Newsletter: Constitutional Sheriffs Want to Interfere in Election Administration

This week, the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association — the most prominent group of adherents to the fringe legal theory that sheriffs have more law enforcement power in their home counties than any other government body or individual — held an event in Las Vegas with some of the biggest names in the election denial movement.

The nexus between those who seek to undermine trust in our elections and the constitutional sheriffs movement — which has used its extremist theory to reject things like gun control or Covid-related public health measures — is a frightening one. It not only raises the potential for interference in election administration, but also voter intimidation and disenfranchisement.

  • “Nothing is more dangerous to our democracy than a movement based on election lies promoted by radical law enforcement officials who falsely believe they are the ultimate authority, including on matters of election administration,” American Oversight’s Chioma Chukwu told the Guardian in their report on the movement.

The usual false claims about voter fraud and compromised voting machines were front and center at the Las Vegas event, with speakers who used their platforms to spread dangerous misinformation about voting and election security.

  • It featured talks by MyPillow CEO and hand-count enthusiast Mike Lindell, former CEO Patrick Byrne, former Trump administration officials Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn, and CSPOA’s founder Richard Mack, who previously sat on the board of the far-right militia the Oath Keepers
  • One talking point is the xenophobic false claim that noncitizen immigrants are illegally casting ballots in U.S. elections. As we mentioned last week, this refrain has spurred former President Trump and House Speaker Johnson to push for a bill banning non-citizens from voting — something that is already illegal but appears to be a politically useful bogeyman.

Mack and others also repeated the claim that sheriffs are the ultimate authority in determining the constitutionality of the laws they must enforce. According to Talking Points Memo, Lindell said ahead of his talk that he would be teaching listeners about “how much power sheriffs have at the county level to get rid of electronic voting machines.”

  • Earlier this month, the Guardian and Votebeat reported on the right-wing push for hand counts, a movement that leans on lies about voting machines and a blindness to logistical realities. “It just gives additional grounds for calling into question the results of elections when there are no valid grounds,” our former executive director Heather Sawyer said in the article.
  • These claims have been disproven time and again, but remain a powerful tool for anti-democracy advocates who seek to sow distrust in the voting process.

On the Records

Utah Counties Approve ERIC Withdrawal Resolutions
Last week, delegates in three Utah counties approved resolutions calling on the state to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center to “join with other states who have undertaken similar action.”

  • It’s a reminder that the conspiracy theory-driven attacks on ERIC — a nonpartisan tool used by states to ensure accurate voting lists — are still a key tactic in the election denial movement’s efforts to weaken public trust in elections. 
  • We’ve been investigating the activist campaign against ERIC that led to several states’ withdrawals from the program, and last year we published a detailed report on how the disinformation surrounding ERIC and the consequences of those withdrawals threaten voting rights and election security.
  • The Utah News Dispatch cited the report, “The Campaign to Dismantle ERIC,” in its story on the Utah resolutions, highlighting our findings that many of the same people who tried to overturn the 2020 election also worked behind the scenes to influence the exodus from ERIC — often by promoting false claims and conspiracy theories.

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • Pro-Trump network OAN and Smartmatic settle 2020 election defamation case (CNN)
  • Biggs, Gosar subpoenaed in Arizona attorney general inquiry of fake electors, report says (Arizona Republic)
  • Former Trump staffer who said to ‘fan the flame’ after 2020 loss hired to lead Wisconsin GOP (Associated Press)
  • Green Bay City Council candidate won’t concede despite recount confirming loss (Wisconsin Public Radio)
  • Election denier Timothy Ramthun has launched a campaign for Wisconsin’s 20th Senate District (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Johnson County Sheriff Hayden lied about having warrant to seize old ballots for election probe (Kansas City Star)
Voting Rights
  • Trump campaign says it will deploy thousands of election workers to monitor poll sites (Politico)
  • Lawsuit seeks to allow disabled Wisconsin voters to cast ballots electronically (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Felon voting rights restoration proposal becomes law but faces possible legal challenge (Nebraska Examiner)
In the States
  • Lawsuit asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike down governor’s 400-year veto (Associated Press)
  • Audit says Arkansas governor’s office potentially violated laws with $19,000 lectern purchase (Associated Press)
  • Louisiana’s conservative state officials seek to block ‘rogue’ district attorneys (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • Worker heat safety laws are latest focus of red state preemption (Bloomberg Law)
  • Why 18 attorneys general are backing Ken Paxton aide in professional misconduct complaint (Austin American-Statesman)
  • Proposed changes to state Medicaid plans could shake up health coverage for 1.8 million low-income Texans (Texas Tribune)
National News
  • Senate kills articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas (NPR)
  • USPS got billions in financial aid, and now says it needs more (Washington Post)
  • Speaker Johnson’s team briefed conservative influencers on his election bill before Trump meeting (NBC News)
  • Homeland Security investigative agency seeks rebrand, without ICE (Washington Post)
  • Soldiers charged with violent crimes will now face more scrutiny before they can leave the Army (Texas Tribune)
LGBTQ Rights
  • Ohio judge temporarily blocks ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • Supreme Court temporarily revives Idaho law banning gender affirming care for minors (NPR)
  • West Virginia transgender sports ban discriminates against teen athlete, appeals court says (Associated Press)
  • Kansas governor vetoes a ban on gender-affirming care; GOP vows override (Washington Post)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • Inside the GOP reckoning over Arizona’s 1864 abortion ban (Washington Post)
  • Arizona GOP strategy document implores party to show ‘Republicans have a plan’ on abortion (NBC News)
  • Bills about ‘abortion coercion’ and ‘trafficking’ advance in Republican-led legislatures (News from the States)
  • Indiana limits abortion data for privacy under near-total ban, but some GOP candidates push back (Associated Press)
  • Abortion rights petition okayed by Nevada Supreme Court (Nevada Current)
  • Louisiana lawmakers plan to give anti-abortion nonprofit exclusive state contract worth millions (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • Texas, Idaho abortion bans test against federal emergency medicine rule (Texas Tribune)
  • Group launches effort to explore ballot initiative restoring abortion access in Idaho (Idaho Capital Sun)
  • Sen. Pete Ricketts funds competing abortion ban petition effort (Nebraska Examiner)
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court calls for responses to Planned Parenthood petition (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Emergency rooms refused to treat pregnant women, leaving one to miscarry in a lobby restroom (Associated Press)
Threats to Education
  • Red states threaten librarians with prison — as blue states work to protect them (Washington Post)
  • Dozens of campuses shed or alter DEI efforts as political pressure mounts (Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • North Carolina university committee swiftly passes policy change that could cut diversity staff (Associated Press)
  • DeSantis signs law requiring K–12 lessons on communism’s ‘evils’ (Axios)
  • DeSantis ratchets up the rhetoric against ‘weaponization’ of school book challenges (News from the States)
  • Florida will open schools to volunteer chaplains (Associated Press)
  • Iowa Senate approves bill adding social studies, civics requirements for Iowa schools (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
  • Nearly 350 workers leave Iowa AEAs as Kim Reynolds pushed to overhaul education agencies (Des Moines Register)
  • Kansas’ higher ed board adopts an anti-DEI policy after pressure from GOP legislators (Associated Press)
Civil Rights
  • The Supreme Court effectively abolishes the right to mass protest in three US states (Vox)
  • Iowa House votes to turn Iowa Civil Rights Commission into advisory panel (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
  • DeSantis signs bill to defang police oversight panels like the one Miami voters created (Miami Herald)
Government Transparency and Public Records Law
  • Bill advances to exempt most Louisiana government records from public disclosure (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • In a win for transparency, KY Senate kills bill creating Open Records Act ‘loophole’ (Lexington Herald Leader)
  • Ohio Supreme Court rules state database death records aren’t open to public (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • Des Moines city leaders sidestep Iowa law, hold secret meetings on development agreements (Des Moines Register)
  • Biden administration resumes deportation flights to Haiti amid ongoing violence (Miami Herald)
  • Dubious claims about voting flyers at a migrant camp show how the border is inflaming US politics (Associated Press)
  • Texas investigating Guard member after border shooting incident (Texas Tribune)
Trump Accountability
  • A jury of his peers: A look at how jury selection will work in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial (Associated Press)
  • Trump is funneling campaign money into cash-strapped businesses. Experts say it looks bad. (USA Today)
  • Powerful conservative funds hand out millions to pro-Trump far-right groups (Guardian)
  • Judge rejects Trump effort to pause Jan. 6 civil lawsuits while criminal case is ongoing (ABC News)
Jan. 6 Investigations
  • Trump could have helped response to Jan. 6 riot — but didn’t — per new testimony (Politico)
  • Supreme Court gives skeptical eye to key statute used to prosecute Jan. 6 rioters (NPR)