The authors are experts on tax history and tax law.
Income tax forms are notoriously complicated, but there is one simple question that is missing: “Would you like to register to vote in your home state?” With over 150 million American households filing federal income tax returns each year, our annual ritual of tax filing is a missed opportunity for voter registration.
While Americans are filling out their 1040s and Schedule Cs, they should also be asked if they would like to complete a voter registration form. The form, let’s call it a Schedule VR, would be separate from tax information, and would be available to all citizens, regardless of the amount of taxes paid or refunded. A Schedule VR would be the simplest way to create a national and nearly universal registration system.
There is good evidence that tax-time voter registration would work. In Canada, annual income tax forms already offer voter registration. Overall, 96 percent of eligible voters appear on the Canadian voter registry, thanks in substantial part to the work of the Canada Revenue Agency. Elections Canada suggests that citizens “tick the box” every year on their income tax form to keep their address information up-to-date. By contrast, more than one in five eligible voters in the United States is not on the voter rolls. These unregistered voters are disproportionately likely to be young, to have lower incomes, and to be members of racial and ethnic minority groups.
Adding a voter registration option to tax filing has three major advantages: breadth, accuracy and convenience. Americans are conscientious taxpayers who see tax filing as an important civic responsibility; a Schedule VR would help ensure our voter rolls are correct and secure, with less paperwork for the citizenry.
Tax-time voter registration would build on the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which brought easy registration to departments of motor vehicles and other government agencies across the country. Taxes are filed annually, far more frequently than most people’s trips to the D.M.V. About 90 percent of the U.S. population appears on an income tax return each year, and 99.5 percent of us are estimated to appear on at least one federal tax document (like a W2 or a 1099), which is higher than the declining fraction of Americans who hold driver’s licenses. The tax system has played a vital role in Covid relief delivery precisely because few agencies can match the reach of the Internal Revenue Service.
Yes, adding voter registration to the tax filing process would represent a substantial increase in responsibility for the I.R.S. But there are precedents for the I.R.S. assisting tax filers in participating in important civic endeavors. In 1972, 1975 and 1980, Form 1040 included questions on behalf of the U.S. Census Bureau. Today, Form 1040 still has a check box allowing tax filers to donate three dollars to public campaign finance via the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. As Congress considers adding $80 billion to the I.R.S. budget, it should not overlook the full potential of tax filing to help shore up our democracy.
Voter registration at tax filing would also conform to President Biden’s mandate for new federal action to promote voter registration and turnout. Mr. Biden’s Executive Order 14019 calls upon the heads of each federal agency to produce a comprehensive plan for how they can “provide access to voter registration services and vote-by-mail ballot applications in the course of activities or services that directly engage with the public.”
For the I.R.S. to collect voter registration information and work with the states to update the voter rolls would require legislative action. But there are still immediate steps that can be taken. Janet Yellen, the secretary of the Treasury, and Charles Rettig, the I.R.S. commissioner, can mandate that voter registration services be provided at the nonprofit Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites that work with the I.R.S. to provide free tax preparation to over one million households a year.
We already know that a program like this would reach underrepresented voters. In an experiment one of us conducted in 2018, tax filers at five sites in Dallas and Cleveland were offered voter registration forms. The participants were predominantly Black and Hispanic tax filers with an average household income of less than $30,000. The program doubled the likelihood that an unregistered person would get onto the voter rolls.
In an appalling echo of Jim Crow, some states are weaponizing their voting laws to exclude voters, and especially voters of color, from participating in our democracy. Historically, federal intervention has been essential to the protection of voting rights; now is the time to use tax policy to increase voter access.
Along with other legislation, like the urgently needed John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a Schedule VR would help counteract state efforts to restrict access to the ballot box. But even beyond the current political situation, we shouldn’t overlook a powerful tool we already have in hand to ensure that Americans have a reliable way to register to vote.
Jeremy Bearer-Friend (@bearerfriend) is an associate professor at George Washington University Law School; Vanessa Williamson (@V_Williamson) is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
Late one night in May, after surveillance cameras had inexplicably been turned off, three people entered the secure area of a warehouse in Mesa County, Colo., where crucial election equipment was stored. They copied hard drives and election-management software from voting machines, the authorities said, and then fled.The identity of one of the people dismayed state election officials: It was Tina Peters, the Republican county clerk responsible for overseeing Mesa County’s elections.
How the incident came to public light was stranger still. Last month in South Dakota, Ms. Peters spoke at a disinformation-drenched gathering of people determined to show that the 2020 election had been stolen from Donald J. Trump. And another of the presenters, a leading proponent of QAnon conspiracy theories, projected a portion of the Colorado software — a tool meant to be restricted to election officials only — onto a big screen for all the attendees to see.The security of American elections has been the focus of enormous concern and scrutiny for several years, first over possible interference or mischief-making by foreign adversaries like Russia or Iran, and later, as Mr. Trump stoked baseless fears of fraud in last year’s election, over possible domestic attempts to tamper with the democratic process.
But as Republican state and county officials and their allies mount a relentless effort to discredit the result of the 2020 contest, the torrent of election falsehoods has led to unusual episodes like the one in Mesa County, as well as to a wave of G.O.P.-driven reviews of the vote count conducted by uncredentialed and partisan companies or people. Roughly half a dozen reviews are underway or completed, and more are being proposed.
These reviews — carried out under the banner of making elections more secure, and misleadingly labeled audits to lend an air of official sanction — have given rise to their own new set of threats to the integrity of the voting machines, software and other equipment that make up the nation’s election infrastructure.
Election officials and security experts say the reviews have created problems ranging from the expensive inconvenience of replacing equipment or software whose security has been compromised to what they describe as a graver risk: that previously unknown technical vulnerabilities could be discovered by partisan malefactors and exploited in future elections.
In Arizona, election officials have moved to replace voting machines in the state’s largest county, Maricopa, after conservative political operatives and other unaccredited people gained extensive access to them as they conducted a widely criticized review of the 2020 results. In Pennsylvania, the secretary of state decertified voting equipment in rural Fulton County after officials there allowed a private company to participate in a similar review.
And in Antrim County, Mich., a right-wing lawyer publicized a video showing a technical consultant with the same vote tabulator the county had used — alarming county officials who said that the consultant should not have had access to the device or its software.
When such machines fall into the wrong hands — those of unaccredited people lacking proper supervision — the chain of custody is broken, making it impossible for election officials to guarantee that the machines have not been tampered with, for example by having malware installed. The only solution, frequently, is to reprogram or replace them. At least three secretaries of state, in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Colorado, have had to decertify voting machines this year.Far from urging panic, experts caution that it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to meddle with voting results on a nationwide scale because of the decentralized nature of American elections.
But experts say that the chain of custody for election machines exists for good reason. Already this year, three federal agencies — the Justice Department, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Election Assistance Commission — have issued updated guidance on how to handle election machines and preserve the chain of custody.“There are some serious security risks,” said J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan who studies election security. “Especially given the constellation of actors who are receiving such access.”
Republicans say they are simply looking for the answers their constituents are demanding about the 2020 election. “This has always been about election integrity,” Karen Fann, the Republican leader of the Arizona Senate, which authorized that state’s election review, said in an interview posted on the state party’s website last month. “Nothing else. Absolutely nothing else. This is about making sure that our votes are counted.”
Security experts say that election hardware and software should be subjected to transparency and rigorous testing, but only by credentialed professionals. Yet nearly all of the partisan reviews have flouted such protocols and focused on the 2020 results rather than hunting for security flaws.
In Arizona, the firm chosen by the Republican-led Legislature, Cyber Ninjas, had no previous experience auditing elections, and its chief executive has promoted conspiracy theories claiming that rigged voting machines cost Mr. Trump the state. The company also used Republican partisans to help conduct its review in Maricopa County, including one former lawmaker who was at the Jan. 6 protest in Washington that preceded the Capitol riot
In Wisconsin, the Republican Assembly speaker, Robin Vos, is pushing for a review of the 2020 results to be led by a former State Supreme Court justice who claimed in November that the election had been stolen. And in Pennsylvania, the Republican leader of the State Senate has announced hearings that he likened to a “forensic investigation” of the election, saying it could include issuing subpoenas to seize voting machines and ballots.
Christopher Krebs, the former head of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said such reviews could easily compromise voting machines. “The main concern is having someone unqualified come in and introduce risk, introduce something or some malware into a system,” he said. “You have someone that accesses these things, has no idea what to do, and once you’ve reached that point, it’s incredibly difficult to kind of roll back the certification of the machine.” Decertifying machines effectively means replacing them, often in a hurry and at great cost. Philadelphia’s elections board rejected an earlier G.O.P. request for access to the city’s election machines, saying it would cost more than $35 million to buy new ones.
In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, told Maricopa County in May that her office would decertify 385 machines and nine vote tabulators that had been handed over for the G.O.P.-led election review. “The issue with the equipment is that the chain of custody was lost,” Ms. Hobbs said in an interview. “The chain of custody ensures that only authorized people have access to it, so that that vulnerability can’t be exploited.” Pulling compromised machines out of service and replacing them is not a foolproof solution, however. The equipment could have as-yet-undiscovered security weaknesses, Mr. Halderman said. “And this is what really keeps me up at night,” he said. “That the knowledge that comes from direct access to it could be misused to attack the same equipment wherever else it’s used.”
As an example of his concerns, Mr. Halderman pointed to Antrim County in northern Michigan, where, months after a court-ordered forensic audit in the county, a lawyer involved with the case who has frequently shared election conspiracy theories still appeared to have access to a Dominion Voting Systems ballot-scanning device and its software.
The lawyer, Michael DePerno, posted a video from a conservative news site featuring a technical consultant who went to elaborate and highly implausible lengths to try to show that votes in the county — which Mr. Trump carried by a wide margin — could have been switched. (County officials said this could not have happened.) The device and its software are only supposed to be in the possession of accredited officials or local governments. “I was shocked when I saw they had a tabulator in their video,” said Sheryl Guy, the county clerk, who is a Republican.
Neither Mr. DePerno nor Dominion Voting Systems responded to requests for comment. Easily the most bizarre breakdown of election security so far this year was the incident in Mesa County, Colo. The first sign of suspicious activity surfaced in early August, when a conservative news site, Gateway Pundit, posted passwords for the county’s election machines, the result of a separate breach in the county from the same month. A week later, the machines’ software showed up on large monitors at the South Dakota election symposium, organized by the conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell.
Jena Griswold, the Colorado secretary of state, said her office had concluded that the passwords leaked out when Ms. Peters, the Mesa County clerk, enlisted a staff member to accompany her to and surreptitiously record a routine voting-machine maintenance procedure. Gateway Pundit published the passwords a week before the gathering in South Dakota. Ms. Griswold’s office is investigating and has said that Ms. Peters will not be allowed to oversee elections in November. Ms. Peters, who has called the investigation politically motivated, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. In an online interview with Mr. Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow, she admitted to copying the hard drives and software but insisted she had simply backed them up because of some perceived but unspecified threat to the data. She also cited unfounded conspiracy theories about Dominion equipment.
“I was concerned that vital statistics and information was being deleted from the system or could be deleted from the system, and I wanted to preserve that,” she said. But she flatly denied leaking the passwords or software. “I did not post, did not authorize anyone to post, any election data or software or passwords online,” she said. Even so, the secretary of state’s office said that Colorado counties had never been advised to make copies of their election machines’ hard drives.“It is a serious security breach,” Ms. Griswold said in an interview. “This is election officials, trusted to safeguard democracy, turning into an internal security breach.”The local district attorney has opened a separate inquiry into the episode and is being assisted by the F.B.I. and the Colorado attorney general’s office. Ms. Griswold, a Democrat, said she had also alerted the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
But Ms. Griswold said she worried that with so many Republican leaders “leaning into the big lie,” the risks of what she called an “insider security issue” were growing.“I think it’s incredibly time-sensitive that elections are set up to guard both from external and internal threats,” she said.
North Carolina judges ordered the restoration of voting rights for thousands of people with a felony conviction in what advocates call the largest expansion of voting rights in decades in the state.
Under state law, individuals are prohibited from voting until they are fully discharged from probation, parole or a suspended sentence — often years after they are released from prison. Monday’s ruling by a panel of the state Superior Court in Raleigh could make North Carolina the only state in the South to automatically restore voting rights to people after they leave prison.
Daryl Atkinson, co-director of Forward Justice, a civil rights group in Durham, N.C., described the decision during a news conference Monday as “the largest expansion of voting rights in this state since the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”
Atkinson and other lawyers filed a lawsuit more than a year ago challenging the law, which was revised in 1973 and outlines when people stripped of their voting rights can regain those rights.
Last year, the same judges had ruled that the law’s requirement that felons must first pay monetary obligation such as fines was unenforceable because voting would be bound to financial ability, according to the Associated Press.
On Monday, the three-judge panel said it had voted 2-to-1 on the decision. The ruling has not yet been written.
“This lawsuit was about us making sure that we include the 56,000 North Carolinians living in our community, paying taxes, dropping kids at school are included in ‘We, the people,’ ” said Atkinson, who is a lawyer for the challengers in the case.
GOP state lawmakers who defended the existing law in court have said they plan to appeal Monday’s decision to a higher court.
Lawyers representing plaintiffs who oppose the law argued in court last week that such policies were weaponized to prevent Black people from voting after the Civil War in an effort to stifle their political power, according to the Carolina Public Press.
Challengers of the law also claimed that in many cases, disenfranchisement persists because of an inability to pay court fees. In other instances, North Carolinians convicted of felonies are placed under community supervision sentences, without imprisonment, while paying taxes, and are still barred from voting during the entire probation period.
Other challengers include several people on probation or parole, and civil rights groups such as the North Carolina NAACP and the Community Success Initiative, a Raleigh group that helps former felons reenter society.
“Starting today, if a person can just say, ‘I am not in jail or prison for a felony conviction,’ then that person can register and they can vote freely,” said Stanton Jones, an attorney representing the challengers.
That change will lead to 56,000 people being empowered, Jones added.
Plaintiffs argued in court that felon disenfranchisement “overwhelmingly” affects Black Americans, who represent about 20 percent of the state’s voting population, and 40 percent of those prevented from voting while on probation or parole, according to the complaint.
Lawyers for the defense did not contest these numbers but argued that these rates are caused by disparities in the criminal justice system, not by the law that determines when people can vote again.
Orlando Rodriguez, a lawyer for the Republican lawmakers, said they won’t defend the law’s “shameful” history, but that it has been significantly improved since then. He argued that previously, the law imposed a heavy burden on people who requested their rights be restored after completing their parole or probation process, while the process is now automatic, according to the News & Observer.
Rodriguez did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
State Sen. Warren Daniel (R), co-chair of the Senate’s committee on election law issues, criticized the judges’ ruling as overstepping their authority.
“These judges may think they’re doing the right thing by rewriting laws as they see fit (without bothering to even explain their ruling), but each one of these power grabs chips away at the notion that the people, through their legislature, make laws,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post.
Daniel said that an appeal should be filed “immediately,” before a deadline for the State Board of Elections to finalize materials for the 2021 election.
Considering that timeline, GOP leaders asked North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) to appeal the decision, Daniel said. Because Stein responded that he cannot file an appeal until the written opinion is released, Daniel indicated that the GOP legislative leaders could file their own appeal using an attorney.
In a statement, the State Board of Elections said it is “reviewing the decision and will consider the written ruling upon its release.” It added that county boards across North Carolina must immediately begin to permit such individuals to register to vote.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, a liberal nonprofit law and public policy institute, 28 states bar community members from voting simply on the basis of convictions in their past. These criminal disenfranchisement laws exclude millions of Americans from the democratic voting process and vary widely among states.
Sean Morales-Doyle, acting director of voting rights and elections for the Brennan Center, said significant steps have been made since 2018, with almost a dozen states — including Florida, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, California, Nevada, Colorado, Louisiana and Washington — moving toward the restoration of voting rights, though they widely vary by state.
Some states, such as Florida and Maryland, still prevent people from voting depending on the type of crimes they committed. Others automatically restore their right to vote upon release from prison.
In the District of Columbia, Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated.
Paulina Villegas is a General Assignment reporter covering breaking news and national enterprise stories for The Washington Post. Previously, she worked at the New York Times’ Mexico bureau, where her work focused on drug crime, government corruption and human rights issues. Twitter
Image : People line up at a voting rights demonstration on Election Day on Nov. 3 in Graham, N.C. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)
Anchor of The Cybersecurity 202 newsletter Today at 7:28 a.m. EDT44 with Aaron Schaffer
The battle lines are hardening between the vast majority of election officials who’ve spent months validating and defending the results of the 2020 election and former president Donald Trump’s supporters, who are still challenging those results without evidence and demanding new reviews.
The coalition of top state election officials is pushing back by endorsing a how-to guide for post-election audits that criticizes reviews like Arizona’s that are run on a partisan basis and by private companies without ample experience in the field.
Election officials fear the drumbeat of baseless allegations about election hacking and fraud from Trump allies will dampen faith in future election results and maybe in the democratic process itself. Ironically, the assault comes after a four-year election security surge that made 2020 by far the most secure against hacking in decades.
“I’m terribly distressed about what this has done to the public’s perception of elections,” Ann S. Jacobs (D), chair of the state Elections Commission in Wisconsin, told me. “It erodes the faith of the electorate in their elected leaders. It justifies violence and threats of violence against election workers. America has always prided itself on its orderly transition of power and these fake accusations are undermining that.”
Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R), leader of the state Assembly’s elections committee, issued subpoenas to two of the state’s largest counties, Milwaukee and Brown, demanding they turn over their voting machines to the legislature for review.
It’s not clear how much force those subpoenas have because they lack support so far from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R). Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson (D) told me in a statement that he’s “reviewing the subpoena we received with regard to its validity,” but he declined to comment further. Brandtjen didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Gov. Tony Evers (D) has called the Maricopa audit a “clown show” and said Wisconsin county officials’ response to the audits should be “hell no.”
But the effort is nevertheless fueling partisan rancor and doubts about the Wisconsin results.
Trump sent a note to reporters praising the audit and poking at Vos. “Hopefully Republican Speaker Robin Vos has the integrity and strength Wisconsin needs to support Rep. Brandtjen’s efforts. Our Country is counting on it!” he wrote.
Wisconsin Election Commissioner Robert F. Spindell Jr. (R), a supporter of the audit, told me public concerns about the election’s legitimacy mean more reviews are necessary. He pointed to a Marquette Law School poll that found 71 percent of Wisconsin Republicans aren’t confident the state’s election results were accurate.
“The question is more than is this concern legitimate or not. The issue is a huge number of people think there’s a problem with the election,” he said. “It seems to me we should try to do something to solve that rather than say, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re all idiots. Believe us, everything was great.’ ”
Wisconsin’s results, however, have already been validated by a machine review and hand recounts in Milwaukee County and Dane County, home to Madison. They’re also in the midst of two other reviews – one led by the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau and another by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman.
Spindell recently attended the cyber symposium hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has spun a broad and baseless conspiracy theory that China changed votes to steal the election from Trump. Spindell said he wasn’t necessarily convinced by Lindell’s full theory but came back convinced that “anything can be hacked.”
“There’s lying, cheating and stealing in every aspect of life and now all of a sudden in voting there’s not? It’s hard for me to believe,” he told me.
Election security experts generally argue that election hacking isn’t impossible but that it’s extremely difficult – and almost always requires hands-on access to every voting machines that’s successfully hacked.
That means it’s exceedingly unlikely that anyone could alter enough votes to flip even a small election. If that happened it would almost certainly be caught by auditors, who could determine the true result by counting paper records of votes, which are available for about 95 percent of voting districts.
State election officials are banding together to push back against the partisan reviews.
The National Association of Secretaries of State voted to approve a slate of recommendations for post-election audits during its meeting this week. The recommendations were first reported by Politico.
Laying out strict timelines and procedures for how audits will be triggered and conducted before an election
Running audits through government bodies whenever possible rather than private companies
Being fully transparent about audit procedures
Another recommendation: Don’t let voting machines out of the custody of government officials where they could be infected with malicious software that could disrupt future elections. That’s the sort of hands-on access to voting machines that security experts genuinely worry about.
The private firm conducting the Maricopa audit, Cyber Ninjas, violated that principle and the state is on the hook for $9 million to replace the machines the company inspected.
Spindell told me he’d oppose any audit in Wisconsin that necessitated replacing voting machines. He said he’d urge a compromise such as having a county’s sheriff’s office supervise machines while they were reviewed by a private company.
Israeli phone-cracking firm Cellebrite will set up an ethics committee and stop selling its technology to Bangladesh after human rights criticisms.
The decisions were probably caused by Cellebrite’s plans to sell its stock publicly in the United States, Haaretz’s Omer Benjakob and Oded Yaron report. The firm sells devices that extract data from locked phones to law enforcement. In Bangladesh, Cellebrite hardware was reportedly used by a paramilitary unit accused of torture.
Digital rights groups in July asked regulators and investors to pause Cellebrite’s plans to go public until it made progress on human rights. The company stopped selling its technology to Hong Kong and China last year and ended its sales to Russia and Belarus this year, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
BlackBerry held off for months announcing vulnerabilities in industrial software used in 200 million cars and other critical equipment.
BlackBerry first argued to government officials that the vulnerability didn’t infect its products. Later, the company said it could notify customers privately rather than making a public announcement, Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan and Eric Geller report.
The story highlights the often-lengthy process before companies go public with detailed information about bugs in their products — delays that sometimes make customers more vulnerable.
Part of the difficulty is that BlackBerry didn’t know who many of its end-users were. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency argued that privately notifying just the company’s known customers would leave many others in the dark, according to a CISA presentation reviewed by Politico. Blackberry ultimately made the announcement publicly.
A Russia-linked influence operation targeted far-right 4chan users.
The long-running campaign called Secondary Infektion tried to stir outrage about the coronavirus on the unmoderated platform, CyberScoop’s Tonya Riley reports. The campaign also tried to increase anti-Muslim sentiments, according to Recorded Future.
The campaign is concerning because it utilized 4chan, a hotbed of domestic extremism, and calls for violence, according to Recorded Future’s Brian Liston. “Whether or not they help motivate or drive that behavior in other cases that we have not identified … remains to be seen,” he said.
It was tempting to dismiss the show unfolding inside the Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, as an unintended comedy. One night in June, a few hundred people gathered for the première of “The Deep Rig,” a film financed by the multimillionaire founder of Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, who is a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. Styled as a documentary, the movie asserts that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by supporters of Joe Biden, including by Antifa members who chatted about their sinister plot on a conference call. The evening’s program featured live appearances by Byrne and a local QAnon conspiracist, BabyQ, who claimed to be receiving messages from his future self. They were joined by the film’s director, who had previously made an exposé contending that the real perpetrators of 9/11 were space aliens.
But the event, for all its absurdities, had a dark surprise: “The Deep Rig” repeatedly quotes Doug Logan, the C.E.O. of Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company that consults with clients on software security. In a voice-over, Logan warns, “If we don’t fix our election integrity now, we may no longer have a democracy.” He also suggests, without evidence, that members of the “deep state,” such as C.I.A. agents, have intentionally spread disinformation about the election. Although it wasn’t the first time that Logan had promoted what has come to be known as the Big Lie about the 2020 election—he had tweeted unsubstantiated claims that Trump had been victimized by voter fraud—the film offered stark confirmation of Logan’s entanglement in fringe conspiracies. Nevertheless, the president of the Arizona State Senate, Karen Fann, has put Logan’s company in charge of a “forensic audit”—an ongoing review of the state’s 2020 Presidential vote. It’s an unprecedented undertaking, with potentially explosive consequences for American democracy.
A private contractor conducting a Republican-commissioned review of 2020 presidential ballots in Arizona’s largest county announced late Wednesday that it has collected more than $5.7 million in private donations to fund the process.
The controversial ballot review, which included a hand recount of Maricopa County’s nearly 2.1 million ballots and a review of ballot tabulating machines, has been underway since April. It was ordered by the state’s Republican-led Senate, which agreed to spend $150,000 in taxpayer money to fund the audit. But the Senate allowed Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based firm hired to lead the process, to collect donations as well.
It has been clear for months that the lengthy ballot review, which was conducted by dozens of workers, some working nearly round-the-clock, was being largely financed by allies of former president Donald Trump. The newly released figures put that fact in sharp relief: More than 97 percent of the audit’s costs have so far been shouldered by donations from five organizations led by people who have promoted the false claim that the election was stolen.
AUSTIN — Support is growing among Texas Republicans for a push to audit the results of the 2020 election in a state that former President Donald Trump won handily. But the proposal, introduced in the House earlier this month, would only re-examine votes in Texas’s largest counties, most of which went for President Biden.
The legislation, House Bill 241, calls for an independent third party appointed by the state’s top GOP officials to conduct a forensic audit of results in counties with more than 415,000 people. Of the 13 counties that meet that criteria, 10 voted for Biden last year.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Steve Toth, said earlier this week that his constituents are concerned about fraud in the election. In an interview, Toth added that he also became convinced an audit was needed after a meeting earlier this year with U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), who claimed to have evidence of vote fraud in a 2018 race that he lost.
In states such as Kansas, elections for the state legislature can be decided by as little as 9 votes, which makes maintenance of voter rolls a vitally important part of the democratic process. Sometimes, these rolls are purged to account for voters who have died or moved out of state, among other reasons. Voter rolls can also be purged as a means of voter disenfranchisement, and affect much more than state-level elections.
For example, Florida recently purged 85,000 voters in a state where Trump only won by 113,000 votes in 2016. While many of the voters who were purged from the rolls may have been purged due to routine maintenance, state purges like Florida’s can have a profound effect on the turnout of larger events like federal elections, because unlawful purges or ones done in error can shrink the margin of victory and lead to contested elections.
While the process of voter purging is a necessary one, the problems it brings up in swing states are concerning, especially if it is the case that voter purges are being used to target certain demographics or political ideologies.
Even more critically, one political party in particular has experienced more instances of voter purging in some states. Voter purging is a non-partisan issue, as all ideologies maintain the right to vote, and when done correctly, voter purging is a natural part of the democratic process. Nonetheless, the fact that one group is being purged more thoroughly leads to questions about voter disenfranchisement. This means that voter purging is especially relevant in swing states, where excess purging of the voter rolls can earn a more definitive win.