Thursday, December 31, 2020

Electionline Weekly December-31st-2020

Legislative Updates

Delaware: One of a series of bills tackling voting rights filed for the upcoming legislative session looks to modernize voter registration in the First State by allowing people to register the same day as the election. Primary House sponsor, State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, says voting registration has been on her mind for a while. “We don’t want to go backwards to a time in this country when people who look like me could not vote, including my own parents and grandparents. You know my father fought for the country but there was a time when he could not vote for who was going to represent him.” Senate sponsor, Trey Paradee, calls the system of registering in advance is antiquated, from time when voter rolls were tracked on pen and paper. Computer databases allow poll workers to register people on the spot at an election site.

Missouri: The Missouri House won’t be demanding investigations into election results in battleground states after all. Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, filed a resolution earlier this month demanding inquiries into unproven allegations of fraud in six states critical to President Trump’s defeat last month, and quickly drew GOP support. Sixty-six of 114 House Republicans signed the letter addressed to Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, asking him to allow them to consider the resolution before adjourning a special session called to deal with budget issues. But the resolution still needed approval from the Rules Committee before it could go to a full House vote, and Rep. Rocky Miller, the committee chairman, declined to hold a hearing, citing cost concerns and the health risks of gathering for another meeting in Jefferson City amid the pandemic.

New York: Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal, D-Queens, recently introduced A.11165 in the Assembly to increase early voting places during presidential election years. The bill doesn’t yet have corresponding legislation in the state Senate. Rosenthal’s proposal would increase the required number of early voting sites from one for every 50,000 voters to one for every 15,000 voters.

Ohio: The House has approved Senate Bill 194 which aims to strengthen standards for third-party vendors that provide voter registration software, and added a cybersecurity official to the state panel that certifies voting machine. The original bill was backed by Secretary of State Frank LaRose and unanimously cleared the Senate last month. The House added an amendment to the bill that would allow fraternal halls and other charitable organizations to legally set up slot machine-like “electronic instant bingo” machines. Maggie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for LaRose, criticized the House for adding the unrelated subject matter into the bill. “As cyber security threats continue to evolve, we need to be prepared to defend against bad actors. We’ll continue to advocate for concurrence on SB194 in the Senate. If the amendment inserted by the House ultimately sinks the original bill, it will hurt all Ohioans, and the responsible parties will have to answer for that,” she said.

Texas: Texas Republican lawmakers are gearing up to put limits on mail-in ballots in the upcoming legislative session, in response to drawn-out legal challenges over voting by mail in Harris County. Five state senators, including Conroe’s Brandon Creighton and Houston’s Paul Bettencourt, have filed a bill that would make it illegal to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to registered voters. “Look, the last thing you need to be worried about when you’re trying to conduct a national election is whether or not you’re going to mail millions of absentee ballot applications when the Supreme Court tells you you can’t, and we did not want the voters to think that they should be expecting such a mailing from government in the first place,” Sen. Paul Bettencourt said, adding the bill is needed to make it clear the Election Code reflects the ruling of the state supreme court. Bettencourt argued there’s a financial reason for the bill as well. He alleged that upwards of $1 million of taxpayer’s money was spent printing ballot applications that were then destroyed.

Legal Updates

Alaska: Anchorage Superior Court Judge Josie Garton said this week that she found no flaws with the way the Alaska Division of Elections counted votes in the close legislative race between incumbent state Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage and Democratic challenger Liz Snyder. In a separate order, she also concluded that Pruitt’s attorneys failed to demonstrate that a late polling place change altered the result of the election. Snyder defeated Pruitt by 11 votes in the final, recounted result, but Pruitt launched a pair of legal challenges that dispute both the final vote count and the way the election was conducted. In both cases, Garton confirmed Snyder’s victory. The Alaska Supreme Court will have the final say. It has scheduled oral arguments Jan. 8, and a decision is expected before the 32nd Alaska Legislature begins Jan. 19.

Arizona: A Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed the state Senate’s request that he order Maricopa County officials to turn over images of ballots and piles of other election records it demanded in subpoenas last week. Bucking the Senate’s deadline, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors sued to stop the subpoenas, charging that the Legislature was overreaching and citing a state law the supervisors maintain prohibits them from turning over copies of ballots. Judge Randall Warner said that is not a proper way of enforcing a subpoena from the Legislature. The court cannot issue that kind of order just because the people served with the subpoenas are public officials, the judge said. Warner noted the senators did not follow the Legislature’s own procedures, pointing to laws that say the Senate can enforce its subpoenas by passing a resolution holding the subject of the subpoena in contempt — a class two misdemeanor. Dramatically, another part of state law says the Senate could then dispatch its sergeant-at-arms to haul in subpoenaed witnesses.

Colorado: Eric Coomer, an employee of Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems who has been the target of far-right conspiracy theories, filed a defamation lawsuit against 14 defendants, including President Donald Trump’s campaign. Filed in Denver, the 52-page lawsuit details baseless allegations made against Coomer and threats to his life. Coomer, the company’s director of product safety and security, left his home and has been living in an undisclosed location. “Without concern for the truth or the consequences of their reckless conduct, defendants branded Dr. Coomer a traitor to the United States, a terrorist and a criminal of the highest order,” the lawsuit states. Defendants in the lawsuit include the Trump campaign and its top lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as well as former campaign lawyer Sidney Powell and her law firm. Also included are a list of conservative media personalities and outlets, including Castle Rock resident Joe Oltmann, an activist who has accused Coomer of treason.

Georgia: U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to stop the Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia. Attorney L. Lin Wood Jr. filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta earlier this month, saying Georgia’s processes for handling absentee ballots for the runoff violated state law. Wood took exception to the state’s process for verifying signatures on absentee ballots, as well as plans to begin processing those ballots before Election Day and the use of drop boxes for voters to return their ballots. Batten denied Wood’s request for a temporary restraining order. Among other things, the judge said Wood lacked standing to file the lawsuit and his claims of potential voter fraud were “too speculative.”

A judge ruled in favor of the Macon-Bibb board of elections in a lawsuit filed by group to end early voting on December 31 instead of December 30. Chairman of the board Mike Kaplan says that there will be no voting on December 31 because of this decision. New Georgia Project filed the lawsuit and sued several Georgia counties, including Bibb, arguing that they didn’t provide enough early voting days. Kaplan says state law doesn’t say how many early-voting days they should offer. After the lawsuit was filed, Bibb County agreed to offer early voting on a Saturday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a Republican Party effort to reject more absentee ballots in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs by changing how election officials verify voters’ signatures. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously against the lawsuit brought by the political campaigns of Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, as well as the Georgia Republican Party and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The court found that it would be “contrary to state law” to order the secretary of state and State Election Board to conduct a different signature matching process. Elections in Georgia are run at the county level. “Since the secretary and the election board do not conduct the signature matching process, are not the election officials that review the voter’s signature, and do not control whether the signature matching process can be observed, the campaigns’ alleged injury is not traceable to the secretary,” wrote Judges Charles Wilson, Beverly Martin and Robert Luck.

Michigan: The Michigan Supreme Court won’t hear a case challenging the Secretary of State’s decision to mail absentee ballot applications to voters. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson mass mailed the applications to registered voters across the state. A Highland Park activist, Robert Davis, sued because he was concerned the unsolicited applications were unlawful and candidates could challenge votes because of that. In Auguest, the Court of Claims ruled the mailings were legal. The Court of Appeals confirmed that ruling in September. Now, the Supreme Court has declined to hear the lawsuit. It was turned down by a six to one majority. One of the judges on the Appeals Court dissented, questioning the legality. Supreme Court Justice David Viviano also felt the case should be reviewed to determine “whether the Secretary of State had the legal authority to mail millions of applications for absentee ballots to voters who did not request them.”’

An election worker in Oceana County is suing the city of Hart, claiming she was wrongly prohibited from wearing a religious-themed shirt during the Nov. 3 general election. The shirt stated: My Heart will TRUST in you JESUS. Margaret Wittman says the shirt did not support any candidate or issue. The lawsuit says Wittman “does not cease being a Christian when she is performing her duties as an election worker for the city.” City officials would permit a Muslim election worker to wear a hijab and a Jewish election worker to wear a Yamaka while working at the polls. Yet Wittman was prohibited from wearing her Jesus shirt because Hart officials view Wittman’s religious beliefs as political, she contends. Defendants named in the lawsuit are the city of Hart, City Manager Lynne Ladner and Clerk Cheryl Rabe. City officials were unavailable for comment on Thursday.

Minnesota: Ramsey County District Court Judge Leonardo Castro tossed out a last-gasp challenge to Minnesota’s 2020 election results after a hearing in which he said he had little leeway to decide otherwise. Castro ruled that the case brought by a group of conservative challengers failed on technical and procedural grounds. The set of cases attempted to overturn four Democratic congressional wins. “Contestants notice of contests do not raise a claim that any of the contestees did not win their elections, which is the only question that this court can address,” Castro said in an afternoon ruling that came not long after attorneys debated whether the cases should move to trial.

Nevada: Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez denied Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony’s petition to hold a new election after his razor-thin defeat last month for county commission. Gonzalez ruled against the petition “because the election was not prevented,” despite arguments otherwise by Anthony’s campaign, the court filing shows. The campaign cited state law that requires a new election if one is deemed to be “prevented.”

Washington: The campaign for former Washington gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp is suing nine county auditors and Secretary of State Kim Wyman over how the November election was held. The lawsuit lists the auditors for Whatcom, Island, Skagit, King, Pierce, Thurston, Spokane and Clark counties. The suit originally listed Wyman but an amended complaint was filed on Dec. 24. According to court documents, the campaign claims, “The process by which this election was held was unlawful under both state and federal law.” In the lawsuit, the campaign claims the voter registration address list data showed “many discrepancies and anomalies which destroyed the integrity of the vote in Washington.” The lawsuit says over 1,300 registered voters were registered twice with two different active voter ID numbers and five registered voters were listed twice with the same voter ID number. Of those, the lawsuit claims 46 voted twice in the November election. The suit also claims 962 people who moved out of state registered to vote in September or October and 358 of those people voted in Washington’s November election.

Wisconsin: The Trump campaign wants the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its lawsuit seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s U.S. presidential election results after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against them this month. The Trump campaign’s lead attorney Rudy Giuliani announced the filing on Tuesday. The state Supreme Court rejected the campaign’s lawsuit in a 4-3 vote, ruling that President Donald Trump should have challenged Wisconsin’s rules prior to the November election if he had problems with them. “Regrettably, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in their 4-3 decision, refused to address the merits of our claim,” said Jim Troupis, Trump’s lead Wisconsin attorney. “This ‘Cert Petition’ asks them to address our claims, which, if allowed, would change the outcome of the election in Wisconsin.”

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a decision reached nearly two weeks ago by U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig in Milwaukee. In his suit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission and others, Trump had sought to have the Republican-led Legislature, rather than voters, decide how to allocate Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes. Ludwig — a Trump nominee — concluded Wisconsin officials had followed state laws when they conducted the Nov. 3 election. In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel in Chicago “affirmed” Ludwig’s decision.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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