Monthly Archives: May 2019

“The New Trove of Secret Gerrymandering Files Will Be a Nightmare for the GOP”

Mark Joseph Stern for Slate:

There are sure to be more revelations from the Hofeller files to come, driving home the downside of using a single consultant to mastermind redistricting across multiple states and decades.

For years, Hofeller held an office at the Republican National Committee on Capitol Hill. He worked as both its official redistricting director and, later, as a paid consultant. He traveled the country to teach Republican lawmakers how to gerrymander their districts to create permanent GOP legislative majorities. (Ironically, he incorporated warningsabout keeping all of this work under wraps, like “Make sure your security is real,” “Make sure your computer is in a PRIVATE location,” and “The ‘e’ in email stands for ‘eternal.’ ”) Hofeller also personally helped to draw some of the country’s most egregiously gerrymandered maps, including those in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. (He likely had a hand in more maps than we currently know.) But Hofeller devoted the most time to North Carolina, where he created lopsided Republican majorities in a state evenly divided between the parties.

Following the 2010 red wave, Hofeller worked with the RNC to develop Project REDMAP, a sweeping initiative to help GOP-controlled state houses build durable gerrymanders. He taught lawmakers how to use racial and partisan data to dilute Democratic votes. His maps preserved Republicans’ House majority over the next three elections and maintained GOP domination over most state legislatures.
Now Hofeller’s records are in the hands of attorneys for Common Cause, the voting rights group suing to invalidate North Carolina’s Hofeller-designed legislative gerrymander. The firm representing Common Cause, Arnold & Porter, also represents plaintiffs fighting the citizenship question—which is how Hofeller’s white voting power memo wound up before the judge overseeing the census case. (On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union also brought it to the Supreme Court’s attention.)

The voting rights advocates in possession of the Hofeller collection have not yet revealed the full extent of the files. This may be because they have been exceedingly careful to play by the rules: Lizon offered her father’s drives to Common Cause directly, but its attorneys decided to issue a subpoena in February to obtain them formally and provide notice to third parties.

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“Counting Change: Ensuring an Inclusive Census for Communities of Color”

Janai Nelson has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, Columbia Law Review). Here is the abstract:

The constitutionally-mandated decennial enumeration of the U.S. population is indispensable to the equitable distribution of political and economic resources. As we approach the 2020 Census, however, several factors converge that both undermine how we count change in communities of color and compete with shifting demographics and power dynamics that make an accurate accounting especially urgent — most notably the threatened inclusion of a citizenship question on the Census short form. By 2045, the population of the United States is on pace to comprise a majority-minority plurality — in which no single racial or ethnic group constitutes a majority but people of color, collectively, outnumber whites. Counting that change accurately will help determine the appropriate allocation of the resources most needed to serve an evolving American populace. This Article considers the historical context of undercounting people of color in the United States, the mounting stakes of their continued numerical diminution, and certain policy and pragmatic measures to disrupt the effects of a compromised Census. Premised on a theory of representational equality in which all our country’s residents “are to be counted — and served — as constituents”, it provides a comprehensive assessment of the centrality of the Census to our democracy in an effort to ensure that we do not discount the diversity that makes this country the greatest and most promising democratic experiment still.

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“Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signs law ending prison gerrymandering”


Yesterday, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed a bill into law ensuring that people in state prisons will be counted as residents of their home addresses when new legislative districts are drawn. The new law makes Nevada the sixth state to end the practice known as prison gerrymandering, after Washington passed its own law just last week.

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“New Democratic Debate Rules Will Distort Priorities, Some Campaigns Say”


The Democratic Party’s new directive that candidates must have at least 130,000 donors to qualify for the third primary debate in September arrived virtually without warning on Wednesday morning, and immediately sent shock waves through presidential campaigns worried that it would distort their priorities and affect the way they operate.

Two-thirds of the sprawling field of 23 candidates are probably at risk of falling short of that threshold, and news of the more stringent rules set off a flurry of frustrated early-morning text messages, emails, calls and meetings as campaigns reassessed the path forward, according to multiple 2020 campaign officials.

While the Democratic National Committee had long intimated it would raise the bar to qualify for later debates, many 2020 strategists were stunned by the 130,000-donor threshold, which doubles the requirement for the first two debates in June and July and which few are close to hitting. Some candidates questioned whether the party’s new donor threshold would winnow the field too severely, before most voters even tune in to the race.

Most declined to discuss their frustration with the D.N.C.’s rules on the record or to indicate how exactly they would shift tactics, saying their campaign plans were confidential. But campaign after campaign said the party’s donor requirements are skewing the way they allocate resources, forcing them to choose between investing in staff or pouring more money into ads on sites like Facebook, where prices are soaring to dizzying new heights. Two campaigns said digital vendors are currently quoting them prices of $40 and up to acquire a new $1 donor.

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“‘Let’s make a deal’: AOC and Ted Cruz (yes, that’s right) teaming up to fix Washington”


Ocasio-Cortez tweeted an analysis from the watchdog group Public Citizen that found nearly 60 percent of former members from the last Congress who have jobs taken outside of politics are lobbying or influencing federal policy in some way, including Joseph Crowley (D), the high-ranking Democratic congressman she beat in the primary.
“I don’t think it should be legal at ALL to become a corporate lobbyist if you’ve served in Congress,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

Shortly thereafter, Cruz retweeted her and put in motion the most shocking political pairing in American history, or at least in recent memory.

“Here’s something I don’t say often: on this point, I AGREE with @AOC,” Cruz tweeted. “Indeed, I have long called for a LIFETIME BAN on former Members of Congress becoming lobbyists. The Swamp would hate it, but perhaps a chance for some bipartisan cooperation?”

So, Ocasio-Cortez posited this: If they could agree on a straight ban on members of Congress becoming paid lobbyists with no partisan add-ons, she would co-write the bill with him.

“@tedcruz if you’re serious about a clean bill, then I’m down,” she said. “Let’s make a deal.”

About 20 minutes later, Cruz responded: “You’re on.”

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“Mysterious ‘vote-shaming’ mailer investigated ahead of Northern California special election”

Sacramento Bee:

Just days before a state Senate special election Tuesday, a mysterious letter threatening to publicly expose voters who don’t cast ballots has begun appearing in mailboxes across Northern California, prompting a state inquiry into whether election laws have been violated. 

Residents from Fair Oaks and Folsom to Rescue and Rocklin and beyond say they have received a mailer revealing neighbors’ and strangers’ voting history, and threatening to reveal their own voting records after the June 4 Senate District 1 special election “so we can see how we did together.”…

The Northern California State Voter Project does not have a website, phone number or public representatives, only a West Sacramento post office box number. The group is not listed as a campaign committee on the California Secretary of State website.

Kiley’s campaign had “nothing to do with” the mailer, said spokeswoman Emily Humpal.

Dahle’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

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Nevada: “Governor Sisolak vetoes Presidential popular vote compact bill”


Governor Steve Sisolak has decided to veto a bill that would have put Nevada on the list of states casting their electoral college votes for the winner of the national popular vote for President, regardless of the vote totals in their states.

In a news release, the Governor writes, “Over the past several weeks, my office has heard from thousands of Nevadans across the state urging me to weigh the state’s role in our national elections. After thoughtful deliberation, I have decided to veto Assembly Bill 186. Once effective, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose. I recognize that many of my fellow Nevadans may disagree on this point and I appreciate the legislature’s thoughtful consideration of this important issue. As Nevada’s governor, I am obligated to make such decisions according to my own conscience. In cases like this, where Nevada’s interests could diverge from the interests of large states, I will always stand up for Nevada.”

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