Monthly Archives: October 2019

“Georgia Plans to Purge 300,000 Names From Its Voter Rolls”

NYT:

A coming purge of Georgia’s voter rolls has raised alarms among advocacy groups in the state and nationwide, many of whom see the issue of who gets to cast a ballot re-emerging with next year’s election, particularly in battleground states.
This week, Georgia state officials said they would be removing about 300,000 names from their lists of eligible voters, a number that amounts to almost 4 percent of those registered to vote. The state said the move is a normal part of updating records after voters have moved away or stopped casting ballots.
Walter Jones, the spokesman for the Georgia secretary of state’s voter education program, called the purge “a routine process that every state does,” and one that has gone on for years in Georgia under both parties.
The purges, however, have become deeply controversial in Georgia. In 2018, in one of the most competitive governor’s races in years, Brian Kemp, a Republican, declared a narrow victory against his democratic rival, Stacey Abrams. Since Mr. Kemp was then serving as Georgia secretary of state, he oversaw his own election, which critics accused him of manipulating by conducting purges in communities that were more likely to vote for Democrats. He beat Ms. Abrams by 1.4 percentage points.

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“Amazon Tests ‘Soul of Seattle’ With Deluge of Election Cash; Amazon is flexing its financial power in Seattle’s City Council elections, putting an innovative program meant to combat such influence at risk.”

NYT:

In 2015, Seattle voters approved a plan to foil corporate political contributions, creating “democracy vouchers” that allow residents to assign public campaign funds to local candidates of their choice.
With the goal of amplifying the voices of regular people and diluting the influence of powerful donors, the voucher program has since drawn the interest of 2020 presidential candidates, such as Andrew Yang, who said Seattle’s system could be used nationally to “drown out the influence of megadonors.”


But in Seattle, the megadonors are back, this time with an even larger deluge of cash. Thanks in large part to the hometown tech giant Amazon, independent groups that receive bulk donations have already spent more money — $4.1 million — on next week’s City Council elections than they spent in the previous two decades of elections combined, according to campaign finance data.


Amazon’s aggressive bid to overhaul a council it has clashed with over taxes and the company’s giant corporate footprint has exposed the tensions between the Seattle region’s sometimes-competing identities. On the one hand, it is an innovative tech hub, home to some of the world’s most influential businesses and billionaires. On the other, the city has led efforts to lift up marginalized residents with a $15 minimum wagestrong support for unions and its unique experiment in public campaign funding.

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“Twitter Will Ban All Political Ads, C.E.O. Jack Dorsey Says”

NYT:

Twitter said on Wednesday that it would ban all political ads, putting a spotlight on the power and veracity of online advertising and ramping up pressure on Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to reverse his hands-off stance.


Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said political ads, including manipulated videos and the viral spread of misleading information, presented challenges to civic discourse, “all at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.” He said he worried the ads had “significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle.”


He added that he believed that the reach of political messages “should be earned, not bought.”

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NC Republicans Could Have Drawn an 11th or 12th Republican Congressional District, Producing an All-White Congressional Delegation

David Daley:

“I PROPOSE THAT we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats,” said North Carolina Rep. David Lewis, in 2016 in a legislative committee hearing, “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”

This might be the most infamous gerrymandering confession ever — a rare moment of clarity exposing the GOP’s ambition to control the state’s map through redistricting. This year, Lewis’s statement was debated in the Supreme Court; in 2017, it was even cited by comedian John Oliver. And this week, the admission that state lawmakers intended to give an advantage to the Republican Party was at the root of a decision by a North Carolina state court that invalidated the state’s congressional map ahead of 2020.

But even Lewis’s bold acknowledgement understated the GOP’s redistricting capabilities, new documents obtained by The Intercept suggest. In fact, GOP strategists did prove that it was possible to draw a map with 11 or 12 Republican congressional seats — in one case, a partisan gerrymander that could have feasibly elected an all-white slate.

In 2016, Thomas Hofeller, the veteran redistricting mastermind, was tapped by Lewis and the North Carolina legislature to craft the state’s congressional lines. The original map, drawn in 2011 redistricting, had been thrown out for racially discriminatory intent. During that process, Hofeller created drafts of maps that would give Democrats only one or two seats in this competitive purple state. These never-before-seen draft maps are among the more than 70,000 previously unpublished documents and emails from Hofeller’s hard drives, obtained and reviewed by The Intercept. And there is evidence that he talked them over with Lewis, who chaired the state House of Representatives redistricting committee from 2011 until 2018.

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“Threat to US elections in 2020 is not limited to Russia”

AP:

Russia interfered in the 2016 election and may try to sway next year’s vote as well. But it’s not the only nation with an eye on U.S. politics.


American officials sounding the alarm about foreign efforts to disrupt the 2020 election include multiple countries in that warning. Concerns abound not only about possible hacking of campaigns but also about the spread of disinformation on social media and potential efforts to breach voting databases and even alter votes.


The anxiety goes beyond the possibility that U.S. adversaries could affect election results: The mere hint of foreign meddling could undermine public confidence in vote tallies, a worrisome possibility in a tight election.

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“After the Purge; How a massive voter purge in Georgia affected the 2018 election”

APM Reports:

Georgia is one of a handful of states that removes people from the voter rolls for not turning out to vote in recent elections. Democrats and voting rights advocates have argued that just because someone chooses not to exercise their right to vote doesn’t mean they should be removed from the registration list. On the campaign trail, Kemp maintained that, in weeding out infrequent voters, he was safeguarding the election from fraud. Georgia officials have also argued that most of the people purged in 2017 had likely moved away or died.


But an APM Reports investigation has found that — contrary to those claims from state officials — 70,000 purged Georgians re-registered to vote. In a first-of-its-kind investigation, APM Reports used provisional ballots, registration and purge lists to piece together what happened to the Georgians who’d been scrubbed from the rolls. A majority — 65 percent — of those purged under “use it or lose it” who re-registered did so in the same county, meaning they would otherwise have been eligible to vote if not for the state’s aggressive purge policy.


The APM Reports investigation, the first to show significant impact from the “use it or lose it” policy, undermines the theory that it’s safe to assume that people who sit out multiple elections, or don’t make other contact with election officials, have likely moved or died. In Baiye’s case, nothing in his voter profile needed to be updated when he re-registered on Election Day, weeks after the state’s registration deadline. He still lives in the same house.

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“FBI Documents: Kobach Hired A Criminal Investigator With No Law Enforcement Experience”

KCUR:

One of the hallmarks of Kris Kobach’s time as Kansas Secretary of State was his power to investigate and prosecute voter fraud. Kobach, who is now running for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate, was the only secretary of state in America with such power.


KCUR has now learned that when Kobach needed an investigator to carry out these prosecutorial powers, he hired someone with no law enforcement experience, according to an FBI investigation into missing ammunition from the secretary of state’s office.


The investigator, Craig McCullah, was Kobach’s spokesperson during most of Kobach’s time in the secretary of state’s office. But McCullah wound end up conducting criminal investigations.

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“Did racially motivated voter suppression thwart Stacey Abrams?”

WaPo Fact Checker:

“Racially motivated patterns of voter suppression are responsible for Stacey Abrams not being governor of Georgia right now.”
— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), in remarks in Bow, N.H., Oct. 25, 2019


It has become an article of faith among Democrats, especially those running for president, that Stacey Abrams was narrowly denied the governorship of Georgia because of voter suppression. It is equally an article of faith by Republicans that this is a false claim based on no evidence.


Buttigieg’s remark caught our attention because he specifically said that the voter suppression was racially motivated and that it tipped the balance toward Republican Brian Kemp — who was directly responsible for overseeing the voting because he retained his post of secretary of state while he sought the governorship.

But it turns out this is a difficult situation to fact-check, and not quite as easy as the case when we gave Four Pinocchios to Hillary Clinton for claiming she lost Wisconsin in 2016 because of voter suppression or Four Pinocchios to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) for claiming Russian efforts to suppress African American votes led to Clinton’s loss of Michigan. …

Hasen, the UC Irvine expert, said the practices used under Kemp raise serious questions even if one cannot prove they affected the election outcome.

“There is no question that Georgia in general and Brian Kemp in particular took steps to make it harder for people to register and vote, and that those people tended to skew Democratic,” Hasen said. “I have seen no good social science evidence that efforts to make it harder to register and vote were responsible for Kemp’s victory over Abrams in the Georgia gubernatorial race. That seems to me to be beside the point: The question is whether Georgia had a good reason to put these suppressive measures in place, and for the most part, the state did not have good reasons.”

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“Significant Pennsylvania election law changes headed to governor’s desk”

AP:

Legislation headed toward the governor’s desk in Pennsylvania on Tuesday would deliver the biggest changes to state election laws in decades and provide aid to counties for much of the cost of new voting machines as a bulwark against hacking in next year’s presidential election.


In a compromise package negotiated behind closed doors over the last four months, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf secured some of his priorities to increase voting access, including allowing any voter to mail in a ballot and moving voter-registration deadlines closer to the election.

In exchange, Republicans who control the state Legislature dropped their opposition to Wolf’s insistence that counties buy new voting machines and secured their top priority, eliminating the ballot option for straight-party voting.


Counties, meanwhile, will get $90 million in aid to offset the costs of buying the new machines ahead of an election in which Pennsylvania will be one of the nation’s premier presidential battlegrounds.

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New York: “Minor parties fear state commission trying to secure more power for major parties”

Newsday:

The panel is charged with developing a voluntary system of using state funds to help pay for political campaigns, but Cuomo and other legislative leaders also tasked the commission with looking at the merits of fusion voting. The system provides the liberal Working Families Party influence with the Democratic Party and the Conservative Party influence with the Republican Party.

Jacobs, however, proposes that minor parties face a much higher bar before they can secure a permanent place on the ballot. He said minor parties should have to attract up to 250,000 votes — five times the current threshold — to qualify for an automatic line on ballots, in a proposal first reported by The New York Times.

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Payday Lenders Group Confirms It Is Buying Ingratiation and And Access to Trump Administration (Don’t Worry, Justice Kennedy Told Us)

WaPo:

Billing himself as one of President Trump’s top fundraisers, Michael Hodges told fellow payday lenders recently that industry contributions to the president’s reelection campaign could be leveraged to gain access to the Trump administration.


“Every dollar amount, no matter how small or large it is” is important, Hodges, founder of Advance Financial, one of the country’s largest payday lenders, said during a 48-minute webcast, obtained by The Washington Post.


“For example, I’ve gone to Ronna McDaniel and said, ‘Ronna, I need help on something,’ ” Hodges said, referring to the chair of the Republican National Committee. “She’s been able to call over to the White House and say, ‘Hey, we have one of our large givers. They need an audience. … They need to be heard and you need to listen to them.’ So that’s why it’s important.”…

“If you need something and we may need something … then it would be good to be able to pick up the phone and call someone that could get the president’s attention,” Wood said during the webinar. Contributing to Trump’s campaign will help keep the president in office, he said, and “it will give [Hodges] access in the event that we need to have access to the president.”
In an interview, Wood acknowledged posting the YouTube video but then referred questions about fundraising to others who took part. The video, which had about 40 views as of Friday afternoon, was removed shortly after The Post asked Wood about it.
The major focus of the call appeared to be fundraising, which the industry insiders said would be critical to maintaining access to the Trump administration. Hodges encouraged others to donate to Trump’s campaign and referred to his efforts to bolster his standing with the administration.

Justice Kennedy infamously wrote in Citizens United: “Ingratiation and access, in any event, are not corruption.”

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“Dissent Erupts at Facebook Over Hands-Off Stance on Political Ads”

NYT:

The letter was aimed at Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his top lieutenants. It decried the social network’s recent decision to let politicians post any claims they wanted — even false ones — in ads on the site. It asked Facebook’s leaders to rethink the stance.


The message was written by Facebook’s own employees.
Facebook’s position on political advertising is “a threat to what FB stands for,” the employees wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “We strongly object to this policy as it stands.”


For the past two weeks, the text of the letter has been publicly visible on Facebook Workplace, a software program that the Silicon Valley company uses to communicate internally. More than 250 employees have signed the message, according to three people who have seen it and who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation.

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