“Facebook, Google and Twitter face proposed bill targeting shadowy political ads”

WaPo:

Democratic lawmakers are pushing for new legislation that would require greater disclosure of political ads that run on Internet platforms, despite a pledge by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg that the company will voluntarily pull back the curtain on political advertising on the social network.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark R. Warner (Va.) urged colleagues Thursday to support a bill that would create new transparency requirements for platforms that run political ads online akin to those already in place for TV stations, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.

Also from WaPo: After Zuckerberg dismissed fake news on Facebook as a factor in the election, Obama tried to send a wake-up call

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“Seventh Circuit Agrees with Lower Court that Illinois Full-Slate Law is Unconstitutional”

BAN:

On September 22, the Seventh Circuit issued a 12-page opinion in Libertarian Party of Illinois v Scholz, 16-1667. The opinion says the U.S. District Court was correct when it invalidated the Illinois “full-slate” ballot access restriction. The law, which has existed since 1931, says a newly-qualifying party must run a full slate of candidates or it can’t run any. The law has made life miserable for minor parties in Illinois for 86 years, and there have been many attempts to have it declared unconstitutional in the past, but they had all failed. The law did not apply to qualified parties.

This current case took years to reach this point. It was filed in 2012. The attorney who filed the case, Gary Sinawski, had died in the meantime, and the party had had to find a new attorney to carry on the case, David Schoen. Both of them did an excellent job.

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“Kris Kobach Can Prove U.S. Elections Are Messy, But That’s Not The Same Thing As Fraudulent”

538:

When Kobach employs these proxies as proof of voter fraud, though, he is implicitly suggesting that changes need to be made to the voting system to protect its integrity, such as ensuring that the same name never turns up on multiple registries and voters never use out-of-state licenses at the polls. But those irregularities exist because of the fundamental American values the commission is dedicated to protecting: You can’t easily and swiftly clean up registry errors without disenfranchising millions of voters. And you can’t set up a uniform, nationalized voter registry in a country whose founding values are based on limited federal control.

 

The problem with proxies is that they do more to demonstrate the complex nature of American values than they do to prove our elections are rigged.

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“10 Months After Election Day, Feds Tell States More About Russian Hacking”

Pam Fessler for NPR:

On Friday afternoon, DHS placed individual calls to the top election official in each state and six U.S. territories to fill them in on what information the agency has about election hacking attempts in their state last year. It will be up to the election officials to decide whether to share what they learn with the public….

The calls are one sign of an improving relationship between election officials and DHS over how to deal with the cybersecurity threat.

State and local officials balked when Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in January he planned to designate elections as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, which meant additional security assistance from the federal government. Election officials feared the federal government would start telling states how to run their elections, which are traditionally under local control.

In recent months, DHS and election officials have been meeting regularly and just last week agreed to set up a 28-member coordinating council — to include three federal agency representatives and 25 state and local election officials — to share security information and assistance.

See also this statement from Common Cause.

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“Open up the black box of political advertising”

Chris Elmendorf, Ann Ravel and Abby Wood in SF Chronicle:

Micro-targeted political advertising raises two sets of concerns:

It’s likely to exacerbate political polarization, and the erosion of broadly shared norms against hateful ideologies such as white supremacy. Political scientists have long thought that candidates refrain from explicitly racist appeals because of the risk of backlash. But if no one but racists will hear a racial campaign appeal, there’s not much incentive to hold back.

Those who would challenge false, hateful or misleading advertisements are rendered mute. They don’t know what’s been said, or to whom, because micro-targeted advertising happens out of public view. It’s only through the efforts of diligent reporters and special counsel Robert Mueller that we have even the foggiest sense of the ads placed and targeted through Internet platform companies such as Facebook. By contrast, in the days when broadcast television was the advertising medium of choice, it was easy for political candidates to learn what their opponents were saying and to buy competing ads that would reach the same audience. Federal law provided a helping hand, requiring local broadcasters to maintain public records of paid political advertising, thus revealing the media markets in which the ads were run.

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“Congress should protect political speech by ignoring Disclose Act”

Brad Smith and Eric Wang oped in The Hill:

The Disclose Act of 2017 introduced by Whitehouse would upend the existing law by categorically prohibiting any political activity by a corporation or subsidiary if more than 20 percent of its voting shares are foreign-owned. This percentage ownership limit is a smokescreen, however, as the bill also would much more severely prohibit any corporate political activity if a foreign national “has the power to direct, dictate, or control the [corporation’s] decisionmaking process.” Because the owner of even one share of a publicly traded corporation generally has such power through a shareholders meeting or a proxy vote, this provision likely would strip away the political speech rights of any public company with even one foreign shareholder.

In a vacuum, perhaps we could be accused of over-reading this extreme result into the bill. But FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub outlined this very same legal approach in a New York Times opinion last year as a way to counteract the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which permitted certain corporate political activity.

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“Facebook Is Now The Federal Election Commission, But With More Secrets”

Paul Blumenthal for HuffPo:

In what looked like a presidential address with a distinct Silicon Valley aesthetic, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed his private online nation of 2 billion users on Thursday from his glass-walled office space. He went live to explain how Facebook will henceforth respond to efforts by nation-states and private actors to use the social media platform to influence U.S. elections.

Zuckerberg detailed a nine-point plan. The most important of these new policies involves a requirement that “pages” disclose which ads they have purchased to run elsewhere on Facebook. Under federal law, online electoral ads are not currently required to provide the same level of disclosure or disclaimers as television and print ads do.

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“At Menendez Trial, Legal Wrestling Over Definition of ‘Constituent’”

NYT:

The prosecution, citing Black’s Law Dictionary, argued in a brief filed on Tuesday that “the straightforward answer is that Senator Menendez’s constituents are the New Jerseyans that he was elected to represent in the United States Senate.”

But the defense, in a brief that was also filed Tuesday, claimed that the term was significantly amorphous and that wrestling with its meaning was “not a legal question for the court to answer” but rather one for the jury to determine, “because the word potentially bears on defendants’ state of mind.”

In its argument, the defense pointed to the lack of an existing legal or constitutional definition of the term, and sought to differentiate among the people represented by a senator.

“In particular, Senator Menendez’s attention to cultural minorities and underrepresented communities, particularly Hispanic-Americans, as well as immigration issues generally, exemplifies his focus on ethnic constituencies and issue constituencies whose members are not limited to New Jersey residents,” according to the defense’s brief, which was submitted by lawyers for Mr. Menendez and Dr. Melgen.

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“Snyder approves unlimited super PAC cash”

Ugh via Detroit News:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday signed legislation letting political candidates raise unlimited money for super political action committees just a day after the Legislature approved the controversial plan.

With Snyder’s blessing, political candidates can now raise unlimited money for super PACs that could then pour unlimited amounts of money back into committees that a candidate creates or that support the candidate.

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NYT and WaPo Run Story Suggesting Trump Nominee May Have Committed Voter Fraud, But It Might Have Been Honest Mistake

NYT:

Documents indicate that Jeffrey Gerrish, the president’s pick to be a deputy United States Trade Representative, moved from Virginia to Maryland last year, but opted in November to vote in the more competitive state of Virginia than his bright blue new home.

(WaPo with similar story.)

BUT:

It is a misdemeanor in Virginia to vote if you are not a resident of the state. The commonwealth does carve out grace period for residents who move out of the state within 30 days of a presidential election, allowing them to vote in their old precinct only in the contest for president.

Mr. Gerrish’s move does not appear to have fallen in that grace period. Records show that he sold a Fairfax, Va., home in July 2016 and purchased a home in Montgomery County, Md., just across the state line, the same month. Mr. Gerrish did not register to vote in Maryland until February of this year, according to state records.

A Trump administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the case in detail, said that Mr. Gerrish had a Virginia driver’s license at the time of the election and was under the impression that the state granted a longer grace period for former residents. He had lived there for more than a decade before moving, the official said.

As with many cases where people break election rules, it is often inadvertence, not malfeasance, which explains what happened. That could well be true here.

Doesn’t mean officials shouldn’t look for it. But we should be cautious about throwing the book at people who commit honest mistakes.

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“Exclusive: Russians Appear to Use Facebook to Push Trump Rallies in 17 U.S. Cities”

Daily Beast:

Suspected Russia propagandists on Facebook tried to organize more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida during last year’s election, The Daily Beast has learned.

The demonstrations—at least one of which was promoted online by local pro-Trump activists— brought dozens of supporters together in real life. They appear to be the first case of Russian provocateurs successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of Donald Trump.

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George Will on Hasen on Volokh on Cheap Speech

New syndicated George Will column:

Volokh anticipated today’s a la carte world of instant, inexpensive electronic distributions of only such content as pleases particular individuals. In 1995, he said that “letting a user configure his own mix of materials” can cause social problems as close-minded people cocoon themselves in a cloud of only congenial information. This exacerbates political polarization by reducing “common knowledge about current events.”

Technologies that radically reduce intermediaries and other barriers to entry into society’s conversation mean that ignorance, incompetence and intellectual sociopathy are no longer barriers. One result is a miasma of distrust of all public speech. Volokh warned about what has come about: odious groups cheaply disseminating their views to thousands of the likeminded. Nevertheless, he stressed the danger of letting “government intervene when it thinks it has found ‘market failure.’”

Now, Richard L. Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, offers a commentary on Volokh, forthcoming in the First Amendment Law Review. Hasen supports campaign-spending regulations whereby government limits the quantity of campaign speech. Given, however, that “in place of media scarcity, we now have a media firehose,” such regulations are of diminished importance. As, Hasen says, using the internet to tap small donors has “a democratizing and equalizing effect.”

But, he correctly says, cheap speech is reducing the relevance of political parties and newspapers as intermediaries between candidates and voters, which empowers demagogues. Voters are directly delivered falsehoods such as the 2016 story of Pope Francis’ endorsement of Donald Trump, which Hasen says “had 960,000 Facebook engagements.” He cites a study reporting approximately three times more pro-Trump than pro-Hillary Clinton fake news stories, with the former having four times more Facebook shares than the latter.

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“Trump Is Using Targeted Facebook Ads To Reassure Supporters He Will Build The Border Wall”

BuzzFeed:

The personal Facebook page of Vice President Mike Pence is also running a version of the ad. One difference between the Pence and Trump ads is the VP’s refers to “Fake News media,” while Trump’s calls out the “mainstream media.” Both ads include a dig against “liberals in congress.”

A White House spokesman told BuzzFeed News the ads are being run by the Trump campaign, and referred all questions to it. The Trump campaign did not respond to emails or phone messages about the ads.

The ads are not visible on the timelines of the Trump or Pence Facebook pages. They are, therefore, so-called “dark post ads” because they can only be seen by people the campaign chose to target with the message. This is the same type of ad Facebook recently acknowledged was purchased by a Russian troll factory in order to target Americans during the election. That revelation has caused lawmakers such as Sen. Mark Warner to discuss the need to regulate online political ads.

“An American can still figure out what content is being used on TV advertising. … But in social media there’s no such requirement,” Warner said, according to CNN.

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“Fate Is Uncertain for House GOP’s Campaign Finance Riders”

Bloomberg BNA:

The House and Senate will negotiate several provisions curbing federal powers on campaign finance that were tacked onto the House’s $1.2 trillion spending package earlier this month.
The Senate is not expected to pass the bill in its current form, however, and lawmakers and aides have said appropriations talks will likely be on hold as appropriators await bipartisan budget talks that will give them better numbers to fund favored programs. A bicameral appropriations deal must be reached and signed by the president before Dec. 8, when government funds are set to expire.
Before the House spending package cleared the chamber Sept. 14, Republican leaders attached a handful of money-in-politics riders onto a measure funding the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Election Commission, and Securities and Exchange Commission. The package (H.R. 3354) passed on a mostly party-line, 211-198 vote Sept. 14.
Fred Wertheimer, president of nonprofit Democracy 21, told Bloomberg BNA in a phone interview he hopes grassroots opposition to some of the campaign finance riders would encourage Senate Democrats to fight against the riders.
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“Trump using campaign, RNC funds to pay legal bills from Russia probe: sources”

Reuters:

U.S. President Donald Trump is using money donated to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Following Reuters exclusive report on Tuesday, CNN reported that the Republican National Committee paid in August more than $230,000 to cover some of Trump’s legal fees related to the probe.

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Three Judge Court Severely Criticizes NC for Racial Gerrymander, and Explains Earlier Decision Not to Order Special Election

Back in July, after the Supreme Court stopped a special election for legislative districts in North Carolina after a finding of a racial gerrymander, and ordered a three-judge court to reconsider the issue, the three-judge court on remand decided to reject plaintiffs’ renewed request for a special election in 2017.

Now the three-judge court has issued a unanimous 48-page opinion explaining its earlier decision.  A snippet from the introduction of the opinion, which is very critical of North Carolina’s conduct in the case:

We conclude that the widespread, serious, and longstanding nature of the constitutional violation—among the largest racial gerrymanders ever encountered by a federal court—counsels in favor of granting Plaintiffs’ request. Likewise, any intrusion on state sovereignty associated with ordering the requested elections is more than justified by the severity and scope of that violation and its adverse impact on North Carolina voters’ right to choose— and hold accountable—their representatives, especially since the legislature took no action toward remedying the constitutional violation for many weeks after affirmance of this Court’s order, and the Legislative Defendants have otherwise acted in ways that indicate they are more interested in delay than they are in correcting this serious constitutional violation. Notwithstanding these weighty considerations favoring a special election, we nonetheless conclude such an election wouldnot be in the interest of Plaintiffs and the people of North Carolina. The compressed and overlapping schedule such an election would entail is likely to confuse voters, raise barriers to participation, and depress turnout, and therefore would not offer the vigorously contested election needed to return to the people of North Carolina their sovereignty. Accordingly, we deny Plaintiffs’ request.

We recognize that legislatures elected under the unconstitutional districting plans have governed the people of North Carolina for more than four years and will continue to do so for more than two years after this Court held that the districting plans amount to unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. But at this juncture, with only a few months before the start of the next election cycle, we are left with little choice but to conclude that a special election would not be in the interest of Plaintiffs nor the people of North Carolina

 

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“‘Election integrity’ means voter suppression”

Cynthia Tucker column:

With Donald J. Trump as president, however, the GOP has abandoned any pretense of subtlety. Trump has plumped up the myth of voter fraud with outrageous accusations, incredible theories and charges that could not possibly be true. He claims that he lost the popular vote because of massive voter fraud, an accusation that makes the wild conspiracies on ABC’s “Scandal” seem like reports from “60 Minutes.”

Then there’s his Election Integrity Commission, a panel whose title turns the truth on its head. Charged with ferreting out the massive voter fraud that Trump invented, the panel is stacked with hacks who have spent decades trying to suppress the votes of people of color. The voter fraud commission is itself a fraud.

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The Sewanee Symposium: Enfranchising Equality: 150 years of the 15th Amendment

Very much looking forward to participating in this symposium, at the University of the South, Oct. 12-13. Historian Eric Foner is giving the keynote and I am excited!

I’ll be presenting Race or Party, Race as Party, or Party All the Time: Three Uneasy Approaches to Conjoined Polarization in Redistricting and Voting CasesWilliam and Mary Law Review(forthcoming 2018) (draft available).

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Chicago-Kent Symposium: The Supreme Court and American Politics

Very much looking forward to delivering the keynote address at this symposium with a great lineup at Chicago-Kent on October 17. It will be a great homecoming, as I taught first at Chicago-Kent (1994-97).

In the keynote, I’ll be previewing some themes from my upcoming book, The Justice of Contradictions: Antonin Scalia and the Politics of Disruption (forthcoming Yale University Press, March 2016).

 

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“Has the Top Two Primary Elected More Moderates?”

Eric McGhee and Bors Shor in Perspectives on Politics:

Party polarization is perhaps the most significant political trend of the past several decades of American politics. Many observers have pinned hopes on institutional reforms to reinvigorate the political center. The Top Two primary is one of the most interesting and closely-watched of these reforms: a radically open primary system that removes much of the formal role for parties in the primary election and even allows for two candidates of the same party to face each other in the fall. Here we leverage the adoption of the Top Two in California and Washington to explore the reform’s effects on legislator behavior. We find an inconsistent effect since the reform was adopted in these two states. The evidence for post-reform moderation is stronger in California than in Washington, but some of this stronger effect appears to stem from a contemporaneous policy change—district lines drawn by an independent redistricting commission—while still more might have emerged from a change in term limits that was also adopted at the same time. The results validate some claims made by reformers, but question others, and their magnitude casts some doubt on the potential for institutions to reverse the polarization trend.

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“California postpones an election to help one of its own”

Derek Muller:

A sure sign of political manipulation of an election is delaying it. Troubled states like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and Haiti have recently come under United Nations scrutiny for delaying their elections.

And then there’s California, where Democrats are attempting to postpone a recall effort to hold onto a supermajority in the legislature.

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Republican Governors Association Launches News Site, Doesn’t Reveal Its Backing until AP Asks

AP:

The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.

Only after The Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph’s pages identifying the publication’s partisan source.

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“Political campaigns prep for battle with hackers”

Politico:

Candidates are quizzing prospective campaign managers on anti-hacking plans. Democratic committees like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which was breached last year, have switched internally from email to encrypted messaging apps. And both parties are feverishly trying to spread advice and best practices to new campaigns before they become targets.

The political world is officially obsessed with cybersecurity in 2017 — especially the Democrats burned by the hacking of their committees and operatives during the 2016 election. Much of the Democratic Party’s permanent apparatus has already changed its day-to-day operations as a result, while beginning the slow process of persuading its decentralized, startup-like campaign ecosystem to follow suit.

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“How the FEC Turned a Blind Eye to Foreign Meddling”

Ann Ravel for Politico:

I suggested to the commission that the FEC consult with internet and tech experts to discuss how the agency’s current approach may or may not fit with future innovations. Starting this conversation should have been noncontroversial, especially at an agency whose very mission is to inform the public about the sources behind campaign spending.

But my comments were greeted with harassment and death threats stoked by claims by the three Republican commissioners that increased transparency in internet political advertising was censorship. Requiring financial disclosure, they argued, “could threaten the continued development of the internet’s virtual free marketplace of political ideas and democratic debate.” One commissioner went so far as to tell me that even talking about this subject at the commission would itself “chill speech.”

Not only was it taboo to suggest that the FEC adapt to the times, the commission was barely interested in enforcing rules already in place. In one instance, Republican commissioners had blocked enforcement of a law that explicitly prohibits foreign interference in U.S. elections, despite clear evidence that foreign nationals had spent large sums of money to influence a California ballot measure. Next, they blocked attempts to strengthen FEC regulations to protect the integrity of our political process when there is evidence of foreign contributions. This intransigence, in the face of open interference by foreign nationals, might as well have been a giant neon sign announcing to hostile actors worldwide that there would be no consequences for illegally meddling in American elections.

But that was before the 2016 election, before the mounting evidence of Russian disinformation operations designed to disrupt our political process. Surely the FEC has changed its response as new facts have come to light?

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“Is Kobach a private citizen on Trump commission? Question will test transparency law”

KC Star:

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s use of private email for a presidential commission could bring him into conflict with a 1-year-old state law meant to increase government transparency.

Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor, told ProPublica last week that he was serving on President Donald Trump’s voting fraud commission as a private citizen rather than as Kansas secretary of state and that he was using his personal gmail account for commission business rather than his official state account.

Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor and vice chair of the commission, said using his state account would be a “waste of state resources.”

Kobach’s spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter, reasserted the claim that Kobach was serving on the commission “in his personal capacity” in an email late Monday afternoon. She indicated that the records were being forwarded to federal personnel.

“Commission members are considered ‘Special Government Employees’ under federal law. The members of the Commission were never issued federal email accounts, but they received ethics training and were instructed that they could continue to use personal email accounts as long as they ensure that all emails relating to commission business are copied or forwarded to a federal government email account,” Poetter said.

“Because Secretary Kobach is serving on the Commission in his personal capacity, not as a representative of the State of Kansas, he determined that it would be inappropriate to use his Kansas state email account. The title ‘Kansas Secretary of State’ follows his name in some printed material simply because it identifies to the reader who he is. It does not indicate that he is conducting Kansas State business while serving on the Commission,” Poetter said, contending that other government officials on the commission are similarly not serving in their official capacities.

“Secretary Kobach’s personal emails concerning the Commission are therefore not subject to KORA, since he is not conducting public business on behalf of the State of Kansas while serving on the Commission,” she said.

Poetter, who serves as spokeswoman for both Kobach’s state office and his campaign, sent the statement from her campaign email address as opposed to her official state account.

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Updated Versions of Some of My Forthcoming Papers

I’ve recently updated these pieces:

Cheap Speech and What It Has Done (to American Democracy), First Amendment Law Review (forthcoming 2018) (draft available)

The 2016 U.S. Voting Wars: From Bad to Worse, William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal (forthcoming 2018) (draft available)

Resurrection: Cooper v. Harris and the Transformation of Racial Gerrymandering into a Voting Rights Tool, ACS Supreme Court Review (forthcoming 2017) (draft available)

Essay: Race or Party, Race as Party, or Party All the Time: Three Uneasy Approaches to Conjoined Polarization in Redistricting and Voting Cases, William and Mary Law Review(forthcoming 2018) (draft available)

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“Elite Political Ignorance: Law, Data, and the Representation of (Mis)Perceived Electorates”

Chris Elmendorf and Abby Wood have posted this draft on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

It is common to think of political elites—candidates, legislators, party officials, and campaign advisers—as specialists in learning the preferences of voters. But recent studies find that political elites believe public opinion within legislative districts to be more conservative than it actually is, and that extreme candidates are more electable than moderates (despite compelling evidence to the contrary). Campaign staffers overestimate their candidate’s electoral prospects. Moreover, natural and researcher-designed experiments show that informing legislators about constituency preferences changes roll-call votes, as legislators recalibrate to better represent public opinion in their districts.

This Article introduces the problem of elite political ignorance to the legal-academic literature. We make three principal contributions. First, we review political science findings on elite (mis)perceptions of voter preferences. Second, in light of ongoing technological developments that may provide elites with better information, we consider the likely benefits and costs of reducing elite political ignorance. The immediate impacts would probably include better alignment between the roll-call votes of representatives and the policy preferences of their constituents; reduced political polarization; less racial discrimination by campaigns and representatives; and lower-cost enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. However, over time, a reduction in elite ignorance could also engender more severe and enduring partisan gerrymanders; greater political and demographic skew in the population of regular voters; more inequity in the provision of constituent services; and micro-targeted campaigns that slowly erode democracy-sustaining norms and belief structures in the public.

We argue that most of the benefits of reduced political ignorance could be realized without incurring these costs if elites acquired better information about the distribution of voter preferences within districts, without learning the preferences of identifiable individuals. Our third contribution is to suggest public and private tools for realizing the twin objectives of constituency-level transparency and voter-level obscurity. Among other things, we argue that campaign-finance voucher programs have great and heretofore unappreciated potential for reducing elite ignorance, and that a suitably anonymized voucher regime could provide detailed constituency-level information while concealing the preferences of individual voters. Efforts to keep elites in the dark about the preferences of identifiable individuals will also depend on cooperation from social media companies.

This piece is worth your time.

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“Trump Pick for Civil Rights Role Is a Lawyer Who’s Pushed Voting Restrictions”

Pema Levy for Mother Jones:

In mid-August, as Washington reeled over the deadly white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump quietly announced his pick for the top civil rights job at the Department of Homeland Security. The woman he chose doesn’t have a background in national security or in protecting civil rights. Instead, she’s a Republican election lawyer who has worked with conservative groups pushing for policies that restrict the ability of minorities to vote.

The appointment of Cameron Quinn to a prominent civil rights role is a testament to the influence in the Trump administration of a small cadre of conservative lawyers and activists who have fought against voting rights in recent years, many of whomTrump appointed to the commission he convened to ensure election integrity….

Quinn’s track record in election law has drawn criticism from Democrats and earned her a reputation as a Republican activist. She has been involved in Republican efforts to push the unproven narrative that voter fraud is a widespread threat that must be combated with restrictive voting laws, such as voter ID requirements. These measures have repeatedly been found to disproportionately reduce voting among minority, poor, and elderly citizens.

In 2005, when Republicans were trying to provide academic proof of widespread voter fraud, a top lawyer for Bush’s reelection campaign founded the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) to raise concerns about illegal voting. Quinn served as one of the group’s directors. The group, staffed with Republican operatives, faced allegations that it was a front for efforts by Karl Rove and national Republicans seeking to disenfranchise Democratic voters through restrictive laws. ACVR and its nonprofit arm attempted to assemble evidence of voter fraud with their own research reports, submitted court briefs, and hired lobbyists to help pass voter ID laws in Missouri and Pennsylvania. They were aided in this effort by the Republican National Lawyers Association, where Quinn was a member and served in various leadership roles over the years. (A few years later, as an independent consultant, she counted the association as a client.)

ACVR closed its doors—really just a PO box—suddenly in March 2007. Its website domain expired, taking with it the group’s reports and testimony. Quinn’s LinkedIn page and Republican National Lawyers Association bio page do not mention it. By the time of ACVR’s demise, Quinn was working as the special counsel for voting matters at the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, succeeding von Spakovsky.

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“Obama Election Commission Chair: Trump Fraud Panel a ‘Calamitous Failure’”

NBC News:

Voting experts who have been following President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission with watchful eyes for the past several months aren’t impressed with the panel’s early efforts.

Commission detractors, including a former presidential commission chairman, told NBC News that four months after the president created his commission to examine the election system, the group is limping along after two public meetings and may end up doing more harm than good.

“F at the beginning, F all along, F now. It’s an F enterprise,” said Bob Bauer, a Democrat who served as the co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s presidential election commission in 2013 and 2014….

David Becker, executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, a nonprofit Washington institute, said the commission had no accomplishments to date and was on the wrong track.

“If there’s been a more embarrassing or less accomplished presidential commission in history, I’d love for someone to point it out,” said Becker, who has worked with a group that conducts much of the same voter data sharing the commission aims to do.

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“Shalom Lamm Partner Gets 6 Months In Bloomingburg Voter Fraud Case”

The Forward:

Kenneth Nakdimen, who pled guilty to voter fraud in the small upstate New York village of Bloomingburg this year, received a six-month prison sentence on Friday.

Nakdimen’s co-defendant, developer Shalom Lamm, is still awaiting sentencing. The two were involved in a controversial project to build homes for Hasidic Jews in the rural village.

 

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Today’s Must-Read: “How Party Bosses, Not Voters, Pick Politicians in New York”

Great Shane Goldmacher in the NYT:

For decades, New York seats have traded hands this way in what amounts to one of the last, most powerful vestiges of Tammany Hall-style politics in the state. Election laws here grant politicians and local political power brokers vast sway in picking candidates when legislators leave office in the middle of their term — whether they retire early, pass away, depart for another job or are carted away in handcuffs.

The rules are a crucial part of what empowers party bosses in a state that regularly outpaces the nation in corruption. They encourage ambitious politicians, even the most independent ones, to pledge fealty to county political leaders, lest they get passed over if and when the time comes for possible advancement.

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“Senate Democrats to Hold Hearing on Ways to Protect and Strengthen the Right to Vote”

Advisory via email:

On Tuesday, September 19th at 3:00 PM, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, along with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, will hold a hearing entitled “Voting Rights Under Fire: Democratic Ideas to Protect and Strengthen Americans’ Constitutional Right to Vote.” Recent actions by the President’s Election Commission have raised concerns – including invasion of privacy and possible voter suppression – about the real goals of the President’s Election commission.  Democrats will use this hearing to hear from experts about the challenges facing Americans in exercising their constitutional right to vote, discuss their ideas to improve access to voting and will call on the Administration to work with them.

The Senators will hear testimony from the following expert witnesses:

  • Sherrilyn Ifill; President, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund
  • Vanita Gupta; President, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony; President, Detroit Branch NAACP
  • Thomas A. Saenz; President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Natalie Tenant; Former West Virginia Secretary of State and Manager of State Advocacy on the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Election Project

**Livestream link available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJcrOTutdkk**

WHO:           U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
Other U.S. Senators

WHAT:         To hold hearing on ways to protect and strengthen the right to vote

WHEN:        Tuesday, September 19th at 3:00 PM

WHERE:      Senate Visitors Center

Room 212-210

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