Monthly Archives: August 2018

“Once Bipartisan, an Election Security Bill Collapses in Rancor”


The purpose of the bill seemed unassailable: to ensure that state officials could protect their elections against the kind of hacking or interference that has clouded the 2016 campaign.

Although it started out backed by election integrity advocates and powerful senators from both parties, the Secure Elections Act has now all but collapsed.

Lawmakers modified one of the bill’s key provisions after hearing relentless complaints from state officials, prompting many of its advocates to pull their support. Then last week delivered what one of the bill’s co-sponsors called “the gut punch” — the formal meeting to draft the bill before sending it to the floor was abruptly postponed, and the White House offered a statement critical of the legislation later that same day.

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NC: “Judges say Cooper — not lawmakers — can control certain boards”

News and Observer:

A three-judge panel has expanded Gov. Roy Cooper’s authority to make certain appointments, the latest step in a separation-of-powers struggle that began when then-Gov. Pat McCrory sued the General Assembly in 2016.

Cooper sued in May 2017 challenging the constitutionality of the legislature appointing the majority of members to certain boards and commissions. In some cases the legislature gave itself that authority. In other cases, Cooper argued, the legislature should have changed the membership of some existing boards to reflect rulings by the state Supreme Court.

The three state Superior Court judges in a ruling filed Friday noted that the Supreme Court in the lawsuit brought by McCrory said the General Assembly had overstepped its authority.


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“Lobbyist Illegally Helped Russian Buy Trump Inauguration Tickets”


An American lobbyist who worked with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs pleaded guilty on Friday to failing to register as an agent of a foreign power and disclosed to prosecutors that he helped a Russian political operative and a Ukranian businessman illegally purchase four tickets to President Trump’s inauguration.

Prosecutors disclosed that the inauguration tickets were worth $50,000 and were purchased with funds that flowed through a Cypriot bank account. Prosecutors did not name the foreigners involved. However, the tickets were purchased for Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a Russian political operative believed to have ties to a Russian intelligence agency, and a Ukranian oligarch.

The lobbyist, Sam Patten, also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of his plea agreement. He could provide prosecutors insight into a range of activity and individuals relevant to the special counsel investigation, as well as connections between Mr. Trump, his associates and Russia.

Prosecutors said they would not bring additional charges against Mr. Patten for giving false statements to and obstructing the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee, which questioned Mr. Patten on Jan. 18, is among the congressional panels that are conducting investigations into Russia’s election interference.

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“Father of Alison Lundergan Grimes indicted in campaign finance conspiracy”

Longtime Kentucky Democratic operatives Jerry Lundergan and Dale Emmons were indicted by a federal grand jury in Lexington Friday for allegedly making illegal contributions to the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and then conspiring to cover them up.

Emmons was indicted on six counts and Lundergan was indicted on 10 counts after investigators found they “willingly and knowingly” made corporate contributions of more than $25,000 to Grimes’ campaign and then worked to cover up the contributions.

The indictment alleges that Lundergan and an employee of his company approached campaign consultants and vendors and told them to bill S.R. Holding Co. for work they did for his daughter’s campaign. The company paid those bills and then allegedly did not seek reimbursement from Grimes’ campaign. After a grand jury subpoenaed records from Lundergan in 2016, the company still only sought partial reimbursement, according to the indictment.

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Breaking: Common Cause, League of Women Voters, and NC Democratic Party Oppose Redrawing North Carolina Congressional Districts for 2018, All But Assuring It Won’t Happen

Got to give a lot of credit to these groups for making this conclusion, given the national stakes of fixing the partisan gerrymander in North Carolina’s congressional districts:

The Court asked the parties to “file briefs addressing whether [it] should allow the State to conduct any future elections using the 2016 Plan,” including specifically the November 6, 2018 general election for members of the House of Representatives. Mem. Op., Dkt. 142, p. 290. After careful consultation, particularly with the institutional clients Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the North Carolina Democratic Party, plaintiffs have reluctantly concluded that—on the unique facts presented here—attempting to impose a new districting plan in time for the 2018 election would be too disruptive and potentially counterproductive….

First, plaintiffs have considered the time that the map-drawing process would take and the uncertainty that would persist in the meantime. Whether the new plan is drawn by a special master or the General Assembly, creation of a new plan and its approval by this Court will take some weeks. For instance, if the plan is designed by the General Assembly, this Court has given the General Assembly until September 17, 2018 to draw a new map and has ordered the disclosure “soon after” that date of materials that bear on the fairness of that exercise. Mem. Op., Dkt. 142, pp. 292-93. Assuming the General Assembly meets the Court’s September 17 deadline, it would take a few days thereafter for the General Assembly to make its disclosure and for plaintiffs to consider those materials and file objections. The Court would then need a short time to consider the new plan and any objections, and either approve that plan or select instead one drawn by the special master. With that September 17 deadline, this process could not realistically be completed before October 1, 2018—at which point, there will be just five weeks before Election Day, and even less time before early voting is set to commence. Only then, once the new plan is approved, would candidates be able to declare themselves for the new districts and begin their campaigns. And only then would voters be able to be educated about the different candidates and their positions, which will be a particularly challenging exercise when voters change districts as a result of a new plan. In addition, while all of this is taking place, the Legislative Defendants would no doubt seek a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. They have already informed plaintiffs in writing that they believe that the mere appointment of a special master “would constitute an abuse of the [C]ourt’s discretion,” and that “[i]f the [C]ourt appoints a special master, [they] will immediately appeal and seek a stay of any such order.” While plaintiffs vigorously disagree, they are mindful that, when this Court issued its ruling in January 2018, the Legislative Defendants sought, and obtained, a stay. At that juncture, there was ample time for the new court-ordered plan to be created and implemented in advance of the 2018 primary and general elections. Even so, the Supreme Court order granting the stay generated only two noted dissents, from Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor. With the 2018 election now so much closer, plaintiffs cannot comfortably predict a different outcome. This could create a situation in which this Court orders a new map to govern on Election Day 2018, candidates and officeholders begin to act in reliance on that order, and the Supreme Court intervenes, changing the rules yet again.

With a Justice Kavanaugh on the Court by the time the Supreme Court reaches the merits, I expect there will never be a remedy for the partisan gerrymandering of these congressional districts.

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“Data collected by Trump’s Kobach-led voter fraud commission is ‘entirely deleted’”

KC Star:

Nearly eight months after President Donald Trump disbanded his election integrity commission because it was tangled up in lawsuits over its request for voters’ personal data, the information has been destroyed and the cases have been dismissed.

Trump’s administration notified plaintiffs in one lawsuit against the commission Wednesday that personal voter data requested by the commission once led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had been destroyed. The case, brought by Democracy Forward Foundation, was then dismissed

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“High Court Affirms Decision Kicking Candidate Off Ballot for Not Specifying Her Gender”

New York Law Journal:

The New York Court of Appeals has kicked a candidate for member of the New York State Democratic Committee off the September primary ballot for failing to explicitly state she is a woman.

Penny Mintz, who was running to be the female member of the committee in the 66th State Assembly District, will officially not appear on the ballot next month. The decision, which was split 5-2, affirmed an opinion by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead and the Appellate Division, First Department….

There are two positions for member of the State Democratic Committee in the district. One is reserved for a woman and the other is reserved for a man. Mintz, who identifies as a woman, was running for the female position.Only, Mintz did not say so on her petitions, according to the decision. She did not specify whether she was seeking the male or female slot.A section of election law allows state committees to create a rule requiring an equal representation of sexes on that committee. The court said in its one-paragraph opinion that the rule also requires candidates for members of that committee to specify which position they are seeking, whether female or male.


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Should the Three Judge Court Order Ranked Choice Voting for 2018 in North Carolina Partisan Gerrymandering Case?

David Daley:

It’s a necessary step if North Carolina wants a congressional delegation that reflects the state’s closely divided nature. Without this action, it would be easy for Republicans to exploit the slow-moving legal process, appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and likely maintain a 10-3 advantage in the U.S. House through 2020.

This bold move would also create challenges. Both parties have selected candidates. Nominees have spent months competing for votes. Would a new map require entirely new nominees from entirely new districts? Would the same candidates run in the new districts with the same numbers? The court suggested the general election could be turned into a “do-over” primary using new maps, with another election after that.

There is a better solution that would not require new primaries, or force a low-turnout, high-stakes special election amidst holiday distractions. North Carolina should adopt ranked choice voting for this November’s congressional elections.

Read more here:
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Three-Judge Redistricting Court Orders Texas Redistricting in One District After Supreme Court Remand, Orders Further Briefing on Bailing Texas Back into Coverage Under the VRA

Here is the order (via Alexa Ura). The district ordered redrawn is the sole district the three-judge court found illegal and that was affirmed by the Supreme Court in Abbott v. Perez.

I’m skeptical about the potential for bail-in of Texas, for reasons I gave in this Slate piece.

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“Michigan ‘Ballot Selfie’ Case to Proceed with Voting Rights Claim”


U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff denied a motion by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to dismiss a voting rights claim against the state’s ballot exposure laws today. The lawsuit, brought by the Pillar of Law Institute on behalf of Michigan resident Joel Crookston, argues he has a constitutional right to take a photograph of his own marked ballot and share it on social media—known as a “ballot selfie.”

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