Category Archives: political parties

“Michigan Republicans vote to remove chair Kristina Karamo as she promises not to accept result”

Politico:

Michigan Republicans have voted to remove state GOP Chair Kristina Karamo during a meeting Saturday after many of the party’s leaders called for her resignation following a year of leadership plagued by debt and infighting.

A large majority of those present voted to oust Karamo, said Bree Moeggenberg, District 2 state committee member.

Karamo did not attend the meeting and has made it clear she will not recognize the vote if removed, claiming the meeting was not official and had been illegally organized. The unfolding situation could set the stage for a court fight to determine control of the highest position within the Michigan GOP.

The internal dispute takes place as Michigan Republicans look to rebound from 2022 midterms in which they suffered historic losses. The party is aiming this year to flip an open U.S. Senate seat while also helping the Republican presidential nominee win the battleground state.

Michigan is among several swing states where parties overtaken by far-right leadership have struggled to overcome infighting and money issues. Similar situations have unfolded in Georgia and Arizona, which pose a significant issue in the 2024 presidential election where those states are poised to play pivotal roles.

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German Constitutional Court decision on state subsidies to political parties

Sam Issacharoff passes along this interesting January ruling from the German Constitutional Court. It found unconstitutional an increase in state subsidies to political parties on the grounds that the parties had an obligation to prove commitment from their constituents.  The hear of the holding:

The challenged provision does not satisfy the constitutional requirements for state financing of political parties. It violates the principle that political parties be sufficiently free from state interference because the legislator did not sufficiently substantiate during the legislative process that the parties’ need for additional funding that could not be met by their own funds necessitated an almost EUR 25 million increase in the absolute limit.

The case addresses a growing European concern that political parties living off of state funding become a bureaucratic extension of the state, rather than independent political organizations. The opinion is Parteienfinanzierung – Absolute Obergrenze 2 BvF 2/18 (24 January 2023).  The English summary and translation is available here.

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Mainwaring and Drutman on multiparty presidentialism

Scott Mainwaring (Notre Dame) and Lee Drutman (senior fellow at New America) have this new whitepaper at Protect Democracy, “The Case for Multiparty Presidentialism in the U.S.“:

For many Americans, anything besides our two-party electoral system is hard to imagine. Multiple parties and proportional representation, the main alternative, might seem more fitting for a parliamentary system than our presidential one. But the truth is, how a country elects its legislature and how it selects its executive are two separate decisions. Multiparty presidentialism — the system the United States would have if it adopted proportional representation — is common around the world.

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Indiana court finds law keeping Republican Senate candidate off primary ballot violates Anderson-Burdick, 17th Amendment

You can see the Marion County Superior Court’s decision in Rust v. Morales and commentary here. More commentary from the Indianapolis Star. The law requires primary candidates either (1) voted in that party’s past two primary elections or (2) received approval to run from the county party chair. John Rust voted in the Democratic primary in 2012. The court found that the law runs afoul of the Anderson-Burdick balancing test as placing an undue burden on the right to vote; that it violates the 17th Amendment, which guarantees that “the people” vote for Senators; and that it violates other state provisions of law.

I think, at least on federal law, the holdings are likely mistaken. Rick P. last year highlighted a challenge to a similar law in Tennessee, and he rightly emphasized the party’s right to affiliate with candidates, and to exclude candidates it prefers not to associate with. Here, Indiana Republicans do not want Rust to appear as a primary candidate, and they appear entirely comfortable with the state legal system in place. It is strange, then, that the court so readily assumes the candidate has a right to forcibly associate with a political party as a candidate on the ballot when the party has a mechanism to associate with the candidate but no desire to do so. Indeed, in Newsom v. Golden, a challenge to the Tennessee law, I think the court got it right. But these associational cases in political primaries are not very easy (related problems arose in Utah in 2018 in the 10th Circuit here and here), and we’ll see how the case proceeds on appeal (as I mentioned, the court found the law flunked several different tests, so it’s not clear how it plays out).

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RNC backs Donald Trump in ballot access dispute–when it didn’t back John McCain, Rick Perry, or Ted Cruz in years past

The Republican National Committee (joined by the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee) filed an amicus brief in support of Donald Trump in the Minnesota ballot access dispute. In one sense, I suppose, that’s not so remarkable–parties file briefs in support of the party’s candidates. And the RNC brief is filled with references about the important associational interests of the party at stake if a candidate is kept off the ballot. These outfits also has requested to participate in the Colorado litigation as amicus (no briefs filed yet, just the request, which I assume will include an argument similar to the one in Minnesota).

But it made me go back and check the RNC’s behavior in other recent cases where primary (and occasionally general) election presidential candidates faced significant litigation. As far as I can tell (and someone can correct me if I’m wrong), the RNC never got involved as intervenor or amicus. In 2008, when John McCain faced a flurry of challenges over whether he was a “natural born citizen,” the RNC didn’t formally participate in the litigation (except in the occasional case where the RNC was named a defendant alongside McCain). In 2012, when Rick Perry and a bevy of other Republican primary candidates failed to appear on the Virginia primary ballot and sued, the RNC likewise didn’t file any briefs in the case. The candidates lost on laches–so the candidates didn’t appear on the ballot, and the associational consequences were grave. And in 2016, when Ted Cruz faced a blitz of challenges over whether he was a “natural born citizen,” the RNC likewise didn’t participate. Cruz had to field the challenges on his own.

In fact, and relatedly, the RNC did not appear to participate in litigation when Trump faced a ballot access challenge in Minnesota in 2016, where the Republican Party of Minnesota needed to step in and defend the last-second addition of the Republican ticket on the state ballot.

Again, I might be missing a brief somewhere, and I’ll happily correct if so. But it struck me as a pretty significant change of behavior. Usually, the RNC has let the candidates fend for themselves in these matters, perhaps in some effort to appear neutral and particularly in the primaries–until this case.

Now, there are many reasons for such a change.

One is, of course, money. The massive cash infusions to political parties earmarked for election litigation may well mean there’s simply more money to spend on stuff like this.

Another is likelihood of success and severity. The party may well have viewed the threats to McCain and Cruz as insubstantial and opted not to spend resources. Perry, of course, faced a very serious consequence, but perhaps the party viewed involving itself in litigation as unfairly assisting a candidate (or viewed Perry as an insignificant candidate). But then that raises the question about whether it’s unfairly assisting a candidate at the expense of the rest of the Republican field. (And some of the challenges to McCain continued into the general election season, when the RNC’s interests would havebeen at their height.)

A third reason might be an overall change in strategy, a new desire to protect “serious” candidates more generally and intervening in litigation to protect their ballot access. (If Nikki Haley faces any “natural born citizen” challenges this cycle, for instance, one would expect the RNC would intervene.)

But a fourth reason is a narrower version of this third reason fed by the second–some sense that the RNC views it as uniquely important to protect Trump’s candidacy, when it has not protected other candidacies in recent years. (And it’s an interesting wrinkle to see the NRSC and NRCC get involved, when no congressional candidates are at issue here, only more abstract associational interests–and, as the NRCC did not get involved in Section 3 challenges to Madison Cawthorn or Marjorie Taylor Greene in the 2022 cycle.)

I can only speculate as to whether these, or other, circumstances resulted in the change of approach. But it’s certainly a break from the recent past in these cases. And it offers litigation assistance to Trump who, as a candidate, would be spending more of his campaign’s resources in the litigation, as candidates like McCain, Perry, and Cruz had to do in the past. That is, in a sense, a material advantage the RNC is providing to Trump that serves to help him–and help that comes at the expense of other challengers like Haley and Ron DeSantis, who face a Trump candidacy with cash advantages backed by the RNC.

Again, there are many possible reasons for the changes, and perhaps I’m missing some formal RNC involvement in past litigation, but it did make me take note about a change in approach.

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“The Way Nevada Will Pick the GOP Presidential Nominee Is a Mess; Dueling caucus and primary confuse voters”

WSJ:

In January, roughly half a million Republican voters in Nevada will receive presidential primary ballots in the mail. Former President Donald Trump’s name won’t be on them. 

The omission is part of a tussle that has ripped open the state’s Republican party and diminished the influence of Nevada in early presidential nominating contests. State GOP officials have opted to ignore the state-mandated primary and will instead host an in-person caucus in early February where Trump is expected to rack up enough delegates to win Nevada, a strategy that his opponents see as aiding the front-runner’s candidacy. 

The unorthodox nominating process has left Republican voters here frustrated and confused. The primary ballots they get in the mail will allow them to choose between former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and two candidates who have dropped out of the race: former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.). Its outcome is moot since the primary winner won’t accrue any delegates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and several others will instead compete against Trump in the caucus since he and other candidates are forbidden from running in both contests, though voters can participate in each format. 

The result is the battleground state has squandered its chance to capitalize on its plum No. 3 spot on the nominating calendar. Unlike in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where campaigns have large teams and candidates are constantly visiting, the top candidates besides Trump are largely ignoring Nevada and have shrunk their campaign footprints in the state.

“It just looked confusing in Nevada,” Haley, a former United Nations ambassador, said in an interview in Iowa when asked about the campaign’s decision to participate in Nevada’s primary despite not being able to earn delegates. She and DeSantis are vying to be the Trump alternative.

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State power and the Term Limits v. Thornton problem in Anderson v. Griswold

The bulk of the analysis in Anderson v. Griswold, which held that Donald Trump can appear on the primary ballot in Colorado, has been a matter I’ve been puzzling this weekend. Most of the opinion is not essential to the holding–that is, most of the legal analysis in the opinion concludes that Trump engaged in insurrection (but nevertheless may appear on the ballot). (Rick H. rightly notes earlier that it’s a reason it has “political implications” as the legal implications remain to be seen.)

There are ordinary reasons (e.g., trial courts include alternative or “non-essential” holdings in judicial cases to allow for a better appellate review that might avoid further litigation in the event of a reversal) and cynical reasons (e.g., trial courts want to reach a particular factual conclusion but not issue a particular remedy in a case and choose to discuss both) for such dicta. I don’t want to psychoanalyze in this post.

Instead, I think a reason I’ve been puzzled, on reflection, is because the court made a mistake in how it approached the jurisdictional component: does state law even authorize this kind of judicial review? Viewed through a lens of cases like U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, I think the error in the court’s framing becomes evident.

Continue reading State power and the Term Limits v. Thornton problem in Anderson v. Griswold
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“The New Hampshire Primary Will Be Jan. 23”

NYT:

New Hampshire’s presidential primary will be held Jan. 23, state officials announced on Wednesday.

The date had been in contention since the Democratic National Committee decided earlier this year to change its nominating calendar, which had long given New Hampshire the first primary slot after the Iowa caucuses. The new Democratic calendar puts South Carolina first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada together on one day, then Georgia, then Michigan.

But New Hampshire officials have made clear that they will refuse to abide by the D.N.C.’s decision. The state has a law requiring it to hold the first-in-the-nation primary, and additionally, the Republican Party still has the state in its traditional position in the early lineup of Iowa first, New Hampshire second, and then South Carolina and Nevada….

Because New Hampshire is violating the D.N.C.’s edict, President Biden did not put his name on the ballot there. Some of his supporters are running a write-in campaign on his behalf, but it is not officially sanctioned. Party leaders could also penalize the state by refusing to count its delegates at the Democratic convention.

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“MAGA-dominated state Republican parties plagued by infighting, money woes”

WaPo:

In Arizona, the state GOP chairman has been begging the Republican National Committee for a financial bailout. Michigan party officials have gotten into physical fights as their finances have dipped into the red. And in Georgia, the state party is in a standoff with the Republican governor and saddled with legal fees for alternate electors put forward in 2020.

In each of these 2024 battlegrounds, election denial and grassroots fervor for former president Donald Trump have rocked the Republican apparatus.Now, the state parties are plagued by infighting, struggling to raise money and sometimes to cover legal costs stemming from Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 defeat — threatening to hamper GOP organizing capabilities in next year’s presidential election.

“There has been an emphasis on ideological cleansing instead of electioneering,” said John Watson, the Georgia GOP chairman from 2017 to 2019. “If those new entrants to the party want to argue the earth is flat and the election is stolen, those are counterproductive to winning elections.”

State parties are typically critical in election years for mobilizing volunteers and running get-out-the-vote efforts, and they can collect larger checks or buy cheaper airtime than other groups. Those functions are now in doubt as the fissures fuel finger-pointing and competition for donor dollars. Even as more experienced leaders have taken the reins in some cases, they are struggling to undo some of the damage from MAGA-aligned predecessors and deal with continued pressure from the movement.

The transformation in these key states is the result of a coordinated movement, sometimes called the “Precinct Strategy.” Former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon and other MAGA influencers have promoted the effort in the past three years to slot election deniers into local party positions and demand new leadership. In local and state parties across the country, operatives and local officials say the makeup of state party leadership has changed.

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“The No Labels Party’s Radical New Plan to Force a Contingent Election”

Third Way memo (via Playbook):

Since they launched their third-party presidential effort last year, the No Labels Party has repeated a central refrain: “our bipartisan ticket, led either by a Democrat or a Republican, will not be a spoiler—we are in this to win.” But that has now changed. No Labels has made clear that their new plan is to put a Republican at the top of their ticket. And because they can’t win the presidency outright, they’ve indicated that their intention now is to exercise leverage over the winner by denying both major parties 270 Electoral College Votes (ECVs). That radical new plan would ensure a second Trump term.

None of this is speculation. No Labels put out a chart based on their new polling that shows their candidate (from either party) can’t win and would be a spoiler helping Trump. The New York Times reported they are intending to nominate a Republican. And their Chief Strategist said in an interview (supported by a No Labels explainer) that they are interested in denying the major party candidates 270 ECVs, thereby throwing the election to the House of Representatives.

Here’s the evidence—based entirely on things No Labels has written and said—of their radical shift in strategy and the dire consequences for the country. This is a new path for their third-party effort, but the destination would be the same: the election of Donald Trump….

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Resurfacing–Mississippi and LA organizing stories

The 24-hour news cycle is brutal even on the Election Law Blog, so I want to use the relative quiet of the weekend to re-surface those articles that I “highly recommend”–to borrow Larry Solum’s phrase.

“Black Voters Have New Power in Mississippi. Can They Elect a Democrat?” First, I just have not been following this election. Second, the story surfaces the long hold of Mississippi’s 1890 disenfranchising constitution on the state’s politics. And third, it strikes me that the very question of whether black voters in Mississippi will turnout for Democrats in the state depends on how the Democratic Party approaches them. How involved will the state’s civil rights group be in knocking on doors? Will any listening occur to concerns beyond Medicaid expansion? And will the party look to build organizational capacity or is this a one-shot voter turnout effort?

The interview with Los Angeles City Council Member Nithya Raman on Our Body Politic. There is just so much in this interview. But probably what struck me most was the description of Raman’s efforts to create a constituency among renters–low-turnout (maybe even apolitical, independent) voters.

“On renters issues in a city where housing and security is an important issue, I was the first candidate who spoke to renters.”

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House hobbled. Can we call it a crisis of governance yet? And is the Republican Party really a party anymore?

House Republicans vote to drop Jim Jordan as speaker nominee.” And to be frank, we should be glad of that. As Representative Pete Aguilar said on Tuesday, elevating Jim Jordan, “a vocal election denier and an insurrection insider to the Speaker of this house” would have been “a terrible message to the country and our allies.” It would have sent a “troubling message . . . that the very people who would seek to undermine democracy are rewarded with positions of immense power.” That said, three weeks into the speakership crisis, I am left wondering: Is a party that can win office but is unable to mediate conflicting personalities, goals, and priorities when they hold a legislative majority, really a party at all?

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“Third Party Candidates Shouldn’t Get Their Hopes Up”

Andy Craig offers a thorough explanation of why a random third party run is unlikely to be successful, even if the candidate has name recognition and some popularity. Think Joe Manchin or Larry Hogan. Craig could have gone further: It is a stretch to call “No Labels, a would-be centrist third party.” The group is incorporated, funded, and may manage to get on the ballot in all 50 states. It is also apparently supported by a number of Republican elites, men and women (but mostly men) deposed by their party. But it is hardly a party. Unlike the Republican Party that brought Lincoln to power, it lacks party “organization” in any real sense. It lacks partisan boots on the ground, local party organizations, civic allies with ties to ordinary citizens and, most importantly, voters.

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