Other Group

Honest Elections Project

The Honest Elections Project (HEP) is a right-of-center election monitoring organization. HEP supports the implementation of election integrity laws to ensure election security, including removing invalid registrations from voter rolls and placing stricter requirements around mail-in voting. [1][2]

In the months leading up to the 2020 elections, HEP pushed back against efforts to change mail-in voting procedures on short notice and criticized the practice of sending unsolicited mail-in ballots to voters. [3][4] HEP also threatened states with legal action for allegedly failing to remove invalid registrations from voter rolls, and it provided legal support to the Republican Party at the state level. [5]

Background

Honest Elections Project was previously known as the 85 Fund and before that, the Judicial Education Project. As the Judicial Education Project, HEP was affiliated with the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), an activist organization which supported the appointment of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. JCN also funded right-of-center candidates in state Supreme Court elections. [6] According to left-of-center publication Slate, JCN received a $17 million donation to fund a campaign against Obama administration Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, and then campaign for the appointment of then-Trump administration nominee Neil Gorsuch. [7] JCN chief council and policy director Carrie Severino led the Judicial Education Project until at least 2018. [8]

Policy Positions

Honest Elections Project has adopted a number of right-of-center positions on electoral administration issues. HEP supports preserving the Electoral College, opposing left-of-center calls for a “national popular vote” to determine the presidency. HEP has called such demands “an unconstitutional effort designed to manipulate election rules for partisan gain” that “will undermine the legitimacy of elections.” [9]

HEP also opposes efforts to extend voting privileges to new groups, including minors, non-citizens, and incarcerated criminals, most prominently supported by Democratic Party activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. [10] HEP also opposes vote harvesting, which allows “campaign workers, partisan activists, or political operatives” to go door-to-door to collect completed ballots from voters. Instead, the project supports in-person voting at regulated polling places in order to make voter fraud “virtually impossible.” [11]

HEP supports efforts to clean voter rolls by removing out-of-date or invalid voter registrations, citing a 2012 Pew Research Center study which estimated that approximately one in eight voter registrations nationwide was “no longer valid” or “significantly inaccurate.” HEP has opposed lawsuits that have sought to preserve such registrations. [12]

In response to criticisms that such policies are forms of “voter suppression,” HEP called voter suppression a “myth” and cited a 2018 Pew study that found “historic jumps in voter turnout” during the 2018 midterm elections, despite the implementation of new voter integrity laws that HEP claims are supported by the majority of the American public. [13]

Election Initiatives

In February 2020, HEP threatened to sue Colorado, Florida, and Michigan if they did not clean their voter rolls as required by law. HEP executive director Jason Snead claimed that “a simple comparison of publicly available records” revealed “suspiciously high” registrations in counties in all three states, “sometimes exceeding the number of voting-age adults” in those counties. The project said it identified 13 counties where the registration rate exceeded 100% of eligible voters and multiple other counties with over 90% registration, which HEP noted was significantly higher than the national average of 66%. [14]

In April 2020, HEP launched a $250,000 advertising campaign against major changes aimed at loosening voting procedures in Wisconsin due to the COVID-19 pandemic. HEP referred to such proposals as “exploiting” the COVID-19 pandemic and pledged to fight efforts by left-of-center organizations to change election rules, calling them an effort to “upend our election system.” [15]

In August 2020, HEP criticized the Center for Voter Information (CVI), a left-of-center Washington, D.C.-based voter outreach group, for sending absentee ballots to thousands of Virginia voters who had not requested them. Critics accused CVI of attempting to mislead voters, and the Fairfax, Virginia Office of Elections issued a statement which warned voters about CVI’s “inaccurate, potentially misleading mailing.” CVI eventually acknowledged that “some of the mailers may have directed the return envelopes to the wrong election offices,” though the organization stood by the legitimacy of the procedure. [16]

In October 2020, HEP said that “almost everything” it had predicted regarding election issues “happened in multiple states throughout the primaries,” referring to its report from July 2020, which concluded that expanding voting by mail on short notice would overwhelm the system, waste resources, and create opportunities for fraud. HEP claimed that the issues were “mostly system-level,” but also alleged several incidents of possible voter fraud. [17]

That same month, HEP submitted an amicus curia brief in support of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, with the goal of protecting voter integrity regulations surrounding mail-in ballots[18] The next month, HEP acknowledged that the Trump campaign’s legal challenges to the election results would be unlikely to impact the vote count, but nonetheless urged careful consideration of all allegations of voter fraud. [19]

Leadership

Carrie Severino was in charge of the HEP as of 2018. [20] Severino is the chief counsel and policy director of JCN. She also served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Severino earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School and is a member of the Federalist Society, an influential right-of-center constitutional law organization. [21]

Jason Snead is the current executive director of HEP. He previously spent ten years at the Heritage Foundation, a right-of-center think tank, where he worked in a number of roles, including as a senior policy analyst. Snead also oversaw the development of the Foundation’s database of reported election fraud incidents. He earned his master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University and his bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University. [22]

Financials

Before 2014, HEP had an annual revenue of less than $3 million. In 2014, revenue jumped to just over $9 million, and peaked at more than $12.3 million in 2017. [23]

The Guardian reported that nearly 100% of the project’s revenue that year came from one donation, and HEP’s 2018 tax return shows total revenue of $7,837,050. [24][25]

References

  1.           Paul Bedard, “Group: Wisconsin’s 1,098,489 absentee ballots proved system works,” The Washington Examiner, April 13, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/group-wisconsins-1-098-489-absentee-ballots-proved-system-works ^
  2.         Nick Givas, “Honest Elections Project criticizes DC group for mailing unsolicited ballot applications,” Fox News, August 12, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/honest-elections-project-virginia-maryland ^
  3.           Paul Bedard, “Group: Wisconsin’s 1,098,489 absentee ballots proved system works,” The Washington Examiner, April 13, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/group-wisconsins-1-098-489-absentee-ballots-proved-system-works ^
  4.         Nick Givas, “Honest Elections Project criticizes DC group for mailing unsolicited ballot applications,” Fox News, August 12, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/honest-elections-project-virginia-maryland ^
  5.             Anita Kumar, “’It’s all noise’: The reality behind Trump’s legal fight,” Politico, November 10, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/10/trump-legal-strategy-election-435853 ^
  6. Sam Levine and Anna Massoglia, “Revealed: conservative group fighting to restrict voting tied to powerful dark money network,” The Guardian, May 27, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/27/honest-elections-project-conservative-voting-restrictions ^
  7.    Lili Loofbourow and Mark Joseph Stern, “What the Right-Wing Dark-Money Machine Did for Amy Coney Barrett,” Slate, October 14, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/10/federalist-society-judicial-crisis-network-amy-coney-barrett.html ^
  8.   Judicial Education Project, Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, 2018. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/202466871/02_2020_prefixes_16-20%2F202466871_201812_990_2020021717152799 ^
  9.          “Preserving the Electoral College,” Honest Elections Project. Accessed January 13, 2021.

    Preserving the Electoral College

    ^

  10.             “Stopping the Effort to Remake the Electorate,” Honest Elections Project. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.honestelections.org/stopping-the-effort-to-remake-the-electorate/ ^
  11.     “Put an End to ‘Vote Harvesting,’” Honest Elections Project. Accessed January 13, 2021.

    Put an End to “Vote Harvesting”

    ^

  12.       “Clean Up America’s Voter Rolls,” Honest Elections Project. Accessed January 13, 2021 ^
  13.   “The ‘Voter Suppression’ Myth,” Honest Elections Project. Accessed January 13, 2021.

    https://www.honestelections.org/the-voter-suppression-myth/ ^

  14. James Varney, “Watchdog demands purge of ‘suspiciously’ bloated voter rolls in 3 battleground states,” The Washington Times, February 27, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/feb/27/colorado-florida-michigan-suspiciously-bloated-vot/ ^
  15.             Paul Bedard, “Group: Wisconsin’s 1,098,489 absentee ballots proved system works,” The Washington Examiner, April 13, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/group-wisconsins-1-098-489-absentee-ballots-proved-system-works ^
  16.          Nick Givas, “Honest Elections Project criticizes DC group for mailing unsolicited ballot applications,” Fox News, August 12, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/honest-elections-project-virginia-maryland ^
  17.   Ronn Blitzer, “New report finds string of ballot mishaps confirms fears of large-scale mail-in voting,” Fox News, October 16, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/new-report-finds-string-of-ballot-mishaps-confirms-fears-of-large-scale-mail-in-voting ^
  18.            David B. Rivkin et. al., “Motion for Leave to File Brief and Amicus Curiae Brief of Honest Elections Project,” Supreme Court of the United States, October 9, 2020. https://electioncases.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/PDP-v.-Boockvar-SCOTUS-HonestElectionsProjectAmicus.pdf ^
  19.             Anita Kumar, “’It’s all noise’: The reality behind Trump’s legal fight,” Politico, November 10, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/10/trump-legal-strategy-election-435853 ^
  20.        Judicial Education Project, Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, 2018. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/202466871/02_2020_prefixes_16-20%2F202466871_201812_990_2020021717152799 ^
  21.     “Carrie Campbell Severino,” The Federalist Society. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://fedsoc.org/contributors/carrie-severino ^
  22.   “About Us,” Honest Elections Project. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.honestelections.org/about/ ^
  23.             “Judicial Education Project,” ProPublica. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/202466871 ^
  24.             Sam Levine and Anna Massoglia, “Revealed: conservative group fighting to restrict voting tied to powerful dark money network,” The Guardian, May 27, 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/27/honest-elections-project-conservative-voting-restrictions ^
  25.         “Judicial Education Project,” ProPublica. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/202466871 ^
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