Although Republicans hold 19 seats in the 31-seat upper chamber and can largely consider legislation without the say of any Democrat, Whitley needs a two-thirds vote among the senators present when the full Senate votes on his nomination. That means even with the votes of all of the Republicans, he’ll need at least some Democratic support unless several senators are gone the day of the vote.
Whether he’ll clear that hurdle remains a question. Democrats on the Nominations Committee say they’re heading into Thursday’s hearing with a set of what are likely to be blistering questions about whether Whitley acted to suppress the votes of naturalized citizens.
You can find the initial entries here (I will update when there are more entries–I declined to participate in the symposium because like Justice Kennedy I remain uncertain about how these cases should be handled):
Special Feature: Symposium before the oral arguments in Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek
A constitutional crisis mainly driven by race and threatening to wipe out the Democratic executive leadership in Virginia could elevate a Republican fighting to preserve state voting districts that critics say disadvantage blacks.
Kirk Cox, now the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, is fourth in line to take over the governorship imperiled by black face controversies involving Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, and a sexual assault allegation, which he denies, against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who’d become the second black governor and the first in 25 years if he succeeds his boss.
Cox, 61, is a conservative in a state that continues to struggle to fully shed an ugly historical racial legacy while simultaneously becoming a model for political diversity and an economic powerhouse that’s just lured Amazon to its northern suburbs.
The gerrymandering case, which is set to be argued at the Supreme Court on March 18, isn’t related to the unfolding scandal in Richmond, but it does layer on another element of race to its politics.
From the looks of it, GOP politicians got what they wanted, too. From the time the tax bill was first introduced on Nov. 2, 2017, until the end of the year, a 60-day period, dozens of billionaires and millionaires dramatically boosted their political contributions unlike they had in past years, giving a total of $31.1 million in that two months, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics found.
The Center’s analysis found that 144 wealthy donors, some household names and some behind-the-scenes, contributed at least $50,000 to Republicans and conservative groups in that time frame. For 87 of those, three out of five, the surge of giving at year’s end reflected a marked change in their giving behavior. These well-heeled donors increased the share of their annual giving in the last two months of 2017 compared with previous off-year elections going back to 2009.
The timing of the donations provides “a solid block of evidence that points to some very grateful people rewarding their champions.”
Most telling, say campaign finance experts, is that 25 wealthy donors gave all their 2017 money in the final two months of the year, the first time they did so during the previous four off-election years—2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, according to the Center’s analysis of data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. The contributions the Center analyzed do not include the hundreds of millions of dollars given to dark money groups, which are not required to identify donors.
Amy Gardner reports for WaPo.
Howard has the details.
Whether they meant to or not, more than 83,000 Florida voters didn’t cast a valid vote for governor, according to a new report prepared by state officials.
The combined total of invalid ballots outnumbered Republican Ron DeSantis’s margin of victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum by more than 50,000 votes. The race between DeSantis and Gillum was so close that it triggered an automatic statewide recount.
More than 8.2 million votes were cast in the high-profile race for governor that attracted national attention. The total number of “non-valid votes” was 1 percent, which was a lower rate than either the 2016 presidential election or the 2014 governor’s race.
Bob Egelko reports for the SF Chronicle.
The Delaware Constitution sets out a unique method for selecting state-court judges: the Governor appoints them (based on recommendations from nominating commissions, and without legislative involvement) subject to a requirement that the judges of each court contain a balance of Democrats and Republicans. For example, ” three of the five Justices of the Supreme Court in office at the same time, shall be of one major political party, and two of said Justices shall be of the other major political party.” The goal was to create a bipartisan state judiciary, but one effect was to exclude candidates who aren’t members of either of the two major parties.
A Delaware lawyer who is registered as an Independent challenged the political-affiliation requirement as a violation of his First Amendment rights. The district court denied his challenge, ruling that restricting judgeship eligibility based on political affiliation was allowed because judges qualify as policymakers. Today the Third Circuit reversed, holding that judicial officers, whether appointed or elected, are not policymakers. In so holding, the court split with the Sixth and Seventh Circuits. The court also rejected the governor’s argument that the state’s interest in political balance supports its requirement, holding that even if the interest qualifies as vital the rule is not narrowly tailored to meet it. The court also rejected the Governor’s challenge to standing.
Former Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach rewrote the rules for voting in Kansas. Laws he pushed for required voters to show citizenship papers to register and ID at the polls. He secured prosecutorial powers for his office.
Kobach’s term only ended a couple weeks ago, but some cornerstones of his legacy are already starting to crumble.
A federal court knocked down the state’s voter registration rule last summer. Interstate Crosscheck, a voter records system that Kobach said could help states maintain their voter rolls and spot double voting, is currently on hold and could be abandoned.
The new secretary of state wants to take the spotlight off the office. Republican Scott Schwab was sworn in on Jan. 14 and quickly backed one significant change.
There is no evidence to date of any foreign interference in the 2018 midterm elections, according to a new joint report released by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments on Tuesday. While specific conclusions remain classified, the report found that no “identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure.”
The federal government worked with state and local officials in all 50 states and in more than 1,400 local jurisdictions “to support efforts to secure election infrastructure and limit risk posed by foreign interference.” This was a priority after the Russian government’s widespread influence efforts in the 2016 presidential election.
See also this release:
Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen yesterday submitted a joint report to President Donald J. Trump evaluating the impact of any foreign interference on election infrastructure or the infrastructure of political organizations, including campaigns and candidates in the 2018-midterm elections.
The classified report was prepared pursuant to section 1(b) of Executive Order 13848, Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Influence in a United States Election, which the President issued on Sept. 12, 2018.
Throughout the 2018 midterm election cycle, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security worked closely with federal, state, local, and private sector partners, including all 50 states and more than 1400 local jurisdictions, to support efforts to secure election infrastructure and limit risk posed by foreign interference. Efforts to safeguard the 2020 elections are already underway.
Although the specific conclusions within the joint report must remain classified, the Departments have concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress. This finding was informed by a report prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) pursuant to the same Executive Order and is consistent with what was indicated by the U.S. government after the 2018 elections.
While the report remains classified, its findings will help drive future efforts to protect election and political/campaign infrastructure from foreign interference.
Very clear Democrats will make voter suppression arguments a key theme of 2020. From Stacey Abrams response to the SOTU:
Let’s be clear. Voter suppression is real. From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places, to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy. While I acknowledge the results of the 2018 election here in Georgia, I did not and we cannot accept efforts to undermine our right to vote. That’s why I started a nonpartisan organization called Fair Fight, to advocate for voting rights. This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have a say the vision they want for our country. We must reject the cynicism that says every vote cast to be counted is a power grab. Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risk their lives to defend. The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders, not where politicians pick their voters.
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood is running for governor of Mississippi this year, and as we’ve noted before, a Jim Crow-era law means that Hood could lose even if he wins the most votes on Election Day. That’s because the state’s 1890 constitution requires gubernatorial candidates to win both a majority of the statewide vote and a majority of the 122 districts that make up the state House.
If no candidate wins both the popular vote and a majority of districts, the state House, where Republicans hold a wide 74-48 majority, then picks a winner from the top two finishers. Given the GOP’s shamelessness in embracing undemocratic outcomes, it’s unlikely they’d choose Hood, even if he wins the most votes. And thanks to Mississippi’s gerrymandered map, which the GOP drew up in 2012, we know it’ll be difficult for Hood to carry 62 House seats. But just how difficult?
To answer that, we can look to the results of Mississippi’s 2015 statewide contests broken down by state House district, which the state has calculated. Because of serious insufficiencies in the data available from the state, Daily Kos Elections has not yet calculated the results of the 2016 presidential race by legislative district, and the state has not published results for the 2015 contests by state Senate district.
Minnesota is one of 22 states where felons cannot vote until they complete post-incarceration supervision, such as probation or parole. Brown-Goodell’s is the latest in a growing chorus of voices leading a renewed charge to change that, a move that could affect 50,000 to 60,000 Minnesotans like her.
She can now count among her allies Minnesota’s newly sworn-in statewide officeholders and key law enforcement leaders in addition to the advocates who have been lobbying for change for more than a decade. Supporters say restoring voting rights would be a crucial step toward helping felons reintegrate into society in a state with one of the nation’s highest rates of people on probation.
This latest push comes on the heels of Florida voters overwhelmingly restoring voting rights to more than 1 million felons. During his inaugural address last month, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon drew some of the day’s loudest applause when he called for broadening felon voting rights here.
In the subpoena, investigators also showed interest in whether any foreigners illegally donated to the committee, as well as whether committee staff members knew that such donations were illegal, asking for documents laying out legal requirements for donations. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds.
Prosecutors also requested all documents related to vendors and contractors with the inaugural committee, which raised a record $107 million and spent lavishly.
People familiar with the subpoena said prosecutors are interested in potential money laundering as well as election fraud, though it is possible that the prosecutors do not suspect the inaugural committee of such violations. The prosecutors cited those crimes in the subpoena simply as justification for their demand for documents, the people said.
Only one individual was named as part of the subpoena’s demand for documents: Imaad Zuberi, a former fund-raiser for President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who was seeking inroads with Mr. Trump, and whose company, Avenue Ventures, gave $900,000 to the inaugural committee. The subpoena also seeks documents related to his company.
Michigan withdrew its support of amicus brief in Fish v. Schwab (formerly, Fish v. Kobach) supporting Kansas’s position that the risk of noncitizen voting justifies a documentary proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration. The withdrawal cites the change in the AG from a Republican to a Democrat.
Oral argument before the 10th Circuit in this case is Mar. 18.
New evidence submitted on the eve of a landmark trial challenging Michigan’s GOP-drawn legislative districts appears to strengthen the claim the maps were drawn in 2011 for partisan, Republican gain.
Emails and other documents filed over the weekend in federal court show that Republicans saw the redistricting process as a way to consolidate its power and ensure a GOP majority in the state house, senate and the U.S. Congressional delegation.
“Now that we had a spectacular election outcome, it’s time to make sure Democrats cannot take it away from us in 2011 and 2012,” according to a “redistricting essentials” memo issued in November, 2010, by the national Republican Party and shared with the Michigan GOP just after it swept to historic majorities in Michigan.
Today we’re releasing a detailed report on Michigan’s new Independent Citizens’ Redistricting Commission!
In November, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their state constitution to remove the power of the state legislature to draw legislative and Congressional district boundaries. The vote was a victory for those seeking to end gerrymandering, but it’s the only the beginning of a process.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project has been helping master’s of public policy students at the Woodrow Wilson School to prepare a report highlighting best practices in forming the commission and in executing its constitutional duties. The report is titled A Commissioner’s Guide to Redistricting in Michigan. You can read it here, or download a PDF.
Among our major findings:
By establishing explicit guidelines and hiring bipartisan or nonpartisan staff, the Commission will build trust in a new political institution.
Example maps show that a wide range of partisan outcomes is possible. An evenhanded approach is necessary to ensure partisan fairness.
The criteria enumerated in the new constitutional amendment should ensure representation of communities of interest and avoid bias against political parties.
Data-based tools for visualizing communities of interest will maximize the impact of public input.
See also this declaration of Bruce J. Elfant, the elections administrator of Travis County. Elfant says that Travis County is in the midst of a review of voter registration records on Friday and determined that approximately 29% of the people reviewed were incorrectly identified as noncitizens by Whitley. In the declaration, he expresses concern “about the validity of the process that has been set in motion by the SOS Advisory and the subsequent SOS communications about flaws in the data that the SOS has sent out.”
[This post has been updated and edited.]
You can read the 15-page opinion and order here.
Effects of Photo ID Laws on Registration and Turnout: Evidence from Rhode Island
Francesco Maria Esposito, Diego Focanti, Justine S. Hastings
NBER Working Paper No. 25503
Issued in January 2019
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics, Public Economics, Political Economy
We study the effect of photo ID laws on voting using a difference-in-differences estimation approach around Rhode Island’s implementation of a photo ID law. We employ anonymized administrative data to measure the law’s impact by comparing voting behavior among those with drivers’ licenses versus those without, before versus after the law. Turnout, registration, and voting conditional on registration fell for those without licenses after the law passed. We do not find evidence that people proactively obtained licenses in anticipation of the law, nor do we find that they substituted towards mail ballots which do not require a photo ID.
At about 4 a.m. on Aug. 23, federal agents rousted Jose Solano-Rodriguez from his bed in the suburbs of Raleigh. A couple of hours later, three agents knocked on Hyo Suk George’s door as she fed her rabbits and chickens in rural Columbus County. Jose Ramiro-Torres was at his job at a fencing company near the Outer Banks when his girlfriend called to tell him to come home, where federal agents were waiting.
In all, 20 immigrants — two still in pajamas — were rounded up over several days, many of them handcuffed and shackled, and charged with voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The sweep across eastern North Carolina was one of the most aggressive voting-fraud crackdowns by a Trump-appointed prosecutor — and also a deliberate choice that demonstrates where the administration’s priorities stand.
At the time of the arrests, an organized ballot-tampering effort that state officials had repeatedly warned about was allegedly gearing up in the same part of North Carolina. The operation burst into public view after Election Day in November when the state elections board, citing irregularities in the mail-in vote, refused to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District race. That seat remains unfilled while state officials investigate.
The decision by U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. to focus his office’s resources on the prosecution of noncitizens rather than the ballot-tampering allegations in Bladen County comes amid a broad push by President Trump and other Republicans to portray illegal voting as a widespread phenomenon that threatens the integrity of American elections.
Two Pennsylvania state lawmakers are making a disputed claim in a long-running, and possibly futile, effort by elections officials to determine how many non-U.S. citizens had registered to vote over the years.
On Tuesday, the lawmakers, Republican state Reps. Daryl Metcalfe and Garth Everett, issued a statement saying there had been confirmation that 11,198 foreign nationals had illegally registered to vote in Pennsylvania.
But that is not what state election officials said.
Before the court is defendants Kris Kobach and Scott Schwab’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11). It presents two vexing questions of constitutional law: Does the Constitution recognize a right to informational privacy? And, if so, does that right prohibit public disclosure of purportedly private voter information? Regrettably, the Supreme Court has not decided either one of these questions. And though our Circuit has decided the first question, it has not addressed the second one. Consistent with Circuit precedent, the court concludes that such a right exists and, though it is a close question, the court holds that the Complaint’s allegations plead a plausible claim for relief. The pages that follow explain why.
You can watch this great conversation here.
1) Virginia has an unusual recall provision called a “recall trial.” No state has this provision — it is not clear any place in the world has it. The recall trial is a modification of what we call the judicial recall/malfeasance standard, with a very big twist.
Under the recall trial standard, voters would have to gather signatures equal to 10% of turnout in the last election. Then, instead of a vote, a judge would hold a trial to determine if the elected official violated a specified list of statutory rules. The list includes neglect of duty, misuse of office, incompetence and conviction on a number of misdemeanors (one of the specified misdemeanors is a “hate crime” — though I can’t imagine any criminal charges).
Having a specified “for cause” list of actions required for removal is not unusual. Among the states that have recalls on the state level, seven have this judicial recall/malfeasance standard criteria (Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Rhode Island, Washington). This greatly limits the amount of recalls — such recalls attempts are generally thrown out very early in the process.
What is unusual is having a trial rather than an election. I’m not sure how this provision came about, but no one else seems to have it.
Would Northam be found guilty and removed in a recall trial? It seems extremely unlikely — it is not clear what charges could be filed. However, there are very few recall trials in Virginia history (see below), so we can’t read much into past practices.
2) Does the Governor even fall under this provision? The applicability portion of the code states that the law: “shall apply to all elected …. officers…. except officers for whose removal the Constitution of Virginia specifically provides.” This may mean that the recall may not cover Governors, who face impeachment under the Constitution. Again, this would need to be tested in court for a final answer….
A civil rights group has sued the state of Texas for advising counties to review the citizenship of tens of thousands of eligible voters in the state with flawed data, claiming it violates the voting rights of U.S. citizens and legally registered Texas voters who are foreign-born.
The lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund alleges that the state has “singled out for investigation and removal” the names of U.S. citizens who are registered voters because they were born outside the United States. It asks for an injunction to prevent recently naturalized citizens from being investigated and a rescission of the state’s advisory to comb through a list of 58,000 people state officials said had potentially voted while not citizens.
Peter Overby for NPR:
“The money in politics is corrupting. It controls everything,” Gillibrand told a gathering in Des Moines, Iowa, last month. “You’ve got to take on the whole system, and you have to get money out of politics. And that’s why, as a very small first step, I’m not taking corporate PAC money.”
Small as it is, this pledge to reject corporate PAC money has become a cornerstone of the Democrats’ primary contest. It helped Harris to raise $1.5 million online from small donors in the 24 hours after she announced. Warren’s campaign didn’t release a total for the post-announcement surge, but she said she got contributions from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
A lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering by Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is heading toward trial next week after a three-judge panel rejected a settlement proposed by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and plaintiffs.
Benson does not have the authority to enter into the proposed consent decree without the blessing of the Michigan Legislature, the federal judges said Friday in a ruling rejecting the deal, which would have required reconfiguration of at least 11 state House seats for 2020 elections.
A judge on Friday ordered a rare second do-over election for a northeast Georgia House seat, finding that four voters didn’t live in the district, throwing its outcome into doubt.
The new election means that voters will return to the polls for a third time to decide between Republicans Dan Gasaway and Chris Erwin.
Erwin appeared to win the first redo of the election in December by just two votes, but Senior Superior Court Judge David Sweat decided Friday that four voters had moved out of House District 28 more than 30 days before the election. Because the election was so close, the judge found that four votes were enough to justify a new election.
Ari Berman reports for Mother Jones.
Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) introduced the Shareholders United Act, H.R. 936, to control billions of dollars in corporate political spending and put power back in the hands of the shareholders.
The Shareholders United Act would prevent corporate expenditures for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its majority shareholders.
If a corporation has no such process or is unable to assess the “majority will” of shareholders because the majority of shares are owned by entities that are prohibited from registering a political preference – such as states and cities, pension and mutual funds, universities, charities, or foundations – then the corporation will be prohibited from using its resources on political campaigns.
The majority of shares of Fortune 500 companies are actually owned by institutional investors prevented from engaging in partisan political activity because of federal or local law, their tax status, contract, or fiduciary duty.
“If most company shares are owned by entities forbidden to be involved in politics, the CEO literally has no one to speak for,” Raskin said. “Money should not be taken from shareholders and their owners to make political statements they are prevented by law from making.”
A judge has ruled that election officials in Kansas’ largest county violated open records law by refusing to provide names of hundreds of people whose provisional ballots were not counted in last August’s primary.
Davis Hammet, president of Loud Light, asked for the names of 898 people whose ballots were thrown out and for justification on why they didn’t count. Johnson County election commissioner Ronnie Metsker rejected Hammet’s request, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to join Hammet in a lawsuit.
In the months after the 2016 elections, state election administrators spent millions of dollars investigating and addressing the cyber intrusions that had penetrated voting systems in dozens of states. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes emerged as one of the loudest voices calling for improvements.
In February 2017, at an elections conference dominated by talk of cybersecurity, Grimes claimed to have found the perfect answer to the threat: A small company called CyberScout, which she said would comb through Kentucky’s voting systems, identify its vulnerabilities to hacking and propose solutions.
Three days later, Assistant Secretary of State Lindsay Hughes Thurston submitted paperwork to give the company a no-bid two-year contract with the State Board of Elections, or SBE, for $150,000 a year. She did not inform the SBE — the agency that oversees the state’s voting systems — that she was doing so.
At the time, CyberScout was new to voting-related cybersecurity. The company acknowledges that it had never had an election-systems client before.
CyberScout’s CEO and his wife had given Grimes a total of $12,400 in contributions over several elections, along with $4,000 to state Democratic groups. (All of the donations fell within state limits.) Ultimately, the contract went through — Grimes denies the contributions had any influence — and CyberScout delivered little in the way of results, according to 15 election officials interviewed for this article. CyberScout’s contract was not renewed after the first stage expired in June.
Michael Wines for the NYT.
Texas should have (and likely did) know better. Great reporting from Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune.
Billionaire Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave $500,000 to a legal defense fund set up to help aides to President Donald Trump that are involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The Adelsons each contributed $250,000 on Oct. 1 to the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, which was set up last year to help campaign aides pay for legal bills related to the investigation. The donation came during the height of the midterm elections, when the Adelsons were also the largest contributors to the Republican Party’s political campaigns and committees, shelling out more than $100 million in support of GOP candidates.
On a day that Governor Greg Abbott downplayed apparent inaccuracies in a voting list that his secretary of state compiled of potential non-citizens, a former secretary of state said the list should be rescinded.
“I think they need to rescind it, do due diligence and make a more accurate list,” Carlos Cascos, who served as Abbott’s secretary of state from January 2015 to January 2017, said of his former office. “They contact everyone and admit to it and say, ‘We made an honest mistake,’ and recompile the list.” Cascos’ belief that the advisory should be rescinded aligns with the demandsmade by a number of civil rights groups who point out the data is inherently flawed.
By the time local elections officials downloaded a list of 366 registered voters the Texas Secretary of State’s Office initially said may not be citizens, the office had called to tell them to disregard the list, Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said.
The state told her office by phone Monday that the citizenship of everyone on the list is not in question, Van Wolfe said. The office was informed Friday it would get the list and need to contact each voter for proof of citizenship, she said. The list came Monday, and the secretary of state had backed off on its initial request by the time anyone downloaded the list, she said.