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The Next Presidential Election Is Happening Right Now in the States – The Atlantic

By |2022-10-04T00:21:59-04:00October 4th, 2022|Election 2020|

Kristen McDonald Rivet let out a big, slightly rueful laugh. “I was underestimating the level of national attention this race was going to get,” she told me. “In the extreme, I was underestimating it.”A city commissioner in Bay City, Michigan, McDonald Rivet decided earlier this year to run as a Democrat for the State Senate. She knew the race would be competitive in a closely divided district. But she had little inkling that the seat she was seeking would come to be regarded by Democratic operatives as one of the most crucial in the country.Thousands of people run for state legislatures every two years, and many of the campaigns are important but sleepy affairs that hinge on debates over tax rates, school funding, and the condition of roads and bridges. Not this year, however, and not in Michigan. With Republican election deniers running up and down the ballot in key battlegrounds, many Democrats believe that the fight for power in state capitals this fall could ultimately determine the outcome of the presidential election in 2024.Democrats have carried Michigan in seven of the past eight presidential elections, but they have not held the majority in its State Senate for nearly 40 years. This year, however, they need to pick up just three seats to dislodge Republicans from the majority, and a new legislative map drawn by an independent redistricting commission has given Democrats an opportunity even in a year in which the overall political environment is likely to be challenging for the party.If Michigan is famously shaped like a mitten, the Thirty-Fifth District sits between its thumb and forefinger, encompassing the tri-cities of Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland near the shores of Lake Huron. The area voted narrowly for Joe Biden in 2020, but Mariah Hill, the caucus director for the Michigan Senate Democrats, told me she considers it the party’s “majority-making seat.”McDonald Rivet won her election as a commissioner in Bay City with about 350 votes; this year, in her first run for a partisan office, she told me she had raised about $425,000, which is a considerable sum for a state legislative candidate. National groups such as EMILY’s List, the States Project, and EveryDistrict are directing money and resources to her campaign.Progressives have been intensifying their focus on state legislative power over the past decade. In the 2010 GOP wave, Republicans caught Democrats flat-footed, swept them from majorities across the country in 2010, and then locked in their advantage for years to come through gerrymandering in many states. Democrats reclaimed seven state legislative chambers in 2018, but their momentum slowed in 2020, when they failed to pick up a single chamber. They also lost the majorities they had gained in New Hampshire.In an earlier era of U.S. history, battles for control of state legislatures took on national importance as proxy fights for power in Washington. Before the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, state legislatures—not voters—appointed U.S. senators. In modern times, however, state legislatures are frequently overlooked relative to their influence on policies that most directly affect voters’ lives. Donors shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to sway presidential and congressional elections. But while gridlock often consumes Capitol Hill, state capitals are hives of legislative activity by comparison.The urgency behind the Democratic push to win back legislative chambers escalated in the run-up to 2020, when the party knew that the majorities elected that year would be tasked with drawing legislative and congressional maps after the decennial census. But it might be even greater now. The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June allowed states to severely restrict or altogether ban abortion, instantly raising the stakes of legislative races across the country.Another potential Supreme Court decision has spiked Democratic fears to a new level. The justices in the term that begins this month will hear arguments in Moore v. Harper, an election-law case that legal experts say could dramatically reshape how ballots are cast and counted across the country. Republican litigants want the high court to affirm what’s known as the independent-state-legislature theory, which posits that the Constitution gives near-universal power over the running of federal elections to state legislatures. A ruling adopting that argument—and four conservative justices have signaled that they are open to such an interpretation—would allow partisan legislative majorities to ignore or overrule state courts and election officials, potentially granting legal legitimacy to efforts by Donald Trump’s allies to overturn the will of voters in 2024.With the next presidential election in mind, Democrats have prioritized gubernatorial elections in the closely fought states, including Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia, where Trump tried to jawbone legislators and other high-ranking officials into overturning his defeat in 2020. They’ve also steered donations to long-neglected secretary-of-state races in some of those same battlegrounds. But the looming Supreme Court ruling in Moore v. Harper has, for some Democrats, turned the fight for state legislative control into the most pivotal of all. “A single state legislative race in Michigan or Arizona could well prove more important to our future than any congressional or U.S. Senate race in America,” Daniel Squadron, a co-founder of the States Project, told me.Squadron’s group is spending $60 million to back Democrats in state legislative races in just five states, in what it is calling the largest investment by a single outside organization ever for those campaigns. The effort is in part designed to counter what has historically been a significant GOP advantage, led by the Republican State Leadership Committee and major conservative donors, such as the Koch family.Precisely how realistic the States Project’s goals are, and where Democrats should be spending most heavily, is a source of some debate within the party. In Arizona, a swing of just more than 1,000 votes in the State House and 2,000 votes in the State Senate would have flipped those chambers to Democrats in 2020, and the party needs to pick up only one or two seats this year to win majorities. But Arizona’s maps became more favorable to Republicans in redistricting, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee—the party’s official state legislative arm—views winning majorities there as a relative long shot, especially during a difficult midterm year in which Democrats typically lose seats. The DLCC is instead more focused on protecting Democratic incumbents in Arizona and defending the party’s narrow advantages in states like Colorado and Nevada. Jessica Post, the committee’s president, acknowledges that there is a “philosophical difference” between the DLCC and some of the outside progressive groups.“We think that the playing field is wider than simply flipping three battleground states,” Post told me. “We think that we have to protect Democratic majorities across the country.” The States Project is also investing in a few states where Democrats narrowly control the legislature, including Maine and Nevada. But Squadron defended the decision to play offense elsewhere, noting that swaying state legislative races costs “a fraction” of what it does to influence statewide and national elections. “It’s necessary,” he said. “The stakes are high enough that whether the odds are low, medium, or high, we have to take this on.”There is widespread agreement, including among Republicans, that the Michigan State Senate is in play, and that the race in the Thirty-Fifth District could be decisive. “There’s no question things are tight right now,” Gustavo Portela, the deputy chief of staff for the Michigan Republican Party, told me. GOP candidates are focusing their campaigns heavily on inflation, he said, though he noted that the new maps tilt toward Democrats and that Republicans currently lag them in fundraising.Campaigns and outside groups are running TV ads in some districts, but the candidate who wins a state legislative race tends to be the one who knocks on the most doors. McDonald Rivet is facing a Republican state representative, Annette Glenn, who supported Trump and called for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election in Michigan, which Joe Biden won by more than 150,000 votes. (Her campaign did not respond to requests for comment.)With an army of about 100 volunteers, McDonald Rivet told me her team has already knocked on more than 30,000 doors. Many of the people who answer cite worries about kitchen-table economic issues, or schools, or health care, or abortion—the topics you’d expect voters to bring up. But a surprising number, McDonald Rivet said, express unprompted concern about the future of American democracy, about whether election results will be respected. “I often hear people say, ‘I never thought I would question the health of democracy,’” she said. “‘These are things I have taken for granted my entire life.’”Protecting democracy is just one of the many issues McDonald Rivet highlights when she talks with voters, either at their homes or during the small meet-and-greet events she holds in the district. But she, too, is worried. Michigan Republicans have nominated election deniers for both governor and secretary of state. McDonald Rivet told me that some Republican candidates for the state legislature have stated publicly that the only electoral outcome they would accept in 2024 is a Trump victory.When I asked Portela whether a Republican legislative majority would honor the result of the popular vote for president, he twice dodged the question. “That’s nothing but fear-mongering from Democrats who are desperate,” he replied. “That’s not what’s at stake right now.” Perhaps he’s right. But to Democrats, it’s the evasiveness, the refusal to affirm a fundamental tenet of American elections, that suggests they are right to worry.

This Is the Biggest Threat to Our Election System – CNET

By |2022-10-04T00:22:01-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Election 2020|

What's happening Local elections offices are being flooded with records requests, phone calls and in-person visits from supporters of former President Trump who still falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen. They're swamping small staffs that need to focus on the November elections. Why it matters County clerks, along with advocates for free and fair elections, say these people aren't actually looking for answers. They're trying to monopolize time and resources ahead of the midterms. What's next Candidates who continue to falsely claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen are running for key state-wide offices. Democracy advocates fear that if they're elected they could put in place election laws that disenfranchise many voters and choose to not certify the results of the next presidential election. The office of Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum is being inundated with Freedom of Information Act requests. The filings asking for the county records aren't coming from the local media or even political candidates looking to dig up the voting records of their rivals. They're being sent by seemingly regular people. What they all have in common is they're looking for information about how the county conducted the 2020 presidential election. CNET Most of the requests feature the same text, but the county is required by law to respond to each of them in a timely manner. So instead of focusing on the upcoming November elections, Byrum says, her staff is spending a large part of its time and resources to deal with one that was supposed to be settled two years ago.She isn't alone. Election officials across the country have reported big spikes in FOIA requests. Most, like the ones Byrum has received, are clearly coming from supporters of former President Donald Trump who continue to promote the lie that the 2020 election was stolen."This is an assault," says Byrum, who for the past decade has served as clerk of the county that sits in the middle of Michigan and is home to about 285,000 people, along with the state capitol of Lansing and Michigan State University. In the 2020 election, Biden won the county with about 65% of the vote. What's worse, Byrum says, is when resources are spread thin and staff is overworked, there's a real possibility that election security could be affected. For example, a clerk who is short on time might decide to email a password instead of following the procedure of giving it over the phone.Elections officials say the spike in FOIA requests is just the most recent attack against the elections system at the state and local level from those who seek to undermine trust in the system for their own political gain. When people lose that trust, they don't vote, or they vote for candidates they might not otherwise consider, they say. That could be especially disastrous in a non-presidential year like this one with generally lower voter turnout.Boosting the stakes this year is the fact that 2020 election deniers are running for key state-wide offices in more than half the country. Under the guise of election reform, many are campaigning on plans for changes that could disenfranchise countless voters.Looking to the not-so-distant future, if those candidates get into office, it could also go so far as to put the 2024 presidential election at risk, says Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the federal agency charged with protecting the nation's critical infrastructure from cyberthreats."This is a defining moment in American democracy," Krebs said in an interview. "Do we want to be a democracy? If so, we need to get out and vote like it and not put deniers into positions of authority."Former CISA Director Chris Krebs. Getty Hacking fearsMuch was made during the 2016 presidential election about the possibility that a foreign government, such as Russia's, could "hack" the election, either changing results and winners without anyone knowing or changing them to be so obviously improbable that it would destroy trust in the system.In particular, security experts worried about the then-use in certain states of direct-recording electronic, or DRE, systems that recorded votes exclusively digitally, without a paper printout that could be audited by election officials or used in a recount.There also were concerns about the security of online state voter databases. The Department of Homeland Security later confirmed that hackers did try to infiltrate the election systems of 21 states, but the agency says only a few were actually breached and that no vote-tabulation systems were affected.  Partially in response to that, elections were declared critical infrastructure in 2017, the same as power plants and oil pipelines, making federal funding available and allowing CISA to get involved.By the time the 2020 presidential election rolled around, many states had shored up their security. Many electronic-only voting machines were either replaced or retrofitted to include an auditable paper trail. Other outdated and aging voting equipment was dealt with as well.As of today, only six states still use DRE systems, and all those states have some sort of plan to replace them in the near future, says Pamela Smith, president and CEO of Verified Voting, which for a long time has tracked the use of election technology.Priorities changed, too."I think there's a mindset of security now that wasn't always there before," Smith says, adding that though in years past, security might've been one of the things considered by elections officials, it took the targeting of voter databases to bring it to the forefront for everybody.There also were worries about a potential hacking ahead of the 2020 election, especially related to voter registration databases. Municipal computer systems in multiple states were hit with ransomware attacks, and the FBI confirmed that both Russia and Iran had obtained US voter data with the intent of using it to interfere with the elections by using it to send false information about the election to voters.But none of those attempts actually interfered with the elections themselves, and there's no evidence of any kind of widespread election fraud. Krebs, who as CISA director had spearheaded a campaign to combat election-related disinformation, declared the 2020 vote the "most secure election" in American history.The fact that some people continue to deny that two years later still gets him riled up. "I've gotten a lot of shit for saying [that]," he said. "But let's be perfectly freaking clear here. It was the most scrutinized election. It was the most litigated election. It was the most audited election. There were the most paper ballots associated with votes in this election. It was a legit free and fair election."Krebs' declaration in the days following the election came within hours of a tweet from then President Trump that pushed the lie that ballot systems had deleted votes cast for him, despite the fact that elections experts and fact-checking groups had found the claim to be false. Throughout the following days, Trump continued to tweet lies that the election was rigged through voting systems, stoking the flames of misinformation and disinformation that months later would be followed by the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol by some of his followers.As for Krebs, he was fired, as he likes to say, by tweet, days later. He's since gone on to start his own cybersecurity consultancy and co-chaired the Aspen Institute's Commission on Information Disorder, which studied the effects of misinformation and disinformation. It issued a report late last year that included a set of recommendations for addressing the crisis.In just two short years, Krebs says, the dynamics of election security have changed dramatically. Ahead of the 2020 contests, the federal and state governments had a fairly unified approach, but this year political pressures from election deniers have prompted some states to drop out of federal election security programs that could've helped them."It's a victim of the 'stop the steal' movement, 'the big lie,' that fact one person just couldn't take the 'L' and go on with their life," Krebs says. "Instead, they had to have this political movement and the way that's manifested isn't so much at the national level. It's metastasized at the state and local level."Disinformation breeds election insecurityIt's that political movement, along with the disinformation powering it, that has the local election officials far more worried about their neighbors than they ever were about Russia or Iran.  That's especially true in Michigan, a swing state with 16 electoral votes. President Joe Biden narrowly won it in 2020 after Trump took the state four years before with an equally slim margin. The Trump campaign filed court challenges to Michigan's results, claiming voter fraud and that its election systems were insecure, but they were all ultimately dismissed. That hasn't stopped some of his supporters and they're only getting angrier.Byrum, the clerk in Ingham County who previously served three terms as a Democratic member of the state's legislature, says people are "more charged" these days when talking about elections and election administrators."You can often feel the tension, and that's concerning," she says, noting that she's well enough known and represents a small enough community that she often gets recognized while out in public."I'm at the grocery store, you know, and looking for a box of cereal for my kids, and I'm walking by someone who has a 'Trump Won' T-shirt on. That certainly doesn't lend itself to making me feel like my service is appreciated."That's something a lot of people just don't want to deal with, Byrum said, noting that since the 2020 election, about two dozen of the clerks representing Michigan's 83 counties have either stepped down or decided not to run for reelection.The threat of political violence isn't an idle one for Byrum and other Michigan elections officials. Two men were convicted in August of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home in 2020 with the intent of starting a national rebellion.The impact of misinformation and disinformation is also being felt across the country in Northern California's majority Republican Shasta County, where Cathy Darling Allen serves as clerk and registrar of voters. Though her office received just three Public Records Act (California's version of a FOIA) requests in all of 2021, more than 50 landed on her desk in just July and August of this year.The often three- or four-page requests being sent from all over the country need to be individually reviewed by her staff and legal counsel to make sure that they're responded to properly, sucking up time and resources. Allen, who was elected for the fifth time this past June, says Shasta County is a tight-knit and giving community that's far removed from California's bustling coastal region, adding that she's always amazed at how much money it can raise for those in need when massive wildfires hit. She says she's not upset with the individual people sending the requests, but she does object to the groups pushing people to send them, saying they want to disrupt preparations for November for their own political and financial gain."If we have a problem in November of '22 that only helps bolster their narrative, which helps them make more money from folks who have been taken in by their bad messages and their false information," she says.Allen noted that a Shasta County appearance in September by Douglas Frank, the high school math and science teacher from Ohio whose sham analysis of the 2020 election has been glorified by election conspiracy theorists, drew a paid crowd of more than 100 people.   Back in Michigan, the impact of misinformation and disinformation is also felt by Justin Roebuck, who for the past six years has served as clerk of the heavily Republican Ottawa County on the shores of Lake Michigan, about 85 miles to the west of Byrum's home in Ingham County.Roebuck says his staff is spending about 25% of its time dealing with 2020 election FOIA requests along with countless phone calls from people asking about everything from the brand of voting equipment used by the county to how it stores that gear.That's despite the fact that Trump won Ottawa County in 2020 with about 60% of the vote.Meanwhile, Roebuck's election workers are reading news accounts of some of the things happening nationally and asking about what's being done to protect their physical safety. In response, Roebuck, the father of two young children, says he's holding tabletop exercises with local clerks and the county's sheriff department, so election workers know what to do if there's ever a threat to their safety.Discussions about potential violence at the polls are also happening in Shasta County, Allen says. For the first time, she says, staffers are "really digging into it."There are also internal security threats that need to be guarded against, Roebuck says. Ottawa County trains about 1,200 election workers each cycle. Part of the challenge this year, he said, has been correcting the misinformation they may have gotten from their respective political parties.Roebuck says he didn't mind the many questions brought up by skeptical new election workers ahead of the state's primaries this summer. "Sitting down, taking the training and serving on Election Day is a great way to expose someone to the process to see how it works, calm their concerns and fears and also give them a perspective that they didn't have before," he says.But Byrum says the insider threat goes beyond well-meaning election workers who've been indoctrinated with misinformation. Clerks have to worry about inadvertently hiring moles bent on intentionally disrupting the process.She pointed to reports of election workers being encouraged by Republican Party officials to ignore rules and sneak cellphones or small notepads and pens into vote counting centers so they can take notes and report back to party officials. Some states ban the use of smartphones and writing utensils in polling places in an attempt to preserve voter privacy."These precinct workers are supposed to be employees of the local clerk," she says. "They take an oath of office and it makes it much more difficult when the party is actively recruiting spies."Officials for the Michigan Republican Party didn't respond to an email seeking comment.Shrinking workforces and flat budgetsAs many municipal employees who work full time for election departments struggle with increasing workloads that often aren't offset by budget and staffing increases, their population is dwindling.In general, the smaller the community, the fewer full-time election workers on the payroll in the first place, and more than a third of communities don't even have one full-time election employee, according to the Democracy Fund, an independent, nonpartisan foundation that, among other things, promotes free and fair elections.They're also nearing retirement, the fund says. As of last year, 74% of chief local election officials were over age 50, and a quarter were over age 65.But the recent "mass exodus" of workers from the profession goes beyond retirements and aging, says Tammy Patrick, the Democracy Fund's senior adviser for elections."It's not because they aren't still passionate or don't love the job," she says. "It's directly related to the assault on themselves and the work that they are so passionate about. "It's a personal affront to election officials when people challenge and impune the integrity of the election system."Meanwhile, while workloads have ballooned, many municipal budgets haven't. One of the biggest challenges facing elections is that they're  "perpetually underfunded," Patrick says. When funding does come, it's usually a lump sum tied to some kind of event like a presidential election, which makes it tough for local officials to determine how much they can spend on things like staff and security each year.Like Ingham County's Byrum, Patrick says mistakes will be made during elections if workers are exhausted. Also like Byrum, she worries about the possible effects of disinformation on election workers who might buy into a conspiracy theory and then give people access to computer systems or voter equipment that they shouldn't.That's what happened in Coffee County, Georgia, where Trump supporters, likely looking for evidence of fraud, managed to illegally copy election software and other data after the 2020 election. Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's secretary of state, recently said that his office would replace the voting equipment."It's not new that it could happen," Patrick says of the breaches. "It's new because it has happened."Fears for future electionsWhile disinformation is clearly having an effect on elections and the people who run them, it's also affecting the people who are running in them.Patrick says it's the never-ending stream of lies pushing the bogus conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was rigged that's propelled numerous election-denier candidates through their primaries and into their state's general elections.Deniers of the 2020 election results are running for key offices this November in 27 states, according to the nonpartisan group States United. That includes half of this year's 36 governor's races, with 15 of those candidates running as Republicans.Election deniers are also running in a third of this November's 30 state attorney general races and 12 of the 27 secretary of state races, according to the group. Three states -- Alabama, Arizona and Michigan -- have election deniers running for all three of those key offices.Many of those candidates have vowed to enact policies that would curtail voting rights for some people under the guise of improving election security. These kinds of laws have already been passed in several states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which also notes that they disproportionately affect people of color.On top of that, it's also possible that state officials working in tandem could refuse to certify an election's results if they don't like the result. Krebs notes that if the key swing states of Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania -- three states with election deniers on the ballot this November -- had gone the other way in 2020, Trump would still be president, which actually would have amounted to a stolen election. Meanwhile, more election deniers in Congress could potentially negate future election results at the national level too. On the same day that Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, a total of 147 Republicans in the House and Senate combined voted to overturn the presidential election results, despite no evidence of fraud.Patrick says the irony is that it's truly up to those who vote in November to decide which way they want things to go."It's not pretty, and if someone had told me a decade ago that this is where we would be right now, I would not believe them," she says. "There's no way."Patrick and the county clerks also said that everyone who can, even those with questions or who are skeptical about the election process, should get involved and sign up to work a polling place on Election Day. The important thing is that they're coming from a place of wanting to learn about and understand the election process.Both Smith, of Verified Voting, and Krebs say this also means educating kids about the election process, and they note that many schools don't teach basic civics anymore.As for today's adult voters, Krebs was a bit more blunt."My great hope -- and hope's a terrible strategy -- is Americans see through the BS and turn out and don't elect election deniers," he says.For Roebuck, the Ottawa County, Michigan, clerk who's worked to build trust in his county's elections, the possibility of having election deniers decide how elections will be run at the state level could prove to be a "huge challenge."He says it'll be up to voters to ask the right questions and not blindly trust what candidates or anyone else says. At the same time, candidates have an obligation to be truthful."I think what we're seeing, not just here but nationally, is a playing on the fears that people have and using it to political advantage," Robuck says. "And I think that's dangerous."

Supreme Court rejects Trump ally Mike Lindell's appeal in 2020 election lawsuit

By |2022-10-04T00:22:03-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Election 2020|

ReutersAt least 15 killed in latest Ecuadorean prison violenceAt least 15 prisoners were killed in a prison in the Ecuadorean city of Latacunga on Monday, Ecuador's SNAI prison agency said, and another 21 were injured in the latest incident of deadly jail violence in the Andean country. Authorities are working on identifying the bodies, officials said, while Oswaldo Coronel, governor of the Cotopaxi province, which includes Latacunga, told reporters security had been restored. "At the moment, according to the forensic information from the national police, 15 people have died (and) 21 people have been injured, of which 14 have already been evacuated to hospitals in the city of Latacunga," the governor said.

Georgia election heads survived 2020; now they're bracing for this year

By |2022-10-04T00:22:06-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Election 2020|

Voters are asking a lot of questions, and Holden said she’s giving them detailed answers about the tedious process of how Georgia’s voting machines are tested, how they work and how elections are kept secure.Some election directors quit after 2020. In metro Atlanta, three of the region’s four largest counties — DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett — have replaced their election directors.Cobb County Election Director Janine Eveler, who was recognized for excellence in election administration last year at a conference of Georgia election officials, said antagonism toward election officials escalated after Election Day.The eyes of the nation were on Georgia during a hand recount of all 5 million ballots cast statewide, and security officers were dispatched to protect vote-counters worried about their safety, Eveler said.“I do still get emails from the fringe. They send me all kinds of links with conspiracy theories from unreliable sources,” Eveler said. “We did learn from the 2020 elections how much more scrutiny there is. We’ve tightened up procedures. And the folks that ask these questions have learned more about what we do.”Three vote counts and repeated investigations — including an audit of absentee ballot signatures in Cobb — upheld the results of the presidential election.This year, Cobb has increased security and documentation to verify that ballots haven’t been tampered with, she said. About 56% of Cobb voters supported Biden.Credit: Alyssa PointerCredit: Alyssa PointerThe burdens of running a transparent and accountable election have only increased, said Chris Harvey, Georgia’s former elections director. County election workers are expected to be better prepared to audit election results, maintain airtight election security records and respond to the public.“They’re still trying to work through stuff that happened two years ago, and they’re looking at possibly a whole new round of it. If it ends up being close and allegations are made, it’s likely to start over again,” Harvey said. “Nothing has gone away. Everything just keeps getting added.”In Forsyth County north of Atlanta, where Trump received 66% of the vote, Elections Director Mandi Smith said one of her biggest concerns this year is recruiting enough poll workers after so many left because of COVID-19 or the fallout from 2020.“There’s a different spotlight on what we and our poll workers do than we had in the past,” Smith said. “People have always been watching, and we expect them to. Honestly, all we can ever do is take our past experiences and apply them to the future.”While Smith said she’s confident in her employees and processes, she can’t predict how voters would respond to another tight or contested election.The 2020 election was a “perfect storm” of a new statewide voting system, COVID-19 and a heated political environment, said Milton Kidd, elections director in Douglas County west of Atlanta where 62% of votes went to Biden.Poll workers dealt with people who took pictures of their license plates and called them “unpatriotic” while they were trying to do their jobs, Kidd said. In the elections office, angry voters repeatedly called and emailed employees with baseless complaints about the election.“There are people in the community that are encouraging individuals to show up at polling locations to cause distractions and basically agitate in what will be a contentious time,” Kidd said. “The removal of civility from our electoral process pains me. I lose sleep because of that.”Kidd said he’s prepared for high turnout, and he’s trying to educate voters about how they can get involved to learn about the election process firsthand by serving as poll workers or members of bipartisan vote review panels that count ambiguous ballot marks.The difficulties of running elections stretched across Democratic and Republican counties, in both urban and rural areas.In Jackson County north of Athens, where Trump won 78% of the vote, the 2020 election was a “nightmare” because of complaints from all sides about mask wearing rules along with a flood of absentee ballots that required additional workers to process, Elections Director Jennifer Logan said.“There’s just a lot more people coming in and asking a lot of questions, but we use it as teaching moments,” Logan said. “People now are just superexcited about elections, which is good and bad. All of our efforts go to waste if you don’t show up and vote.”Oct. 10: Absentee ballots begin to be mailed.Oct. 11: Deadline to register to voteOct. 17: In-person early voting beginsOct. 22: First day of Saturday votingOct. 28: Last day to request an absentee ballotOct. 29: Second day of Saturday votingNov. 4: Last day of in-person early votingNov. 8: Election DayDec. 6: Runoff election (if necessary)

Trump files $475m defamation suit against CNN over coverage since 2020 election

By |2022-10-04T00:22:07-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Election 2020|

WASHINGTON — Former US president Donald Trump sued CNN on Monday, accusing the cable television news network of defamation and seeking $475 million in punitive damages. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focuses primarily on the term “The Big Lie” about Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud that he says cost him the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden. He accused CNN of waging a campaign of “libel and slander” against him because it “fears” he will run for president again in 2024. “CNN has sought to use its massive influence — purportedly as a ‘trusted’ news source — to defame the plaintiff in the minds of its viewers and readers for the purpose of defeating him politically,” Trump’s lawyers said in the 29-page complaint. In a follow-up statement laced with outrage, Trump said Monday that “in the coming weeks and months we will also be filing lawsuits against a large number of other Fake News Media Companies for their lies, defamation, and wrongdoing,” notably regarding coverage of the 2020 election. Get The Times of Israel's Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories By signing up, you agree to the terms Trump’s lawsuit claims “The Big Lie,” a phrase with Nazi connotations, has been used in reference to him more than 7,700 times on CNN since January 2021. “It is intended to aggravate, scare and trigger people,” he said. “The ‘Big Lie’ is a direct reference to a tactic employed by Adolf Hitler and appearing in Hitler’s Mein Kampf,” the complaint said. “The phrase is not taken lightly and is not bandied about blithely.”

Wisconsin's Johnson hedges on accepting possible election defeat – MSNBC News

By |2022-10-04T00:22:09-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Election 2020|

Sen. Ron Johnson has long been seen as one of this year’s most vulnerable Republican incumbents. The Wisconsin senator has struggled for years to become a serious policymaker, and he’s the only GOP incumbent this year to be running in a state where President Joe Biden won in 2020. Given the circumstances, and his poor approval rating, Johnson would appear to have a problem.At least, that is, in theory. Despite his ignominious record, Johnson’s odds of winning a third term keep improving, as a barrage of well-financed attack ads weaken support for Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. According to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, the Republican had a 51% chance of winning as of a few weeks ago. Today, that figure stands at 66%.But what if Johnson ends up losing anyway? What if the two-term incumbent’s record catches up with him and Wisconsin voters decide to make a change? Will Johnson concede? The Wisconsin State Journal reported over the weekend:To the Democrats at the top of the ticket this November, the answer is simple: Win or lose, Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes say, they will accept the results. But for their Republican opponents — Tim Michels and Ron Johnson — the question is more fraught, with neither willing to say unconditionally whether he would agree to the outcome once the results are certified.Asked if the senator would concede in the event of a defeat, a campaign spokesperson for Johnson said, “It is certainly his hope that he can.”That’s not much of an answer. As Republican antipathy toward democracy intensifies, a senator should be able to do more than just hope that he can accept election results.Johnson’s campaign spokesperson added that the uncertain response is the result of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers rejecting anti-voting measures approved by Wisconsin Republicans.As for the Badger State’s gubernatorial race, Evers’ GOP challenger is approaching the elections from a similar perspective. Michels — who has said the 2020 election was “maybe” stolen and that he would consider decertifying the 2020 results if elected — added unnecessary qualifiers when the Wisconsin State Journal asked the Republican about honoring the 2022 results.Michels’ spokesperson said Friday that he would accept the will of the voters, “provided the election is conducted fairly and securely.”And who gets to decide whether the election results meet Michels’ standards for fairness and security? Presumably Michels does.As regular readers know, it was in September 2020 when Donald Trump first balked publicly at the idea of a peaceful transfer of power. What we didn’t fully realize at the time was that he was helping create a new normal for Republican politics. The Washington Post recently published a report on a dozen Republican candidates in competitive races for governor and Senate declining to say whether they would accept the legitimacy of the upcoming results.The New York Times did the same thing, asking nominees for governor and the Senate in midterm battlegrounds whether they would commit to accepting this year’s election results. The results were similar: Most Republicans either wouldn’t answer or wouldn’t make such a commitment, while Democratic candidates said they would respect the results, win or lose.We used to be a country in which questions like these weren’t even asked. As we’ve discussed, it was a foregone conclusion for generations: The United States was a stable democracy, and the world’s pre-eminent superpower. Of course its candidates for powerful offices agreed to honor election results. The entire line of inquiry was unnecessary since the answers were assumed.Now, as the radicalization of Republican politics intensifies, it’s no longer considered outlandish to ask GOP candidates whether they’ll accept voters’ judgment — and it’s no longer surprising when Republicans fail to say “yes.”Complicating matters, politicians like Johnson are echoing the sentiments of GOP voters: My MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones noted the latest poll conducted by Yahoo News and YouGov, in which fewer than half of Republican voters said candidates who receive fewer votes should concede.In a recent analysis on threats to our democracy, the Times’ David Leonhardt explained, “The first threat is acute: a growing movement inside one of the country’s two major parties — the Republican Party — to refuse to accept defeat in an election.”It’s amazing to see just how many in the GOP are proving him right.Steve Benen is a producer for "The Rachel Maddow Show," the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He's also the bestselling author of "The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics."

US warns about foreign efforts to sway American voters – KY3

By |2022-10-04T00:22:11-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Election 2020|

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal officials are warning ahead of the November midterms that Russia is working to amplify doubts about the integrity of U.S. elections while China is interested in undermining American politicians it sees as threats to Beijing’s interests.An unclassified intelligence advisory, newly obtained by The Associated Press, says China is probably seeking to influence select races to “hinder candidates perceived to be particularly adversarial to Beijing.” In the advisory, sent to state and local officials in mid-September, intelligence officials said they believe Beijing sees a lower risk in meddling in the midterms versus a presidential election.While officials said they’ve not identified any credible threats to election infrastructure in the U.S., the latest intelligence warning comes amid the peak of a midterm campaign in which a rising number of candidates and voters openly express a lack of confidence in the nation’s democratic processes.Foreign countries have long sought to sway public opinion in America, perhaps most notably in a covert Russian campaign that used social media to sow discord on hot-button social issues ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. government has been on high alert since, warning about efforts by Russia, China and Iran to meddle in American politics and shape how voters think.The U.S. faces foreign influence campaigns while still dealing with growing threats to election workers domestically and the systematic spread of falsehoods and disinformation about voter fraud. Former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters — including candidates running to oversee elections in several states — continue to lie about the 2020 presidential election even as no evidence has emerged of significant voter fraud.“The current environment is pretty complex, arguably much more complex than it was in 2020,” Jen Easterly, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity arm, told reporters Monday.Russia is amplifying divisive topics already circulating on the Internet — including doubts about the integrity of American elections — but not creating its own content, said a senior FBI official who briefed reporters Monday on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the bureau.Overall, the official said, China’s efforts are focused more on shaping policy perspectives, including at the state and local level, rather than on electoral outcomes.Still, China appears to have focused its attention on a “subset of candidates” in the U.S. it sees as opposed to its policy interests, the official explained. In one high-profile case, the Justice Department in March charged Chinese operatives in a plot to undermine the candidacy of a Chinese dissident and student leader of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 who was running for a congressional seat in New York.The briefing Monday came weeks after DHS distributed an advisory that described China’s approach during this midterm as different from the 2020 election, when the intelligence community assessed that China considered but did not deploy efforts to influence the presidential election.There were publicly revealed examples during the last presidential election of influence campaigns originating in China. Facebook in September 2020 took down pages that posted what it said was a “small amount of content” on the election; that effort focused primarily on the South China Sea.The DHS advisory doesn’t list specific races or states where it thinks China-linked actors might operate, but cites the March indictment alleging efforts to undermine the New York congressional candidate. It also suggests China’s interest in politics extends beyond the U.S., saying Australian intelligence since 2017 has scrutinized Chinese government attempts to support legislators or candidates, including those who have amplified Beijing’s stances on select issues.A DHS spokesperson said the department regularly shares threat information with federal, state and local officials.Chinese and Russian officials and state media have historically rejected U.S. allegations of election meddling and pointed in turn to American influence efforts in other countries.State and local governments are limited in what they can do against influence campaigns, given that “their job isn’t to police political conversation,” said Larry Norden, an election security expert with the Brennan Center for Justice.“I do think there is a lot voters should be doing,” he added. “If they are seeing messages about candidates presented in an alarmist or emotionally charged way, their radar should be going up. They should be checking the accuracy of claims, and if they are seeing false claims, they should be letting the social media companies know.”Scott Bates, the deputy secretary of state in Connecticut, noted that election officials in the state had responded to warnings about foreign influence dating back to 2016.“Our best defense is to have an educated populace,” he said.He drew a distinction between misinformation about election processes and misinformation about a candidate or campaign.“The election process, we can protect that,” he said. “If you’re talking about talking trash about a candidate, we’re not in the business of patrolling that.”Some signs of influence operations from Russia and China are already public.Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said in late September that it disabled a sprawling disinformation network coming from Russia involving sham news websites and hundreds of fake social media accounts. Researchers also exposed a much smaller network originating in China that was intended to spread divisive political content in the U.S., but reached only a tiny audience.Officials at the FBI and DHS said Monday they were not aware of any credible threat to election infrastructure. A senior FBI official said that though officials were not tracking any specific effort by a foreign government to hack election equipment, they were nonetheless concerned that an adversary could spread exaggerated or false claims of compromise to undermine confidence in the elections.Besides concerns about cybersecurity and foreign influence campaigns, the FBI is increasingly focused on physical threats to election workers.The FBI created a task force in the summer of 2021 to deal with an influx of threats to election security workers. Since then, it has received and reviewed more than 1,000 reports of harassing communication. Most of the harassment came from email, phone calls and social media, and the majority primarily originated in states where there were ongoing audits of election results.Of those tips, about 11% met the threshold of a potential federal crime. The task force has made four arrests, the FBI said. Officials cited constitutional barriers in bringing more cases because of the First Amendment’s strong protection of an individual’s political speech.___Associated Press journalist Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Georgia election probe enters new phase with search warrants – WHEC.com

By |2022-10-04T00:22:14-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Election 2020|

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia prosecutor investigating whether former President Donald Trump and his allies broke the law trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state is seeking search warrants in the case, a sign that the wide-ranging probe has entered a new phase.The revelation came Monday in a court order filed by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who’s overseeing the special grand jury seated to help the investigation. In an order sealing any search warrants and related documents from being made public, McBurney wrote that District Attorney Fani Willis’ office is “now seeking to obtain and execute a series of search warrants, the affidavits for which are predicated on sensitive information acquired during the investigation.”Disclosure of the information could compromise the investigation, McBurney wrote, “by, among other things, causing flight from prosecution, destruction of or tampering with evidence, and intimidation of potential witnesses.” It could also result in risks to the “safety and well-being” of people involved in the investigation, he wrote.It wasn’t immediately clear who the targets of the search warrants are or whether any search warrants had yet to be approved by a judge. To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a judge they have probable cause that a crime occurred at the location where authorities want to search.As Willis’ investigation ramps up, the public court filings in the case have provided a rare window into the workings of a special grand jury that meets behind closed doors.Willis, a Democrat, opened the investigation early last year, shortly after the release of a recording of a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump suggested that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger could “find” the votes needed to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden.In addition to the Trump-Raffensperger call, Willis confirmed early on that she was investigating a call that Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made to Raffensperger, the sudden departure of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta in early January 2021 and statements made during legislative committee meetings by people pushing debunked claims casting doubt on the legitimacy of the state’s election.Court filings in recent months have also shown that Willis is interested in a slate of fake electors who signed a certificate in December 2020 falsely stating that Trump had won the state and that they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors. She said in a court filing that the 16 Georgia Republicans who signed that certificate have all been notified they are targets of the investigation, meaning they could face criminal charges.Attorneys for Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor and Trump lawyer, say their client has also been notified that he’s a target of Willis’ investigation. He appeared at state legislative committee hearings in December 2020 and made claims of election fraud in Georgia. Giuliani was also involved in coordinating the fake elector plan, Willis wrote in a court filing. He testified before the special grand jury in August.Willis’ investigation has also expanded into a breach of voting equipment at the elections office in a rural Georgia county, some 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.Documents, emails, security video and deposition testimony produced in response to subpoenas in a long-running lawsuit have shown that lawyer Sidney Powell and other Trump allies hired a computer forensics team to go to Coffee County to make complete copies of data and software on elections equipment there. Willis is seeking testimony from Powell and has also requested documents from the company that employs the computer forensics team.Another thread Willis seems to be pursuing is alleged attempts to pressure a Fulton County election worker. A petition filed last month indicates she wants to question Harrison Floyd, a director of Black Voices for Trump. Willis said in the petition that Floyd and Trevian Kutti, whom Willis described as a Chicago-based “purported publicist,” tried to pressure Ruby Freeman. Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, were election workers falsely accused by Trump allies of pulling fraudulent ballots from a suitcase during ballot counting.As the investigation has progressed, a number of people who have been summoned to testify have tried to avoid testifying. Most have been unsuccessful. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who’s facing a reelection challenge from Democrat Stacey Abrams, managed to delay his testimony until after next month’s election.Graham’s attempt to fight his subpoena is currently pending before a federal appeals court. Willis has said in a court filing that she wants to talk to Graham about calls he made to Raffensperger and his staff in which he reportedly asked about “reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump.” Graham has denied any wrongdoing and said his status as a senator shields him from having to testify.A number of high-ranking Georgia state officials, including Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr, have already testified before the special grand jury. Others in Trump’s orbit who’ve undergone questioning include attorneys John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro. And the panel is still expecting testimony from others, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.Willis has indicated she could seek to compel testimony from Trump himself. The former president has hired a legal team in Atlanta and last month disparaged the investigation as a “strictly political Witch Hunt!”Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Louisville's inspector general seeking more transparency from LMPD for investigations

By |2022-10-04T00:23:17-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Breonna Taylor|

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The man hired by the city of Louisville to investigate complaints against Metro Police has a complaint of his own.He can't get answers out of the police department.Months of social unrest in Louisville and cries for accountability after the police killing of Breonna Taylor led to the creation of the Civilian Review and Accountability Board. Last year, the city's first inspector general was hired."We get the complaint, then we assign it to an investigator, the investigator does the preliminary investigation, they bring it to me, we discuss it," Inspector General Ed Harness said.Once a month, the Civilian Board meets and Harness presents complaints that were submitted. The board has reviewed 16 since June, with at least four approved for a full investigation.Once a full investigation has commenced, Harness said his team requests information from the Louisville Metro Police Department to help investigate the officer's action during the incident in question. Harness said his team reviews information including all body cam video, police reports and statements from parties involved."It would be everything that's necessary for us to reach a full and complete conclusion," he said.However, Harness said the following steps have included "speed bumps," courtesy of the police department."We can't do that and provide transparency if in fact we're getting redacted documents, and we're being hindered from getting complete access to the information," he said.In one investigation, involving potential bias in a domestic violence case, Harness said LMPD is withholding crucial details and a witness.When WDRB News asked LMPD for response to Harness saying his office should have direct access to information, the police department sent the following statement:“The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division provides a range of tools and serves as the central repository for large amounts of information available to law enforcement agencies. CJIS is central to an agency’s efforts, whether running wanted checks on individuals for active warrants, criminal history checks for employment purposes, checking cars for being stolen etc. CJIS information is, by definition, available to qualified employees of a law enforcement agency and violation(s) of CJIS protocol by an individual can compromise the entire agency’s access. The information Mr. Harness is seeking qualifies as CJIS protected information and as such, LMPD has reached out to CJIS for written guidance of how best to navigate this terrain without compromising the agency’s standing with their organization.Regarding the detective not appearing before him: the case in question stems from a 2018 incident in which the lead investigator was tragically killed shortly after beginning the investigation.  The case was then transferred to another detective for investigation and has since been reviewed by numerous detectives and supervisors.  This review includes a PSU investigation, which was completed in 2020, that uncovered no wrongdoing by any department members.  Upon the advice of counsel, the officer in question has declined to provide a statement to the OIG due to the circumstances of the case.”In turn, Harness said he consulted with Kentucky State Police on a memorandum to find a solution."And I submitted that to Chief Shields a couple of months ago, expecting that it would be signed so we can move forward," he said. "But the position of the department is that they still want to wait for the opinion of the FBI."Harness said some review documents are heavily redacted and, in a separate investigation, they're still waiting on the full body cam footage from the shootout at Shawnee Park with Herbert Lee.Some of these roadblocks were foreseen, but state lawmakers didn't give the review board subpoena powers. Based on precedent, Harness said the Department of Justice just might at the end of its ongoing investigation into LMPD."And we will be granted essentially unfettered access to the information that we need to do our investigations," Harness said.Harness said he's also working with Mayor Greg Fischer's office on solutions to collecting information.When WDRB News reached out to the mayor's office, Communications Director Jessica Wethington replied:"The goal of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to help strengthen the trust between our residents and our police officers, and move us a step further in achieving our goals of racial justice and equity. And while LMPD is working tirelessly on more than 150 reform efforts, there are some challenges we are committed to working through to make sure the OIG has access to all information LMPD can legally provide. The OIG has only been fully operational for a short time and the Mayor is taking all steps possible, including proposing possible amendments to the ordinance and recommending to the next mayor to continue pushing a legislative agenda for the board to have subpoena power, to ensure full transparency and cooperation."In his experience, Harness said the vast majority of officers are exonerated once video is released of an incident. He feels that transparency can start to rebuild trust between LMPD and the citizens it serves.Copyright 2022 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

Guy Reschenthaler on the 2020 election, Jan. 6 – WTAE

By |2022-10-04T00:22:15-04:00October 3rd, 2022|Election 2020|


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