As the calendar advances through the primary season toward the November elections and beyond, American Oversight today announced that it is expanding its state-level investigation of threats to democracy to include actions in Wisconsin and New Hampshire.
In 2019, we launched our State Accountability Project in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, to bring its extensive open records expertise to bear on voter suppression and other threats to democracy. The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased concerns about the upcoming election and voting rights in 2020.
In Wisconsin, American Oversight is fighting for transparency surrounding the state’s recent voter roll purge attempts, currently the subject of a court battle. An estimated 209,000 voters will be removed from the rolls if the purge is allowed to proceed. In a state in which elections are decided by narrow margins, any successful effort to corrupt the vote could change the outcome.
To date, we’ve filed requests seeking communications among the Wisconsin Election Commission and the Wisconsin Republican Party, select state legislators, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the conservative litigation group that brought the lawsuit behind Wisconsin’s voter roll purge. Coordination among any of these entities could demonstrate partisan or unlawful intent behind the actions.
In New Hampshire, a 2019 bill calling for the creation of an independent redistricting commission — a widely supported method to prevent partisan gerrymandering — was passed by the state legislature with bipartisan support. However, Gov. Chris Sununu unexpectedly vetoed it when it reached his desk. Notably, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is now fighting efforts to expand ballot access across the country, was publicly active in New Hampshire at the eleventh hour.
American Oversight worked with a client in New Hampshire to file an open records request asking for the governor’s communications with groups known to be working to restrict voting rights and promote partisan redistricting, including the American Legislative Exchange Council and the National Republican Redistricting Trust. This request and the office of the governor’s subsequent rejection are available here. American Oversight plans to fight the rejection to ensure transparency on this issue.
“Americans’ access to the ballot was under threat long before COVID-19,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “Politically motivated polling place closures and relocations, voter roll purges, and gerrymandering are an ongoing threat to the elementary principles of our democracy. It is imperative the public understand how their right to vote is being undermined or neglected. From Florida to Georgia to Texas, and now to Wisconsin and New Hampshire, we are going to ensure state officials are working to protect the vote, not constrict it.”
The organization’s investigations in Florida, Georgia, and Texas have already uncovered multiple examples of unsecure systems and concerning practices related to elections. In Georgia, records produced in response to the group’s public records requests revealed that voting devices used “1234” as their default password. More recently, records from Florida have revealed that the state’s agencies and counties are unable to adequately track a formerly incarcerated individual’s voting eligibility status.
All requests and documents related to these new investigations, as well as those from investigations in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, are available here.
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