NBER Study Finds Rhode Island Voter ID Law Depressed Turnout, Especially Among Young, Minority, Poor Voters


Effects of Photo ID Laws on Registration and Turnout: Evidence from Rhode Island

Francesco Maria EspositoDiego FocantiJustine S. Hastings
NBER Working Paper No. 25503
Issued in January 2019
NBER Program(s):Law and EconomicsPublic EconomicsPolitical Economy 

We study the effect of photo ID laws on voting using a difference-in-differences estimation approach around Rhode Island’s implementation of a photo ID law. We employ anonymized administrative data to measure the law’s impact by comparing voting behavior among those with drivers’ licenses versus those without, before versus after the law. Turnout, registration, and voting conditional on registration fell for those without licenses after the law passed. We do not find evidence that people proactively obtained licenses in anticipation of the law, nor do we find that they substituted towards mail ballots which do not require a photo ID.


“Trump-appointed prosecutor focused on allegations of voting fraud by immigrants amid warnings about separate ballot scheme”

Deep dive from WaPo:

At about 4 a.m. on Aug. 23, federal agents rousted Jose Solano-Rodriguez from his bed in the suburbs of Raleigh. A couple of hours later, three agents knocked on Hyo Suk George’s door as she fed her rabbits and chickens in rural Columbus County. Jose Ramiro-Torres was at his job at a fencing company near the Outer Banks when his girlfriend called to tell him to come home, where federal agents were waiting.

In all, 20 immigrants — two still in pajamas — were rounded up over several days, many of them handcuffed and shackled, and charged with voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The sweep across eastern North Carolina was one of the most aggressive voting-fraud crackdowns by a Trump-appointed prosecutor — and also a deliberate choice that demonstrates where the administration’s priorities stand.
At the time of the arrests, an organized ballot-tampering effort that state officials had repeatedly warned about was allegedly gearing up in the same part of North Carolina. The operation burst into public view after Election Day in November when the state elections board, citing irregularities in the mail-in vote, refused to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District race. That seat remains unfilled while state officials investigate.

The decision by U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. to focus his office’s resources on the prosecution of noncitizens rather than the ballot-tampering allegations in Bladen County comes amid a broad push by President Trump and other Republicans to portray illegal voting as a widespread phenomenon that threatens the integrity of American elections.


“Specious claims dog Pennsylvania’s noncitizen voter search”


Two Pennsylvania state lawmakers are making a disputed claim in a long-running, and possibly futile, effort by elections officials to determine how many non-U.S. citizens had registered to vote over the years.

On Tuesday, the lawmakers, Republican state Reps. Daryl Metcalfe and Garth Everett, issued a statement saying there had been confirmation that 11,198 foreign nationals had illegally registered to vote in Pennsylvania.

But that is not what state election officials said.


Case Against Kobach’s “Crosscheck” Survives Motion to Dismiss, Raises Novel Constitutional Questions

From the court order (via Sam Levine):

Before the court is defendants Kris Kobach and Scott Schwab’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11). It presents two vexing questions of constitutional law: Does the Constitution recognize a right to informational privacy? And, if so, does that right prohibit public disclosure of purportedly private voter information? Regrettably, the Supreme Court has not decided either one of these questions. And though our Circuit has decided the first question, it has not addressed the second one. Consistent with Circuit precedent, the court concludes that such a right exists and, though it is a close question, the court holds that the Complaint’s allegations plead a plausible claim for relief. The pages that follow explain why.


Could Va. Gov. Northam Face a “Recall Trial?”

Joshua Spivak:

1) Virginia has an unusual recall provision called a “recall trial.” No state has this provision — it is not clear any place in the world has it. The recall trial is a modification of what we call the judicial recall/malfeasance standard, with a very big twist.

Under the recall trial standard, voters would have to gather signatures equal to 10% of turnout in the last election. Then, instead of a vote, a judge would hold a trial to determine if the elected official violated a specified list of statutory rules. The list includes neglect of duty, misuse of office, incompetence and conviction on a number of misdemeanors (one of the specified misdemeanors is a “hate crime” — though I can’t imagine any criminal charges).

Having a specified “for cause” list of actions required for removal is not unusual. Among the states that have recalls on the state level, seven have this judicial recall/malfeasance standard criteria (Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Rhode Island, Washington). This greatly limits the amount of recalls — such recalls attempts are generally thrown out very early in the process.

What is unusual is having a trial rather than an election. I’m not sure how this provision came about, but no one else seems to have it.

Would Northam be found guilty and removed in a recall trial? It seems extremely unlikely — it is not clear what charges could be filed. However, there are very few recall trials in Virginia history (see below), so we can’t read much into past practices.

2) Does the Governor even fall under this provision? The applicability portion of the code states that the law: “shall apply to all elected …. officers…. except officers for whose removal the Constitution of Virginia specifically provides.” This may mean that the recall may not cover Governors, who face impeachment under the Constitution. Again, this would need to be tested in court for a final answer….


“Civil rights group sues Texas over order to investigate potential noncitizen voters with flawed data”

Dallas Morning News:

A civil rights group has sued the state of Texas for advising counties to review the citizenship of tens of thousands of eligible voters in the state with flawed data, claiming it violates the voting rights of U.S. citizens and legally registered Texas voters who are foreign-born. 

The lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund alleges that the state has “singled out for investigation and removal” the names of U.S. citizens who are registered voters because they were born outside the United States. It asks for an injunction to prevent recently naturalized citizens from being investigated and a rescission of the state’s advisory to comb through a list of 58,000 people state officials said had potentially voted while not citizens. 


“Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Compete To Spurn Establishment Cash”

Peter Overby for NPR:

As Sens. Elizabeth WarrenKamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand jumped into the Democratic presidential nomination contest, they staked out the same position against corporate campaign cash.

“The money in politics is corrupting. It controls everything,” Gillibrand told a gathering in Des Moines, Iowa, last month. “You’ve got to take on the whole system, and you have to get money out of politics. And that’s why, as a very small first step, I’m not taking corporate PAC money.”

Small as it is, this pledge to reject corporate PAC money has become a cornerstone of the Democrats’ primary contest. It helped Harris to raise $1.5 million online from small donors in the 24 hours after she announced. Warren’s campaign didn’t release a total for the post-announcement surge, but she said she got contributions from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.


“Court rejects settlement in Michigan gerrymandering suit”

Detroit News:

A lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering by Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is heading toward trial next week after a three-judge panel rejected a settlement proposed by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and plaintiffs. 

Benson does not have the authority to enter into the proposed consent decree without the blessing of the Michigan Legislature, the federal judges said Friday in a ruling rejecting the deal, which would have required reconfiguration of at least 11 state House seats for 2020 elections. 


“Botched election for Georgia House must be redone yet again”


A judge on Friday ordered a rare second do-over election for a northeast Georgia House seat, finding that four voters didn’t live in the district, throwing its outcome into doubt.

The new election means that voters will return to the polls for a third time to decide between Republicans Dan Gasaway and Chris Erwin.
Erwin appeared to win the first redo of the election in December by just two votes, but Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat decided Friday that four voters had moved out of House District 28 more than 30 days before the election. Because the election was so close, the judge found that four votes were enough to justify a new election.


“Raskin Introduces ‘Shareholders United’ Bill to End Corporate Political Spending without Shareholder Consent”


Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) introduced the Shareholders United Act, H.R. 936, to control billions of dollars in corporate political spending and put power back in the hands of the shareholders. 
The Shareholders United Act would prevent corporate expenditures for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its majority shareholders. 

If a corporation has no such process or is unable to assess the “majority will” of shareholders because the majority of shares are owned by entities that are prohibited from registering a political preference – such as states and cities, pension and mutual funds, universities, charities, or foundations – then the corporation will be prohibited from using its resources on political campaigns.

The majority of shares of Fortune 500 companies are actually owned by institutional investors prevented from engaging in partisan political activity because of federal or local law, their tax status, contract, or fiduciary duty.

“If most company shares are owned by entities forbidden to be involved in politics, the CEO literally has no one to speak for,” Raskin said. “Money should not be taken from shareholders and their owners to make political statements they are prevented by law from making.”


“Judge: Kansas’ Largest County Violated Law By Not Specifying Rejected Ballots”


A judge has ruled that election officials in Kansas’ largest county violated open records law by refusing to provide names of hundreds of people whose provisional ballots were not counted in last August’s primary.

Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, asked for the names of 898 people whose ballots were thrown out and for justification on why they didn’t count. Johnson County election commissioner Ronnie Metsker rejected Hammet’s request, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to join Hammet in a lawsuit.


ProPublica and Lexington Herald-Leader Publish Third of 3 Devastating Articles on Kentucky Secretary of State Grimes

The Curious Case of a Kentucky Cybersecurity Contract:

In the months after the 2016 elections, state election administrators spent millions of dollars investigating and addressing the cyber intrusions that had penetrated voting systems in dozens of states. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes emerged as one of the loudest voices calling for improvements.

In February 2017, at an elections conference dominated by talk of cybersecurity, Grimes claimed to have found the perfect answer to the threat: A small company called CyberScout, which she said would comb through Kentucky’s voting systems, identify its vulnerabilities to hacking and propose solutions.

Three days later, Assistant Secretary of State Lindsay Hughes Thurston submitted paperwork to give the company a no-bid two-year contract with the State Board of Elections, or SBE, for $150,000 a year. She did not inform the SBE — the agency that oversees the state’s voting systems — that she was doing so.

At the time, CyberScout was new to voting-related cybersecurity. The company acknowledges that it had never had an election-systems client before.

CyberScout’s CEO and his wife had given Grimes a total of $12,400 in contributions over several elections, along with $4,000 to state Democratic groups. (All of the donations fell within state limits.) Ultimately, the contract went through — Grimes denies the contributions had any influence — and CyberScout delivered little in the way of results, according to 15 election officials interviewed for this article. CyberScout’s contract was not renewed after the first stage expired in June.


Trump’s Presidential Fundraising May Be Unprecedented So Early Before Election, But So Is His Massive Campaign Spending

Robby Mook:


“Adelsons pumped $500K into Trump aides’ legal defense fund”


Billionaire Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave $500,000 to a legal defense fund set up to help aides to President Donald Trump that are involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The Adelsons each contributed $250,000 on Oct. 1 to the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, which was set up last year to help campaign aides pay for legal bills related to the investigation. The donation came during the height of the midterm elections, when the Adelsons were also the largest contributors to the Republican Party’s political campaigns and committees, shelling out more than $100 million in support of GOP candidates.


“Former Texas Secretary of State Believes Inaccurate Voting List Should Be Rescinded”

Texas Monthly:

On a day that Governor Greg Abbott downplayed apparent inaccuracies in a voting list that his secretary of state compiled of potential non-citizens, a former secretary of state said the list should be rescinded.

“I think they need to rescind it, do due diligence and make a more accurate list,” Carlos Cascos, who served as Abbott’s secretary of state from January 2015 to January 2017, said of his former office. “They contact everyone and admit to it and say, ‘We made an honest mistake,’ and recompile the list.” Cascos’ belief that the advisory should be rescinded aligns with the demandsmade by a number of civil rights groups who point out the data is inherently flawed.


Texas: “State: All 366 on local list of potential noncitizen voters are citizens”

Waco Tribune:

By the time local elections officials downloaded a list of 366 registered voters the Texas Secretary of State’s Office initially said may not be citizens, the office had called to tell them to disregard the list, Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said.

The state told her office by phone Monday that the citizenship of everyone on the list is not in question, Van Wolfe said. The office was informed Friday it would get the list and need to contact each voter for proof of citizenship, she said. The list came Monday, and the secretary of state had backed off on its initial request by the time anyone downloaded the list, she said.


“Election officials said DMV wasn’t ready to launch Motor Voter. California went ahead anyway”


As California prepared to launch its new Motor Voter program last year, top elections officials say they asked Secretary of State Alex Padilla to hold off on the roll-out.

The plan called for the Department of Motor Vehicles to automatically register people who came into its offices, one of several efforts by Democrats controlling California politics to make it easier for more people to vote.

With the June 2018 primary approaching, election officials said they warned that the department that manages car registration and boat licenses was not yet prepared to register voters.

“There wasn’t the appropriate readiness to go forward in April, and that was brought to the Secretary of State,” said Dean Logan, registrar for Los Angeles County, adding that he “definitely expressed concern” to the Secretary of State’s Office, as well as Padilla himself.

“The concern from registrars across the state, including myself, was not a resistance to moving forward. We supported the move to the New Motor Voter program in the long term. The concern was had there been adequate testing and development to be ready for the June election.”

California moved forward anyway.


“More Voter Fraud Misinformation from Trump”


President Donald Trump wrongly claims that “58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote.” This latest voter fraud misinformation from the president is based on the state’s efforts to match driver’s license and state ID card applications from noncitizens to voter registration rolls.

However, the Texas director of elections warns the lists provided to county elections officials represent “WEAK matches” (the capitalization and emphasis is the state’s) and does not account for the possibility that many people on the list may have simply become naturalized citizens after having obtained a driver’s license.

History tells us to be wary of these numbers. In Florida, when officials similarly matched driver’s license and voter registration data in 2012 in an attempt to remove noncitizens from voter rolls, an initial list of more than 180,000 names was ultimately whittled down to less than 100.
Nevertheless, Trump, who has long warned — without evidence — about widespread voter fraud, claimed via Twitter that Texas had found evidence that tens of thousands of noncitizens have voted illegally in U.S. elections. Trump claimed Texas’ discovery was “just the tip of the iceberg” and that “voter fraud is rampant” around the country. It “Must be stopped,” he wrote, with “Strong voter ID!”


“Judiciary Hearing on Democrats’ Election Bill Turns Into Partisan Brawl”

NYT reports.

It says something about the Republicans’ views of election administration reform and improvement that they put up von Spakovsky and Adams as witnesses rather than credible Republican voices who have been working hard for sensible election reform. These voices would not have supported big parts of H.R. 1, but they would have engaged in a reasoned and productive conversation.


“NAACP Challenge to 2020 Census Preparations Moves Forward”


The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and its allies today won a major court ruling that allows them to proceed with a federal lawsuit challenging the government’s inadequate preparations for the 2020 Census.
“[T]he census must be conducted in a way that will not thwart the goal of equal representation,” wrote U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm, in an opinion granting in part and denying a motion to dismiss brought by the Census Bureau. The ruling allows the case to proceed to discovery and potentially to trial.

You can find the judge’s opinion at this link.


“Kansas drops Kris Kobach’s appeal of contempt ruling, ACLU accepts $20,000 for legal fees”

Topeka Capital-Journal:

The Kansas attorney general said Tuesday the state agreed to drop former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s appeal of a federal court judge’s contempt order in exchange for the American Civil Liberties Union accepting only $20,000 for attorney fees and expenses.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the negotiated deal reduced from $26,200 the state’s obligation to the ACLU. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson had found Kobach in contempt of court while he was serving as secretary of state in Kansas. Robinson sanctioned Kobach for failure to comply with her instructions.

Mediation involving ACLU lawyers and the attorney general’s office Jan. 25 also led to dismissal of Kobach’s appeal of the contempt ruling. It didn’t alter status of the state’s appeal of Robinson’s underlying election law decision, which found Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship statute unconstitutional.

The $20,000 payment to the ACLU must be drawn from accounts at the secretary of state’s office led by Scott Schwab, who was elected in November to replace Kobach. In January, Kobach left the statewide office after losing the 2018 campaign for governor.

Kobach was found in contempt while fighting the ACLU’s challenge of a state law requiring Kansans to show a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Robinson found the law unconstitutional, but her decision has been appealed to the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Schmidt said the appeal of Robinson’s striking of Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship statute was scheduled for oral argument March 18.
“The bottom line is that a state statute, which was duly enacted by large bipartisan majorities in the Kansas Legislature, has been declared invalid by a federal court,” Schmidt said. “As long as the Legislature leaves that law on the books, we think the state’s authority to enact the statute requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote deserves a full and vigorous legal defense.”


“Texas quietly informs counties that some of the 95,000 voters flagged for citizenship review don’t belong on the list”

Texas Tribune:

After flagging tens of thousands of registered voters for citizenship reviews, the Texas secretary of state’s office is now telling counties that some of those voters don’t belong on the lists it sent out.
Officials in five large counties — Harris, Travis, Fort Bend, Collin and Williamson — told The Texas Tribune they had received calls Tuesday from the secretary of state’s office indicating that some of the voters whose citizenship status the state said counties should consider checking should not actually be on those lists.
The secretary of state’s office incorrectly included some voters who had submitted their voting registration applications at Texas Department of Public Safety offices, according to county officials. Now, the secretary of state is instructing counties to remove them from the list of flagged voters.
“We’re going to proceed very carefully,” said Douglas Ray, a special assistant county attorney in Harris County, where 29,822 voters were initially flagged by the state. A “substantial number” of them are now being marked as citizens, Ray said.


Must-Watch: Sherrilyn Ifill Lays Into Von Spakovsky and Christian Adams on Voter Fraud and the Fraudulent Fraud Squad

Watch this:


“The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security Report Release”


The Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security today released a final report recommending legislators consider bond issuances to help counties purchase voting systems with paper ballots and implement mandatory post-election audits and election emergency plans before the 2020 presidential election.
In September, the commission released interim recommendations to replace insecure Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems with those that incorporate voter-marked paper ballots, such as optical scan machines, and for state and federal governments to help counties cover associated costs. The final report reiterates those top priorities and provides a framework for swift legislative action.  …

Recommendations in the report include:
The Department of State should decertify DRE voting systems after Dec. 31, 2019, if not sooner, and should not certify DRE machines — not even with voter-verifiable paper audit trails. Only systems that tabulate voter-marked paper ballots, which are retained for recounts and audits, should be certified.
Pennsylvania’s governor, general assembly and counties should explore creative financing mechanisms such as a bond issuance to help counties fund the cost of replacing voting systems.
The general assembly should require transparent risk-limiting audits after each election.
The general assembly should revise the Pennsylvania Election Code to provide clear authority for the suspension or extension of elections due to widescale cyber-related attacks, natural disaster or other emergencies disruptive of voting.
The Pennsylvania Department of State and counties should include cybersecurity as a key selection factor when selecting election-related vendors.
The Commonwealth and counties should provide cybersecurity awareness training for election officials where it is not already in place.
The auditor general and Commonwealth’s Inter-Agency Election Preparedness and Security Workgroup should review the Commonwealth’s cyber incident response plans for improvements.


Florida: “Suspended elections chief Susan Bucher resigns rather than take fight to GOP-controlled Senate”


Susan Bucher resigned Monday as Palm Beach County’s suspended supervisor of elections, claiming she was a victim of “political agendas” and that as a former Democratic legislator she could never get a fair hearing in a Republican-controlled state Senate.
Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Bucher from office on Jan. 18, accusing the veteran elections official of incompetence. DeSantis’ suspension order was based largely on a highly detailed three-page summary compiled by former Secretary of State Michael Ertel, who cited “trust in our elections” as a hallmark of the republic.
Ertel, who accused Bucher of “combative incompetence,” himself abruptly left office last Thursday after photos surfaced showing him dressed in blackface and wearing a T-shirt that said “Katrina victim” at a 2005 Halloween party. Ertel, a former supervisor of elections in Seminole County in suburban Orlando, confirmed that the photos were of him and he immediately resigned.


8th Circuit Agrees to Rehear En Banc Case Involving Missouri Lobbying Registration

Press release via email:

The Institute for Free Speech applauds the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ significant and unusual decision to rehear Calzone v. Missouri Ethics Commission

The case concerns a Missouri law that forces unpaid citizen activists to comply with the same registration, reporting, and disclosure requirements as professional lobbyists. In November, a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit upheld that law (over a dissent by Judge David Stras) against a challenge by Ron Calzone, a Missouri citizen, who regularly testifies before the Missouri General Assembly. As Judge Stras argued in his powerful dissent, “The [Missouri] law seemingly sweeps up all unpaid political advocacy by anyone who acts on behalf of someone else, no matter how often it occurs and regardless of its purpose.”
On Monday, the Eighth Circuit vacated the panel ruling and granted en banc review.