This past week has offered several stark examples of the connections between attacks on voting rights and the partisan and political agenda of those who cast doubt on the integrity of U.S. elections.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ announcement last month of charges against 20 residents who had registered and voted despite previous felony convictions — which he said was “the opening salvo” of his new Office of Election Crimes and Security — highlights both the rarity of supposed “voter fraud” incidents and what the New York Times called the “wildly inconsistent” approach to punishment for election violations.
- “Actual prosecutions are blue-moon events, and often netted people who didn’t realize they were breaking the law,” the Times wrote. “Most violations draw wrist-slaps, while a few high-profile prosecutions produce draconian sentences. Penalties often fall heaviest on those least able to mount a defense. Those who are poor and Black are more likely to be sent to jail than comfortable retirees facing similar charges.”
- As the Miami Herald reported, while DeSantis has targeted such small-scale violations, his office and the election-fraud office he created “have not similarly condemned or taken action against complex schemes intended to manipulate Florida elections and linked to one of the state’s most powerful corporations.” Read more here.
In Georgia, a group backed by Michael Flynn, former President Trump’s first national security adviser, and Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock.com CEO who was actively involved in supporting the Arizona election “audit,” is challenging the eligibility of tens of thousands of Georgia voters.
- The executive director of Common Cause Georgia told Bloomberg that the effort is concerning because of the law allowing the state to take over local elections boards if it finds them incompetent. (Read about what American Oversight uncovered regarding county officials’ opposition to that provision in the spring of 2021.)
- On Wednesday, a Wisconsin judge ruled that election clerks cannot fill in missing information on witness certification envelopes for absentee ballots, in a lawsuit backed by state Republican lawmakers seeking to “tighten restrictions on absentee voting in the swing state,” reported the Associated Press.
Also this week, the Washington Post reported that Doug Logan, the former CEO of Arizona “audit” contractor Cyber Ninjas, and another election denier, Jeffrey Lenberg, “made multiple visits to a county elections office” in Coffee County, Ga., in January 2021, following an alleged breach of voting equipment.
- That alleged breach is the subject of a criminal investigation, and both men are also under investigation for separate alleged breaches in Michigan.
- According to the Post, video footage also shows that Cathy Latham, then the chairwoman of the county’s Republican Party and one of her state’s 16 “fake electors,” “greeted a group of outside data forensics experts” at the office on the day of the alleged breach.
- In an investigation of an election security breach in Mesa County, Colo., clerk Tina Peters has pleaded not guilty to charges of election tampering and misconduct. The New Yorker has an in-depth look at how a group of election conspiracy theorists — including Trump ally and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — enlisted Peters’ support in their quest to find evidence that the 2020 election was “stolen.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon be hearing the case Moore v. Harper in October, which raises the “independent state legislature doctrine,” a fringe legal theory that could give state legislatures broad and substantially unchecked power to control federal elections, to gerrymander, and even to refuse to certify results.
Here are other stories we’ve been following this week related to the Big Lie and the ongoing threats to our elections and democracy:
- Election deniers on the ballot in 2022 could upset the 2024 elections (Bloomberg)
- Arizona State Bar investigates lawyer involved in ‘fake electors’ effort by state Republicans (Arizona Republic)
- Lawsuit wants to ‘re-run’ 2020 election, voting experts say claims don’t add up (Detroit Free Press)
- 60 percent of Americans will have an election denier on the ballot this fall (FiveThirtyEight)
- Missouri secretary of state throws support behind controversial election theory (Missouri Independent)
- ‘We’ve got to find somebody’: Johnson County sheriff appears to lack probable cause in election inquiry (Kansas City Star)
- Before midterms, election officials increase security over threats (New York Times)
- Michigan GOP leaders encourage rule breaking at poll worker training session (CNN)
- Georgia’s biggest county can’t find a top elections official (Washington Post)
On the Records
Operation Legend’s Political Agenda
In July 2020, Attorney General William Barr announced the launch of Operation Legend, a Justice Department initiative to send federal law enforcement to several cities to “fight the sudden surge of violent crime.” Shortly thereafter, we filed FOIA requests with multiple agencies for related records, including to the DOJ’s Office of Information Policy for documents that could shed light on any strategy whereby Operation Legend would reduce violent crime.
This month, the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy replied with a letter that stated no records responsive to American Oversight’s request were found in the offices of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, or Associate Attorney General. The response came nearly two years after the U.S. Marshall’s Service also told us it had no records relevant to another request we filed seeking arrest records from Operation Legend.
The responses once again suggest that Operation Legend — which was launched at the same time that racial justice protests were sweeping the nation — may have been a $69 million political stunt aimed at amplifying Donald Trump’s “tough on crime” reelection campaign message.
Read more about American Oversight’s investigation of Operation Legend here.
Other Stories We’re Following
Jan. 6 Investigation
- Jan. 6 panel’s Raskin expects Pence to testify as clock ticks (Bloomberg)
- Jan. 6 committee withdraws subpoena against RNC and Salesforce (Washington Post)
- Federal grand jury probing Trump PAC’s formation, fundraising efforts (ABC News)
- New Mexico official who participated in Jan. 6 riot removed from office (Washington Post)
- Raskin says January 6 committee will release its report ‘by the end of the year’ (CNN)
- Judge denies Stewart Rhodes’ request to delay Oath Keepers trial on Jan. 6 charges (NBC News)
- House urges judge to uphold Jan. 6 subpoena to Trump aide Meadows (Washington Post)
The Coronavirus Pandemic
- White House: Covid-19 boosters will become annual shot, just like the flu vaccine (Politico)
- Covid is here to stay, but the White House response team is eyeing its endgame (Politico)
- Montana Covid policy brought a hospital to the brink (ProPublica)
- How the pandemic shortened life expectancy in Indigenous communities (New York Times)
- As masks are shed, a routine visit to a medical office can pose Covid risks for some patients (Stat News)
- Migrants still being blocked by ‘really dangerous’ Trump-era Covid policy (The Guardian)
- Justice Department appeals Cannon’s order for a Mar-a-Lago special master (Washington Post)
- ‘Deeply problematic’: Experts question judge’s intervention in Trump inquiry (New York Times)
- Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago (Washington Post)
- Bannon charged with fraud, money laundering, conspiracy in ‘We Build the Wall’ (Washington Post)
- Trump ruling lifts profile of judges and raises legal eyebrows (New York Times)
- Trump told White House team he needed to protect ‘Russiagate’ documents (Rolling Stone)
- After Uvalde, Texas state police revise training for mass shootings (New York Times)
- Elected officials, police chiefs on leaked Oath Keepers list (Associated Press)
- Biden administration has admitted 1 million migrants to await hearings (New York Times)
- Chicago mayor seeks help for immigrants bused from Texas (Associated Press)
- From border town to ‘border town,’ bused migrants seek new lives in D.C. area (Washington Post)
- A record number of migrants have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border (CNN)
- Michael Flynn: From government insider to holy warrior (Associated Press/Frontline)