All posts by Tabatha Abu El-Haj

Primary Turnout is the Real Philadelphia Story

As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the most encouraging estimates are that turnout in Philadelphia’s mayoral race will be in the “200,000s or low 300,000s.” Based on competitiveness and Democratic registration advantage in the city, we can assume most of those votes will be cast in the Democratic primary, and split between four to five competitive candidates.

After reading this, I wanted some hard numbers on eligible voters in the city. The only easily available number is the number of registered Democrats in Philadelphia: 775,596 according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. The total number of registered voters in Philadelphia is 1,025,223, according to the same source. Using those numbers, I estimate that Philadelphia’s next Mayor is likely to have been decided by about 5-8% of the city’s registered voters–and that is probably an optimistic projection (one that is fairly close to the estimate offered by the political consultant quoted in the Inquirer).

The Philadelphia Inquirer concludes:

“If the total number of votes the nominee gets falls below 100,000 — a real possibility — that would be the lowest winning raw vote total since at least the 1970s and would represent less than 10% of all registered voters, according to an Inquirer analysis of past election data.”

I hate to say it but Philadelphia needs rank choice voting.

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“Lawmakers Sent Millions In Earmarks To Their Spouses’ Employers Despite Reforms”

The theme of corruption, or at least its appearance, continues in the New Gilded Age. This time it is Congress. The Messenger reports on a review of congressional earmarks since their return in 2021. Many had applauded the use of earmarks as a way to nudge lawmakers to compromise. The report does not address this aspect.

“[A]t least four members of Congress have sponsored millions in federal spending projects for organizations that employ their spouses over the last two years, a review by The Messenger encompassing more than 1,000 pages of congressional appropriations records has found. They include Reps. Pete Aguilar, Jason Crow, Mike Thompson and Sen. Tim Kaine.”

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New Issue: Fordham Law Voting Rights and Democracy Forum

Tired of the 24 hour news cycle? Check out the final issue of the inaugural Fordham Law’s Voting Rights and Democracy Forum. With articles written by both established scholars in the field and JD candidates, it is a refreshing change of pace. Richard Briffault argues that New York’s first round of independent redistricting was an “epic fail.

“In 2014, following passage in two successive legislatures, New York voters ratified amendments to the state constitution to change both the process and substantive rules governing the decennial redistricting of the state’s legislature and congressional delegation. . . . . Sadly, the new process employed in the 2022 redistricting was an epic fail. This Essay examines the first test of this new constitutional procedure and contends that the IRC, the state legislature, and the subsequent judicial intervention, all flunked it.”

Other crisp and timely articles in the volume include:

Voting Rights and the Electoral Process: Resolving Representation Issues Due to Felony Disenfranchisement and Prison Gerrymandering

Third Parties and the Electoral College: How Ranked Choice Voting Can Stop the Third-Party Disruptor Effect

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“Group Tied to Influential Conservative Activist Spent $183 Million in a Year”

N.Y. Times: New filings show that extent of spending by the Marble Freedom Trust, founded by Leonard A. Leo, on moving the federal judiciary to the right, among other things. Mr. Leo is a lawyer and former executive at the Federalist Society, who we recently learned arranged to pay tens of thousands of dollars to Ginni Thomas for consulting work while keeping her name off the paperwork.

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No Labels Sent Caution by Maine Secretary of State

Press Herald reports that the national organization of No Labels has been sent a cease and desist letter from the Secretary of State of Maine for misleading voters in their efforts to gain ballot access.

“’Over the past few months, municipal clerks have received reports from numerous Maine voters who did not realize that they had been enrolled in the No Labels Party,’ Bellows wrote. ‘These voters have provided similar accounts of how they came to be enrolled in the party: that they were approached by No Labels Party organizers in public places and asked to sign a “petition” to support the new party. These voters have further stated that No Labels organizers did not disclose – and the voters did not understand – that No Labels was asking them to change their party enrollment.'”

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The Coming Storm in depth on QAnon

I recently listed to this episode of the BBC’s “The Coming Storm” on the origins of QAnon and its connection to January 6. Many regular blog readers may have heard it already, but for those, who like me are not huge fans of in-depth stories about Trump, QAnon, and political conspiracies, I strongly recommend giving it a try. I found it hugely informative. The episode was recommended to me by trusted colleagues in the U.K. I decided to give it a try and particularly appreciated hearing two British journalists and their outsider take on the state of U.S. politics.

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“No Labels taking next steps in search for presidential candidates for third-party ticket”

Fox News reports that the emergent centrist, No Labels party will be forming a committee to start vetting potential presidential candidates.

“No Labels is aiming to get on the ballot in all 50 states in order to be in the position to possibly field a third party ticket next year if President Biden and former President Trump are the major party nominees in 2024.”

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“DeSantis wanted to rewrite press laws. Conservative media helped kill the effort.”

Recent years have seen an uptick in people worried that the standard set for defamation in New York Times v. Sullivan is too high. The decision, it is said with a good deal of truth, fosters reckless journalism and the dissemination of falsehoods. This Washington Post article on a recently defeated Florida bill to address these concerns statutorily might give some critics (myself included) pause. The defeated bill would have taken two significant steps toward making defamation suits easier to bring. First, it sought to narrow who qualifies as “a public figure” thereby granting more people a plausible path to a successful defamation case including against the press. Second, and perhaps more shockingly, it created a presumption that anonymous sources were false.

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“Election Law in Transition: A Discussion on Fairness, Integrity, and What’s Next”

I am very much looking forward to discussing the future of election law with Judge Restrepo, Michael R. Dimino, Rebecca Green, and Eugene D. Mazo this morning at the 2023 Third Circuit Judicial Conference in Philadelphia. We will be covering the gambit: Election Administration, the future of the Voting Rights Act, Moore v. Harper, and the future of American democracy.

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