Brian Newby, Controversial Executive Director of EAC, is OUT Followed Deadlocked, Party-Line Vote

Politico Pro:

The embattled executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, whose tenure has been marked by internal turmoil, will not serve another term, two people told POLITICO.

EAC commissioners voted over the weekend of Sept. 7-8 not to reappoint Brian Newby for four more years, according to an agency staffer and a House aide, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. The commissioners also voted not to retain Cliff Tatum, the agency’s general counsel. Both men joined the EAC on Oct. 22, 2015.

The vote on the two appointments was 2-2, splitting the Democratic and Republican commissioners, said the House aide. A decision to reappoint them would have required a majority.

The vote came three months after a POLITICO story about how Newby has faced extensive criticism from inside and outside the EAC for undermining its election security work and ignoring, micromanaging and mistreating staff.


“Check-in computers stolen in Atlanta hold statewide voter data”


Two computers that are used to check in voters were stolen from a west Atlanta precinct hours before polls opened Tuesday for a city school board election.

Officials replaced the computers before voters arrived, and the election wasn’t disrupted, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
The express poll computers contain names, addresses, birth dates and driver’s license information for every voter in the state, said Richard Barron, Fulton County’s elections director. They don’t include Social Security numbers. They are password-protected, and the password changes for every election.

The computers, which were in a locked and sealed case, haven’t been recovered.

(h/t Doug Chapin)


“The Cybersecurity 202: Democrats launch ‘full court press’ on election security”


Democrats are pressing hard this week in what could be their final chance to pass legislation aimed at protecting the 2020 contest against Russian hackers.

Senate Democrats have failed for months to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow a vote on bills committing an additional $600 million to election security and also mandating security reforms such as paper ballots and post-election cybersecurity audits. Now they’re shifting tactics and trying to force some of that funding into a must-pass spending bill.

Round one of the fight starts Thursday at a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting where the top-ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), and the top Democrat on the committee’s general government panel, Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), will try to force the money into the Republican draft of a spending bill.


The Proposed North Carolina Remedy

Earlier today, the North Carolina legislature approved remedial maps to replace the state house and state senate plans that were recently struck down as partisan gerrymanders. PlanScore assessed the remedial maps, and here are the results. For the state house, the old plan had an efficiency gap of 9%, a partisan bias of 7%, and a mean-median difference of 5% (all in a Republican direction, and based on a model using 2016/2018 data). On the other hand, the new map has an efficiency gap of 5%, a partisan bias of 3%, and a mean-median difference of 3% (again all pro-Republican). So the new map is about half as skewed as the old plan.

Old House Plan:

New House Plan:

For the state senate, the old plan had an efficiency gap of 11%, a partisan bias of 6%, and a mean-median difference of 4% (all pro-Republican). By comparison, the new map has an efficiency gap of 3%, a partisan bias of 2%, and a mean-median difference of 3% (all pro-Republican). So the new map is approximately one-third as skewed as the old plan.

It’s also interesting to compare the remedial plans to the distributions of maps randomly generated by the plaintiffs’ expert, Jowei Chen. (Especially since each remedial plan used one of Chen’s maps as its starting point.) At the state house level, Chen’s maps contained anywhere from 43 to 51 Democratic districts with a median of 46 (assuming a 48% Democratic statewide vote share). The remedial plan has 49 Democratic districts in that electoral environment. At the state senate level, Chen’s maps contained anywhere from 19 to 22 Democratic districts with a median of 20. The remedial plan has 22 Democratic districts.

I should note that this isn’t a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. Chen analyzed partisanship using an aggregate of ten statewide elections from 2010 to 2016. PlanScore relies on a model using 2016/2018 data in which legislative vote share is a function of presidential vote share and incumbency. Still, PlanScore assumes about the same electoral environment as Chen (48% Democratic) so the estimates for the remedial plans are at least roughly comparable to Chen’s figures.

Another caveat is that, because of North Carolina’s whole county provision, its maps aren’t drawn in one statewide swoop. Rather, districts are drawn within a large number of county groupings. It’s thus perfectly possible for certain county groupings to be outside the distributions of simulations for those groupings, even if the maps as a whole are within the statewide distributions.

That said, one’s conclusion about the remedial plans plainly depends on the baseline. Given a baseline of perfect symmetry, one would find the remedial plans better than their predecessors but still reasonably far from treating both parties equally (especially the House plan). But given a baseline of randomly generated maps, one would find the remedial plans satisfactory. Both plans fall within the corresponding distributions of simulated maps—and indeed on the Democratic side of the distributions’ medians.


“NC Senate passes new political maps. Democrats are divided in their support.”

News and Observer:

Raleigh Sen. Dan Blue, the top Democrat, vouched for the maps as well as Hise. Blue, a former N.C. Speaker of the House, has been involved in numerous redistricting efforts in past decades in North Carolina and was in the thick of this one as well.

“I think it was a remarkable experience, especially when you consider the current political climate,” he said.

Of the state Senate’s 50 members, 21 are Democrats. Most followed Blue’s lead and joined their Republican colleagues to support the new maps. But eight voted against the maps. A common refrain from the opponents was that they simply don’t think politicians should be able to draw their own maps in the first place.

“These are the fairest maps, and this was the fairest process, in North Carolina in my lifetime,” Charlotte Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson said.
Still, Jackson said he was voting against the maps because “independent redistricting would look just like the process we just went through, except it wouldn’t be politicians doing it.”…

Two Democrats on the redistricting committee, where the map-making work happened on a video feed streamed live online, alluded to attempts by politicians to rig the new districts that they said they caught and shot down.

“I believe we shut down attempts to re-gerrymander districts,” said Charlotte Democratic Sen. Natasha Marcus.

Marcus voted for the maps. But voting against them was Guilford County Democrat Michael Garrett, who also spoke of lawmakers tweaking the lines — and had previously voiced displeasure with how his own district looks in the new maps.


“New Report Highlights Arizona as a Model for Redistricting Reform Nationwide”

Ash Center:

Today, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a research center at Harvard Kennedy School released “The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission: One State’s Model for Gerrymandering Reform,” a new report detailing the lessons learned from Arizona’s innovative approach to legislative redistricting.

 The report’s authors, Colleen Mathis, the current chair of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC); Daniel Moskowitz, Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy; and Benjamin Schneer, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Ash Center faculty affiliate, argue that independent redistricting commissions such as Arizona’s have been successful at fostering increased competition in individual legislative districts and promoting partisan fairness in the state as a whole.


“Canada Does Elections Right”

That’s the title of an op-ed today in the NY Times, by David Shribram of McGill University, with the subtitle: “The campaign for prime minister just started. And it’s almost over.”

The piece points out many ways in which Canadian elections [and those in most democracies, I would add] differ from American elections. One reason the piece highlights is the absence of American style primaries. As the op-ed says:

And though the competition for party leader can be bitter and divisive, there is no need for a parade of primaries or for the retail politics that chews up so much time in places like Iowa or New Hampshire.

Of course, concise campaigns come at a cost. A candidate like Mr. Delaney — or like Gov. Jimmy Carter or Senator Barack Obama, both of whom were polling low before campaigning in Iowa and winning the caucuses there — would have no chance north of the 49th parallel. Lesser known candidates have a shot in the United States; in Canada, it’s usually a battle of the elites.

Most Americans, I think, don’t realize how differently other democracies structure the process of choosing their country’s leaders. As those who know my work are aware, I’m particularly interested in the various consequences that have followed since we moved, in the 1970s, to the use of primaries (and caucuses) to determine who the presidential nominees would be from the major parties. This populist system of selection is far different from the way many other Western democracies select their equivalent to our nominees, as this op-ed on Canada makes clear. The piece is also candid in acknowledging some of the costs and tradeoffs with the way countries like Canada structure their elections.

For my views on these issues, for a popular audience, see this Washington Post piece. For a fuller and more academic study of these issues, see here.


“Supreme Court Says Judges Are Above Politics. It May Hear a Case Testing That View.”

Adam Liptak NYT Sidebar:

The court will decide whether to hear the case, Carney v. Adams, No. 19-309, sometime this fall.

Delaware’s Constitution says that judges affiliated with any one political party can make up no more than a “bare majority” on the state’s highest courts, with the remaining seats reserved for judges affiliated with the “other major political party.”

James R. Adams, a retired lawyer and registered independent, challenged the balancing provision, saying it violated the First Amendment.
“If Delaware had a Constitution that said, you know, a certain race or religion or gender was eliminated from being judges, everyone would say that’s obviously discrimination,” he said in a deposition. Since he was an independent, he said, he was ineligible to be considered for a seat on the state’s three highest courts.

“It’s kind of like those old discrimination cases about whether you’re in the front of the bus or the back of the bus,” Mr. Adams said. “The Delaware Constitution has decided that sometimes independents are allowed in the back of the bus and sometimes they can’t get on the bus.”
David L. Finger, a lawyer for Mr. Adams, said the balancing requirement was an insult to judicial independence. “It assumes,” he said, “that judges cannot put aside their political philosophies to decide the cases before them.”

Supreme Court precedents, the appeals court said, have drawn a line. On the one hand, politics may play no role in the hiring and firing of most government workers. On the other, it is perfectly acceptable to consider politics for those in “policymaking positions.”
In other words, it is unlawful to hire, say, prison guards or tow-truck drivers based on their political affiliations. But it is fine to consider politics in the appointment of officials who have a role in making policy like, say, prosecutors and public information officers.
Which side of the line do judges fall on?
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled for Mr. Adams, striking down the balancing requirement.


“Warren releases plan to tackle Washington corruption”


Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a new plan Monday to tackle corruption in Washington, part of the Democratic presidential candidate’s ongoing promises to enact “big structural change” if elected.
Warren’s wide-ranging new proposal seeks to dramatically limit the influence of federal lawmakers and lobbyists while also expanding protections for workers. Under the plan, lobbyists would be banned from all campaign fundraising activities — including serving as campaign bundlers — and campaigns themselves would not be able to receive “intangible benefits” such as opposition research from foreign governments.
Under a new definition of “official act,” politicians would not be able to accept gifts or payments in exchange for government action. Senior government officials and members of Congress would be prohibited from serving on for-profit boards, even if they receive no compensation.


“A Surprise Vote, Thrown Phone And Partisan ‘Mistrust’ Roil N.C. As Maps Are Redrawn”


Despite the assertions of Senate leaders, there remains some skepticism about whether the court will agree to enact the maps the legislature approves.

Stanford University professor and election law expert Nathaniel Persily was appointed Friday to help the court review the maps — and help draw new maps if the General Assembly’s lines are deemed unlawful.
“I would be surprised if this court accepts the maps that this General Assembly develops,” said freshman Democrat Sen. Michael Garrett. “I think the behavior of this body and the nearly decade of gamesmanship that’s gone on, there’s just too much mistrust.”

That mistrust has been amplified in recent months with the unearthing of files from longtime Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller, who died in 2018. Hofeller was thought of as something of a gerrymandering wizard, and the files, which have been reviewed by The New Yorker and The New York Times, added new details about his involvement in helping North Carolina lawmakers draw the maps to such a Republican advantage….

But an analysis done by Wang of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project found that the House map still contained between “one-half and two-thirds of the partisan advantage that was present in the illegal gerrymander.”
“To make an analogy to card games, a stacked deck can’t produce a fair deal,” Wang wrote. “And I have some questions about the deck.”
The whole process took place against a backdrop of extreme divide and tension last week that culminated on Wednesday when Republicans sprang a surprise vote on Democrats that had lawmakers screaming at each other on the House floor.
Later that day, a Democratic senator grabbed a reporter’s phone and threw it.
And all week, accusations flew about maps being drawn in secret and violations of the court order.
“It is a very intense, very partisan, very polarized environment that the state has been going through since 2008 really,” said J. Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in North Carolina.


“Federal judge dismisses voting security lawsuit in Tennessee”


A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Friday challenging the security of voting machines in Tennessee’s largest county and calling for a switch to a handwritten ballot and a voter-verifiable paper trial.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker ruled that the lawsuit filed by a group of Shelby County voters in October 2018 failed to show that any harm has come to the plaintiffs and that they have no standing to bring the suit.


“Letter to NC Election Board: Voting equipment approval didn’t follow law”

Carolina Public Press:

North Carolina’s recent decision to certify new voting systems for use next year did not follow state law, according to a letter that a group of experts on election security and administration sent to the N.C. Board of Elections late Wednesday night.
North Carolina has been in the process of reviewing new voting systems for certification for over two years. The system that is currently in use across the state was certified in 2005.
The law requires a security review of the source code of all voting systems before they are certified for use in the state.
The letter states that there is no indication that the state, either through its own contractors or through required federal testing, reviewed the source code for the computers in the voting systems it recently certified.
The experts in question, including Duncan Buell, a professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina, reviewed testing documentation from the state and from the federal government.
“You read all of that, and it’s clear,” Buell said. “There was no source code review conducted. That would certainly seem to suggest that things are not in accordance with North Carolina law.”


“Montgomery County Public Elections Fund Successfully Encourages and Empowers Small Donors”


A report released today by Maryland PIRG Foundation finds that the Montgomery County Public Election Fund is working as intended, and is encouraging more small donor participation. The report finds that individual donors participated at a higher rate when candidates participated in the small donor program.


The fundraising data from the 2018 election also revealed that the small donor matching program is reducing the influence of big money and enabling people to run for office based on support from the community instead of access to large donors.


“Washington, Silicon Valley Struggle to Unify on Protecting Elections”


U.S. national-security officials traveled to Silicon Valley last week to forge deeper ties with big tech companies in hopes of better protecting the 2020 election from foreign intervention. It didn’t go entirely as planned.

At the meeting organized by Facebook Inc. at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Shelby Pierson—named over the summer to lead the U.S. intelligence community’s new election-threats group—delivered a blunt message to the assembled executives: You need to share more data with us about your users.

The executives and other U.S. officials in the room were caught off guard by Ms. Pierson’s assertion, according to people in attendance or briefed on the conversation. After a tense moment, another official explained that privacy law limited what social-media platforms could hand over to spy agencies.

Twitter Inc. executive then offered a rebuke: The Trump administration was failing to share enough information with tech firms about election threats, not the other way around, the executive told the room.


Nate Persily Appointed as Referee in North Carolina State Partisan Gerrymandering Case: What It Means

The three-judge state court which found North Carolina’s legislative districts to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders under that state’s constitution has appointed Stanford professor Nate Persily as the referee/special master in the case. This means that Persily at the least will evaluate for the court the maps that the state’s legislature is expected to pass this week, and if the judges are dissatisfied with what the North Carolina General Assembly has come up with, Persily will draw maps to be used for state legislative elections.

To begin with, it seems fairly likely that the court will call on Persily to draw new maps. The maps are being drawn by the NCGA in a strange way by beginning with some maps that were introduced into evidence in the lawsuit to demonstrate the bias of the old plan; these are not being drawn on a bipartisan basis. And the House just gave a few minutes notice before allowing for public comments on the map. This is not the kind of procedure I expect will endear the NCGA to the court, a court which already found unconstitutional action.

What kind of maps will Persily draw? I expect based on his track record that he will draw fair maps that will disappoint both sides. Almost by definition, the maps will provide less Republican advantage than the old maps. While Republicans will likely accuse Persily of bias (and did when he drew less Republican, but still Republican-leaning maps to cure partisan gerrymandering in congressional maps under the Pennsylvania state constitution), Democrats were not happy with the maps Persily drew in Georgia in the Larios case, and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was not happy with maps Persily drew in a New York case. Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Persily to draw fair maps in the past.

But Democrats will likely be disappointed in that the maps are likely to still have a pro-Republican bias. That’s because the three-judge North Carolina court has limited the parameters of what the remedial map is supposed to do, and a lot of that can’t be touched by what Persily does.

But whatever Persily does, it is likely to produce a fairer outcome than the old maps found to be among the most extreme gerrymanders in the country. (Persily is not charged with redrawing the congressional maps which were at issue in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Rucho case; that was not at issue in this lawsuit and it may be too late to challenge them in time for the 2020 elections).


“A New Look At The Chaos Trump’s Voter Fraud Panel Caused At DHS”

Tierney Sneed for TPM (behind paywall):

We already know from various court filings that President Trump’s voter fraud commission — and Kris Kobach’s claims, after its dissolution, that the Department of Homeland of Security was continuing its work — caused the administration a major headache.

But now, thanks to hundreds of pages of DHS emails that were released on Thursday  as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, we have a behind-the-scenes look at the chaos the commission and its dissolution caused the agency.

The emails also suggest the Department was more involved with the commission’s work than originally known, and the emails give more details on DHS’ decision-making process as it considered continuing the commission’s work once it was disbanded.


“New Clues Show How Russia’s Grid Hackers Aimed for Physical Destruction”


For nearly three years, the December 2016 cyberattack on the Ukrainian power grid has presented a menacing puzzle. Two days before Christmas that year, Russian hackers planted a unique specimen of malware in the network of Ukraine’s national grid operator, Ukrenergo. Just before midnight, they used it to open every circuit breaker in a transmission station north of Kyiv. The result was one of the most dramatic attacks in Russia’s years-long cyberwar against its western neighbor, an unprecedented, automated blackout across a broad swath of Ukraine’s capital.

But an hour later, Ukrenergo’s operators were able to simply switch the power back on again. Which raised the question: Why would Russia’s hackers build a sophisticated cyberweapon and plant it in the heart of a nation’s power grid only to trigger a one-hour blackout?

A new theory offers a potential answer. Researchers at the industrial-control system cybersecurity firm Dragos have reconstructed a timeline of the 2016 blackout attack based on a reexamination of the malware’s code and network logs pulled from Ukrenergo’s systems. They say that hackers intended not merely to cause a short-lived disruption of the Ukrainian grid but to inflict lasting damage that could have led to power outages for weeks or even months. That distinction would make the blackout malware one of only three pieces of code ever spotted in the wild aimed at not just disrupting physical equipment but destroying it, as Stuxnet did in Iran in 2009 and 2010 and the malware Triton was designed to do in a Saudi Arabian oil refinery in 2017.

In an insidious twist in the Ukrenergo case, Russia’s hackers apparently intended to trigger that destruction not at the time of the blackout itself but when grid operators turned the power back on, using the utility’s own recovery efforts against them.


“Report on Election Security Gains Attention, and a Sharp Rebuke”


States that received the reports found them riddled with errors and unhelpful for assessing actual election security. The work done by NormShield — called “Rapid Cyber Risk Scorecards” — had tested online government material not associated with elections. In Idaho, for example, the company examined the security of the Department of Environmental Quality, but not the state’s online voter registration system. In Oklahoma, of 200 IP addresses scanned, none were related to elections. In Vermont, the scan had been performed on a defunct domain.

“You would think a firm that claims expertise in cybersecurity could do a simple Google search to find the correct address of a state website,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a statement.

Multiple states confronted NormShield about the reports. Federal government agencies privately called it irresponsible, and nonprofit groups panned NormShield’s failure to appropriately notify the states of vulnerabilities before threatening to report them publicly.

It might all have faded away as an unremarkable, if annoying episode had it not been for the fact that NormShield on Tuesday published its work. While the published report did not name any specific states, it said that more than half of the 50 states whose systems it examined had received “a grade C or below.”

The report garnered considerable attention, written up by The Washington PostPolitico and Axios.

In interviews with ProPublica, election officials and experts in election security said NormShield’s behavior amounted to another kind of election security threat: companies looking to profit from a country on edge about the integrity of its national and local elections.


Joan Biskupic Scoop: Chief Justice Roberts Was For Inclusion of the Citizenship Question on the Census Before He Was Against It

Joan confirms what many of us suspected from reading the opinions in Dep’t of Commerce v. NY:

Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote against President Donald Trump’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, but only after changing his position behind the scenes, sources familiar with the private Supreme Court deliberations tell CNN.

The case was fraught with political consequences. Democrats and civil rights advocates claimed the query would discourage responses to the decennial questionnaire from new immigrants and minorities and affect the balance of power nationwide.

Roberts’ action recalled his dramatic switch in the 2012 case that saved President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Once again, the chief, an appointee of President George W. Bush and a reliable conservative, had sided with the liberals as a dispute of immense national significance went down to the wire….

For the most part, Roberts’ opinion in the census case laid out why Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had significant latitude to add a new question. He was joined by his four conservative brethren on that point. But then the chief justice swerved, and joined by the four liberal justices, said Ross’ justification for the citizenship question, tied to enforcing the Voting Rights Act, was contrived.

After the justices heard arguments in late April, Roberts was ready to rule for Ross and the administration. But sometime in the weeks that followed, sources said, Roberts began to waver. He began to believe that Ross’ rationale for the citizenship question had been invented, and that, despite the deference he would normally give an executive branch official, Ross’ claim had to matter in the court’s final judgment, which Roberts announced on June 27.


“FairVote/YouGov ‘Ranked Choice’ Poll Throws Floodlight on Better Ways to Gauge Democratic Voter Preferences in Crowded Presidential Field”


A first-of-its-kind FairVote/YouGov poll of Democratic voters in the 2020 presidential race showcases the benefits of surveying through a ranked choice lens — allowing voters to rank issues and candidates in order of preference and giving greater insight into the state of a crowded Democratic 2020 race and candidates’ potential paths to victory than traditional “single choice” analyses. 

FairVote’s presentation of findings includes a series of online interactive tools and an initial report on featured insights and toplines from YouGov. On its website, FairVote allows users to filter voter preference data by demographic groups (see links below), simulate a ranked choice voting tally and head-to-head contests between different candidates, and see how ranked choice voting (RCV) ballots will work in tandem with Democratic Party rules involving delegate allocation in several states next year. 

“In contrast to how most single choice opinion polling is used, ranked-choice surveys allow a greater understanding of how voters are considering a field of options, what depth of support candidates have in rankings and how one candidate’s fall over the course of the campaign could affect others’ rise. While the state of the race may change coming out of tonight’s debate, the current findings suggest Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the current frontrunner in the race,” said FairVote president and CEO Rob Richie. “This survey gives a snapshot of a moment in time, showing where the democratic electorate is landing on the candidates and the issues, what could happen if the field narrows, and which candidates are best-positioned to benefit.”


Breaking: Just Days After Rejecting Tennessee’s Motion to Dismiss, Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Against State’s Strict Rules for Conducting Voter Registration Drives

This is a big deal, and no surprise given the earlier ruling (except that it came very quickly after the rejection of the motion to dismiss).

The real question is whether the Sixth Circuit, which is becoming increasingly conservative, will reverse.


ProPublica’s Brad Parscale Profile Discusses His Use of Social Media for Trump

I found this part especially interesting (my emphasis):

“If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you think he’s a 21st-century Steve Jobs,” says a Republican consultant who knows Parscale. “He’s not an asshole. He’s kind of a huckster. But he’s smart enough to realize he’s a huckster.”

Parscale’s true gift wasn’t deploying new, cutting-edge uses for technology. It was skillful management: cobbling together and empowering a fast-moving, opportunistic digital team staffed by experts from the RNC, commercial ad placement firms and social media companies, which flew about a dozen employees into San Antonio to work alongside Parscale’s team. At Parscale’s direction, the digital operation carried out an unprecedented tilt toward social media, for which the Trump campaign spent nearly half its media budget.

Parscale’s all-in approach toward Facebook was perfectly suited to his unique candidate. “The key to digital success is bottling lightning, and with Donald Trump, the lightning strikes every five minutes,” says Wesley Donehue, CEO of Push Digital, who worked on Marco Rubio’s failed bid for the 2016 presidential nomination. “You will never be able to replicate any digital strategy you had for Donald Trump for any other candidate or any corporation because there is no other Donald Trump.”
Academics and political strategists say digital ads don’t do much to persuade voters to switch candidates. They’re aimed primarily at raising money, firing up the base and suppressing turnout among opposition voters — which perfectly matched Trump’s needs.

In large part, Parscale’s approach was a matter of necessity. In 2016, Trump was anathema to the GOP’s traditional wealthy donors. But small-dollar contributors — “the Army of Trump,” Parscale would later call them — loved him. Trump’s supporters were uniquely responsive to donation appeals on social media; his celebrity and gut-level appeal commanded eyeballs. “The hardest thing in digital advertising is getting people’s attention,” says Coby. “You got a cheat code with Trump.”


“Trump Wants Citizenship Data Released But States Haven’t Asked Census For That”


After its failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the Trump administration has forged ahead with ordering the Census Bureau to use government records to produce data about the U.S. citizenship status of every person living in the country.

In July, the bureau quietly filed a regulatory document confirming that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — who oversees the federal government’s largest statistical agency — had directed it “to produce Citizenship Voting Age Population” information “that states may use in redistricting.”

Last December, the bureau announced it was formally collecting feedback from state redistricting officials on the type of demographic information needed to redraw voting districts after the 2020 census.
“If those stakeholders indicate a need for tabulations of citizenship data on the 2020 Census Public Law 94-171 Redistricting Data File, the Census Bureau will make a design change to include citizenship as part of that data,” the bureau said in a Federal Register notice.

It turns out that not a single stakeholder told the Census Bureau there was a need to include citizenship information in the redistricting data, the bureau announced this week in a regulatory document filed with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
But the bureau is still planning to release citizenship information, separate from the redistricting data file, by March 2021.


“Court Seems Skeptical Of Overturning Crystal Mason’s Prison Sentence For Illegal Voting”


A Texas appeals court appeared hesitant on Tuesday to overturn the criminal conviction of Crystal Mason, a 44-year old woman sentenced to five years in prison for illegally voting in the 2016 election.

Mason cast a provisional ballot in 2016 while on supervised release for a federal felony related to inflating tax returns. Texas prohibits felons from voting while they are serving their sentences, but Mason says she had no idea she was ineligible to vote. …


While North Carolina House Democrats Were at 9/11 Ceremony, NC House Republicans Voted to Override Governor’s Veto of Budget, After Promising No Substantive Votes



This is not going to go over well with the three judge court which was giving the North Carolina General Assembly a chance to draft a bipartisan redistricting plan (or else court will appoint special master to do it) .


“Absentee voting influx sparks fear of delayed election results”

Detroit News:

Local officials bracing for an influx of absentee voters are urging Michigan lawmakers to give clerks more time to process mail-in ballots and avoid logjams that could delay election night reporting results. 

But a top lawmaker in Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is opposing calls to allow early processing, arguing the state must focus on security rather than speed, even if it means full results are not reported until the day after an election.   

The issue is heating up because Michigan voters last fall approved a new no-reason absentee voting law that no longer requires a valid excuse to cast a ballot by mail.


“Republican Bishop beats Democrat McCready in tight NC District 9 race”

News & Observer:

Republican Dan Bishop narrowly defeated Democrat Dan McCready on Tuesday in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, with a strong showing in suburban Union County and three rural eastern counties.
With 99% of precincts reporting, Bishop led McCready 50.8% to 48.6% in a race that analysts saw as a harbinger for 2020.

Bishop rolled up big margins in Union County and carried Richmond and Cumberland counties, which McCready had won last fall over Republican Mark Harris. He trailed McCready by just over 200 votes in Robeson County, which McCready won handily in 2018….

The election was the last undecided race of 2018. Last fall’s 9th District election was nullified after state officials found evidence of election fraud in Bladen County.

Steve Kornacki:


“Republican Gerrymander Whiz Had Wider Influence Than Was Known”


But files from the Hofeller backups recently made available to The New York Times offer a much broader view of Mr. Hofeller’s partisan work. The New Yorker reported on the contents of the Hofeller files in an article published on Friday.

Among the highlights from the files obtained by The Times:

Mr. Hofeller played a crucial role in drawing partisan maps nationwide in 2011.

After the Republican Party’s sweep of 2010 elections, documents from his computer files show, Mr. Hofeller and a business partner, Dale L. Oldham, helped draft political maps in an array of states, from G.O.P. strongholds like Texas and Alabama to states trending Republican like West Virginia to swing states like Florida.

The documents indicate Mr. Hofeller advised Republicans on the boundaries of new congressional maps in Florida in 2011, even though voters had mandated nonpartisan maps for all political offices in an amendment to the State Constitution the previous year. State courts later nullified those congressional maps as a violation of the constitutional requirement.

Mr. Hofeller’s files are virtually devoid of any paper trail documenting his agenda, but his 2011 efforts to draft congressional maps in Texas offered a rare exception.

It was a Saturday in June, and very late on a Saturday at that. But Mr. Hofeller was still at his computer, mining mounds of Texas demographic data.

“I can give you about .8 percent increase in SSVR within Austin only,” Mr. Hofeller wrote in an email, using an abbreviation that denotes residents with Spanish surnames. With a few keystrokes, Mr. Hofeller apparently was shuttling 30,000 mostly Hispanic residents from a Republican district west of Austin into a Democratic one.

“Every .8 helps at this point,” his fellow strategist, Mr. Oldham, replied.
The map the two men produced at about 7 a.m. the next morning was ungainly, Mr. Oldham wrote. But it did the job, sending fingers from three neighboring Republican districts deep into Austin and giving the party a lock on all but one of the House seats in heavily Democratic Travis County.


“Youth Voting Rights and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment”

Yael Bromberg has posted this draft on SSRN (University of Pa. Journal of Constitutional Law). Here is the abstract:

The Twenty-Sixth Amendment was designed to bring young people into the political process by constitutionalizing their right to vote. However, the last fifty years have shown that ratification has not been enough: the Amendment has remained largely untouched by the courts since the 1970s, even as voter suppression increasingly threatens access to the franchise for students and other young voters.

The handful of courts considering Twenty-Sixth Amendment claims in the modern era have reasoned in dicta that such claims’ analysis should be informed by a discriminatory purpose standard, while acknowledging inherent problems with this assumption. Indeed, courts have reflected on the dearth of guidance on how to handle such claims, admittedly stumbling through their analysis and applying only arguably apposite precedent by analogy. I suggest that the searching approach that has evolved is not necessarily wrong, but that it merely sets the floor to evaluating youth voter claims, rather than the ceiling. Instead, this Article proposes a Twenty-Sixth Amendment standard that draws on both modern right-to-vote and equal protection doctrines. In other words, claims arising under the Twenty-Sixth Amendment may benefit from a hybrid test that incorporates prima facie, intentional discrimination, and “right to vote” balancing analyses.

There exists little scholarship on the appropriate framework for evaluating claims that state action unduly abridges the right to vote on account of age as prohibited by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment; this Article thus offers a new way of thinking of the voting rights of this often-forgotten group and proposes a solution for examining future claims on behalf of this class.


“SYMPOSIUM: Digital Disinformation and the Threat to Democracy: Information Integrity in the 2020 Elections”

Message from Ellen Weintraub:


Digital Disinformation and the Threat to Democracy:

Information Integrity in the 2020 Elections

As the technology for manipulation of information steadily advances, and malicious outsiders and foreign influence operators resort to the dissemination of false and altered content, the threat to our democratic process grows. If we collectively fail to contain this problem in 2020, disclosure will be undermined and public faith in our elections may be difficult to restore.

Please join me for an exciting and very topical symposium, Digital Disinformation and the Threat to Democracy: Information Integrity in the 2020 Elections. I’m hosting the event with PEN America and the Global Digital Policy Incubator of Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center. The symposium will be held at the FEC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. (1050 First Street, NE) on Tuesday, September 17, from 8:30 AM to 1 PM

This symposium will bring together leading figures from major tech companies and social media platforms, scholars, researchers, journalists, and national political organizations for an in-depth and solutions-oriented discussion on fighting the disinformation that risks further corroding our democracy. Among the speakers will be Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), who have each advanced proposals addressing deep fakes and enhancing election security, and former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.  Also participating will be Camille Francois of Graphika, Katie Harbath of Facebook, Kevin Kane of Twitter, Ginny Badanes of Microsoft, Nate Miller of Avaaz, and Laura Rosenberger of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, and Clement Wolf of Google.

Doors open at 8 AM. We encourage you to arrive early to leave time for security procedures.  Please RSVP here by Friday, September 13: 

The event will be live-streamed at:  


8:00     Doors open

8:30 – 9:00      Coffee & registration

9:00 – 9:15      Introduction: Framing the challenge

9:15 – 9:45      Keynote: Senator Mark Warner of Virginia

9:45 – 11:00    Session 1: Understanding the challenge: How disinformation and new technologies affect the way we think & what we have learned from the international experience

11:00 – 12:45  Session 2: Facing the challenge in the U.S.: Solutions in the fight to save the 2020 elections

12:45 – 1:00    Closing and next steps


“Trump Admin Pushing Forward With Plan To Enable Anti-Immigrant Redistricting”


The Census Bureau offered new details this week on how it will try to implement President Trump’s plan to help states diminish the political power of immigrant communities.

The disclosures came in the form of a regulatory notice posted Monday that was tough to decipher unless you’re steeped in the mechanics of the Census Bureau’s role in determining how political power is doled out across the country.

In it, the Census Bureau gave new information about how it will release citizenship data that Trump ordered it to produce. After he lost the legal fight to add a citizenship question to the census, President Trump directed the Census Bureau to collect the data based on existing government records — a project Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had already put in motion.

In doing so, Trump made clear what was long believed to be the endgame of a census citizenship question: to produce data that states can use to draw districts that have an equal number of citizens, rather than an equal total population. Such a change to redistricting — while wonky — would have enormous electoral consequences by allowing GOP-controlled states to shift political representation away from growing immigrant communities and towards whiter, more conservative parts regions.


“The Cybersecurity 202: How state election officials are contributing to weak security in 2020”


It’s not just a question of paper ballots. The offices charged with administering elections across the country are falling short on a slew of basic cybersecurity measures that could make the 2020 contest far more vulnerable to hacking, according to a report out this morning.

Numerous state election offices aren’t patching their computer systems against known digital attacks and rely heavily on outdated, weak software, the report from the cybersecurity company NormShield found. They’re not fully protecting their websites against attacks or taking technical steps that would help prevent hackers from impersonating employees over email. And employee emails and passwords have leaked online. 

Any one of those vulnerabilities could be the weak spot that allows hackers to compromise a swath of election systems — especially since several states with the worst security practices were swing states, the company’s Chief Security Officer Bob Maley told me. He declined to disclose how specific states fared at this time. 


“Democracy Diverted: Polling Place Closures and the Right to Vote”


Thirteen U.S. states closed a staggering 1,688 polling locations in just six years, according to a new report from The Leadership Conference Education Fund. The report, “Democracy Diverted: Polling Place Closures and the Right to Vote,” notes that 1,173 of the closures occurred between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections – underscoring the scale of this assault on U.S. democracy. Texas, Georgia, and Arizona top the list of highest closure rates between 2012 to 2018.
The report’s authors detail the detrimental impacts that polling place closures have on historically disenfranchised communities, especially communities of color, voters with disabilities, and other populations that already face notable levels of discrimination. They also urge journalists, advocates, and voters to use the data to scrutinize the impact of poll closures in their respective communities, to understand their impact on voters of color, and to create a more just electoral system for all.
“Polling places must be accessible to all. Moving or closing a polling place – particularly without considering the impact on communities of color – disrupts our democracy. Voters deserve better,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “While there may be valid reasons for polling place closures, we must recognize that closures are taking place at alarming speed amid broader efforts to prevent people of color from voting. And meanwhile, states are under no obligation to evaluate the discriminatory impacts of such closures. This is exactly why we need to restore the Voting Rights Act and all of its protections. Failure to do so will only lead to more of the same: a democracy for some, but not for all.”
An update of original research published in 2016, the report analyzes 757 of 861 counties and county-level equivalents previously covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. The report found:
·         1,173 of the 1,688 closures occurred between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections
·         Of the 757 counties analyzed, 298 (39 percent) reduced the number of polling places between 2012 and 2018
·         States with the largest numbers of polling place closures were Texas (-750), Arizona (-320), and Georgia (-214)