Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon was arrested on Thursday and charged with felony obstruction as Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp signed a controversial new voting reform bill into law.
Cannon was detained after knocking on Kemp’s door.
Kemp, a Republican, was announcing the signing of the bill over a live stream when he was interrupted by Cannon, a Democrat. Cannon’s arrest was also captured during a live stream, as the lawmaker was joined by others who came to the state Capitol in Atlanta to protest the bill.
According to a statement provided to Insider from Georgia State Patrol, Cannon continued to knock on the door after police told her to stop.
“She was advised that she was disturbing what was going on inside and if she did not stop, she would be placed under arrest,” the statement said. After knocking more, police said she was again told she would be arrested for obstruction and removed from the building.
Videos posted on Twitter showed the moment of the arrest. Cannon can be seen talking with a police officer who is standing between her and the door. She takes a step back from the door, before again stepping up to knock and is immediately arrested by two officers.
Others present immediately begin protesting the arrest, with one asking, “Under arrest for what? For trying to see something that our governor is doing?”
“Our governor is signing a bill that affects all Georgians, and you’re going to arrest an elected representative?” the person said.
Police said Cannon was moved to the Fulton County Jail and charged with obstruction of law enforcement, a felony, and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or meetings of members, a misdemeanor.
US Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia visited Cannon while she was being held in jail, his office told CNN.
Cannon’s office didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Just after midnight, she posted on Twitter: “Hey everyone, thank you for your support. I’ve been released from jail. I am not the first Georgian to be arrested for fighting voter suppression. I’d love to say I’m the last, but we know that isn’t true.”
On an invitation-only call with GOP state lawmakers last week, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz falsely claimed Democrats are working to give “illegal aliens” and “child molesters” the right to vote, according to a recording of the call obtained by the Associated Press.
The call, which occurred amid an ongoing battle over voting rights, was organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that recommends legislation to lawmakers.
Cruz criticized H.R. 1, a campaign finance reform and voting rights package that House Democrats passed earlier this month. The bill would require more transparency in campaign finance, strengthen regulations for lobbyists, and seek to expand voting access through a number of measures.
Republicans have denounced the bill, calling it a major federal overreach into the way state and local governments conduct their elections.
“H.R. 1′s only objective is to ensure that Democrats can never again lose another election, that they will win and maintain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate and of the state legislatures for the next century,” Cruz said on the call, according to AP.
The legislation is unlikely to pass in the Senate, though the debate over voting rights is playing out in state legislatures across the country.
As of February, 250 measures that would restrict voting were introduced across 43 states, according to an analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice. Insider’s Grace Panetta reported Republicans in key states are working to advance legislation that would restrict voting.
Many of these efforts claim to be aimed at improving election integrity, citing the unsubstantiated claims that widespread voter and election fraud occurred in the 2020 election.
Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, on Wednesday compared House Democrats to the “devil” for authoring and passing major democracy reform and voting rights legislation known as HR 1.
“Everything about this bill is rotten to the core,” Lee told Fox News of the legislative package. “This is a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself.”
HR 1, which is also known as the For the People Act and passed the House largely along party lines earlier this month, would reform campaign finance, set stricter rules for lobbyists, and widen access to voting, including by expanding voter registration, mail and early voting, and election security measures.
The senator said he disagrees with “every single word in H.R. 1, including the words ‘but,’ ‘and,’ and ‘the'” and argued that Congress is attempting to undermine state control over elections “in an effort to ensure an institutional, revolutionary Democratic Party of sorts, one that can remain in power for many decades to come.”
“This takes all sorts of decisions that the federal government, really, has no business making – takes them away from the states, makes them right here in Washington, DC by Congress,” he went on.
While the Constitution delegates most of the authority over elections to the states, it still has the power to oversee and pass legislation concerning the administration of federal elections.
Congress has previously passed major, nationwide election reform legislation in bills including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
H.R. 1 requires states to enact online, automatic, and same-day voter registration and to give voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, and softens voter ID laws by allowing voters to sign sworn affidavits instead of showing an ID. It is already a federal crime to lie about your identity while casting a ballot.
The bill also requires all states to hold 15 days of early voting as well as no-excuse mail voting while offering online ballot tracking, prepaid postage, and the option for voters to return their ballots at drop boxes.
Notably, many of H.R. 1’s provisions are already in place in Utah, which Lee represents and has won two statewide elections in over the past decade. Utah has online and same-day voter registration, offered two weeks of early voting in most counties in 2020, and has a non-strict non-photo ID law that allows voters to sign an affidavit if they don’t have the required ID.
“In 2020 – with our very democracy on the line – even in the midst of a pandemic – more Americans voted than ever before,” Biden says in the script. “Yet instead of celebrating this powerful demonstration of voting – we saw an unprecedented insurrection on our Capitol and a brutal attack on our democracy on January 6th. A never-before-seen effort to ignore, undermine and undo the will of the people.”
As part of the order, Biden will:
Order all federal agencies to come up with new ways they can help increase voting access.
Overhaul and update the Vote.Gov website.
Increase access to voting for federal employees.
Assess what can be done to increase access to voting for those with disabilities.
Increase access to voting for military personnel.
Create a steering committee on Native American voting rights.
The move comes as state Republican parties across the US seek to restrict access to voting.
The House passed H.R. 1, Democrats’ flagship democracy reform and voting rights legislative package, in a Wednesday nightvote.
The bill, dubbed the For the People Act, was first introduced and passed by the House, at the beginning of the 116th Congress in 2019, but was not taken up in the Senate.
The law makes major changes requiring more transparency in the US’ campaign finance system, sets stricter standards for lobbyists, and includes a slew of measures to increase access to the ballot box, including expansions of voter registration opportunities, mail and early voting, and expanded election security measures.
But the Senate version of the legislation, S. 1, faces a much steeper uphill battle to get the 60 votes required to withstand the filibuster in the US Senate, which is evenly split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.
“In the wake of an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country, this landmark legislation is urgently needed to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our election,” the White House said in a statement supporting the bill.
Conservatives, however, have criticized the legislation as a partisan power-grab and a massive federal overreach into election administration, which is primarily controlled by states and localities in the United States.
“H.R. 1 federally mandates how states run their elections and forces a one-size-fits-all election system on our country, which is not only unconstitutional, but can lead to chaos and confusion for voters,” House Administration Committee ranking member Rep. Rodney Davis said in a February 25 hearing.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, former President Donald Trump, who spent most of 2020 pushing false claims of voter fraud, called the bill “a disaster,” saying, “this monster must be stopped.”
Congress has not passed major voting-related legislation since the Help America Vote Act in 2002, which among other things, gave states funding to purchase new voting equipment, standardized voter list maintenance procedures, and created the US Election Assistance Commission.
The For the People Act aims to increase transparency in the US’ campaign finance system by cracking down on foreign financial influence in US elections, requiring 501c(4) “dark money” groups to disclose political donations over a certain amount, and mandating digital platforms to create publicly-available databases of ad purchases.
The legislation further creates a 6-to-1 public matching system for small campaign donations to candidates for federal office, including House members and presidential candidates. House leadership struck a deal with moderate House Democrats to clarify that the matching funds will not come from taxpayer coffers and to allow members to opt out, Politico reported.
The bill also takes aim at the political influence industry, beefing up existing laws and regulations governing lobbying and ethics requirements for federal officials.
The package also includes sweeping, large-scale election administration reforms and enhancements to election security procedures.
It mandates states to enact online, automatic, and same-day voter registration and to give voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, and softens voter ID laws by allowing voters to sign sworn affidavits instead of showing an ID. The bill also requires all states to hold 15 days of early voting as well as no-excuse mail voting while offering online ballot tracking, prepaid postage, and the option for voters to return their ballots at drop boxes.
The bill also addresses partisan gerrymandering by requiring independent commissions to conduct congressional redistricting in each state, and directs Congress to compile a record to pass a renewed version of the Voting Rights Act.
Former Vice President Mike Pence came out swinging on Wednesday, writing an op-ed that criticized House Democrats’ sweeping election reform bill as “unconstitutional power grab.”
The Democratic-backed House Resolution 1 (HR1), known as the For the People Act, would end partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, establish national standards for voter registration, and blunt voter purges, among other reforms.
In his article for The Daily Signal, Pence argues that the bill would take away responsibilities that should be left to the states.
“Election reform is a national imperative, but under our Constitution, election reform must be undertaken at the state level,” he wrote. “Our Founders limited Congress’ role in conducting our elections for good reason: They wanted elections to be administered closest to the people, free from undue influence of the national government.”
He added: “While legislators in many states have begun work on election reform to restore public confidence in state elections, unfortunately, congressional Democrats have chosen to sweep those valid concerns and reforms aside and to push forward a brazen attempt to nationalize elections in blatant disregard of the US Constitution.”
Trump’s claims of voter and election fraud are false.
While Republicans hope to use their majorities in key states to cement new Congressional districts to their liking, HR 1 would take away that responsibility, mandating that states adopt independent redistricting commissions.
To Pence, such a move only adds to his staunch opposition to the bill.
“Congressional districts would be redrawn by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats,” he wrote. “Leftists not only want you powerless at the ballot box, they want to silence and censor anyone who would dare to criticize their unconstitutional power grab.”
The former vice president says that having served in federal and statewide office, access to voting and secure elections are paramount.
(The 2020 election was among the most secure in modern history, and there is no evidence of widespread voter or election fraud.)
“HR 1 would turn a blind eye to very real problems at the state level, exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, and further undermine the American people’s confidence in the principle of ‘one person, one vote,'” he wrote.
Pence did not mention Trump in the op-ed, despite him still reportedly enjoying a warm relationship with the former president.
After the January 6 Capitol riots and the Electoral College certification process, which Trump tried to use to pressure Pence to overturn the election results, the former vice president initially kept a low profile, but has slowly emerged back into the political world.
Last week, he met with members of the conservative Republican Study Committee and told the group that he intends to start a political organization that will protect the legacy of the former administration, according to a CNN report.
“America does not love all its people,” Rep. Cori Bush, a progressive Democrat from Missouri, argued on the floor of the House, saying that more than 5 million Americans are prevented from taking part in an election because they are currently incarcerated.
On Tuesday, Bush and Rep. Mondaire Jones, a New York Democrat, offered an amendment to sweeping voting rights legislation, HR 1. The legislation, as written, would already restore that right for those with felony convictions, but not for those who are now behind bars – one in six of whom are Black.
“This cannot continue,” Bush said. “Disenfranchising our own citizens is not justice.”
The amendment failed. No Republican supported the amendment, and most Democrats opposed it too, leading it to be put down by a vote of 97 to 328.
As it stands, only two states, Maine and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia never take away the right to vote, even when someone is incarcerated. But, per the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states disenfranchise anyone with a felony conviction, even after they have served their prison sentence. And while voting rights are sometimes restored later, there are often additional obstacles.
In Florida, for example, a sweeping majority of voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment restoring the right to vote for convicted felons who were no longer imprisoned. But the Republican-controlled legislature eviscerated the measure, requiring those with felonies on their record – disproportionately Black, overwhelmingly Democratic – to pay off any related fines before they could participate in an election again. According to The New York Times, as many as 80% are financially unable to do so.
Despite being denied the right to vote, those who are imprisoned do count: the US Census considers them residents of whichever place they are incarcerated in, meaning Black and Latino prisoners often help boost the congressional representation of largely white, rural populations.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House committee that oversees federal elections, noted that HR 1 would end that practice. Under the bill, incarcerated people would be counted, instead, as residents of their own hometowns. But she said that granting them the right to vote appealed to her sense of justice.
“If you’re going to count the individuals for redistricting purposes, in their prisons, then I think they ought to be allowed to vote there,” Lofgren commented. “Further, it occurs to me, those who oppose it think that denying a vote would somehow be a deterrent to criminal conduct. In fact, empowering people to be full citizens encourages rehabilitation.”
In the meantime, Republicans, in power at the state level, are pushing to roll back access to voting. In Georgia, the GOP, most recently stung by a Democratic sweep of its two Senate seats, is pushing to restrict early voting and limit mail-in ballots.
And at the US Supreme Court, Arizona Republicans are defending a rule that throws out the vote of anyone who casts a ballot somewhere other than their designated polling place. As a lawyer for the party said Tuesday, lifting that restriction “puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats.” Politics, after all, “is a zero-sum game.”
The US Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in key voting rights cases out of Arizona that will test the limits of a provision of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits discrimination against minorities in voting.
In the two lawsuits, Brnovich vs. Democratic National Committee and Arizona Republican Party vs. DNC, which were consolidated for Tuesday’s arguments, the court will determine whether two Arizona voting restrictions violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Michael Carvin, representing the Arizona Republican Party, and Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich argued for the petitioners, with Jessica Ring Amunson representing the Arizona Secretary of State’s office and Bruce Spiva, representing the Democratic National Committee, arguing for the respondents.
Section 2 bans “any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” In 1982, Congress expanded the scope of Section 2 to cover not just intentional discrimination, but cases where voting policies resulted in discriminatory impacts in the “totality of the circumstance of the local electoral process.”
The Shelby decision rendered Section 5 unenforceable, freeing Arizona from the preclearance requirement, and leaving Section 2 as one of the most powerful tools for plaintiffs to challenge discriminatory vote-dilution schemes and voting policies.
“We are concerned that the Court could issue a ruling which would weaken or limit Section 2,” Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of the Voting & Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, recently said on a call with reporters. “We simply cannot afford harm to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as we are entering a new redistricting cycle and we’ve seen a wave of restrictive voting laws introduced in state legislatures around the country.”
The justices on the Court probed both sides on the impacts of the voting laws on minority voters and what standards they think should be applied to determine whether a law is discriminatory and wrongly denies minorities the opportunity to vote in violation of Section 2.
Justice Elena Kagan, for example, queried lawyers representing both sides of the argument with how they would approach hypothetical voting restrictions, like a county putting all its polling places in country clubs, that are facially neutral but have a racially disparate impact.
The conservative majority on the Court appeared inclined to let the Arizona laws in question stand, and were skeptical of Amunson and Spiva’s arguments that Arizona’s policies constituted unlawful racial discrimination under Section 2. But it is unclear if or how the justices will rule on questions of Section 2’s scope and application.
“What concerns me is that your position will make every voting rule vulnerable to attack under Section 2 to the same extent that the out-of-precinct policy was by the 9th Circuit,” Justice Samuel Alito said to Spiva.
The cases began in 2016, when the DNC sued Arizona under Section 2 of the VRA over two voting restrictions passed by the state legislature: a law prohibiting provisional ballots that a voter cast in the wrong voting precinct from being counted in part or in full, and another barring third-party groups from returning voters’ mail ballots to election offices, sometimes referred to as “ballot harvesting.”
The appellate court found that both laws violated Section 2 and discriminatory impacts against Black, Latino, and Native American voters in Arizona. Applying a two-part results part, the Court found that the plaintiffs proved that the laws “imposed a significant disparate burden” on minority voters, and resulted from “social and historical conditions” that fostered hostile conditions for minorities’ voting rights.
The 9th Circuit further ruled that the ban on third-party ballot collection was enacted with discriminatory intent, citing the state’s “long history of race-based voting discrimination,” the legislature’s prior attempts to restrict ballot collection, the increase in Latino and Native American voter turnout, false claims of fraud used as a basis to pass the law, and racially polarized voting patterns in the state.
The partisan implications of the case were clearly delineated in Tuesday’s arguments. In response to a question from Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioning the Arizona GOP’s standing in the case, Carvin said that the 9th Circuit’s decision “puts us a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats,” adding: “Politics is a zero-sum game. Every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us.”
Similarly, Spiva told Justice Clarence Thomas that the DNC’s standing “rests on organizational standing principles, because they have to expend resources in order to overcome the discriminatory effects of these laws.”
Jacqueline De Léon, staff attorney at the Native American Rights Foundation, previously told Insider in November that while Native voters showed record turnout in Arizona in 2020, they still faced significant barriers to voting.
Reservations are divided into chapter houses, or distinct communities within the reservation led by a chapter president. Chapter house boundaries, however, do not always align with the precinct boundaries set by the state, leading some voters to wrongly believe they could vote at their chapter house, a mistake that may force them to cast a provisional ballot.
Under Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy, even votes for statewide races at the top of the ticket like president, US senate, and governor, cast in the wrong precinct are not counted.
The Supreme Court hasn’t been the friendliest arena for voting rights advocates in recent years, and is poised to be even less so now with a 6-3 conservative majority.
In addition to reversing the 9th Circuit, the Arizona attorney general, the Arizona GOP, and its allies have filed amicus briefs in the case seeking changes to how Section 2 is applied in the future.
Some of the respondents and their amici have asked the Court to further narrow Section 2’s reach, including by limiting Section 2 lawsuits to cases of intentional racial discrimination, and restricting the provision to challenge only racial gerrymandering and vote dilution, not to voting policies.
“This case doesn’t have to approach anywhere close to the impact of the Shelby County decision if the Court does the right thing, and that’s what we’re hoping for here,” Morales-Doyle said.
President Joe Biden has been in office for less than two weeks, but in state legislatures across the US, Republicans still reeling from former President Donald Trump’s electoral loss are devising ways to restrict the vote, from eliminating ballot drop boxes to requiring the notarization of absentee ballot applications.
In 2010, Republicans made historic gains in state legislatures, flipping 24 chambers that year, allowing them to control the redistricting process for the past decade. In additional drawing scores of safe GOP House seats, the party pushed a wave of socially-conservative legislation that centered on restricting abortion rights and minimizing the collective bargaining power of public-sector labor unions.
While Biden and Trump both won 25 states in the 2020 presidential election, Biden flipped five states that Trump carried in 2016, which included Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, along with Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district.
These presidential swing states are now home to some of the most dramatic election-related proposals that have been floated or filed in the legislature for a vote. However, even in states where Trump won easily, including Mississippi and Texas, voting restrictions stand a good chance of passing.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, 106 bills aimed at restricting voting access have been introduced or filed in state legislatures in 28 states, representing a nearly threefold increase from the same period last year.
Last November, countering Trump’s debunked claims of voter irregularities, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that the November 2020 election “was the most secure in American history.”
Here are some of the voting proposals that are being debated across the country:
Since 1952, Republicans have won Arizona in every presidential election except for Bill Clinton’s 1992 win and Biden’s victory last year.
Biden won the state by less than 11,000 votes out of roughly 3.3 million votes cast, performing strongly with Latino voters and even making inroads with a segment of the state’s Republican voters.
With the support of high-profile Republicans including Cindy McCain, the wife of the late GOP Sen. John McCain, and former Sen. Jeff Flake, Biden tapped into the independent-minded nature of the state, similar to the campaign strategy of Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who defeated appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally last November.
However, conservative activists vigorously challenged the election results, including Trump, who criticized GOP Gov. Doug Ducey for certifying the election results, a normally-routine process. Since the GOP controls the state legislature in Arizona, the raft of restrictive bills are being taken up in committees.
Give the legislature the power to award two of the state’s 11 Electoral College votes
Award the state’s electoral votes by congressional district in lieu of the current winner-takes-all system
Curtail and/or end mail-in voting
Liming mail-in voting to those who cannot physically reach a voting precinct
Limit voting centers in each county according to the population size
Require mail-in ballot envelopes to be notarized or returned in-person
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, was sharply critical of House Bill 2720, which was introduced by GOP state Rep. Shawnna Bolick and would allow the legislature to overturn the election results.
“It is a punch in the face to voters,” she said in an NBC News interview. “It absolutely, 100%, allows a legislature to undermine the will of voters.”
She also tweeted: “So really, we should just get rid of the presidential election altogether? In reality, that’s what this bill would do.”
Georgia was the scene of deep political consternation for the GOP. Last November, Biden became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1992. Trump insisted that he won the state for months, asking GOP Gov. Brian Kemp to overturn the election results and even pressuring GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the 12,000 roughly votes that he would need to overcome Biden’s margin of victory.
In the end, Trump caused so much internal political turmoil in the state that Democrats, fresh off of Biden’s win, had an enthusiasm advantage for two Senate runoff elections that featured then-GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue running against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.
Warnock and Ossoff won their races, handing control of the Senate to the Democrats and giving the party their strongest anchor in the Deep South in years.
Georgia Republicans, stung by the losses, are now hoping to implement additional voting restrictions.
Top state officials, including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, are backing a more rigorous voter identification process for absentee balloting.
A GOP lawmaker has proposed a bill that would require proof of identification, twice, in order to vote absentee.
Last year, House Speaker David Ralston floated stripping Georgia voters of their ability to choose the secretary of state by putting a measure on the ballot that would allow voters to cede that responsibility to the GOP-controlled legislature.
Michigan voted for every Democratic presidential nominee from 1992 to 2012. When Trump pulled off a narrow upset in 2016, Democrats pledged to outwork the GOP and win back the Midwestern state and its 16 electoral votes.
In 2018, the party had a banner year, electing Gretchen Whitmer as governor, Dana Nessel as attorney general, and Jocelyn Benson as secretary of state.
Last November, Biden won the state by over 150,000 votes and a nearly 3% margin (50.6%-47.8%), securing a victory in a state that Democrats were thrilled to put back in their column.
The state legislature is still in GOP hands, a lingering result of the party’s 2010 midterm election sweep, but Whitmer also serves as a check on any far-reaching proposals.
Michigan GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey told The Detroit News that he would like to improve the state’s qualified voter files and party leaders, including home state Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, said last year that the state needed “election reform.”
With its 20 electoral votes, Pennsylvania has long been a top prize for Democrats, who won the state by combining overwhelming victories in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with growing suburban strength and blue-collar support in cities like Allentown and Scranton.
Democrats won Pennsylvania in every presidential election from 1992 to 2012, but similar to Michigan, Trump pulled off a narrow upset in 2016.
Biden, who was born in Scranton and represented neighboring Delaware in the Senate for 36 years, won the state 50%-49% over Trump last November.
Democrats, eager to build on Biden’s victory, have already zeroed in on the Senate seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in 2022 and the governor’s race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that same year.
There are currently GOP proposals on the table to nix no-excuse absentee balloting and make it easier for state officials to toss ballots that have a signature mismatch if the ballot isn’t fixed within six days of being notified, according to the Brennan Center.
Wisconsin is another key state in the Democrats’ Midwestern presidential electoral puzzle. After narrow wins in 2000 and 2004, the party won the state easily in 2008 and 2012 before seeing Trump narrowly win the state in 2016.
After a hard-fought race, Biden won the state over Trump by roughly 20,000 votes out of more than 3.2 million votes cast.
The Trump campaign, incensed that votes in Democratic-leaning Milwaukee County put Biden over the top, demanded a recount in Milwaukee and Dane County, home of Madison, the state’s liberal capital city. Not only was Biden’s win reaffirmed by the recounts, but he picked up additional votes.
A GOP legislator is floating a proposal to allocate eight of the state’s 10 electoral votes by congressional district, starting with the 2024 election, and the party may also seek additional restrictions on absentee balloting.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has the ability to wield his veto pen, but he is also up for reelection in 2022.
Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District
Last year, Biden carried Nebraska’s Omaha-based congressional district, the first time a Democrat had won the district since Barack Obama in 2008.
The win was a breakthrough for the party in the otherwise overwhelmingly Republican state.
Since 1991, Nebraska has awarded two electoral votes to the overall statewide winner, with the remaining three votes awarded to the winner of each congressional district.
In 2020, Trump secured four electoral votes to Biden’s one electoral vote.
A new GOP bill introduced in the state legislature would put into place a winner-takes-all system; if it had been in place in 2020, Trump would have won all five electoral votes.
The 2nd congressional district contains sizeable Black and Latino populations, and opponents of the bill argue that the legislation would be detrimental to minority voters.
“You see very clearly that there was a lot of excitement particularly from voters of color in the Omaha metro-area who engage in that process over the last few election cycles because they had that meaningful opportunity,” she said.
Since President Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, he and his allies have filed dozens of lawsuits challenging the results and trying to throw out millions of votes.
Every single one of them failed in court, but they succeeded by one measure: they reinforced the myth that the electoral process itself was faulty, marred by widespread voter fraud and election-rigging by partisan forces. That belief is especially true within the Republican Party, at least 75% of which now believes that the election was “stolen” from Trump, according toseveralrecent polls.
The GOP has long cited the phantom menace of nationwide voter fraud to justify passing stricter voter ID laws and other measures that make it more difficult for voters – particularly low-income, minority voters in rural areas – to cast a ballot.
But this year’s slate of election-related cases has irreversibly warped the landscape of voting rights litigation.
“The big distinction with this particular phase is that these same legal principles are being morphed and distorted by losing candidates to actually cancel out ballots,” said Kim Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and the author of “How to Read the Constitution – And Why.”
“It’s like the facts don’t matter anymore. Legal principles don’t matter anymore,” said Wehle. “And even though the courts have done the right thing because they’re bound by facts and the law, Trump has created this public perception that there’s a problem that needs fixing.”
Robert Brandon, the president of the Fair Elections Center, called the president’s argument “unfortunate.”
“There’s this false narrative that somehow there was massive fraud in this election, but in fact it was people exercising their right. This is a continuation and maybe crescendo to a 15, 20-year effort to talk about voter fraud as a way to put more limits on voting.”
Republican efforts to target Black voters and minority groups could backfire
Voter suppression has always existed in one way or another. Modern efforts to restrict voting picked up after President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 following unprecedented turnout from a diverse electorate.
The 2010 midterm elections and census led to the rise of “ratf—ing,” or the practice of using granular data to gerrymander districts. Those efforts intensified after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the most significant provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Texas and North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislatures and governors offices passed restrictive voting laws almost immediately after the 2013 ruling. And in the years since, hundreds of polling places in predominantly Black communities have closed, while more and more counties are purging their voter rolls.
This year, before and after Election Day, Republican lawsuits challenging the results targeted predominantly Black communities and other areas populated by minorities.
“We’re talking about the communities in Detroit and in Atlanta and Philadelphia,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project. “These are attacks against Black voters, and that’s what we’ve seen time and time again, throughout history.”
In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign sought recounts in just two counties that have high Black and low-income populations. Earlier this month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich laid out the Republican argument in stark terms, asking in a tweet why Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was “working so hard to add drop boxes and take other steps to make it harder for Republicans to win.”
In Texas, GOP party chair Allen West told Politico that the “No. 1 legislative priority” will be “how do we protect our electoral system.” Michael Whatley, the North Carolina GOP party chair, told Politico he wanted “a significant tightening of the rules around absentee balloting.”
“This is an old story,” Wehle said. “Voter suppression efforts aimed at the integrity of the ballot are always disproportionately designed to keep certain populations – that is, Democratic-leaning voters – from having access to the polls.”
But by continuing to target Black voters, the GOP may be making a huge strategic error. This year, Trump saw an increase in support from Black and minority voters in big cities compared to the 2016 election.
Still, in the weeks since the 2020 race was called for Biden, Republicans have dug their heels in on efforts to curb access to the ballot in battleground states, particularly as the GOP contends with a higher rate of turnout. The 2020 election saw the highest turnout in over a century because of an increase in voting by mail and early voting across most of the country in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Half of all voters voted by mail, and only 25% voted on Election Day. While the pandemic was certainly a huge determinant of how people cast their ballots, voters also prefer to be able to vote when they want and by a method of their choosing to avoid dealing with factors like work schedules and family commitments, said Robert Brandon, the president of the Fair Elections Center.
But with increased civic participation, experts say there will be a corresponding surge in efforts, primarily by Republicans, to limit access to voting.
“Unfortunately time and time again – throughout the history of civil rights and voting rights – what we’ve seen is whenever there’s been an expansion of turnout of voting by people being able to access the ballot, we’ve seen an attempt to sort of retract and curate the electorate such that certain voices are muted,” Lin Lakin said.
Indeed, Trump and members of his party fought vigorously against voting by mail in the months leading up to the November election.
In Georgia, which will hold two US Senate runoff elections on January 5 that will determine which party controls the upper chamber, Republicans are seeking to end no-excuse absentee voting, impose voter ID laws for those who vote by mail, and take power away from the Georgia secretary of state, who certifies election results.
These efforts come after the state repeatedly confirmed its election results were accurate following a risk-limiting audit and two recounts.
In the face of Trump and his Republican allies’ drumbeat that the election would be stolen, a significant swath of the country has accepted the narrative that there was widespread fraud, compared to previously, when such claims had to be proven first.
“There’s a massive public relations campaign around claiming fraud even in the face of zero evidence of fraud,” Wehle said. “We’ve seen dozens of lawsuits with no facts or evidence showing fraud, but Rudy Giuliani will wave around a binder of alleged affidavits in front of the Michigan state legislature instead of submitting them to a judge because they don’t hold up in a court of law.”
Over the last several decades, the legal battle over voting rights has been focused on using equal protection claims, due process claims, and the Voting Rights Act to expand access to the ballot box.
But now, Wehle said, “there’s been a total paradigm shift” because Republicans have “flipped that dynamic on its head and used those same principles to say that by virtue of these tinkering laws – laws on changing access to the ballot – a candidate, campaign, or voter can cancel people’s votes after the fact.”
Perhaps the most brazen example of this was Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to toss out the election results in four battleground states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden. Trump’s legal team, eighteen other Republican attorneys general, and a majority of the House Republican caucus supported the suit.
Earlier this month, the high court kicked Texas’ case to the curb, saying it did not have the standing to contest how other states run their elections.
“In this election, we saw judges of all political persuasions refuse to abandon the rule of law,” said Lisa Marshall Manheim, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law. “This basic commitment should hold. But we can’t expect our courts to solve all our political problems. They simply aren’t designed for that.”
Although Republicans have not been able to convince the courts to force significant changes in how states administer their elections, some of their biggest successes have been in convincing courts not to get involved in the first place, Manheim said.
For instance, in Georgia, after a district court judge allowed for an extension of the deadline by which mail ballots must be received, Republican litigants convinced the appeals court to stop the lower court ruling from going into effect.
Manheim added that even with a mixed legal record, these aggressive litigation tactics can be helpful for non-legal purposes like fundraising and firing up the Republican base, which is why we can expect them to continue.
Overall, as Business Insider has reported, the 2020 election was the safest and most secure in US history because of the use of paper ballots and voting machines with voter-verifiable paper trails.
And in addition to scores of judges across the country at every level of the court system, both Republican and Democratic officials have confirmed that their respective states’ elections ran smoothly, and that the results were legitimate.
On December 14, the Electoral College convened and electors cast their votes based on which candidate their respective states voted for. On January 6, Congress is set to certify Biden’s win, and he will be sworn in on January 20.