All posts by Tabatha Abu El-Haj

Book Review: “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show”

The Washington Post reviews ABC newsman, Jonathan Karl’s Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show.

“Karl’s sobering, solid, account of Trump’s last year in office sheds new light on how the man who lost the presidency nearly succeeded in overthrowing the 2020 election. Anyone who thinks that “it can’t happen here,” ought to read this book.”

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“How the Liberal First Amendment Under-Protects Democracy”

Signing off now as I am off to catch a plane to Chicago to discuss my new article, How the Liberal First Amendment Under-Protects Democracy with the faculty at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law. Thank you Rick for giving me the opportunity to blog this week. There is rarely a dull moment in American politics and election law. I look forward to being back in a week.

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“G.O.P. Donors Back Manchin and Sinema as They Reshape Biden’s Agenda”

Kenneth P. Vogel and Kate Kelly, N.Y. Times

Business and conservative big donors turn their attention to the two Democratic Senators that hold the key to stopping a transformative version of Biden’s agenda.

“Even as Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin, both Democrats, have drawn fire from the left for their efforts to shrink and reshape Mr. Biden’s proposals, they have won growing financial support from conservative-leaning donors and business executives in a striking display of how party affiliation can prove secondary to special interests and ideological motivations when the stakes are high enough.

Ms. Sinema is winning more financial backing from Wall Street and constituencies on the right in large part for her opposition to raising personal and corporate income tax rates. Mr. Manchin has attracted new Republican-leaning donors as he has fought against much of his own party to scale back the size of Mr. Biden’s legislation and limit new social welfare components.”

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The Consequences of Disinformation–An International Perspective

A new article by Karen Hao in the Technology Review explores “how Facebook and Google fund global misinformation.” It argues that “the tech giants are paying millions of dollars to the operators of clickbait pages,” thereby “bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.”

From the Article:

“In 2015, six of the 10 websites in Myanmar getting the most engagement on Facebook were from legitimate media, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-run tool. A year later, Facebook (which recently rebranded to Meta) offered global access to Instant Articles, a program publishers could use to monetize their content.

One year after that rollout, legitimate publishers accounted for only two of the top 10 publishers on Facebook in Myanmar. By 2018, they accounted for zero. All the engagement had instead gone to fake news and clickbait websites. . . .

It was during this rapid degradation of Myanmar’s digital environment that a militant group of Rohingya—a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority—attacked and killed a dozen members of the security forces, in August of 2017.

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“Kansas Voter Suppression Law Blocked by Court”

Democracy Alerts

Federal court grants preliminary injunction in case challenging Kansas’s new voter suppression law. “The lawsuit, filed on behalf of VoteAmerica and Voter Participation Center in June, is challenging House Bill 2332, which restricts nonpartisan out-of-state organizations from providing mail-in ballot applications to registered voters and criminalizes the mailing of personalized advance ballot (similar to early voting in other states) applications.”

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“Effort to breach Ohio county’s voting system draws FBI and state scrutiny”

Washington Post Exclusive by Amy Gardner, Emma Brown, and Devlin Barrett

Investigators are examining possible connections between an attempted breach of Ohio county’s election network and “an incident in Colorado earlier this year, when government officials helped an outsider gain access to the county voting system in an effort to find fraud.” A key question seems to be the role of MyPillow executive, Mike Lindell, an ally of Donald Trump. “Data obtained in both instances were distributed at an August ‘cyber symposium’ on election fraud hosted by . . . Mike Lindell.”

“Together, the incidents in Ohio and Colorado point to an escalation in attacks on the nation’s voting systems by those who have embraced Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud. Now, some Trump loyalists pushing for legal challenges and partisan audits are also targeting local officials in a bid to gain access to election systems — moves that themselves could undermine election security.”

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“Former Kentucky Secretary of State Faces Ethics Charges”

Carson Kessler, ProPublica

Former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, has been accused “of misusing her office for personal and political purposes” in an order filed by the state’s Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

The news comes nearly three years after ProPublica and the Lexington Herald-Leader investigated many of the same issues in a three-part series, extensively detailing Grimes’ “questionable” and “unprecedented” use of the state’s voter registration system as well as the “power grab” that gave her unusual sway over the State Board of Elections.” 

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A Good Day for Democracy

The House passed the Build Back Better bill moments ago, attempting to make good on the promises that Democrats made to the electorate last November. To be sure, there may be consequences for the party next fall. If the electorate is unhappy, it may oust the rascals—as the proverbial saying goes. But that is how democracy is supposed to work. Congress should take votes, and the electorate should decide. (Of course, it works significantly better if the districts in which House members run are not gerrymandered!)

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“Wisconsin Republicans Push to Take Over the State’s Elections”

Reid J. Epstein, N.Y. Times

The ongoing effort seeks to eliminate the state’s bipartisan elections agency.

“Republicans in Wisconsin are engaged in an all-out assault on the state’s election system, building off their attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential race by pressing to give themselves full control over voting in the state.

The Republican effort — broader and more forceful than that in any other state where allies of former President Donald J. Trump are trying to overhaul elections — takes direct aim at the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, an agency Republicans created half a decade ago that has been under attack since the chaotic aftermath of last year’s election.”

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“Ohio Republicans’ redistricting map dilutes Black voters’ power in Congress, critics say”

Colby Itkowitz, Washington Post

Legal challenge, including on state constitutional grounds, expected if Governor Mike DeWine signs the new map into law. Either way, “the map will only be in effect for four years, since fewer than one-third of legislative Democrats approved of it.” But in the meanwhile, this is what happened despite 2018 constitutional amendment aimed to end partisan gerrymandering. Republicans argue the tilt to their party is justified by the fact that they have won approximately 80% of state-wide races over the last 16 cycles.

Note: Article also includes Democratic and Republican voters’ views about the impact of gerrymandering on governance.

“Here in Cincinnati, where Black residents make up almost half of the population, state Republican officials drew a congressional map 10 years ago that sliced through the city, dividing urban neighborhoods into districts dominated by further flung, predominantly White areas.

A constitutional amendment approved by 75 percent of Ohio voters in 2018 was supposed to endthat partisan gerrymandering, requiring — among other changes —that cities like Cincinnati be left whole.

So when Republican state lawmakers released a map this week, they split Black voters another way: keeping all of Cincinnati together but combining it with distant, conservative White areas, and divvying up the remaining and diverse parts of Hamilton County between two other seats. The result: three districts in which Black Democratic voters are offset by White Republicans. Only one will probably be competitive.”

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“Pennsylvania House Republicans threaten to remove Lehigh County elections board unless it rescinds acceptance of undated ballots”

Ford Turner, The Morning Call

The actual ballot counting process will end up in the courts. Still, the threat to use impeachment is concerning. Some Republicans also threatened to impeach the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices who voted to hold partisan gerrymanders unconstitutional under the state constitution.

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