible voters learn their rights and apply for and cast ballots by mail. The Senate passed the bill by a 36-3 vote.
Michigan: Michigan Senate Republicans passed several House bills as part of the party’s effort to make major changes to the state’s election law following the 2020 presidential election. After Senate lawmakers made small adjustments to four election bills previously passed by the House, they were returned to the lower chamber, which quickly approved the changes. Those bills now head to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. One bill — HB 4838 — would prohibit the electronic poll book and tabulators from being connected to the internet. The bill passed the Senate 21-15. Another bill — HB 4837 — would limit who can access the state’s voter files, limiting access to the secretary of state, county and local clerks, credentialed election officials and employees who perform system maintenance on the file. The Senate passed the bill 21-15. A third bill — SB 280 — would change the timeline for canvassing signatures on initiative petitions. It passed the Senate on a 20-16 party-line vote. Another bill — HB 4528 — would require the Secretary of State’s office to create comprehensive training for political parties and organizations that appoint election challengers. It passed the House with bipartisan support in June and passed the Senate 21-15. A final bill — HB 4492 — would expand the types of places eligible to serve as polling locations. Privately owned buildings such as an apartment, hotel conference center or recreation clubhouse could serve as a polling location under the bill. Local clerks support the bill and it passed the House with bipartisan support. The Senate approved it 21-15. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) vetoed the bills during a ceremony at an NAACP dinner. I’ve done a lot of ceremonies when I sign bills,” Whitmer said. “Tonight, I’m going to sign the veto letter.”
A state House committee approved legislation that would make illegal the state’s online application form for absentee ballots. HB 5288, sent to the full House by the House Elections and Ethics Committee, after a 5-2 party line vote, requires voters seeking absentee ballots to physically sign their applications and bans the use of digital or electronic signatures. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Andrew Beeler, R-Fort Gratiot, would prohibit the secretary of state and local election officials from providing an online absentee ballot application that does not require a physical signature. The online application now available on the website of the Department of State allows a digital signature, provided certain other identifying information is provided. The governor has promised to veto the legislation if it is approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. As approved by the committee, the bill would allow voters to apply for absentee ballot applications by email and fax, in addition to the in-person and regular mail options now available.
The committee also adopted a substitute version of a bill that prohibits the secretary of state from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters, as Benson has done for recent elections. House Bill 5268, sponsored by state Rep. Julie Calley, R-Portland, also bans local clerks from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who have not requested applications. But the bill was not voted on and remains in committee.
House Republicans passed a bill that would change the timeline for the state’s elections panel to certify petition initiatives. The legislation would require the Board of State Canvassers to deem whether an initiative petition has received enough signatures within 100 days after a petition is filed with the Secretary of State’s office. The timeline would be even shorter for petitions filed at least 160 days before a November general election — those have to be canvassed by the board within 60 days. It passed the House without debate with only Republicans backing the measure. The GOP bill passed the Michigan Senate last week on a party-line vote with every Republican supporting the legislation. The bill now heads to the governor.
The GOP-controlled Senate supported a sweeping bill to change the state’s election laws, setting up a potential confrontation with Gov. Whitmer, who is expected to veto the proposal. The legislation, which was changed on the Senate floor moments before the vote, passed 20-15, along party lines. It would establish stricter requirements for voter identification and would ban election officials from sending out absentee ballot applications unless they are requested by voters. Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson broadly sent out absentee ballot applications ahead of the 2020 presidential election, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate bill would mandate that in-person voters present identification for their ballots to count and that those voting absentee submit their driver’s license number, state personal ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. The new version of the Senate bill now closely resembles the GOP-backed Secure MI Vote petition initiative, which aims to gather 340,047 petition signatures to put a policy proposal before the state Legislature. Under that scenario, the governor would have no say in whether it becomes law. The bill still has to go to the GOP-controlled House and Whitmer’s desk. It’s unclear whether the House is on board with the new version of the legislation.
New York: State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn, has introduced S.7382 to repeal Section 17-140 of the state Election Law, relating to furnishing money or entertainment to induce attendance at polls. Commonly known as the “line warming ban” the legislation prohibits organizations from handing out refreshments, water or other items such as PPE or hand sanitizer while individuals wait in line to vote. Anyone prosecuted under the statute is subject to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail or three years’ probation and a fine of up to $1,000 if found guilty. “The statute is antiquated, burdensome, vague, and potentially unconstitutional. Simply put, it does not serve a legitimate purpose in the administration of elections in our state, and as such should be repealed,” Myrie wrote about the legislation.
North Carolina: A bill re-emerged to use jury excuses to kick people off voter registration rolls in North Carolina, targeting people who say they’re not citizens to get out of jury duty. House Bill 259 would also require that any new voting machines purchased in the state be manufactured in the United States by companies based in the United States. The idea is to limit the potential for foreign interference. The jury/citizenship language was added to the bill in the House Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform committee, which sent it straight to the House floor on what appeared to be a party-line voice vote, with Republicans voting for it and Democrats against. Under the bill, clerks of court would note whenever people called for jury duty say they’re not citizens and forward their names to the State Board of Elections. The state board would then use that information to clean the state’s voting rolls, removing potential non-citizens who can’t legally vote. If the board sees the person has voted before, they would forward that name to the local district attorney for potential criminal prosecution.
Texas: The Senate has approved Senate Bill 10 along a party-line vote. The bill increases penalties for illegal voting, something that had been decreased by the massive election reform bill passed this summer. Republican senators returned to the sweeping voting bill they championed over the last few months to further restrict the state’s voting process and narrow local control of elections. The bill contained a little-noticed change made by the House that lowered the penalty for illegal voting from a second-degree felony to a Class A misdemeanor. Abbott signed that measure, Senate Bill 1, into law less than a month ago, but last week ordered lawmakers to reverse course. A second-degree felony in Texas is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail, but can be resolved with a fine. “That [House] amendment came late in the process, and now that the smoke has cleared and everyone has had time to look at all the details … this will maintain the status quo,” said state Sen. Bryan Hughes, the Mineola Republican who authored both the penalty change and the original legislation.
The Senate also approved Senate Bill 47 which gives all state or county party officials the ability to trigger mandatory reviews of the 2020 election. The audit legislation would allow state or county party chairs to mandate a review of the 2020 election by simply submitting a request in writing to a county clerk. That would include a review of actual ballots voted in the election. In future elections, a second part of the bill would allow candidates, county party chairs, presiding polling place judges or heads of political action committees that took a position on a ballot measure to push for audits if they suspect irregularities. That process would begin with a written request to the county clerk for an “explanation and supporting documentation” for alleged irregularities or election code violations. If the person requesting the review is not “satisfied” with the response, they could request “further explanation.” If they are still unhappy, they could turn to the Texas secretary of state to request an audit of the issue. If the secretary of state determines the county’s explanations are inadequate, it must immediately begin an audit of the issue at the expense of the county.
Arkansas: The legality of a quartet of Republican-backed election measures will be decided by the state Supreme Court following a ruling that sovereign immunity does not shield the measures from a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen rejected all state lawyers’ arguments to dismiss the 4-month-old litigation, ruling that the plaintiffs — the League of Women Voters, immigrant advocates Arkansas United and five Arkansas voters — met the legal standard to overcome the state’s defenses at this stage of the proceedings. The plaintiffs say the new election laws put their voting rights at risk in an unconstitutional attack on poor and minority voters. Griffen’s ruling is not a decision on the merits of those accusations but a ruling on the state’s legal arguments to dismiss the suit. The laws at issue are Act 249, involving voter identification; Act 728, regulating campaigning around the polls during voting; Act 736, affecting how ballots are validated; and Act 973, which sets deadlines for mail-in absentee ballots. Claims by lawyers for defendants Secretary of State John Thurston and the state Board of Election Commissioners that they cannot be sued because of sovereign immunity are “without merit” because of claims that the laws violate both the state and federal constitutions, Griffen ruled. State lawyers are obligated to immediately appeal such a decision or the defense is waived. The judge’s findings will be issued in writing within two weeks.
Florida: Groups challenging the constitutionality of a new Florida elections law are asking a federal judge to force the conservative Heritage Foundation and its lobbying arm to turn over documents about the development of the law. The Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Common Cause and Disability Rights Florida filed an 18-page motion in federal court last week seeking to force the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action for America to provide documents subpoenaed in the underlying challenge to the law (SB 90). The motion contends that Heritage was “intimately involved in meeting, conferring, and strategizing with key Florida legislators about SB 90″ and that the documents could provide evidence about the law’s purpose and its drafting. The subpoenas focus on information about communications between Heritage and state officials, according to the motion. “Plaintiffs’ subpoenas to Heritage seek a targeted set of highly relevant records bearing directly on plaintiffs’ claims and defendants’ arguments in the litigation,” the motion said. “Heritage was extensively involved in pushing for state legislation to restrict voting rights, including with respect to SB 90. The specifics of its activities and interactions with Florida legislators and Florida’s governor leading up to SB 90′s passage and enactment are thus highly salient.” The motion said Heritage, which is not a party in the lawsuit, had declined to turn over the requested documents. U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks on Friday ordered Heritage to respond to the motion by press time.
Georgia: According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to review Fulton County absentee ballots asked a judge to dismiss the three Democrats who were on the county’s election board last year, leaving two Republicans as defendants who support the investigation. The plaintiffs argue that if they can see original paper ballots, they’ll be able to find counterfeits — or at least raise further suspicions about the election, similar to a recently concluded ballot review in Arizona that ended up adding to Biden’s margin of victory. “They want to proceed without an adversary challenging the legitimacy of the complaints,” states a court filing by three Democrats who have served on Fulton’s elections board. “This proceeding has devolved into nothing other than political theatrics.” It’s unlikely the legal tactic will be successful, said Bryan Sells, an election law attorney who isn’t involved in the Fulton case Judges usually disfavor “collusive” lawsuits, in which plaintiffs try to manipulate the legal system by suing their allies, Sells said.
Michigan: A group of former 2020 Michigan poll challengers are suing Dominion Voting System for allegedly harming them with cease and desist letter. The eight plaintiffs in the case argue that Dominion sent them harmful cease and desist letters warning them against “defaming Dominion” after the plaintiffs voiced their concerns about the voting process in affidavits, but allegedly did not mention Dominion. The notices they received from Dominion left them “consumed with a sense of fear,” the lawsuit reads, and “clearly damaged.” The new lawsuit against Dominion alleges that the company violated the civil provision of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, engaged in a civil conspiracy and deprived the litigants of numerous constitutional rights.
North Carolina: A North Carolina appeals court ruled that former Republican Governor Pat McCrory’s supporters can be sued for allegedly defaming four residents who were falsely accused of voting twice in the 2016 gubernatorial election, the Associated Press reported. The unanimous ruling from the three judges allows a trial court to hear the case against the Pat McCrory Committee Legal Defense Fund and the Virginia-based Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky law firm. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice lodged a complaint in 2017, concerned with how lawmakers and their supporters should be penalized for making inaccurate voter fraud claims. The lawsuit accuses McCrory supporters of participating in a “civil conspiracy” that harmed four Brunswick and Guilford County voters’ reputations. The voters are seeking damage compensation in excess of $25,000. The judges also decided that William Clark Porter, a GOP official in Greensboro whose signature was on one of the election protests that was filed, is entitled to a legal defense that would likely clear him of defamation claims because he participated in a “quasi-judicial election protest proceeding.”
Tennessee: Shelby County Chancellor Gadson W. Perry has denied the request of the Shelby County Election Commission to force the Shelby County Commission to fund its call for the purchase of ES&S electronic voting machines to replace the county’s existing election machinery. Both bodies agree that the old voting machines must be replaced, but have disagreed on what should replace them, with the county commission maintaining that, as the entity empowered to pay for and to “adopt” the replacement devices, its twice-expressed official preference for devices employing paper ballots should prevail over the Election Commission’s choice of the $5.4 million ES&S ballot-marking devices, as recommended by Election Administrator Linda Phillips. After a hearing Perry denied the Election Commission’s petition for a writ of mandamus, which would have forced the issue in the EC’s favor. The judge cited contradictions in specific Tennessee statutes, with one of the several laws discussed in the hearing concretely giving the EC the right to select election machinery, while another, just as firmly, supported the county commission’s contention that its control of funding precluded a “duty” to rubber-stamp the EC’s choice. The bottom line, said Perry in denying the writ of mandamus, is that the warring statutes in effect endowed the differing parties with a “push-pull” relationship on the voting-machine matter, with an implicit imperative to work out some agreement between themselves.
Texas: U.S. District Judge George Hanks struck down two state laws prohibiting people from wearing clothing with political messages on them in or near polling locations. The statutes violate voters’ First Amendment right to free speech, the judge found, and fail to set an objective standard for the laws’ enforcement. Arguing against the Texas laws, the plaintiffs referenced Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, a 2018 Supreme Court case that set the precedent for the constitutionality of such laws. In that case, a Minnesota law prohibiting people from wearing political buttons or insignias at polling locations was under fire from voters who were turned away at the polls. The high court struck down the law for failing to have an “objective, workable standard” of what items were considered political and should be banned. Hanks rendered the court’s final judgment, issuing a two-page order adopting Edison’s recommendations and rendering the statutes unconstitutional for violating the First Amendment.
“The Big Lie and Big Tech”: This week, The Carter Center released a new report that details the role played by “repeat offenders”—media known to repeatedly publish false and misleading information—in spreading election fraud narratives in online echo chambers during the 2020 election. “The Big Lie and Big Tech” found that while myriad forces—politicians, influencers, hyper-partisan media, and citizens—coalesced to advance The Big Lie, known repeat offenders provided critical connective tissue in the spread of misinformation on social media. They often inserted out-of-context information into broader narrative frames, helping to amplify misinformation faster than it could be fact-checked. The Carter Center’s report highlights the inadequacy of existing social media policies and interventions in addressing misinformation repeat offenders and safeguarding elections. It also includes recommendations to platforms to help blunt the impact of election-related misinformation, including:
- Placing warning labels on posts containing repeat-offender links.
- Algorithmically downranking the appearance of repeat-offender links.
- Investing resources to expand professional fact-checking capacity, especially for content that could undermine election integrity.
- Establishing a shared database of repeat offenders accessible to all social media companies to facilitate cross-platform interventions.
“Social media companies aren’t solely responsible for what happened during the 2020 election, but it is hard to understate the authority Big Tech leaders have over content that appears on their platforms,” said Michael Baldassaro, senior advisor to the Carter Center’s Digital Threats Project and the report’s lead researcher. “They can—and should—enact reforms well in advance of future elections to mitigate threats to election integrity.”
Opinions This Week
Arizona: Early voting
Hawaii: Ranked choice voting
Louisiana: Secretary of state
Maryland: Poll workers
Michigan: Election legislation
Minnesota: Native American voting rights
New Jersey: Voter registration
North Carolina: Voter suppression
Oklahoma: Vote by mail
South Carolina: Ex-felon voting rights
Vermont: Federal election legislation
West Virginia: Federal legislation
Wisconsin: Ranked choice voting
Disinformation in American Elections Part II: This three-part online lunch series hosted by the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center at UCI Law explores the risk of disinformation in American elections, spread through social media and otherwise, and how to counter it. This session, Part II of the series, brings together leading legal scholars who study how law shapes the ability to counter disinformation in elections, and addresses how the U.S. Constitution’s protection of free speech and association in the First Amendment may constrain potential solutions. Speakers include: Danielle Citron (UVA), Spencer Overton (GW) and Nate Persily (Stanford). When: October 27 3:13pm Eastern. Where: Online.
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.
Disinformation in American Elections Part III: This three-part online lunch series hosted by the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center at UCI Law explores the risk of disinformation in American elections, spread through social media and otherwise, and how to counter it. This session, Part III of the series, features a conversation among leading social scientists studying disinformation in American elections and our evolving understanding of how disinformation spreads and may be limited. Speakers include: Joan Donavan (Harvard), Brendan Nyhan (Dartmouth) and Renee DiResta (Stanford). The event will be moderated by former NPR correspondent Pam Fessler. When: November 10; 3:15pm Eastern. Where: Online.
Democracy Fund Language Access for Voters Summit: We hope you will join our summit on the importance of language access for voters. With the newest set of Section 203 determinations likely to be released in early December, this virtual convening of election officials, voting rights advocates, and translation experts will feature discussions on a variety of language needs and the services necessary to meet those needs, to meet voters where they are. Join us on December 13-14th at 2pm ET/11am PT to share ideas, tools, and best practices with a focus on practical ideas about what needs to be done between now and November 2022 in order to provide effective language assistance in communities across the United States. Please stay tuned for more information about our program, panelists, and workshops. When: December 13-14, 2pm-5pm Eastern. 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 email@example.com. 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.
Administrator II, Maryland State Board of Elections— The Administrator position in the Election Reform and Management Division assists the Director and Deputy Director implementing, managing and supporting various projects related to the election process and improving election administration in Maryland. The duties will include on-going compliance with the Help America Vote Act, Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, and other federal election laws and any federal funds awarded to the State under these laws. This position will develop and oversee the statewide training and education program for elections officials and judges, including development and issuance of a statewide Elections Judges’ Manual, training curriculum, and an online training system/module. Salary: $50,971 – $81,596. Deadline: October 8. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Assistant County Registrar, Contra Costa County, California— Contra Costa County is recruiting for an experienced Assistant County Registrar, with a proven track record, to join our exceptional elections team. This at-will position reports directly to the elected County Clerk Recorder-Registrar through the Chief Operating Officer and directs the Elections Division’s day-to-day operations, under general direction from the elected Department Head and Chief Operating Officer. This position is responsible for managing the processes of registering county voters, maintaining voter precincts and voter files, conducting Federal, State, County, and local elections on behalf of the County’s residents. The Assistant Registrar administers local provisions of campaign finance requirements and monitors and analyzes the impact of legislation on the election process. Candidate must be familiar with election law and code; initiative, referendum, and recall petition processes as well as compliance with all election laws and timelines. The Assistant Registrar position handles the administration of the Elections Division, including budget development and adherence, personnel development, supervision, and performance management. The position will ensure that all electoral processes are conducted in a fair and transparent manner, consistently demonstrating integrity, neutrality, and non-partisan decision-making. In addition to a customer service focus, demonstrating, promoting, and developing leadership values and skills are core responsibilities, as department staff are key assets of the organization. The Elections Division operates with a ~$16 million annual budget, has approximately 30 full-time staff, and can include up to 100 temporary staff and 2,000 volunteers during peak election cycles. Salary: $120,695-$161, 743. Deadline: October 18. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
CEO, Democracy Works— Democracy Works seeks a strategic, committed leader to serve as its Chief Executive Officer. Democracy Works’ rise over the last 11 years was led by its Founding Chief Executive Officer who will be stepping down at the end of 2021. The incoming CEO will step into an organization in strong financial and strategic health, with an exceptional team. Reporting to Democracy Works’ Board of Directors, the CEO will serve as the organization’s most senior external advocate and fundraiser, overseeing the organization’s continued growth in its current moment and beyond. The CEO will also set organizational strategy, enabling Democracy Works to continue to deliver consistent, high-quality products, research, and expert assistance in pursuit of a fairer voting system. As the organization’s primary strategic leader, the CEO will support Democracy Works’ leadership team and staff to achieve exceptional results and impact at scale. Upon starting, it is anticipated that the CEO will lead an organizational strategic review and a foundational analysis of organizational strengths and opportunities in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access working closely with staff to chart its course into the future. The CEO will play a critical leadership role to foster an inclusive workplace that not only values and is responsive to the diversity of staff and the audiences it serves, but elevates all voices and identities across its work internally and with external partners. CEO will also build the organization’s internal capacity to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion are central tenets of Democracy Works and are embedded across the organization. The CEO will directly manage a senior leadership team of 8 and an organization of over 60 staff. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
City Clerk, West Sacramento, California— The City of West Sacramento is actively recruiting for a City Clerk to lead the City Clerk’s Office! Candidates should have knowledge of State Elections Code; the California Public Records Act; State Government Code as it pertains to the office of City Clerk; filing provisions of the State Fair Political Practices Commission; the Brown Act; principles and practices of modern public administration; organization and functions of municipal government, including the roles of a Council/Manager form of government; principles and practices of records management, including records retention laws; modern office practices and procedures including business correspondence, filing and standard equipment operation, including audio-visual equipment. The City Clerk plans, organizes, and directs all functions and responsibilities of the City Clerk’s office as specified by the City Council and as required by law. The City Clerk is an at-will position that is appointed by and sits at the pleasure of the City Manager. This position receives general supervision from the Assistant City Manager or their designee, and may supervise professional level staff, as well as clerical, technical and temporary staff. Salary: $113,868-$138,384. Deadline: October 17. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Communications Liaison, Hillsborough County, Florida— 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. Participates in all aspects of the communications department, engaging in a wide range of community outreach efforts to register voters and provide information about voting and elections, as well as working on event planning, marketing, media outreach and candidate services. Salary: Salary starting $44,790. – $55,987. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Counsel, Fair Elections Center— Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit voting rights and election reform organization based in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to use litigation and advocacy to remove barriers to registration and voting, particularly those disenfranchising underrepresented and marginalized communities, and to improve election administration. Fair Elections Center is seeking an attorney with a background or strong interest in civil rights, voting rights, and/or election reform to join our legal team. The Center has an aggressive and expanding litigation docket, including pending challenges to the arbitrary felon voting rights restoration scheme in Kentucky, restrictions and penalties imposed on voter registration activity and voter assistance for persons with disabilities in Florida, and unnecessary barriers to the use of student IDs as voter ID in Wisconsin. Recent cases include a First Amendment challenge to Florida’s arbitrary voting rights restoration system which resulted in the first court order striking down a state felon disenfranchisement or re-enfranchisement scheme in over 30 years, and lawsuits in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Kentucky to make voting safer and more accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Salary: $85,000 to $100,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Government Services Strategy Impact and Learning Associate, CTCL— Election officials want to administer elections where every eligible voter can easily and securely cast their vote. But moving from intention to real-world impact can be challenging, especially without evidence of what works and what doesn’t work. As the Strategy, Impact, & Learning Associate on CTCL’s Government Services team, you will help measure and maximize the impact of CTCL’s work supporting election officials. You will identify metrics, design evaluations, coordinate with partners, and collect and analyze data. You will contribute to a culture of learning at the heart of CTCL’s Gov Services team, which will expand outward to our partners that work directly with election offices, and expand further outward to every election office in the country. You will be filling a new position and will report to the Senior Strategy, Impact, and Learning Manager. If you care about democracy, if you believe in the importance of public service, and if you love to exceed expectations, this is the job for you. 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.
Information Technology Specialist, Leon County, Florida— This full-time employee will provide support for a wide variety of technology needs, primarily specializing in computer hardware. Duties include deploying computer images, providing support for desktop computers, and assisting with security and protection of elections technology and infrastructure. The role is ideal for a dynamic, self-motivated IT professional who is focused on providing outstanding internal customer service and innovations across project teams. Success in this position requires experience with Windows desktops and applications, and installing and maintaining peripheral hardware such as printers, scanners, and bar code readers. Experience in multimedia and video production and editing is desired, but not required. Must be able to deliver work on-time under pressure and maintain flexible hours including on-call shifts and overtime during elections. Occasional out-of-town travel may be required for training. Work is sometimes physically demanding and requires reliable personal transportation, an insurable driving record, and a security clearance. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Management Analyst III, Fairfax County, Virginia— Serves as Administrative Division Director in a fast paced, high performing elections and voter registration agency. Independently performs a wide range of professional-level work related to personnel, financial management, budget, planning, physical security, and physical resource management. Plans and implements all phases of administrative support to election activities to ensure compliance with federal, state and county laws and procedures including fiscal controls, purchasing, budgeting, facilities planning and management, recruiting and hiring, payroll, personnel rules and practices, and training and staffing. This position works under the direction of the General Registrar and specific duties include but are not limited to:Directs and supervises professional and seasonal employees who perform fiscal and human resources duties in support of the agency, to include developing and implementing written policies and procedures for fiscal and personnel activities; Develops and manages agency budget and purchasing in coordination with the General Registrar; Participates in strategic planning and budget development; researches and evaluates new technology and equipment, and serves as project manager for the acquisition and implementation of new systems or equipment; Develops and administers internal space plan and physical security plan for the agency, to include acquiring, reserving and managing work and warehouse spaces, regulating access to offices, files, keys, databases, warehouse and other sensitive locations and materials. Communicates security initiatives to staff; Coordinates related activities with other agency departments, state board of elections, county agencies, federal agencies, and vendors; and Manages, directs and supervises professional staff. Deadline: October 8. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Registrar of Voters, San Joaquin County, California— San Joaquin County is seeking an experienced and dedicated professional to join the executive team to provide strong leadership and administrative oversight of the Registrar of Voters Office. This is an executive, department head level position which reports directly to the County Administrator and is responsible for planning, organizing and directing the work of the Registrar/Elections staff. The Registrar manages all phases of the election process and should have an in-depth understanding of the Elections Code and have demonstrated experience in management, supervision, employee development, budgets and activities of an Elections Office. The ideal candidate is expected to provide strategic management of the Registrar of Voters Office and must model strong work ethics and leadership skills, including accountability for oneself and others. Salary: $124,215- $150,984. Deadline: October 15. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voting Systems Assistant OPS/Seasonal, Leon County, Florida— Duties for this full-time seasonal position include equipment maintenance, sign creation and assembly, organizing materials, asset management, assisting with retention of official records, and serving as USPS liaison for the office. Work is performed in a physical, warehouse-type environment supplemented with office work. Applicants should demonstrate integrity and a passion for providing internal operational support for the office. Must be able to work under pressure, have flexible hours during election cycles, and complete tasks in a timely and organized manner. Must be able to lift up to fifty pounds and have an insurable driving record. The anticipated term of employment for this position is at least until completion of the 2022 election cycle (through November 2022). This position qualifies for retirement and health care benefits. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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Cuyahoga County, Ohio Board of Elections has approximately 1,000 poll booths available at no charge. If your county is interested in these poll booths, please contact Cuyahoga County at email@example.com or 216-443-6428.