Saturday, September 30, 2023

Believers in conspiracy theories against US elections

Inspired by conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, activists across the United States are using laws that allow people to challenge an individual’s right to vote to prevent the registration of thousands of voters at once. can be challenged.

In Iowa, Lynn County Auditor Joel Miller has had to deal with three similar objections over the past 15 years. Miller received 119 in just two days, after Doug Frank, an Ohio activist who is touring the country to spread doubts about the 2020 election, went through the state.

In northern Florida, in Nassau County, two residents challenged the registrations of nearly 2,000 voters six days before last month’s primary. In Georgia, activists are filing mountains of objections in the heavily Democratic counties that make up metro Atlanta, including more than 3,500 in one county last month.

Election officials say most of the objections will be controversial, as they dispute the presence on the electoral rolls of people in the process of being removed as they moved out of the area. Still, they potentially work hundreds of extra hours as election offices prepare for November’s election.

Sean Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center for Justice said, “At best, they overwhelm election officials who go to the polls, and at worst, they force people who shouldn’t be off the voter list. ” Growth monitoring from such challenges.

People defending former President Donald Trump’s lies are flooding election offices across the country with requests for public records and threats of litigation, creating an overload of work for election officials as the office prepares for congressional elections. are preparing.

“It wastes our time, because we have to consult with county attorneys about the appropriate response,” said election supervisor Rachel Rodriguez of Dane County, Wisconsin, which includes the state capital, Madison.

She received duplicate emails two weeks ago demanding public documents: “We don’t have as valuable time as election officials when we’re trying to prepare for November’s election.”

Michael Henriky, the Democratic commissioner for elections in New York state’s Otsego County, received a one-line email last week with a warning of unspecified litigation over “voting integrity,” after complaining that he had not responded.

“They are not people with typical complaints,” Heinrich said. “They’re getting a podcast letter form from someone and sometimes they’re just filling in the blanks.”

Several investigations and reviews, including one by the Trump-era Justice Department, have concluded that there was no significant fraud in the 2020 presidential election and that courts have dismissed dozens of lawsuits brought by Trump and his allies, but Trump has continued to insist that there was an alleged widespread fraud that led to his re-election. This has prompted legions of supporters across the country to become a kind of impromptu election spies, questioning election officials whenever they can.

In Lynn County — in the state of Iowa and which includes the city of Cedar Rapids — Miller said he and the auditors overseeing elections in 98 other counties have been inundated with requests for public records and voters’ questions.

“The avalanche happened over a period of two weeks,” Miller said after visiting Frank, which uses mathematical conjecture to claim that a massive conspiracy stole the election from Trump and that it was “accounted for by auditors around the world.” Getting in the middle.” Situation”.

Electoral offices regularly review their electoral rolls and remove voters who have left or died. Federal law restricts how quickly they can remove those names from the list, and conservative activists complain that election officials don’t act soon enough to purge them.

The most recent objections stem from conservative activists comparing postal address changes and other databases with voter lists. Election officials say this is redundant, as they have already taken these steps.

Sometimes the challenges come when conspiracy theorists go door to door, often through heavily minority neighborhoods, in search of evidence that ballots were cast illegally in the 2020 election.

Harris County, Texas, which is largely Democratic, received nearly 5,000 objections from a conservative group that went door-to-door to check voters’ addresses. The county elections office says it has rejected the challenges that were required to be reviewed by law before the election and that the rest will be finalized after the November 8 election.

Activists in Gwinnett County, which includes the increasingly Democratic northern suburbs of Atlanta, spent 10 months comparing address changes and other databases for county voter lists. Last month they introduced eight boxes with challenges. He said there were some 15,000 complaints that in the 2020 election, mail-in ballots were inappropriately given to specific voters. There were another 22,000 voters who say they are no longer at their registered addresses.

There are so many challenges that election officials haven’t been able to count them all, but Zack Manifold, the supervisor of elections in Gwinnett County, said that in every objection box his office checked, voters actually received mail-in ballots properly. Had happened.

But if any voters whose names were questioned attempt to vote in November, the county election board must determine whether their votes will be counted. They only have six days to make that decision, as Georgia law requires them to certify election results by the Monday following election day.

Manifold estimates his office has a month to record and examine the challenges before sending out ballots for November’s election. “It’s too little time to do everything,” he lamented.

Several large counties facing such challenges are places where President Joe Bien defeated Trump in 2020, including Gwynette and Harris counties, but organizers of those efforts deny they are targeting Democratic counties and They say that they are working in the name of all the voters.

For example, in Nassau County, Florida, Trump won with over 72% of the vote.

Garland Favarito, a conservative activist who collaborated with promoters of Trump’s election lies and challenges challenges in Georgia, said, “They should be happy that the electoral rolls are being purged to make sure their votes are cast. count.”

Favorite warned that there would be more objections in other Georgia counties.

Under a law passed last year in the Republican-majority Georgia legislature, there is no limit to the number of electoral challenges that can be filed in the state.

Most states explicitly ban these challenges, said Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center. States are required to require that a complaint contain specific personal information about the names in question and establish penalties for those who file complaints frivolously.

Florida is an example of this. Its law on objections to electoral rolls allows complaints to be filed only 30 days before an election, requiring election officials to contact each challenged voter before election day. Filing a frivolous lawsuit is a crime, but challenges to the registered voter list came close to derailing the Nassau County primary last month.

The two women, who belong to the conservative group County Citizens Defending Freedom, filed nearly 2,000 picks at the county elections office six days before the August 23 primary election.

Fortunately for the office, the objections were filed in the wrong format. Election observer Janet Adkins told activists she would review them anyway, but after the primary.

“It’s a serious thing to take away a person’s right to vote,” Adkins said.


Associated Press writer Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.

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