Monthly Archives: November 2019

Today’s Must-Read: “A Pennsylvania County’s Election Day Nightmare Underscores Voting Machine Concerns”

NYT:

It was a few minutes after the polls closed here on Election Day when panic began to spread through the county election offices.
Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Abe Kassis, a Democrat, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Something had gone quite wrong.


Lee Snover, the chairwoman of the county Republicans, said her anxiety began to pick up at 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. She had trouble getting someone from the election office on the phone. When she eventually got through, she said: “I’m coming down there and you better let me in.”


With clearly faulty results in at least the judge’s election, officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Mr. Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137, over his opponent, the Republican Victor Scomillio.


A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.

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Native American Voting Rights Group Settles with Arizona Over Ballot Litigation

Turtle Talk:

Here are the materials in Navajo Nation, et al. v. Reagan, et al. No. CV-18-08329-PCT-DWL (Ariz. D. Ct. 2019).
The Amended Complaint sought:
[D]eclaratory and injunctive relief, compelling the Defendants to (a) allow early voters who do not sign their ballot affidavit to have the same opportunity to cure the ballot deficiency that is provided to voters with a mismatched signature, (b) allow early voters who do not sign their ballot affidavit to have the same chance to cure their ballot as voters who vote by conditional provisional ballots, (c) provide translators certified as proficient in the Navajo language for all future early voting and election-day polling sites, (d) provide translation of instructions for casting an early ballot in Navajo over the radio for the 30 days leading up to an election, (e) establish additional in-person voter registration sites, and (f) establish additional early voting sites on the Reservation for all future elections that are open for consistent hours (at a minimum, each Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. with no interruption during the lunch hour) during the 30 days leading up to the election. This relief is sought on the grounds that failure to provide the requested relief is a denial of the equal right to vote.
The lawsuit was settled, and the Settlements can be seen here:
Order and Apache County Settlement
Order and Secretary of State Settlement
Order and Coconino County Settlement
Order and Navajo County Settlement

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“McCrory allies wrongly accused voters of fraud, but does the law protect them?”

News & Observer:

McCrory is not one of the people being sued for libel.

The case is against some of his 2016 supporters. They falsely accused several dozen North Carolinians of voting illegally, although only a handful of those voters are suing.


The lawsuit targets the Washington, D.C., law firm Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky and its lawyers who worked on McCrory’s post-election push. Also being sued are McCrory’s legal defense fund — which records show has just $2,000 left in the bank — that allowed him to raise and spend money on the complaints separately from his campaign fund, and William Clark Porter IV, a Republican official from Guilford County where most of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit also live.
The voters have said they will leave it up to a trial to determine exactly how much money they should be paid by the various defendants, but they believe it should be more than $25,000. Meanwhile, their accusers say there’s no proof they committed libel or engaged in any sort of conspiracy.

Neither side in the 2016 libel case disputes the central fact that the voters were indeed wrongfully accused. Those false accusations were that they illegally voted multiple times, or illegally voted as a felon.


The main arguments in this case, then, are legal ones: Does the law allow voters to win damages from people who wrongfully accused them of voting illegally? Or does the law protect their accusers, since they sent the claims to state officials whose job it is to investigate such allegations? And aside from the libel claims, how much evidence do you need to prove anyone conspired against the voters who were falsely accused?
“A conspiracy cannot be based solely on suspicion and conjecture, and that’s all they offer in terms of their arguments,” said Craig Schauer, one of the attorneys for the defendants, in court Wednesday.


One of the legal questions boils down to just how serious it is for a person to be accused of voter fraud. The voters say they suffered sleepless nights, ridicule in their communities and damage to their reputations.
And voter fraud is certainly a crime. But is it an “infamous” crime? They’re trying to prove that, and one of the arguments from the GOP side is that “infamous” crimes refer to much more serious offenses, like murder or treason.


There’s also disagreement over how relevant or necessary the statements from McCrory’s recount team were to the state’s investigation of the election complaints. Millen said the McCrory team made at least five false statements about his clients, none of which were actually necessary to file an election protest, “yet they’re all there.”

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“National Democratic groups sue Minnesota over ballot rules”

Star Tribune:

Two national campaign committees supporting congressional Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit challenging ballot order rules that will list DFL candidates in Minnesota beneath their major-party rivals in the 2020 general election.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court Wednesday by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and two state voters, argues that the current system “creates an unlevel playing field in Minnesota’s elections by arbitrarily favoring” candidates based on their political affiliation.
“No party should benefit from an unfair advantage or be penalized because of a systemic disadvantage in our elections,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat who chairs the DSCC, said in a statement.
Under current law, major party candidates for partisan races are listed on the ballot based on the average number of votes their party won in the last election, with nominees from the party that received the most votes appearing last.
In the past, those rules meant only that the DFL and the Minnesota Republican Party rotated in the two top slots. But two new political affiliations — the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and Legal Marijuana Now Party — secured “major party” status after winning 5% of the vote in statewide races in 2018. Because their candidates received far fewer votes than the DFL or Republican nominees, state ballots are set to list their nominees first next year.

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“House Committee Sues Barr and Ross Over 2020 Census Documents”

NYT:

The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday sued William P. Barr, the attorney general, and Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, for refusing to produce subpoenaed documents regarding President Trump’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.


The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, is an escalation of a monthslong dispute over the panel’s efforts to investigate the Trump administration’s effort to alter the decennial survey to ask 2020 respondents whether they are citizens. The government abandoned that effort after the Supreme Court in June blocked the question from being added, rejecting the administration’s stated reason for the effort as “contrived.”…

House Democrats have continued to investigate the census matter, arguing that they need to determine whether Congress should enact legislation to prevent the administration from employing similar tactics in the future. Democrats believe that the documents will show that the administration’s stated rationale for collecting the data — to better enforce the Voting Rights Act — was a cover story invented to mask a politically motivated attempt to diminish Democratic power by discouraging noncitizens from completing the survey. States rely on raw population data, rather than eligible voters, to draw House districts and to determine access to federal social welfare programs.

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“Texas Democrats hit state with another lawsuit over new ban on temporary voting sites”

Dallas Morning News:

Former Austin Assistant City Manager Terrell Blodgett and Texas’ Young Democrats and College Democrats filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to overturn House Bill 1888, claiming it suppresses the vote of marginalized communities….

The Texas Democratic Party and the party’s Senate and U.S. House campaign arms also filed a lawsuit to block the law in October, alleging that it was an attempt to suppress young voters, whose turnout surged in 2018.


The bill, passed during this year’s legislative session, requires polling places to remain open all 12 days of early voting. County election officials can no longer set up temporary or “mobile” polls for one or two days at places such as hospitals, schools or college campuses unless they host a permanent site.

Friendswood Republican Rep. Greg Bonnen, the bill’s author, has said it’s intended to prevent the “selective harvesting of targeted voters” that critics say occurs when elections officials have the discretion to choose where to place polling sites. Bonnen and the secretary of state could not immediately be reached for comment.

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“Misinformation Efforts Over Kentucky Vote Could Be Playbook for 2020”

Doozy from Jessica Huseman:

The personality, whose real name is Terpsichore Lindeman, alleged that somehow she and her husband had wound up as registered Democrats in Kentucky, which she saw as a sure sign that Andy Beshear, the Democratic attorney general ultimately declared the winner of the race for governor, had been manipulating the voter rolls.

Lindeman said that she is not a Democrat, and that she had her name removed from the rolls when she and her husband left the state years ago. Indeed, she said her husband is not a U.S. citizen and should not have been on any voting roll.


The claims gained no small degree of exposure. Lindeman’s dozens of tweets on the matter were retweeted hundreds of times. InfoWars, the conspiracy theory website, repeated her claims in multiple articles over a series of days. The website of the far-right activist Laura Loomer featured the story prominently. The Kentucky State Board of Elections received calls from alarmed voters, all while incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin — who’d lost the election — talked darkly, but without specifics, about “irregularities” on Election Day.


ProPublica decided to check out Lindeman’s claims, and none add up, falling apart in the face of routine checks of public records. Still, experts say the disinformation spread by Lindeman in Kentucky and the virality and confusion that ensued is a peek into what could befall voters in 2020, when similar techniques are expected to be part of the arsenal of both the right and the left….

Debunking Lindeman’s claims starts with her and her husband’s voter registration information, which are public records. Their Kentucky registration forms show that both checked the box for Democrat when they registered to vote in Fayette County in 2008. Her husband, who Lindeman claims is not a citizen, also signed the form in 2008, which requires signers to attest they are a U.S. citizen. Lying on the form carries a penalty of fines or jail time of up to 12 months. The couple, records show, have never removed themselves from the rolls or changed their registration status until Nov. 8 of this year, which is when she began tweeting.

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John Gore’s Ostensibly Faulty Memory Now at Issue in Litigation Over Pence-Kobach Commission (in Addition to Census Case)

Tierney Sneed for TPM:

The apparent memory problems of a former Trump Justice Department appointee have continued to haunt the department since the official left the administration.

Last week, in two separate cases, the Justice Department had to tell courts that the former official, John Gore, had issues remembering key communications related to the disputes in front of the judges.
One of those cases is the lawsuit that was brought against the census citizenship question, where the ACLU is seeking sanctions against the administration for allegedly withholding evidence in the case. The Justice Department in a Friday filing said that Gore had “no recollection” of texts sent to him that were related to the failed push to add the question to the census.


And in a separate case, arising from the now-disbanded Trump voter fraud commission, the Justice Department had to “correct” a declaration previously filed by Gore. According to the DOJ’s new filing, Gore now no longer remembers when he first came into contact with a GOP operative who was seeking that the commission investigate alleged voter fraud in Chicago. Gore also didn’t remember an email thread with another DOJ official and the White House referencing the operative.


Two Senate Judiciary Democrats have seized on the developments in both cases to renew their push for the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility to review Gore’s conduct. In a new letter Monday, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said the census citizenship case development “casts further doubt on Mr. Gore’s credibility.” They also argued that the corrected declaration in the voter fraud commission case was “relevant” to OPR’s review.

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Republicans Plan for Misleading Websites in Upcoming Texas Elections

Dallas Morning News:

In a bizarre political blunder, a document laying out the Republican Party of Texas’s election strategy for the 2020 elections has ended up in the hands of Texas Democrats. Attacking Democratic candidates through websites and mitigating “the polarizing nature” of President Donald Trump are part of the plan.


The document — called a draft for initial discussion by the Texas GOP Party chair — was titled “Primary/General Election 2020 [Draft]” and began showing up in Democratic emails Monday evening….

“Starting after the Primary, the RPT will generate microsites for negative hits against the Democrat candidates in our twelve target race—we expect each microsite to be roughly $500,” the document reads. “We will then begin rolling out these websites, prioritizing the races that were within 4% in the 2018 election.”…

The document lays out a plan to purchase online domain names affiliated with the names of Democratic candidates so that Republicans can reroute them to the negative attack websites.


“For example, we will purchase ZwienerforTexas.comZwienerforTX.com, and so on,” the document reads.


Democratic Rep. Erin Zwiener of Driftwood is among the other six House members on the list. The others are Reps. Vikki Goodwin and John Bucy of Austin, James Talarico of Round Rock, Gina Calanni of Katy and Jon Rosenthal of Houston.


The document says Republicans will audit search engine optimization results to make sure that the negative attack websites are on the front pages of various search engines and work with other stakeholders — such as Texans for Greg Abbott, the governor’s campaign arm — “to get any more insight on issues that matter to these districts.”

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“National Democrats approve early caucus voting for Nevada”

AP:

The Democratic National Committee has approved a plan by Nevada Democrats to offer the first-ever early voting option for presidential caucuses, a change stemming from a push to make the in-person presidential nominating meetings more accessible.

The state party’s chairman, William McCurdy II, and the DNC chairman, Tom Perez, intend to hold a conference call on Monday to announce the approval of the plan, the party confirmed.


Besides offering four days of early voting, Nevada’s plan calls for releasing raw vote totals from the caucus, offering caucus materials in Tagalog for the state’s growing Filipino population and having caucus workers use an app instead of paper to record and transmit results to party officials.

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Senator John Kennedy Backs Away from Ridiculous Statement That Ukraine Not Russia Interfered in 2016 Elections

CNN:

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“Benson appoints new elections head to replace outgoing director”

Detroit News:

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has elevated her legal policy director to become Michigan’s next elections director. 

Jonathan Brater will replace Director Sally Williams when she retires at the end of the year, Benson said in a Monday statement.


He is also the former counsel the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, a liberal group at New York University. At the Brennan Center, he focused on “modernizing elections in partnership with secretaries of state around the country,” Benson’s office said.


Brater, the department’s legal policy director, has worked alongside Williams since Benson, a Democrat, appointed him early this year. He is former executive editor of the University of Michigan’s Michigan Law Review. 

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