Election Deniers Seek to Rewrite the Law - The World News

Election Deniers Seek to Rewrite the Law

In the conspiracy-soaked aftermath of the 2020 election, far-right activists clamored to inspect ballots based on elaborate — and false — theories.

In Georgia, election deniers pushed for a review that might detect counterfeit ballots because they were not folded, appeared to be marked by a machine or were printed on different card stock. In Arizona, auditors were on the hunt for bamboo fibers in ballots to prove that they had fraudulently came from Asia.

Those theories were roundly rebuked, without a shred — or fiber — of evidence to support them. National attention from voters and the mainstream news media eventually shifted to the 2024 election.

But one bill introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives seeks to address those very concerns.

The bill, which was passed in committee, would require the secretary of state’s office to post high-resolution digital images of scanned paper ballots online and keep them there for 24 months, a demand of conspiracy theorists in 2021. (Similar bills regarding ballot scans have come out of committee in the New Hampshire and Arizona Legislatures.)

More than three years after the 2020 election, the lies and falsehoods about President Biden’s victory persist, and they continue to influence efforts to pass election laws across the country. In addition to the bill working its way through the Georgia Legislature, more than 70 bills in at least 25 states draw some connection to conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, according to a review of data from the Voting Rights Lab, a group that tracks voting legislation.

Those theories include falsehoods about the security of ballot drop boxes and voting by undocumented citizens, as well as questions about fraudulent absentee ballots and corrupted election machines — all of which have been thoroughly debunked by judges, election officials and independent experts.

“We’re seeing the type of legislation change each year, but a common denominator is that it is very often rooted in disinformation about the 2020 election, and it threatens to interfere with the actual administration of elections,” said Liz Avore, a senior policy adviser at the Voting Rights Lab.

The bills drafted so far are at various stages of the legislative process. Yet the sheer number of measures rooted in election disinformation is another indication of how prevalent the falsehoods about the 2020 election have become within the country’s Republican base.

Perhaps the most consistent and wide-ranging conspiracy theories about the 2020 election focus on voting machines. Despite multiple court cases having thoroughly debunked claims of faulty or fraudulent machines, distrust of the technology remains core to the election-denial movement.

One bill in the Georgia Senate — S.B. 189 — would ban bar codes from ballots, which the machines currently used in Georgia need to tabulate and count ballots. The bill has already passed the full Senate and is working its way through the House.

State Senator Max Burns, a Republican and one of the sponsors of the bill, did not respond to requests for comment. But in a recent interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Burns said the bill would help “create clarity” for voters, adding that “the biggest challenge that a voter has is knowing that their vote was correctly recorded.”

Fifteen bills across nine states, including Arizona, Florida and New Hampshire, would prohibit the use of such tabulators, forcing a hand count of ballots. The laborious — and potentially error-ridden — hand-counting of election results has slowly become a priority among many in the election-denial movement. A similar bill passed the full Legislature in Arizona in 2023, but was vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat and former top election official.

“We’re seeing it grow in popularity each year,” Ms. Avore said of hand-count legislation. She added: “It’s a very extreme proposal, and we’re seeing it move from not even on anyone’s radar, not even being considered, to actually passing a legislature over the course of just two years.”

Beyond the voting machinery, eight states are considering bills that would require documentary proof of citizenship for voting, even though there is no evidence that large numbers of noncitizens have voted.

Former President Donald J. Trump continues to claim falsely that millions of undocumented immigrants are signing up to vote, and in 2016, he falsely stated that he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

A study from the Brennan Center in 2017 found only about 30 incidents of suspected noncitizen voting out of 23.5 million votes in 42 jurisdictions, or 0.0001 percent.

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