Trump threatens to sue Nevada to block universal mail-in ballots

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump threatened to sue Nevada after Democratic lawmakers passed a bill on Sunday that would send mail-in ballots to every voter ahead of November’s presidential election in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, who has claimed without evidence that voting by mail will lead to rampant fraud, wrote on Twitter on Monday that the legislation approved on Sunday was an “illegal late night coup.”

“Using Covid to steal the state,” he added. “See you in Court!”

If the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, signs the bill as expected, Nevada would become the seventh state to send ballots to all registered voter for the Nov. 3 election. Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington already conduct their elections entirely by mail, while California and Vermont have decided to do so this year due to the pandemic.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman did not immediately comment on Trump’s threat. But the ongoing public health crisis has prompted litigation in dozens of states between Democrats and Republicans over issues like absentee ballots, postmark deadlines and signature requirements.

Most states have sought to expand mail-in voting to avoid spreading the coronavirus at polling places on Election Day.

Nevada mailed ballots to voters ahead of its primary election in June and encouraged residents not to risk in-person voting. Most of the state’s polling places were closed, leading to waits of as much as seven hours in Las Vegas.

Sisolak’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s tweet.

Election experts say voter fraud of any kind, including incidents related to mail-in ballots, is vanishingly rare.

Last week, Trump suggested delaying the election due to the likelihood of fraud, though he does not have the authority to do so.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Trump’s election panel puts hold on voter data request

FILE PHOTO - A member of the ACLU observes a polling station during voting in the 2016 presidential election at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on November 8, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker/File Photo

By Julia Jacobs and Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s commission to investigate possible election fraud on Monday put a freeze on its effort to collect sensitive voter data from states in the face of growing legal challenges.

In an email, the panel’s designated officer, Andrew Kossack, asked state elections officers to “hold on submitting any data,” the commission said in court filings.

Several state elections officials confirmed receiving a letter from the panel stating that it would provide further instructions after a federal judge had ruled on a complaint filed by a watchdog group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which is seeking a temporary restraining order.

Earlier on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, alleging violations of federal law requiring transparent government.

The bipartisan panel, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, asked the 50 U.S. states for a host of voter data, including birth dates and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers.

Most U.S. states have rejected full compliance, which many called unnecessary and a violation of privacy.

“This has been a misadventure from the get-go,” Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, who had refused to give the commission any data, said by phone.

In Wisconsin, elections officials halted plans to inform the commission how it could purchase for $12,500 its public voter data, not including Social Security numbers or birth dates.

“We’re just putting everything on hold,” said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Arkansas, however, had already sent in a limited batch of publicly available data, according to the office of Secretary of State Mark Martin,

In a court document, the government said it would not download the information from Arkansas and would instead delete it.

Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The commission last week said it would meet on July 19 in Washington near the White House.

On Monday, critics cheered the move and expressed hope the commission would permanently abandon efforts to collect voter data.

“The commission has effectively conceded,” EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said by phone.

State officials from both parties and election experts widely agree that voter fraud is rare. Civil rights groups called the commission a voter suppression tactic by Trump.

The Republican president created the panel in May following his claim, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

(Reporting by Julia Jacobs in Chicago, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Trump’s voter fraud panel to meet as U.S. states’ refusals mount

FILE PHOTO: A ballot is placed into a locked ballot box by a poll worker as people line-up to vote early at the San Diego County Elections Office in San Diego, California, U.S., November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s commission to investigate possible election fraud will convene this month, a government notice said on Friday, as more U.S. states have refused to hand over at least some voter data.

Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May, after claiming without evidence that millions of people voted illegally for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election.

U.S. civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers have called the panel a voter suppression tactic by Trump, a Republican who won the presidential election by securing a majority in the Electoral College tally of delegates even as he lost the popular vote to Clinton by some 3 million votes.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a watchdog group, has filed a lawsuit to block the commission’s data request until its privacy impact can be weighed. A hearing in the case was scheduled for Friday afternoon.

There is a wide consensus among state officials from both parties and election experts that voter fraud is rare. States rejecting the commission’s attempts to gather voter information have called it unnecessary and a violation of privacy.

The commission will meet on July 19 to swear in members, formulate objectives and discuss next steps after asking the 50 states to turn over potentially sensitive voter information, according to a General Services Administration (GSA) notice published in the Federal Register.

A June 28 letter from the election panel sought names, the last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, political affiliations, felony convictions and voting histories.

As of Wednesday, at least 44 states had refused to hand over at least some of the data requested, the Washington Post said. Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the commission vice chairman, on Wednesday said such reports were false. He said in a statement sent by the White House that 14 states and Washington, D.C., had rejected the request outright.

Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s Democratic secretary of state and a commission member, on Friday dismissed Trump’s claim that millions of voters illegally cast ballots. “We just don’t see that,” he told CNN. “People are incredibly law abiding.”

Although Maine is one state that has pushed back at the commission’s request, Dunlap said he hopes the panel can tackle voting issues including ballot access and hacking.

A Republican commission member, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, defended the panel, telling CNN on Thursday that fraud with even “one vote per precinct … can change the course of history.”

A court filing in the Electronic Privacy Information Center case also showed the panel plans to house data on White House computers rather than at the GSA. The Washington Post, which earlier reported the filing, noted GSA would be required to follow specific privacy requirements.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow tried to tilt the election in Trump’s favor. Moscow has dismissed the accusations. Trump has denied any collusion and has questioned the agencies’ conclusion as well as any Russian role.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Howard Goller and David Gregorio)

Three more states refuse Trump commission’s voter data request

FILE PHOTO: A ballot is placed into a locked ballot box by a poll worker as people line-up to vote early at the San Diego County Elections Office in San Diego, California, U.S., November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Maryland, Delaware and Louisiana on Monday joined a growing number of U.S. states that have refused to hand over voter data to a commission established by President Donald Trump to investigate possible voting fraud.

More than 20 states, including Virginia, Kentucky, California, New York and Massachusetts, have declined to provide some or all of the information that the panel requested, saying it was unnecessary and violated privacy.

Republican Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May after making unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in last November’s election.

Calling the request “repugnant,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement that his office had advised the State Board of Elections that the commission’s request was illegal.

The request “appears designed only to intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote,” Frosh said.

The commission sent a letter to the 50 states asking them to turn over voter information including names, the last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, political affiliations, felony convictions and voting histories.

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said the presidential commission could purchase the limited information legally available to candidates running for office.

“You’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data,” he said in a statement.

Delaware Elections Commissioner Elaine Manlove said in an interview with Milford’s WXDE-FM radio that her office would not comply since some of the information was confidential. Manlove said she was working with the attorney general’s office to see if the request could be denied completely.

Trump has blasted the states who have refused to turn over the data. He said in a tweet on Saturday, “What are they trying to hide?”

Trump won the White House through victory in the Electoral College, which tallies wins in states, but he lost the popular vote to Clinton by some 3 million votes. He has claimed he would have won the popular vote had it not been for voter fraud.

Civil rights activists say the commission will encourage voter suppression by justifying new barriers to voting, such as requiring identity cards to vote.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Frank McGurty and Grant McCool)

Officials in Florida, Virginia file voter fraud charges against three people

An election volunteer holds a box outside Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City,

By Scott Malone

(Reuters) – Officials in Florida and Virginia filed voter fraud charges against three people in apparently unrelated cases on Friday, just 11 days before American voters cast ballots in the hotly contested presidential race.

The charges targeted a Florida woman and a Virginia man accused of filing bogus voter registration forms and a Florida woman    alleged to have tampered with absentee ballots she was opening at the Miami-Dade Elections Department.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has charged in recent weeks that the election will be rigged in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton, though he has shown no proof for these claims and many Republicans have called them unfounded.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in Florida said that 74-year-old Gladys Coego, had been working as an absentee ballot opener when a supervisor allegedly saw her changing ballots that had been left blank to support a mayoral candidate. Prosecutors said that Coego admitted to marking the ballots, and was charged with two felony counts of marking or designating the ballot of another.

“The integrity of the electoral process is intact because our procedures work,” said Christina White, the county’s election supervisor, in a statement.

Separately, 33-year-old Tomika Curgil was charged with five felony counts of submitting false voter registration information for allegedly handing in forms filled out by fictitious voters while working on a voter-registration drive for a medical marijuana advocacy group.

A Virginia man was also charged with submitting falsified forms while working for a voter-registration campaign, state prosecutors said.

Vafalay Massaquoi, 30, was arraigned on two felony counts of forging a public record and two counts of voter registration fraud.

“There is no allegation that any illegal vote was actually cast in this case,” said Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter. “Furthermore, since the fraudulent applications involved fictitious people, had the fraud not been uncovered, the risk of actual fraudulent votes being cast was low.”

Neither Coego, Curgil nor Massaquoi could be reached for immediate comment.

A man in Texas, where early voting started on Monday, was arrested on Monday on charges of electioneering and loitering near a polling place, public records show.

The man, Brett Mauthe, had been charged for showing up to vote in a Trump had and T-shirt with the phrase “basket of deplorables,” a reference to a comment Clinton made disparaging her rivals’ supporters, election officials told local media.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)