“Trump says supporters might ‘demand’ that he serve more than two terms as president”

WaPo:

President Trump on Sunday floated the possibility of staying in office longer than two terms, suggesting in a morning tweet that his supporters might “demand that I stay longer.”


The president, who will kick off his reelection campaign on Tuesday with an event in Orlando, has previously joked about serving more than two terms, including at an event in April, when he told a crowd that he might remain in the Oval Office “at least for 10 or 14 years.”


The 22nd Amendment of the Constitution limits the presidency to two terms.

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Must-read Politico Deep Dive into Brian Newby, a Kobach Protege Who is Causing Major Problems with Election Administration as Executive Director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission

Read this quite damning portrait:

 A tiny federal agency that plays a crucial role in assisting the nation’s local election supervisors is gripped by a leadership crisis that hassparked concerns that it is unprepared to play its role in protecting the 2020 presidential race from foreign interference.


Brian Newby, the executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, has blocked important work on election security, micromanaged employees’ interactions with partners outside the agency and routinely ignored staff questions, according to former election officials, former federal employees and others who regularly work with the agency.

In doing so, Newby has not only frustrated his own employees and helped create a staff exodus — nine EAC office directors have left since Newby arrived — but also angered cybersecurityexperts, election integrityactivists and state and local officials. His reputation in the elections community conjures up “the eye-roll emoji,” said one former election official. “Everybody kind of puts up with him.”


POLITICO’s seven sources — all of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly — described Newby, a Republican, as too beholden to the EAC’s GOP chairwoman, Christy McCormick, who masterminded his appointment and later spent years denying the reality of Russian interferencein the 2016 election. They also said that Newby alienated his agency almost immediately by wading into the issue of a citizenship requirement for voter eligibility — and that he has failed to regain their trust ever since.

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“Top Trump Census Official Communicated With GOP Operative About Citizenship Question”

Mark Joseph Stern for Slate:

On Friday night, however, voting rights advocates released new evidence connecting Hofeller directly to the Census Bureau. The evidence comes from Hofeller’s hard drives, which his daughter gave to a voting rights group after his death. It reveals that Christa Jones, current chief of staff to Census Bureau deputy director Ron Jarmin, personally communicated with Hofeller, emailing him about the citizenship question in 2015—months before Hofeller authored the study explaining how the question would benefit white voters and disadvantage non-white ones.* Jones played a key role in the creation of the citizenship question, so these emails seem to disprove the administration’s claims that Hofeller had nothing to do with the manipulation of the census.

Jones and Hofeller’s relationship goes back to at least 2010. That year, Jones—then a civil servant at the Census Bureau—sent Hofeller an email from her private Hotmail account about a Sean Hannity segment. The Fox News host had condemned the bureau for airing an ad during the Super Bowl encouraging everyone to participate in the 2010 census. Jones emailed a transcript of the segment to Hofeller, writing: “They could really hurt the census. What do you think?” The two then discussed whether the ad was a waste of money. It is unclear why Jones, who again was then a civil servant in the Census Bureau, was communicating with Hofeller about bureau affairs from her private account.

Five years later, Jones emailed Hofeller once again from her Hotmail account, alerting him that the bureau was collecting public comments on the 2020 census. “Public comments highly useful in this context,” Jones wrote. The next day, she sent a follow-up email, telling Hofeller: “This can also be an opportunity to mention citizenship as well.” Jones appears to have been advising Hofeller to file a public comment encouraging the bureau to adopt a citizenship question.


Other emails prove that Jones communicated with Hofeller and other Republican strategists throughout this period about redistricting-related matters. For instance, in 2010, Jones forwarded an email from Burton Reist, director of the 2010 census communications campaign, to Hofeller and Mark Neuman that highlighted a website debunking “misleading information” about the census. (Neuman, a friend of Hofeller’s, provided the 2017 letter that appeared to draw from the 2015 Hofeller memo to create a legal rationale for the citizenship question.) Jones and Hofeller appear to have met for dinner in 2015 with an unknown third person. And Jones was on a 2010 email thread with Hofeller and several Republican operatives—including David Avella of GOPAC, a Republican training group, and Charles Black, ex-partner of Paul Manafort and Roger Stone—discussing redistricting.

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“Free Speech For People Sues Federal Election Commission for Failing to Investigate Trump and Trump Campaign’s Role in McDougal Hush Money Payoff”

Release:

Free Speech For People has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission for failing to investigate a $150,000 “hush money” payment made in 2016 to Karen McDougal, one of President Trump’s former mistresses, under federal campaign finance law. The investigation is necessary because, even after federal prosecutors have investigated some of the parties involved, critical questions remain unsettled—including the exact nature of President Trump’s role. The Department of Justice is unlikely to press further against Trump or his campaign, so the American public needs an investigation by the independent bipartisan Federal Election Commission.

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“Judge Reveals New Info About Trump Voter Fraud Panel Communications”

TPM:

Before they were formally named to President Trump’s now disbanded voter fraud commission, two conservative activists emailed the commission’s vice chair Kris Kobach about “potential Democratic commissioners,” a federal judge revealed Thursday.
The revelation came in a legal dispute over whether the Trump administration must turn over a batch of commission-related emails to a Democratic member of the panel, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

While U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly had previously ordered that the emails in question be released to Dunlap, it now appears she is reconsidering that order, given that the conversations were happening before the commissioners — Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams — were officially appointed to the panel….

In considering the request, Kollar-Kotelly reviewed the emails herself, and earlier this week, she said that review prompted questions about when Adams and von Spakovsky were appointed. She questioned the accuracy of the government’s previous claims that Adams and von Spakovsky were appointed on July 11, 2017. The government, in a filing Thursday morning, insisted that date was accurate.


Her latest order shed some light why she was confused.


“Defendants’ ex parte submission of emails shows that these individuals were in communication with the Office of the Vice President about potential Democratic commissioners prior to their own appointments to the Commission,” her order said. “Although some of Mr. Kobach’s communications occurred after his appointment, his service as Vice-Chair is distinguishable from the role of other commissioners.”

Before her order Thursday, it was not known that the withheld emails were between Kobach, Adams and von Spakovsky.  It was also not previously known that the emails were in about potential Democratic commissioners in particular.

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“‘Let me make something 100% clear’: FEC chair lays down the law on foreign help”

Politico:

The head of the Federal Election Commission released a statement on Thursday evening reiterating, emphatically, that foreign assistance is illegal in U.S. elections.


“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,“ wrote Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the FEC. “This is not a novel concept.“

She also sent the statement via Twitter with the introductory line: “I would not have thought that I needed to say this.“

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“Trump smashed months of FBI work to thwart election interference”

Politico:

Nearly two years ago, FBI Director Chris Wray set up an office tasked solely with stopping the type of Russian interference efforts that infected the 2016 campaign.


On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump undercut the whole operation in a matter of seconds.

In an ABC News interview, the president first proclaimed he would have no problem accepting dirt on his opponents from a foreign power, then said Wray was “wrong” to suggest the FBI needs to know about such offers.


The comments, according to interviews with nearly a dozen law enforcement veterans, have undone months of work, essentially inviting foreign spies to meddle with 2020 presidential campaigns and demoralizing the agents trying to stop them. And it has backed Wray into a corner, they added, putting him in a position where he might have to either publicly chastise the president and risk getting fired, or resign in protest….

Some linked Trump’s remarks to Mueller’s deliberation over whether his team could have charged anyone on the Trump campaign if they had obtained the promised hurtful information on Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin intermediate during a much-scrutinized Trump Tower meeting. Mueller’s report said he wasn’t sure the potential information had financial value, meaning it might not qualify as an illegal campaign contribution from a foreign entity. The report also raised questions about whether there was a free-speech right to receive the information.


“It’s turning the First Amendment into a suicide pact that allows our own government to be undermined,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California Irvine’s law school, who called the special counsel’s findings “a green light for foreign intervention in the 2020 election, and that was affirmed by what Trump said to ABC.”

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“Republican blocks bill requiring campaigns to alert FBI to foreign assistance”

Axios:

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) blocked an effort by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) to pass a bill via unanimous consent requiring campaigns to report any offers of foreign assistance to the FBI.
“We are all for free and fair and honest elections. … These reporting requirements are overbroad. Presidential campaigns would have to worry about disclosure at a variety of levels. So many different levels. Consider this: vendors that work for a campaign, people that are supplying some kind of voter service to a campaign. … It would apply to door knockers, it would apply to phone bankers, down to any person who shares their views with a candidate.”
Warner then countered that Blackburn’s reading of the legislationis “not accurate .., The only thing that would have to be reported is if the agent of a foreign government or national offered that something that was already prohibited.”

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“Trump Is Urged to Fire Kellyanne Conway for Hatch Act Violations”

NYT:

An independent government agency recommended on Thursday that President Trump fire Kellyanne Conway, his White House counselor, for repeated violations of an ethics law barring partisan politics from the federal workplace.
In a letter accompanying a report to Mr. Trump, the agency called Ms. Conway a “repeat offender” of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in campaign politics at work, saying that her flagrant defiance of the law justified her dismissal from the White House.
“As a highly visible member of the administration, Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions,” said the letter to the president, signed by Henry J. Kerner, the head of the agency. “Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law.”

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“Margaret Hunter admits guilt in campaign-finance scandal”

San Diego Union-Tribune:

Years of cavalier spending of her husband’s political contributions culminated in a guilty plea Thursday for Margaret Hunter, the wife of Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter who was co-indicted last year in a sweeping campaign-finance investigation.


During a change-of-plea hearing in the federal courthouse in San Diego, Margaret Hunter formally admitted that she illegally used thousands of dollars in campaign donations for her personal expenses.

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“Cyber security concerns lead NC officials to delay approval of new voting machines”

News and Observer:

North Carolina election officials were supposed to certify new voting machines on Thursday for millions of voters to start using in 2020.
But they declined to make any decisions, citing uncertainty over who owns the three companies that were seeking approval to sell voting machines here. The state gave the them until next week to divulge everyone who owns at least 5 percent of their companies or any parent or subsidiary company.


“I believe this follows along with the cyber security concerns we have found in the Mueller report and other documentation that has been furnished to our board,” Robert Cordle, the chairman of the State Board of Elections, said Thursday when the board announced its surprise decision.


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DOJ Relents and Releases Additional Names (Charles Cooper and John Fund) Which Were Redacted on “Inflammatory” von Spakovsky Email About Pence-Kobach “Voter Fraud” Commission

Campaign Legal Center:

After nearly two years of seeking to hide the names of individuals involved in an inflammatory email to Attorney General Sessions regarding the Pence-Kobach Commission, the Department of Justice has relented in light of a district court opinion ordering disclosure of the email without the challenged redactions.  The newly released document reveals the involvement or mention of Charles J. Cooper, J. Christian Adams, and John Fund.

My guess about one of the names was incorrect.

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Trump Says He Would Accept Foreign Government In-Kind Contributions of Opposition Research in the 2020 Elections, in Violation of American Law

Watch the clip:

In a few pieces in Slate, I explained [corrected] why an offer of free opposition research from a foreign government is a crime, and there is no good First Amendment defense for doing so. (I also have explained that the Steele Dossier involved the payment at market rates from a foreign individual for services, which is legal.) I’m not going to rehash it all here. Click the links for more.

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Breaking: Plaintiffs in Census Case Want #SCOTUS to Send Case Back to District Court for More Factfinding if Government Lied About Reason for Citizenship Question; Thoughts on What the Court Will Do

Plaintiffs have filed this unusual motion in the Supreme Court asking for the Court to send the case back to the district court to engage in factfinding over whether government officials lied about why Secretary Ross decided to include the citizenship question on the census. This is based on newly-discovered evidence on the Hofeller hard drives.

Back on May 30 I had noted the problem facing the plaintiffs: the Supreme Court does not hear evidence for the first time; it reviews evidentiary findings of the lower courts. I said there was no good way to get this information before the Supreme Court, especially given the impending printing deadline.

The plaintiffs now say the printing itself could be delayed until October rather than done in July as had been expected. The Court could send the case to the lower courts for a few months, and then decide the case again (perhaps scheduling a rare oral argument in August or September).

What’s the Court likely to do? This is a really unusual procedure, so that alone makes this a motion unlikely to be granted. But it is more complicated. The political stakes though are extraordinarily high. If the Court is otherwise going to side with the government (in a case that I think all reasonable observers must think the government should lose 9-0), this new development (and the failure to allow factfinding about it) makes things much worse. It is not just that we don’t know the official reasons why Secretary Ross included the citizenship question. It is that we now know it was to be included to help push white voting power against Latinos, the exact opposite of what the government claimed was the purpose of including the question.

As I asked at Slate back in March, the question is which John Roberts “will show up: the solid conservative who wrote the opinion to kill a key provision of the Voting Rights Act and voted with four other conservatives to allow corporate money into candidate elections, or the institutionalist chief justice who is desperate to show that there remains a distinction between law and politics.”

We may have our answer by next week.

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New Hampshire: “Charlestown mother investigated for voter fraud after helping disabled son vote”

Valley News:

When Dee Milliken took her 19-year-old son to vote in November, she hoped the experience would strengthen his ties to the community.
Justin Milliken, who has cerebral palsy and a seizure condition and uses a wheelchair, is nonverbal and largely communicates through grunts and facial expressions. But his mother assumed that with a little help, he could participate in elections.


More than six months later, she’s no longer sure that’s the case.
Poll workers last fall made the process difficult, Dee Milliken said, and have questioned whether Justin Milliken was mentally capable of casting a ballot. Then last Friday, she received a call from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office from an official investigating whether she committed voter fraud seven months ago by helping her son fill out the ballot, she said.

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“Trump Asserts Executive Privilege on 2020 Census Documents”

NYT:

President Trump on Wednesday invoked executive privilege to block Congress from obtaining documents about how a citizenship question was added to the 2020 census, ahead of a House committee vote to recommend that two cabinet secretaries be held in contempt of Congress over the matter.
In a letter to the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the Justice Department said that Mr. Trump had decided to invoke his secrecy powers because Mr. Cummings had “chosen to go forward with an unnecessary and premature contempt vote.” The letter came just as Mr. Cummings was convening the panel to consider a contempt recommendation for Attorney General William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
While Mr. Cummings put off the vote for several hours to allow lawmakers to review Mr. Trump’s privilege assertion, he made it clear that he did not intend to back down, escalating the latest battle between the House and the president over the Constitution’s separation of powers.

No wonder they are continuing to fight: The materials could well reveal that Secretary Ross and others lied to Congress.

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Question of the Day

From Dale Ho, who argued the census case for plaintiffs in the Supreme Court:

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“This Deepfake of Mark Zuckerberg Tests Facebook’s Fake Video Policies”

VICE:

Two artists and an advertising company created a deepfake of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg saying things he never said, and uploaded it to Instagram.


The video, created by artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe in partnership with advertising company Canny, shows Mark Zuckerberg sitting at a desk, seemingly giving a sinister speech about Facebook’s power. The video is framed with broadcast chyrons that say “We’re increasing transparency on ads,” to make it look like it’s part of a news segment.

“Imagine this for a second: One man, with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” Zuckerberg’s likeness says, in the video. “I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data, controls the future.”

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“John Lewis’s tears over ancestor’s voter card stir emotions in Democratic caucus”

WaPo:

Rep. John Lewis and several of his Democratic colleagues broke down in tears during a closed-door meeting Tuesday after a historian described the congressman’s reaction when he saw his great-great-grandfather’s voter registration card for the first time.


The House Democratic caucus invited Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr., who heads the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, to preview a new film on reconstruction. Gates spoke about Lewis’s appearance on his PBS show, “Finding Your Roots,” researching the Georgia lawmaker’s family tree and presenting him with his ancestor’s voter card from 1867.


During reconstruction, African Americans were briefly allowed the benefits of full citizenship, including voting and holding seats in Congress.

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“Judge Hints Trump Admin Misled Court About Voter Fraud Panel Appointment Dates”

TPM:

President Trump’s voter fraud commission has been dead for nearly a year and a half.


But the litigation spurred by its lack of transparency continues, with a judge on Tuesday suggesting that the administration misled the court about the appointment of certain commissioners. The discrepancy appears to be the date the administration gave for the appointment of Hans von Spakovsky, one of the commission’s most controversial members.


U.S. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly brought up the discrepancy in the lawsuit brought by a Democratic commissioner who accused the panel of excluding him from some of its work. She said in an order that internal communications about the commission she had recently viewed “raised a question about the timeline of appointments to the Commission.”

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“NJ’s secret big-money donors will now be named after Phil Murphy backs down”

Gannett:

Big-spending “dark money” political groups in New Jersey will have to reveal who is funding them after all, lawmakers agreed Monday.
Gov. Phil Murphy, despite vetoing the exact same legislation last month, has now committed to signing it, but his office did not say why. Murphy’s reversal came after it appeared the Democratic-controlled Legislature had the votes to override his veto, which would have been the first override in more than 20 years.


In Murphy’s May 13 conditional veto, he said aspects of the bill “may infringe” on “constitutionally protected speech” and that it also did not “go far enough in mandating disclosures of political activity that can be constitutionally required.”


“Dark money” refers to untraceable, unreported dollars spent to influence politics and voter decisions. So when New Jersey residents see a television ad featuring an ominous voice criticizing a legislator and urging New Jerseyans to “call Senator X and say you disapprove,” a viewer has no way of knowing what special interest is behind those words. 

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“LDF Files Lawsuit to Ensure Black Voters Have Voice in Electing Judges to Highest State Courts in Arkansas”

Release:

Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF),  with co-counsel, Arkie Byrd of Mays, Byrd & O’Guinn, P.A., and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling, LLP filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Black voters challenging the method of electing judges to the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The election processes for those courts have for decades denied Black voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of individual Black voters, Marion Humphrey, Olly Neal and Ryan Davis, and two non-profit organizations, Christian Ministerial Alliance and Arkansas Community Institute, which are both dedicated to furthering racial justice in the state of Arkansas and empowering voters.


“Judges matter. Black voters in Arkansas have been consistently denied fairness and the opportunity to elect judges of their choice to the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals,” said Natasha Merle, Senior Counsel at LDF. “When the methods for electing judges result in diluting Black votes, Black voters are silenced. Arkansas must open the political process and provide avenues for fair voting for all of its citizens.”


Black residents comprise nearly 16 percent of Arkansas’ population, are geographically concentrated within the state, and consistently vote together in contested elections. But the methods for electing judges to the state’s two highest courts deprive Black voters from a fair opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. As a result, no Black candidate has ever been elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court.


“This case is about finally providing an opportunity for Black voters in Arkansas to elect our preferred judges,” said Marion Humphrey, a Plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We simply have not had that opportunity and changes to the process of electing the state’s highest judges will contribute significantly to providing justice and fairness under the law.”
LDF has for decades advocated on behalf of Black voters in Arkansas. In the 1990s, LDF successfully challenged Arkansas’s method of election for trial court judges in Hunt v. Arkansas. That case resulted in the creation of fair electoral methods for trial court judges. It also led to the election of eight Black trial level judges.  In 2017, LDF won a similar lawsuit against Louisiana state officials, where an at-large voting model has prevented Black voters from having a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to a state court.


“The unfortunate reality is that, in Arkansas, Black voters have consistently been blocked from electing their candidates of choice to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals” said Arkie Byrd. “We seek to fundamentally change that reality with this lawsuit, just as we did for the state’s trial courts. For over 35 years the Little Rock law firm of Mays, Byrd & O’Guinn has been committed to enhancing equity and opportunity in our state’s judiciary. We are proud to continue that commitment into the 21st century by serving as local counsel in this newest litigation.”


Read the full complaint here.

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“House Democrats consider bills to ‘safeguard democracy’ in response to Mueller report”

NBC News:

One likely piece of legislation would be framed as “Duty to Report,” requiring presidential campaign aides and entities to report foreign contacts and influence to law enforcement after Mueller identified numerous such interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russians in the course of the 2016 election that were never reported to the FBI, according to two aides familiar with the planning.

Also at the top of the menu is a package of legislation to address election security and obstruction of justice by a sitting president, potentially specifically prohibiting a president from interfering in law enforcement activity.

Other options under consideration are bills on pardon reform and facilitating intelligence sharing across agencies and state lines.

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Little Steven Gets It

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“‘It felt like a big tide’: how the death tax lie infected Australia’s election campaign”

This is a long, extensively detailed story from the Guardian Australia about the rapid spread on social media, in the closing days of the Australian election, of a completely false claim that the Labor Party had a secret plan to impose a 40% inheritance tax (called a “death tax” in the postings that spread the story). The Labor Party was aware of this issue as it was happening and took numerous measures to try to counteract it. At this stage, no one knows whether this widely circulated lie affected the outcome of the election — and perhaps we will never know.

This in alarm bell for the kinds of tactics we — the campaigns, the platforms, policymakers, and others — have to be prepared for in the 2020 election cycle.

Here is a brief excerpt from the story:

While the contest in 2016 was a harbinger, the federal election of 2019 will go down in history as Australia’s first post-truth campaign. Substantial numbers of people shared material on Facebook that had absolutely no basis in reality, and a lot of it was shared as personal communications between networks of friends, which means there is no requirement that the content be authorised in accordance with the electoral rules, even though it was clearly political communication.

The weaponising of misinformation through peer-to-peer sharing, and the lack of oversight or any meaningful intervention to stop it, suggests this is a significant weakness in Australia’s already lax electoral regime.

Political parties are vulnerable in an online environment akin to the wild west, and more importantly, citizens are vulnerable if they cannot sort fact from fiction.

Some Labor MPs still are not sure whether they lost support predominantly because of the contentious tax-and-spend policies Shorten advanced, or because of policies he never advanced – a deeply disconcerting experience and one with profound implications for democratic contests in the digital age.

And here is an excerpt on how Facebook responded in real-time to this issue:

Facebook’s fact-checkers review stories, detect mistruths, then take steps to limit their spread. They were quickly set to work on the death tax claim.

“AFP [a French news agency] fact-checked this claim in April, and the post was rated as ‘False’,” a Facebook spokesman said. “Based on this rating, people who shared the post were notified that it had been fact-checked and rated as false. As a result, the original post and thousands of similar posts received reduced distribution in News Feed.”

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“The Supreme Court’s Next Three Weeks Could Shake Up the 2020 Election”

Greg Stohr for Bloomberg.

The U.S. Supreme Court enters the homestretch of its term with looming decisions that could affect the 2020 election and thrust the court even deeper into the nation’s political wars.

Between now and the end of June, the nine justices will rule on two intensely political issues — whether President Donald Trump’s administration can put a citizenship question on the 2020 census and whether federal courts can strike down voting maps as excessively partisan.



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“Ginni Thomas Plans New Conservative ‘Supergroup’ to ‘Protect President Trump’

The Intercept:

CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST VIRGINIA “Ginni” Thomas is launching yet another project to wage war on multiple fronts of America’s most heated cultural and political debates. This time, however, her plan will include a project to “protect President Trump” using at least two new campaign-related political entities, according to a presentation obtained by The Intercept and Documented

Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, unveiled the new venture in a closed meeting of GOP lawmakers, donors, and Christian-right leaders last month, seeming to make reference to the movement disarray and electoral losses suffered by conservatives in the Trump era — and the gains made by left-wing groups and politicians.

“Our house is on fire and we are stomping ants in the driveway. We’re not really focused on the arsonists who are right around us,” Ginni Thomas said.

Some of the most controversial icons in conservative circles will be involved with other branches of Thomas’s new project, which is dubbed “Crowdsourcers.” One such project is titled “Protect Our Heroes,” led by conservative filmmaker and provocateur James O’Keefe.

The node of the project focused on political campaigns — slated to do business under the name “American D-Day” — will be set up by Cleta Mitchell, a well-known Republican campaign finance lawyer and partner at the law firm Foley & Lardner. D-Day will include a 501(c)(4) arm that can solicit undisclosed donations and a separate PAC registered with the Federal Elections Commission.

O’Keefe and Thomas did not respond to requests for comment. Mitchell, in response to an inquiry from The Intercept, wrote that it was not her “role to answer any questions on this. Sorry.” Asked who to contact about the new venture, Mitchell wrote, “No one. None of your business.”

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DOJ Settles Voting Rights Act Lawsuit with Michigan City Using Ranked Choice Voting

Release:

The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into an agreement to settle a voting rights lawsuit with the City of Eastpointe, Michigan. The Department’s lawsuit challenges the method of electing the city council in Eastpointe under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Under this agreement, the city will change its method of electing its city council to ensure compliance with the protections of Section 2.


The agreement, which must be approved by the federal district court in Detroit, was entered into by the parties to resolve the Department’s lawsuit with the City of Eastpointe filed in 2017. The Department’s complaint alleges the current method of election for the Eastpointe City Council results in black citizens in Eastpointe having less opportunity than white citizens to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice to the city council, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 


Subject to court approval, the agreement will alter the method of electing the Eastpointe City Council, from a traditional at-large method of election to one that utilizes ranked choice voting beginning with the November 2019 election. Under the agreement, the city councilmembers will continue to be elected on a citywide basis, but under the new ranked choice voting system, Eastpointe voters will rank city council candidates in their order of preference. The agreement provides that the city will conduct a robust voter education program for the new method of election.   

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“Australia’s elections show a way to come out on top”

Rob Richie and David Daley:

If May’s biggest political surprise was the new ruler of Westeros on “Game of Thrones,” the result in Australia’s national election were a close runner-up.
For weeks, opinion polls had predicted that the Labor Party would defeat the conservative Coalition led by the Liberal Party. But, just as with Brexit and with President Trump’s victory, the “experts” were wrong. Voters returned Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government. Morrison promised strict controls on immigration, and economic stability through creating jobs and cutting taxes. He questioned whether Labor’s climate change policies and plans for higher taxes on the wealthy would slow three decades of economic growth.
Morrison earned his victory. Australia has the high voter turnout that comes with compulsory voting and the majority wins that come with ranked choice voting (RCV).
Australia has used RCV for more than a century. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference. It takes 50 percent of votes, plus one, to win a House seat. If no candidate wins a majority with first choice support alone, candidates with the fewest votes get dropped and their votes count for their next ranked choices. You rinse and repeat until someone wins a majority, mimicking an “instant runoff.” Despite an average of nearly seven candidates per House race, RCV in Australia elects a majority winner every time.

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“Ron DeSantis signs crack down on constitutional amendments, solidifying Republican control in Florida”

Tampa Bay Times:

The bill requires ballot initiatives pay petitioners by the hour, rather than by each signature they collect. They must register as an in-state circulator with the Secretary of State and turn in all signatures within 30 days of being signed.
Ballot initiatives must also include the name of the initiative’s sponsor and the amount of money raised by in-state donors. Violating the provisions carry steep penalties, such as fines of up to $1,000 for “willfully” not meeting deadline and the threat of getting sued by the Florida Attorney General’s office.
Republican lawmakers justified the bill by saying it was meant to crack down on fraud. But its advocate in the Senate, David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, could not point to any cases of fraud.


What the legislation is sure to do, however, is stifle the last area outside of statewide Republican control in Florida.

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“Election Security Measures Face a One-Man Roadblock: Mitch McConnell”

NYT:

A raft of legislation to better secure United States election systems after what the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, called a “sweeping and systematic” Russian attack in 2016 is running into a one-man roadblock in the form of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
The bills include a Democratic measure that would send more than $1 billion to state and local governments to tighten election security, but would also demand a national strategy to protect American democratic institutions against cyberattacks and require that states spend federal funds only on federally certified “election infrastructure vendors.” A bipartisan measure in both chambers would require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads.


Another bipartisan Senate proposal would codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials and provide federal incentives for states to adopt paper ballots.


But even bipartisan coalitions have begun to crumble in the face of the majority leader’s blockade. Mr. McConnell, long the Senate’s leading ideological opponent to federal regulation of elections, has told colleagues in recent months that he has no plans to consider stand-alone legislation on the matter this term, despite clamoring from members of his own conference and the growing pressure from Democrats who also sense a political advantage in trying to make the Republican response to Russia’s election attack look anemic.


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