Thursday, June 1, 2023

Electionline Weekly June-1-2023

Legislative Updates

Alabama: A House committee voted 12-0 to approve a bill to conduct audits of general elections in each county. House Bill 457, the Alabama Post-Election Audit Act, would require county canvassing boards composed of the probate judge, circuit clerk, and sheriff to manually tabulate each ballot cast in one randomly selected race after the conclusion of general elections. Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, the bill sponsor, introduced it out of concern for election integrity, citing the age and unsecured transportation of voting machines. “We haven’t taken the time to audit the tabulators, the machines, not the individuals running the polls, to see if those machines are still doing what they’re supposed to do: providing accurate election results,” Wood said.

The House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections committee voted down a bill to remove redundant paperwork for absentee ballots 4-9. When a voter applies for an absentee ballot, they must select at least one of nine reasons for their request. The same list is included in an affidavit sent with the ballot which must be filled and notarized. The bill would eliminate the list from the affidavit and keep it on the signed application. House bill 464 aims to streamline the absentee voting process by eliminating the unverifiable redundancy. According to bill co-sponsor Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile, the idea to remove the reasons from the affidavit came from four circuit clerks overwhelmed by affidavits filled out incorrectly. “We’re just trying to make this a simpler process because this is what four circuit clerks recommended — not four state representatives, but the people in the trenches recommended this,” Clarke said. Republican critics of the bill saw it as a move toward no-excuse voting. They argued the complicated process incentivizes in-person voting and thereby reduces fraud and expedites ballot counts.

Arizona: Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) vetoed several bills that were passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature that she argued would have undermined election integrity and introduced burdensome regulations that would have made Arizona’s electoral process more complicated and difficult.

One of the vetoes, Senate Bill 1135, would ultimately have forced the state to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center, a multistate coalition that helps states share and keep accurate voter registration rolls. Known as ERIC, the coalition has come under fire from far-right conspiracy theorists who baselessly contend it facilitates election “stealing” by liberals, and several Republican states have pulled out in response. Hobbs, in her veto letter, criticized Arizona Republicans for attempting to remove a key safeguard from elections in the state, while touting election integrity as a priority. “(ERIC) is an essential tool in ensuring accurate voter registration rolls in Arizona and across the country,” she wrote, in a veto letter. “It is unfortunate that many Republicans in the Legislature continue to fan the flames of false allegations of voter fraud, yet send to my desk a bill that would prevent Arizona from joining organizations that actually help improve the integrity of our elections.”

Hobbs also vetoed Senate Bill 1105, which sought to require election workers to count early ballots at polling sites on Election Day. Currently, voters can quickly drop off their early ballots for later tabulation. Hobbs worried the measure would unnecessarily complicate the work of election officials, and create burdensome logistical challenges. During committee hearings, county and election officials warned that the bill’s provisions would require them to secure and set up thousands of new polling sites that could accommodate both in-person voting and the tabulation of early ballots.

Senate Bill 1066 would have required voter registration organizations mailing election-related documents, such as voter registration forms and guides, to print “Not from a Government Agency” on the envelopes. That text would be required to take up at least 10% of the document’s height, which Hobbs said was an “unreasonable burden” for those simply attempting to improve voter access in the state.

Senate Bill 1180 would have prohibited organizations from paying employees for the number of voter registrations they collect. Campaigns often hire and compensate third parties to run voter registration efforts on their behalf.

Connecticut: Voters will have 14 days to cast their general election ballots early and in person under a bill that cleared the state Senate and now heads to the governor’s desk. The Senate approved the bill by a 27-7 vote. The action comes six months after voters approved a state constitutional amendment that essentially gave the Democratic-controlled General Assembly the go-ahead to create a new, in-person early voting system. The legislation, which affects general elections, primaries and special elections held on or after Jan. 1, 2024, already cleared the House of Representatives earlier this month. “Connecticut is finally catching up with 46 other states that currently have early voting,” said state Sen. Mae Flexer, the Democratic co-chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. She said the average number of early voting days in those other states is currently 22. Connecticut’s bill also allows seven early voting days for most primaries and four for presidential primaries and special elections.

The Senate passed a separate elections matter, in the form of a resolution, that places a question on the November 2024 ballot about whether the state constitution should be further changed to allow for no-excuses absentee voting. Absentee ballots are currently limited to specific excuses in Connecticut, such as being out of town on Election Day, active military service or sickness, a provision added during the pandemic.

The Senate has advanced a bill intended to protect historically disenfranchised communities from discrimination at the ballot box, including key protections once considered a stronghold of the federal Voting Rights Act before it was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Bill 1226, dubbed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of Connecticut passed on a 27-9 vote just before midnight, following hours of emotionally charged debate among lawmakers over what the proposal would accomplish. The Senate’s approval of the comprehensive bill marked the first time it passed out of either chamber since it was initially introduced in 2021. Resembling key protections outlined in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the legislation would require municipalities with a record of voter discrimination to receive clearance from either the secretary of state or a superior court before implementing changes to election-related policies. The state-level bill would outlaw municipalities from taking actions that would interfere with the right to vote of any protected class member, defined as a class of citizens who are members of a race, color or language minority group, and require municipalities to provide language-related assistance to voters if their population comprises a certain percentage of people who speak English “less than very well.” It would allow the superior court to “order appropriate remedies” if and when it finds that a municipality violated the law. The bill would allow residents to sue against acts of intimidation, deception or obstruction that interfere with their right to vote. Additionally, it would produce a publicly accessible database under the secretary of the state’s office providing certain elections and demographics information.

Michigan: The Senate Elections Committee approved bills that would seek to streamline the absentee voting process by creating an online tracking system for applications and the ballots themselves. SB 339, sponsored by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D- Royal Oak), would allow voters to track their absentee ballot at every step of the process, from registration to dropbox. It was approved by the committee. A counterpart bill, HB 4594, in the House Elections Committee has yet to be approved, but contains the same content. The sponsor, Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City), testified in its support. “House Bill 4594 directs the Secretary of State to not only enhance the tracking system for absentee applications and ballots, but to permit voters to track and receive notifications about the status of their applications and balance,” Wegela said.

A group of Democrats is working with municipal and county clerks from around the state to pass legislation prohibiting firearms from polling places. State Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing) is the sponsor of HB 4127, which alongside HB 4128 would ban firearms in and within 100 feet of polling places in Michigan on Election Day and during early voting periods. She said it’s important to her that people feel safe when they go to cast their vote. “People should be able to exercise those rights freely and without any threat of a firearm being involved, so I think that this is a very reasonable restriction, and for a very reasonable amount of time,” Tsernoglou said. Several county and municipal clerks have spoken out in favor of the bills both in testimony to the House Elections Committee and online. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said that in her experience, the presence of firearms in polling places can sometimes be seen by voters as a form of intimidation, and discourage people from casting their ballot.

A bill in the Legislature would allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote. Then they are automatically eligible to cast a ballot on the very day they turn 18. Currently in Michigan, only teens who are 17½ can preregister. Supporters of the bill say lowering the age for preregistration (which does not allow people under 18 to actually vote) prepares young adults to participate sooner and more actively in democracy. Election officials say it also eases the registration process later, enabling smoother voting overall. State Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City) introduced House Bill 4569 last week during a House Elections Committee hearing. Coffia said local clerks encouraged her to introduce the measure and she believes pre-registration of younger teens will “increase the likelihood” of more “robust” participation of young people in elections over time.

Nebraska: A final push over Memorial Day weekend failed to result in a voter ID compromise acceptable to State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar and Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen, despite help from Gov. Jim Pillen, Speaker John Arch and Attorney General Mike Hilgers. The result Tuesday was another four-hour filibuster by a single senator opposing a bill during a legislative session defined by similar defiance. This time it was Slama, the face of the 2022 ballot initiative that led to a state constitutional requirement that voters show a photo ID. LB 514 spells out rules about how voters prove they are who they say they are. In-person voters will have to show a state-approved photo ID. Approved IDs would include a driver’s license, passport, state ID, college or university ID or nursing home ID. It will cost about $1.8 million to implement, mainly to provide photo IDs for people without them and to provide access for county election offices to obtain the technology needed to check IDs electronically.

Nevada: Those who harass, intimidate or use force on election workers performing their duties in Nevada could soon face up to four years in prison under a new law signed this week. The law is meant to deter attacks against those in state and local election offices who have faced increased scrutiny for doing their jobs, Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar said. Threats and intimidation of election workers had ramped up significantly in Nevada and across the country amid falsehoods and conspiracy theories about foul play denying former President Donald Trump victory in the 2020 presidential race. The bill, passed unanimously through both chambers of Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature, was a core campaign promise from Aguilar, who cited an exodus of election workers across the state due in part to increased threats. The law also makes it a felony to disseminate personal information about an election worker without their consent.

New Jersey: Assembly lawmakers approved a measure that would allow some 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections. The measure, sponsored by Assemblymen Bill Moen (D-Camden), would allow voters who would be 18 on the date of the next general election to cast ballots in that year’s primaries, an allowance the bill’s supporters view as a path to building voting habits in the state’s young people. Democrats in the Legislature have sought to extend such suffrage to 17-year-olds for years. They came close in 2016, but then-Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bipartisan measure, saying he was unsure whether it would pass constitutional muster. The bill cleared the chamber in a 50-24 vote. Seven Republicans broke with their party to support the bill. A Senate companion to the bill has yet to reach a committee hearing, and Zwicker said the measure is likely to remain on the back burner until legislators return to Trenton in the fall to allow lawmakers to focus on more time-sensitive election reforms.

New York: Democratic state lawmakers want to expand early voting options to include voting by mail, a move meant to further address the state’s election laws after voters rejected a more narrowly prescribed constitutional amendment for absentee balloting. The proposal, backed by Assemblymember Karines Reyes and state Sen. Michael Gianaris, would give all New York voters the option to vote early by mail. The measure is being proposed after voters in 2021 rejected a constitutional amendment to allow for no-excuse absentee balloting. Unlike that measure, expanding early voting through the mail would not require a change to the state’s constitution, lawmakers said.

Oklahoma: The Senate passed legislation that would increase election day poll workers’ pay. According to Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, the full Senate approved Senate Bill 290, which raises the pay for election day poll workers from $110 to $225. “It is incredibly important that we recruit and retain poll workers as there has been a shortage in recent years,” Hamilton said. “Increasing compensation is the least we can do for these dedicated community members who often work 12 to 14 hours on election day.” SB 290 would also double the pay for judges and clerks from $100 to $200. “Many in my district and across the state are excited about this legislation as it rewards our hardworking election day staff and will hopefully encourage other Oklahomans to fill the spots of those who have retired. I am very pleased that this legislation is one step closer to becoming law, and I hope to see it on the governor’s desk very soon,” Hamilton said. SB 290 now heads to the House of Representatives for one final vote. If the bill is approved, it will be sent to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Texas: Republicans have approved legislation allowing unprecedented state interventions into elections in Harris County, the most populous county in Texas, threatening to drastically overhaul elections in the Democratic stronghold. The bills targeting Harris, which would eliminate its chief elections official and allow state officials to intervene and supervise the county’s elections in response to administrative complaints, are headed to the governor’s desk. Lawmakers say they’re responding to repeated election issues in Harris County, which includes the city of Houston. The county, for its part, has signaled it will challenge the bid to remove its elections administrator and is portraying the bills as a partisan power grab and the latest in a series of legislative moves by Texas Republicans to tighten access to the ballot in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. Senate Bill 1933, authored by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Harris County Republican, grants the Texas secretary of state the authority to investigate election “irregularities” after complaints are filed — but only in counties with more than 4 million people, which means just Harris County. The office, which until now has had less authority than nearly any other state’s chief election authority, will be able to remove a county election administrator or to file a petition to remove an elected county officer overseeing elections, such as a county clerk, if “a recurring pattern of problems” isn’t resolved. After the measure goes into effect in September, administrative election complaints that are filed with the secretary of state’s Elections Division, led by Christina Adkins, can trigger an investigation. If problems aren’t resolved, the secretary of state could then get rid of Harris County election officials, though a second bill passed by Republicans, Senate Bill 1750, could make that more complex. That bill removes Harris County’s elections administrator position, reshaping how the county oversees elections. That law also goes into effect in September — only months before Harris’ municipal election. It will transfer election duties back to the county clerk and tax assessor-collector’s office. To remove an elected official such as the county clerk, the secretary of state would have to request the removal, but the final decision would be determined through a jury trial. Another state election oversight bill proposed by Bettencourt died in the House after it didn’t meet key deadlines. Senate Bill 1039 would have allowed the secretary of state, following a complaint of election “irregularities,” to appoint a conservator to oversee elections in a county when violations of the Election Code were identified. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to consider potentially reviving SB 1039 in a special session in the coming months.

Legislators reached agreement on a bill to raise the penalty for illegal voting from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, finding a compromise that will prevent ineligible voters from being prosecuted for mistakenly casting a ballot. A person convicted of an attempt to vote illegally would be subject to a state jail felony. A 10-lawmaker conference committee resolved the differences between the House and Senate versions of House Bill 1243, after the House rejected last-minute language Sen. Bryan Hughes had added that would have allowed prosecutors to charge a voter who had unintentionally cast an illegal ballot. The agreement means the bill will almost certainly win final approval in both chambers and be sent to the governor. Adjusting the penalty for illegal voting has been a priority for Texas Republican leaders since 2021, when the Legislature downgraded illegal voting from a second-degree felony to a Class A misdemeanor as part of an omnibus voting bill. Few noticed the change until after the session ended, and several bills to readjust the penalty were filed this year despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas.

Lawmakers have voted to reverse an expensive state law requiring election officials to replace all their current vote-counting equipment with technology that doesn’t exist. A mandate the Legislature passed in 2021would have decertified equipment that counties currently use to count votes, to be replaced by machines on which data “once written, cannot be modified,” at an estimated cost of more than $100 million. The bill amending the requirement is now headed to the governor’s desk. It will allow counties to use the equipment they already have. The initial measure, aimed at preventing the tampering of vote data, passed in 2021 on a voice vote without debate, largely unnoticed, tucked into the sweeping voting law Senate Bill 1. In February, Votebeat reported on the problems with the mandate and election officials’ growing concerns. This year’s legislative session was the best opportunity to amend the proposal before it took effect for the 2026 elections. In March, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, and other lawmakers filed legislation to amend the law, which, according to the secretary of state’s office, would have also required the purchase of new equipment for each election. Hughes’ proposal to amend the provision — Senate Bill 1661 — was approved unanimously by both chambers. During a Senate committee hearing in March, Hughes said that there had been a “misunderstanding on the scope” of the provision, though he didn’t elaborate.

Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott struck down two measures that would expand voting rights in local communities. He vetoed H.509, a charter change approved by Burlington voters that would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. In explaining his veto of noncitizen voting in Burlington, Scott harked back to his vetoes of similar measures in Montpelier and Winooski in 2021, stating that, “this highly variable town-by-town approach to municipal election policy creates separate and unequal classes of legal residents potentially eligible to vote on local voting issues.”

And, for the second year in a row, he rejected a charter change that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds in Brattleboro to cast ballots in local elections. Proponents of H.386, which would also allow 16- and 17-year olds to run for town office, argue that the move would get Brattleboro’s teens engaged at a younger age, educating them on the civic responsibility of voting and empowering them with a voice in their local community. Scott disagreed. In a statement, he repeated his argument from last year — that the bill exacerbates an inconsistency in state law when it comes to defining the age of adulthood. “For example, the Legislature has repeatedly raised the age of accountability to reduce the consequences when young adults commit criminal offenses,” Scott said. “They have argued this approach is justified because these offenders are not mature enough to contemplate the full range of risks and impacts of their actions.”

Scott allowed H.508, which will expand ranked choice voting in Burlington local elections, to take effect without his signature. Already in place for Burlington City Council elections, ranked choice voting will now also apply to mayoral, school board and ward officer races. In a statement, Scott expressed skepticism about the voting method but, citing the limited scope of the change, said he would still allow it to become law. “As we know, ranked choice voting went terribly wrong over a decade ago, resulting in Burlington abandoning the practice. Nevertheless, it appears the politics have changed in the City, for now, in favor of ranked choice voting,” Scott said, adding that he remains opposed to ranked choice voting at the statewide level.

Legal Updates

Arkansas: A lawsuit seeking to stop Arkansas election officials from using bar-code voting machines was moved this week from Pulaski County Circuit Court to federal court. The suit was filed in February against Secretary of State John Thurston, the State Board of Election Commissioners and Election Systems and Software by Conrad Reynolds, a retired U.S. Army colonel from Conway who has run unsuccessfully for Congress and leads a group called the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative Inc. Election Systems and Software was dismissed as a defendant in the suit in March. In a news release, Reynolds’ group said a Tuesday court date for the suit was canceled and that Attorney General Tim Griffin had used the “federal question doctrine” to move it to federal court.

Florida: North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo was arrested and charged with three counts of voter fraud, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said. The charges allege that DeFillipo voted three times in 2022 using an address that was no longer where lived. The charges are third-degree felonies, punishable with up to five years in prison. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle detailed the allegations during a press conference. DeFillipo, through his attorney Michael Pizzi, denied the allegations. “We look forward to a speedy exoneration,” Pizzi told the Herald in a text message. Rundle said her office used cell phone data to track DeFillipo’s driving from Davie to North Miami Beach, where he cast ballots to vote in three elections in August, October and November.

Georgia: Judge Connie L. Williford has dismissed a case brought by the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections against Mayor Lester Miller and county commissioners over the selection of an elections supervisor. Williford ruled the lawsuit was fatally flawed and had to be dismissed for violating the Georgia Constitution that dictates conditions for waiving the sovereign immunity which protects government entities from being sued. The case dates back to issues created after former elections supervisor Jeanetta Watson resigned in January of 2022. Three months later, the mayor and commission rejected the board’s nominee to fill the job after the applicant’s questionable social media posts surfaced. The board withdrew its nomination and filed legal action in August after Miller announced plans to form a selection committee with county commissioners and members of the board. Miller said he hoped that the committee could find a suitable candidate that could breeze through the confirmation process. After a 90-minute hearing, Williford also determined the board is an agency of Macon-Bibb County “that lacks inherent power to sue and be sued.”

New court motions were filed this week against SB 202. The motions were filed as part of an ongoing lawsuit from 2021. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia and other organizations are claiming the law restricts absentee voting and discriminates against Black voters. With these newly filed motions, the ACLU’s Senior Voting Rights Attorney Rahul Garabadu said they are trying to temporarily roll back restrictions for the 2024 elections. “SB 202 was unique in the way that it targeted the methods that Black voters use to cast a ballot,” Garabadu added. The motion says SB 202 provisions such as restricting drop boxes, prohibiting the distribution of food and water to voters waiting in line, and the shortening of the absentee voting period disproportionately discards the votes of people of color. The group is asking for those provisions to be lifted temporarily until the active lawsuit is settled, in order to make absentee voting more accessible to all voters.

Massachusetts: Plymouth County Judge Brian S. Glenny has authorized Hull’s extension of voting hours during its May 15 town election, which was disrupted by a fire, and permitted Town Clerk Lori West to count the 80 votes cast after regular hours. The judge also ordered polls to reopen for two more hours in case anyone wasn’t able to vote because access to the polls was restricted due to the fire. On election day, a six-alarm fire shut down traffic on Nantasket Avenue, the only road leading to the one polling station, Hull High School. On the advice of town counsel Jim Lampke, West sought a court order allowing polls to remain open for two hours past the scheduled closing at 8 p.m. Unable to reach a judge after business hours, West extended the hours and asked the court for approval after the fact on May 16. On May 17 Gelnny denied West’s request and wrote that “there exists a very real likelihood that citizens were disenfranchised” and concluded that a new election was the “only just remedy.” Hull then asked Glenny to reconsider. The motion noted that the May 15 election had a 35% higher turnout than any in the last five years. The town argued that a new election, which would cost about $20,000, could not legally take place before July 27 and that a midsummer election would produce a significantly lower turnout. This time Glenny granted the request.

Montana: A second lawsuit has been filed over the May 2 elections in Cascade County. The suit is filed against Cascade County, Sandra Merchant, the Fort Shaw Irrigation District and the West Great Falls Flood and Drainage Control District. Plaintiffs allege that the county, Merchant and two special districts violated multiple provisions of state law. Plaintiffs, who own irrigable land within the Fort Shaw Irrigation District allege that Merchant, the county and the district violated state law by incorrectly instructing voters and not sending ballots to all eligible voters. They argue that the Fort Shaw Irrigation District refused to accept valid change documents regarding qualified voters and/or designated agents at least 14 days prior to the election; failed to notify the election office within four days of receiving those documents and failing to provide necessary information regarding those changes so the election office could administer the proper ballots. Plaintiffs allege that Merchant and the county violated state law by mailing ballots on April 20-21; not providing signature and secrecy envelopes.

Donald Samuel Hill, 52, of Whitefish was arraigned on two voter fraud charges in federal court in Missoula that allege he voted with another person’s ballot in the 2020 election. Hill pleaded not guilty to two counts – false information in voting and fraudulent voting. Each carries penalties of up to five years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines, to be followed by a year of supervised release if he is convicted and sentenced. According to federal court records, Hill was indicted by prosecutors in the U.S. District Court of Montana. A summons was executed May 16, and Hill was arraigned in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto in Missoula on Thursday. The grand jury indictment says that on Oct. 10, 2020, Hill completed and signed the ballot of an unnamed person and submitted it to the Flathead County Elections Office for the 2020 General Election. The indictment says Hill “knowingly and willfully deprived, defrauded, and attempted to deprive and defraud the residents of the State of Montana of a fair and impartially conducted election process” by submitting a fraudulent ballot. An unredacted indictment remained under seal on Thursday afternoon.

New Mexico: Former Republican candidate Solomon Peña has been indicted on federal charges including election interference in connection with a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of state and local lawmakers in Albuquerque, according to a grand jury indictment that was unsealed this week. The indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque takes aim at Peña and two alleged accomplices with additional conspiracy and weapons-related charges in connection with the shootings in December 2022 and January of this year on the homes of four Democratic officials, including the current state House speaker. The attacks came amid a surge of threats and acts of intimidation against election workers and public officials across the country after former President Donald Trump and his allies spread false claims about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. U.S. Attorney Alexander Uballez highlighted that the shootings targeted the homes of two county commissioners shortly after their certification of the 2022 election. “Peña targeted several of these public officials because, in their official capacity, they certified the election, which he lost,” Uballez said at a news conference. “In America, voters pick their leaders and would-be leaders don’t get to pick which voters they heed, which rules apply to them, or which laws to follow.”

Ohio: The organization One Person One Vote has filed a new Supreme Court case related to an August amendment proposal looking to make it more difficult to change Ohio’s constitution. The organization has already challenged lawmakers’ attempt to place the question, which would raise the bar for voters to pass amendments from 50% to 60%, on the August special election ballot. The latest complaint has to do with the ballot language Ohioans will see when they cast their vote. The filing claims the ballot board adopted “a misleading, prejudicial ballot title and inaccurate, incomplete ballot language that improperly favor the Amendment in flagrant violation of Ohio’s Constitution and laws and this Court’s jurisprudence.” The plaintiffs want to court to order revisions or substitute the full text of the amendment as the ballot language.

Pennsylvania: Commonwealth Court has been asked to overturn a Lycoming County judge’s ruling that images of votes cast in person are not public record. The appeal by Jeffrey Stroehmann, a former county Republican chairperson, is his latest effort to overturn a decision by the state Office of Open Records (OOR). It turned down his right-to-know request for images and Judge Eric R. Linhardt in May affirmed the decision. Stroehmann points out the Legislature in passing Act 77 in 2019 amending the Election Code made public images of mail-in and absentee ballots. The act does not explicitly establish whether images of a voted in-person ballot constitute the contents of the ballot box and thus excepted from public access, Linhardt pointed out. Using what he referred to as statutory construction, he ruled since a voted in-person ballot is considered contents of the ballot box, so should an image of that ballot. The judge previously ruled cast vote records (CVR) from the 2020 general election in Lycoming County are public record. The state Department of State, as an intervenor for the county Office of Voter Services, has appealed that decision to Commonwealth Court thus staying its implementation.

West Virginia: Richard Fox will pay $1,000 and serve a year on probation for illegal voting during the 2020 election. Fox was sentenced in Fayette County Circuit Court for casting two mail-in ballots – one in West Virginia and one in Florida – during the Nov. 3, 2020, election, according to a news release from Warner’s office. The release did not include any information about who Fox voted for.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

AF Picks CO For More Space Force Missions

The Air Force announced the Permanent location for many more U.S. Space Force units Wednesday. Four more Space Force Missions will now be based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a choice during a larger and now Politicized battle over where to locate the Permanent Headquarters of U.S. Space Command.

Colorado Springs, which is housing Space Command’s temporary Headquarters, was the Air Force’s preferred Location, but Trump, in the final days of his Presidency, selected Alabama instead.

While the Pentagon and White House have said the Decisions are not directly linked, Alabama has strict Anti-Abortion Laws, and its Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R), earlier this year announced he would hold up All Military Nominations, I would assign All as Acting, until the Department of Defense (DoD) rescinds a New Policy, that would allow Female Service Members to be Reimbursed for Travel costs, if they have to go Out-of-State for Reproductive Care.

The Space Force announcement came as President Biden left for Colorado Springs to speak during their Commencement Ceremony at the nearby U.S. Air Force Academy. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) said he’ll be using the President’s visit as another opportunity to press for the Command.

“As President Biden and his administration near a final basing decision for Space Command, we urge them to restore the integrity of this process and make a decision in the interest of our national security — to keep Space Command in Colorado Springs,” his Office said in a Statement.

Meanwhile, the Air Force has been moving forward with getting fully dug in at Colorado Springs, where more than 20 of the Military’s Space Missions are now based. The Air Force Academy now has a Space Curriculum and Graduates Space Force Guardians alongside its Air Force Cadets.

“Colorado Springs continues to prove itself as the premier location for our nation’s space defense operations,” Colorado Rep. Doug Lambor (R-5th District) said in a Statement announcing the Selection.

The Space Force, founded in December 2019, is the smallest of the Military branches, with just under 8,400 Personnel. But it has seen its Budget rapidly rise as the U.S. has scrambled to Defend against a rapid Militarization of Space, such as North Korea’s failed Wednesday launch of a Ballistic Missile believed to be carrying a Spy Satellite.

The Four New Missions in Colorado Springs include:

- Delta 15, a Headquarters unit for the Service’s Space Operations Command.

- Space Delta 12, a Test and Evaluation Unit.

- Two Surveillance Squadrons.

Other locations announced as New Permanent Homes for Space Force Missions are in Florida and New Mexico.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

TX Gov. Names Interim AG After Current AG Is Impeachment

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) chose John Scott (R), a former Deputy Attorney General (AG), to Head the AG Office, while AG Ken Paxton (R) faces Impeachment Charges, and faces Trial in the State Senate.

Scott served as Abbott’s Top Deputy for Civil Litigation when the Governor served as AG, before becoming Governor in 2015. Scott also served on an interim basis as Texas Secretary-of-state, the Chief Elections Officer appointed by the Governor, for just over a year before stepping down in December 2022.

“His decade of experience and expertise in litigation will help guide him while serving as the state’s top law enforcement officer,” Abbott said.

Scott, who has more than Three Decades of Legal experience, also served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the State’s Health and Human Services Commission.

Scott briefly represented Trump in an unsuccessful Lawsuit against the Certification of Pennsylvania’s Vote after other Attorneys quit. Scott himself stepped away from the Litigation Three days later, saying in a Court filing “that Plaintiffs will be best served” by his Withdrawal.

As Scott steps into the AG’s position, Six Top Staff Members have taken a Leave-of-Absence to help defend Paxton, in the upcoming Impeachment Trial.

The Employees include: the Office’s Top Appellate Lawyer, Solicitor General Judd Stone, who served as a Clerk to the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and was later Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (R), and the Litigation Chief Chris Hilton, who denounced Lawmakers’ moves toward Impeachment.

As Secretary-of-State, Scott had a “close working relationship” with Paxton and the AG’s Office, as a Defendant in Litigation against the State’s Voting Laws, said Sam Taylor, who served as Assistant Secretary-of-State for communications under Scott. “That was true regardless of who the secretary was, including John Scott,” Taylor said.

The Texas Senate, which will decide whether to convict Paxton and Remove him from Office, adopted a Resolution this week that calls for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), the Senate’s Presiding Officer, to choose a date “no later than” Aug. 28th to convene the Court-of-Impeachment.

A Seven-Member Senate Committee will prepare recommended Rules-of-Procedure for the Trial, to be submitted to the Senate on June 20th.

The House, serving as the Equivalent of a Grand Jury, has named 12 Impeachment Managers to Prosecute the Case, including the Five Members of the House General Investigating Committee that conducted the once, Secret Investigation that led to the Impeachment.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

AI Software Could Give Wind Farms Big Boost

An Artificial Intelligence (AI) Software upgrade could improve the Efficiency of Wind Turbines, by ensuring they face directly into the Wind more of the time. If used Worldwide, the Technique could boost Electricity production by Five terawatt-hours a year, about the same amount as is consumed Annuallyby Albanir or 1.7 million average UK Homes.

Wind Turbines work most efficiently when directly facing oncoming Wind Patterns and adjust the Turban Blades to anticipate changes, Alban Puech and Jesse Read at the Polytechnic Institute of Paris, believe AI can do better. They have trained a Reinforcement-Learning Algorithm to Monitor Wind Patterns and develop its own Strategy to maintain the Angles of Turbines.

The Researchers ran Simulations, testing the same Wind conditions on Wind Turbines running different Control Algorithems. They found that the AI Algorithem aligned their simulated version of a REpower MMB2 2-Megawatt Turbine more Efficiently than a conventional One.

The AI moved the Turbine more often, but Saved Power and kept the time spent Readjusting to only 3.7%. The AI model produced Power gains of 0.4%, and still offered an advantage of 0.3% once the extra Energy spent moving the Turbine was taken into account.

If applied to All Wind Turbines in the Woeld, this would equate to boosting their combined Electricty production by 5 terawatt-hours Annually, says the Researchers.

"The o.3% is important," says Simon Hogg at Durham University, UK. "Wind farm companies are interested in chasing the 0.1%, the 0.3%. It could be the differences between them having the revenue to develop the next one or not."

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Ut House Republican Resigns

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Ut, 2nd District) announced on Wednesday, that he will Resign from Congress, citing his Wife’s Health issues.

“It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve the good people of Utah in Congress,” Stewart said in a Statement.

“My wife and I have made so many dear friends and memories throughout our journey. I can say with pride that I have been an effective leader for my beloved home state, and I’m honored to have played an important role in guiding our nation through some troubled times.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

DOJ Sues WV Gov's Coal Empire For Unpaid Fines

The Justice Department (DOJ) filed a Lawsuit Wednesday, against the Coal Empire of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R), for failing to Pay more than $5 million in Civil Penalties, assessed by the Department of the Interior.

The 128-page Civil Action, was filed against 13 of the Justice Family Businesses and Justice’s adult Son.

This comes as the Term-Limited Governor, launches a Senate bid against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Congress Can Impose Ethics Reform On Supreme Court

Congress “absolutely” can force Ethics Reform on the U.S. Supreme Court, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said. “It is not going to be easy. The work that we’re doing on ethics in the court ought to be easy. And yet it’s not. It’s partisan also. So I think that the first step is going to be for the judicial conference, the other judges, to put some constraints around the supreme court’s behavior and treat the supreme court the way all other federal judges are treated.”

Supreme Court justices are nominally subject to Federal Ethics Laws, but in practice govern themselves.

Observers have said Judge Thomas clearly broke Ethics Laws. Democrats have called for Thomas to Resign or be Impeached, the former unlikely, the latter a Political Non-Starter.

Whitehouse said: “It means it’s constitutional because the laws that we’re talking about right now are actually laws passed by Congress. The ethics reporting law that is at the heart of the Clarence Thomas ethics reporting scandal is a law passed by Congress.”

Whitehouse continued: “When Justice Thomas failed to recuse himself from the January 6 investigation that turned up his wife’s communications [with Trump officials], he made the case that that was OK because he had no idea that she was involved in insurrection activities.

“That is a question of fact. That’s something that could have, and should have, been determined by a neutral examination. And so the problem with the supreme court is that they’re in a fact-free zone as well as an ethics-free zone.”

Whitehouse has campaigned against so-called “Dark Money” in U.S. Politics. Asked if he trusted the Federal Court system to be Fair and Impartial, he said: “Usually, I think the trial courts are very strong. I think … we’ve seen honest courtrooms make amazing differences with Dominion v Fox, with the parents at Sandy Hook against the creep who was pretending that their children’s murder wasn’t real, and now with the judgment against Donald Trump.”

“So honest courtrooms are really important to cut through to the truth. When you get to the supreme court, if it’s an interest in which the big rightwing billionaires are concerned, [it’s] very hard to count on getting a fair shot.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker