Newsletter: The Push for Hand Counts

Last week, we wrote about how the anti-democracy movement’s efforts to allow election officials to refuse to certify results is laying the groundwork for subverting results that don’t go the way they want. 

Another tactic for undermining confidence in election integrity is the push for hand counts of ballots. This week, the Guardian reported on records we obtained through our lawsuit in Cochise County, Ariz., where county supervisors face criminal charges for delaying the certification of the 2022 election as they sought to institute a hand count.

  • The records show “how Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, two of the three-member board of supervisors, were both advocating for hand-counting ballots as election denialism and skepticism gripped the county,” reported Rachel Leingang.
  • “It appeared from records that earlier in the process, both supervisors were doubtful a hand count could happen, especially so close to an election,” Leingang wrote, “but, once the idea gained momentum on the right and got national attention, they kept pushing.”

Conservative state lawmakers also voiced their support for the effort to Crosby and Judd, according to the emails we obtained, revealing the extent to which the pro-hand count movement has taken hold on the right.

  • “They will not stop,” American Oversight’s Chioma Chukwu told the Guardian. “They’re going to continue until they get what they want, which is pushing for hand counts, delaying the certification of election results if the election does not go their way in November.”
  • Leingang’s story also notes the long delay in this information coming to light, with the records being released thanks to American Oversight’s lawsuit against the county. Read more about our litigation and records requests here.

Experts agree that hand counts are costlier and more prone to error. But neither that fact nor recent debacles with hand counts have deterred those who seek to keep alive false claims about voting machines.

  • While voters in three South Dakota counties recently rejected measures that would prohibit ballot tabulators and require hand counts, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported this week on how a state requirement for post-election audits “has done little to ease concerns with elections,” with some “still pushing for a hand count in the state’s most populous county” of Minnehaha.
  • A bill in Ohio that’s being pushed by Cleta Mitchell’s Election Integrity Network would require the state to replace its voting machines and allow counties to hand count ballots. “The bill’s opponents include elections officials, who view it as a costly and unnecessary update of an already secure system,” reported

On the Records

Texas Department of Agriculture’s Anti-Transgender Dress Code
Documents we obtained, reported on by Kit O’Connell for the Texas Observer, show senior staff at the Texas Department of Agriculture were aware the agency’s anti-transgender dress code could be illegal and that some employees felt the policy was discriminatory.

  • In April 2023, the Observer reported that TDA implemented a dress code requiring employees to dress “in a manner consistent with their biological gender.” The policy could be enforced with “remedies up to and including termination.”
  • According to the emails we obtained, several employees opposed the policy. For example, on April 30, 2023, a manager encouraged her employees to raise concerns: “I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to voice your concerns with your leadership chain or HR.”

“The records that we have received demonstrate that senior TDA officials were well aware of the potentially unlawful nature of their policy,” our interim executive director Chioma Chukwu told the Observer. “[TDA officials] were taking precautions to try and defend something that is otherwise indefensible in light of Title VII.”

  • Chukwu also noted that TDA Commissioner Sid Miller, one of the policy’s architects, was more concerned with appeasing the anti-trans and anti-nonbinary sentiments of certain officials than with creating a comfortable and inclusive work environment for all employees.

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • 334 public officials in 5 swing states have undermined or cast doubt on elections: study (USA Today)
  • ‘Election integrity’ group appeals dismissal of lawsuit against Maryland State Board of Elections (Baltimore Sun)
Voting Rights
In the States
  • Maryland governor pardons 175,000 marijuana convictions (Axios)
  • Former Florida police official says he was forced out for refusing governor’s ‘unlawful’ orders (Miami Herald)
  • ACLU Texas, students send letters to UT in response to disciplinary notices for protesters (Austin American-Statesman)
LGBTQ Rights
  • Biden’s Title IX law expanding protections for LGBTQ+ students is dealt another setback (Associated Press)
  • Transgender care ‘whistleblower’ indicted by grand jury, set to appear in federal court (Austin American-Statesman)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • The anti-abortion movement is making a big play to thwart citizen initiatives on reproductive rights (Associated Press)
  • Abortion is becoming more common in primary care clinics as doctors challenge stigma (NPR)
  • Democrats seek to repeal Comstock abortion rule, fearing Trump crackdown (Washington Post)
  • Despite GOP headwinds, citizen-led abortion measures could be on the ballot in 9 states (Stateline)
  • Ohio Democrats seek regulation of crisis pregnancy centers (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • An anti-abortion group in South Dakota sues to take an abortion rights initiative off the ballot (Associated Press)
  • Parole and probation rules limit travel. That can be complicated for people seeking abortions (Oklahoma Voice)
  • Texas Supreme Court rejects case that could have imperiled IVF access (Texas Tribune)
  • Judge rules that federal agency can’t enforce abortion rule in Louisiana and Mississippi (Associated Press)
Threats to Education
  • After decades of lobbying by Christian conservative donors, school voucher legislation may finally have the votes (Texas Tribune)
  • A small-town Texas librarian’s big stand against book bans (Texas Observer)
  • 131 college scholarships put on hold or modified due to Texas DEI ban, documents show (Dallas Morning News)
  • Louisiana requires all public classrooms to display Ten Commandments (New York Times)
  • Here’s how Utah plans to enforce statewide book ban retroactively (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Florida government could censor university professors in classrooms, lawyer for state says (Tallahassee Democrat)
  • Arizona is sending taxpayer money to religious schools — and billionaires see it as a model for the US (CNN)
Government Transparency and Public Records Law
  • Immigrant advocates alarmed by prospect of new immigrant jail in Newark (New Jersey Monitor)
  • Texas National Guard is shooting pepper balls to deter migrants at the border (Texas Tribune)
  • Texas Senate panel asks officials about Operation Lone Star: ‘How long can we do this?’ (Austin American-Statesman)
  • Biden gives legal protections to undocumented spouses of US citizens (New York Times)
  • Federal judge calls Iowa’s new immigration law ‘not defensible,’ grants injunction (Des Moines Register)
Trump Accountability
  • Trump’s convictions fueled donation surge that could reshape contest (Washington Post)
  • Judge holds hearing on Trump request to dismiss classified documents case (Washington Post)
  • Missouri AG says he’ll sue New York over Trump hush money case (Axios)
  • How Turning Point, once spurned by the RNC, is becoming Trump’s ‘force multiplier’ in battleground states (Politico)