Udayavni Special

Former Trump adviser takes prominent role in voting battle


Team Udayavani, Mar 28, 2021, 9:56 AM IST

A GOP lawyer who advised former President Donald Trump on his campaign to overturn the 2020 election results is now playing a central role coordinating the Republican effort to tighten voting laws around the country.

Cleta Mitchell, a longtime Republican lawyer and advocate for conservative causes, was among the Trump advisers on a January phone call in which Trump asked Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to declare him, and not Democrat Joe Biden, the winner of the battleground state.

Now Mitchell has taken the helm of two separate efforts to push for tighter state voting laws and to fight Democratic efforts to expand access to the ballot at the federal level. She is also advising state lawmakers crafting the voting restriction proposals. And, she said Friday, she is in regular contact with Trump.

“People are actually interested in getting involved and we have to harness all this energy,” Mitchell said in an interview. “There are a lot of groups that have projects on election integrity that never did before.”

Mitchell’s new prominence tightens the ties between the former president, who has falsely insisted he lost the election due to fraud, and the GOP-led state voting overhaul that has helped turn a foundational principle of democracy into a partisan battleground.

Trump’s false claims of fraud have fueled a wave of new voting restrictions. More than 250 proposed voting restrictions have been proposed this year by mostly Republican lawmakers, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. On Thursday, Georgia’s GOP governor signed into law a measure requiring voters to present ID to vote by mail, gives the GOP-controlled state legislature new powers over local elections boards and outlaws providing food or water to people waiting in line to vote. Biden on Friday condemned it as “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”

In response, Democrats have stepped up the push for a massive federal election overhaul bill. That proposal, known as H.R. 1, would effectively neuter state-level voter ID laws, allow anyone to vote by mail if they wanted to and automatically register citizens to vote. Republicans view that as an encroachment on state control over elections and say it is designed to give Democrats an advantage.

“The left is trying to dismantle 100 years of advancement in election administration,” Mitchell said, expressing bafflement at Democrats’ charges that Republicans are trying to suppress votes. “We’re watching two different movies right now.” Mitchell’s most public involvement in the voting wars came in participation on Trump’s call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger Jan 2. During that call, Mitchell insisted she had evidence of voting fraud, but officials with the Secretary of State’s office told her that her data was incorrect. The call is part of an investigation by the Fulton County District Attorney’s office into whether Trump or others improperly tried to influence election officials. Mitchell would not discuss the call or the investigation.

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