Monthly Archives: February 2020

UCI Conference Friday, Can American Democracy Survive the 2020 Elections?, Will Be Livestreamed; Blogging Will Resume Monday

I’ll be taking a blogging break as I run this conference tomorrow with an incredible lineup.

Can American Democracy Survive the 2020 Elections?

The role of media, law, political norms, and technology in assuring acceptance of election results.

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February 28, 2020
8:15 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
UCI Division of Continuing Education, Yosemite Ballroom

RSVP >

Schedule (PDF)

Livestream >

This event is presented in conjunction with the UCI Jack W. Peltason Center for the Study of Democracy and with the generous support of the Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.

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“Will your vote count? Veil of secrecy makes it impossible for Florida voters to know”

Tallahassee Democrat:

Florida’s March 17 presidential primary will be a referendum on state and county elections officials’ efforts to build a wall to stop hacking attempts that are constantly bombarding the system.

At a time when 59 percent of the public doesn’t trust the election process, state elections officials have thrown a veil of secrecy over that work, refusing to disclose details about the weaknesses detected in their systems and whether they’ve been fixed.

Florida has doubled down on secrecy since federal officials reported at least four counties were hacked in 2016. The state forced all 67 elections supervisors to sign nondisclosure agreements before they could receive federal funding for elections security, be briefed about vulnerabilities found by cybersecurity experts or even hook up to the state’s voter registration system.

“It just felt coerced,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, a former member of the Legislature. “We have a broad public records law for a reason, so having to sign a nondisclosure agreement didn’t sit well with me … not only to receive funds, but information too.”

The far-reaching confidentiality pacts, including a nondisclosure agreement that public records experts call bizarre and unenforceable, threaten to make a casualty out of transparency in the Sunshine State. 

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“AP-NORC poll: Election security, integrity worry Americans”

AP:

Americans have widespread concerns about the security and integrity of elections, with few saying they have high confidence that votes in the 2020 presidential election will be counted accurately.

A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds skepticism about the democratic process in the United States. While a third of Americans say they have high confidence in an accurate count, roughly another third are only moderately confident and a remaining third say they have little confidence.

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“Judge rejects ballot secrecy case against Georgia voting touchscreens”

AJC:

A South Georgia judge ruled Wednesday that elections can move forward on Georgia’s new voting computers, deciding against plaintiffs who said the large touchscreens failed to keep ballots secret.

The ruling clears the way for voters to cast their ballots on the touchscreen-and-printer voting system when early voting for the presidential primary begins Monday.

Sumter County Superior Court Chief Judge R. Rucker Smith denied an emergency motion to require paper ballots filled out by hand instead of by computer.

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“Court OKs Texas winner-take-all presidential elector system”

AP:

The winner-take-all system Texas and 47 other states use to assign Electoral College presidential votes is constitutional, a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans unanimously upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the Texas system. It was the latest defeat for organizations challenging such systems in Texas and three other states. Cases are pending at the appellate level in at least two of those cases.

Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, said he expects the issue to wind up at the Supreme Court.

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Torres-Spelliscy: “The Easy and Not So Easy Fixes to an Election Meltdown” (Balkinization Symposium on Election Meltdown)

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy:

Every voter should read Professor Rick Hasen’s Election Meltdown before they vote in 2020, which focuses on the how elections are run and how partisans are less and less likely to accept an electoral loss.


Election Meltdown does a good job of explaining in language accessible to a lay person some of the problems that threaten American democracy like old voting machines and feckless administrators, and just as importantly, placing phantom fears in their proper place.

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“‘Panties in a Bunch’: Kansas Official Blew Off Concerns About 2018 Polling Place Move Dodge City, Kansas”

TPM:

The House Oversight Committee revealed Wednesday new information about how local election officials in Kansas botched the relocation of a polling place that put Dodge City’s single site for voting at a location more than a mile from the nearest bus stop.

The move by Ford County in 2018 to move the city’s sole polling place outside city limits prompted an ACLU lawsuit and national controversy, particularly because the city’s population is 60 percent Hispanic and the new location was not accessible by public transport or even sidewalk.

The move also prompted an investigation from the newly Democratic controlled House Oversight Committee, which also released on Wednesday details of parallel investigations into voting rights debacles in Texas and Georgia.

According to an update to those investigations the committee unveiled Wednesday, Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox dismissed concerns about how the relocation would affect voters, particularly those who don’t drive.

“The ones complaining do not even live here in Ford Co or some in Kansas,” she said in a September 2018 email released Wednesday.

Here is a link to the emails and committee report.

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Coronavirus, the Census, and Election 2020: A Desperate Plea for “Plan B”

You are going to hear this message a lot from me in the months going forward: election officials and others need to have a “Plan B” to deal with intentional interference or natural disasters that can disrupt our democratic processes. The point is to come up with the backup plans now, before disaster strikes, when it is much harder to put a plan in place and much easier to see the political consequences of alternative courses of action. We will have much more buy-in across the country into clear contingency plans that have been put in place ex ante.

In the next nine months we will conduct a national census, a series of primary elections, two major party (and some minor party) political conventions to choose presidential nominations, and a general election in November amid an atmosphere of intense negative and tribal partisanship.

Should we be unfortunate enough to be dealing with a coronavirus pandemic which disrupts normal life in the United States during this period, we need to ask how is this going to affect these democratic processes? What if census takers cannot effectively go door to door to take census information from those who are not filling out the information online or in writing? What if that impacts particular states or areas of the country? When should votes be delayed? Would remote technology that might be used to conduct democratic processes in the event that a physical convention cannot happen be secure from hacking? Would there ever be reasonable grounds to delay an election, and who would have authority to do so?

I don’t have any answers to these questions. But I hope that people in authority are beginning to grapple with them.

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