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!
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.
WaPo with a profile of Maricopa Supervisor Bill Gates, and the extraordinary pressures on local officials when grifters drive the fever dream of conspiracy viral.
One of the pieces of the “and more” finding some initial bipartisan support in Wisconsin: Kenosha News notes a welcome provision to let the state pick up the tab for special elections for state offices. Local elections departments need all the budgetary help they can get.
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?
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.
Oregon Public Broadcasting has a deeper dive.
who is (among many other professional accomplishments) a former election law professor, and now the most recent Ninth Circuit judge.
And yet, there’s a lot more to be done. NCSL has more on a disturbing trend that should be of concern to every single one of its members.
And good for Kansas SOS Scott Schwab for speaking up here (and about drop boxes, and about grace periods for mail, etc.).
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.
Some insight into the economics of media buys, and the potential for profit therein.
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.
And really, congrats to the USC Gould Law community. Franita’s the latest thoughtful scholar of democracy (and the third ELB contributor (!), joining Heather and Dan) to step further into law school leadership, and you love to see it.