“Gov. Jerry Brown’s pardon of former state senator was opposed by prosecutors, new records show”

LAT:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent pardon of former state Sen. Roderick Wright was supported by several of California’s top political figures but opposed by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, who warned it would undermine a fundamental state law, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

The county prosecutor told Brown that clemency for Wright, an Inglewood Democrat who was was found guilty in 2014 of lying about living in his legislative district, could lead other politicians to disregard requirements that they reside in the areas they represent.

“A grant of pardon for Mr. Wright would set him above the law, and encourage future candidates to break it,” Lacey wrote in the Sept. 6 letter to the governor, which was among 299 pages of documents released Thursday under an order by the California Supreme Court. Brown pardoned Wright, 66, in November.

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Rucho: Not a Rerun of Whitford

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s order agreeing to hear the North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case, I wanted to flag some key differences between this suit and last year’s Wisconsin case:

  1. Standing: The Court held that the Wisconsin plaintiffs hadn’t yet proven their standing to bring a partisan vote dilution claim. The Court also clarified the standard for establishing standing: a litigant must live in a district that (1) is cracked or packed; and (2) could be uncracked or unpacked by an alternative map. This time around, there’s no serious dispute that the North Carolina plaintiffs have standing in at least nine districts. These districts were created by dispersing or overconcentrating Democratic voters throughout the state. This cracking and packing was also entirely unnecessary, as shown by a demonstration map that uncracks and unpacks the plaintiffs residing in the districts. Consequently, there isn’t an easy way for the Court to avoid the merits in this case. If the plaintiffs have standing, they can lose only if the Court deems the cause of action nonjusticiable or announces a test and rules that the plaintiffs haven’t met it. These are exactly the substantive issues the Court dodged in the Wisconsin case.
  2. A District-Specific Claim: In the Wisconsin case, the plaintiffs challenged the district map in its entirety on partisan vote dilution grounds. Here, the plaintiffs have subtly but significantly revised their dilution claims. These claims are now district-specific, not statewide, requiring as an element that a particular district was designed with partisan intent. You can tell the claims really are district-specific because even if they all succeeded, North Carolina’s whole congressional map would not be struck down. Rather, just the nine districts where the plaintiffs have standing and can show partisan intent would be invalidated, and the state would not be obligated to change the map’s other districts.
  3. The Associational Theory: In the Wisconsin case, Justice Kagan laid out a non-dilutionary theory of partisan gerrymandering. On this view, the harm of gerrymandering is not that it dilutes a party’s electoral influence but rather that it imposes a burden on a party’s associational activities: recruiting candidates, mobilizing volunteers, raising funds, and so on. The plaintiffs in the Wisconsin case did not explicitly bring an associational claim. But the Common Cause plaintiffs in North Carolina (one of the two sets of litigants) do assert this challenge.
  4. Intent Evidence: In the Wisconsin case, the drafters’ intent to benefit their party and handicap the opposition had to be inferred from (abundant) circumstantial evidence. Here, though, there is a smoking gun. North Carolina’s redistricting committee actually approved a criterion called “Partisan Advantage” that required “the partisan makeup of the congressional delegation” to be “10 Republicans and 3 Democrats.”
  5. Effect Evidence: In the Wisconsin case, the plaintiffs focused on a particular quantitative measure of partisan asymmetry: the efficiency gap. Here, on the other hand, the plaintiffs covered the field; they also introduced evidence about two other asymmetry metrics as well as analyses showing that the pro-Republican skew of North Carolina’s map would persist under almost any electoral environment. These analyses were corroborated by the results of the 2018 election; in the biggest Democratic wave since Watergate, Democrats failed to pick up a single House seat in North Carolina.
  6. Political Geography Evidence: In the Wisconsin case, no computer-simulated district maps were admitted into evidence. But here, two experts (Jowei Chen and Jonathan Mattingly) randomly generated thousands of congressional maps for North Carolina using all of the state’s nonpartisan criteria. Most of these maps were highly symmetric, indicating that the pro-Republican skew of the enacted plan cannot be attributed to the state’s political geography or any other nonpartisan factor.
  7. The State’s Position: In the Wisconsin case, the defendants focused on standing and the statewide nature of the plaintiffs’ claim. Here, in contrast, North Carolina’s lead argument is that partisan gerrymandering is inherently nonjusticiable—that all such challenges should be foreclosed for all time. This is obviously a much more aggressive position, which dramatically raises the stakes for the Court, the litigants, and American democracy writ large.
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Federal Court Blocks Maryland Law Aimed at Foreign Spending in Elections Requiring Online News Organizations, Including Plaintiff Washington Post, to Post and Collect Information on Spenders on State Political Advertising

From today’s opinion granting a preliminary injunction in Washington Post v. McManus:

In May 2018, as Americans were continuing to learn the details of a far-reaching Russian campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential contest, the state of Maryland enacted a new law to combat foreign interference in its elections. The law, known as the Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act (the “Act”), sought primarily to curb foreign nationals’ exploitation of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites, but its reach was broader than that, extending to many established newspapers’ websites. It requires social media sites and news sites alike to self-publish information about the political ads they run and to make records about those ads available for state inspection. The Act’s passage into law spurred an immediate response from the Washington Post and other media outlets with an online presence in Maryland. The outlets (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) brought this action in federal court to enjoin enforcement of the portions of the Act applying to online publishers, primarily (but not exclusively) arguing that the disclosure and record-keeping requirements codified at Md. Code Ann., Elec. Law S 13-405 violate their First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press. The issue before me at this stage of the proceedings is whether Plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction.] I conclude that Plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim is likely to succeed on the merits. This conclusion stems from my determination that the Act’s impositions on online publishers are subject to strict scrutiny and that they most likely would not withstand this form of judicial review. I further conclude that, even if I were to analyze the statute under the more forgiving standard of “exacting scrutiny,” the Plaintiffs have shown they would likely prevail. As I am satisfied, as well, that Plaintiffs have met the other requirements for preliminary injunctive relief, their request to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of section 13-405, as applied to them, will be granted.

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“Republicans Seek to Boost Small Donations, but a Fragmented System Stymies Them”

NYT:

Last year at this time, Republicans feared the “blue wave,” a surge of voter enthusiasm for Democrats in the midterm elections.

With the election over, and the fears of Republicans partially realized, the party’s worry has shifted to the “green wave:” $39.67 here, $39.67 there.

That’s the average donation to ActBlue, the online fund-raising hub used by more than 90 percent of Democrats. Buoyed by ActBlue, more than 100 Democratic candidates outraised their Republican counterparts in hotly contested congressional races.

That kind of uniformity and heft in small-dollar donations — typically defined as $200 or less — was missing on the Republican side, a costly shortcoming that the party is now confronting after losing 40 seats, and control of the House, to Democrats….

Republicans still receive streams of money from super pacs financed by big donors like the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, and through individual donors who send larger amounts. And the Republican National Committee exceeded the Democratic National Committee in fund-raising in the cycle nearly two to one. In addition, President Trump’s campaign is known for its prolific fund-raising

But individual Democratic candidates for House and Senate seats outraised their Republican counterparts overall, $1.4 billion to $880 million and a significant portion of the difference can be attributed to small donations whose impact has increased significantly.

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“What Do Donors Want? Heterogeneity by Party and Policy Domain (Research Note)”

David Brookman and Neil Malhotra have posted this draft on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Influential theories indicate concern that campaign donors exert outsized political influence. However, little data documents what donors actually want from government; and existing research largely neglects donors’ views on individual issues. We argue there should be significant heterogeneity by party and policy domain in how donors’ views diverge from citizens. We support this argument with the largest survey of U.S. partisan donors to date, including an oversample of the largest donors. We find that Republican donors are much more conservative than Republican citizens on economic issues, whereas their views are similar on social issues. By contrast, Democratic donors are much more liberal than Democratic citizens on social issues, whereas their views are more similar on economic issues. Both parties’ donors are more pro-globalism than their citizen counterparts. We replicate these patterns in an independent dataset. These patterns can help inform significant debates about representation, inequality, and populism in American politics.

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“House Democrats Introduce Their Sweeping New Reform Bill”

Paul Blumenthal for HuffPost:

House Democrats unveiled Friday the For the People Act, a comprehensive package of democratic reforms and the first major bill of the 116th Congress. The bill is a sweeping combination of election, campaign finance and ethics reforms designed to make voting easier, curb the power of big donors and reduce conflicts of interest in all three branches of government.

The For the People Act was the first major legislative action for Democrats after they voted to end the partial government shutdown initiated by President Donald Trump, a measure he is expected to veto.

The package of reforms was put together in a collaborative process initiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2011 and overseen by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) since 2017.

The reforms in the For the People Act would restore the right to vote to millions of disenfranchised Americans and make it dramatically easier for people to vote while also creating a first-of-its-kind public financing system for House elections. It would also require presidential candidates to disclose 10 years of their tax returns….

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“Fight over NC 9th District election could drag on for months, with no one seated”

Charlotte Observer:

A new election might not take place in North Carolina’s disputed 9th District for months even if a new State Board of Elections orders a re-run of the contest, leaving local elections officials scrambling and constituents without representation in the U.S. House.

“The election might wind up in November,” said Gerry Cohen, former special counsel for the North Carolina General Assembly. “Obviously, people would like to have the vacant seat filled earlier. There’s a lot of moving pieces.”

And the timetable for seating a representative in the district that stretches from south Charlotte to Fayetteville got even murkier this week.

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Some Thoughts on What the Supreme Court Will Do with the Partisan Gerrymandering Cases Coming Before It

Tweet thread from me, starts here:

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“Wrong Votes and System Failures Mar South Carolina Elections, Report Finds”

WhoWhatWhy:

South Carolina miscounted hundreds of votes in the 2018 primary and midterm elections, according to a new report by the League of Women Voters state chapter. The errors cast doubt on the quality of programming in the election computers, on the functionality of the old hardware, and on the state’s current election infrastructure itself. (Neither political party was favored by these problems.)

The state even upgraded the software on its voting machines before these elections, yet failed to fix basic problems.

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#NC09: “Harris files court documents asking for certification of 9th District results”

WSOC TV:

 Attorneys for Mark Harris filed legal documents Thursday morning with Wake County Superior Court, requesting the results in North Carolina’s controversial 9th Congressional District election in November be certified and Harris be declared the winner – despite a state investigation into the race.

[READ: Mark Harris’ petition requesting certification of election]

Harris, the Republican candidate, is currently leading the contested election and is petitioning the soon-to-be-disbanded North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement for a swift certification.

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“Voting Issues and Gerrymanders Are Now Key Political Battlegrounds”

Trip Gabriel for the NYT:

Voting rights and partisan gerrymandering, traditionally the preoccupation of wonky party strategists and good-government groups, have become major flash points in the debate about the integrity of American elections, signaling high stakes battles over voter suppression and politically engineered districts ahead of the 2020 presidential race.

When Democrats take the majority in the House on Thursday, the first bill they plan to introduce will be broad legislation focusing on these issues. Early drafts of their proposals include automatic voter registration, public elections financing and ending gerrymandering by using independent commissions to draw voting districts.

But action and anger go far beyond Congress. With voters increasingly aware of the powerful impact of gerrymandering and doubtful about the fairness of elections, voting issues have become central to politics in key states including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Questions about the health of American democracy are being raised in areas once thought to be wholly nonpartisan, as reflected in a court battle over whether the Trump administration is trying to use a question about citizenship on the 2020 census to undercount Democratic constituencies and limit their political clout.

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“Hearing into North Carolina ballot fraud claims postponed”

AP:

A planned hearing digging into allegations of possible ballot fraud in the country’s last undecided congressional race was scrapped Wednesday, with North Carolina’s governor blaming Republicans for not backing his plan to temporarily recreate the disbanded state elections board.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said he won’t try to ram ahead with a Democrats-only elections board. State elections staffers then announced the Jan. 11 meeting was postponed due to the lack of a board authorized to subpoena witnesses and hold hearings.

Cooper contended he had the authority to reshape a three-Democrat, two-Republican elections board to hold the hearing into an unusually large number of unused absentee ballots and a large advantage in absentees favoring Republican Mark Harris in two of the 9th congressional district’s rural counties.

The elections board was dissolved on Friday by state judges who in October declared its form unconstitutional. They ordered a return to governors appointing most members as they have done for a century. A revamped board takes effect Jan. 31.

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Moderating January 31 Event at UCLA Hammer Museum: “Voting Rights and Wrongs”

Really looking forward to this, which will later have an archived webcast:

Voting Rights and Wrongs

The 2018 midterm elections revealed egregious voter suppression tactics and mismanagement of polling places but also slate of new reforms that eliminate barriers to voting for many Americans. Kathay Feng, California Common Cause executive director; Franita Tolson, USC Gould School of Law professor; Justin Levitt, Loyola Law School professor; and Michael Morley, Florida State University law professor, discuss the future of voting rights and election laws with moderator Rick Hasen, UC Irvine political science and
law professor.

ATTENDING THIS PROGRAM?

Ticketing: Free tickets are required and available at the Box Office one hour before the program. One ticket per person; first come, first served.

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“Trump illegally asked Russia to help him win in 2016. He shouldn’t get away with it.”

Fred Wertheimer & Norm Eisen USA Today oped:

In asking Russia to find Clinton’s emails, presidential candidate Trump violated this statutory prohibition on seeking help from a foreign country to influence an election. Trump in essence called on a foreign adversary to locate and release something that was of great value to him and his campaign.

The law provides that such a solicitation is illegal regardless of whether the person soliciting the help receives anything in return. The risks of foreign intrusion in our elections are so great that even asking for help from foreigners without consummation is a crime. But in this case, on or around the same day that Trump solicited help from Russia, Russia made its first attempt to break into servers that Hillary Clinton’s personal office used. That event is laid out in detail in an indictment of Russian hackers obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller.

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“Changes may be ahead for criticized Georgia election system”

AP:

Georgia’s outdated election system has drawn criticism from cybersecurity experts and voting integrity advocates, and now a commission tasked with examining potential replacements is preparing to make recommendations to lawmakers.

The paperless system was closely scrutinized during last year’snationally watched gubernatorial race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, who was Georgia’s secretary of state and chief elections official. Abrams and her allies accused Kemp of suppressing minority votes and mismanaging the election, including by neglecting elections infrastructure. Kemp, now governor-elect, has vehemently denied those allegations.

Cybersecurity experts have warned that the touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unreliable and vulnerable to hacking, and provide no way to do an audit or confirm that votes have been recorded correctly because there’s no paper trail.

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Happy New Year!

Once again it has been a busy year for the Election Law Blog and 2019 promises some major developments as well in the area of voting rights, campaign finance, redistricting, polarization, the Supreme Court and other topics.

I’ve got a few new projects in the works (more about that over the next few months), and a full load of teaching and speaking coming up.

I wish all my readers a safe, healthy, and happy 2019.

Below the fold you’ll find a list of books, articles, and opeds that I’ve published (or that were released in draft) in 2018.  Thanks for reading! Continue reading

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Today’s Must Read: Kira Lerner at TPM: The Powerful Role Confusion Plays In American Elections

TPM:

The United States’ byzantine election system is governed by overlapping rules on the county, state, and federal levels. Elections in different states and even different cities are held on different days, with polling places in varying locations and voting hours that change from one year to the next.

Together, the laws and procedures result in a chaos that undermines faith in election, and that is easily exploited by politicians in the name of election integrity.

“The confusion creates this fog that then opens up the doors for more blatant forms of suppression,” Albright said. In recent years, strict voter identification laws, the substantial reduction of polling locations and voting hours, and massive purges of voter rolls have all resulted in more confusion.

And while solutions exist, they aren’t always put into practice. Instead, Republicans tout laws they claim combat voter fraud — a problem that is vanishingly rare. Those laws both directly suppress voters and complicate elections to the point where confusion becomes an additional voter suppression tactic, said Rick Hasen, a voting rights expert and professor at the University of California Irvine.

“The more complicated you make things out of a desire to secure the integrity of the process — or at least that’s the claim — the greater the risk, if the rules are complex, that voters and election officials are not going to understand them,” Hasen said.

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Census Bureau Gears Up to Provide Citizenship Data to States, Which Could Be Used to Draw District Lines after 2020

Evenwel v. Abbott left open the constitutional question about whether states or localities could draw districts containing equal numbers of voters.

 Now, as expected, if the citizenship question remains on the next census, some states or localities could try to draw lines in this way, which would have profound effects on representation in some places.

https://twitter.com/hansilowang/status/1078685669671780353

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“Maine governor deems congressional election ‘stolen’ while certifying result”

CNN:

ov. Paul LePage certified the election results for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District after a recount and legal battle dragged out the final result in the race for almost two months, cementing a Democratic victory.

But, LePage — a Republican firebrand — made one last jab at the drawn-out process when certifying the election, writing the words “stolen election” next to his signature.
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#NC09: New Academic Paper by Michael Herron: “Allegations of fraud and unusual patterns in absentee and election day voting returns in Bladen County, North Carolina”

Michael Herron has posted this draft in progress. Here is the abstract:

The aftermath of the 2018 Midterm Election in North Carolina has been marred by allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the state’s 9th Congressional District, in particular in Bladen County, one of the eight counties in North Carolina that intersects this district. Consistent with these allegations, we show that Bladen County’s election returns in 2018 are anomalous in that Congressional candidates in the county had mail-in absentee support rates inconsistent with their election day support rates. Moreover, across the North Carolina Midterm and General Elections of 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, Bladen County in 2018 exhibits the most anomalous mail-in absentee versus election day difference of any year–county pairing. A similar conclusion holds when comparing Bladen County’s 2018 mail-in absentee and election day returns to comparable returns in Arkansas, Georgia, and Oklahoma, three states that tabulate election results in a way that facilitates comparisons with North Carolina’s. In addition, Congressional election returns in Bladen County exhibit anomalous mail-in absentee voting patterns in the 2016 General Election and in the 2018 Republican Primary. In short, either Bladen County is idiosyncratic in a heretofore unexplored fashion, or the recent mail-in absentee ballot fraud allegations involving this county merit serious attention.

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#NC09: “Hoyer says House will not seat a North Carolina Republican amid questions about integrity of election”

WaPo:

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Friday that Democrats next week will not seat a North Carolina Republican amid allegations of election fraud in the state’s 9th Congressional District.

“Given the now well-documented election fraud that took place in NC-09, Democrats would object to any attempt by [Mark] Harris to be seated on January 3,” Hoyer said in a statement to The Washington Post. “In this instance, the integrity of our democratic process outweighs concerns about the seat being vacant at the start of the new Congress.”

The statement came after North Carolina dissolved its elections board Friday without certifying the results of the election, leaving the fate of the seat in doubt days ahead of the start of the new Congress

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“LinkedIn Co-Founder Apologizes for Deception in Alabama Senate Race”

NYT:

Reid Hoffman, the tech billionaire whose money was spent on Russian-style social media deception in a Senate race last year, apologized on Wednesday, saying in a statement that he had not approved the operation and did not support such tactics in American politics.

Mr. Hoffman said he had no idea that political operatives whose work he had financed had used fakery on Facebook and Twitter in the special Senate election a year ago in Alabama. But he had an obligation to track how his money was spent, he said, and he promised to exercise more care in the future.

“I categorically disavow the use of misinformation to sway an election,” said Mr. Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent figure at the intersection of Silicon Valley and Democratic politics. He said he had financed “organizations trying to re-establish civic, truth-focused discourse” and was “embarrassed” to learn his money had been spent on disinformation.

The New York Times and The Washington Post reported last week that $100,000 from Mr. Hoffman was spent on a deceptive social media campaign to aid Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, who barely defeated the Republican, Roy Moore.

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Chaos in Resolving #NC09 North Carolina Congressional Race, as Court Dissolves Elections Board and Perhaps No New Board Until the End of January

WRAL:

With the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement disbanding at noon Friday under a court order, Gov. Roy Cooper said he would appoint an interim board to continue investigating allegations of election fraud in the 9th Congressional District race until a new law at the end of January.

A three-judge panel ruled Thursday that they would no longer stay their ruling declaring the current structure of the elections board unconstitutional, meaning the board is ordered to dissolve.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on Thursday passed legislation over Cooper’s veto that sets a new structure for the board, but it doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 31 so that the existing board could complete its investigation into the 9th District race.

Meanwhile, Mark Harris may try to move the issue to federal court:

And it may be that the decision on who gets seated in the race eventually will depend upon resolution by the U.S. House.

 

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The Hill: EAC Commissioners Expected to Be Confirmed Soon, Giving the Agency a Quorum Again

The Hill:

The agency has been unable to tackle major policy actions since March when one of the commissioner’s terms expired. And that came on the heels of criticism for not initially taking election interference seriously in 2016.

But two agency nominees have been making their way through the Senate, and their expected confirmation, either this year or next, will fully staff the four-member commission and help the EAC start a new chapter helping states administer and secure their elections from outside interference….

Senate Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said after a vote on the two EAC nominees that he had wanted to eliminate the agency in the past.

“I do think the commission has now found a new mission and it’s an important one,” Blunt said. “And I look forward to our oversight responsibility, but also working with the commission as they do everything they can to help give state and local election officials the kind of help they need from the federal government to do their job.”…

Nominees Benjamin Hovland and Donald Palmer were advanced by a Senate committee earlier this month.

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“Disinformation campaign targeting Roy Moore’s Senate bid may have violated law, Alabama attorney general says”

WaPo:

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Thursday that his office is exploring whether disinformation tactics deployed against Republican Roy Moore during last year’s special election violated state campaign laws and said he was worried that the operation could have affected the closely fought Senate race…

Marshall said in the interview that the rapidly changing nature of campaigning on social media has made it difficult for authorities to know how to address disinformation tactics in elections.

“Technology has put us in a difficult position in many respects in terms of the applicability of our current laws,” Marshall said.

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“Gehrke: What BYU’s David Magleby learned in his four decades studying Utah politics, and why he thinks we live in a scary time”

Salt Lake Tribune:

After nearly 40 years teaching political science at Brigham Young University, David Magleby taught his last class just before Christmas break….

Gehrke: “Peering into the crystal ball, what do you see the future to hold? Can you give us your best forecast on that?”

Magleby: “Well that’s very hard because I would never have thought that a person with as limited a set of credentials or political experience as Trump would win. …

“I think most political scientists would say what I’m just saying, that all of our normal ‘expectations’ about candidacy and presidency, he’s violated. Having said that I think as the midterms showed his very low favorability rating, and not being able to have that move up over time in any periodic way even, suggests that if the Democrats nominate an electable candidate he could very readily be a one-term president.

“A lot is going to happen between now and November of 2020. But a lot of what could happen between now and then could be bad for him as well. … But we have become so polarized and so negative and so doubtful of respected media that we’re just in uncharted waters. And that’s why in [my] closing lecture I wanted the students to realize things we’d been studying that Madison and others established and that Lincoln through the Civil War reinforced about division and not secession are what give me a hope for the future. But I can tell you… I’m more worried now than I’ve ever been about the country’s future. I think it’s a very scary, very scary time.”

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“Updated: The Hidden Money Funding the Midterms”

ProPublica:

Allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used a blind spot in campaign finance laws to undercut a candidate from their own party this year — and their fingerprints remained hidden until the primary was already over.

Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums of money in elections, are supposed to regularly disclose their funders. But in the case of Mountain Families PAC, Republicans managed to spend $1.3 million against Don Blankenship, a mustachioed former coal baron who was a wild-card candidate for a must-win West Virginia Senate seat, in May without revealing who was supplying the cash.

The move worked like this: Start a new super PAC after a deadline for reporting donors and expenses, then raise and spend money before the next report is due. Timed right, a super PAC might get a month or more undercover before being required to reveal its donors. And if a super PAC launches right before the election, voters won’t know who’s funding it until after they go to the polls.

The strategy — which is legal — is proving increasingly popular among Democrats and Republicans. The amount of super PAC spending during the 2016 congressional primaries in which the first donor disclosure occurred after the primary election totaled $9 million. That figure increased to more than $15.6 million during the 2018 congressional primaries and special elections.

Backers of Mountain Families PAC didn’t respond to a request for comment. It is one of 63 super PACs this election cycle that have managed to spend money to influence races and postpone telling voters who funded them, according to an analysis by Politico and ProPublica of Federal Election Commission data.

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“Janus Unleashed; In 2018, SCOTUS went after public-sector unions. Next up: a case that could decide the fate of public election financing.”

Mark Joseph Stern for Slate:

Last Monday, the Washington Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Seattle’s “democracy vouchers,” an innovative public financing scheme that’s already spreading to other cities. The measure has already allowed more young people, women, racial minorities, and low-income voters to contribute to candidates. But state courts have taken the constitutional challenge to the program seriously—and the U.S. Supreme Court may eventually conclude that the law violates the First Amendment. Indeed, this case could test how much damage the court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME will do to campaign finance reform.

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“Black Voters, a Force in Democratic Politics, Are Ready to Make Themselves Heard”

NYT:

The first votes of the Democratic presidential primary remain more than a year away, but black voters are keenly aware of the prominent role they will play in choosing the next nominee. In 2016, Mr. Sanders’s “political revolution” flamed out with black voters, and Hillary Clinton fell short of the robust black turnout she needed to defeat Donald J. Trump.

This time around, Democrats are weighing how to reach out to the black community in the primary without losing the ability to appeal to the suburban and working class whites who propelled Mr. Trump to victory. As the party searches for a candidate who can combine those messages — from a field likely to include several racial minorities — many black voters want to be engaged in a manner that reflects their electoral power, and not passed over in favor of a strategy that prioritizes Mr. Trump’s heavily white coalition.

With that in mind, potential Democratic candidates interested in the 2020 nomination have begun reaching out to black leaders and are testing messages for black voter outreach. This courting is particularly critical for white, liberal Democrats like Ms. Warren, Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and lesser-known figures like Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

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“New NC voter ID law levies restrictions on private colleges’ ID cards”

The Chronicle:

A new voter ID law will require photo identification to cast a ballot in North Carolina.

Earlier drafts of the bill disallowed students at private colleges in the state—such as Duke—from using their college ID card to vote, but they were brought back into the bill with specified restraints.

The law was passed Dec. 19 by North Carolina’s legislature when the Republican majority overrode Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the bill. The bill was raised in the aftermath of the November midterm election, when 55 percent of North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment that would require voters to present some form of state-approved photo identification prior to voting.

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“North Carolina Asked Feds To Indict Alleged Fraudster Last Year”

AP:

North Carolina’s top elections official issued an urgent plea nearly two years ago for the Trump administration to file criminal charges against the man now at the center of ballot fraud allegations that have thrown a 2018 congressional race into turmoil.

N.C. Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach warned in a January 2017 letter first obtained by The Associated Press that those involved in illegally harvesting absentee ballots in rural Bladen County would likely do it again if they weren’t prosecuted.

Josh Lawson, the top lawyer for the elections board, said Friday that Strach’s memo was followed less than a month later with the first of several in-person meetings during which state investigators provided FBI agents and federal prosecutors with evidence accusing Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. and others of criminal activity…

A spokesman for Robert J. Higdon, Jr., who took over as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina in September 2017, has declined to comment on why no charges were filed following the state’s criminal referrals against Dowless and other Bladen County political operatives. Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco in Washington also declined to comment on Friday.

Higdon’s office issued a media release in August of this year touting charges against 19 foreign nationals it said voted in North Carolina in the 2016 presidential election, during which more than 6.9 million ballots were cast in the state. The cases were filed in the wake of Trump’s false claim that he lost the 2016 popular vote to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton because millions of illegal immigrants had cast ballots across the country.

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