Category Archives: election law biz

Sending Healing Thoughts and Strength to Gerry Hebert

Our friend Gerry Hebert, with a long and distinguished career in voting rights at the Department of Justice and at the Campaign Legal Center (not to mention his role as “Bailout King“), is ill with brain cancer. Jerry is a very fine lawyer and teacher, and an even finer human being. I wish him a full and speedy recovery so that he can get back to mentoring the next generation of voting rights lawyers.

I learned of Gerry’s illness when I spoke to him yesterday, and he told me how much he appreciates all of the words of encouragement that have been sent his way during his treatment. You can learn more about Gerry’s progress and condition by reading his latest Caring Bridge entry.

We wish you all the best Gerry!

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“Michael Berman, Democratic strategist and force in California politics, dies”


Michael Berman, who shaped California politics for generations as the mastermind of Los Angeles’ vaunted “Berman-Waxman Political Machine,” died Friday. He was 75.

Berman burst onto the political scene before he was old enough to vote, running Henry Waxman’s first campaign for the state Legislature in 1968 and helping to unseat Democrat Lester A. McMillan, who had represented the Westside for 26 years. But it wasn’t his age or the long-shot win that earned Berman notice, it was his new approach: devising a plan with UCLA sociologist Howard Elinson to harness demographic data to target where campaign mailers should be sent for maximum impact.

Those micro-targeted mailers forever changed how races are won in California and remain standard political operating procedure. Berman used the same approach to carry his brother, Howard Berman, to the Legislature in 1972 over another longtime incumbent. While Michael Berman remained behind the scenes, his methods propelled Howard Berman and Waxman to the top of the political firmament — and kept them there for decades.

The Waxman-Berman Machine, as the trio would begrudgingly be known, became a powerful force that helped elect a network of allies who wielded enormous influence in Sacramento and Washington….

In the 1970s and 1980s, Michael Berman was the go-to expert in redistricting, the once-a-decade process of creating new political maps after each census. He was instrumental in mapping congressional districts that helped Democrats expand their majority. Those methods were not without controversy: Critics said Berman’s strategies manipulated political levers to create safe congressional districts for allies at the cost of fair representation for constituents.

Friends said Berman was a brilliant and blunt Democratic consultant who helped make generations of political careers in the state.

Condolences to his family and friends.

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Two important discussions on Wednesday next week

On May 10, Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs is hosting The Profession of Democracy: Election Administration and State Associations.

Elections administrators, the people who referee our democracy, are literally and figuratively under threat. Long hours, harassment, malicious open records requests, hyper partisanship – these and other factors are driving people out of elections administration. How do we attract and retain people willing to make a career of elections administration while meeting the training and collegial demands of a more professionalized workforce? The Certificate in Election Administration’s spring conference will explore the state of election administration professionalism, the role state associations play in the development of a vibrant, resilient field, and national and state-specific training programs that can help drive the profession forward.

Same time, different channel: also on May 10, the Bipartisan Policy Center and National Capital Area Political Science Association host Trust Issues: Examining Declining Confidence in Political Institutions.

Trust is a keystone of institutions, but that keystone is increasingly weak. Across nearly all institutions—government, business, media, religion—trust is at an all-time low, with no shortage of polls showing the continuing decline.

According to Pew Research Center, only 21% of Americans recently said they trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” or “most of the time.” Can these trends be reversed or are our democratic institutions stuck cursing the storm?

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Arizona Supreme Court sanctions Kari Lake’s attorneys

Hot off the press: an order by the Arizona Supreme Court sanctioning Kari Lake’s attorneys for false factual statements to the court.

I believe this is at least the second sanctions order issued against Kurt Olsen related to false statements in Lake’s litigation over the 2022 election, after this scathing order from Arizona’s federal court.

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“Roy Saltman, election expert who warned of hanging chads, dies at 90”


Roy G. Saltman, who as the federal government’s top expert on voting technology wrote a prescient butlittle-read report warning about hanging chads on punch-card ballots more than a decade before the issue paralyzed the nation during the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, died April 21 at a nursing home in Rockville, Md. He was 90.

The cause was complications from several recent strokes, said his grandson Max Saltman.

Like legions of Washington bureaucrats who are vital figures in their narrow fields but largely unknown to the wider public, Mr. Saltman toiled in obscurity for decades at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where he wrote several reports examining the history of voting devices and the problems with them.

In a 132-page report published in 1988, Mr. Saltman detailed how hanging chads — the tiny pieces of cardboard that sometimes aren’t totally punched out on ballots — had plagued several recent elections, including a 1984 race for property appraiser in Palm Beach County, Fla.

“It is recommended,” Mr. Saltman wrote, “that the use of pre-scored punch card ballots be ended.”

As with many recommendations issued from the bowels of thefederal bureaucracy, Mr. Saltman’s report was paid little to no attention.

Twelve years later, chaos erupted in Florida.

The presidential race between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush ended in a lengthy recount during which election officials spent weeks examining hanging chads. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ended the process, handing the presidency to Bush.

By then, Mr. Saltman’s earlier report was being discussed at congressional hearings and on think tank panels examining what went wrong in Florida.

“It has always puzzled me why my report never got a wider acceptance,” he told USA Today in 2001. “It takes a crisis to move people, and it shouldn’t have.”

Condolences to his family and friends.

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“NEWS: DNC cuts ties with Dem super lawyer Elias”


The Democratic National Committee is parting ways with Democratic super lawyer Marc Elias, multiple sources told us Tuesday.

The DNC and Elias had a number of strategic disagreements, according to sources familiar with the internal deliberations.

Elias has represented the DNC since 2009. His firm, the Elias Law Group, represents all of the major Democratic entities in Washington. Elias will continue to work for the DCCC, DSCC, DAGA and DLCC. And Elias counts a slew of senators and members as clients.

Most notably, Elias, a former partner at Perkins Coie, has been behind what he calls the “Democracy Docket” — an array of voting rights challenges nationwide. On Tuesday, Elias said this covered 45 cases in 18 states. And Elias has a knack for winning these cases, raising the ire of Republicans.

Elias’ firm has pulled in roughly $100,000 this year already from the DNC, according to FEC filings. In the 2022 cycle, the DNC paid Elias’ firm just shy of $2 million, according to campaign reports.

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“Georgia lawmakers add to the growing list of bans on outside election funding”

NPR reports on the latest measures

The real kicker is the last sentence, though: “Georgia lawmakers declined to add the $4 million to replace the [backup power supply] equipment and many of Raffensperger’s other requests in either budget approved this legislative session.”

As I’ve said repeatedly, relying on charity to fund elections should never be Plan A.  But desperately-needed funding has to come from somewhere.  Election spending is infrastructure.  And legislatures that cut off private support at the same time that they refuse to authorize public spending shouldn’t be surprised when the bridge they use to get to work is the bridge that gives out.   

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