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Conservative lawyer floats challenge of election outcome

A national conservative group may challenge the outcome of the Nov. 3 elections by arguing that municipalities are improperly using hundreds of millions of dollars in private money to administer the polls, a lawyer for the group said Tuesday.

Attorney Erick Kaardal argued during a court hearing in Iowa that local officials have impermissibly accepted grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to help pay for election staffing, training, equipment and other expenses.

Kaardal is an attorney for the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, a conservative group that is representing plaintiffs in lawsuits seeking to block municipalities in several states from using the grants.

On Tuesday, federal judges in Iowa and Texas rejected the group’s arguments, joining courts in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan that have done the same in recent days. Similar lawsuits are pending in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Georgia, a group spokesman said.

In Texas, District Judge Amos Mazzant denied the group’s request for a temporary restraining order to block four counties, including Harris and Dallas, from using the election grants. He said the group will not be injured if more people vote because of the private election funding.

“That is not a harm. That is democracy,” he wrote.

In Iowa, U.S. District Judge Leonard Strand rejected a request to block two counties from using the grants, saying it “has not demonstrated any chance of prevailing on the merits.” By contrast, he said blocking the funding would hinder the counties’ ability to run the election and undermine voting rights.

Still, the lawsuits could set the stage for long-shot post-election litigation for conservatives seeking to challenge the outcome.

The Thomas More Society argues that the grants, which were funded through a $300 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, would disproportionately favor progressives, even though they have been made available to all municipalities nationwide.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life describes itself as a non-partisan organization backed by Democrats, Republicans and independents. It says more than 2,100 election administrators have applied for the grants.

“We are confident that these frivolous charges are without merit, and look forward to continuing this critical grant program in these unprecedented times,” the Chicago-based group said in a statement.

Elections officials say more funding is needed to ensure safe elections during the coronavirus pandemic. The grants have been used to expand mail-in and early voting, recruit poll workers and purchase personal protective equipment.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in Michigan on Monday rejected the allegation that the center targets progressive areas, saying its grants are going to municipalities of all political majorities. He rejected a request to block the cities of Lansing and Flint from using the grants.

Kaardal argued Tuesday in Iowa that running federal elections is “a core governmental responsibility” that needs to be exclusively publicly funded. He argued that accepting private money for that purpose was not authorized by federal law.

Kaardal said his group might press the argument even after the election by asking federal courts to rule that election officials acted improperly by taking the funds.

If a federal court agreed, the group would present the ruling to state canvassing boards and Congress to argue that the election was tainted and that a new special election should be ordered, he said.

The group’s lawsuit in Iowa challenges only the grants accepted by Black Hawk and Scott counties, even though 64 of the state’s 99 counties have received them. Kaardal said some of the plaintiffs live in those counties, and that the group may challenge other counties later.

A lawyer for Black Hawk County, Katie Graham, said there was “nothing illegal or improper” about accepting the grants, which will make voting safer for everyone.

There’s no evidence that the grants were targeted for partisan gain, she said, noting that many Republican-leaning counties received them. Black Hawk County is using the grant to provide hazard pay for poll workers.

Graham had urged Strand to reject the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order blocking the use of the money. She said the claim it would disenfranchise conservatives was a “novel argument” based on speculation.

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Your ballot selfie could get you arrested in these states. Here’s where it’s legal and illegal.

It’s Election Day!

You walk into your local polling place, grab your ballot, and enter a voting booth. But then, you decide that merely exercising the foundational right of democracy will not suffice: you must capture the moment, and share it with your digital peers. You take out your cell phone, strike a pose, and snap a selfie with your ballot.

Wait — were you allowed to do that? It depends what state you’re in.

The Associated Press recently combed through the laws in all 50 states relating to the legality of taking a selfie in the voting booth. In 21 US states (and Washington, DC), it is perfectly legal to take a photo with a ballot. In at least 16 other states, it is explicitly illegal — and can earn you a fine or even jail time.

Why the ballot selfie is so controversial

Ballot selfies, however innocent they may seem, have become a heated topic of debate.

Proponents argue that the selfies are “good for democracy” and are protected under free speech. Moreover, the pro-selfie crowd asserts that these photos boost young voter turnout. Studies have shown that Facebook users are more inclined to vote after seeing their friends post about voting on social media.

Those in opposition claim that ballot selfies could “compromise elections” by encouraging vote buying. That is, a person who is being paid to vote a certain way can easily, and privately, prove she did so by taking a photo of her ballot.

As a result, America is divided on the ballot selfie.

Ballot selfies are contentious — and have even gone to court

There seems to be little in the way of geographical trends, but in general, many Northwestern states support the selfies, while the Deep South unilaterally opposes them.

“I was doing this for years before I learned it was technically illegal,” Nikola Jordan, a 33-year-old Nebraska voter, told the Associated Press. “It’s all about encouraging other people to get involved in the process, to show it can be fun and exciting to make your voice heard [at the polls].”

Ballot selfies are now legal in Nebraska — but in other states, like Colorado, the photos qualify as a misdemeanor charge.

At least 16 states maintain that ballot selfies are illegal, but there is mounting opposition to these laws, centering on the infringement of First Amendment rights. For instance, an effort to ban the ballot selfie in New Hampshire was widely challenged — Snapchat and the American Civil Liberties Union even joined in — and was eventually turned down by a federal judge.

In most states, though, the laws governing cellphone usage and photos in the voting booth are still pretty muddy, and there is no specific verbiage allowing or banning the ballot selfie.

So if you’re feeling like you just can’t contain your phone camera trigger finger today, and want to ensure that you have complete legal freedom to do so, make sure to refer to the list below.

  • Colorado: Ballot selfie ban overturned 11/05/2016
  • Connecticut: No law bans ballot selfies
  • District of Columbia: No law bans ballot selfies
  • Hawaii: Voters allowed to share digital images of their ballots
  • Idaho: No law bans ballot selfies
  • Indiana: A law prohibiting ballot selfies was turned down last year
  • Kansas: Legal, as of 11/07/2016
  • Kentucky: No law bans ballot selfies
  • Louisiana: No law bans ballot selfies (but several legislators are “not fond” of them)
  • Maine: No law against voters taking photos of their ballots
  • Massachusetts* : Law banning photographs overturned last year
  • Minnesota: Photos allowed but can’t be shown to other voters at polling station
  • Montana: No law bans ballot selfies
  • Nebraska: A bill passed this year ended a $100 fine for taking a photo
  • New Hampshire: A bill attempting to ban ballot selfies was rejected in court
  • North Dakota: Photos inside polling places are allowed
  • Oregon: No law bans mail-in ballot selfies
  • Rhode Island: New law allows selfies inside polling places
  • Utah: Ballot selfies are legal — but photographing others’ ballots is illegal
  • Vermont: No law bans ballot selfies
  • Virginia: Attorney general says ballot selfies are legal
  • Washington: No law bans ballot selfies (but legislators are not fond of them)
  • Wyoming: No laws bans ballot selfies

  • Arizona: Photography banned within 75 feet of polling places, but early ballots can be shared on social media
  • Arkansas: State law on sharing voter choices is ambiguous
  • California: Law banning people from displaying their marked ballots will be repealed after the November election; current law is not strictly enforced
  • Delaware: No cellphones allowed in the voting booth, but not strictly enforced
  • Iowa: No phones allowed in the voting booth; photos of absentee ballots are okay
  • Maryland: Electronic devices banned in polling place; photos of mailed ballots okay
  • Ohio: Voters prohibited from showing others how they voted; selfies are unclear
  • Oklahoma: 40-year-old state law suggests photos are illegal but result in no penalty
  • Pennsylvania: Voters prohibited from showing others how they’re “about to vote”
  • Tennessee: Voters prohibited from taking photos in polling places; photos of mail-in ballots are legally ambiguous
  • Texas: Photography banned within 100 feet of polling places; taking a photo of a mail-in ballot is allowed under law
  • West Virginia: Electronic devices outlawed inside voting booths; taking a photo of a mail-in ballot is not regulated under law

  • Alabama: Absolutely no photos of ballots are allowed; voters have “a right to cast a ballot in secrecy and in private”
  • Alaska: State law prohibits voters from showing marked ballots
  • Florida: Photographs, either in a polling place or of a mail-in ballot, are banned
  • Georgia: No photos of ballots (or voting screens) are allowed
  • Illinois: Showing your marked ballot to another voter is a felony that can earn you one to three years in prison
  • Michigan: Ban on ballot selfies upheld 10/30/2016
  • Mississippi: Showing your marked ballot to another voter is illegal
  • Missouri: Illegal, punishable by up to a $2,500 fine
  • Nevada: Photographs, either in a polling place or of a mail-in ballot, are banned
  • New Jersey: Showing your marked ballot to another voter is illegal
  • New Mexico: Showing your marked ballot to another voter is illegal
  • New York: Showing your marked ballot to another voter is illegal
  • North Carolina: Photographing a marked ballot is illegal
  • South Carolina: Photographing a marked ballot is illegal
  • South Dakota: Illegal due to fear of voter coercion
  • Wisconsin: Showing your marked ballot to another voter is illegal under state law

Note: This post has been updated to reflect recent changes in legislation, as of 11/08/2016.

*Note 2: We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the legality of ballot selfies in Massachusetts. According to the legal experts we spoke with, the New Hampshire ruling in September of 2016 also applies to Massachusetts.


Ballot rejection due to ‘mis-matched’ signatures is one end of the voting process that of course voters want to avoid. Some guideslines and some strategies may not do the trick when you see numbers ranging in the 10% range of rejection.

Earlier this year, voting-rights advocates, Democrats, and progressive groups began a major push to make voting by mail easier, and to persuade citizens to cast their ballot that way. In the midst of the pandemic, they thought it was the best way to ensure safety and get votes counted. The effort worked: Vote-by-mail rates this year are expected to easily set records. But the push to expand mail-in voting also introduces a number of risks. While some of these dangers, including a “blue shift” of late-counted votes and disruptions to the U.S. Postal Service, have been scrutinized, less attention has been paid to signature matching, the single-biggest reason for the disqualification of mailed ballots in 2016.

“Everybody’s vote should count,” says Hannah Fried, the national campaign director at All Voting Is Local, a nonprofit that seeks to expand voting access. “If you’re an eligible voter and you voted, your ballot should not be rejected for a highly technical reason out of your control—because the signature was sloppy, or you cannot write in the same way you used to be able to write. There’s something fundamentally unfair about it.”

States use signature verification as a way to protect the sanctity of the ballot. (Some require only that an envelope be signed, or mandate a witness, a notarized signature, or a photo ID.) In-person voter fraud is vanishingly rare because a would-be fraudster has to present herself as someone else at a polling station. Vote-by-mail fraud is also very rare, but signatures are intended to add an extra layer of security: First, a voter has to attest under penalty of law that the ballot is hers. Second, the voter’s signature provides a way to make sure she’s really the person who signed the ballot.

How that is done, like the rest of the American election system, varies wildly from state to state and even from county to county. Some jurisdictions use the signature on a voter-registration form or a ballot request or a driver’s license. A software program might make the first cut, or humans might conduct the whole process. Examiners might have a single autograph to compare, or dozens. Many people use more than one name, and might use the wrong signature on their ballot. The singer Lady Gaga tweeted a timely reminder on Sunday: “When I sign legal documents, I repeat Stefani Germanotta over+over quietly in my head so I don’t accidentally sign as Lady Gaga,” she wrote, referring to her birth name.

The New York Times recently asked a Jefferson County, Colorado, election official to identify forged signatures, and he succeeded, but that’s probably the wrong way to test the process. Fraud is exceedingly rare; the much greater danger is that legitimate ballots will be thrown out.

“At the end of the day, officials are not trained in how to conduct signature-match verification,” Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says. “They use procedures that would not stand up in a court of law.”

One result of this patchwork of laws and practices is widely varying rates of rejection. In a recent study of “lost votes” in voting by mail in 2016, Professor Charles Stewart III of MIT found that states that conduct their elections primarily by mail have a much lower rejection rate (0.92 percent) than those that allow voters to cast ballots by mail only for limited reasons (1.8 percent). These numbers are small, but in close elections they could be consequential. The differential rates seem to stem from different philosophies about examining signatures. Stewart notes that absentee voting by mail has historically been viewed as a convenience, so voters took the risk. But if states mail all voters a ballot, that argument no longer holds.

We believe in signature verification, and when we do that verification, we’re really confirming someone’s identity,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, told me. “So it’s important to do that for us in Colorado. But I will say that we believe in accessible elections. And if you have a right to vote, you should have your voice heard.”

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This article is an update from the one I earlier posted, showing where it is safe to take a ballot selfie or not.


Trump spokesperson says armed men outside St. Pete polling place were not hired by campaign | WFLA

Marcus, a Republican, is running to keep her seat as supervisor after being appointed in May of this year by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Gualtieri, also a Republican, is running for re-election as well.

The sheriff and I take this very seriously,” Marcus said. “Voter intimidation, deterring voters from voting, impeding a voter’s ability to cast a ballot in this election is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any way shape, or form. So we anticipated many things going into this election. Not only cybersecurity, but physical security and we had a plan in place and executed that plan.”

In the first presidential debate last month, President Trump encouraged his supporters to go to the polls to watch what happens there.

I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” Trump said. “Because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke with News Channel 8 on Tuesday about his plans to thwart any potential voter intimidation. He said he’s been working closely with Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus to make polling places safe.

“I just don’t want to get too deep into the specifics because we’re trying to balance it,” Gualtieri told 8 On Your Side political reporter Evan Donovan. “But I’ll say it’s a combination of uniformed personnel who will be in the area and also we’re gonna use some undercover personnel just to monitor the situation.”

Dustin Chase, deputy supervisor of elections in Pinellas County, told 8 On Your Side the men setup outside the Supervisor of Elections Office in the County Building, which is located at 501 First Ave. North.

Marcus told 8 On Your Side that Gualtieri plans to have a deputy presence specifically outside that polling place on Thursday.

Deputies with Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office came to the polling place on Wednesday and spoke to the guards, who said they were hired by the Trump campaign and said they would be out tomorrow at the early voting location.

It is illegal in the state of Florida to bring a gun to a polling place, and Gualtieri says intimidation won’t be allowed either.

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This is going back and forth. Thx Judge for going after that voter suppression tactic.

Judge lifts Texas governor’s order limiting ballot drop boxes to one per county

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This is the way it is going to go from now one…voting by partisan lines. :exploding_head:

The Supreme Court on Monday evening voted 5-3 against Democrats who were pushing to extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin by six days, to Nov. 9.

The decision, announced in an order, came eight days before Election Day. Wisconsin is a key battleground state in the battle between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

The court’s eight justices divided along partisan lines.

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Supreme Court did not decide on the GOP desire to cut short the PA main-in ballot deadlines.


Court Halts Order Requiring Masks at Texas Polling Places

A federal appeals court has suspended a judge’s order requiring people in Texas to wear face masks inside polling stations.

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Election 2020: Duval County judge resigns from election board after Trump donations


Analyst for The Cook Report here has a point


Over the last week, four conservative justices on the Supreme Court have signaled their desire to throw out mail ballots that arrive after Election Day. The court will remain deadlocked on this momentous issue—which could affect the outcome of countless races—until Amy Coney Barrett casts her first vote. And the lower courts are taking bets on which side she’ll take. On Thursday night, two far-right judges in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a lawless order claiming that Minnesota’s extension of the ballot deadline is likely unconstitutional. Their decision radiates partisan bias and flouts Supreme Court precedent, risking chaos and confusion by altering the rules of Minnesota’s election just five days before Nov. 3.

This is no fluke. It is the Barrett effect: Lower court judges are beginning to test the limits of the Supreme Court, trying to figure out how far right they can go without getting reversed. It is an especially dangerous time for federal courts to fabricate a new rule that prevents states from counting lawful ballots. But with no clear check to rein in the judiciary’s accelerating radicalism, some judges have decided it’s time to go all-in for Donald Trump and dare SCOTUS to stop them.

Thursday’s decision involved yet another dispute over state election law—a dispute that should never have landed in any federal court in the first place. A Minnesota statute requires voters to return mail ballots by Election Day. In May, a voting rights group sued the state to block this rule; it alleged that the deadline is unconstitutional in light of the pandemic, which has placed extraordinary pressure on the state’s vote-by-mail system. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon chose not to fight the lawsuit. Instead, he entered into a consent decree (essentially a settlement) with the plaintiffs, approved by a state court, that halted enforcement of the Election Day deadline. The Minnesota Legislature has expressly authorized the secretary of state to “adopt alternative election procedures” whenever a law “cannot be implemented as a result” of a court order. Pursuant to that law, Simon extended the ballot deadline by one week and informed every voter that their ballot would be counted so long as it is mailed by Election Day and received by Nov. 10.

In September, James Carson and Eric Lucero sued in federal court to restore the Election Day deadline. Carson and Lucero will serve as “electors” for Donald Trump if he carries the state, meaning they will vote for him in the Electoral College. Backed by the Republican Party, they alleged that Simon violated the Constitution’s electors clause, which gives state legislatures power to determine the “manner” in which electors are “appointed.” By altering the ballot deadline, they claimed, Simon had usurped the Legislature’s constitutional prerogative.

On Oct. 11, U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel, a Trump appointee, threw out the lawsuit, finding that both plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a case in the first place. Carson and Lucero have no right to represent the Legislature in court, nor do they speak for the Legislature, which did not object to the deadline extension. Their sheer displeasure at the prospect of Trump losing Minnesota because of late-arriving ballots, Brasel wrote, was not enough to confer standing.

By a 2–1 vote, a panel of judges for the 8th Circuit reversed Brasel. The majority consisted of Bobby Shepherd, a George W. Bush nominee, and L. Steven Grasz, a notoriously unqualified Trump nominee. Jane Kelly, Barack Obama’s lone nominee to the court, dissented. Shepherd and Grasz blew past the standing problem, holding that the plaintiffs would suffer “a concrete and particularized injury” if late-arriving ballots were counted because they would create an “inaccurate vote tally.” Shepherd and Grasz then ruled that the secretary of state likely exceeded his powers under state law and infringed on the Legislature’s constitutional rights by changing the deadline. They directed the state to segregate ballots that arrive after Nov. 3, and strongly implied that they will soon declare these “invalid” and order them “removed from vote totals.”

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Voter Protection guide