Voter challenges, registration requests overwhelm electoral offices

Spurred by conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, activists across the country are using laws that allow people to challenge a voter’s right to vote to challenge the registrations of thousands of voters at once.

In Iowa, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller had handled three election challenges in the past 15 years. He received 119 in just two days after Doug Frank, an Ohio educator who travels the country spreading…

READ MORE

Spurred by conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, activists across the country are using laws that allow people to challenge a voter’s right to vote to challenge the registrations of thousands of voters at once.

In Iowa, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller had handled three election challenges in the past 15 years. He received 119 in just two days after Doug Frank, an Ohio educator who travels the country spreading doubts about the 2020 election, drove through the state.

In Nassau County, North Florida, two residents challenged the registrations of nearly 2,000 voters just six days before last month’s primary. In Georgia, activists are filing tons of challenges in the various Democratic-leaning counties in metro Atlanta, including more than 35,000 in one county as of the end of last month.

Election officials say the vast majority of the challenges will not be relevant because they dispute the presence on the voter rolls of people who are already being deported after leaving the area. Yet they are potentially creating hundreds of extra work hours as offices scramble to prepare for the November election.

“At best, they overburden election officials as an election approaches, and at worst, they result in people being debarred when they shouldn’t be,” said Sean Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center for Justice, which followed an upsurge in electoral disputes.

The voter challenges come as activists who believe former President Donald Trump’s election lies have also flooded election offices across the country with public records requests and threats of litigation, piling even more work on them as they prepare for November.

“It takes time for us because we have to consult with our county prosecutors to find out what the appropriate response will be,” said Rachel Rodriguez, election supervisor for Dane County, Wisconsin, which includes Madison, the capital of the United States. State.

She received duplicate emails asking for records about two weeks ago: “It takes up valuable time that we don’t necessarily have as election officials when we’re trying to prepare for a November election.”

Michael Henrici, the Democratic commissioner of elections for Otsego County in New York, received a one-line email last week warning him of an unspecified “election integrity” dispute, then a follow-up complaining that he hadn’t answered.

“These are not people with specific grievances,” Henrici said. “They get a form letter from someone’s podcast and sometimes fill in the blanks.”

Multiple investigations and reviews, including one by Trump’s own Justice Department, have found no significant fraud in the 2020 presidential election, and courts have dismissed dozens of lawsuits by Trump and his allies. But Trump continued to insist that widespread fraud cost him his re-election. It inspired legions of activists to become do-it-yourself election sleuths across the country, challenging local election officials at every turn.

In Linn County, Iowa, which includes the city of Cedar Rapids, Miller said he and auditors who run elections in the state’s other 98 counties have been inundated with requests for records and protests from voters.

“The whole barrage happened over a two-week period,” Miller said, following Frank’s tour, which uses mathematical projections to point to a vast conspiracy to steal Trump’s election. , “and it’s happening to listeners across the state.”

Election offices regularly review their voter lists and remove those who have moved or died. Federal law limits how quickly they can drop voters, and conservative activists have long complained that election officials aren’t moving fast enough to clean up their rolls.

Recent challenges have come from activists comparing mailing address changes and other databases to voter rolls. Election officials say it’s redundant because they’re already taking the same steps.

Sometimes the challenges come after election conspirators have gone door to door, often in heavily minority neighborhoods, looking for evidence that votes were cast incorrectly in 2020.

Texas’ heavily Democratic Harris County, which includes Houston, received nearly 5,000 challenges from a conservative group that went door to door verifying voter addresses. The electoral office said it had dismissed challenges it was legally required to consider before the election and would complete the rest after Nov. 8.

Activists in Gwinnett County, which sprawls in the increasingly Democratic northern suburb of Atlanta, spent 10 months comparing address changes and other databases with county voter rolls. They submitted eight challenge boxes last month. About 15,000, they said, were complaints that specific voters had improperly received mail-in ballots in 2020. Another 22,000 were about voters they say are no longer at their registered address.

There are so many challenges that election officials haven’t even counted them all yet. But Zach Manifold, Gwinnett’s election supervisor, said that in every mail-in ballot complaint the office sampled, the voter correctly received a ballot in the mail.

But if one of the voters whose address is disputed tries to vote in November, the county election commission will have to decide whether that vote should count. They will only have six days to make a decision, as they must certify their vote totals on the Monday following Election Day under Georgia law.

Manifold estimated his office has a month to register and research the challenges, before mail-in ballots are sent out for the November election: “It’s a tight window to do everything,” he said. -he declares.

Many large counties facing voter roll issues are places where President Joe Biden beat Trump in 2020, including Gwinnett and Harris. Still, those behind the effort dispute the idea that they are targeting Democratic-leaning counties and say they are working on behalf of all voters. In Nassau County, Florida, for example, Trump won with over 72% of the vote.

“They should be happy that the voters rolls are being cleaned up so they can make sure their votes count,” said Garland Favorito, a conservative activist who has partnered with supporters of Trump’s campaign lies and is helping to raise concerns. voter challenges in Georgia.

Favorito said other challenges arise in other Georgia counties.

Under legislation passed last year by the Republican-controlled legislature, there is no limit to the number of election challenges that can be filed in Georgia. Most states implicitly impose restrictions on challenges, said Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center. They require a complainant to have specific personal information about the voters they are targeting and establish penalties for frivolous dissent.

Florida is an example. Its Voter Challenges Act only allows challenges to be filed 30 days before an election, requiring election officials to contact every challenged voter before Election Day. It is an offense to file a “frivolous” dispute. But election disputes nearly derailed the Florida primary last month in the heavily Republican county of Nassau in the state’s northeastern part.

Two women who belonged to a conservative group, County Citizens Defending Freedom, filed nearly 2,000 challenges with the county elections office six days before the Aug. 23 primary.

Fortunately for the office, the challenges were filed in the incorrect format. Elections Supervisor Janet Adkins told activists they would consider them anyway – after the primary.

“Taking away a person’s right to vote is a very serious thing,” Adkins said.

—-

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

Copyright © 2022 . All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located in the European Economic Area.

Comments are closed.