News Roundup: Threats to Election Administration, Attacks on Civil Rights, and New Lawsuit Against DHS

As the 2024 election becomes a more frequent topic of conversation, so too have voting rights — both new restrictions as well as measures designed to expand access to the ballot.

A new report from Voting Rights Lab found that more than half of all elections-related bills introduced in the first quarters of 2021, 2022 and 2023 expanded access, but noted that “restrictive voting laws are being enacted faster in 2023 than in previous years.” The report also notes that “election interference legislation remains a threat” and that “state and local election officials are the main target of these bills.”

It’s those state and local offices that remain a place where the election denier movement poses a particularly potent threat.

  • In Pennsylvania this week, six county commissioners who had refused to certify the results of last year’s election until the state intervened all secured Republican nominations to remain in office.
  • The drumbeat of right-wing and conspiracy-fueled attacks on the nonpartisan, nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) continues. With Virginia’s exit last week, eight states have withdrawn from the voter roll program — and North Carolina and Texas could follow suit.

Right-wing attacks on civil rights aren’t done, either. In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto to enact a 12-week abortion ban, and South Carolina’s House passed its own six-week abortion ban. Nebraska’s Legislature voted to include a 12-week abortion ban in a bill prohibiting gender-affirming health care for minors, an anti-trans measure that’s been repeated in several states. Here are some related headlines from the past week:

  • DeSantis signs into law restrictions on trans Floridians’ access to treatments and bathrooms (CNN)
  • Texas legislature bans transgender medical care for children (New York Times)
  • Idaho will soon ban gender-affirming care. Here are the consequences for trans kids (Idaho Statesman)
  • 3 judges who chipped away abortion rights to hear federal abortion pill appeal (Associated Press)
  • Idaho’s murky abortion law is driving doctors out of the state (CNN)
  • Antiabortion groups push 2024 GOP candidates to embrace national ban (Washington Post)

New American Oversight Lawsuit
On Wednesday, we sued the Department of Homeland Security over its failure to release records that could shed light on the creation of and potential influences behind the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the Trump administration policy requiring asylum-seekers at the southern border to wait in Mexico for their claims to be processed.

  • In September 2019, we submitted a FOIA request seeking communications between political appointees and certain anti-immigrant groups, including several that have been condemned as hate groups by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • More than three years later, DHS component agencies have still failed to release these records.
  • “The public has a right to see what Trump-era officials were discussing with extremist anti-immigrant groups and how those alliances may have impacted the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program,” said our executive director Heather Sawyer. Read more here.

On the Records

Durham Investigation Report Released
This week, Special Counsel John Durham released his report on his inquiry into the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. As expected, the report is heavy on criticism of the FBI but lacking in evidence of actionable misconduct. 

  • American Oversight previously obtained documents revealing that former Attorney General William Barr, who had selected Durham to lead the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, had met frequently with Durham in the weeks after the Mueller investigation ended — 18 times in seven months.
  • In 2019, we sued the Justice Department to compel the release of documents related to Durham’s investigation, including communications between Durham and senior officials, the Trump White House, or Congress. In a motion filed in that lawsuit late last week, the department announced that it was dropping a key objection to the release of more than 4,500 pages of documents, indicating that the investigation had been closed. 
  • Our statement in response to the report: “From its onset, this investigation was a politicized undertaking in the service of former President Trump. We look forward to the release of more public records that could shed further light on Attorney General Barr and Durham’s four-year, multimillion-dollar effort to appease the former president.” 

Another ‘Madison Dinner’ Invite for Harlan Crow
We obtained an email from April 2019 about another “Madison Dinner” to which former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan Pompeo invited Harlan Crow, the billionaire whose extravagant gifts to Justice Clarence Thomas have drawn major scrutiny. The email notes that Crow was “so disappointed” he couldn’t attend that he “asked for a memento of the invitation.”

  • The records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, are another indication of the level of access Crow has had with powerful conservative officials, including Trump administration cabinet members.
  • Last week, we published records showing that Harlan Crow attended at least one of the controversial, taxpayer-funded dinners in the fall of 2019. Learn more about those records here.

Other Stories We’re Following

Jan. 6 Investigations
  • It cost Steve Bannon $601,000 to ignore the Jan. 6 committee (Daily Beast)
  • Fulton County DA opposes Trump’s efforts to toss special grand jury report on 2020 election interference (CNN)
  • Georgia prosecutor signals August timetable for charges in Trump inquiry (New York Times)
  • FBI revokes security clearances of 3 agents over Jan. 6 issues (New York Times)
  • GOP witnesses undermined Jan. 6 cases with conspiracy theories, FBI says (NBC News)
  • Wisconsin judge allows for lawsuit against fake Trump electors to proceed (Associated Press)
Voting Rights
  • Supreme Court to consider South Carolina voting map ruled a racial gerrymander (New York Times)
  • Tarrant County Democrats ask feds to investigate O’Hare’s actions, citing voting rights (KERA News)
  • How much did election denial hurt Republicans in the midterms? (New York Times)
  • Kari Lake headed to trial on last remaining claim in suit over loss in Arizona governor’s race (Associated Press)
  • Kari Lake’s star trial witness was involved in the 2020 election ‘audit’ (Arizona Daily Star)
  • Eliminating countywide voting in Texas would make the process harder on voters, cost more money, election leaders say (Texas Tribune)
  • Ypsilanti landlords sue city over rule they must give voting information to tenants (
Trump Administration Accountability
  • Trump lawyer in classified documents probe resigns (Politico)
  • Supreme Court takes up case on Trump hotel records (New York Times)
  • New evidence in special counsel probe may undercut Trump’s claim documents he took were automatically declassified (CNN)
  • DeSantis to send law enforcement to US-Mexico border as he gears up for 2024 run (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Texas has been taking immigration matters into its own hands (New York Times)
  • Homeland Security uses AI tool to analyze social media of U.S. citizens and refugees (Vice)
  • Supreme Court dismisses case on pandemic-era immigration measure (New York Times)
In the States
  • Report: More than half of all rural Tennessee hospitals no longer deliver babies (Tennessee Lookout)
  • Gianforte signs Montana TikTok ban, directs agencies to ban apps linked to foreign adversaries (Daily Montanan)
  • Gianforte signs into law insulin cap, bill preventing private contributions to elections (Daily Montanan)
  • Disney pulls plug on $1 billion development in Florida (New York Times)
  • U.S. officials say Iowa child labor bill does not comply with federal law (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
  • Joseph Ladapo says anti-vaccine crusade was God’s plan. It cost him his peers’ trust (Orlando Sentinel)
  • Texas GOP’s broadest attempt yet to erode blue cities’ power gets one step closer to becoming law (Texas Tribune)
  • In FOIA case, Virginia Supreme Court draws ‘bright line’ upholding open meetings (Virginia Mercury)
  • Missouri lawmakers fail to raise bar to amend constitution, easing path for abortion rights (Associated Press)
Attacks on Education
  • Ron DeSantis’ ban of school diversity programs is coming to these states next (Politico)
  • Louisiana Senate approves restrictions on children’s library access (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • Ohio Senate bill would create ‘intellectual diversity’ centers at Ohio State and the University of Toledo (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • DeSantis signs bill to defund DEI programs at Florida’s public colleges (Washington Post)
  • Florida teacher investigated by state agency for showing Disney movie in class (Tallahassee Democrat)
  • DeSantis ally with no higher-ed experience says he’s getting a state college’s top job (Miami Herald)
  • School librarians face a new penalty in the banned-book wars: Prison (Washington Post)
  • PEN America, Penguin Random House sue Florida school district over book bans (Associated Press)
National News
  • How to raise $89 million in small donations, and make it disappear (New York Times)
  • Supreme Court rejects challenge to Illinois assault weapons ban (NBC News)
  • George Santos expulsion coming before House as Democrats force vote (Associated Press)
  • IRS acknowledges Black Americans face more audit scrutiny (New York Times)
  • ‘I don’t see this as an end to the pandemic’: Ashish Jha on the end of Covid public health emergency (Stat News)