“Speculators about the outcome note that last year, in Trump v. Hawaii, the Court upheld the so-called “travel ban,” in an opinion granting great deference to the Executive. Respondents in the census case have argued that a ruling in Secretary Ross’s favor would stretch deference beyond the breaking point.”
As in the travel ban case, where Trump appeared to be motivated by anti-Muslim animus but the Supreme Court ignored it, there’s new evidence that the Trump Administration added the census citizenship question to dilute minority voting power, and not to enhance it, as the administration claimed. The RBG quote suggests the Court may ignore the animus once again.
Stanford University has released one of the most detailed reports thus far, involving work by numerous experts in cybersecurity and digital communications, about what the U.S. needs to do to ensure the security of American elections. Some of the major recommendations are below, but the full report should be consulted for the important details it provides:
Increasing the security of the U.S. election infrastructure through a combination of independent code inspections and test attacks by teams who would attempt everything real hackers would try, such as exploiting technological or procedural flaws in the system’s security system.
Enhancing transparency about foreign involvement in U.S. elections by banning the use of foreign consultants and foreign companies in U.S. political campaigns and publishing information about connections with foreign nationals and governments. That way voters can make their own informed decisions about the appropriateness of these contacts, McFaul said.
Confronting efforts at election manipulation from foreign media organizations by labeling content produced by government-aligned media to provide consumers with more information about where the information originates.
Combating organized disinformation campaigns from state-aligned actors by creating standardized guidelines for labeling content affiliated with disinformation campaign producers and limiting online targeting capabilities for political advertising.
Regulating online political advertising by foreign governments and nationals by explicitly prohibiting foreign governments and individuals from purchasing online advertisements that target the American electorate.
Establishing international norms and agreements to prevent election interference by appointing a designated U.S. government representative on election interference.
Deterring foreign governments from election interference by signaling a clear and credible commitment to respond to election interference. To date, the U.S. has not developed or executed a coherent strategy to prevent foreign adversaries from intervening in American elections, the report’s authors said.
The effort by Democratic majorities in the state Legislature to rollback changes to election laws passed by Republicans last year continued on Thursday, as the Senate approved a House-passed bill regarding the definition of residence for voting purposes (HB 106).
Like most election-related bills, the measure passed along party lines, 14-10, with all Republicans opposed. If signed into law, it would repeal a bill passed last year, HB 1264.
“The most serious concern with HB 1264 is that it links the act of registering to vote with the obligations to register your vehicle and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license, both of which can be very expensive for college students and will create a burden attached to voting that will turn some away from the polls,” said Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, in introducing the bill.
A leading Republican legislator involved in the redistricting, State Representative David R. Lewis, issued a sweeping denial of the charges in the filing, calling allegations of misrepresentation “a complete fabrication.” “The legislative maps I presented in 2017 were drawn on a state computer using criteria adopted publicly by the redistricting committee,” he said in a news release late Thursday. “I had no input on or control of any play maps Dr. Hofeller may have drawn on his personal computer on his own time.” Mr. Lewis’s lawyer had speculated earlier that any maps related to the case on the backups had been drawn by Mr. Hofeller in his spare time, out of personal interest.
Senate investigators have added yet another name to the constantly evolving cast of characters in the Russia investigation.
On April 5, just 2 weeks after Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his final report on Russia’s election interference, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to a British security consultant named Walter Soriano asking for a voluntary, closed-door interview and documents with various Russia probe figures dating back to June 2015.
The letter, obtained by Politico, offers yet another window into the panel’s secretive — but largely bipartisan — two-year-old investigation, and reveals the investigators’ interest in what, if any, role Israel may have played in attempts to manipulate the 2016 election.
The panel’s interest in Soriano is not a mere fishing expedition, according to a source familiar with the investigators’ internal deliberations who requested anonymity to discuss them freely. “They’re surprised by how connected he seems to several people of interest,” this person said, including the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska — a former business associate of Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who offered Deripaska private briefings about the campaign in 2016. Deripaska is believed to have worked with Soriano on corporate intelligence matters, this person said.
Democrats lurching toward potential impeachment and ramping up their probes of President Donald Trump are becoming increasingly worried that the Justice Department will subvert their efforts.
An internal DOJ watchdog report on the origins of the Russia probe is expected to spotlight potential political bias by FBI agents at the heart of the Russia probe. The report, due out as soon as this month and as late as October, could raise pointed questions about the FBI’s decision-making at the time — handing Trump a bludgeon in his long-running campaign to accuse the bureau of mounting a “coup” against him.
They fear the report, by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is respected by lawmakers from both parties, will diminish any momentum Democrats are seeking in their efforts to convince Americans that Trump obstructed the Russia investigation, later taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller.
A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court delivered a surprising rebuke to those who think corporations just don’t have enough influence on U.S. elections. In declining to hear the case of 1A Auto, Inc. vs. Sullivan, the court essentially guaranteed that corporations will be sidelined for at least the next election cycle.
What changed my mind about writing about this issue again was the administration’s response to the request by the plaintiffs, a coalition of immigrant rights groups, to Judge Furman for “sanctions or other appropriate relief” against a Justice Department official and an expert administration witness who, the newly revealed documents indicated, testified untruthfully about the origin of the citizenship question. The plaintiffs have lodged a copy of their District Court filing with the Supreme Court.
The administration’s response, a copy of which was also sent to the Supreme Court, was in most respects unsurprising. It described the new material as unauthenticated and inadmissible hearsay, and it insists that the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the citizenship question’s origin is “not only false, but legally irrelevant as both a procedural and substantive matter.”
(In a hearing Thursday, Judge Furman deferred until after the Supreme Court’s expected ruling any decision on imposing sanctions. or conducting further discovery.)
What got my attention was the anti-media theme running through the administration’s five-page filing. The Justice Department lawyers who signed the cover letter to Judge Furman complained that along with the plaintiffs’ motion for sanctions was the “near-simultaneous publication of an accompanying article in The New York Times” — as if news coverage of a public court filing cast a cloud over the propriety of the filing, rather than the documents’ revelations casting a cloud over the propriety of the administration’s litigating position. The administration lawyers complained further that the plaintiffs “appear to have spent more time coordinating with the media — the detailed Times article was posted online less than an hour after the E.C.F. filing notice — than performing the requisite investigation.” (E.C.F. stands for electronic court filing.)…
Yet the steady flow of right-wing commentary mocking concerns about the Supreme Court’s legitimacy (and I readily admit to having added my voice to those concerns) leaves me with this thought: What about the other justices? Why is it assumed on the right that Chief Justice Roberts is the only conservative on the court who has its welfare in view and who worries about the loss of public confidence if the justices come to be seen as mere politicians in robes?
Maybe the question answers itself. (Speaking of election law, it was Justice Clarence Thomas who wrote in a separate opinion three years ago that he regarded the court’s “one person, one vote” jurisprudence as lacking a “sound basis.”) Justice Samuel Alito? The new justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh? Shouldn’t we assume that they care too? And if not, why not? As the clock ticks toward the 2020 census, just asking.
A plan released this week by a Stanford University group that includes former top government and tech industry officials aims to be the equivalent of the 9/11 Commission report for election security.
Like the 9/11 report, which fundamentally reorganized the nation’s homeland security and intelligence structure after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “Securing American Elections” aims big. It argues Russia’s 2016 election interference operation was an attack on fundamental American values, and should provoke the government and private sector to step up “defenses against efforts to erode confidence in democracy.”
The report’s 108 pages include 45 recommendations ranging from securing voting systems and combating online disinformation campaigns to negotiating major election security norms with allies and punishing adversaries who violate them.
Like the 9/11 commission leaders who spent years pushing the government to fully implement their reforms amid partisan bickering, this group is preparing for a fierce lobbying campaign to turn its recommendations into reality,said Nate Persily, a report author and director of Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center.
That will be an uphill climb. “We’re not naive. We recognize that the topic of Russian intervention in the 2016 election provokes a partisan reaction and there’s a partisan allergy to some types of recommendations,” Persily told me. “But we believe Democrats and Republicans can unite around what are some common-sense reforms.”
When former Secretary of State David Whitley launched a review of the Texas voter rolls for supposed noncitizens, his office marked almost 100,000 voters for two reviews — one by county officials to question their voter eligibility and another by the Texas attorney general’s office for possible criminal prosecution.
The counties halted their work — though some never actually started — after a federal judge put the review on hold over questions of constitutionality raised in three federal lawsuits. But it appears that the state’s top prosecutor, who boasted his office would “spare no effort in assisting with these troubling cases,” has not.
More than a month after a legal settlement was reached to scrap the review, Paxton’s office has indicated it is keeping open the criminal investigation file itinitiated based on the secretary of state’s referral. That’s even after the list was discredited when state officials realized they had mistakenly included 25,000 people who were naturalized citizens and admitted that many more could have been caught up in the review.
It was a single phrase, offered without elaboration, in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report: In August 2016, hackers working for Russian military intelligence “installed malware on the company network” of an unnamed voter registration technology vendor in the United States.
The claim amounts to one of the first indications that Russians successfully executed a cyberattack against a private company supporting American election infrastructure. And it has set off a scramble for answers in North Carolina, where officials have long been concerned about the security of a voting technology company called VR Systems — so much so that the state tried to halt the use of its electronic poll books, equipment used to check in voters.
Problems checking in voters on Election Day 2016 in Durham County made national headlines. Later, leaked documents revealed that Russians had tried to hack VR Systems shortly before the election. After the Mueller report, state officials wanted to know: Was VR Systems the company referenced? What effect, if any, did the malware have? And how could they prevent it from happening in 2020?
An examination of North Carolina’s struggle to answer those questions, detailed in court records and a dozen interviews, hints at the difficulties state officials face in shoring up security ahead of next year’s elections — a lack of technical expertise, poor communication between state and federal officials, and the apparent unwillingness, in this instance, of the federal agency involved to share information. Russian hackers targeted elections infrastructure in at least 21 states, and likely more, in 2016, federal officials have said.
Russia’s infamous troll farm conducted a campaign on Twitter before the 2016 elections that was larger, more coordinated and more effective than previously known, research from cybersecurity firm Symantec out Wednesday concluded.
The Internet Research Agency campaign may not only have had more sway — reaching large numbers of real users — than previously thought, it also demonstrated ample patience and might have generated income for some of the phony accounts, Symantec found.
The company analyzed a massive data set Twitter released in October 2018 on nearly 3,900 accounts and 10 million tweets.
The research discovered that the average lag between account creation and first tweet was 177 days. The most retweeted account garnered 6 million retweets, and less than 2,000 of those came from within the IRA-linked network of accounts. The huge delay points to a lot of patient preparation, and the retweets indicate that a lot of unaffiliated Twitter users were amplifying the IRA’s message.
Michael Kang has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, Boston College Law Review). Here is the abstract:
We live in hyperpartisan times. Democrats and Republicans have not been so bitterly divided along partisan lines since Reconstruction, nor so aggressively hostile to each other in the history of the two major parties. For almost anyone today, our current era seems like historically extreme, even bizarrely partisan. By comparison, the preceding era of the Cold War was far less partisan and far less ideologically polarized. For modern critics, this earlier era of bipartisanship, spanning roughly from World War II through the 1980s, offers a hopeful model for a better, less partisan American politics. However, this historical baseline is salient but badly misleading. The bipartisanship of the Cold War, not today’s hyperpartisanship, is actually the dramatic outlier in American history. Congressional partisanship for most of American history was comparable to today’s hyperpartisanship. And the process of legislative redistricting, for most of American history, was just as intensely partisan as the rest of American politics.
The Article introduces to the legal scholarship this history of redistricting. Understanding this forgotten history reveals that it is actually today’s hyperpartisanship, and today’s hyperpartisan gerrymandering, that are closer to historical norm than our Cold War expectations. However, it was precisely during the Cold War era of partisan peace that courts inaugurated election law and began overseeing the redistricting process. The development of redistricting law, and indeed most of election law, therefore occurred during an odd circumstance of minimal, historically low partisanship where partisan complications largely receded from judicial attention. As a result, the law of redistricting developed by courts during the Cold War era is fundamentally mismatched to today’s hyperpartisanship and the intensity of hyperpartisan gerrymandering. The ensuing law of redistricting has thus grown up during an era, shaped by judges and lawyers of the same experience, when partisanship and gerrymandering were least prevalent in American history. Saddled by outdated empirical understandings, the Supreme Court underestimates the impressive effectiveness, durability, and scope of today’s hyperpartisan gerrymandering, as the Article details.
This court construes Robin J. Vos’s petition for a writ of mandamus as a notice of appeal of the district court’s order of May 3, 2019, in case no. 3:15-cv-421-jdp in the Western District of Wisconsin. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the clerk of this court shall TRANSFER the petition to to be docketed as a notice of appeal. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that proceedings in the appeal are STAYED pending the Supreme Court’s resolution of Rucho v. Common Cause, No. 18-422, and Lamone v. Benisek, No. 18-726. The parties shall file statements of position no later than seven days after the Supreme Court has issued its decisions in Rucho and Lamone. IT IS FINALLY ORDERED that the district court’s order of May 3, 2019, is STAYED pending resolution of the appeal.
Colorado and Nevada adopted new laws this week that will restore people’s voting rights as soon as they are released from incarceration, as opposed to doing so at later stages of the legal system (if ever).
These reforms deal a double blow to a system that excludes and marginalizes millionsof U.S. citizens, disproportionately African American, across the country. They are the latest successes in a nationwidemovement to confront felony disenfranchisement. The movement has upended the voting rights debate and opened space for bolder reforms than we have come to expect, whether ones like Colorado and Nevada’s or ones that go further by targeting disenfranchisement altogether. Prior to this week, just one state had passed a law to enfranchise people upon their release over the last decade (Maryland in 2016). Colorado and Nevada did this within a day of one another.
I’ve since been pointed to pages 180-81 of John Gore’s deposition in the census case, where he appears to acknowledge that one of DOJ’s purposes early on in asking for the citizenship question to go on the census was to allow jurisdictions to draw districts with equal numbers of voter eligible persons (as opposed to total population, which would hurt Hispanic voters and Democrats). Look especially at the last sentence of the excerpt below:
With all the debate over the Hofeller stuff, let’s not forget that there is really no credible evidence DOJ wanted the question added to the census to help Hispanic voters in Voting Rights Act section 2 cases (which the Trump DOJ has never brought). The intention is only to hurt Hispanic voters, whether or not the Hofeller evidence ever gets before the Supreme Court.
In an August 2018 email from John Crawford, a top official of the driver’s license division at the Texas Department of Public Safety, to an employee, Crawford said DPS had run data of licensed drivers to compare to state voter rolls before, and “we have an urgent request from the governor’s office to do it again.”
At a three-day hearing in federal court in San Antonio, none of the state’s witnesses ever mentioned that Abbott had pushed for the program when questioning turned to the origins of the program, which some officials called “routine.”
But the emails show Abbott applied pressure to officials at DPS to provide data that the Secretary of State could use for voter list maintenance.
From the emails, it appears employees from DPS and the Secretary of State’s office had been working on voter purge information since March 2018.
Challenges threatening the upcoming 2020 census could risk more than 4 million people to be missing from next year’s national head count, according to new projections by the Urban Institute.
The nonpartisan think tank found that the danger of an inaccurate census could hit some of the country’s most difficult-to-count populations the hardest. Based on the Urban Institute’s analysis, the 2020 census could lead to the worst undercount of black and Latinx people in the U.S. since 1990.
A group of black voters is challenging Mississippi’s racist, Jim Crow-era laws that try to give a decided advantage to white candidates vying for statewide office, ahead of a critically important election for governor that is expected to totally remake the state’s redistricting process.
The group is represented by a foundation affiliated with former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is tasked with pushing for fair election maps.
Four African American voters filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi on Thursday, challenging the state’s 1890 Constitution that set racist election rules.
In Mississippi, winners of statewide office have to clear two hurdles. They not only have to win a majority of the state’s popular vote, but a majority of House districts as well. Lawmakers get to pick a winner if a candidate fails to satisfy both criteria.
According to the lawsuit, the state Constitution was written by white supremacists who tried to ensure that the newly enfranchised African American population never took political control in the state.
The 2020 presidential campaigns appear to have done little to prepare for what experts predict could be a flood of fake videos depicting candidates doing or saying something incriminating or embarrassing. Driving the news: The recent manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was just a taste of what could lie ahead. Fake video has the potential to sow huge political chaos, and countering it is wildly difficult. And right now, no one can agree who’s responsible for countering it. Axios contacted all 24 Democratic presidential campaigns, in addition to President Trump and Republican challenger William Weld. Nine Democratic campaigns and the Trump campaign responded. None could point to any specific protective steps they had taken against deepfakes. What’s happening: A whole lot of buck-passing.
On one level, Trump’s brash lobbying in foreign countries is just another case of norm-busting for a president who often rejects the niceties of both domestic and international politics. But at a deeper level, Trump’s moves help normalize a practice that helped him win in 2016 and could advance his cause as he seeks re-election in 2020.
Here is the letter, painting a starkly different picture of both the facts and legal relevance of the Hofeller materials.
This will no doubt have to be hashed out by the district court, while the Supreme Court drafts its opinion (and certainly dissents) in the census case.
And regardless of what the truth actually is, this letter will give more than enough cover to Justices wishing to ignore the Hofeller material in siding with the government on the citizenship question.
UPDATE: DOJ has now shared its letter with the Supreme Court. As Tierney Sneed notes, DOJ is suggesting that the material came from a brief in Evenwel (ironically one authored by Gerry Hebert, Paul Smith, and Anita Earls). Here was my response:
Across the Democratic field, candidates are embracing the big donors they distanced themselves from early on — a sign of increasing doubt that the small, online donations the campaigns have been chasing will be sufficient to sustain two-dozen primary contenders.
Many of the candidates previously had held a handful of high-dollar fundraisers or avoided them altogether, seeking to tap into the populist sentiment that has animated the Democratic base. They tried to capitalize on the deluge of online donations that helped fuel the midterm elections, rather than making the traditional overtures to wealthy donors, once a staple of early presidential campaigns.
But after a disappointing fundraising haul in the first quarter of the year, and as the primary drags on with no clear front-runner, many of the candidates are turning their focus to wealthy donors — a strategy that could help keep their campaigns viable but may hamper their ability to connect with base voters.
Lots of interesting and perhaps surprising information at the OpenSecrets.org site on the occupation of the “groups” that gave the largest contributions in the 2018 congressional election cycle. A couple points that stood out to me:
Those who list their occupation as “retired” gave the single largest amount of any occupational “group” in the aggregate. Second, the groups that split their contributions most evenly between the parties were the real-estate sector and the pharmaceutical industry.
Note that these are only direct contributions to campaigns. This does not reflect independent spending. I assume, also, that this reflects only contributions over $200, where the FEC requires disclosure of the occupation of the donor. Lastly, Open Secrets states that these figures reflect only contributions to incumbents, by which I take it they mean those running as incumbents in 2018 (even if they were running for a different seat, as in the case of O’Rourke).
New York is among a small number of states where Democrats made big gains in last year’s election and have used that power to pass laws to make it easier to register and to vote. They have introduced early voting, all-mail voting or automatic registration.
A few Republican-led states – some of which saw high turnout for Democratic candidates – are going in the opposite direction, advancing bills to tighten voter registration and early voting.