CNN reports on “onslaughts of public records requests” to state election officials.
Even private groups advocating for open government but not subject to state public records laws — like the Kentucky Open Government Coalition — have not been immune.
In an email thread earlier this week, coalition representatives from Virginia, Colorado, Texas, Washington, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nevada, Indiana, and North Carolina, among others, learned that Mike Lindell had posted a screen shot of the National Freedom of Information Coalition website’s state resources map and encouraged people to file records requests in their states.
Requesters seeking election records from these open government coalitions were pumping a dry well.
NFOIC’s members are private advocacy groups that are not subject to state public records laws. Moreover, they do not maintain/possess/or have custody of public records that they are legally obligated to produce in response to public records requests.
A member of NFOIC, the Kentucky Open Government Coalition was not immune. We received vague requests for “a copy of the cazz [also referred to as cass] vote records” earlier this week. The timing of the requests was not coincidental.
A word to the wise(?) has thus far sufficed in KOGC’s case.
On September 2, we posted about open records requests submitted to all 120 Kentucky’s county clerks by individuals believed to be acting at the urging of Lindell.
Kentucky’s law is better equipped to face the challenge, we argued, by virtue of the “unreasonable burden/intent to disrupt essential functions” provision that is rarely invoked due to the high proof threshold required to sustain a denial. Some states’ public records laws omit analogous provisions (which, in Kentucky as elsewhere, are intended to be used in extreme and abusive circumstances only).
Although available to Kentucky’s clerks if “clear and convincing” proof of an unreasonable burden or intent to disrupt essential functions could be adduced, we observed, it is our understanding that Kentucky’s clerks muscled through the challenge to generate responses to the boilerplate requests.
See KRS 61.872(6) https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/law/statutes/statute.aspx?id=51391
Naively, we did not know how widespread the problem was.
This, from CNN:
“Voting for this year's general election kicked off Friday with North Carolina becoming the first state to begin sending out absentee ballots, but it comes amid continuing concerns about the harassment of election officials by people who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election.
“More than 50,000 absentee ballots had been requested as of Friday morning, and about a dozen ballots had been returned and accepted electronically as of late Friday afternoon via a secure online portal established to accept overseas and military ballots and those cast by visually impaired voters, state officials said.
“The Tar Heel State has long been the first in the country to vote -- under state law that allows general election ballots to be issued two months before Election Day. But officials here say the 2022 midterms are unlike any previous election as workers grapple with threats to their safety and an onslaught of what they view as frivolous public records requests from people who question the 2020 election results.
“Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said local election officials have installed panic buttons and bulletproof glass in their offices in response to threats.
“And she said local election offices also are ‘drowning’ in copy-cat public records requests that arrive daily that appear to be attempts to ‘burden the counties to where they cannot focus’ on carrying out their 2022 election duties.
“State officials say the requests range from demands to see obscure documents generated by ballot-tallying machines to contracts with Dominion Voting Systems -- although the company's machines are not used in North Carolina' elections.
“‘It's time to move on,’ Brinson Bell said Friday in an interview with CNN. ‘We have certified. We have audited. We have recounted so much from the 2020 election. And what's playing out now is democracy.’
“Election officials across the country have reported similar onslaughts of public records requests.
David Becker, who runs the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, said the problem is widespread.
"’Public records requests are a good thing, in general, when they are used to obtain real information that you otherwise might not be able to get to understand how government works,’ he said. But Becker said election officials are dealing with duplicative requests that seem designed to ‘bully’ and ‘overwhelm’ staffers.
In addition, state and local officials report they are facing a new crop of demands that they retain records with vague threats of legal action over the 2020 election.
"’We are 676 days from the November 2020 election,’ Becker, a former Justice Department lawyer, said. ‘There are no ongoing lawsuits with any basis in law or fact that have established even the tiniest shred of malfeasance, inaccuracy or widespread fraud in any aspect of the 2020 election.’
“Last week, Kentucky's Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, cited the frivolous records requests and demands for recounts of past elections as among the reason for high-than-usual turnover among local election officials. He said 23 of the state's 120 county election clerks have not sought reelection.
“The bombardment ‘adds to a job that is already stressful,’ she added. ‘People in elections are generally underpaid. We are asked to work very, very long hours, to respond to change quickly ... so, to have more and more things piled on top of us, it's very difficult.’
“In North Carolina, the general election features a high-profile contest for an open US Senate seat, now held by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who is retiring. Seats in the state legislature and on the state Supreme Court also are among those on the ballot.
“Despite the new level of ‘hostility’ that election officials face, Brinson Bell said North Carolina workers remain focused on their jobs. ‘Our eye is on the ball of the midterm election,’ she said.”
More on the story from http://cleveland.com: