“‘I was duped’: Signers claim Blankenship campaign lied on petition drive”

Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Terry Shaffer was told he signed a petition to keep Don Blankenship off the ballot for U.S. Senate. In truth, his signature was used for the opposite, and he’s not the only one.

Of the roughly 3,000 Kanawha County residents who signed on to a petition to enable Blankenship to file to run for Senate with the Constitution Party, 28 of them have said in interviews with the Charleston Gazette-Mail that they were lied to about what they were signing.

“Oh, I know I was duped, there’s no doubt about it,” Shaffer, who voted for the winning candidate in the Republican primary, said. “I guarantee you if there was a way you could check that, there’s a lot of Republicans that signed that petition that did not vote for Don Blankenship that were told [it was] to keep Don Blankenship off the November ballot.”



Secret Spending on Both Sides of Michigan Governor’s Race

New Yorker:

One day this summer, in the midst of this escalation, while he was scrolling through political sites on his phone, a Democratic operative in Lansing named Bob McCann came across a fifteen-second video advertisement attacking Whitmer. McCann spent several years working as Whitmer’s chief of staff when she was the minority leader of the state senate, and he considers her a close friend. When he encountered the ad again, he unmuted it. “Who is Gretchen Whitmer?” a female narrator asked, over a screen split between an image of Whitmer speaking and stacks of cash. “She funds her campaign with big money from big drug and big insurance-company executives. No wonder Gretchen Whitmer opposes single-payer health care.” To McCann, it seemed likely that allies of El-Sayed or Thanedar had paid for the ad, because it so exactly echoed the lines of their campaign.

On his phone, McCann took three screenshots of the ad, making sure to capture the final frame, which said, in small type, “Paid for by Priorities for Michigan.” McCann has been involved in Democratic politics in Michigan for almost twenty years, but he had never heard of the group. He texted a few other Democratic operatives. “No one had any clue,” he told me. He searched for Priorities for Michigan on the Michigan secretary of state’s Web site, which lists all campaign committees and pacs registered in the state, but found nothing. McCann tried Googling “Priorities for Michigan,” but that didn’t work. “Every politician in the state gives speeches about their ‘priorities for Michigan,’ and those were all the hits,” he said. Whitmer was being attacked for shadowy corporate ties by a group that itself left no trace.

McCann, searching for the source of the Priorities for Michigan ad, found another in the screenshots: the group had listed a post-office box in Lansing. He Googled it and got hit after hit for another political group, League of Our Own, which seemed to be promoting female candidates. (There was no mention of Priorities for Michigan on the active version of the Web site, but, on Google’s cached version, McCann found “Paid for by Priorities for Michigan,” along with the same post-office-box number.)

Looking at the group’s Web site, he realized that he knew just about all of its officers and supporters. “It was a Who’s Who of Republican politics in Michigan,” he said, including several state representatives, a conservative political consultant named Tony Daunt with close connections to the DeVos family, and Jase Bolger, the former speaker of the Michigan House, who once refused to allow a female Democratic legislator to speak on the chamber floor because she had used the word “vagina” in a debate about reproductive rights. In McCann’s view, these were the same conservatives who had been undermining liberal female politicians for years. Now, it seemed to him, if they were indeed behind Priorities for Michigan, they were using progressive ideas to divide Democrats, in the primary and perhaps in the general election. “If they had not put the post-office-box number on the ad, no one could have connected Priorities for Michigan to anything at all,” McCann said.

McCann took his discovery to the Detroit News, which reported, on July 5th, that “a mysterious group” running online ads attacking Whitmer from the left “appears to have connections to several Michigan Republicans.” But the story remained at the level of supposition: League of Our Own did not respond to an e-mail, and Daunt and Bolger did not return the paper’s calls. (They also did not return mine.) Public records indicate that when Priorities for Michigan bought time on a Detroit radio station—for another ad claiming that Whitmer “sides with big drug and insurance-company executives” and against “our communities”—it listed only one officer, Eric Doster, the general counsel of the Michigan Republican Party from 1992 to 2017, and perhaps the preëminent conservative election lawyer in the state. Doster, too, did not return my requests for comment.

It appeared that Republicans had picked up on the tension El-Sayed had pinpointed: between the Democratic Party as it has been and as it aspires to be. “If I were Abdul El-Sayed, and I could see that the DeVoses were using my talking points, I would wonder about what I was doing,” McCann told me. But, of course, he didn’t know that the DeVoses were involved, any more than El-Sayed’s campaign knew that Blue Cross Blue Shield was behind Build a Better Michigan. During the past decade, Democrats have fixed on activist billionaires and corporate interests—the Kochs and the DeVoses, Exxon and Goldman Sachs—as their true enemies, heightening anger among their partisan base. But, in the 2016 election and, now, in this year’s primaries, that anger is coming to haunt the Democratic establishment.

On July 23rd, Build a Better Michigan, having filed disclosure forms to the I.R.S., also publicly released its donor information. Its financial might had mostly come from labor unions: the United Autoworkers and the Teamsters each contributed two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; local chapters of the carpenters’ and laborers’ unions each pitched in a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The largest donation, of three hundred thousand dollars, came from a group associated with the Ingham County Democratic Party, which was not required to disclose its donors. This did not rule out the possibility that the health-insurance industry had a major role in funding Build a Better Michigan, but it certainly narrowed the odds. The El-Sayed campaign did not modulate its message. “Blue Cross Blue Shield has written her talking points on health care,” Adam Joseph, an El-Sayed spokesperson, said of Whitmer, on August 3rd. “They bought that with their $144,710 at a closed-door fund-raiser, and however much money they’ve funnelled through her ‘Build a Better Michigan’ dark-money super pac.” It did not much matter. On Tuesday, Whitmer won the primary with more than fifty per cent of the vote; El-Sayed won thirty per cent, and Thanedar eighteen.


“Appeals court overturns U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah’s bribery convictions, upholds guilty verdict on other counts”

Philly Inquirer:

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia on Thursday overturned U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah’s bribery convictions in a decision that offered a small measure of vindication for the former Democratic congressman — but may not dramatically affect the decade-long sentence he received for other corruption-related crimes.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that jurors in Fattah’s case had not been properly instructed on the legal definition of “political graft” – one narrowed by a U.S. Supreme Court opinion issued just days after they convicted the congressman in 2016.

Still, wrote Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith: “There is more than sufficient – and distinct – evidence to support Fattah’s conviction on all of the other counts,” including allegations that he stole federal grant funds, charitable donations, and campaign cash to pay off his personal and political debts.

You can read the 142 pages of the opinion here (via How Appealing).


“Representative Chris Collins Suspends Bid for Re-election After Insider Trading Charges”


Days after federal prosecutors charged him with insider trading, Representative Chris Collins announced on Saturday that he was abandoning his re-election bid amid worries that his legal troubles could make vulnerable his otherwise solidly Republican district in western New York.

How exactly the suspension of Mr. Collins’s campaign would play out was not immediately clear, as the process to get off the ballot can be onerous in New York, and Mr. Collins did not say how he would remove himself….

One Republican official familiar with the discussions said the party would probably try to nominate Mr. Collins for a county clerkship somewhere else in New York, in an effort to meet the legal requirements to remove him from the congressional ballot.

Time to call in the Democracy Canon?


“Kansas governor accuses Kobach of not counting all votes in governor race”

The Hill:

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) accused Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) on Friday of intentionally pushing a miscount of the number of ballots cast in the gubernatorial primary race.

“Secretary Kobach’s office was instructing counties not to count ballots that are in the mail, and those clearly have to be counted under Kansas law,” Colyer said in a Fox News interview.

The governor also expressed concern over the counting of provisional ballots for voters who are registered independents but are allowed to vote in the primary.


“The Trump White House’s new hush-money problem”

Aaron Blake for WaPo:

In this case, about the only campaign finance question would be whether this would be considered a legitimate campaign expense, said election-law expert Rick Hasen of the University of California, Irvine.

“I’m not sure I’ve seen a campaign try to claim hush money as a legitimate expense, but of course the whole point of the Stormy Daniels payments controversy is that they were not made from the campaign account and reported when they were campaign related,” Hasen said.

Larry Noble, a campaign-finance lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, said the fact that Manigault Newman ostensibly would have had a job with the campaign might make it less problematic.

“If, however, the offer of the campaign job was just a cover to pay her for the NDA, it raises a more difficult issue,” Noble said. “There is a difference between using campaign funds to deal with personal matters that may be embarrassing (e.g. the legal defense of a drunk-driving charge), which is not allowed, and matters more directly connected to your campaign or your job as an officeholder.”


Kobach Hands Kansas Governor Recall Responsibilities to His Deputy, Who Has Donated to His Campaign, and Not to Election Professional

KC Star:

Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker will take over Kobach’s duties and will serve on the State Board of Canvassers, which will certify the final election results. Rucker donated $1,000 to Kobach’s campaign last fall, according to campaign finance records….

Rucker was a top aide to former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline.

Rucker found himself under scrutiny by an attorney disciplinary panel in 2010 that had looked into how Kline’s office conducted itself as it investigated the late Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller and Planned Parenthood in Overland Park.

Kline’s office faced a far-reaching investigation into complaints that he misled judges and a grand jury during the probe into abortion providers.

While Kline would later have his law license suspended for what the Kansas supreme court found to be “clear and convincing evidence” of professional misconduct, Rucker in 2010 received an informal admonition for not correcting misleading information he provided to the state’s highest court.

Rucker’s attorney in that disciplinary case was Caleb Stegall, who would later go on to serve as former Gov. Sam Brownback’s general counsel before becoming a justice on the Kansas supreme court.

Rucker was also the subject of a lawsuit last year from a former employee in the secretary of state’s office.

The former employee alleged in the federal lawsuit that her situation was a case of “reverse religious discrimination,” and described Rucker as telling her grandmother that she had been fired because the staffer was a diversion, mean and didn’t go to church, with Rucker placing a particular emphasis on church as a factor.

The jury rejected the employee’s claim, though the trial provoked further scrutiny of Rucker’s work within the office.

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, said he had assumed that Kobach would turn over his responsibilities to an election professional within the secretary of state’s office.

“However, it appears that the secretary is not sensitive to the appearance of impropriety and by appointing his longtime right hand Erick Rucker he is not eliminating the appearance of impropriety but only transferring the responsibility to another one of his political cronies,” Carmichael said.


“Billionaire gives up campaign to split California into three states”

Bob Egelko for the SF Chronicle:

The author of the thwarted initiative to split California into three states said Thursday he’s dropping his proposal, while denouncing the state Supreme Court’s decision to remove it from the November ballot.

In a letter to the court, Timothy Draper, a Bay Area venture capitalist, declined the justices’ invitation to present arguments about why his measure meets constitutional standards and should be placed on a future ballot.



“Group Files Lawsuit to Challenge Electoral College”

Roll Call:

group is suing two red states and two blue states to change the Electoral College system.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig and David Boies, who served as former Vice President Al Gore’s lawyer in Bush v. Gore, make up the group according to the Boston Globe.

The group is suing two predominantly Democratic states (California and Massachusetts) and two predominantly Republican states (Texas and South Carolina.)


“Election management in the U.S. is improving: An updated Elections Performance Index from the MIT Election Data & Science Lab evaluates the 2016 election”

Electionline Weekly:

States’ administration of elections overall improved by 6 percentage points between 2012 and 2016, according to the Elections Performance Index (EPI) released today by the MIT Election Data & Science Lab.

As many readers will know, the index, which was developed and managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts before being transferred to MEDSL in 2017, provides a nonpartisan, objective measure of how well each state is faring in managing national elections. When it launched in 2013, it provided the first comprehensive assessment of election administration in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.; it now includes data from every federal U.S. election since 2008. It’s calculated using 17 indicators that cover the broad scope of issues involved in managing elections, providing specific metrics for election officials, voters, and policymakers to compare their state with its own past performance, as well as the performance of other states.


“Software incompatibilities cited in review of missing L.A. County voter names”


Los Angeles County’s election software was unable to process a formatting change in state voter data, contributing to 118,500 names being omitted from eligible-voter rosters on election day in June, according to an executive summary of an independent review released Wednesday.

There was no evidence of a security breach, the summary said.


Kobach Says He’s Going to Recuse Himself—Let’s See If/How That Happens

KC Star:


“Tulare County farmer asking court to make Devin Nunes stop calling himself one, too”

Fresno Bee:

Several residents within California’s 22nd Congressional District filed a petition in Sacramento Superior Court on Thursday morning, asking the court to remove “farmer” from Rep. Devin Nunes’ description on California ballots….

“I don’t believe (Nunes) has had any income from farming for at least 10 years,” Buxman said. “He has some interest in a few wineries, but he’s distanced himself from those and says he has no involvement in their day-to-day management.”

Here is the writ petition.


Kobach’s Office Apparently Made the Error Awarding Him 100 More Votes than He Deserved

Oh my:

The hotline announcement coincided with the discovery of 100 votes for Colyer in Thomas County near the Colorado border.

Thomas County Clerk Shelly Harms confirmed that Colyer received 522 votes on election day rather than the total of 422 that had been reported by the secretary of state’s office.

She shared a scan of the form she submitted to Kobach’s office, which clearly showed 522 votes for the governor, and said the secretary of state’s office was responsible for the discrepancy, not the county.


“Automatic Voter Registration In Mass. To Begin By 2020, Galvin Says”


Massachusetts on Thursday became the 14th state in the country to adopt an automatic voter registration system, according to Secretary of State William Galvin and advocates who backed the measure.

Galvin announced that Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill that would automatically register eligible voters when they interact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and MassHealth, unless they opt out.

Galvin said he was “excited to begin preparations today” and expected to have the necessary systems in place on Jan. 1, 2020, “just in time for the next Presidential Primaries.”


Today’s Must Read: “Inside The Trump Voter Fraud Commission’s Weird, Wild Attempt To Prove The Untrue”

Sam Levine for HuffPo:

One morning in June last year, just before 3 a.m., Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach emailed White House officials with an editing suggestion for a draft letter they were preparing on behalf of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission. In addition to requesting a boatload of voter information, the letter asked state election officials to answer questions about evidence of voter fraud and to offer recommendations for preventing voter disenfranchisement and intimidation.

Kobach, the effective head of the commission, took issue with the order of the questions. The Republican didn’t want the inquiry about voter intimidation to come before the inquiry about voter fraud, because voter fraud was what the commission was really interested in.

“I don’t think voter intimidation should be listed before voter fraud. That is a secondary or tertiary concern of the commission,” Kobach wrote. White House officials appear to have heeded Kobach’s advice and put the question about voter fraud first in the letter it sent out that day.

The email was among thousands of documents publicly released last week by the watchdog group American Oversight and Democratic commission member Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s secretary of state. The controversial panel was abruptly disbanded in January. These emails provide the most in-depth look to date at its work, which was hidden from both the public and the Democrats who served on the commission.

Taken together, the documents show how the White House and Republican commission members sought to bolster the false narrative that voter fraud is a widespread problem in the U.S., despite no evidence that’s true.


“A Fight Over Voter Rights in California; Liberal Santa Monica finds itself on the same side as a conservative legal activist challenging the state’s voting-rights law”


Santa Monica, Calif., with a “well-being index” to gauge the happiness of its residents and a fleet of city buses powered by natural gas, often lives up to its reputation as a wealthy, liberal enclave on California’s coast

But this month, a trial in a Los Angeles courtroom has put the seaside city on the same side as a conservative legal activist who is challenging the state’s voting-rights law.

The fight revolves around the city’s at-large election system for its seven City Council seats. Instead of winning office by capturing the majority in any particular district, council members are elected citywide.

The city is being sued in state court by Maria Loya, who argues she lost elections for City Council and the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, which also elects its members citywide, because of the at-large system. Ms. Loya, who is Latina and lives in the city’s Pico neighborhood, which is historically Latino, ran for the council in 2004 and the college board in 2014.



Maryland: “Sens Seek Election Probe”

Baltimore Sun:

Less than three months before early voting begins, Maryland’s U.S. senators have joined the chorus of elected officials warning that the November elections could be threatened by a Russian oligarch’s stake in a firm that manages some of the state’s most critical electoral systems.

Maryland has already endured one major election snag this year. Some 80,000 voters were told just before the June 26 primary to cast provisional ballots because their change-of-address requests were flubbed by a faulty computer program.

Then FBI agents revealed last month that a contractor that manages many of Maryland’s election systems has ties to Vladimir Potanin, an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

State officials launched a barrage of probes.

On Tuesday Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen added to the list of inquiries by asking that a U.S. Treasury Department committee determine whether Potanin’s investment in the state contractor, ByteGrid, poses a national security threat.



North Carolina: “Roy Cooper sued election board. Instead of fighting, the board’s lawyer took his side.”

News and Observer:

Gov. Roy Cooper sued the state elections board and Republican legislative leaders over two constitutional amendments planned for the fall ballot. Rather than fighting Cooper, the state lawyer representing the elections board has jumped in on Cooper’s side.

The state Republican Party is calling out state Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, for supporting the Democratic governor’s position on the lawsuit without getting election board members’ approval.

“It is highly unusual for an attorney to make a decision of this magnitude without a formal request or vote from his client board,” the state GOP said in a statement. “It is illegal for any member of the board to take a public stance on a ballot question.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for Stein said the office is confident it is properly representing the board.


“Foreign interests have spent over $530 million influencing US policy, public opinion since 2017”

Open Secrets:

Foreign lobbyists and agents acting on behalf of foreign interests have reported hundreds of millions of dollars in payments since January 2017, an analysis of OpenSecrets’ exclusive new Foreign Lobby Watch data reveals.

Today we’re making available, for the first time, a searchable database of foreign interests spending on lobbying and influence in the United States.

Foreign lobbyists and other operatives acting on behalf of foreign interests wield a significant amount of power, impacting economic and diplomatic policies as well as public opinion.

The law that governs most foreign influence disclosure requirements, the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), requires any foreign agent or lobbyist representing a foreign principal to register with the U.S. Department of Justice and file detailed public disclosures.

These reports may include details that are not found in the more familiar lobbying reports submitted to Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, including names of U.S. officials with whom the lobbyist had contact and copies of materials disseminated, such as ads, press releases, or flyers.

While FARA reports are publicly available through the Justice Department, following the money can be difficult, requiring laborious research and records sleuthing. With Foreign Lobby Watch, anyone can quickly learn what foreign interests are spending on lobbying or to influence policy in the United States and how much they are spending.


“PA James Announces Legislation to Close Loophole Allowing Foreign Contributions to NYC Political Campaigns”

Press release:

Public Advocate Letitia James announced major new legislation designed to prevent foreign entities from circumventing New York City’s strict campaign finance laws through a loophole created by Citizens United. Introduced in the wake of substantial new evidence of a coordinated Kremlin effort to illegally funnel money through the NRA to benefit Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, this legislation will help ensure that New York City elections are free from corrupt foreign influence.

New York City’s Campaign Finance Laws are already a national model, but the intelligence community consensus of ongoing efforts by hostile foreign powers to illegally subvert American elections has highlighted unforeseen dangers.

In order to protect the integrity of our New York City elections, the bill would strengthen the existing prohibition on direct foreign and corporate campaign contributions by extending the ban to American corporations under substantial foreign ownership or control.


“US judge voids part of North Carolina election law”


A federal judge invalidated part of North Carolina elections law that allows one voter to challenge another’s residency, a provision that activist groups used to scrub thousands of names from rolls ahead of the 2016 elections.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said in an order signed Wednesday that the residency challenges are pre-empted by the 1993 federal “motor voter” law aimed at expanding voting opportunities.

You can find the court’s order at this link.


“A Senator Claims That Russian Hackers Are In Florida’s Voter Systems. Local Officials Are Skeptical.”


Florida Senator Bill Nelson claimed Wednesday that Russian hackers “right now” are “in (the) records” of county election offices, prompting confusion from Florida state and county officials who said they are unaware of such an attack.

Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times, Nelson said that the hackers “have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about.”

In an email to Florida’s 67 county supervisors shared with BuzzFeed News, Florida’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, said he “has received zero information from Senator Nelson or his staff that support his claims.”

“Additionally, the Department has received no information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that corroborates Senator Nelson’s statement and we have no evidence to support these claims. If Senator Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida,” Detzner said.


“Georgia election officials knew system had ‘critical vulnerabilities’ before 2016 vote”


Georgia election officials got a friendly warning in August 2016 that their electronic voting system could be easily breached.

But less than a month before the November election, a state cybersecurity official fretted that “critical vulnerabilities” persisted, internal emails show.

The emails, obtained through a voting security group’s open records request, offer a glimpse into a Georgia election security team that appeared to be outmatched even as evidence grew that Russian operatives were seeking to penetrate state and county election systems across the country.



“Pa.’s absentee-ballot problem: Votes come in late because of tight deadline”

Jonathan Lai in the Philly Inquirer:

In 2010, election officials reported 2,162 absentee ballots were rejected for coming in too late; 2,030 were rejected in 2014. And given all the cuts endured by the postal service in recent years, election officials say that if lawmakers don’t act, the problem is going to get worse.

The numbers might not be enormous, state and county election officials say, but it matters that thousands of voters end up disenfranchised — and without their knowledge. And who knows — in especially close elections those votes might just make a difference.

Pennsylvania, with deadlines more restrictive than many other states, is a national leader in absentee ballots invalidated because of missed deadlines.


“No law prevents Kris Kobach from overseeing the likely recount in his own race”

KC Star:

No law requires Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to recuse himself from a recount in the governor’s race, but legal and political experts say that he should to maintain trust in the election.

Republican legislative leaders said Wednesday morning that a recount is almost certain and could possibly take weeks.

Kobach, the state’s top election official, narrowly led Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary by a mere 191 votes Wednesday morning after each of the state’s 105 counties had posted election returns after technical difficulties in Johnson County delayed results on election night.

Kobach’s office did not immediately comment on whether the secretary intended to hand over administration of the recount to a deputy.

He has recused himself from deciding election disputes in the past because of a conflict of interest, including in 2014 when he abstained from a residency objection hearing against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts because he served on the senator’s campaign committee….

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said in an email that “it would be good practice even if not required by state law for an election official to recuse from any recount or legal proceedings surrounding his or her own election efforts. A longstanding English and American tradition is that ‘no man should be a judge of his own case.’ That should apply here.”

Hasen added that the issue “only arises because we have partisan election officials running our elections. In most other advanced democracies, there are nonpartisan professionals.”


“Judge hands NC legislators a temporary loss in lawsuit over political labels”

News & Observer:

The North Carolina Supreme Court candidate who is suing the state government and legislative leaders won a partial victory in court Monday.

Chris Anglin is a registered Republican, and he is running against a Democrat and another Republican, who is the incumbent seeking re-election. Both of them — Democrat Anita Earls and Republican Barbara Jackson — will have their party affiliations listed on the ballot this November. But a new law passed by the state legislature on Saturday means that the ballot won’t say Anglin is a Republican. Instead, the space next to his name will be blank.

Anglin said Republican legislators made that change so that his campaign would have less of a chance at succeeding and derailing Jackson, who is the party’s preferred candidate. Among several other legal requests filed Monday morning, he asked a judge to throw out the parts of the law that affected him.

And at just after 4 p.m. Monday, he got some of what he wanted. In a written statement, Anglin said he was happy, and not surprised.



North Carolina: “Cooper, NAACP, environmentalists fail to win quick freeze on constitutional amendments”

News & Observer:

Gov. Roy Cooper failed Tuesday afternoon to get a temporary freeze on two proposed constitutional amendments he has called legislative power grabs, with a Superior Court judge declaring that a three-judge panel should have the first chance to decide.

The Democratic governor is seeking to block two amendments that he said were written to mislead voters. The amendments would continue a trend of legislative power shifts that began even before Cooper was sworn in as governor in January 2017.

Meanwhile, the state NAACP and an environmental group called Clear Air Carolina are suing to keep four amendments from appearing on this fall’s ballots.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway said he would urge the state Supreme Court chief justice to appoint a three-judge panel quickly to decide both cases. The state is facing a ballot-printing deadline, and the Legislature wants the six proposed amendments on it.


“Kansas and Ohio Races Remain Too Close to Call”


The Kansas Republican primary for governor and Ohio’s high-stakes special election for Congress both remained too close to call on Wednesday morning, with razor-thin margins separating the candidates in each race.

With all precincts reporting in Kansas shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday, Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach was ahead of Gov. Jeff Colyer by just 191 votes out of more than 311,000 Republican ballots cast statewide. The results were likely to remain in flux for at least several days with an unknown number of mail-in ballots not yet counted, a full canvass of all votes still to come and the possibility of a recount looming.

As the state’s top election official, Mr. Kobach would be in charge of overseeing the canvass if he does not recuse himself.


“Election experts say Kris Kobach’s voter fraud claims are misleading”


Kris Kobach, the former vice-chair of President Donald Trump’s now-disbanded commission on election integrity, and Maine’s Democratic Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap have engaged in a public back and forth over the issue of voter fraud, with Kobach accusing Dunlap, a former member of the commission, of being “willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” and Dunlap claiming that the commission failed to find evidence of widespread fraud.

But election experts say that Kobach’s claims are misleading and obscure the reality that voter fraud is rare in the context of the more than 1 billion votes cast since 2000.
In a statement sent to CNN on Saturday claiming that Dunlap is “willfully blind,” Kobach, who serves as Kansas’ Republican secretary of state, said that the commission “was presented with more than 1,000 convictions for voter fraud since the year 2000.” Kobach further claimed that this finding was only a fraction of the total and said that the “commission was also presented approximately 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election looking only at 20 states.”
The statement did not cite sources for the numbers and Kobach’s office did not respond to a CNN request asking what evidence the information was based on.
Three election experts interviewed by CNN, however, cast doubt on the claims made by Kobach, a noted proponent of voter fraud theories and related policies. For example, in 2016, Kobach supported Trump’s false claim that “millions of people” voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in that year’s presidential election.



“Georgia groups call on GOP gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp to step down as the state’s elections chief”


Activist groups in Georgia are calling on Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp to step down as secretary of state, a post that includes responsibility for overseeing the state’s elections.

Kemp, through his campaign spokesman, has said he will not give up the job that he has held since 2010, noting that other elected officials have not quit their elected posts while running for higher offices. He is running against Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, a former state lawmaker who has clashed with Kemp in the past over her efforts to register voters.

The race will be one of the most closely watched of the midterms, a test of Trump’s political popularity and a chance for Abrams to make history as the nation’s first black female governor.

Two groups — the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice and Resist Trump Tuesdays — have planned a rally for Wednesday afternoon to call for Kemp to resign. Common Cause Georgia issued a statement this week urging him to leave his position. “It is ethically wrong for a politician to oversee the campaign he is a candidate in,” reads an online petition launched by the group.



“Judge’s ruling invalidates FEC regulation allowing anonymous donations to ‘dark money’ groups”

Big ruling while I was gone flagged here by Politico:

A U.S. District Court judge on Friday issued a ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous, the latest development in a years-long legal battle that could have major implications for campaign finance.

Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled the FEC’s current regulation of such groups, including 501(c) 4 non-profits, fails to uphold the standard Congress intended when it required the disclosure of politically related spending.

“The challenged regulation facilitates such financial ‘routing,’ blatantly undercuts the congressional goal of fully disclosing the sources of money flowing into federal political campaigns, and thereby suppresses the benefits intended to accrue from disclosure … ,” wrote Howell, an Obama appointee to the D.C district court. The decision is likely to be appealed….

The FEC now has 45 days to issue interim regulations that uphold the broader disclosure standards and 30 days to reconsider its original decision to dismiss a complaint about the Crossroads GPS’ spending in the Ohio race.

The FEC could appeal the decision, but an appeal would require a unanimous vote from all of the remaining commissioners, since two seats remain vacant. Crossroads could also file an appeal.

Even if the FEC does not appeal, I believe Crossroads GPS could bring an appeal here.