Thursday, February 18, 2021

Electionline Weekly February-18-2021

Legislative Updates

Alabama: House Bill 397, introduced by state Rep. Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika), and co-sponsored by 21 House Democrats, was first read on Feb. 10 and would eliminate straight political party ticket voting. The bill also includes a provision that would prohibit descriptions of proposed constitutional amendments on election ballots that intentionally misrepresent the content of the proposed amendment. Gray said he believes HB397 will make it easier for candidates to run as independents as well as create a culture in which citizens are voting for “the best candidate, and not along party lines.” Straight-party voting has steadily increased to over half of all ballots cast since 2012. During the 2016 general election, two-thirds of Alabama voters choose the straight-party vote. According to an analysis from of the 2020 general election, 67 percent of Alabama voters chose the straight-party option on their November ballot. HB397 has been referred to the House committee for Constitution, Campaigns and Elections.

Arizona: By a 5-3 party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 1408 that would spell out in statute that county election equipment: systems, records, and other information “may not be deemed privileged information, confidential information, or other information protected from disclosure.” The measure declares that this information is “subject to subpoena and must be produced.” And it empowers judges to compel production of the materials and records. Sen. Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), who chairs the panel, made it clear the legislation has one purpose: to force the hand of Maricopa County officials who have so far refused to comply with a subpoena the Senate has issued.

California: A supermajority of legislators in both houses have approved Senate Bill 29 which would continue the state’s universal vote-by-mail system until the end of the year — encompassing special elections and a potential recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom that could take place in the fall. The bill would take effect immediately after it’s signed. Unlike previous advances of vote-by-mail, the bill was uniformly opposed by Republicans. Supporters of vote-by-mail have not concealed their hope that the practice remain the default method even after the pandemic is over — arguing that easier access to a ballot will spur greater voter participation.

Florida: Under Senate Bill 90, voters would be required to request an absentee ballot every calendar year during which they plan to vote by mail. Right now, voters’ one-time request for a mail-in ballot applies to every election held within two general election cycles, covering the gubernatorial and presidential elections. They may also choose to receive an absentee ballot for only certain elections within that time frame. The legislation would apply to all elections, including local races. Supervisors of Elections have expressed concern that the proposal would force them to spend a lot of money notifying voters to renew their absentee ballot requests every year. They say it will also place an unnecessary burden on those who typically vote by mail. Military voters and their families are likely to cast absentee ballots because they’re often not stationed where they’re registered to vote on Election Day.

Georgia: Senate Bill 74 would give poll watchers the ability to go anywhere at tabulating centers where ballots and election results are being received. The current law states poll watchers can only be in areas designated by the superintendent at a tabulating center. The locations that must be included in the designated areas are check-in areas, the duplication area, the computer room and any other area the superintendent identifies as places it is essential for poll watchers to be to assure the integrity of an election. Although SB 74 would give access to all places in the tabulating center, the superintendent would have the ability to restrict the movements of poll watchers in order to “provide for the security of the ballots and returns and to prevent interference by poll watchers in the tabulating process.”

Bills requiring an excuse and an ID number for absentee voting in Georgia cleared their first committee this week, creating new restrictions after last year’s presidential election.

A Senate subcommittee voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the bills, which now advance to the full Ethics Committee. Georgia law has allowed any registered voter to cast an absentee ballot since 2005, but Senate Bill 71 would limit absentee voting to people who are over 75, have a physical disability or are out of town. The second bill passed by the subcommittee would require voters to submit a photocopy of their ID, a driver’s license number or other state ID number when requesting an absentee ballot. Voters are already required to submit a driver’s license number when requesting an absentee ballot online, but there’s no ID requirement for paper absentee ballot application forms. In-person voters must show photo ID.

Idaho: Declaring that “voting shouldn’t be easy,” House Majority Leader Mike Moyle (R-Star), abruptly sidetracked his anti-“ballot harvesting” bill on the House floor Thursday as representatives appeared about to kill it. Moyle’s bill, HB 88, would have made it a felony to “collect or convey” other people’s ballots. A family member could possess up to two, but having three would be a felony. He argued that abuses in other states warranted the new law, citing things he’d seen on Facebook or heard from others.

The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a measure intended to speed absentee vote counting, which was used in the last general election and spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers during an August special session approved a law allowing the opening and scanning of absentee ballots beginning seven days before Election Day. It passed unanimously in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brad Little. But that law expired Dec. 31. The new bill would require that if any absentee ballots are opened before Election Day, they be maintained in an electronically accessed and secured area that is under 24-hour video surveillance livestreamed to the public. The law would require the video to be archived for at least 90 days after the election.

Indiana: A Senate committee has approved legislation that would block the governor and election commission from again changing how and when an election is conducted. The measure is a reaction to COVID-related elections changes made by the governor and election commission in 2020. Under the bill only the Legislature would be able to make changes such as moving a primary date due to an emergency.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that require Hoosiers to show proof of citizenship, including a passport or birth certificate in order to register to vote. The measure would also require an audit to be conducted after each election before results are certified.

Iowa: Senate Study Bill 1199 and House Study Bill 213 would shorten the state’s early voting period by 11 days, limit absentee ballot collection, and create new criminal charges for county auditors who fail to follow state rules. Republican lawmakers say the measures would ensure uniform election procedures across Iowa’s 99 counties, uphold the integrity of Iowa’s elections and make sure county auditors follow the law. The bills’ opponents say the measures would make it more difficult to vote early and would be hardest on elderly Iowans, those with disabilities or Iowans who have transportation issues. Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton), the House State Government Committee chair, told Democrats during the House subcommittee that he’s open to various technical changes to the bill to fix concerns raised during the meeting. That could include increasing the number of early voting days “by a couple,” he said. “That conversation’s not closed,” he said.

Kansas: Legislators are considering a bill that would make it a felony for anyone besides a family member or caregiver to return another person’s absentee ballot. The bill is facing pushback from Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates who say the legislation would make it harder for many racial minorities, older voters and people with disabilities to cast ballots. Those critics say the move would criminalize nonprofit groups and church volunteers for helping people to vote and would address a problem that doesn’t exist. The League of Women Voters of Kansas and the NAACP’s Kansas chapter say the bill would make it difficult for Kansans who don’t have family living nearby to vote.

Current law says mail-in ballots can be received up until the Friday after the election, but they have to be postmarked on or before election day. However, under a proposal recently discussed by the House Elections Committee, the deadline to receive absentee ballots would move to the day after Election day, shrinking the current arrival window by two days. The bill’s sponsor, Olathe Representative Charlotte Esau, said this would encourage people not to wait until the last second to mail in their ballot. The Kansas Secretary of State’s office said there were approximately 400 ballots that were received after the three-day grace period in 2020. The secretary of state’s office is neutral on the bill but urged caution in making any major changes to Kansas elections.

Kentucky: Republican Rep. Nancy Tate is a sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 47. The resolution establishes an election integrity and security task force and passed with favorable expression through the committee. Tate said she hoped it would set a standard for the rest of the country. “To assist in truly making the Commonwealth of Kentucky the model for election integrity by giving us as legislators the knowledge, we need to pass sound policy to safeguard the electoral process and instill voter confidence,” Tate said.

Maryland: Those incarcerated awaiting trial or convicted of misdemeanors would be able to register to vote and learn about their voting rights under legislation in the Maryland General Assembly this year. The Senate version of the bill, which was jointly referred to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, is being sponsored by Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County). The Value My Vote Act, SB0224, was heard in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee last week. The legislation has bipartisan support through its cross-filed House bill, HB0222, sponsored by Del. Jheanelle K. Wilkins (D-Montgomery). If passed, this bill would require the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide a voter registration application as well as documentation informing the individual that their voting rights have been restored to incarcerated felons upon their release. The department would also be required to post signage in every parole and probation office, as well as on their website, indicating that incarcerated felons are reinstated their voting rights upon release.

Michigan: Election Day could be moving in Michigan. There is a bipartisan plan in the legislature that would move the May and August elections. May’s election would be moved to March and the August primary would be moved to June. Moving the August primary to June would give them time to make sure everything is right for the General Election. “I think it makes sense,” said Chris Swope, Lansing City Clerk. “Within about two weeks, we have to put out a ballot with those statewide candidates on it so it would give more time for that process.” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson supports the change. “I am grateful to Senators Nesbitt and Wojno for recognizing the importance of this common-sense reform and look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to enact reforms that will increase the efficiency, accessibility and security of our elections,” Benson said in a statement to News 10 Wednesday. “Consolidating the May and August elections into one June election will save taxpayer dollars and meet a longtime request of clerks to be allowed to operate more efficiently.”

Missouri: Local races and issues, like fire district and school board as well as tax increase and bond proposals, could be moved from April to later in the year. Some members of the Missouri Legislature have filed bills this session that aim to make the switch. During a Missouri House Budget Committee hearing, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican, says he has not taken a position on the idea. However, he says there would be savings if the election was moved from April to November. Representative Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, was the longtime Carroll County Clerk in northwest Missouri. She disagrees that there would be a savings. She goes on to say she is not a fan of making those election changes. “I think there is going to be a lot of talk about how difficult it would be to put all those layers and all the different races on one ballot,” says McGaugh. She says voter fatigue is real.

Montana: House Bill 287, which would have required the state to pay return postage for mail ballots during statewide general and primary elections was killed by the House State Administration Committee this week. Rep. Kelly Kortum, a Bozeman Democrat, argued his bill was a commonsense measure to increase voter turnout in Montana at a minimal cost to the state. An amendment to House Bill 287 passed unanimously, clarifying that the change in law applied only to statewide elections, and not local ones. A fiscal analysis of the bill by the governor’s budget office estimated the cost for those elections would amount to more than $640,000 over the next two years. Kortum’s bill would have tapped the state’s general fund to reimburse counties for the added expense. Republicans on the House State Administration, however, argued the voters should be expected to take responsibility for ensuring their ballots are counted. “We continue to say that we want 100% participation, that we need to drive people to the polls, that we need to hold their hands,” Republican Rep. Kenneth Walsh, of Twin Bridges, said. “… At the end of the day, we can’t do everything for everybody just to make sure they vote.”

Nebraska: Secretary of State Bob Evnen said there has been little evidence of voter fraud in the state. But he described a proposed constitutional amendment as “an ounce of prevention” to help Nebraska stay ahead of potential problems and to bolster public confidence in elections. Evnen encouraged the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee advance an amended version of Legislative Resolution 3CA. If approved by voters, the measure would amend the Nebraska Constitution to require that voters present “valid photographic identification” to a poll worker before being allow to cast a ballot. Under the proposal, the state would provide free identifications for those who do not have IDs. The measure would apply only to people voting in person, not those voting by mail, and would allow for legislatively approved exceptions to the ID requirements.

Nevada: AB 26, introduced by Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson would do away with the state’s presidential caucus system and instead create a presidential preference primary that would put Nevada first on the primary schedule. The legislation would set up a primary in late January — “the Tuesday immediately preceding the last Tuesday in January of each presidential election year.” The bill has been referred to the Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. “The time has come for Nevada to move to a primary and to move to the front of the line when it comes to nominating a president,” Frierson said in a tweet. “Nevada’s diverse population and first-hand experience in issues relating to climate change, public lands, immigration, and health care provide a unique voice that deserves to be heard first,” Frierson said.

New Hampshire: Senator Janice Bowling (R-16th District) has introduced a bill that would require the state to only use watermarked paper ballots that would be hand marked by the voter. SB1510 was introduced to the General Assembly Feb. 11. “As introduced, abolishes early voting; prohibits the use of voting machines; requires elections to be conducted with watermarked paper ballots that are hand-marked by the voter. – Amends TCA Title 2,” the description reads. According to the bill text, “A voter who claims, by reason of illiteracy or physical disability other than blindness, to be unable to mark the ballot to vote as the voter wishes and who, in the judgment of the officer of elections, is so disabled or illiterate, may have the ballot marked by a person of the voter’s selection or by one (1) of the judges of the voter’s choice in the presence of either a judge of a different political party or, if such judge is not available, an election official of a different political party.”

Two bills – HB 61 and SB 47 – would allow early processing of absentee ballots as part of larger plans to expand absentee voting. Two other election-related bills, SB 83 and SB 89, would also allow early processing of absentee ballots. Under current state law, the processing of absentee ballots takes place on Election Day at least two hours after the polls open, at a publicly announced time. In 2020 the Legislature temporarily changed the law so that towns and cities could partially process absentee ballots a few days before the election. This gave town officials a head start counting a record number of absentee votes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first two bills, HB 61 and SB 47, would allow anyone in New Hampshire to vote absentee whether or not they will be physically absent on Election Day. Both bills also allow early processing absentee ballots. The other two bills, SB 83 and SB 89, include early processing of absentee ballots in the midst of various other election law changes. Whether or not these bills pass, the debate over early processing will likely continue. The debate first started with a bill back in the 1960s and there have been over a dozen related bills since.

New Jersey: A bill to establish early voting was approved by the Senate State Government Committee, but the legislature will need to move quickly if they expect the systems to be in place to implement the proposal in time for the November 8 general election. The proposal allows in-person voting to begin 15 days before Election Day and ending on the Sunday before the election. Polling locations – at least three in each county and up to seven for the state’s largest counties – would be open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 AM to 8 PM and on Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM. Early voting would apply to primary and general elections, as well as non-partisan municipal, Board of Education and Fire Commissioner contests. Voters could cast their ballots at any early voting location in the county where they reside.

The Senate Labor Committee has approve S-3052 that would exempt the wages earned by poll workers from affecting an individual’s unemployment compensation. “Counting these wages against unemployment benefits could discourage individuals from working the polls,” said Sen. Kristin Corrado. “It will be easier to find willing workers if we can ensure them they won’t have to jump through hoops to protect their unemployment. We want election workers who are dedicated and committed, not preoccupied with how a check from the county board of elections will affect them.”

Under S3322 drop boxes cannot located within 100 feet of the entrance to a police station, under the belief that such locations intimidate some voters. The legislation has caused concerns for local elections officials because most drop boxes are located at municipal facilities near police stations. In Atlantic County, the board of elections would need to find new locations for about 70% of the drop boxes the county uses. Board Chair Lynn Caterson said election officials will be communicating with the Governor’s Office, letting him know if the bill passes and he signs it into law, the state needs to fund the extra expense.

New Mexico: Under current state law, candidates for a special general election would be nominated by a small circle of political activists who sit on central committees for the state Republican and Democratic parties. A bill from Republican state Sen. Mark Moores of Albuquerque and Democratic state Rep. Daymon Ely of Corrales would change the selection process to a district-wide special primary election, followed by the special general election. On Monday, a Senate panel on election policy advanced the bill after its first public hearing. Further vetting lies ahead before a possible Senate floor vote. Moores and Ely say that current primary selection process would effectively disenfranchises voters. “This bill gives power to the electorate to choose their candidates and requires candidates to demonstrate voter support versus mere party support,” Moores said in a statement.

Ohio: Senate Bill 14 adds voter registration databases to the list of things the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners can establish standards for, and it allows for the appointment of a cybersecurity expert as a nonvoting member to the board. The bill was schedule for its second hearing this week before inclement weather forced the committee to cancel its meeting. “Ohio voters need to have the confidence that their registrations are secure and accurate and our county boards deserve systems that are properly vetted so they can do that jobs,” Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem said in testimony before the Local Government and Elections Committee earlier this month.

Oklahoma: State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, won committee passage of a bill that would allow absentee voters to vote in person when their absentee ballot is rejected. House Bill 1843 passed the Ethics and Elections Committee by a vote of 6-2 and is eligible to be considered on the House floor. The bill extends the use of provisional ballots to include situations where a mailed ballot was rejected or wasn’t received in time to be counted. The bill does not change who is allowed to vote or otherwise alter voting procedures. “The state of Oklahoma has a safe and secure process, through provisional ballots, to allow voting in situations where a voter’s eligibility to vote is uncertain,” Fugate said in a press release. “The state election board holds provisional ballots and does not count them until the Friday following an election. During that time, they verify that only a single vote will be counted for the voter.”

Oregon: Under two pieces of pending legislation, elections officials would now accepts ballots postmarked by election day. House bills 2226 and 2687, heard by the House Rules Committee, are nearly identical, except that HB 2226 by Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, would allow third-party collection of ballots only on election day itself. Oregon now requires mail ballots to be in the hands of county elections officials by 8 p.m. election day. Postmarks do not count, unlike the practice in Washington, California, Nevada, 11 other states and Washington, D.C., according to a 2020 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four other states require a postmark the day before the election. Under the proposed change, county officials would have to receive postmarked ballots no later than seven days after the election. States with similar laws have differing deadlines.

Lawmakers are also considering two bills that would allow prisoners to vote. In proposals that would put the state in the vanguard of a renewed debate over enfranchisement and inequity in the criminal justice system, House Bill 2366 and Senate Bill 571 would restore voting rights to the roughly 12,600 prisoners in custody around the state. The bills would also allow inmates to register to vote in their last place of residence prior to being incarcerated. But the proposals — each sponsored by 15 Democratic lawmakers — could prove too great a shift, even in a year when voting accessibility is a focus. Some of the state’s central cheerleaders for expanded voter access have questions. “This is an issue that I think from an expanding voter access standpoint is very important,” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who administers Oregon elections, told lawmakers earlier this week when asked about the proposal. “Just being frank with you, I share heartburn as many of you perhaps do at the thought of some of the folks who are incarcerated for some of the most heinous crimes [being allowed to vote] … I would need to hear the public testimony to be persuaded on why it’s important to expand this civil right to everybody.”

A bill being considered by the Legislative Assembly proposes an amendment to the Oregon Constitution allowing state residents to register to vote the same day as a general election. HJR 11 would allow people 18 years old or older who are state residents to register to vote for candidates for nomination or election for president and vice president of the U.S. as late as 8:00 p.m. the day of the election. Currently, the deadline to register to vote is 21 days before election day. Registrants still would be required to live in the state for six months prior to that election. College students still may register to vote as long as they change their residency to the address where they live while in school and give up voter registration in their home state.

South Dakota: Senate Bill 184 would allow county auditors to begin counting absentee ballots earlier. “This would give the county auditors the authority to get those ballots stamped, counted, sorted and processed hopefully in a quicker time frame than we had the last time,” said Sen. Jack Kolbeck, R-Sioux Falls. State law prohibits election results from being broadcast publicly by any county until all polling places in South Dakota close on Election Day. Because South Dakota is intersected by the mountain and central time zones, the earliest results can be released is 8 p.m. in Sioux Falls. But there’s disagreement among county auditors across the state when it comes to when they can begin processing and tabulating absentee ballots. Right now, state law says that absentee ballots “may” be tabulated as soon as 7 a.m. on Election Day but results can’t be disseminated until polling places close. Kolbeck’s measure, aims to remove any uncertainty around the rules and explicitly states that auditors must begin processing absentee ballots when polls open on Election Day. Reporting results before the polls close would continue to be prohibited. The Senate Local Government Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to move it to the full Senate for a floor vote.

Utah: Gov. Spence Cox signed a bill into law last week that will streamline the process of removing deceased Utahns from the official voter registry The bill, HB12, which was sponsored by Rep. Mike Winder, (R) West Valley City, will require the state registrar to provide the lieutenant governor’s office with information on deceased Utahns to ensure that they are then removed from the official voter registry. Then, according to the bill, the lieutenant governor would then have to contact a county clerk’s office to ensure that the deceased person has been removed from the voter registry. The bill then states that the lieutenant governor must verify the names of all Utah’s registered voters using their social security numbers 90 days before the primary election and 90 days before the general election. The bill passed through the Utah House of Representatives with a 73-to-2 vote and then through the Utah Senate with a 25-to-4 vote.

Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City) introduced HCR11 as a way to thank the state’s elections officials for a well-run 2020 election. However according to the Salt Lake Tribune, lingering upset over the 2020 election leaked onto the Utah House floor this week as Republicans watered down a resolution seeking to recognize the success of the 2020 election, removing a section praising the use of mail-in ballots in Utah. The substitute resolution, which was narrowly approved on the floor, removed all of the references to vote-by-mail, instead offering praise for Utah’s astronomical voter turnout and lauding Utah’s election workers, particularly county clerks. “There are parts of this I struggled with because I know my constituents would struggle with them, but I am looking forward to the chance to honor those clerks who did so well. There’s no question we need to honor the people who did the hard work,” said Rep. Mike Petersen, R-Logan. The substitute resolution was approved by a 43-28 vote and now heads to the Senate. Virginia: The Virginia General Assembly gave final passage Monday to a bill to move any municipal elections still held in the spring to November. The bill from Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, narrowly passed the Senate last month after Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, broke a tie. The House of Delegates approved the bill on Monday on a vote of 55-44 and one abstention. The bill heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk. “This is the people’s bill,” Spruill said. Northam, a Democrat, has not taken a position on the bill.

A House of Delegates subcommittee rejected a bill that would have instructed local registrars to count absentee ballots by the voter’s home precinct rather than grouping them together in one county-level tally. The bill had passed the state Senate with bipartisan support, but House Democrats said they wanted to take more time on the issue to make sure election officials are equipped to carry out what’s being asked of them. The proposal would have given political parties and nonpartisan data analysts a clearer view of local voting patterns and partisan shifts.

Washington: The Senate Law and Justice Committee has approved a bill that would make it illegal to harass elections workers. Under the proposed legislation, on its way to the full Senate, Harassing an elections worker in Washington could result in a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. “It’s just not acceptable in a democratic society,” said Sen. David Frockt, a Seattle Democrat. We don’t have to agree on certain things in politics to agree (threatening elections workers) is unacceptable. We need to make it known now so that in the future, we don’t see it happening again.” Secretary of State Kim Wyman said harassment puts “an additional burden on elections workers, some of whom are part-time employees or volunteers. “They didn’t sign up for threats and harassment merely for doing their job and upholding the Constitution,” Wyman said.

Wisconsin: Republican state lawmakers have ordered an audit of the way elections are administered in Wisconsin. GOP lawmakers who run the Legislature’s audit committee voted to conduct the review. Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau will conduct the study. The audit will look at how the Wisconsin Elections Commission and local clerks comply with election laws. It will also study the use of electronic voting machines, and how complaints about the general election have been handled. Republicans who ordered the audit said they were responding to a deluge of contacts from constituents, who had questions about how the 2020 election was conducted. Democrats said they had faith that the Legislative Audit Bureau would conduct a thorough audit, but they worried about the timing.

Legal Updates

Arizona: A federal appeals court Thursday rejected a Maricopa County man’s claim that he was denied the right to vote in 2016 because the last day to register fell on a holiday, and he registered a day later. State election officials rejected ballots from David Isabel and about 2,000 others who registered on the day after Columbus Day that year, saying they had not met the registration deadline. Isabel sued, but a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected his claim, saying Arizona’s law was clear cut and that it did not violate the National Voter Registration Act. The appeals court also noted that its “rigid” ruling will not likely affect other voters, since the state changed the law in 2017 to give voters an extra day to register if the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday.

Georgia: U.S. District Judge Steve Jones scaled down a 2018 lawsuit alleging broad problems with Georgia’s elections, ruling Tuesday that he will only consider allegations involving voter registration cancellations, inaccurate voter lists and election worker training. The decision allows the case, filed by allies of Democrat Stacey Abrams in the wake of her 2018 loss in the race for governor, to move toward a trial. Jones threw out claims about voting machines, voter list security, potential hacking vulnerabilities, polling place closures and inadequate resources. Those allegations were no longer relevant either because of changes in state law or the plaintiffs lacked standing, according to Jones’ 72-page ruling on the state’s motion for summary judgment. The lawsuit will now focus on the legality of the state’s “use-it-or-lose-it” law, which cancels the registrations of voters who don’t participate in elections for several years. Jones also allowed the case to address Georgia’s “exact match” policy for registering voters, allegations of voters who were incorrectly told they weren’t registered, and inconsistent handling of absentee and provisional ballots.

Michigan: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced this week the voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the integrity of Michigan’s 2020 general election. Last June, plaintiff Anthony Daunt filed a lawsuit suing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Director of Elections Johnathan Brater. Daunt, a Republican activist, made allegations of inadequate voter registration list maintenance. The lawsuit attempted to force state and local election officials in 16 counties, including Livingston County Clerk Elizabeth Hundley, to remove ineligible voters from the rolls in 16 Michigan counties with “abnormally high” registration levels. Hundley was named a defendant alongside the clerks from Washtenaw and Oakland counties, along with 13 others from northern Michigan. The suit alleged that Leelanau, outside Traverse City, has a registration rate of 102%, meaning they have more registered voters than eligible voters based on 2014-2018 census data. Livingston County was listed at 93.5%. According to Daunt, the statewide average is 73%. A release from Nessel’s office states that Daunt’s alleged claims rested on old, estimated census data and failed to account for the National Voter Registration Act’s required delays in removing names from voter registration files. The NVRA also prohibits most list maintenance activities within 90 days of a federal election. Michigan held federal elections in March, August and November of 2020, making maintenance activities a virtual impossibility. With those elections behind us, Secretary of State Benson has announced that ongoing voter registration list maintenance is being carried out in accordance with federal law.

Minnesota: A Tennessee company that had been advertising for security guards to monitor the 2020 election in Minnesota and then backed away from the idea must follow certain provisions in the future as part of a settlement agreement approved Tuesday in federal court. The Minnesota chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the League of Women Voters sued Atlas Aegis LLC, alleging voter intimidation. The complaint came two weeks before the election and after the company advertised for security workers in Minnesota. The agreement prohibits Atlas Aegis from deploying armed guards within 250 feet of any polling place or meeting locations of canvassing boards or presidential electors in Minnesota until 2025. The company “shall not otherwise intimidate, threaten, or coerce” voters, people who are helping voters or people who are counting votes, according to a consent decree. The agreement is not an admission of liability by Atlas Aegis, the decree states.

Tennessee: The Shelby County Election Commission intends to file suit against the county commission over funding it says it needs for new voting equipment. Election commissioners met in an executive session with attorneys about the matter Tuesday, according to a release from the election commission. “The County Commission has repeatedly denied our requests to fund the ballot marking devices, because they want paper ballots,” Steve Stamson, chairman of the election commissioners, said in a statement. He said the election commission attempted to put the funding measure back on a county commission agenda for January, but that the request was denied. Although a filing date was not discussed during the session, the suit is likely to be filed in a local court within the next 30 days, Suzanne Thompson, spokesperson for the election commission, said by phone. The ultimate filing date is up to attorney Allan Wade, she said. Wade, of The Wade Law Firm, will represent the election commission. Election commissioners say the need for funding for the new equipment is urgent.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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