Reveal: “Who Gets to Vote?”

Listen to the new episode:

Approaching 2018’s midterms, the country has its eyes locked on Georgia’s governor’s race. It’s a close contest between Stacey Abrams, a former state congresswoman who could become the first-ever black female governor in America and Brian Kemp, a tough-talking Trump loyalist with a penchant for the Second Amendment. The race has become a battleground for many of America’s most pressing concerns about democracy – from voter suppression to election security.


“Georgia’s ‘exact match’ law could disenfranchise 909,540 eligible voters, my research finds”

Ted Enamorado at the Monkey Cage:

That’s why I have spent the past three years helping to develop an algorithm that uses probabilistic record linkage called “fastLink” that not only makes record linkage across data sets speedy and automated, but also tells the analyst how likely it is that an inexact match of two records is actually correct.

In a recent study co-authored with colleagues Ben Fifield and Kosuke Imai, we apply the algorithm to the question of voter identification. The results raise serious concerns about Georgia’s exact match law — and its likelihood of preventing tens of thousands of valid voters from casting ballots.

Here’s how we did our research

We worked on linking two nationwide voter files from 2014 and 2015 collected by L2 Inc, a national nonpartisan firm that supplies voter data and related technology for campaigns. All active voters in 2014 appeared in the 2015 data set — meaning that we knew a true match always existed. But many records had typographical discrepancies preventing exact matches.

Our analysis found that the “exact match’’ approach would link only 66 percent of voters who were actually the same, correctly identifying about 91 million voters. In other words, “exact matching” would exclude nearly 40 million records that actually did refer to the same voter — disenfranchising quite a few Americans.


Kansas: “Iconic Dodge City moves its only polling place outside town”


Access to the ballot box in November will be more difficult for some people in Dodge City, where Hispanics now make up 60 percent of its population and have remade an iconic Wild West town that once was the destination of cowboys and buffalo hunters who frequented the Long Branch Saloon.

At a time when many rural towns are slowly dying, the arrival of two massive meatpacking plants boosted Dodge City’s economy and transformed its demographics as immigrants from Mexico and other countries flooded in to fill those jobs.

But the city located 160 miles (257 kilometers) west of Wichita has only one polling site for its 27,000 residents. Since 2002, the lone site was at the civic center just blocks from the local country club — in the wealthy, white part of town. For this November’s election, local officials have moved it outside the city limits to a facility more than a mile from the nearest bus stop, citing road construction that blocked the previous site.


“A Look at Where North Dakota’s Voter ID Controversy Stands”


Advocacy groups have been meeting with tribal leaders on all of North Dakota’s far-flung reservations, trying to figure out how to help voters get the addresses and identification they need through the process the state described. It’s a tall order.

One of the groups, Four Directions, came up with its own plan. In a letter to Secretary of State Al Jaeger, it suggested that tribal officials would be stationed at every voting location on the state’s reservations, ready to issue identification letters on tribal letterhead. They would use an established addressing system for rural areas to assign residential addresses on the spot.

Oliver and Barbara Semans, co-executive directors of Four Directions, wrote that they believed Mr. Jaeger had “no authority to prevent tribal governments from implementing this plan,” because “tribal governments have the inherent sovereignty to issue residential addresses to any tribal member who may lack such an address.” But they urged him to “publicly support” it.

Mr. Jaeger declined. “It is inappropriate for me to do so because it is a legal question that is beyond the authority of this office as to whether a sovereign tribe has those powers within their jurisdiction,” he wrote in a response that his office provided to The New York Times on Thursday.


Upcoming So Cal Connected Episode on KCET Will Focus on Southern California Gerrymandering

Looking forward to watching this

Release: “SOCAL CONNECTED, KCET’s Emmy® and Peabody® award-winning news documentary series for Southern Californians will premiere a new episode titled “Divide and Conquer” on Tues., Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET in  Southern California. Gerrymandering is one of the most effective tools to manipulate an election and guarantee a win. SOCAL CONNECTED profiles how some local governments have used political borders to dilute minorities’ power and what is being done about it.”


“Georgia Voting Begins Amid Accusations of Voter Suppression”


Wim Laven arrived to his polling location in Atlanta’s northern suburbs this week unsure what to make of recent allegations of voter difficulties at the ballot box. Then he waited two hours in the Georgia sun; saw one person in the line treated for heat exhaustion; and watched a second collapse, receive help from paramedics, yet refuse to be taken to the hospital — so he could remain in line and cast his ballot.

Mr. Laven is now a believer.

“I have a hard time imaging this is anything but an intentional effort,” said Mr. Laven, who teaches political science at Kennesaw State University. “I can’t imagine this is just pure incompetence. Everyone knew how serious people have been around here about getting out the vote.”

As Georgians cast their first in-person ballots on Monday in the state’s fiercely contested gubernatorial election, what were once hypothetical fears about the state’s inability to handle what could be a record turnout for a nonpresidential election may be becoming reality.

Vote totals have increased almost 200 percent at the same point since the last gubernatorial election, according to the independent tracker Georgia Votes, but many worry the state has either failed to adequately prepare for such increased interest or Republican state officials have intentionally mounted barriers to dissuade communities of likely Democratic residents from voting.


One of the Messages from Russian Interference in 2018 Elections Pushed Judicial Watch’s Claim that Voter Fraud Was Rampant in “Blue States” Without Voter ID

Here’s the complaint from the newest members of the Fraudulent Fraud Squad.  As Adam Smith flags from page 16:


The 11 California counties claim came from Judicial Watch.

More from the complaint:


“Justice Dept. charges Russian woman with interference in Midterm elections”


The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for meddling in the upcoming Midterms.

Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of “Project Lakhta,” a foreign influence operation they said was designed “to sow discord in the U.S. political system” by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a whole host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control, and the NFL national anthem protests.

The charges against Khusyaynova came just as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence warned that it was concerned about “ongoing campaigns” by Russia, China and Iran to interfere with the upcoming Midterm elections and even the 2020 race — an ominous warning that comes just weeks before voters head to the polls.


“Coalition of Civil Rights Groups Ask for Emergency Relief for Newly Naturalized Voters Suspended by Georgia’s Exact Match Process”


Today, a coalition of civil rights organizations filed an emergency motion in Georgia federal district court to make sure that persons inaccurately flagged as non-citizens under Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s flawed “exact match” system can vote. Kemp’s “exact match” voter registration process relies on outdated citizenship data which identifies naturalized citizens as non-citizens, forcing them to track down a deputy registrar before they can vote, even if they already produced proof of citizenship when they registered to vote originally.

However, there is not a guaranteed deputy registrar at every polling location. Therefore, naturalized citizens may be required to travel to the county seat to resolve an error in their registration that they did not cause. Moreover, recently naturalized citizens have been told that they cannot fax or mail their proof of citizenship, they must present it in-person. For voters temporarily out of the state, this is an absolute bar to voting.


“Georgia Purged About 107,000 People From Voter Rolls: Report”


Georgia purged an estimated 107,000 people largely for not voting, an APM Reports investigation shows A handful of states, most of them led by Republicans, are increasingly using someone’s decision not to vote as the trigger for removing them from the rolls. No state has been more aggressive with this approach than Georgia, where Brian Kemp, the secretary of state, oversaw the purging of a growing number of voters ahead of his own run for governor, according to an APM Reports investigation. Voting rights advocates call it a new form of voter suppression, and they fear it will soon spread to other states. 


“Election Update: Democrats’ Unprecedented Fundraising Edge Is Scary For Republicans … And Our Model”

Nate Silver:

The fundraising numbers are so good for Democrats — and so bad for Republicans — that it’s a little bit hard to know quite what to make of them. From a modelling standpoint, we’re extrapolating from years in which fundraising was relatively even, or from when one party had a modest edge, into an environment where Democrats suddenly have a 2-1 advantage in fundraising in competitive races. Moreover, this edge comes despite the fact that a large number of these competitive races feature Republican incumbents (incumbents usually have an easier time raising money than challengers) and that most of them are in red terrain.

If Democrats beat their projections on Nov. 6 — say, they win 63 House seats, equalling the number that Republicans won in 2010, an unlikely-but-not-impossible scenario — we may look back on these fundraising numbers as the canary in the coal mine. That data, plus Democrats’ very strong performances in special elections, could look like tangible signs of a Democratic turnout surge that pollsters and pundits perhaps won’t have paid enough attention to. Right now, in fact, the polls are not showing a Democratic turnout advantage. Instead, based on a comparison of likely-voter and registered-voter polls, they’re projecting roughly equal turnout between the parties, with Republicans’ demographic advantages (older, whiter voters typically vote at higher rates at the midterms) counteracting Democrats’ seemingly higher enthusiasm. If turnout among Democratic-leaning groups actually outpaces that among Republican-leaning ones, Democrats will beat their polls and our projections.

It’s just as easy to imagine the error running the other way, however. Maybe, precisely because fundraising has become easier, including winning contributions from out-of-state and out-of-district donors, it’s no longer as meaningful an indicator of candidates’ grassroots appeal or organizational strength. Maybe the demographics of the Republican coalition have changed such that they’ll no longer raise as much money but will still get plenty of votes. Or maybe the GOP can make up for their lack of individual fundraising with more money from outside groups. If that’s the case, our model could overestimate Democrats’ chances. Although, I should note that while there’s a gap between our Lite forecast, which is based on local and national polls only, and our Classic forecast, which also incorporates fundraising and other “fundamentals” data, it’s not an especially large one. (Lite projects Democrats to pick up 36 seats, on average, as compared to 39 in Classic.)


Texas: “Attorneys accuse AG Paxton of seeking voter fraud charges to suppress minority vote”

Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Recent charges alleging that four women are part of an organized voter fraud ring on the city’s north side — announced just weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm election — are political moves geared to diminish minority voting in one of the state’s reddest counties, two attorneys allege.

“They are political footballs being kicked back and forth by people who have a vested interested in suppressing minority vote,” said Greg Westfall, who, along with Frank Sellers, is representing one of the women, Leticia Sanchez Tepichin. “They are mothers and grandmothers. They are active in the community.

“They are being used by people who want to justify voter ID,” he said. “At the end of the day, there’s not going to be any fraud in this deal.”


Pa. Supreme Court Considering Whether Law Barring Fusion Candidacies Violates the State Constitution

Missed this Francis Fox Piven/Miles Rapoport piece from last month:

If  the court should rule for the plaintiffs, it would make a stunning gift to American democracy at a time when such is truly needed. It would provide an easy exit from dysfunctional partisan polarization for those prepared to take it. It would both increase voter turnout, and ensure more precise information on real voter preferences. And it would show more respect for minority political views, and do so in a constructive way. It does all of this by returning to a system once legal in Pennsylvania that allows a way out of the Hobson’s choice that our single-member district, winner-take-all electoral system now forces on voters and minor parties they support: to “waste” their votes on candidates with no serious chance of winning, or to “spoil” elections by draining enough votes from their second choice to give victory to their opponents.

Working Families Party & Rabb v. Commonwealth concerns current Pennsylvania law on political party “fusion” or “cross-nomination”—the nomination of a candidate by more than one party, with votes cast on any nominating party’s ballot line combined in that candidate’s total against rivals. Such fusion once thrived in Pennsylvania, and all the rest of the United States. Particularly after the Civil War, it was used by major and minor parties, up and down the ballot, throughout the country. It helped underwrite a lively mass democratic politics that astonished observers, producing  voter turnout levels virtually unique in the world, and far greater than today’s.

Back in the 1990s, when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected such an argument under the U.S. Constitution in the Timmons case, I wrote: Entrenching the Duopoly: Why the Supreme Court Should Not Allow the States to Protect the Democrats and Republicans from Political Competition, 1997 SUPREME COURT REVIEW 331.



“Fake intern who recorded McCaskill campaign had access to voter info, campaign says”

KC Star:

A conservative activist with Project Veritas posed as an intern with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s campaign and had access to voter information, according to a stack of documents McCaskill’s lawyer delivered to Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office Friday.

Project Veritas, a conservative activist group run by James O’Keefe, released surreptitiously-recorded videos of McCaskill and her campaign this week as part of series of undercover videos meant to damage Democratic candidates ahead of next month’s mid-term election. McCaskill’s re-election fight with Hawley could decide control of the U.S. Senate.

An employee of Project Veritas approached McCaskill’s campaign in May and expressed an interest in volunteering and interning on the campaign, according to an affidavit from McCaskill’s Columbia field director Luke Tonant.

As an intern, the Project Veritas employee, who Tonant knew as “Adam Thomson,” had access to the campaign’s voter information database for a total of 20 hours between May and July, according to the affidavit.



“Florida bends voting rules in counties pummeled by Hurricane Michael”

Good news:

Florida eased restrictions Thursday on vote-by-mail ballots in eight counties ravaged last week by Hurricane Michael, while also giving elections supervisors more time to conduct early voting.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s top election official, said the changes included in an executive order by Gov. Rick Scott were requested by local supervisors and are intended to help displaced voters in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, and Washington counties.

“With the general election less than three weeks away, this unprecedented storm has impacted the normal operations of administering an election in counties that were hit hardest,” Detzner’s office said in a news release.

The changes do not include allowing voters to cast ballots by fax or email.


“The Elections Performance Index: Past, Present, and Future”

Charles Stewart has posted this draft on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This paper presents an intellectual history of the Elections Performance Index (EPI), originally produced by the Pew Charitable Trusts, now produced by the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. The intellectual foundation of the EPI is rooted in two major sources, Heather Gerken’s “Democracy Index” and the work of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. This paper discusses and six data principles that helped to guide decisions about including particular indicators. It examines changes in EPI index values from 2008 to 2016 to interpret ways in which elections have evolved over the past decade. It concludes by discussing the necessity to revisit some of the EPI’s indicators, in light of changes to voting models and the need to better reflect issues of security and integrity.


Video on Early Voting from Ga. SOS Kemp’s Office Shows Black Female Denied Regular Ballot Because of Voter ID But White Male Allowed Regular Ballot


A video aimed at promoting early voting released by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office two years ago features children showing how to vote early and what documents are required. The video, produced in six different languages and still linked on the secretary of state’s website, shows a white boy arriving at his voting location, presenting his photo I.D. and successfully voting. The black girl who shows up to vote does not have the proper form of I.D. and is turned away from the poll.

The context of what occurs in the video, a white male being able to vote while a black female is turned away, would perhaps be insignificant if it weren’t for the state placing more than 50,000 voters’ registrations, most of whom are black, on hold.

(Via Kira Lerner)


“Cost of 2018 election to surpass $5 billion, CRP projects”

Open Secrets:

This year’s midterm election cycle is slated to become the first and only member of the $5 billion club.

The Center for Responsive Politics projects that more than $5 billion will be spent during the 2018 election, making it by far the costliest congressional election cycle in U.S. history.

“We expected to see the numbers climb, as they typically do, but the astonishing spike in campaign donations is a solid indicator of the intensity driving this year’s campaigns,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

The 2016 election was the most expensive congressional election, with just over $4 billion spent for House and Senate candidates in total. Only two congressional election cycles have surpassed the $4 billion mark — 2016 and 2010 — when adjusted for inflation.


“Liberals Must Embrace a Bankrupt Judicial Philosophy to Have Any Chance of Winning at the Supreme Court”

I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:

It’s a great time for liberals to brush up on their knowledge of originalism and textualism. These judicial theories, which say that judges should interpret constitutional provisions or statutes by looking solely at their “original public meaning,” are embraced by many of the conservative judges and justices appointed by President Donald Trump who have begun to build a stranglehold on the federal judiciary. Despite recent work demonstrating the bankruptcy of these approaches, liberal lawyers trying to get progressive results at the Supreme Court have already begun trying to pick off conservative justices through a calculated embrace of the theories…..

In a terrific new book, Originalism as Faith, Georgia State University law professor Eric Segall demolishes the case for originalist constitutional interpretation. Segall traces the long history of originalist thought in American legal circles from the 19th century to the present time. The heart of the book demonstrates the bankruptcy of the originalist approach.

Segall’s key thesis is that originalism does not constrain in the hands of judges purporting to use it. …

a recent podcast conversation, Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Ian Samuel made the point that a deeply conservative justice believing he or she is constrained by originalism or textualism is better than a justice like Samuel Alito, who is also deeply conservative but not similarly constrained. I continue to believe that in the core cases of greatest importance to conservatives, originalism and textualism are hardly constraining. But Samuel is right about that subset of second-tier cases.

And so it’s time for liberals to dust off the old dictionaries and put on their hard hats for work in the construction zone, despite Segall’s and others’ trenchant critiques. The work won’t be pretty, but it may sometimes get the job done.


Facebook’s Political Disclosure Rules Aren’t Working —And Things Will Get Much Worse if Facebook Doesn’t Change

Back in April, I had a post where I expressed skepticism that Facebook’s plan for voluntary disclosure of who is running political ads will actually work. Here’s a snippet:

Here’s a hypothetical to flesh out some issues. Let’s assume that Facebook, working with these third parties, can successfully identify key issues like “Black Lives Matter,” immigration, or gay rights and religious liberties. Suppose an ad comes in from a group formed in the U.S. called “Traditional Values Coalition” or “Progress Now!” running ads on LGBT issues.

  1. Will Facebook require these groups to disclose their donors? What if their donors consist of a series of shell groups, hiding the real identity of the group? How will Facebook know that they’ve figured out who the real donors are?
  2. What happens if Facebook determines that some of the donors are foreign? Will it apply a percentage test?
  3. Will foreign ads simply be subject to disclosure regulation, or will the ads be rejected if from a foreign source even if federal law does not bar the ads (such as “Hillary is a Satan” if the Honest Ads Act does not apply, or LGBT ads if it does apply)?
  4. What if the material is from a media corporation that is a foreign entity, like The Guardian? (Suppose The Guardian editorializes “Don’t vote for Trump.”) if so, how will it decide who counts as the media?

Well a NYT story out of Virginia shows who bad Facebook’s disclosure rules really are:

A competitive race in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District has an alarming new element: anonymous attack ads on Facebook.

The ads, which appeared on a Facebook page called “Wacky Wexton Not,” were purchased by a critic of Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat trying to unseat Representative Barbara Comstock, a Republican. The race is one of the most closely watched in the country.

The ads paint Ms. Wexton as an “evil socialist,” with language and imagery not typically found in even the roughest campaigns. In one ad, which began running on Monday, Ms. Wexton is pictured next to an image of Nazi soldiers, and the ad’s text refers to her supporters as “modern-day brown shirts.” In another, which first ran this month, Ms. Wexton is compared to Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused the new Supreme Court justice, Brett M. Kavanaugh, of sexual assault. The image is captioned: “What’s the difference??? Nothing!! Both are liars.”

The person or group behind the ads is known to Facebook, but a mystery to the public. The funding disclaimer attached to the ads reads, simply, “Paid for by a freedom loving American Citizen exercising my natural law right, protected by the 1st Amendment and protected by the 2nd Amendment.” There is no other identifying information on the page….

But the owner of “Wacky Wexton Not” was able to remain anonymous by taking advantage of a loophole in Facebook’s policy. Once authorized to pay for political ads, buyers are able to fill the “paid for by” field with whatever text they want, even if it does not match the name of a Facebook user or page, and even if it is not an organization registered with the Federal Election Commission. Facebook does not reveal the identity of authorized ad buyers, or allow users to get more information about them.




“The real voter fraud is restricting a fundamental right”

USA Today editorial:

One of the most self-destructive features of the Republican Party is a reliance on repressive election laws to obtain and maintain power. It is one reason the GOP controls the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House.

This can be seen graphically in the grotesquely gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts they have drawn in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas. In the Austin area, for example, urban and suburban Democratic voters are split among five mostly rural Republican districts.

The GOP’s cheap tricks don’t stop with gerrymandering. They are also evident in state laws that restrict some people from registering to vote or kick them off the rolls if they area already registered.

While these techniques might be effective in the short run, they will help cement the Republicans’ reputation as a party with a serious problem with democracy, a hard reputation to live down.


“What keeps Native Americans from voting – and what could change this”

Monkey  Cage:

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court allowed a lower court ruling to stand, allowing North Dakota to require voters to provide identification that shows a residential address rather than a post office box number. Many Native American advocacy groups have argued that this decision violates tribal sovereignty and systematically disenfranchises voters. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D-N.D.) reelection may be at stake.

The reason: Many Native Americans living on rural reservations do not have traditional street addresses, and receive mail at P.O. boxes rather than at home.

But that’s not the only issue that keeps Native Americans from voting. Native Americans on reservations have long voted at very low rates, facing barriers to voting that include long travel distances to the polls, high poverty rates, and low high school graduation rates. When native voters need to travel to reservation border towns to cast ballots, the well-documentedand long-standing mistrust between Native American communities and non-native populations likely discourages voting in those areas…

So would having a voting booth on reservations bring out more voters? To find out, we looked at 2016 voter turnout across these four reservations. Our analysis, after controlling for other factors, suggests that, yes, it did. In the two reservations that had the on-site early voting option, turnout went up roughly 11 to 24 percent over that at reservations where citizens still had to travel to border towns.

What do our findings mean for Nevada’s Native Americans?

This research suggests that adding administrative barriers — like requiring street addresses for people who don’t have street addresses — will likely depress voter turnout on reservations still more.

Nor would it help to allow Native Americans to vote by mail. Our survey evidence found that very few Native Americans vote by mail, both because they do not trust the process and because they do not have regular access to mail. By a wide margin, we found that native voters trust their vote is more likely to be counted when it is cast in person. With limited access to mail and without the ability to use post office boxes to vote, reservation turnout probably won’t go up if it’s possible to vote by mail.


“Not Just Georgia’s Brian Kemp: Other Secretaries of State Accused of Abusing Elections Power”


When the stakes are high, the temptation is always there to bend the rules to give your own side an advantage. Civil rights groups argue that Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is running for governor, is doing just that.

Kemp, who oversees the state’s election process, faces legal accusations of voter suppression — particularly among minorities — as he battles Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the nation’s first black woman to be governor.

Kemp denies any wrongdoing, but the controversy echoes questions raised about whether secretaries of state who oversee elections have irreconcilable conflicts as candidates.

“It is a problem that we have partisan-elected secretaries of state as the chief election officers,” says Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine. “It creates an inevitable conflict of interest when the person’s allegiance is partly to their own political party. But the problem is of a different magnitude when the elected official is supervising an election where the secretary himself or herself is on the ballot.”


“Saxbys plans to give away free lattes for voting. That’s a nice idea — but also illegal.”

Billy Penn:

While the locally owned coffee chain’s altruism is admirable, it’s also illegal under federal law.

“In elections in which federal candidates are on the ballot, no one can offer any kind of benefit or reward for voting,” UC Irvine law and political science professor Rick Hasen told Politico in 2010. “The simple way to deal with this is to open up the event to all comers — voters and nonvoters alike.”

Hasen confirmed to Billy Penn by email that Saxbys offer does run afoul of federal law: “Tell them free lattes for all!”

A spokesperson for Saxbys said they were looking into our question.


“Facebook ‘war room’ scrambles to combat fake election news”


On Oct. 7, during the first round of Brazil’s presidential election, Facebookemployees noticed something suspicious on the social network.

A story posted to Facebook incorrectly claimed the election was delayed because of protests. The company’s data scientists and operations team scrambled to pull down the misinformation before it went viral.

These employees were working face-to-face in Facebook’s new “war room,” an operation the social media giant launched in September to stamp out fake news, disinformation and fake accounts in real time.

“We know that when it comes to an election, really every moment counts,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s director of elections and civic engagement work.

As the clock winds down before the run-off elections in Brazil and the midterm elections in the US, Facebook is trying to prove to both the public and lawmakers that it’s more prepared to combat election interference on its network. There’s a lot at stake not only for democracy, but for Facebook, which has seen RussiansIranians and Americans, too, exploit the social network to spread hoaxes and sow discord.


“Democratic candidates for Congress have raised a record-shattering $1 billion this election”


Democratic candidates running for Congress this year collectively raised more than $1 billion for their campaigns — a record-shattering sum that highlights the party’s zeal to retake the House and Senate and underscores the enormous amount of money flowing into the midterm races.

The $1.06 billion raised through the end of September surpasses the nearly $900 million collected by Republican candidates for Congress in 2012 — previously the largest haul registered by a single party by this point in the election cycle, according to a Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

And it is the first time since 2008 — when Democrats swept the White House and both chambers of Congress — that Democratic candidates for House and Senate have outraised Republicans in direct contributions to candidates’ committees.

Republican candidates for Congress raised $709 million through September, FEC records show.


“Democracy Fund Relaunches electionline”

Great news:

Today we are pleased to unveil a new and improved electionline — America’s only politics-free source for election administration news and information.

In January 2018, we announced that electionline had become a project of Democracy Fund’s Elections program. We felt then, as we do now, that it is a vital platform for finding trusted news and information about the people and processes that guide our nation’s elections, and for sharing tools, best practices, and innovative ideas for improving the voting experience. Our simple goals for redeveloping the site were to enhance its capabilities and expand content — but our long-term plans are to create a place where readers are exposed to new ideas, opportunities for continuing education, and relationship building.

To do this, we started by thinking long and hard about the site’s current audience and their needs. Starting today, election administrators, academics, voting advocates and other regular readers of electionline will find new items of interest on the site, including:

  • A calendar of national, state and other field-relevant events;
  • A directory of organizations and their areas of expertise;
  • Reports, trainings, tools, guides, and other materials;
  • A marketplace featuring job openings in the elections field and information on used election equipment for sale; and
  • Better search functionality throughout

Electionline remains the only place on the internet to find state-by-state curation of daily election administration news. In addition to publishing the classic electionline Weekly newsletter, we will also begin sharing original reports and exclusive content from leaders and experts in the field — making the site a must-read for local election officials, civic organizations, and journalists who cover elections.

While redeveloping the site, we learned two really insightful lessons that might be helpful for others who are developing virtual spaces for information sharing and engagement.

First, collaborate with your audiences and include some “outsider” perspective. As our team weighed important decisions about the look and feel of the website, we were grateful to receive insight and direction from many readers who already trust and rely on electionline.

Second, reflect your values. Redeveloping or creating a new platform is an opportunity to reinforce essential characteristics that inform readers who your organization is, and what they care about. For us it meant focusing on authenticity (even if it means publishing unflattering stories about ourselves or our partners); transparency about who we support with resources in the field; and cultivating greater interest for under-covered areas of importance like voting trends for overlooked communities.

Through this process, we hope we were able to successfully incorporate the feedback we heard from current readers. We also hope that the new electionline website more deeply resonates with all those who are interested in elections in America. We’re excited to hear your thoughts and reactions as you explore the new website. Please visit and let us know what you think!


ELB Podcast, Season 2, Episode 3: Kristen Clarke: Voter Protection in the 2018 Midterms

Is the state of Georgia going to disenfranchise voters over missing hyphens on voter registration cards? What can be done about new strict voting rules, such as the North Dakota residential address rule that may disenfranchise Native American voters? Will the Supreme Court with new Justice Kavanaugh protect minority voting rights?

On Season 2, Episode 3 of the ELB Podcast, we talk with Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

You can listen to the ELB Podcast Season 2, Episode 3 on Soundcloud or subscribe at iTunes.


Sessions Defends Emergency SCOTUS Relief Seeking to Block Wilbur Ross Deposition in Census Case

FOX News:

In a fiery speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, Sessions warned that “once we go down this road in American government, there is no turning back.” He vowed to take “these discovery fights to the Supreme Court in emergency postures. … We intend to fight this, and we intend to win.”

Sessions specifically singled out New York district court judge Jesse M. Furman, who ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross could be questioned in an ongoing lawsuit concerning the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Furman’s decision, Sessions said, contradicts longstanding statutory provisions that protect certain executive branch discussions from disclosure, in order to encourage free and open deliberations by executive branch officials. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including several liberal states, are arguing in part that the White House added the citizenship question for political reasons.

The judge wants “to hold a trial over the inner workings of a Cabinet secretary’s mind,” and inappropriately allow inquiry into the motivations for the Trump administration’s decisions, Sessions said.

I wonder if there is an exception when a Cabinet secretary lies to Congress. 


Revised Version of My Forthcoming Paper, “Polarization and the Judiciary,” Now Current Through Kavanaugh Nomination

Updated version of the paper out in May in the Annual Review of Political Science.  Abstract:

The period of increased polarization in the United States among the political branches and citizenry affects the selection, work, perception, and relative power of state and federal judges, including Justices of the United States Supreme Court. Polarization in the United States over the last few decades matters to the American judicial system in at least four ways. First, polarization affects judicial selection, whether the selection method is (sometimes partisan-based) elections or appointment by political actors. In times of greater polarization, governors and presidents who nominate judges, legislators who confirm judges, and voters who vote on judicial candidates are more apt to support or oppose judges based upon partisan affiliation or cues. Second, and driven in part by selection mechanisms, polarization may be reflected in the decisions that judges make, especially on issues that divide people politically, such as abortion, guns, or affirmative action. On the Supreme Court, for example, the Court often divides along party and ideological lines in votes in the most prominent and highly contested cases. Those ideological lines now overlap with party as we enter a period in which all the Court liberals have been appointed by Democratic Presidents and all the Court conservatives have been appointed by Republican Presidents. Third, increasingly polarized judicial decisions appear to be causing the public to view judges and judicial decision-making though a more partisan lens, at least when considering public attitudes about the United States Supreme Court. Fourth, polarization may affect the separation of powers, by empowering courts against polarized legislative bodies which sometimes cannot act thanks to legislative gridlock. The Article concludes by considering how increased polarization may interact with the judiciary and judicial branch going forward and suggesting areas for future research.


“Hurricane aftermath threatens to unleash Florida election chaos”

Mark Caputo for Politico:

As tens of thousands of voters in Florida’s storm-tossed Panhandle try to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Michael, their communities are grappling with yet another problem — an election season thrown into disarray.

With power out in many areas and phone lines down, it’s still not clear how many voters across the state have been affected. Nor is it clear which voter precincts were damaged, or what exactly the state should do to make voting easier for survivors and the displaced.

Then there are the more crass political considerations. The state’s Senate and gubernatorial races are virtually tied at the moment — and 8 of the 11 counties without power, an area affecting 135,000 customers, are Republican-performing counties….

Scott’s office won’t say what his plans are in regards to delaying the general election, but he’s expected to issue an emergency order as early as Wednesday morning concerning early and absentee-ballot voting at the request of elections supervisors in Florida’s hardest-hit counties.

Complicating matters, the hurricane struck just as vote-by-mail absentee voting got under way. So far, about 453,000 people statewide had already voted by Tuesday morning, only 4,100 of which were in the 11 affected counties. More issues surfaced: Did any ballots get lost in the mail? When will mail service resume?

Okaloosa County Elections Supervisor Paul Lux, chair of Florida’s elections supervisors’ association, asked the state Sunday to consider several major alterations: “mega-precincts” where any county voter can drop off a ballot because precincts have been destroyed; a process to allow people without ID to cast regular ballots if provisional ballots are in short supply; aid to help evacuated nursing home residents vote by absentee ballot; ideas to figure out how to deliver absentee ballots from one county to the next if mail service is down; consideration of whether to allow overseas voters to cast absentee ballots via email.

Scott is expected to issue an emergency order tomorrow in response to Lux’s recommendations.

Seems like a no brainer. People should not be disenfranchised because they could not vote through no fault of their own.


“Small Donors Fuel a Big Democratic Lead in 2018 Fund-Raising”


An army of Democrats giving money over the internet has lifted the party’s House candidates to a strong financial advantage over Republicans in the final weeks of the 2018 midterm election, with Democrats in the most competitive House races outraising their Republican rivals by more than $78 million.

Democratic challengers have outpaced Republican incumbents in large part by drawing in millions of dollars from many thousands of supporters online — a strategy wielded by Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders in presidential elections but never replicated on a massive scale in House races, until now.

Across the 69 most competitive House races, Democrats have raised a total of $46 million from small donors during the 2018 election, compared with just $15 million for their Republican opponents, according to campaign finance data released this week.


“The legislature made unconstitutional changes to the NC elections board, judges rule”

News and Observer:

The government board that oversees elections in North Carolina is unconstitutional, a panel of judges ruled on Tuesday — just weeks before Election Day in the 2018 midterms, and only a day before the start of early voting throughout the state.

However, the judges recognized the timing and ruled that the N.C. Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement can continue operating as-is, until after the elections are over and the votes are counted.

The laws struck down as unconstitutional were put in place by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2017 and 2018 and limited the authority of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The laws were passed to replace previous legislation passed in December 2016, a month after Cooper won the election, that was also struck down as unconstitutional.


“Donors to dark-money groups mostly hidden despite court ruling”


A series of court orders in September appeared poised to force so-called dark-money groups — which raise and spend unlimited sums from anonymous donors — to reveal some of their funders for the first time.

But a month later, those donors are mostly still out of sight, and they could remain hidden as the dispute awaits a possible hearing at the Supreme Court.

A major disclosure deadline passed Monday with few political nonprofits unveiling any donors, even after a court threw out a years-old regulation that let the groups keep their funding sources private — and after the Federal Election Commission told the organizations to reveal anyone who gave money after the ruling for political spending at the end of September.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 


Virginia Remedies

Over the summer, on remand from the Supreme Court, a district court in Virginia struck down eleven House of Delegates districts on racial gerrymandering grounds. The court also gave the Virginia General Assembly until October 30 to pass a remedial map. Over the last few weeks, the House Democrats offered a remedy (HB 7001), which was rejected in committee. The House Republicans also put forward a pair of proposals (HB 7002 and HB 7003), one of which (HB 7003) was passed by the Committee on Privileges and Elections.

To allow these and other Virginia House plans to be evaluated, PlanScore recently added Virginia to the list of states for which district maps can be uploaded and scored. Here’s a quick summary of both the existing plan (the one partly invalidated by the court) and the Democratic and Republican proposals.

First, the existing plan is significantly skewed in a Republican direction. Using a model based on the 2016 election, it has a pro-Republican efficiency gap of 6.5%, a pro-Republican partisan bias of 3.7%, and a pro-Republican mean-median difference of 3.0%.

Second, the Democratic proposal is highly symmetric. Using the same model, it has a pro-Republican efficiency gap of 1.8%, a pro-Republican partisan bias of 0.2%, and a pro-Republican mean-median difference of 0.4%.

And third, both Republican proposals are almost exactly as asymmetric as the existing plan. The map passed by the committee, for example, has a pro-Republican efficiency gap of 6.6%, a pro-Republican partisan bias of 3.6%, and a pro-Republican mean-median difference of 3.3%.

Of course, the partisan implications of these proposals are not directly relevant to whether they cure the racial gerrymandering violations found by the court. These implications are of great political interest, though, and they highlight one of the important truths of redistricting: that, frequently, plans with very different partisan effects are quite similar in their nonpartisan characteristics. Maps’ nonpartisan features (like their avoidance of racial gerrymandering) are thus often a poor guide to their partisan performance.


“Civil rights groups may seek emergency relief in Georgia voter registration brawl”

ABC News:

A coalition of civil rights groups may seek emergency relief to block Georgia’s controversial “exact match” voter registration rules in time for next month’s midterm elections, Bryan Sells, an attorney for the coalition, told ABC News on Monday.

In a federal lawsuit filed on Thursday, the coalition claimed that a law implemented by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp put over 50,000 new voter registration applications on hold because the registration forms did not exactly match data on file with government agencies.

Under the new law, even a missed hyphen or a nickname inconsistency can stall an application.

The plaintiffs called the law discriminatory, claiming that according to a preliminary review by the Georgia secretary of state’s office, 80 percent of stalled applications were from African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans, and only 9.8 percent were submitted by applicants identifying as White.