The same tactics used to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election have already been deployed in advance of next week’s midterms — and, as the New York Times reported this week, by the same lawyers and law firms active in the former president’s efforts to reverse his loss.
The lawyers and groups named in the Times’ analysis are familiar, not just from their involvement in the attempt to overturn the 2020 vote, but for their continued work in support of election denial. One such group is True the Vote, a right-wing group that promotes baseless voter fraud claims and has partnered with sympathetic local officials, including sheriffs.
- On Friday, American Oversight filed a lawsuit against Barry County, Mich., and Sherif Dar Leaf for the release of records related to Leaf’s baseless “investigation” of election fraud.
- In response to our request for the records, Leaf’s office said that releasing the communications with True the Vote would interfere with law enforcement proceedings.
- “Sheriff Leaf is not doing legitimate law enforcement work,” our executive director Heather Sawyer said. “As we’ve seen in other states, True the Vote is propagating misinformation and lies.”
- This week, in a defamation lawsuit against True the Vote brought by an election software company, the group’s leaders were sent to jail after being held in contempt of court by a federal judge in Texas.
Prominent among the names in the Times story are also Cleta Mitchell and John Eastman, lawyers who assisted in Trump’s legal strategy in 2020, including the failed plot to block the congressional certification of the election, and who are now “mobilizing activists to hunt for evidence of fraud in the midterm count.”
- American Oversight’s investigation of the efforts of voter-fraud activists like Mitchell previously revealed that her controversial appointment to a federal election agency’s advisory board came thanks to J. Christian Adams, a purveyor of election fraud myths. We’re also suing the federal agency for communications with conspiracy theorists and voting-restriction advocates, including Mitchell.
- During a recent event, Eastman urged conservative activists in New Mexico to file complaints and challenge voters, and to take careful notes that could later become “the evidence in these legal challenges if we need them.”
Also mentioned in the Times are lawyer Erick Kaardal and the right-wing legal group the Thomas More Society, which has filed several “far-fetched claims,” including a lawsuit in Pennsylvania challenging county election boards’ authority to fix errors in absentee ballots.
- We uncovered records that shed light on the level of influence that the Thomas More Society and Kaardal, who also works for the group, had on the Wisconsin Assembly’s partisan election review. The review was led by attorney Michael Gableman, who began working for the group after he was fired in August.
Those lawyers are just part of a nationwide network of activists and groups still working to discredit U.S. election systems and to foster mistrust in the democratic process — mistrust that has spread so dramatically that according to FiveThirtyEight, 60 percent of Americans will have an election denier on their ballot on Tuesday. Head to our Twitter to watch a video and read more about our ongoing investigations into the network’s anti-democracy playbook.
With the midterms just two days away, here are other stories related to election administration, from threats to election workers to partisan hand counts fueled by conspiracy theories about voting machines:
- Arizona county’s ballot hand-count plan challenged in court (Associated Press)
- Nevada ACLU requests probe into alleged partisan hand-count (Associated Press)
- Second Arizona county mulling hand-counts rejects effort (Associated Press)
- Judge curbs actions of election-monitoring group in Arizona (New York Times)
- Government warns of “heightened threat” to 2022 elections, fueled by rise in domestic violent extremism (CBS News)
- Poll workers train for conflict: ‘A little nervous? I am.’ (Associated Press)
- GOP push to monitor Texas voting in Harris County spurs outcry (Washington Post)
- Conspiracy theories, records requests and lies: What running an election looks like right now (19th News)
On the Records
Multi-State Network of Election Deniers
In the two years since the 2020 election, the network of Trump-allied conspiracy theorists and voter-fraud alarmists have been sowing distrust in U.S. democracy not only through false claims about widespread fraud, but also by pushing for a parade of sham election audits and partisan investigations.
Through public records requests, American Oversight has obtained documents that provide a window into how activists pushed for those election reviews in states like New Hampshire, Nevada, and New Mexico, often taking cues from the Arizona Senate’s sham “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election or relying on the same conspiracy theories and unsupported claims that underpinned that effort. Read more here.
Other Stories We’re Following
The Jan. 6 Investigations
- Trump lawyers saw Clarence Thomas as key to stop Biden electoral count, emails show (Washington Post)
- Prosecutors look at Florida election protest as a model for Jan. 6 (New York Times)
- Oath Keeper Rhodes had violent message for Trump after Jan. 6, witness says (Washington Post)
- January 6 committee renews push for Mark Meadows’ phone logs and testimony (CNN)
- House January 6 committee ‘in discussion’ with Trump’s attorneys for him to testify under oath, Cheney says (CNN)
- Jan. 6 panel interviews Secret Service over Cassidy Hutchinson testimony (Washington Post)
- Nevada GOP chair says he was interviewed by the Jan. 6 committee (NBC News)
- January 6 committee obtained eight emails showing possible planning of post-election crime (CNN)
- Supreme Court clears way for Lindsey Graham to testify in Georgia election probe (Washington Post)
- A first-of-its-kind database tracks threats against public officials (Axios)
- The latest threat to elections: local officials going rogue (Bloomberg)
- Inside the secretive effort by Trump allies to access voting machines (Washington Post)
- “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theories are coming for swing state ballot boxes (Vox)
- Texas AG has been criminally investigating election workers (ProPublica)
- Midterm disinformation has taken Pennsylvania (New York Times)
- How election subversion went mainstream in Pennsylvania (New Yorker)
- Pulse oximeters need to be improved for people of color, FDA panel says (ABC News)
- CDC director Walensky has Covid rebound after Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment (Bloomberg)
Trump Administration Accountability
- Trump aide, granted immunity, set to testify at grand jury probing Mar-a-Lago documents (Wall Street Journal)
- Chief Justice Roberts temporarily blocks release of Trump’s tax records to House Democrats (NBC News)
- Zinke’s Trump cabinet days shape Montana race for U.S. House (Associated Press)
In the States
- Youngkin’s education tip line gripes: Beowulf, masks and ‘grooming’ (Washington Post)
- Abbott’s big new donor got half-billion in COVID, border contracts (Texas Observer)
- How DeSantis used taxes to fly migrants into Florida, then out (Miami Herald)
- Florida takes next step to ban gender-affirming treatments for kids (Politico)
- Milwaukee mayor fires official who sent ballots under fake names to lawmaker (Washington Post)
- How a pro-Trump youth group remade the Arizona GOP, testing democracy (Washington Post)
- Over 200,000 trans people could face voting restrictions because of state ID laws (NBC News)
- After voter fraud arrests, Florida issues new forms that could bolster future cases (Tampa Bay Times)
- Pa. Supreme Court orders counties to set aside undated and wrongly dated mail ballots and not count them (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Overturning Roe has meant at least 10,000 fewer legal abortions (FiveThirtyEight)
- Hate speech, online extremism fed Pelosi attack, terror experts believe (Reuters)
- Stephen Miller group’s radio ads accuses Biden of ‘racism’ towards white Americans (Politico)
- IRS looks the other way as churches endorse political candidates (ProPublica)
- The right-wing mothers fueling the school-board wars (New Yorker)