Newsletter: The Lies That Bind

Harnessing the power of the election denial movement has become a key component of conservatives’ 2024 playbook, from lawsuits attacking ballot access and conspiracy-driven calls for hand counts to enabling mass voter challenges and purging registrations under the guise of “cleaning” voter rolls.

The Republican National Committee has also been recruiting volunteers to monitor polling places — and has been turning to the nationwide network of voter-fraud extremists.

  • During an April 4 meeting hosted by activists with ties to prominent election denier Mike Lindell, the director of the RNC’s “election integrity” department laid out the RNC’s plan to use volunteers to closely monitor the 2024 vote.

Several well-known fraud activists also spoke at the meeting, reported States Newsroom, including Seth Keshel, a data analyst who has peddled unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was rigged at election denial events across the country, and Jay Valentine, who was active in post-2020 efforts to undermine confidence in election security.

Republicans’ slew of lawsuits aimed at restricting voting in 2024 includes complaints filed this week with the Wisconsin Elections Commission alleging that officials in Milwaukee and Dane Counties “refus[ed] to hire a fair number of Republican election inspectors” in the election held earlier this month.

  • Milwaukee and Dane, the two largest reliably Democratic strongholds in Wisconsin, were also the target of Trump campaign lawsuits in 2020 seeking to disqualify votes.
  • Meanwhile, Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson plan to push for a bill banning non-citizens from voting. That’s already illegal, of course, but it’s yet another way for Republicans to keep the election-denial fire burning.

Another Attempt to Erode Access to Public Records

A bill that passed in the Louisiana House this week would give local government officials the power to shield records related to business or economic development negotiations from public disclosure. American Oversight issued a statement condemning the bill on Thursday. 

  • “We’ve seen a disturbing trend of states across the country attempting to chip away at the public’s right to information and documents, and this bill is no exception,” interim Executive Director Chioma Chukwu said. “It provides politicians an alarming amount of leeway to conceal negotiations about business deals — paid for with taxpayer dollars — until those deals are finalized.”
  • The bill would exempt records related to local and parish economic development projects from the Louisiana Public Records Law if a mayor, parish president, or chief executive officer determines their release would have a “detrimental effect” on the negotiation.
  • “The people of Louisiana have a right to know how their government is operating, and we condemn this effort to weaken Louisiana’s Public Records Law by giving local officials power to declare vital public documents confidential,” Chukwu added.

On the Records

North Carolina Educators Scrambled to Comply with ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law

Records obtained by American Oversight and reported on this week by the Charlotte Observer provide behind-the-scenes details regarding educators’ efforts to comply with the discriminatory Parents’ Bill of Rights, which went into effect in August 2023 after the General Assembly overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto.

  • The law prohibits “instruction on gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality” in kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms, and requires educators to notify parents if their child chooses to go by a different name or pronoun at school.
  • It also places onerous requirements on schools to provide information about all instructional materials to parents, and requires school libraries to give parents access to information about what materials their children have checked out.

The documents show many officials, teachers, and librarians in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District (CMS) — one of the first districts in the state to implement new policies to align with the law — contended with unclear guidance about what materials were permitted, and expended considerable effort trying to bring curriculum into compliance.

  • The lack of clarity led many to flag content that merely implied the existence of LGBTQ people, including telling a teacher to stop using a book in class because it referred to a librarian using the “they” pronoun.
  • In one Aug. 28, 2023, email, two CMS officials wrote, “Principals should advise teachers to remove any books from classroom libraries that have content related to gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality that students may access as part of independent reading tasks.”
  • The records also show that instructional materials related to Title IX — the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in schools — were flagged for “potential LGBTQ interpretation.”

“Vague laws like this leave wide room for interpretation, which can have a chilling effect,” American Oversight’s Chioma Chukwu told the Observer. “If there is no clear definition, people will often err on the side of conservatism.”

  • Last year, American Oversight obtained documents from the Florida Department of Education that revealed how similar confusion fueled by vague restrictions on textbook content led publishers to change math lessons by removing references to different cultures.

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • Republicans scrutinize voting rolls and ramp up for mass challenges ahead of election (Stateline)
  • GOP leaders pursue new lawsuits over 2024 election rules — including attacking methods of voting they want supporters to use (CNN)
  • Election workers are drowning in records requests. AI chatbots could make it worse (Wired)
  • Embattled Shasta County Elections Commission receives more resignations (Shasta Scout)
  • Colorado officials warn of new frontier in election denial as more Republicans refuse to certify vote totals (Denver Post)
  • Pushing election fraud theories, nonprofit spent $1.2 million in Michigan in 2022 (Detroit News)
  • Trump targets Meagan Wolfe, Robin Vos and Reince Priebus in interview focused on election falsehoods (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Voting Rights
  • New voting laws in swing states could shape 2024 election (Washington Post)
  • As elections loom, congressional maps challenged as discriminatory will remain in place (ProPublica)
  • The most detailed look yet at the ‘exodus’ of local voting officials (NPR)
  • About 40% of Texas election administrators leave their job each presidential election cycle, report finds (Texas Tribune)
  • Federal trial will test Georgia voting requirements for new US citizens (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • After midterms, Wyoming lost over 80,000 registered voters, raising concerns (USA Today)
  • Warner says West Virginia will not accept voter registrations collected by Biden administration (West Virginia Record)
  • Miami-Dade prosecutor: There are active investigations of voter registration orgs (News from the States)
  • Voting rights groups ask appeals court to reconsider ruling on undated mail-in ballots (Pennsylvania Capital-Star)
In the States
  • Some South Texas school employees could be barred from holding elected office after fraud investigation (Texas Tribune)
  • VCU students protest Youngkin’s request to review racial literacy course (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
  • Elections staff confirms Vos recall attempt falls short (Wisconsin Public Radio)
  • Florida lawmaker tapped as next president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Virginia NAACP to sue Gov. Youngkin’s administration to obtain DEI office public records (13 News Now)
  • Bankruptcy documents detail how GOP NC governor nominee Mark Robinson failed to file federal income taxes for 5 years (ABC News)
National News
  • Leo rejects Senate subpoena from panel probing gifts to Supreme Court justices (Washington Post)
LGBTQ Rights
  • Federal appeals court hears arguments on nation’s first ban on gender-affirming care for minors (Associated Press)
  • Severe weather doesn’t stop committee approval of anti-LGBTQ+ bills (Louisiana Illuminator)
  • Idaho Gov. Brad Little signs bill to ban compelled pronoun use (Idaho Capital Sun)
  • Tennessee GOP senators OK criminalizing helping minors get transgender care, mimicking abortion bill (Associated Press)
  • Federal judge temporarily blocks teacher pronoun restriction in Florida (NBC News)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • Abortion in Arizona set to be illegal in nearly all circumstances, state high court rules (Arizona Republic)
  • Arizona’s abortion ban is likely to cause a scramble for services in states where it’s still legal (Associated Press)
  • Iowa rules for 6-week abortion ban clear legislative hurdle as courts consider legality (Des Moines Register)
Threats to Education
  • The influential conservative group making it harder for Idaho districts to fix their schools (ProPublica)
  • A Wisconsin public school board listed ‘Christian values’ among desires for next superintendent (Wisconsin Public Radio)
  • Think tank with ties to Trump lays out plan to deny free education to undocumented students (Chalkbeat)
Trump Accountability and Jan. 6 Investigations
  • Former Trump executive Allen Weisselberg sentenced to 5 months in jail for lying (Associated Press)
  • Trump’s lawyers told the court that no one would give him a bond. Then he got a lifeline, but they didn’t tell the judges. (ProPublica)
  • State prosecutor to investigate Lt. Gov. Burt Jones in Trump Georgia case (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Some Jan. 6 rioters win early release, even before key Supreme Court ruling (Washington Post)