Thursday, November 19, 2020

Electionline Weekly November-19-2020

Legislative Updates Federal Legislation: U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, (R-PA), introduced legislation that requires states to install video surveillance of ballot drop boxes, permits poll watching by at least two campaign representatives, prohibits ballot harvesting and requires a full audit of municipal voting systems. The bill also includes a provision requiring that election officials count and record mail-in and absentee ballots immediately upon receipt, with the results kept secret until the polls have closed on Election Day. The bill, called The Protect Election Integrity Act of 2020, will update federal election law to “restore their trust, which is essential to the health of our republic,” Kelly said in a statement. But, any State that allows Voters to still Vote-in-Person and ignores their Mail-in-Ballot, like New York, this won't work.

Michigan: Republican Bronna Kahle of Adrian introduced a bill that would require county clerks to send a list of people who died over age 18 to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, which could use the information to check voter registration records and cancel their voting rights. Kahle said the legislation would improve the integrity of Michigan’s elections by keeping the qualified voter file up to date. Under current laws, county clerks forward death information and people’s last known address to municipal city or township clerks, who are supposed to check their files and cancel the voter registration for anyone who dies.

Oklahoma: State Sen. Nathan Dahm filed a series of election integrity bills this week. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 measure would call on the legislatures of each state that did not report results on Election Day to use their power to audit and recount their election results. The legislation would call on state legislatures to follow the constitutional provision allowing them to select electors. It also would call on Congress to use their constitutional powers to pass national voter ID laws and require paper ballots. Senate Bill 33 would refocus the Electoral College in Oklahoma by requiring the legislature to select future electors unless Congress passes election integrity bills, including national voter laws. State Sen. David Bullard authored Senate Bill 32, which was co-authored by Dahm. The proposed bill would prohibit the implementation of any national popular vote system to be used for the Electoral College to cast their votes for the state of Oklahoma. Senate Bill 34 would require the secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board to complete an audit of random election results to verify the paper ballots cast in the audited election match the electronic election results tabulated and tallied by the electronic election machines. According to officials, the measure would apply to school board elections in February, municipal elections in April, primary elections in June, run-off elections in August, and the general election in November.

Pennsylvania: State House Republicans on Wednesday moved a step closer to launching a review of the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania, though the process would not be completed until after the state’s vote is officially certified. The resolution tasks a bipartisan committee that holds subpoena power with compiling a report on issues and “inconsistencies,” and hiring a firm to audit the vote to ensure “the accuracy of the results,” the measure’s sponsor said. While the Department of State plans to undertake a similar review, GOP lawmakers said the work outlined in the resolution would be independent from Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, who they noted is named in several election lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign.

Utah: The Government Operations Interim Committee has advanced a bill that would allow cities to have the option to take part in a mobile voting pilot project, and residents in those municipalities would then have the ability to choose whether to vote from their phones. “The city of Vineyard may say, ‘Hey, this is an option we’re opening to our electorate,’ and then as a resident in Vineyard you could say, ‘Gee, I’m going to vote electronically. I’m going to vote by mail. I’m going to vote the old fashioned way,’” said Mike Winder, R-West Valley City and the proposal’s sponsor. “It just gives you the voter options.” Rep. Suzanne Harrison, who was one of three lawmakers to ultimately vote against the bill, raised concerns during the meeting about the security of mobile voting as reports have outlined possible vulnerabilities for the method in general and specifically within Voatz, the app that Utah County uses.

Legal Updates

Arizona: A lawsuit filed by the state GOP contends Maricopa County is not complying with state laws which require there be a hand-count audit after each election to ensure that what was recorded by the voting machines matches the ballots that went into them. That was done with no irregularities found. But attorney Jack Wilenchik representing the Arizona Republican Party says state law requires that the sample has to be done of at least 2% of all the precincts. In Maricopa County, he said, with 748 precincts, that would require checks at 15 separate precincts. Only thing is, Maricopa County — and some others — use “voting centers” rather than requiring residents to cast a ballot at the specific precinct in which they live. This year, Wilenchik said, there were about 175 of these. And what that means, he said, is that an audit of 2% of 175 voting centers is not sufficient, regardless of how many people voted at each one. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah Jr. appeared skeptical of GOP arguments that the county’s audit of ballots from its voting centers runs counter to state law, which requires an audit by precinct – even though the county did not have precinct-based voting this year. He said he would provide his ruling at press time.

California: Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman has ruled that Gov. Gavin Newsom abused his authority by issuing an executive order that required vote-by-mail ballots be sent to all registered voters, according to documents. Heckman’s ruling places a permanent injunction against the Governor that prevents him from changing existing state law, even during a pandemic. The ruling does not affect the results of the 2020 general election. California Assemblymembers James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) brought the lawsuit against Governor Newsom. Newsom has said that he will appeal the ruling.

Carlos Antonio De Bourbon Montenegro, 53, and Marcos Raul Arevalo, 34 of Hawthorne were charged with multiple counts of voter fraud after allegedly trying to register 8,000 “fictitious, nonexistent or deceased” voters to receive mail-in ballots. The scheme was part of an illicit bid by Montenegro to become mayor of Hawthorne, according to a criminal complaint made public Tuesday.

Michigan: Supporters of President Donald Trump are seeking to exclude votes cast in Ingham County and other Democratic strongholds from Michigan’s presidential election totals, claiming in a lawsuit there were “issues and irregularities” in those communities but citing no examples in Ingham County and dubious or vague issues elsewhere. The suit, filed Wednesday by voters who supported Trump on Nov. 3, specifically targets Ingham, Washtenaw and Wayne counties “because they provide enough votes to change the results” of the election in Michigan, attorney Jim Bopp said. Invalidating votes in those three counties would mean tossing 1.2 million votes out of the roughly 5.5 million cast in Michigan. Democrat Joseph Biden won Michigan by about 146,000 votes. The voters’ accusation that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, state elections officials, the three counties’ clerks and canvassers mishandled the election is “ludicrous,” shameful and poorly contrived, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said. The lawsuit was voluntarily withdrawn on Monday. A hearing the case was never held.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny ruled claims that Wayne County and Detroit election officials purposely cheated the system to swing the election for Joe Biden are “not credible” and denied a request to stop Michigan’s election results from being certified. In a Nov. 13 ruling, Kenny denied a request from Republican plaintiffs Cheryl Costantino and Edward McCall to stop Wayne County from certifying election results in a lawsuit that alleged election officials cheated the system. Republicans’ motion for a court-ordered independent audit of the results was denied by Kenny, who said “in addition to it being an unwarranted intrusion on the authority of the Legislature, such an audit would require the rest of (Wayne County) and the State to wait on results.” On Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the request to reverse a Wayne County Circuit Court judge’s Friday ruling allowing the Wayne County Board of Canvassers to complete the audit of the November election and certify the county’s election results by the Nov. 17 deadline as required under state law.

Paul Parana, 47 of Canton Township, is charged with forging a signature on an absentee ballot, a five-year felony, and impersonating another to vote at an election, a four-year felony. Parana is alleged to have forged his daughter’s signature on an absentee ballot and submitting it to the Canton Township Clerk’s Office

Nevada: A state court legal fight to stop the counting of mail ballots in the Las Vegas area has ended after the Nevada Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Donald Trump campaign and the state Republican party, at their request. The campaign and GOP had tried to withdraw the appeal in the state case, submitting a document last week telling the seven-member court that it had reached a settlement calling for Clark County election officials to allow more observers at a ballot processing facility. However, not all the parties in the lawsuit signed the agreement. The case also involved the national and state Democratic parties, the Nevada secretary of state and the Clark County registrar of voters.

Former Nevada secretary of state and Democratic candidate for Clark County Commission District C Ross Miller, who won his race by a 10-vote margin is suing the Clark County commission for refusing to certify the results. Miller filed the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon in Clark County District Court, alleging that the board’s decision not to certify his race was “beyond its constitutional limitations.” His lawsuit is asking for the court to force the county commission to certify the results of the race and prevent the commission from ordering a special election.

New Jersey: A judge has rejected a bid to invalidate 157 mail-in ballots in Gloucester County following residency challenges filed by county Republicans. Christopher Powell, chairman of the county board of elections commissioners, said county elections Superintendent Stephanie Salvatore, who is also commissioner of voter registrations, investigated and determined that most of those ballots were valid or the information presented in the challenges was inaccurate or insufficient to prove the voters didn’t live locally. The four-member elections board, which consists of two Republican and two Democratic commissioners, deadlocked on whether to approve another 157 of the challenged ballots, said Powell, one of the Democratic commissioners, leaving Superior Court Assignment Judge Benjamin C. Telsey to break the tie.

North Dakota: A former tribal attorney says he will appeal a U.S. District Court judge’s decision to dismiss his complaint against the Three Affiliated Tribes Tribal Business Council that alleges violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Raymond Cross, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said the judge’s decision Oct. 28 to dismiss the case without a hearing denied plaintiffs a chance to respond. Cross brought the case with his sister, the late Marilyn Hudson. He said the appeal also will challenge Judge Daniel Traynor’s decision that the court lacks jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims. Traynor cited a 1975 court ruling involving the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge Reservation, which determined the quasi-sovereign status of the Indian tribes gives them the ability to determine the extent to which the right to vote is to be exercised in tribal elections, absent explicit Congressional legislation to the contrary.

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that a Trump campaign ballot processing observer in Philadelphia had no right to stand any particular distance away from election workers, and it’s up to counties to decide where poll watchers can stand. The state high court’s ruling overturns an earlier decision that the Trump campaign had called a major win, even while it affected no actual votes in Pennsylvania. But that small win has propelled the Trump campaign in recent days to argue that vote counts across the state have been unfair and prompted them to push suspicions of fraud. The chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Republican Thomas Saylor, wrote that the Trump campaign’s apparent aim to throw out votes would be disenfranchisement. Saylor wrote in his dissent that he “fail[ed] to see that there is a real issue here.” He pointed out that issues over how an election is administered could largely be addressed by courts before the election, and even by trial courts early during ballot counting — not well after, as the Trump campaign has tried to do.

A Pennsylvania appellate court handed President Donald Trump’s campaign a minor victory, barring counties from including in their final vote tallies a small pool of mail ballots from people who had failed to provide required ID by a Monday deadline. In a two-page order, a Commonwealth Court judge struck down a decision by the Wolf administration to give voters more time, post-election, to fulfill the ID requirement. Although state law only requires first-time voters to show ID at the polls, all voters who applied to vote by mail had to be validated their identification against state records by Nov. 9. Two days before the election, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar pushed that date back by three days, citing a court decision earlier this year that allowed late-arriving mail ballots to be counted as long as they had been mailed by Nov. 3 and received within three days of that date. In her order, Commonwealth Court President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt ruled that Boockvar had no authority to do that.

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia on Friday rejected an effort led by a Republican congressional candidate to block about 9,300 ballots that arrived after Election Day. The three-judge panel, led by Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Brooks Smith, noted the “unprecedented challenges” facing the nation this year, especially the “vast disruption” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith said the panel ruled “with commitment to a proposition indisputable in our democratic process: that the lawfully cast vote of every citizen must count.” The ruling involves the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to accept mail-in ballots that arrived by Friday, Nov. 6, three days after the close of polling places. Republicans have the same issue pending on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James ruled on Wednesday that 2,349 mail-in ballots can be counted because they were received by Election Day even though the voters failed to date the outside. James said, absent any evidence of fraud, count them all. ACLU legal director Vic Walczak said, “Judge James today in his opinion got it exactly right, said there was not even an allegation that these 2,300 voters were improper. Clearly these ballots arrived on time, and there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be counted.”

Wisconsin: Three voters in northeast Wisconsin have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to throw out votes in three of the counties that delivered Wisconsin to President-elect Joe Biden: Milwaukee, Dane and Menominee. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Green Bay seeks to change the outcome of Wisconsin’s election to President Donald Trump’s favor by excluding the presidential votes from the counties in the state’s final election certification, alleging without evidence that absentee voting is fraught with widespread fraud. The plaintiffs allege voters in these counties may have bypassed state law requiring voters to provide photo identification by dubbing themselves “indefinitely confined” due to the coronavirus pandemic. The suit also takes issue with clerks’ ability to take corrective actions to remedy errors related to witness’s addresses on absentee ballots. The plaintiffs dropped their suit this week. A court filing didn’t give a reason and an attorney for the voters declined to say why, citing attorney-client privilege.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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