Monthly Archives: December 2023

Eugene Mazo: “Remembering Morris Kramer”

The following is a guest post from Eugene Mazo:

Morris H. Kramer, the plaintiff in Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, 395 U.S. 621 (1969), passed away on September 11, 2023. I got to know Kramer toward the end of his life, after writing about the history of his case for Election Law Stories, the book I edited with Josh Douglas in 2016. I’d like to offer readers of the blog a short remembrance.

Kramer’s case challenged a New York law that required citizens in some of the state’s school districts to own or lease taxable real property or have children enrolled in the public schools before they were eligible to vote for their local school board. Kramer failed to satisfy these criteria. He was single, lived in his parents’ home, and had no children.

In Kramer, the Supreme Court held for the first time that a statute granting the right to vote to some citizens while denying it to others had to survive an exacting standard of review. The Supreme Court would henceforth apply strict scrutiny to any laws that discriminated between different classes of voters. While the one person, one vote cases of the early- and mid-1960s halted numerical vote dilution, they offered no guidance on which citizens should be admitted to the franchise in the first place. This was Kramer’s contribution.

Kramer’s case marked the closing chapter of the Warren Court era. Chief Justice Earl Warren handed down his majority opinion in Kramer a week before he retired. When the decision was announced on June 16, 1969, it made the front page of The New York Times.

The case was argued by Osmond Fraenkel of the ACLU, a fact that always displeased Kramer. This was because the ACLU had originally failed to take his case. The ACLU also never invited Murray Miller, the lawyer who handled the case below, to the Court’s oral argument.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court described Kramer as a “31-year-old college-educated stockbroker who lives in his parents’ home,” “has no children,” and “neither owns nor leases taxable real property.” As such, his “attempts to register for and vote in the local school district elections have been unsuccessful.” I taught the casefor years and always had fun with these facts. I’d often ask my students, “So, how many of you still plan to live with your parents when you’re 31 years old?”

After I got to know Kramer better, however, I began to develop a different view of his case. Kramer was a deeply principled person who had been a quiet activist for most of his life. He was intelligent, and he was committed to improving the world. He was well-known on Long Island and in his local community as a “voice of the people.”

Born in the Bronx, Kramer was the youngest of three children. In school, he officially changed his given name, Moses, to Morris, though his friends (and I) always called him Mitty. By coincidence, Kramer’s date of birth—November 6, 1934—happened to be Election Day.

In 1947, Kramer’s parents decided to build a summer home on Long Island and purchased a plot of land in Atlantic Beach, a hamlet just west of Long Beach and east of what is now Kennedy International Airport. The Long Island Herald described it as “a desolate spit of sand jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, with a patchwork of modest homes, a bar where New York City mafia dons liked to lay low and a post office.”

After completing his Army service in 1956 and finishing his bachelor’s degree at Syracuse in 1958, Kramer moved into his parents’ summer home. It was located at 1632 Park Street, in Atlantic Beach. That was his address when he registered to vote in 1959, when he was denied the right to vote for the school board in 1965, and when he died earlier in 2023. For 65 years, Kramer had lived in the same house.

From Atlantic Beach, Kramer commuted to Manhattan for a few years while he worked in the financial industry. Former solicitor general Rex Lee once called Kramer “the bachelor stockbroker.” But selling stocks constituted a very small part of what Kramer did. He was also a teacher as well as a well-known environmental activist on Long Island. Safeguarding the environment was a goal that was as important to him throughout his life as protecting the right to vote.

Kramer developed strong ties to his community and was part of the fabric of his town for more than sixty years. His urge for belonging is what propelled him to file his lawsuit. What Kramer could not predict, of course, was how his yearning to participate fully in his community would thrust him into the national spotlight. His journey from local activist to Supreme Court plaintiff gave him a voice. In 1992, he ran for Congress. Later, he became a publisher author. And rather late in life, at age 49, he got married. His wife, Ronni Kaman, survives him.

Mitty Kramer was a character. He was warm, curious, and gregarious. He was interested in the world and its affairs. He read The New York Times daily and followed the Supreme Court closely throughout his life. Though not an academic, he was surprisingly knowledgeable about the basics of election law and read the work of several scholars in our field, a fact that always pleasantly surprised me. Every so often, I would get together with him for dinner. The photo below is of us at a Chinese restaurant on Long Island during the summer of 2018.

For me, Kramer’s life served as proof that ordinary Americans are capable of accomplishing extraordinary things. When I taught his case, Kramer would often visit my class. As our discussion of Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15 wrapped up, I would ask the students if they had ever met the Supreme Court plaintiff, much less one whose case was argued back in 1969. Of course, they hadn’t. Then I would call Kramer from my cell phone and put him on speaker phone.

Kramer was always kind to the students. He patiently answered their questions, offering his New York accent as proof of his authenticity. One time, a student asked him whether he had any parting advice. Kramer thought about it, and finally said, “In life, you will all have ups and downs. During these moments, remember this: The Constitution is your best friend. Hold it near and dear to your heart, and it will guide you.” The students swooned. Some had tears in their eyes.

I called Mitty Kramer as soon as I got back to my office and asked what prompted this sentiment. And he told me that it came from his heart, and that this was how he honestly felt. It was very endearing.

Morris H. Kramer (1934-2023) was born on Election Day in 1934 and died on 9/11 in 2023. He was an American hero.

May his memory be a blessing.

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Thanks Rick for the opportunity to guest blog

Thanks to Rick Hasen for the opportunity to blog over the last couple of weeks, and thanks to the many readers who sent me helpful feedback, tips, and insights!  

Last June I stepped down after several years of running a think tank and returned to the faculty at GW Law to focus on law and multiracial democracy. While my reading and research over the past six months have focused on the implications of AI for multiracial democracy and the future of the Voting Rights Act, blogging has exposed me to a wide range of current election law issues and will make my work stronger. Thanks and I look forward to seeing many of you more often! 

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“American democracy has overcome big stress tests since the 2020 election. More challenges are ahead”


Over the past three years, the world’s oldest democracy has been tested in ways not seen in decades. . . At the same time, the past three years proved that American democracy was resilient. . . .

“It’s not to say the risks are gone,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s to say we’ve successfully fought the last war.” . . . 

“There’s little doubt our democracy has gotten dinged up in a couple of moments of late, but we have decided we like it compared to the alterative,” said Justin Levitt, who served as adviser for democracy and voting rights for two years in the Biden White House and is now a law professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

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“Why Voting Rights Act faces new wave of dire threats in 2024”

The Guardian:

As 2023 comes to a close, the Voting Rights Act is facing a series of dire threats that could significantly weaken the landmark civil rights law.

A suite of three different pending cases could gut the ability of private plaintiffs to challenge the Voting Rights Act, make it harder to challenge discriminatory election systems, and limit the Voting Rights Act’s protections in areas where a single racial minority doesn’t constitute a majority.

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“Prosecutors Ask Appeals Court to Reject Trump’s Immunity Claims in Election Case”


Federal prosecutors asked [the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit] on Saturday to reject former President Donald J. Trump’s claims that he is immune from criminal charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election and said the indictment should remain in place even though it arose from actions he took while in the White House. . . . 

. . . In their 82-page filing to the appeals court, prosecutors focused on legal arguments and said that nothing in the Constitution or the country’s other founding documents supported the idea that a former president should not be subject to federal criminal law.

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“Would Keeping Trump Off the Ballot Hurt or Help Democracy?”


As the top elections official in Washington State, Steve Hobbs says he is troubled by the threat former President Donald J. Trump poses to democracy and fears the prospect of his return to power. But he also worries that recent decisions in Maine and Colorado to bar Mr. Trump from presidential primary ballots there could backfire, further eroding Americans’ fraying faith in U.S. elections.

“Removing him from the ballot would, on its face value, seem very anti-democratic,” said Mr. Hobbs, a Democrat who is in his first term as secretary of state. Then he added a critical caveat: “But so is trying to overthrow your country.”

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“How the Supreme Court May Rule on Trump’s Presidential Run”

Analysis by NYT’s Adam Liptak quoting law professors Tara Leigh Grove, Rick Hasen, Derek Muller, and Nick Stephanopolous:

. . . They will be reluctant to wrest from voters the power to assess Mr. Trump’s conduct, particularly given the certain backlash that would bring. Yet they will also be wary of giving Mr. Trump the electoral boost of an unqualified victory in the nation’s highest court.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will doubtless seek consensus or, at least, try to avoid a partisan split of the six Republican appointees against the three Democratic ones.

He may want to explore the many paths the court could take to keep Mr. Trump on state ballots without addressing whether he had engaged in insurrection or even assuming that he had. . . .

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SCOTUS Should Say Now if Trump Can Serve Again (so the issue doesn’t return to Congress after the election)

Over at Common Ground Democracy, I’ve posted a new column that I hope will be of particular interest to ELB readers. It describes the different ways the Supreme Court could decide the Colorado case and argues why, if the Court is going to reinstate Trump to the ballot, it should do so by affirmatively declaring him eligible to serve as president (and thus not disqualified by section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment) rather than evading the merits of the eligibility issue by relying upon one of the available procedural “off-ramps” that have been identified–most especially that Congress must enact a statute permitting enforcement of section 3 before any state can adjudicate a disqualification issue under it.

The focus of the piece is the danger that, if the Court leaves the merits of the disqualification issue open by invoking a procedural off-ramp, members of Congress will consider themselves empowered to revisit the issue after the election (assuming Trump wins). That could create a period of instability between the November election and January 6, 2025. As part of its analysis of the risk, the column points to the fact that one Republican member of Congress in response to the Colorado and Maine rulings regarding Trump has already asserted that Congress will have the last word on the matter. To minimize the chance of a tumultuous congressional dispute over the outcome of the election, the Court should exercise its Marbury v. Madison authority now to render its judgment on whether or not the Constitution properly interpreted permits Trump to return to the presidency in light of his conduct in relation to the January 6 attack on the constitutional procedure for counting the electoral votes in the last presidential election.

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AALS Multiracial Democracy Morning on Sat. Jan. 6, 8-11:40 am

We’ve got two great multiracial democracy panels back-to-back in the same room (Marquis Salon 3) next Saturday, Jan. 6 at the 2024 AALS Annual Meeting.  Please join us! 

8-9:40 am  AI & Defending Multiracial Democracy

Speakers: Danielle Keats Citron (UVA), Jessica Eaglin (Cornell), Rebecca Green (William & Mary), Spencer Overton (GW), Ciara Torres-Spelliscy (Stetson)

Artificial intelligence has the potential to reduce costs, expand participation by voters of color, and facilitate new coalitions. At the same time, incumbent powers could use AI to entrench themselves through discriminatory disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, voting restrictions, and gerrymandering. Even absent intentional discrimination, the seemingly innocuous use of AI in voter roll maintenance, signature matching, and other aspects of the process could replicate disadvantage. This panel sketches out the opportunities and challenges of AI for our increasingly multiracial democracy and potential legal solutions.

10-11:40 am  Multiracial Democracy After Allen v. Milligan and Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard College

Speakers: Tabatha Abu El-Haj (Drexel), Travis Crum (Wash. U), Jonathan Feingold (BU), Emily Rong Zhang (Berkeley), Bertrall Ross (UVA), Daniel Tokaji (Wisconsin)

This panel seeks to situate Allen v. Milligan in the broader landscape of the Roberts Court’s approach to race, democracy, and pluralism.

There are also two other important sessions on Legislation, Governance, and Democratic Fragility (Wed. 10 am) and Big Money Unleashed (Sat. 8 am).  

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“It took years for truth about election ‘audit’ to emerge. . . .”

The Arizona Republic:

Texts and emails released long after the so-called Arizona “audit” ended proved — beyond a doubt — the effort was encouraged, funded and carried out by loyalists to Donald Trump.

Those details could have remained hidden without The Arizona Republic fighting for more than two years for information about the 2020 ballot review.

What Arizonans didn’t know when then-Senate President Karen Fann announced the “audit” was that it was part of a nationwide effort to undermine elections in states Democrat Joe Biden won — and that the people involved were working behind the scenes to access voting equipment in other states as well as Arizona.

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“Sam Bankman-Fried will not face second trial on charges including making illegal campaign donations and bribing Chinese officials”

The Daily Mail:

Sam Bankman-Fried, who was convicted last month of stealing from customers of his now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange, will not face a second trial on separate charges in the case, including campaign finance violations. 

In a letter filed on Friday night in federal court in Manhattan, prosecutors said the ‘strong public interest’ in a prompt resolution of their case against the 31-year-old former billionaire outweighed the benefits of a second trial. . . . 

According to a superseding indictment, Bankman-Fried ‘misappropriated and embezzled FTX customer deposits,’ including more than $100 million spent ‘in campaign contributions to Democrats and Republicans to seek to influence cryptocurrency regulation.’ 

The indictment also alleged that Bankman-Fried concealed the source of campaign donations by making them in the names of various FTX executives, including former engineering director Nishad Singh.

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Common Ground Democracy

With the imminent arrival of 2024, which we all anticipate to be a challenging year for our field of election law, I’ve started a Substack journal called Common Ground Democracy. Its main focus will be to address structural issues relating to collective self-government–topics like ranked-choice voting, the role of partisan primaries, and how best to translate the divergent preferences of voters into electoral outcomes. It will also consider the operation of the existing electoral system as it unfolds during this difficult year.

I will plan to cross-post here on ELB entries there that I think make sense to bring to ELB’s readership, and I continue to greatly appreciate the privilege and trust that Rick has given me in letting me post directly on this site. But I want to avoid inundating ELB with my musings on questions of democratic theory and the problems of social choice. If you are interested, I hope you will subscribe (it’s free).

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Watch Video of My Appearance with Geoff Bennett on PBS New Hour Discussing Potential Trump Disqualification in Maine and Likely SCOTUS Review

You can watch here.

Shorter excerpt:

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