Senator Richard Blumenthal: “The threat to U.S. elections is real, and frightening. The public has a right to know.”

The Senator’s WaPo oped:

The warning lights are flashing red. America’s elections are under attack.

This week, I reviewed classified materials in the Senate’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility and received a similarly classified briefing on malign foreign threats to U.S. elections. I was shocked by what I learned — and appalled that, by swearing Congress to secrecy, the Trump administration is keeping the truth about a grave, looming threat to democracy hidden from the American people. On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement that only hints at the threats.

The facts are chilling. I believe the American public needs and deserves to know them. The information should be declassified immediately.

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“Fifth Circuit Slow-Walks Argument in Critical Texas Voting Rights Case”

CAC:

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit announced that it will not hear oral argument in a critical Texas voting rights case until August 31, pushing its decision-making process dangerously close to the November 3 general election. The case, Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott, is a challenge to Section 82.003 of Texas’s Election Code, which provides that only voters 65 years of age or older have the right to vote by mail without any additional excuse on election day. Under current pandemic conditions, this provision forces those under 65 to risk their lives to vote in person. The Texas Democratic Party, along with individual voters, sued, alleging that this provision violates younger voters’ rights under the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which provides that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States . . . to vote shall not be denied or abridged by . . . any State on account of age.” Constitutional text and history are on the plaintiffs’ side, and by slow-walking proceedings in the case, the Fifth Circuit endangers the fundamental right to vote….

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Norm Ornstein: “Enlist George W. Bush and Al Gore to help us prevent a Trump-Biden nightmare in 2020”

Norm oped in USA Today:

The vote totals counted and announced on Nov. 3 may be very different from the final tallies. We may see state legislatures or even governors contesting these results, and possibly putting up alternative slates of electors to cast Electoral College votes for different winners. We may find that other deadlines in the law — for states to certify their electors, for the electors to meet, for the votes to arrive in Congress —unable to be met. Courts may intervene, and, as we saw with the primary in Wisconsin and the highly partisan actions of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, may do so with a distinct bias.

If there are contested slates of electors, Congress, under the 1887 Electoral Count Act, has to resolve them. But the law itself is ambiguous, and opportunities for mischief and chicanery are great. Unresolved is the question of whether, if the House and Senate cannot agree on which slates to certify, the electoral votes necessary to elect a president will be the overall 270, or a majority of those electors certified. We also face a possibility that we could have a 50-50 Senate at that time — with potentially a tie broken by the vice president, who has a direct conflict of interest.

hat to do? The best course of action is to bring back Bush and Gore — not to replay 2000, but to lead a commission to come up with a template in advance for how to handle each of these scenarios, and to be available, if and as they occur, to offer advice and set up guidelines for what to do.

Who else would be on the Bush-Gore commission? Homeland security experts like Michael ChertoffFran Townsend and Janet Napolitano. Former election officials like Trey Grayson and Mark Ritchie, who served as Secretaries of State in Kentucky and Minnesota, respectively, and Trevor Potter, the former chair of the Federal Election Commission. Election lawyers like Ben Ginsberg and Bob Bauer, who headed an earlier bipartisan commission on election reform. Election law experts like Rick Hasen at the University of California-Irvine Law School and Ned Foley at Ohio State. Political scientists and historians specializing in Congress and the Constitution, former lawmakers, former top executive-branch officials, and perhaps key leaders from the tech, business and labor worlds.

No group of individuals can erase our political tribalism or efforts to suppress votes or put thumbs on the scales of election outcomes. No commission can supersede the actions of lawmakers in states or Congress, or the decisions made by judges. But a group of our most credible citizens, headed by the two who know best the dynamics and consequences of a contested and controversial election, can set out warning signals and lay down boundaries that might guide lawmakers and judges, or at least shed a brighter light if they cross bright lines.

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“Big Tech’s head-spinning rules for the 2020 election”

Donie O’Sullivan for CNN:

Late Wednesday, Twitter made waves by temporarily restricting a Trump campaign account’s ability to tweet because it shared a video containing false claims President Trump had made about the coronavirus. But Twitter took no action on President Trump’s personal account, which re-shared the video.

The next day, Facebook cracked down on a pro-Trump PAC’s ability to advertise after spreading falsehoods even though the platform has repeatedly said it will continue to allow politicians to lie openly in advertising.If all that makes your head spin, you’re not alone.

These examples are indicative of a much wider problem for the big tech platforms: At a time when Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) have put a greater spotlight on themselves by taking action against posts from Trump and accounts linked to him, the companies’ rules for handling content generally and political misinformation specifically remain so confusing, so ad-hoc, that even the staff at these companies sometimes struggle to comprehend them.

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Alabama: “Absentee voting lawsuit against state dismissed by judge”

AL.com:

A state judge on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit by disability advocates challenging provisions of Alabama’s absentee ballot laws, saying his court lacked jurisdiction and the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.

The lawsuit, initially filed in May in Montgomery County Civil Court by the League of Women Voters and several elderly or sick Alabamians, contended that provisions requiring absentee voters to have photo IDs before getting their ballots and another requiring a notary public or two witnesses attest that the voter filled out the ballot violate Alabama’s constitution amid the COVID-19 pandemic….

But Montgomery County Civil Court Judge J.R. Gaines dismissed the lawsuit for several reasons.

“For the reasons laid out in the defendants’ motions to dismiss, the court finds that it lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ complaint because Plaintiffs present a nonjusticiable political question, plaintiffs lack standing to sue defendants, and the claims against defendants are barred by sovereign immunity,” Gaines wrote in his order. “Additionally, the court notes that even if it had found that jurisdiction exists, it would have found that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, for the reasons laid out in the defendants’ motions to dismiss.”

That’s really the entire analysis; one of the most cursory and unsatisfying opinions in this area that you will read.

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“The Latest U.S. Tool to Fight Election Meddling: Text Messages”

NYT:

The United States government on Thursday became, for a brief moment, one of the biggest and perhaps most annoying telemarketers in Russia.

Seeking to publicize new rewards of up to $10 million for information about people trying to attack American voting systems, the State Department sent text messages to cellphones in Russia as well as Iran.

It was the 2020 version of a longstanding tradition of projecting American messages across the borders of adversaries. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe broadcast pro-democracy programs across the Iron Curtain. In 2003, the United States dropped leaflets in Iraq warning against the use of (nonexistent) chemical weapons.

To the Russian government, and many Russians, the attempt looked ham-handed.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian government, ridiculed the message, which she said had appeared on many Russian cellphones. The program would yield nothing for the United States government, she predicted, and was more than just annoying to Russians.

“By calling on people to talk for money about interference in American elections, the American special services are unceremoniously interfering in our life,” she wrote on Facebook. “What is this if not a real hybrid attack?”

One Twitter user in Russia posted: “For 10 million, I’ll say anything. Even that the Americans landed on the moon.”

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“Mail-in ballot applications in Virginia tap into worries about fraud with faulty instructions”

WaPo:

A voter registration group with a history of sending error-ridden mailers has again sown confusion in Virginia, this time tapping into concerns about mail-in ballots sparkedby President Trump’s repeated allegations — without evidence — of election fraud.

The Washington-based Center for Voter Information, a nonprofit geared toward increasing voter participation among underrepresented groups, mailed 2.25 million applications for absentee ballots to voters across the state, with a quarter of them containing a return envelope addressed to the wrong election office, the group said Thursday.

The computer error — which mixed up similarly named localities such as Fairfax County and the city of Fairfax — prompted a flurry of phone calls and emails to local election offices from voters convinced that they were the targets of a mail-in ballot fraud scheme….

The Center for Voter Information is actually nonpartisan, affiliated with the Voter Participation Center, another nonprofit working to increase voter participation. If anything, both organizations appear to be more aligned with efforts to defeat the president than with his allies.

They were founded by Page Gardner, a Democratic strategist who has worked on several presidential and congressional election campaigns, according to the groups’ websites. The chief executive of the Center for Voter Information is Tom Lopach, another veteran Democratic strategist. The organization raised $19 million in 2018 to increase voter participation among unmarried women, people of color and millennials, according to the center’s most recent federal tax filing.

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“Trump campaign ad manipulates three images to put Biden in a ‘basement’”

WaPo:

The Pinocchio Test

Two of these photos fall under the category of “doctored” in the Fact Checker’s Guide to Manipulated Video. In the most egregious case, one image literally takes Biden from a nature preserve and puts him in a darkened room, even deleting the microphone that would signal he was speaking to people.

We’ve taken a tough line on manipulated video, and we’re going to be equally tough on the use of these images because the framing of the ad — Biden alone in his basement — is largely based on them.

Before the coronavirus appeared, Biden ran a traditional campaign, holding town halls and meeting with people. The fact that the Trump campaign is forced to take images of events of Biden with people and twist them into him being alone demonstrates how little material they actually have for an attack ad.

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“GOP asks Supreme Court to reinstate Arizona voting rules deemed racially biased”

John Kruzel story from last week:

At issue in the lawsuit are a pair of Arizona voting restrictions that were struck down earlier this year by the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which sparked the GOP petition to the Supreme Court.

In its January ruling siding with Democratic challengers, the appeals court went so far as to conclude that one of the two voting rules under review was intentionally designed to discriminate against people of color. The blistering decision took Arizona to task for its historic practice of burdening the franchise of nonwhite voters.

“For over a century, Arizona has repeatedly targeted its American Indian, Hispanic, and African American citizens, limiting or eliminating their ability to vote and to participate in the political process,” the appeals court wrote.

Minority populations — whom the 9th Circuit Court found were disproportionately harmed in recent elections by the two Arizona policies — tend to vote Democratic.

While the Supreme Court will receive Arizona’s request for an appeal on Wednesday, its decision on whether to take up the case is likely to arrive this fall, perhaps just weeks before Election Day. Denying the appeal would give Democrats momentum heading into the final stretch of what’s expected to be a tight Senate and presidential race in the Grand Canyon State.

Yet so far this election cycle, the conservative-majority court has let voting restrictions stand in Alabama, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin. In a dissent earlier this month, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the court’s more liberal justices, accused the court of engaging in “a trend of condoning disfranchisement

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“Kanye West Indicates That His Spoiler Campaign is Indeed Designed to Hurt Biden”

Forbes:

Amid various reports that Republican and Trump-affiliated political operatives are trying to get Kanye West onto various state ballots for November’s presidential election, the billionaire rap superstar indicated, in an interview by text today, that he was in fact running to siphon votes from the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.

Asked about that directly, West said that rather than running for president, he was “walking,” quickly adding that he was “walking . . . to win.”

When it was pointed out that he actually can’t win in 2020—that he won’t be on enough ballots to yield 270 electoral votes, and that a write-in campaign isn’t feasible—and thus was serving as a spoiler, West replied: “I’m not going to argue with you. Jesus is King.”

West rebuffed various attempts to clarify who was driving his ballot access or strategy and whether it’s being coordinated by or with Republican-affiliated officials. He does, however, appear to have a continuing relationship with the Trump White House. West says that he’s “designing a school within the next month” and that “I’m meeting with Betsy DeVos about the post-Covid curriculum.” (The Secretary of Education’s press office hadn’t responded to a request for comment by the time we published.)

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Sen. Rubio Rightly Moves to Change Key Dates for the Electoral College Process

Good news:  Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced a bill to extend the federal safe harbor period for states to determine electors from December 8, 2020 to January 1, 2021 for this year’s presidential election. He explains his position in this Medium post titled, Americans Should Expect Election Chaos.

Back in May, I called for pushing these dates back in the federal statute that governs presidential elections, when I identified several dates in the election calendar that should be changed for this fall.  Here is some of what I said then about the need for Congress to amend this law:

The last stages in the presidential election process are the casting of votes by the electors and the counting of those votes in Congress. …The framework statute governing the meeting of the Electoral College and the counting of the electoral votes is the Electoral Count Act, passed in 1887. The Act provides that Congress must count the electoral votes on January 6th, 2021. That date should not be changed; January 6th is the first date the newly-elected Congress meets and the President must, according to the Constitution, be inaugurated on Jan. 20th. But the two other key dates in Act, which might have made sense in the 19th century, can easily be moved back today; there is no contemporary policy reason these dates need to be fixed where they currently are. Pushing them back would not only provide breathing room for states to complete the vote count properly under the exceptional burdens this fall, but also for potential legal challenges.

The first is the date the electoral college formally votes. By law, that date is currently Dec. 14th. But there is then a gap of more than three weeks until Congress receives and counts those votes on Jan. 6th. . . . But there is no need for [that gap now]. Congress could easily push this date back several weeks. The electors could vote on Jan. 3rd, the same day the new Congress convenes (the Act currently requires the certifications of election to be transmitted by registered mail, but that could be changed to permit those votes to be transmitted electronically). … Moving this date back is key to relieving the vice-like pressure states will potentially experience in properly processing and counting the anticipated flood of absentee ballots.

[The second key date] is the so-called safe-harbor date, which provides that, if states certify the winner of the election by this date (technically, if they appoint a slate of electors) then Congress will be bound by that determination. This means Congress will not challenge the validity of those electors if they have been appointed by Dec. 8th. As the country learned in Bush v. Gore, this date puts states under tremendous pressure to complete their processes by then. But this date, too, can easily be moved back without compromising any policy concerns. If Congress moved back the date the electors vote by two weeks or so, it would move this safe-harbor date back by the same amount.

[To] deal with the foreseeable and unforeseeable problems that could arise from changing our election process almost overnight, pushing this date back would be good policy – particularly for this year’s election. [T]hese minor date changes to the Electoral Count Act should not be controversial . . . Congress would be doing the country a service if it held hearings and addressed the Act, at least for these two minor date issues (the Act is also notoriously ambiguous on other major issues and clearing up these ambiguities, before our next disputed election, would be wise).

Given the sensitivity of anything involving the Electoral Count Act, and Congress’ general propensity not to act before absolutely necessary, the prospects for Congress changing these dates in the Act are perhaps not promising. But moving these dates back would give election officials more time to manage successfully and with less controversy the extraordinary burdens they will likely face this fall.

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The Fight Over Vote-By-Mail is Over

The Washington Post has published this piece of mine. An excerpt:

The main fight over “vote by mail” is over. President Trump ended it, even if he doesn’t realize that.

In the past few weeks, the president has repeatedly and strongly endorsed absentee voting (good) as a jumping-off point for launching his attack on “universal” mail-in voting (bad). Vice President Pence, in lengthier, more developed comments, has roundly endorsed the same principles. Trump doubled down on these principles Tuesday, praising Florida’s use of absentee voting as “Safe and Secure, Tried and True.”

What the president perhaps does not realize is that the major issue for the November election has always been absentee voting. The question of universal mail-in voting is a sideshow. . . . The system that most states will be using this fall is absentee voting — precisely the system Trump and Pence have repeatedly endorsed. [As of now, 37 states will, or are likely to, permit people to vote absentee this fall without any special justification (as in Florida) or will permit fear of covid-19 to be a sufficient justification]

Only eight states will be using universal mail-in voting [only four of which will be using universal vote-by-mail for the first time in a presidential election this fall].  The president has already decried Nevada’s recent switch and sued to stop it, but even if critics want to attack these four new, “universal vote-by-mail” states — or all eight of them — they are shooting at a small target. . . .

Many liberal commentators have reacted to Trump’s comments by reflexively making fun of him. They shout, sometimes in all caps, ABSENTEE AND MAIL-IN VOTING ARE THE SAME THING. Alternatively, they point out high-ranking administration officials who have voted absentee in past elections, to charge the president with hypocrisy.

The better strategy, for those who support absentee voting, is to recognize when victory is staring them in the face and grasp it. As a practical matter, the form of mail-in voting that really matters for this fall is absentee voting. The die is cast on that. But in our polarized culture, it is also crucial that the election process be accepted as legitimate, among as many citizens as possible.

Now that the president and vice president have roundly endorsed absentee voting, the focus should be on making sure that everyone understands that. Reporters should be confirming with public officials that they support absentee voting; commentators should be emphasizing the breadth of agreement on this. Down the road, we can argue about whether the administrative difference between absentee voting and universal mail-in voting — whether voters must request an absentee ballot or will be sent one by the state — makes one approach better than the other. For now, the more urgent task is to ensure that the predominant form of mail-in voting this fall is widely endorsed. . .

[T]he predominant form that mail-in voting will take is absentee voting. Every time the president says “absentee voting is good but … ,” the right thing to do is to make sure his endorsement of absentee voting is heard widely.

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“Facebook removes troll farm posing as African-American support for Donald Trump”

NBC News:

Facebook removed hundreds of accounts on Thursday from a foreign troll farm posing as African-Americans in support of Donald Trump and QAnon supporters. It also removed thousands of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times that pushed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about coronavirus and protests in the U.S.

Facebook took down the accounts as part of its enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is the use of fake accounts to inflate the reach of content or products on social media.

The foreign pro-Trump troll farm was based in Romania and pushed content on Instagram under names like “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” and on Facebook under “We Love Our President.”

Troll farms — groups of people that work together to manipulate internet discourse with fake accounts — are often outsourced and purchased by foreign governments or businesses to push specific political talking points. Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the troll farm’s motivations were unclear, but they didn’t see “clear evidence of financial motivation” or “clear links to known commercial actors in this space.”

Facebook stressed that the takedowns were based on “behavior, not content,” like breaking rules against creating fake accounts to boost engagement on some pieces of content.

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“State Dept. Traces Russian Disinformation Links”

NYT:

Russia continues to use a network of proxy websites to spread pro-Kremlin disinformation and propaganda in the United States and other parts of the West, according to a State Department report released on Wednesday.

The report is one of the most detailed explanations yet from the Trump administration on how Russia disseminates disinformation, but it largely avoids discussing how Moscow is trying to influence the current campaign. Even as Democrats on Capitol Hill have urged the American government to declassify more information on Russia’s efforts to interfere with the election, President Trump has repeatedly told officials such disclosures are unwelcome.

Most of the report focuses on an ecosystem of websites, many of them fringe or conspiracy minded, that Russia has used or directed to spread propaganda on a variety of topics. Those include an online journal called the Strategic Culture Foundation and other sites, like the Canada-based Global Research. The document builds on information disclosed last week by American officials about Russian intelligence’s control of various propaganda sites.

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“The world has shown it’s possible to avert Covid-caused election meltdowns. But the U.S. is unique.”

Politico:

The experiences of electoral authorities around the world show that the risks to pandemic-era voting are predictable and can be prevented — or at least managed — by taking practical steps: delivering funding for additional polling workers and polling places; ensuring more and easier ways to vote; conducting public information campaigns about what’s changing; taking safety measures from masks to outdoor lines; and allowing officials to begin processing mail ballots before election night.

The challenge in the United States is getting all 50 states and numerous territories on the same page when it comes to making the necessary adjustments. While the vast majority of countries have single national election authorities, the U.S. election system is uniquely decentralized, governed by a patchwork of 3,100 counties.

And time is running out for those local election officials to take the kinds of steps necessary to ensure a smooth election day in November — or election weeks, given that many states now have extended early voting periods, starting in September. Richard L. Hasen, the lead author of an April report into fair elections in a crisis, said in an email that after watching the U.S. primary season unfold, he now believes “the report understated the danger” to November’s election….

University of California report recommends that mail ballots be opened and stacked — “everything short of the final tabulation” — before voting closes, to ensure a quicker count on election night. Most U.S. states allow at least basic processing of mail ballots, such as signature verification, to occur before election day. Some, such as Maryland, ban counting even on election night, delaying it until the morning after. If a state won’t allow early processing of mail ballots, officials can reduce distrust by publishing daily information about absentee and provisional ballot counting and the number of ballots remaining to be counted.

In the absence of a single federal election authority, the American news media plays a bigger role in tallying and announcing election results than in most countries. That role will be even more prominent if the final election result is not known for days or weeks after Nov. 3. Such delays are common in parliamentary systems, where the leading party often fails to win a majority of seats and must form a coalition to govern, but the uncertainty tends to be around which parties will join a governing coalition, rather than who won parliament seats.

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“Fear of COVID-19 will not be reason to vote absentee in November, Tennessee Supreme Court rules”

Tennesseean:

Fear of COVID-19 will not be a reason to vote by mail in the November general election, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. 

Absentee ballots filed for Thursday’s primary will remain valid, according to the court.

The high court’s decision reverses a Nashville judge’s injunction that allowed any voter concerned about COVID-19 to vote by mail. But the full lawsuit remains unresolved.  

Concerned voters filed lawsuits in Davidson County Chancery Court earlier this year asking for an expansion of the existing policy as cases of the novel coronavirus began to sweep through Tennessee. 

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled on June 4 that the state must add a COVID-19 exemption to the list of possible excuses. The state appealed, and the Supreme Court agreed to take the case directly. 

In the 4-1 decision, the high court found that Lyle’s injunction was an error and vacated it.

“With respect to those plaintiffs and persons who do not have special vulnerability to COVID-19 or who are not caretakers for persons with special vulnerability to COVID-19, we hold that the trial court erred in issuing the temporary injunction,” the Supreme Court ruling stated. 

You can find the decision at this link.

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“Republican operatives are helping Kanye West get on general election ballots”

CNN:

Republican operatives, some with ties to President Donald Trump, are actively helping Kanye West get on presidential general election ballots in states ranging from Vermont to Arkansas to Wisconsin.

The effort is raising questions about whether Republicans are pushing for the rapper’s addition to the ballot as a way to potentially siphon voters from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Until Tuesday, West’s attempts to get his name on the ballot have only focused on states that are either dominated by Republicans or Democrats in presidential elections. But West’s expected addition to the ballot in Wisconsin means the rapper will likely be a choice for voters in a battleground state that is key to both Trump and Biden’s path to winning in November.

“I like Kanye very much,” Trump said at the White House on Wednesday evening. “I have nothing to do with him being on the ballot. I’m not involved.”

Democrats in Wisconsin and beyond called it a blatant attempt to appeal to young Black voters who may be unenthused about the Biden campaign. Any downturn in turnout for Biden among young black voters, a group the Trump campaign has tried to target in the race against the former vice president, could impact the outcome in states with traditionally narrow margins, like Wisconsin….

West’s first campaign event, a rally in South Carolina last month, was an unusual affair that looked nothing like a traditional campaign. The rapper — clad in what looked like a protective vest — made erroneous comments about Harriet Tubman and at one point broke down crying at the North Charleston event. The appearance led many to voice concerns about his well being. And a few days later his wife made a public statement acknowledging West’s bipolar diagnosis and asking for compassion and empathy.

“Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words some times do not align with his intentions,” she wrote.

Trump’s campaign strategy with black voters is two-fold: Court younger black men, especially in cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city, and suppress support for Biden.

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“More states are using ballot drop boxes for absentee voters, but the boxes are already drawing skepticism”

WaPo:

Elections officials across the country are accelerating their efforts to install ballot drop boxes, a move they hope will make absentee voting simple and safe for those wary of the mail or fear exposure to the novel coronavirus at polling places.

The efforts come as voters voice concerns about timely delivery of mail ballots. Already, postal workers are reporting days-long backlogs of mail across the country, calling into question whether ballots will arrive at elections offices in time to be counted in November. President Trump has also ramped up attacks on the integrity of mail voting, in a year when more voters than ever are expected to choose that method because of the pandemic.

But the use of these boxes — which often look similar to a mailbox and are typically under video surveillance or guarded — has come under attack in states newly adopting them this year. Some skeptics worry the boxes may not be properly monitored to prevent tampering, or that voters will not know how to use or find them. In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, these drop boxes are now in the center of a Trump campaign lawsuit raising similar concerns.

Some see drop boxes as a safer and more reliable way to cast ballots than the mail. For instance, Michigan elections officials urged absentee voters to use drop boxes rather than the Postal Service after mail delivery backlogs led some to receive their ballot as late as one day before Tuesday’s primary election.

“Once it leaves the voter’s hand, the elections official has no control over it until it’s back in their hand. I think that’s why these drop boxes give them a little bit more of a sense of … ‘If you put this in the drop box by the appropriate time on Election Day, it’s going to count,’ ” said Matthew Weil, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project. “That’s a good feeling for an elections official, and I think voters should feel confident in that option, too.”

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“November election could be a ‘disaster’ if changes aren’t made, Michigan advocates warn Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press”

Detroit Free Press:

More than 2 million Michiganders mailed in ballots or voted in person for the primary election Tuesday, requiring many clerks to scramble for staff during a pandemic and spend late-night hours tallying a record number of absentee ballot. 

Overall, clerks and voters echoed Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s statement that the primary went well. But the anticipated turnout was less than half the number expected to take part in November, when control of the presidency and Congress are at stake.

Problems arising this week in Detroit and elsewhere are harbingers of potential calamity if changes are not made before the general election, voting rights advocates said Wednesday. ..

Much of the concern centered on Detroit, with fears that the problems seen in the state’s largest city may became more pronounced throughout the state in the fall. 

At least several polling places in Detroit did not open on time Tuesday morning because they did not have enough election workers. The Michigan Secretary of State’s office ended up sending 50 extra poll workers to the city, along with 30 additional people to Flint and other municipalities that needed help. 

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said coronavirus concerns — and not training or logistical problems — led to the “abnormal” number of workers no-showing on Election Day. Other clerks said they were able to open polling places but only with the bare minimum number of election workers. 

As anticipated by Benson and others, results continued to trickle in Wednesday. 

Winfrey warned a week before the election that Detroit needed an additional 900 poll workers. Edevbie and other advocates stressed the need to recruit more poll workers far in advance of the next election. 

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“Instagram Displayed Negative Related Hashtags For Biden, But Hid Them For Trump”

Buzzfeed:

For at least the last two months, a key Instagram feature, which algorithmically pushes users toward supposedly related content, has been treating hashtags associated with President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in very different ways. Searches for Biden also return a variety of pro-Trump messages, while searches for Trump-related topics only returned the specific hashtags, like #MAGA or #Trump — which means searches for Biden-related hashtags also return counter-messaging, while those for Trump do not.

Earlier this week, a search on Instagram for #JoeBiden would have surfaced nearly 390,000 posts tagged with the former vice president’s name along with related hashtags selected by the platform’s algorithm. Users searching Instagram for #JoeBiden might also see results for #joebiden2020, as well as pro-Trump hashtags like #trump2020landslide and #democratsdestroyamerica.

A similar search for #DonaldTrump on the platform, however, provided a totally different experience. Besides showing 7 million posts tagged with the president’s name, Instagram did not present any related hashtags that would have pushed users toward different content or promoted alternative viewpoints.

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“Iowa Governor Expands Voting Rights”

Kira Lerner for The Appeal:

In the latest victory in the movement against criminal disenfranchisement, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued an executive order Wednesday restoring voting rights to most people convicted of felonies who have completed their sentences. The order will enable tens of thousands of disenfranchised Iowans to register to vote by the November elections.

State advocates have long called for Iowa to expand voting rights. In recent months, Black Lives Matter activists protested in the state capitol, urging Reynolds to take action. 

The order is a temporary fix since a future governor could rescind it. Reynolds has called on the legislature to adopt a constitutional amendment to expand voting rights, to no avail. 

It is also a partial one. The order keeps people convicted of certain crimes disenfranchised for life, a practice the vast majority of states have ended, and it requires people to finish all terms of their sentence, including incarceration, probation and parole, before their rights can be restored. 

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“Facebook’s fact checkers have ruled claims in Trump ads are false — but no one is telling Facebook’s users”

WaPo:

Fact checkers were unanimous in their assessments when President Trump began claiming in June that Democrat Joe Biden wanted to “defund” police forces. Politifact called the allegations “false,” as did CheckYourFact. The Associated Press detailed “distortions” in Trump’s claims. FactCheck.org called an ad airing them “deceptive.” Another site, The Dispatch, said there is “nothing currently to support” Trump’s claims.

But these judgments, made by five fact-checking organizations that are part of Facebook’s independent network for policing falsehoods on the platform, were not shared with Facebook’s users. That’s because the company specifically exempts politicians from its rules against deception. Ads containing the falsehoods continue to run freely on the platform, without any kind of warning or label.

Enabled by Facebook’s rules, Trump’s reelection campaign has shown versions of the false claim on Facebook at least 22.5 million times, in more than 1,400 ads costing between $350,000 and $553,000, a Washington Post analysis found based on data from Facebook’s Ad Library. The ads, bought by the campaign directly or in a partnership with the Republican National Committee, were targeted at Facebook users mainly in swing states such as Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

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“Trump Campaign Sues Nevada Over Bill Expanding Mail-In Voting for General Election”

Nevada Independent:

President Donald Trump’s campaign has sued Nevada over a contentious bill recently approved in the ongoing special session of the Nevada Legislature that expands mail-in voting for the 2020 general election, saying it would make voter fraud “inevitable.”

The lawsuit, filed late Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Nevada against Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, comes after the president spent the past three days criticizing the move to a mostly mail election through tweets accusing Democrats of “an illegal late night coup” and in a press conference calling the measure a “disgrace.” Plaintiffs say the bill forces Republicans to expend resources educating people about the changes and encouraging them to participate.

“The RNC has a vital interest in protecting the ability of Republican voters to cast, and Republican candidates to receive, effective votes in Nevada elections and elsewhere,” the suit says. “Major or hasty changes confuse voters, undermine confidence in the electoral process, and create incentive to remain away from the polls.”

The bill, AB4, passed on party lines over the last few days and was signed into law on Monday. It specifies that in the November general election, and any others that happen in the wake of a statewide emergency or disaster directive, election officials will send all active registered voters a mail-in ballot. 

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to enjoin implementation of the bill, saying it “upends Nevada’s election laws and requires massive changes in election procedures and processes, makes voter fraud and other ineligible voting inevitable.”

“Many of AB4’s provisions are head-scratching — particularly given the stark irregularities in Nevada’s June 2020 primary election, and because AB4 changes so many election laws so close to the 2020 general election,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that the bill unconstitutionally extends the deadline for Election Day through a provision allowing ballots with unclear postmark dates to be accepted up to three days after Election Day. The complaint says that most mail carriers deliver postmarked mail within one to two days and that the law “effectively extends the congressionally established Election Day.”

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“Hackers Get Green Light to Test U.S. Voting Systems; After years of keeping security researchers at bay, election-equipment makers open their devices to testing”

WSJ:

Election Systems & Software LLC, the top U.S. seller of voting-machine technology, is calling a truce in its feud with computer-security researchers over the ways they probe for vulnerabilities of the company’s systems.

With the U.S. presidential election less than three months away, ES&S Chief Information Security Officer Chris Wlaschin on Wednesday will unveil the company’s outreach effort to security researchers at the annual Black Hat hacker convention that is taking place virtually this year, according to ES&S.

Mr. Wlaschin will detail a new vulnerability disclosure policy, which spells out, for example, the “safe harbor” protections that ES&S will provide legitimate researchers if they identify and notify the company of bugs in its systems, ES&S said. Those provisions are standard across many industries, from computer equipment to cars to medical devices, as manufacturers seek outside help to ensure their systems are secure. But the makers of election equipment, ES&S in particular, have been reluctant to allow outside security experts to test their systems, researchers have said.

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Kansas Files Supreme Court Cert Petition in Schwab v. Fish (Formerly Fish v. Kobach), Seeking Right to Require Voters to Prove Their Citizenship with Birth or Naturalization Certificate Before Registering to Vote

The cert. petition is here.

I wrote extensively about this case, and the lack of evidence that such a law is justified by a problem with noncitizen voting, in Election Meltdown.

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“Conducting Safe Elections During a Pandemic What are states’ voting policies? And how can they prepare for a COVID-19 election?”

The RAND Corporation is out with analyses in this series:

  • REPORT
  • An Assessment of State Voting Processes: Preparing for Elections During a Pandemic
  • To conduct elections safely this fall, states need registration and voting options that can happen remotely or can enable social distancing. Based on their policies, which states are most and least prepared to do this?
  • TOOL
  • Are States Ready for a COVID-19 Election?
  • Is there automatic voter registration? Can citizens vote by mail without an excuse? Are there options to cast ballots early? Answering questions such as these can help determine how prepared states are to conduct elections safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • REPORT
  • Options for Ensuring Safe Elections Amid COVID-19
  • The pandemic poses a serious threat to state election plans in 2020. There is still time for states to make policy changes, but those changes come with potential risks to public safety, and to election integrity, access, and logistics.

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“U.S. has two weeks to get mail voting right to avoid a mess on Election Day, expert says”

NBC News:

On June 23, Suraj Patel challenged incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney in New York’s Democratic primary. Six weeks after Election Day, Patel is still a candidate — because there are so many absentee ballots uncounted that officials have yet to declare a winner in his race.

Election law expert Nate Persily says New York’s problem could be the nation’s problem come November without swift and drastic action.

“I think we have two weeks to make the critical decisions that are necessary to pull off this election,” said Persily, a professor at Stanford Law School….

Persily says what’s happening in New York is a “a cautionary tale of how states and localities really need to get prepared and work with the postal service to make sure that mail balloting works.”

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“Trump notes GOP governor when asked why he backs mail-in voting in Florida”

The Hill:


President Trump
 on Tuesday elaborated on his sudden support for mail-in voting in the state of Florida by noting the state is run by a Republican governor.

The president earlier in the day offered a qualifier to his weeks of sustained attacks on mail-in voting by encouraging residents in Florida to take advantage of absentee and mail ballots. The state is both Trump’s official place of residence and a must-win state in his reelection bid.

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Is Same Lawyer Representing Trump Campaign and Kanye West Campaign in Wisconsin?

Ben Jacobs:

Daniel Jacobson:

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“Kris Kobach Loses Kansas Senate Primary, Easing Republican Worries”

NYT:

Kansas Republicans on Tuesday soundly rejected the Senate bid of Kris W. Kobach, a polarizing figure in state politics and a staunch ally of President Trump’s, choosing instead to nominate a conservative congressman from rural Kansas who was the preferred choice of party leaders in Kansas and Washington.

Mr. Kobach was defeated in the primary by Representative Roger Marshall, The Associated Press reported, a major relief to G.O.P. officials who had worried that Mr. Kobach would uniquely jeopardize the seat in the general election and would be a thorn in the side of party leadership if he won. Mr. Marshall will face State Senator Barbara Bollier, a former Republican herself who switched parties, in November.TUESDAY’S RESULTSSee the vote-counting in several states.

Mr. Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state known for his hard-line views on immigration and voting rights, was seen by party leaders as an especially weak potential general election candidate, even in a state that has not sent a Democrat to the Senate in 88 years. In the 2018 governor’s race, Mr. Kobach lost to Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and heading into this week’s contest, Senate Republican polling showed that nearly 30 percent of Republican primary voters indicated they would support Ms. Bollier in the general election if Mr. Kobach were the nominee.

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WaPo Editorial Endorses Idea of Bipartisan or Nonpartisan Election Commission to Weigh in on 2020

Editorial:

It would help lower the temperature if a highly visible, authoritative commission were ready to observe and evaluate alleged irregularities — to clarify that voting officials in Georgia are counting votes, not stuffing ballot boxes, or that postal workers in Iowa took a little longer to deliver ballots, so it is not surprising that a surge of votes was recorded a couple days after Election Day. Alternatively, a commission could highlight authentic problems, such as long lines deterring voters from polling sites or mail-in ballots being thrown out for small technical issues beyond voters’ control.

Mr. Trump will not convene such a commission, because he wants chaos. But congressional leaders could do so, or a balanced group of business and community leaders. The American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein suggests that former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama could head the commission. If they did not want to be so visible, they could at least help establish it. The commission could rely on highly experienced U.S. election monitoring groups for expertise.

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“NC must give voters a chance to fix mail-in ballots before they’re thrown out, judge rules” (Link to ruling)

News & Observer:

Fears of coronavirus endangering voters in North Carolina this fall — or potentially lowering voter turnout — aren’t enough to force the state to change many of its elections laws, a federal judge has ruled.

However, U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen did order one key change: new protections for people who vote by mail, giving them a second chance to fix any problems that might keep their ballot from being counted.

The ruling said people will now be ensured “due process” to fix any problems that arise with their ballots, and Osteen left open the door for the state’s political leaders to write a more specific rule or law “which provides a voter with notice and an opportunity to be heard” if there is a problem with their mail-in ballot.

You can find the court’s 188-page ruling at this link.

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“Bice: Wisconsin Republicans help Kanye West in his attempt to get on state presidential ballot”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The rapper’s campaign turned in a number of signatures on Tuesday in a bid to get on the November presidential ballot in Wisconsin. He is making similar attempts in Ohio, Arkansas and West Virginia.

Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Elections Commission, said it could be several days before officials confirm that West has enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot as an independent candidate representing the Birthday Party. 

It was a pretty impressive feat that West’s campaign was able to submit as many signatures as it did by Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline. His campaign filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission only 2 1/2 weeks ago.

But it certainly helped that the billionaire rapper got support from a handful of Republicans in Wisconsin. Many believe a West candidacy would divert votes from former Vice President Joe Biden, who has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination and will face President Donald Trump in November. 

First, West’s nominating petitions were dropped off with state regulators by Lane Ruhland, a top Republican lawyer and former general counsel for the state GOP. 

Ruhland did not return calls on Tuesday evening. But Cameron Joseph, a reporter with Vice News, did reach her and tweeted about it: “Ruhland didn’t deny it when I called her: ‘I’m going to leave any comment about the petitions, the papers and what is going on the campaign itself.'” …

Then there are the 10 electors that West’s campaign had to round up to make it on the ballot here.

The electors have to pledge to vote for West at the Electoral College if he were to win the state. Independent candidates have to submit an elector for each of the state’s eight congressional districts as well as two at-large electors. 

According to their social media accounts, several of the electors are very big Trump supporters or second- or third-tier Republican activists. 

J.M. McCoy of Wauwatosa is West’s elector for the state’s 5th Congressional District. McCoy could not be reached late Tuesday. But there is a J.M. McCoy from Wauwatosa who is a national committeeman for the Wisconsin Young Republicans.

West’s elector for the 3rd Congressional District is James Smith of Stoddard. On his Facebook page, Stoddard has of a picture of his house with a Trump sign in front of it.

Contacted by the Journal Sentinel, Smith was tight-lipped about his support for West: “I have no comment at this time.” 

Other West electors are also strong supporters of Republicans. 

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