Billionaires are bankrolling the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign to an unprecedented degree, with at least 40 of the wealthiest Americans plowing $60 million into super PACs aligned with the top tier of candidates.
Eric Lichtblau for the NYT:
Acting as shadow campaigns, the political committees backing the major presidential candidates supported them with tens of millions of dollars in chartered planes, luxury hotel suites, opposition research, high-priced lawyers and more, spending reports showed Friday.
Campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission underscored just how far the candidates — particularly Jeb Bush — went in outsourcing many of their traditional campaign operations to “super PACs,” which face much looser regulation.
The super PACs, which have dominated the fund-raising landscape so far in the 2016 campaign, reported that they had raised a total of at least $245 million so far this year, with individual donations of a million dollars or more to Mr. Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and others.
Thomas Farr, one of the state’s attorneys, said in closing arguments that the plaintiffs had not presented any evidence that the law is racially discriminatory. He said North Carolina legislators have the authority to enact changes to election law.
Schroeder asked Farr what the justification was in making the election law changes. State Republican legislators said publicly they wanted to restore public confidence in the election system and stamp out potential voter fraud.
There is no evidence of widespread in-person voter fraud in North Carolina or nationally. An expert for the plaintiffs testified that North Carolina had only two verified cases of voter fraud out of 35 million votes cast in primary and presidential elections between 2000 and 2014.
Farr pointed to public statements made by state legislators but also added that state Republican legislators had no obligation to offer justification for House Bill 589. Alexander Peters, another of the state’s attorneys, said this case was about policy changes that North Carolina legislators have the authority to make. He said those changes might cause some burdens on voters but that the law is constitutional and not racist.
Farr argued that the law put North Carolina in the mainstream with the rest of the country. How can House Bill 589 be discriminatory if a significant number of states don’t have such voting practices, such as same-day voter registration, Farr asked.
Erik Eckholm for the NYT:
During closing arguments Friday, Judge Schroeder,who was appointed by President George W. Bush, peppered the plaintiffs’ lawyers with questions about why the repeal of extra voting opportunities that do not exist in many states would be illegal.
But he also pressed the state’s lawyers on what motivated legislators to make the sudden changes to a system that seemed to be popular and working well. “They made voting easier and that’s a good thing,” he said of the measures that were trimmed or repealed.
His ruling is not expected for many weeks and is almost certain to be appealed, perhaps as far as the Supreme Court.
The first report of Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s Super PAC, made public Friday, reveals for the first time, election lawyers say, just how much the group, Right to Rise, functioned as a kind of shadow campaign for Bush.
The group shelled out $5.4 million from January through June for all the workaday line items, from travel to catering to political consulting, that have traditionally been paid for by candidates’ campaign committees.
This is key in NC voting trial:
U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder interrupted Daniel Donovan, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, several times during his two-hour closing argument, asking him pointed questions about the case.
One of Schroeder’s main questions was centered on what evidence the plaintiffs had that the law placed burdens on racial minorities. Plaintiffs have argued that blacks use same-day voter registration, early voting and out-of-precinct provisional voting at higher rates than whites and that disproportionate use is connected to socio-economic and historical conditions. For example, blacks are more likely to move and thus more likely to end up in the wrong precinct on Election Day. They also are more likely to work lower-wage jobs and might not be able to have the flexibility to get off to vote and thus may use early voting at disproportionate rates.
Schroeder asked whether these were merely conveniences and pointed out several times that other states, such as New York, don’t have many of these provisions. He said would it be a Section 2 violation if North Carolina never had these provisions at all. Would it be a Section 2 violation if they were put in place to increase access specifically to black voters, Schroeder asked.
Donovan said that would be the wrong way to look at the issue. The provisions were passed to benefit everyone but blacks use them at a disproportionate rate, and Section 2 prohibits election laws that have a disproportionately negative impact on racial minorities, he said.
Donovan also argued that it doesn’t matter what other states do because Schroeder has to base his decision on the past history and the present reality in North Carolina.
In remarks for an ABA speech today, in the context of a discussion of the Arizona redistricting case:
Justice Stevens is much more full of praise for Chief Justice Roberts, who he says decides cases based on what he thinks the law is rather than his personal preferences.
Michael Hewlett reports for the Winston-Salem Journal.
Kudos to them for their indispensable coverage of the North Carolina voting rights trial.
I have written this post for The Monkey Cage at WaPo. It begins:
In a Winston-Salem, N.C. federal courthouse, closing arguments are taking place this morning in a hotly-contested trial over North Carolina’s restrictive voting law. The U.S. Department of Justice and civil rights groups say that the 2013 law, passed by a Republican legislature over the objections of Democrats, violates the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. The state defends its law as necessary to prevent voter fraud and keep public confidence in the electoral process.
As the New York Times explained, “The contested measures reduced early voting days, ended same-day registration, ended out-of-precinct voting and halted the preregistration of 16- and 17-year-old high school students. These measures had been adopted in the past 15 years to increase voter participation and were disproportionately used by black, Hispanic and younger voters.”
Since the Voting Rights Act passed 50 years ago — on Aug. 6, 1965 — there have been many legal disputes over the extent of court protection for minority voting. The outcome of this one, like many cases before it, may depend upon how well murky law matches up with political science evidence.
Judge Schroeder could well be faced with a situation where plaintiffs have trouble proving the law will have a large discriminatory effect on African-American voters, but also ample evidence that North Carolina had no good reason antifraud or voter confidence reason for passing this law. The law was probably intended to help Republicans — who are overwhelmingly supported by white voters and not African-Americans in North Carolina — stay in office.
With this evidence and a murky legal standard, it is unclear what Judge Schroeder will do, but he was skeptical of plaintiffs’ case at an earlier stage of the case, denying a preliminary injunction against some of these practices.
Whatever Judge Schroeder decides, the North Carolina case could well end up before the Supreme Court. And if the history of the Supreme Court’s cases over 50 years of the Voting Rights Act is any guide, the fate of North Carolina’s law may depend less upon the political science evidence before the Court and more on the Justices’ ideological commitments and beliefs about the appropriate scope of voting protections for minorities.
It is tempting to think of the plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbott as conservatives. After all, the brainchildbehind this new “one person, one vote” lawsuit, Ed Blum and his Project on Fair Representation, brought us the demise of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder case and continued attacks on affirmative action in the second coming of theFisher case. But the theory the Evenwel plaintiffs pursue is anything but conservative: it is about taking power away from the states and having the Supreme Court overturn precedent by imposing through judicial fiat a one-size-fits-all version of democratic theory unsupported by the text of the Constitution or historical practice. Evenwel should be seen for what it is: not a conservative case but an attempted Republican power grab in Texas and other jurisdictions with large Latino populations.
Evenwel is a case which should be equally disturbing for conservatives and liberals. For conservatives, it is a case which challenges existing precedent for no reason, undermines federalism concerns, and goes against constitutional text, history and practice. For liberals, the case looks like little more than a Republican power grab, seeking to have the Court take away discretion for states in an arena in which states should have some leeway in deciding on the appropriate means of equal representation. It forces states to draw districts under a court-mandated theory that those without the vote, including children, felons, and non-citizens, do not deserve representations in state legislatures.
This is the rare case where liberals and conservatives can unite behind the state of Texas. Texas has properly asked the Supreme Court to leave the “one person, one vote” question where it has resided for almost fifty years: with the states.
I excerpt it in this post at The Monkey Cage:
North Carolina passed its 2013 restrictive voting law just a month afterShelby. So is the change connected to is history of race discrimination? Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende, testifying as an expert political analyst for North Carolina, noted that seven other states besides North Carolina had no same-day registration, no out-of-precinct voting, less than 17 days of early voting, no preregistration, and a photo ID requirement—all five changes that were being challenged. Many states lacked one, two or three of these voting rules. But only eight states lacked all five. That testimony led to a very interesting exchange with ACLU lawyer Dale Ho, representing the plaintiffs, on cross-examination:
Ho: Could you read those eight states into the record, please?
Trende: Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Ho: Now, according to your opinion in this case, these eight states are in the mainstream; correct, Mr. Trende?
Trende: With respect to the voting practices at issue in this case, yes.
Ho: Now, it is true, is it not, Mr. Trende, that all eight of these states, with the exception of Tennessee, were at one point covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act?
Trende: I do not know.
Ho of course was right that these seven were former preclearance states, suggesting that the vestiges of intentional racial discrimination still linger 50 years after the Voting Rights Act’s passage, something Trende did not factor into his analysis.
Under fire once again for lapses in oversight of Florida’s voter database and lax communication, Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official says he’ll “over-communicate” in the future.
For embattled Secretary of State Ken Detzner, it’s an all-too-familiar refrain as he tries to improve his strained relationships with county election supervisors, who depend on a reliable database as they tabulate votes in Florida elections.