Newsletter: Election Subversion Has Already Begun

It was hardly surprising, given that he did the same thing four years ago, but former President Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the election results unless “everything’s honest” was a glaring reminder that his and his allies’ efforts to undermine trust in the vote has already started.

Of course, it didn’t really “start”; more accurately, it has continued, just as the election denial movement has for years now been adapting and changing its targets. For instance, the specter of votes being cast by non-citizens — already illegal in federal elections — has become a new conservative talking point, with bills and ballot measures aimed at keeping voters primed to distrust the November results.

And while there have been important steps toward accountability for those who sought to overturn the 2020 results, conservative leaders continue to signal their disdain for accountability, whether by attending Trump’s hush money trial in New York or by refusing themselves to commit to upholding democracy this fall.

  • This week, Sen. Ron Johnson refused to pledge to accept the results, saying, “We have to see exactly what happens.”
  • Sen. Marco Rubio also refused to commit; Sen. Ted Cruz said he would “if the election is fair.”
  • The Washington Post reported that several 2020 fake electors are “poised to serve again,” despite criminal investigations into their actions. “Their eagerness to serve … reflects a widespread belief among Republicans that the electors did nothing wrong in 2020.” 

Meanwhile, a new ethics scandal is circling the Supreme Court with news that another Jan. 6–adjacent flag was flown outside a home of Justice Samuel Alito. The flag, the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, was also displayed by Jan. 6 rioters (and according to Rolling Stone, it also was outside the home of conservative judicial activist and Supreme Court architect Leonard Leo in February.)

  • The New York Times previously reported that in January 2021, days before Biden’s inauguration and during the court’s consideration of a 2020 election case, an upside-down flag — another symbol used by insurrectionists and Trump allies who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election — flew outside Alito’s home.
  • The news has raised alarm about impartiality, with experts calling for Alito to recuse himself from cases related to Trump and elections.
  • There are two pending Supreme Court cases associated with Jan. 6: One concerns Trump’s claims that he is immune from prosecution for his efforts to subvert the election, and the other will decide whether a certain obstruction charge can be used against insurrectionists.
  • Earlier this year, Alito participated in the court’s ruling that states could not bar Trump from the ballot using the “insurrection clause.”

The Supreme Court adopted its first ethics code last year following reports of undisclosed luxury gifts and trips — particularly those given to Justice Clarence Thomas by billionaire Harlan Crow. The code includes no method for enforcement.

On the Records

Records Reveal Thousands of Heat Complaints in Texas Prisons
Documents obtained by American Oversight and reported on by NPR show that people incarcerated in Texas state prisons submitted more than 4,200 individual heat-related complaints between May and October 2023.

  • NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported on the records, shortly after several advocacy organizations joined a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice arguing that the extreme heat in Texas prisons amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
  • The records show that inmates in TDCJ-run prisons filed 4,680 heat-related grievances between May and October 2023 — and highlight the complicated process for filing and elevating grievance complaints in Texas state prisons.

The records also include orientation videos for inmates and prison staff that include details about heat mitigation strategies. 

  • Several interventions suggested in the videos require purchases from the prison commissary, such as electrolyte drinks, sunscreen, and cooling towels. 
  • Fans must also be purchased, but may be provided to inmates who cannot afford them “on a first come, first served basis,” one video states. 
  • Inmates in Texas state prisons are not paid for their labor, a practice that is widely criticized by advocacy groups. 

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • Michigan county refused to certify vote, prompting fears of a growing election threat this fall (CBS News)
  • Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies plead not guilty in Arizona (Washington Post)
  • Dem files ethics complaint against 2 GOP senators indicted as fake electors for Trump (Arizona Mirror)
  • Giuliani says he will stop accusing Georgia workers of election tampering (Washington Post)
Voting Rights
  • Cash-strapped election offices have fewer resources after bans on private grants (Daily Montanan)
  • In more than half of the states, voting this year will be harder than it was four years ago, new report finds (CNN)
  • Milwaukee election shakeup triggers doubts about whether new leader is ready to run 2024 vote (Votebeat)
  • Souls to the Polls Wisconsin ramps up calls for GOP official’s resignation (Wisconsin Public Radio)
  • Supreme Court allows disputed South Carolina voting map, a win for GOP (Washington Post)
  • Clarence Thomas makes a full-throated case for racial gerrymandering (Slate)
LGBTQ Rights
  • South Carolina governor signs into law ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors (Associated Press)
  • Ohio Supreme Court allows temporary hold to continue on gender-affirming care ban for trans youth (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • In 75th lawsuit against Biden, Paxton sues to stop new gender identity guidelines for employers (Texas Tribune)
  • US Supreme Court won’t hear Maryland school district gender identity case (Reuters)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • DOJ sues anti-abortion groups, says patients were blocked from Ohio clinics (Washington Post)
  • Kansas providers challenge new ‘abortion survey’ law in court (Kansas Reflector)
  • Judge says South Carolina can enforce 6-week abortion ban amid dispute over when a heartbeat begins (Associated Press)
  • Nevada abortion rights groups submit signatures to advance ballot measure (NBC News)
  • Arguments heard in lawsuit seeking to invalidate Michigan abortion restrictions (Michigan Advance)
  • Louisiana Legislature approves bill classifying abortion pills as controlled dangerous substances (Associated Press)
  • Out-of-state abortion pill providers must stop advertising and sales in Arkansas, AG orders (Arkansas Advocate)
  • At five hour hearing, no one is happy with Texas Medical Board’s proposed abortion guidance (Texas Tribune)
  • ‘Meet Baby Olivia’: spate of new bills would require showing anti-abortion video in schools (Guardian)
Threats to Education
  • New criteria for Oklahoma textbooks asks for ‘traditional’ gender roles, reverence for religion (Oklahoma Voice)
  • Ryan Walters sets new rules for public comment ahead of Thursday’s board meeting (Oklahoman)
  • VCU and George Mason to no longer require DEI courses for students (Axios)
Civil Rights
  • ‘How do you get hypothermia in a prison?’ Records show hospitalizations among Virginia inmates (Associated Press)
  • Judge lifts order that mandated Albuquerque stop throwing away homeless people’s belongings (ProPublica)
Government Transparency and Public Records Law
Trump Accountability
  • Unsealed motions in Trump’s Florida case suggest new evidence of possible obstruction (Washington Post)
  • For the women who accused the Trump campaign of harassment, it’s been more harassment (ProPublica)
  • Trump alumni raising millions for legal defenses while scouting for White House hires (Washington Post)