There Is More Than One Big Lie

“There’s a mountain of baseless overlapping claims piled up inside the stultifying biodome of the Big Lie: voters casting multiple ballots, dead people voting, ballot-counting machines flipping votes, foreign nations hacking systems to swap totals. The Big Lie is an à la carte conspiracy theory — a bit like QAnon in that respect — where adherents pick and choose what sounds right to them and disregard what doesn’t. Each individual who believes the Big Lie has their own suspicions about what took place, a personal recipe of different conspiracies to nourish their belief that the election was illegitimate. In right-wing chat groups on the messaging app Telegram, these theories are traded as casually as chats about the weather.”

“Every iteration of the Big Lie, though, is wrong. The ones in the darkest corner of the Internet? Wrong. The ones brought forward in lawsuits by the Trump campaign? Wrong. The ones already debunked by news sources? Still wrong. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Still, polling gives us a glimpse of the most popular theories on the Big Lie menu. Last summer, a YouGov/CBS News poll asked voters who thought there had been widespread voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exactly what they thought had happened. They were asked about various sources of voting and how much of the voter fraud came from those sources, either “a lot of it,” “some of it” or “hardly any or none.”

Seventy-seven percent said “a lot” of voter fraud and irregularities had come from ballots cast by mail, and 70 percent said a lot of it had come from voting machines or equipment that were manipulated, but just 22 percent said a lot of the fraud had come from ballots cast in person. Racism also appeared to inform a lot of thinking around the Big Lie: 72 percent said a lot of the fraud had come from ballots cast in major cities and urban areas, compared with 22 percent and 14 percent who said a lot of it had come from suburbs and rural areas, respectively. And 39 percent of those who believed voter fraud was widespread said “a lot” of fraud had come from ballots cast in Black communities, while 25 percent said so for white communities and 27 percent said so for voters in Hispanic communities.”

“When they asked Americans to compare hypothetical political candidates, Republican voters favored candidates who embraced the Big Lie by an average of 5.7 percentage points to candidates who accurately said Trump lost the election. This suggests that the Big Lie is not going anywhere soon and that it will have a meaningful sway on elections. Already we’ve witnessed the Big Lie being wielded as a campaign tool by Republican candidates across the country, demonstrating the power of this belief among the party’s voters.

And as polls continue to capture the millions of Americans who endorse the Big Lie, precisely what they believe matters less than how that belief influences their actions.”

Georgia Election Investigation Fails, Once Again, To Find Massive Voter Fraud

“Much was made both during and after the 2020 presidential election about rampant voter fraud. This week, yet another of those claims fell apart under scrutiny.

In September 2020, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that more than 1,000 people may have voted more than once in the state’s primary and runoff elections that year. Amid ongoing allegations of widespread vote fraud from President Donald Trump, Raffensperger charged that the voters in question returned absentee ballots, and then also voted in person—a violation of both state and federal law. Raffensperger assembled a task force to investigate, and he warned that convictions under Georgia law would garner up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

But now, Raffensperger admits that his initial claims were overblown.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that in response to requests for information about the investigation, the secretary of state’s office indicated that only around 300 cases of double-voting were ultimately substantiated, “almost always because of mistakes by confused voters and poll workers.” Of the 1,339 cases which Raffensperger initially claimed, the confirmed total represents barely more than one-fifth (22 percent), though the paper contends that about 100 cases remain “under investigation.””

“Georgia voters who fill out an absentee ballot may either mail it in or drop it off. They could also go to their polling place and vote in person instead. In that case, according to page 55 of the State of Georgia Poll Worker Manual, the poll worker’s terminal will prompt that the voter has been issued an absentee ballot. At that time, the voter would either turn in their absentee ballot to be discarded, or if they did not have it with them, the poll worker would call to verify that the ballot had not been counted before having the voter fill out a form requesting their original ballot be canceled.

If, as Raffensperger alleged, more than 1,000 voters cast more than one vote, by mailing back an absentee ballot and then also voting in person, then in every single case that would require a failure on the part of the state of Georgia or its poll workers.

There is evidence that Raffensperger’s office realized this when he first made the claim. According to emails published by American Oversight, a government accountability watchdog group, on the same day that Raffensperger made the announcement about double-voting, Ryan Germany, the general counsel to the secretary of state, was advising members of the task force on the subject: “There are systematic checks to stop double voting from happening, and those checks appear to be largely working as intended. [Some] people likely voted twice inadvertently or because they were not sure if their absentee ballot had been returned on time.””

The Big Lie’s Long Shadow

“The evolution of the Big Lie was the product of a vast catalog of politicians, pundits, true believers and benefactors financing and promoting claims of voter fraud and efforts to overturn the election. This includes lawyers like Lin Wood and Sidney Powell who filed pro-Trump lawsuits, Republican politicians who actively embraced the Big Lie like Georgia Rep. Jody Hice (whom Trump has endorsed in the race for Georgia secretary of state) and others who, while not embracing the Big Lie, refused to condemn it. It included political action committees and conservative groups that financed these efforts. And it included alt-right personalities like Steve Bannon and Mike Lindell, who have amassed huge audiences as they continue to promote the Big Lie.”

Joe Biden Says He’s Willing To Kill the Filibuster

“”I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” Biden said. “Debate them, vote, let the majority prevail. If that majority is blocked, then we have no choice but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster.”
Democrats hold the slimmest possible majority in the Senate, which is currently split 50–50 with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) says he’s prepared to bring a pair of election bills to the floor in the coming weeks despite nearly unanimous Republican opposition. The Freedom to Vote Act would limit state-level efforts (led by Republicans) to restrict mail-in voting and absentee balloting, make Election Day a federal holiday, impose new rules for the redistricting process, and require more disclosures from political donors. The second bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would reimplement a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

On Tuesday, Biden positioned the two bills as a response to Republican efforts (in Georgia and elsewhere) to tighten election laws, and a necessary rejoinder to former President Donald Trump’s craven efforts (in Georgia and elsewhere) to influence the results of the 2020 election.

“That’s not America,” he said. “That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote.”

Those Republican efforts to impose new rules on elections do indeed run the risk of corroding democracy, and Trump’s attempts to overturn the last presidential election were grotesque and condemnable. Even so, it’s not clear that the Democrats’ proposals make sense. If anything, greater federal control over elections might make it more likely that a future president could exercise undue influence over democratic proceedings.

But whether Democrats can pass those bills after suspending the filibuster might be a moot point because it doesn’t seem like there are 50 votes in the Senate for abolishing the filibuster in the first place.”

What’s in the new Republican voting law that passed in Texas?

“SB 1 has morphed and changed considerably over the last several months, and the final version does not include some of the most aggressive attempts to limit voting rights that were included in previous iterations. The final version stripped a provision that would have shut down many urban polling precincts, and another that would have ended early voting on Sunday mornings, when many Black churches sponsor “souls-to-the-polls” drives.

It also doesn’t include anything resembling the most troubling provision of Georgia’s recently enacted election law, which permits Republican officials to take over election administration in Democratic strongholds such as Atlanta, which has the potential to disenfranchise voters en masse.”

“the bill does include a number of provisions that either make it harder to vote in Texas or tweak the state’s election rules in ways that advantage Republicans.

In 2020, for example, a few polling places in Harris County, a highly Democratic area that includes Houston, remained open for 24 hours. The Republican bill bans this practice while simultaneously expanding early voting in many smaller counties — which tend to be the domain of the GOP.

Similarly, the bill imposes new restrictions on absentee voting, such as a requirement that most voters provide their driver’s license number in order to vote by mail, and a provision that makes it a felony for election officials to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. In 2020, Republicans were much less likely to vote absentee than Democrats, most likely because then-President Donald Trump repeatedly denounced mail-in ballots.”

“One potentially troubling provision of the GOP bill requires election officials to conduct monthly purges of the state’s voting rolls, ostensibly to identify noncitizens who may have registered to vote. Another provides new legal protections to partisan poll watchers, who are permitted to observe elections and the vote-counting process — but who may also attempt to disrupt the election.”

” No one who cares about voting rights should celebrate SB 1. It erects unnecessary barriers between voters and the franchise, and it subtly changes Texas’s election law in ways that are likely to benefit the party that wrote the bill. But much of SB 1 makes only marginal changes to Texas’s already quite restrictive voting laws.”

The Supreme Court leaves the Voting Rights Act alive — but only barely

“Brnovich upholds both Arizona laws — a provision that disenfranchises voters for casting a ballot in the wrong precinct, and another that prevents most third parties from delivering another voter’s absentee ballot to a polling place. But Alito’s opinion most likely preserves civil rights plaintiffs’ ability to challenge many of the most odious provisions of the voter suppression laws currently being pushed by Republican state lawmakers in other states.”

“the opinion is limited in scope. Brnovich does not apply to all Voting Rights Act cases, or even to all cases involving the law’s “results test” — the specific provision of the Voting Rights Act at issue in the case. Rather, the opinion limits its analysis to “cases involving neutral time, place, and manner rules” governing elections. Thus, while Brnovich does shrink the Voting Rights Act considerably, it primarily does so in this limited context.”

“Alito lays out five factors that govern future “time, place and manner” lawsuits (more on this five-factor test below). One of the practical upshots of these five new factors is that states will largely be free to enact voting rules that were common in 1982, when a key amendment to the Voting Rights Act became law. But novel restrictions on the right to vote are less likely to survive judicial scrutiny.”

“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is the seminal law that broke the back of Jim Crow, along with the previous year’s Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is arguably the most successful civil rights law in American history, and it was this nation’s first serious legislative attempt since Reconstruction to build a pluralistic democracy rooted in the principle of racial equality.”

“Under a 1982 amendment to the law, the Voting Rights Act has three prongs, but the Supreme Court has either deactivated or severely weakened two of these prongs. The first is “preclearance,” which required states with a history of racist voting practices to “preclear” any new voting practices with officials in Washington, DC — in order to ensure that those practices did not discriminate on the basis of race.
The Supreme Court gutted preclearance in Shelby County v. Holder (2013).

The second prong of the Voting Rights Act is known as the “intent test,” and it prohibits state voting practices enacted with racist intent. But, in Abbott v. Perez (2018), the Supreme Court held that lawmakers enjoy such a high presumption of racial innocence that it is nearly impossible to prove invidious intent, except in the most egregious cases.

That leaves the third prong of the law, known as the “results test,” which derives from the Voting Rights Act’s language forbidding a state election practice that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right … to vote on account of race or color.””

“Alito’s opinion is vague, and it leaves as many questions open as it answers. When courts are faced with “time, place, and manner” cases under the Voting Rights Act, he writes, “any circumstance that has a logical bearing on whether voting is ‘equally open’ and affords equal ‘opportunity’ may be considered.” Nevertheless, he also provides a non-exhaustive list of five factors that “should be mentioned.””

“One impact of this decision, in other words, is that many laws that have a disparate impact on voters of color will be upheld — though it is not yet clear just how severe a law’s impact on minority voters must be before the courts will intervene.”

“The upshot of Brnovich, in other words, is that it gives states tremendous power to roll back expansions of voting rights such as early voting and expanded access to absentee ballots, although that power may be limited if such restrictions are imposed in ways that clearly target voters of color.”

Don’t buy Bill Barr’s attempt to rehab his image

“William Barr began his tenure as Donald Trump’s attorney general with extremely evasive testimony during his confirmation hearing. He may be best remembered for giving a highly misleading summary of the Mueller report, and he spent much of 2020 trying to substantiate Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election being rigged against him.

But now, more than six months following his departure from government, Barr is trying to do some image damage control.

In interviews with journalist Jonathan Karl for a book excerpted in the Atlantic, Barr details how his final break with Trump finally came after he went public with claims undermining Trump’s last-ditch effort to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told an Associated Press reporter on December 1.

Barr told Karl that comment prompted an angry Trump to summon him into a meeting in which the president unloaded on him, saying things like “how the fuck could you do this to me?” and “you must hate Trump.”

Barr indicates that not only was he not intimidated by Trump’s outburst, but he fired back, comparing the Rudy Giuliani-led effort to overturn the results to a circus.

“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr told Trump, according to Karl. “This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy. Instead, you have a clown show. No self-respecting lawyer is going anywhere near it. It’s just a joke. That’s why you are where you are.”

Barr ended up leaving the Department of Justice days before the January 6 insurrection. The new account of the weeks leading up to his resignation has led some to describe him as a “patriot.” But that’s going way too far even when Barr’s account is read in the most charitable light.”

“Barr spent the run-up to the 2020 election serving more as an arm of Trump’s campaign than he did as an independent arbiter of the rule of law. Barr was happy to amplify Trump’s lies about mail voting and voting fraud up to the point where it was clear to all but the most fanatical Trump supporters that he had lost the election.

Consider, for instance, the disastrous interview Barr did with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on September 2, when he couldn’t produce any evidence of mail voting fraud and resorted to saying its general existence is a “matter of logic.” Or his DOJ’s decision a few weeks later to issue a factually incorrect press release announcing an investigation into alleged mail voting irregularities in Pennsylvania — an announcement that violated DOJ’s policies. Or Barr’s move three days after the election to authorize investigations into “substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities,” even though there was no evidence of such irregularities.

In his interviews with Karl, Barr portrayed his decision to authorize fraud investigations despite a lack of evidence as a strategy he used to make sure he would be able to tell Trump that his conspiracy theories were baseless when the time came.”

“it’s not normal for the DOJ, which is ostensibly supposed to operate with a modicum of independence from the executive branch, to pursue investigations based on “bullshit” conspiracy theories favored by the president. But Barr spent years turning the DOJ into something akin to the president’s personal law firm.”

“It’s not even clear to what extent — if at all — Barr’s break with Trump was motivated by a desire to protect American democracy. Instead, Karl’s piece makes it seem as though Barr and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were primarily interested in helping Republicans win special elections in January for two US Senate seats.

Karl writes that McConnell had been urging Barr throughout November to speak out against Trump’s election fraud conspiracy theories, because those theories were complicating the argument Republicans wanted to make about how maintaining the Senate majority was important as a check on Biden’s power. But McConnell was reluctant to speak out himself for fear that if he did so, an embittered Trump would sabotage the Republican candidates”

“while it’s good that Barr ultimately stood up to Trump, it’s worth keeping in mind how abnormal it is for the US attorney general to be scheming with the Senate leader on ways to ensure their political party retains power.”

Republicans Say They Care About Election Fraud. Here’s How They Could Actually Prevent It.

“Republicans care a whole lot about election security these days. Fueled in part by the “Big Lie,” the baseless claim that there was widespread fraud in last year’s election, Republican lawmakers around the country have made an aggressive push to pass new laws to prevent what they saw as a nightmare scenario from happening again. While the motivation to improve election security is spurious, the ostensible goal isn’t — everyone would agree that a secure election is important for democracy. Experts say there’s one very effective way for state legislatures to make the voting process more secure: pass legislation to update voting machines. But instead of prioritizing this effort, many Republicans are instead focused on limiting voter access.”

“The gold standard for voting security is hand-marked paper ballots, according to security experts. That’s because a paper ballot eliminates the risk of technical difficulties or certain kinds of malicious acts (think hacking) that could change or destroy your vote, and any concerns can be addressed with a recount. Because of that, most states currently use hand-marked paper ballots or have voting machines that generate paper records for verification.
But in six states — Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas — some or all voters still cast ballots on machines that have no paper record whatsoever, according to data from Verified Voting. While there’s no evidence that these machines have ever been hacked during an election, it’s technically possible, and they’re also prone to all kinds of undesirable malfunctions, including losing votes. With no paper backup to audit, these machines are the kind of election security liability that politicians say they’re invested in fixing.

Yet according to FiveThirtyEight’s past reporting and additional calls I made for this story, in five of those six states there has been little or no effort in the past six months to prioritize updating machines with a system that includes a paper record.”

“Instead, state legislatures have been flooding the docket with bills relating to the length of early voting periods, the placement of ballot drop boxes and whether volunteers can give voters waiting in line a bottle of water. Meanwhile, just a handful of bills about upgrading equipment — often without any funding attached — have trickled in, only to lose momentum and die before reaching a committee.”

““Unfortunately, I think the idea of security has basically been an excuse to limit access,” said Lawrence Norden, director of the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program. “If we really want to ensure that our elections are trustworthy and transparent, we can do that without limiting access.””

Limiting Mail-in Voting Won’t Make Elections More Secure

“Far from being a gateway to rampant fraud, when done correctly mail-in balloting is more secure than in-person voting. Even after an election in which 46 percent of votes were cast by mail—a huge increase that threatened to overwhelm election offices—there is nothing more than anecdotal evidence of problems with the process. In places where mail-in voting has been the norm for years, like Oregon, there is scant evidence of fraud.

Despite what critics claim, “no-excuse absentee voting still must undergo the same rigorous process to ensure ballots are legitimate, including ballot tracking measures and signature verification,” write Hyden and Greenhut (a Reason columnist) in the new R Street study. “These safeguards are highly effective, too.””

State GOPs have already introduced dozens of bills restricting voting access in 2021

“State legislators in 28 states have filed 106 bills restricting the franchise thus far in 2021 — and the overwhelming majority have come from Republicans. Compare that to last year at this time: Then, only 35 such bills had been filed in six states.

“We are seeing a backlash,” says Eliza Sweren-Becker, the report’s lead author. “Rather than going out and trying to persuade voters, we’re seeing legislators trying to shrink the electorate in order to ensure job security for themselves.”

The proposed legislation largely falls into two categories: bills that either increase the difficulties individual Americans would face absentee voting or that give officials greater leeway to shrink the voter pool. Some are attempts to roll back voting rights expansions necessitated by the pandemic; others are retreads of policies Republicans have pushed before, like expanded voter identification laws.”