Republicans form a group to change election laws as they prefer

https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/ex-trump-ag-barr-others-launch-republican-backed-election-law-group-2022-07-21/

July 21, 2022 7:21 PM EDT, Last Updated July 21, 2022

Ex-Trump AG Barr, others launch Republican-backed election law group

By Jacqueline Thomsen

  • Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections was co-founded by Karl Rove, hotelier Steve Wynn and lawyer Bobby Burchfield
  • The group opposes courts intervening in state election laws
  • and has already filed briefs in court cases over new voting restrictions

(Reuters) – Prominent Republicans including former U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday launched a new legal group they say is aimed at defending state legislatures’ right to set election laws.

The nonprofit group, Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, is also co-founded by longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove, hotel magnate and GOP donor Steve Wynn and attorney Bobby Burchfield, who last year resigned from the law firm King & Spalding.

Burchfield told Reuters Thursday that the group was created in response to expanding court fights over election laws. It has already filed two briefs in election law cases backing state legislatures’ ability to change voting rules.

“We do not think the courts should be setting the rules for elections. We believe that’s the province of state legislatures,” Burchfield said.

He said the nonprofit is not a “foil” to Democratic lawyers like Marc Elias, who left law firm Perkins Coie last year to start his own practice regularly litigating over election laws.

The group is not affiliated with former President Donald Trump and does not support particular candidates, Burchfield said. He said the groups’ members reject claims made by some other conservatives that the 2020 election is illegitimate due to mass voter fraud.

Elias on Thursday told Reuters he believes the new organization is “fundamentally about making voting harder and opposing voting rights.” He said that the state laws the group defends are falsely premised on the idea that fraud is rampant in U.S. elections.

One of the group’s briefs, filed in June before the Montana Supreme Court, supports reinstating several new voting laws blocked by a judge in March, including ones eliminating same-day voter registration and heightening voter identification requirements in the state. The court in May suspended that ruling but has not issued a final decision.

Represented by lawyers from Jones Day, the group also filed a brief Tuesday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit supporting a Republican-backed Florida law that restricts the use of drop boxes and third-party organizations’ ability to collect voter registration forms. The court in May temporarily reinstated those measures after a lower court judge said they were racially discriminatory.

Wynn is the group’s finance chair. It will also help others with a similar agenda through financial aid or “intellectual capital,” by connecting them to lawyers, Burchfield said.

Burchfield last year represented the Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaign in a pre-election legal challenge to North Carolina extending the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots in the 2020 race. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the case.

He was previously an outside ethics adviser to the Trump Organization but said Thursday he no longer holds that role.

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