News Roundup: New Voting Restrictions, Harlan Crow, and Florida Textbooks

The flurry of new voting restrictions unleashed by state legislatures in 2021 wasn’t the end of conservative efforts to limit access to the ballot — those efforts have just taken on a new strategy of “radical incrementalism,” reported the New York Times this week.

  • Behind the new wave of restrictions — according to the Times, 18 new laws in 10 states this year — is a network of billionaire-funded advocacy groups.
  • Playing a key role in this effort is Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who assisted in former President Trump’s attempt to overturn his election loss and whose remarks calling for anti-voting measures like limiting campus voting and ending same-day registration have recently drawn scrutiny. “I think you have got to figure out … where to fix the system that gives a Republican candidate a potential chance to win,” Mitchell said in a recording obtained by the Times.
  • We’ve published emails we obtained — including from after she was appointed to the federal Election Assistance Commission’s advisory board — in which she decried expanded access to absentee voting and disparaged a voting rights organization. The Guardian reported on those emails this week and on the growing alarm over Mitchell’s efforts.

While the former president went on CNN this week to spout more lies, he isn’t the only election denier angling for a return to prominence: The Washington Post this week published a look at the recent efforts of 11 high-profile election deniers who lost their recent elections, including Kari Lake, Doug Mastriano and Mark Finchem. Here are other headlines related to election denial:

  • Virginia becomes the latest GOP-governed state to quit a voter data partnership (NPR)
  • Arizona official targeted by election deniers now struggles with PTSD (Washington Post)
  • 45 local candidates running to get control over elections in Pennsylvania have spread election misinformation (Votebeat)
  • Local boards of elections face harassment, influx of public records requests, spread of disinformation (INDY Week)
  • Musk shares baseless election claim with millions of Twitter users (Washington Post)

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked billionaire Harlan Crow — whose extravagant gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas have drawn major scrutiny — to supply a detailed accounting of any valuable benefits or goods he’s provided to Thomas or other justices. He’s refused.  

  • We came across Crow’s name while reviewing records we obtained from the State Department regarding the role played by Mike Pompeo’s wife while he was secretary of state in the Trump administration.
  • According to emails, Crow and his wife in 2019 attended at least one of the controversial taxpayer-funded “Madison Dinners” hosted by the Pompeos, providing another indication of the level of access Crow has had with powerful conservative officials, including Trump administration cabinet members. Read more about those records here.
  • Related: Frontline has an episode about Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. (More on Ginni Thomas below.)

In Florida, the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced that it had initially rejected more than 80 percent of social studies textbooks submitted to the state, a number that dropped to about 35 percent after publishers worked with the state to make significant changes to lessons. 

  • Examples of altered lessons included discussions of race, social justice, and socialism. In one example regarding American symbols, Florida removed guidance about talking to children about why some people might kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
  • American Oversight sued the Florida Department of Education this spring for records related to DeSantis’ ongoing attacks on public education and his efforts to whitewash American history — learn more about our lawsuit and what we’re seeking here.

On the Records

Ginni Thomas Emails with Trump DHS Leaders
We obtained emails between top Trump administration DHS officials and Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas. The emails show her sharing election conspiracies in the days before the 2020 election.

  • On Oct. 28 — less than a week before the election — Ginni Thomas sent more than a dozen links to a Google Group called “20024.” “[Redacted] asked me for links we have all been sharing about the coming insurrection, chaos, and violence,” she wrote. “It is not random. It appears very organized if you have the eyes to see and read and hear.”
  • Someone from the law firm Foley and Gardner forwarded the email chain to Ken Cuccinelli, a senior Trump appointee at DHS, with additional links from “” The articles generally suggested the left was planning an insurrection.
  • We obtained these records as part of our ongoing investigation into Ginni Thomas’ political connections and related judicial ethics concerns. Learn more about our ongoing investigation here.

Other Stories We’re Following

2020 Election Investigations
  • DOJ cites threats to democracy on Jan. 6 in push for steep Oath Keepers sentences (Politico)
  • 8 Trump ‘fake electors’ have accepted immunity in Georgia election probe, attorney says (ABC News)
  • Fresh January 6 convictions raise the stakes for Trump (CNN)
  • Georgia GOP chairman says he was just following orders from Trump lawyers (CNN)
  • Judge: Wisconsin fake electors complaint must be reheard (Associated Press
Voting Rights
  • Texas Republicans push new voting restrictions aimed at Houston (New York Times)
  • Justice Dept. settles with New Jersey county over ballot languages, highlighting widespread barrier (ABC News)
  • Major overhaul of initiative process one step from Missouri ballot (Missouri Independent)
  • Errors. Red flags. A big payday. Records show how one Arizona county’s election disaster unfolded (Votebeat)
  • U.S. finalizes asylum restriction to ramp up border deportations once Title 42 lapses (CBS News
  • Migrants waiting to cross the border say government’s app for asylum-seekers is a mess (Texas Tribune)
  • DeSantis takes steps to again send migrants to Democratic-led cities (CNN)
  • New York City mayor announces plan to transport willing migrants to locations outside the city ahead of expected surge (CNN)
  • Texas uses aggressive tactics to arrest migrants as Title 42 ends (Washington Post
  • Minutes after Title 42 expired, scenes of anxiety and weariness along the border (New York Times)
In the States
  • A right-wing takeover of a Colorado school board has some of the town’s conservatives deeply concerned (NBC News)
  • New College picks Trump Covid adviser Scott Atlas as commencement speaker (Tampa Bay Times)
  • DeSantis-backed libel bill appears to fail in Florida Legislature (Orlando Sentinel)
  • DeSantis ally with no higher-ed experience says he’s getting a state college’s top job (Miami Herald
  • Ohio lawmakers vote to set Aug. 8 election for controversial 60% constitutional amendment proposal (
  • One family has spearheaded Montana’s unflinching conservatism (New York Times)
  • Michigan commission accuses lawyers who tried to overturn 2020 election of misconduct (Detroit News)
  • Wisconsin lawmaker who urged Pence to delay certifying the 2020 election is named to lead Senate elections committee (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Takeaways from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Gableman, abortion, Donald Trump, Milwaukee sales taxes (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Attacks on Civil Rights
  • Citizens’ initiative is on to enshrine right to abortion in the Florida Constitution (Florida Phoenix)
  • Kansas, Missouri are center of battle on transgender rights (Kansas City Star)
  • Kansas City considers becoming LGBTQ sanctuary city (Associated Press
  • Documents Reveal ‘How to Defund Trans Pediatrics’ in Texas (Texas Observer
  • Missouri lawmakers pass gender-affirming care ban for minors and anti-trans sports bill (CNN)
  • Abortion clinics in 3 states sue to protect pill access (Associated Press)
  • Rape, incest exceptions to Louisiana abortion ban rejected by GOP lawmakers (Associated Press)
  • Virginia could be key to abortion access in the South. Its laws could hinge on this Democratic primary (19th News
  • Youngkin renews push for 15-week abortion ban in Virginia (13 News Norfolk
Anti-Transparency Initiatives
  • ‘I just couldn’t comment to that:’ Florida’s attorney general dodges question about DeSantis public record delays (News 6)
  • Texas public records loophole lets cities keep suicide reports from families of dead soldiers (Texas Tribune)
  • DeSantis signs bill blocking state travel records from public disclosure (CNN)
National News
  • Jury finds Trump liable for sexual abuse, awards accuser $5M (Associated Press)
  • FDA advisers back making birth control pill available over the counter (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Covid public health emergency ends, leaving behind a battered health system (CNBC
  • Biden and McCarthy reach no consensus as a possible default looms (New York Times)
  • Group tied to influential conservative activist spent $183 million in a year (New York Times)
  • Under fire, CIA moves to overhaul its handling of sexual assault (Politico