Today’s Must Read: “Inside The Trump Voter Fraud Commission’s Weird, Wild Attempt To Prove The Untrue”

Sam Levine for HuffPo:

One morning in June last year, just before 3 a.m., Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach emailed White House officials with an editing suggestion for a draft letter they were preparing on behalf of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission. In addition to requesting a boatload of voter information, the letter asked state election officials to answer questions about evidence of voter fraud and to offer recommendations for preventing voter disenfranchisement and intimidation.

Kobach, the effective head of the commission, took issue with the order of the questions. The Republican didn’t want the inquiry about voter intimidation to come before the inquiry about voter fraud, because voter fraud was what the commission was really interested in.

“I don’t think voter intimidation should be listed before voter fraud. That is a secondary or tertiary concern of the commission,” Kobach wrote. White House officials appear to have heeded Kobach’s advice and put the question about voter fraud first in the letter it sent out that day.

The email was among thousands of documents publicly released last week by the watchdog group American Oversight and Democratic commission member Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s secretary of state. The controversial panel was abruptly disbanded in January. These emails provide the most in-depth look to date at its work, which was hidden from both the public and the Democrats who served on the commission.

Taken together, the documents show how the White House and Republican commission members sought to bolster the false narrative that voter fraud is a widespread problem in the U.S., despite no evidence that’s true.


“A Fight Over Voter Rights in California; Liberal Santa Monica finds itself on the same side as a conservative legal activist challenging the state’s voting-rights law”


Santa Monica, Calif., with a “well-being index” to gauge the happiness of its residents and a fleet of city buses powered by natural gas, often lives up to its reputation as a wealthy, liberal enclave on California’s coast

But this month, a trial in a Los Angeles courtroom has put the seaside city on the same side as a conservative legal activist who is challenging the state’s voting-rights law.

The fight revolves around the city’s at-large election system for its seven City Council seats. Instead of winning office by capturing the majority in any particular district, council members are elected citywide.

The city is being sued in state court by Maria Loya, who argues she lost elections for City Council and the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, which also elects its members citywide, because of the at-large system. Ms. Loya, who is Latina and lives in the city’s Pico neighborhood, which is historically Latino, ran for the council in 2004 and the college board in 2014.



Maryland: “Sens Seek Election Probe”

Baltimore Sun:

Less than three months before early voting begins, Maryland’s U.S. senators have joined the chorus of elected officials warning that the November elections could be threatened by a Russian oligarch’s stake in a firm that manages some of the state’s most critical electoral systems.

Maryland has already endured one major election snag this year. Some 80,000 voters were told just before the June 26 primary to cast provisional ballots because their change-of-address requests were flubbed by a faulty computer program.

Then FBI agents revealed last month that a contractor that manages many of Maryland’s election systems has ties to Vladimir Potanin, an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

State officials launched a barrage of probes.

On Tuesday Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen added to the list of inquiries by asking that a U.S. Treasury Department committee determine whether Potanin’s investment in the state contractor, ByteGrid, poses a national security threat.



North Carolina: “Roy Cooper sued election board. Instead of fighting, the board’s lawyer took his side.”

News and Observer:

Gov. Roy Cooper sued the state elections board and Republican legislative leaders over two constitutional amendments planned for the fall ballot. Rather than fighting Cooper, the state lawyer representing the elections board has jumped in on Cooper’s side.

The state Republican Party is calling out state Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, for supporting the Democratic governor’s position on the lawsuit without getting election board members’ approval.

“It is highly unusual for an attorney to make a decision of this magnitude without a formal request or vote from his client board,” the state GOP said in a statement. “It is illegal for any member of the board to take a public stance on a ballot question.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for Stein said the office is confident it is properly representing the board.


“Foreign interests have spent over $530 million influencing US policy, public opinion since 2017”

Open Secrets:

Foreign lobbyists and agents acting on behalf of foreign interests have reported hundreds of millions of dollars in payments since January 2017, an analysis of OpenSecrets’ exclusive new Foreign Lobby Watch data reveals.

Today we’re making available, for the first time, a searchable database of foreign interests spending on lobbying and influence in the United States.

Foreign lobbyists and other operatives acting on behalf of foreign interests wield a significant amount of power, impacting economic and diplomatic policies as well as public opinion.

The law that governs most foreign influence disclosure requirements, the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), requires any foreign agent or lobbyist representing a foreign principal to register with the U.S. Department of Justice and file detailed public disclosures.

These reports may include details that are not found in the more familiar lobbying reports submitted to Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, including names of U.S. officials with whom the lobbyist had contact and copies of materials disseminated, such as ads, press releases, or flyers.

While FARA reports are publicly available through the Justice Department, following the money can be difficult, requiring laborious research and records sleuthing. With Foreign Lobby Watch, anyone can quickly learn what foreign interests are spending on lobbying or to influence policy in the United States and how much they are spending.


“PA James Announces Legislation to Close Loophole Allowing Foreign Contributions to NYC Political Campaigns”

Press release:

Public Advocate Letitia James announced major new legislation designed to prevent foreign entities from circumventing New York City’s strict campaign finance laws through a loophole created by Citizens United. Introduced in the wake of substantial new evidence of a coordinated Kremlin effort to illegally funnel money through the NRA to benefit Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, this legislation will help ensure that New York City elections are free from corrupt foreign influence.

New York City’s Campaign Finance Laws are already a national model, but the intelligence community consensus of ongoing efforts by hostile foreign powers to illegally subvert American elections has highlighted unforeseen dangers.

In order to protect the integrity of our New York City elections, the bill would strengthen the existing prohibition on direct foreign and corporate campaign contributions by extending the ban to American corporations under substantial foreign ownership or control.


“US judge voids part of North Carolina election law”


A federal judge invalidated part of North Carolina elections law that allows one voter to challenge another’s residency, a provision that activist groups used to scrub thousands of names from rolls ahead of the 2016 elections.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said in an order signed Wednesday that the residency challenges are pre-empted by the 1993 federal “motor voter” law aimed at expanding voting opportunities.

You can find the court’s order at this link.


“A Senator Claims That Russian Hackers Are In Florida’s Voter Systems. Local Officials Are Skeptical.”


Florida Senator Bill Nelson claimed Wednesday that Russian hackers “right now” are “in (the) records” of county election offices, prompting confusion from Florida state and county officials who said they are unaware of such an attack.

Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times, Nelson said that the hackers “have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about.”

In an email to Florida’s 67 county supervisors shared with BuzzFeed News, Florida’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, said he “has received zero information from Senator Nelson or his staff that support his claims.”

“Additionally, the Department has received no information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that corroborates Senator Nelson’s statement and we have no evidence to support these claims. If Senator Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida,” Detzner said.


“Georgia election officials knew system had ‘critical vulnerabilities’ before 2016 vote”


Georgia election officials got a friendly warning in August 2016 that their electronic voting system could be easily breached.

But less than a month before the November election, a state cybersecurity official fretted that “critical vulnerabilities” persisted, internal emails show.

The emails, obtained through a voting security group’s open records request, offer a glimpse into a Georgia election security team that appeared to be outmatched even as evidence grew that Russian operatives were seeking to penetrate state and county election systems across the country.



“Pa.’s absentee-ballot problem: Votes come in late because of tight deadline”

Jonathan Lai in the Philly Inquirer:

In 2010, election officials reported 2,162 absentee ballots were rejected for coming in too late; 2,030 were rejected in 2014. And given all the cuts endured by the postal service in recent years, election officials say that if lawmakers don’t act, the problem is going to get worse.

The numbers might not be enormous, state and county election officials say, but it matters that thousands of voters end up disenfranchised — and without their knowledge. And who knows — in especially close elections those votes might just make a difference.

Pennsylvania, with deadlines more restrictive than many other states, is a national leader in absentee ballots invalidated because of missed deadlines.


“No law prevents Kris Kobach from overseeing the likely recount in his own race”

KC Star:

No law requires Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to recuse himself from a recount in the governor’s race, but legal and political experts say that he should to maintain trust in the election.

Republican legislative leaders said Wednesday morning that a recount is almost certain and could possibly take weeks.

Kobach, the state’s top election official, narrowly led Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary by a mere 191 votes Wednesday morning after each of the state’s 105 counties had posted election returns after technical difficulties in Johnson County delayed results on election night.

Kobach’s office did not immediately comment on whether the secretary intended to hand over administration of the recount to a deputy.

He has recused himself from deciding election disputes in the past because of a conflict of interest, including in 2014 when he abstained from a residency objection hearing against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts because he served on the senator’s campaign committee….

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said in an email that “it would be good practice even if not required by state law for an election official to recuse from any recount or legal proceedings surrounding his or her own election efforts. A longstanding English and American tradition is that ‘no man should be a judge of his own case.’ That should apply here.”

Hasen added that the issue “only arises because we have partisan election officials running our elections. In most other advanced democracies, there are nonpartisan professionals.”


“Judge hands NC legislators a temporary loss in lawsuit over political labels”

News & Observer:

The North Carolina Supreme Court candidate who is suing the state government and legislative leaders won a partial victory in court Monday.

Chris Anglin is a registered Republican, and he is running against a Democrat and another Republican, who is the incumbent seeking re-election. Both of them — Democrat Anita Earls and Republican Barbara Jackson — will have their party affiliations listed on the ballot this November. But a new law passed by the state legislature on Saturday means that the ballot won’t say Anglin is a Republican. Instead, the space next to his name will be blank.

Anglin said Republican legislators made that change so that his campaign would have less of a chance at succeeding and derailing Jackson, who is the party’s preferred candidate. Among several other legal requests filed Monday morning, he asked a judge to throw out the parts of the law that affected him.

And at just after 4 p.m. Monday, he got some of what he wanted. In a written statement, Anglin said he was happy, and not surprised.



North Carolina: “Cooper, NAACP, environmentalists fail to win quick freeze on constitutional amendments”

News & Observer:

Gov. Roy Cooper failed Tuesday afternoon to get a temporary freeze on two proposed constitutional amendments he has called legislative power grabs, with a Superior Court judge declaring that a three-judge panel should have the first chance to decide.

The Democratic governor is seeking to block two amendments that he said were written to mislead voters. The amendments would continue a trend of legislative power shifts that began even before Cooper was sworn in as governor in January 2017.

Meanwhile, the state NAACP and an environmental group called Clear Air Carolina are suing to keep four amendments from appearing on this fall’s ballots.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway said he would urge the state Supreme Court chief justice to appoint a three-judge panel quickly to decide both cases. The state is facing a ballot-printing deadline, and the Legislature wants the six proposed amendments on it.


“Kansas and Ohio Races Remain Too Close to Call”


The Kansas Republican primary for governor and Ohio’s high-stakes special election for Congress both remained too close to call on Wednesday morning, with razor-thin margins separating the candidates in each race.

With all precincts reporting in Kansas shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday, Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach was ahead of Gov. Jeff Colyer by just 191 votes out of more than 311,000 Republican ballots cast statewide. The results were likely to remain in flux for at least several days with an unknown number of mail-in ballots not yet counted, a full canvass of all votes still to come and the possibility of a recount looming.

As the state’s top election official, Mr. Kobach would be in charge of overseeing the canvass if he does not recuse himself.


“Election experts say Kris Kobach’s voter fraud claims are misleading”


Kris Kobach, the former vice-chair of President Donald Trump’s now-disbanded commission on election integrity, and Maine’s Democratic Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap have engaged in a public back and forth over the issue of voter fraud, with Kobach accusing Dunlap, a former member of the commission, of being “willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” and Dunlap claiming that the commission failed to find evidence of widespread fraud.

But election experts say that Kobach’s claims are misleading and obscure the reality that voter fraud is rare in the context of the more than 1 billion votes cast since 2000.
In a statement sent to CNN on Saturday claiming that Dunlap is “willfully blind,” Kobach, who serves as Kansas’ Republican secretary of state, said that the commission “was presented with more than 1,000 convictions for voter fraud since the year 2000.” Kobach further claimed that this finding was only a fraction of the total and said that the “commission was also presented approximately 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election looking only at 20 states.”
The statement did not cite sources for the numbers and Kobach’s office did not respond to a CNN request asking what evidence the information was based on.
Three election experts interviewed by CNN, however, cast doubt on the claims made by Kobach, a noted proponent of voter fraud theories and related policies. For example, in 2016, Kobach supported Trump’s false claim that “millions of people” voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in that year’s presidential election.



“Georgia groups call on GOP gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp to step down as the state’s elections chief”


Activist groups in Georgia are calling on Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp to step down as secretary of state, a post that includes responsibility for overseeing the state’s elections.

Kemp, through his campaign spokesman, has said he will not give up the job that he has held since 2010, noting that other elected officials have not quit their elected posts while running for higher offices. He is running against Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, a former state lawmaker who has clashed with Kemp in the past over her efforts to register voters.

The race will be one of the most closely watched of the midterms, a test of Trump’s political popularity and a chance for Abrams to make history as the nation’s first black female governor.

Two groups — the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice and Resist Trump Tuesdays — have planned a rally for Wednesday afternoon to call for Kemp to resign. Common Cause Georgia issued a statement this week urging him to leave his position. “It is ethically wrong for a politician to oversee the campaign he is a candidate in,” reads an online petition launched by the group.



“Judge’s ruling invalidates FEC regulation allowing anonymous donations to ‘dark money’ groups”

Big ruling while I was gone flagged here by Politico:

A U.S. District Court judge on Friday issued a ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous, the latest development in a years-long legal battle that could have major implications for campaign finance.

Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled the FEC’s current regulation of such groups, including 501(c) 4 non-profits, fails to uphold the standard Congress intended when it required the disclosure of politically related spending.

“The challenged regulation facilitates such financial ‘routing,’ blatantly undercuts the congressional goal of fully disclosing the sources of money flowing into federal political campaigns, and thereby suppresses the benefits intended to accrue from disclosure … ,” wrote Howell, an Obama appointee to the D.C district court. The decision is likely to be appealed….

The FEC now has 45 days to issue interim regulations that uphold the broader disclosure standards and 30 days to reconsider its original decision to dismiss a complaint about the Crossroads GPS’ spending in the Ohio race.

The FEC could appeal the decision, but an appeal would require a unanimous vote from all of the remaining commissioners, since two seats remain vacant. Crossroads could also file an appeal.

Even if the FEC does not appeal, I believe Crossroads GPS could bring an appeal here.


“Sitting Rep’s Campaign Collected Dead Man’s Signature On Challenger’s Behalf”


A Virginia judge appointed a special prosecutor Tuesday to look into a case of potential forgery and other election law violations after multiple suspicious signatures were found on a petition to get an independent congressional candidate on the ballot, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

But there’s a big twist: The signatures for that independent candidate, Shaun Brown, were collected by paid campaign staffers for the incumbent Republican candidate in the race, Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA).

Taylor beat Brown, who was then running as a Democrat, in the 2016 congressional election. Brown was subsequently indicted for fraud, a totally separate storylate last year. She announced her independent candidacy in March of this year.

What has emerged, potentially, is an effort to use fraudulent signatures to add an independent candidate to the ballot, in order to divert votes away from a legitimate Democratic challenger.


Top Recent Downloads in Election Law on SSRN


Rank Paper Downloads

Deep Fakes: A Looming Challenge for Privacy, Democracy, and National Security

University of Texas School of Law and University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

Campaigns, Inc.

University of Wisconsin Law School

Presidential Elections: National Popular Vote, Elector Unit Rule Voting and Related Issues

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP

The Democracy Ratchet

Pepperdine University – School of Law

Dark Parties: Citizens United, Independent-Expenditure Networks and the Evolution of Political Parties

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) – Department of Political Science

Two Problems of Fiduciary Governance

University of Houston Law Center

Is Groton the Next Evenwel?

Vanderbilt University – Law School

Prophylactic Redistricting? Congress’s Section 5 Power and the New Equal Protection Right to Vote

Florida State University – College of Law

Who Votes Without Identification? Using Affidavits from Michigan to Learn About the Potential Impact of Strict Photo Voter Identification Laws

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University – Department of Government

“Brennan Center Sues Justice Department for Refusing to Disclose Documents Related to Controversial Voting Letter”

Release via email:

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is suing the Justice Department today for refusing to turn over documents related to a controversial letter DOJ sent last year, which sought detailed information about how states maintain their voter rolls. Voting rights groups are concerned that it could be a prelude to pressuring states to engage in aggressive voter purges — the often-flawed process of deleting names from voter registration lists.

“The public has a right to know why the Justice Department sent this letter, and what information it received from states in response,” said Jonathan Brater, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The Justice Department should be fighting to protect the voting rights of all Americans. We are concerned, though, that this letter may be part of a broader effort to undermine those rights, and we are going to court to find out.”

Non-partisan ethics watchdog American Oversight is representing the Brennan Center in the lawsuit.

DOJ sent the letter in July 2017, requesting that election officials in 44 states share details about how they are complying with federal laws that govern voter list maintenance. In it, DOJ claimed the inquiry was related to “nationwide enforcement efforts.” The Brennan Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request shortly afterward, requesting communication and documents related to both the creation of the letter and any responses DOJ received from states. Earlier this year, the DOJ largely denied the request, producing some partially-redacted pages while at the same time acknowledging that additional responsive documents exist.

“On its own, this letter would be troubling, but taken in the context of President Trump’s discredited ‘voter fraud’ commission and the move to include a citizenship question in the census, it looks like one piece of a broader attack on voting rights,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “With just months until Americans head to the polls again for the November midterms, we need to get to the bottom of how this letter was written and why it was sent.”

DOJ’s inadequate response comes as a new Brennan Center report finds that voter purges are on the rise. Between the federal elections of 2014 and 2016, almost 4 million more names were purged from the rolls than between 2006 and 2008.

The uptick is particularly noticeable in jurisdictions that previously had to “pre-clear” changes to their election procedures with federal officials because of a history of racial discrimination. The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder ended that federal oversight. Had purge rates continued in these jurisdictions at the same pace as rates in jurisdictions not subject to preclearance at that time, 2 million fewer voters would have been deleted from voter rolls between the elections of 2012 and 2016.


A “New Gig” and an Old One for the Indispensable Doug Chapin

Doug announces:

Seven years ago, I joined the University of Minnesota to help build and launch the Humphrey School’s election work – and over that time, we’ve built a master’s- and undergraduate-level Certificate in Election Administration program that’s reaching students, election officials and other professionals nationwide. Throughout that time, I’ve written approximately eleventy billion words on this blog and on Twitter highlighting election administration issues and doing my part to promote the work of #electiongeeks across America.

The good news is that little of that is going to change; however, in a couple of weeks I’ll be starting a new chapter of my career.

On August 20, I will be joining Fors Marsh Group in Northern Virginia as their Director of Election Research. FMG is home to some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and they’re already doing incredible work in the election space with clients like the Federal Voting Assistance Program, the Election Assistance Commission and the Council on State Governments. Now more than ever, quality research and data on election administration is crucial not only to improving the voter experience but also to hardening our democracy against outside threats – and FMG and its team of professionals is knee-deep in the work. My role will be to manage that portfolio as well as to look for opportunities for new projects in the election space. It’s an incredible opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.

As I said, though, the educational work at Minnesota will continue; I’ll still be teaching as an adjunct faculty member – and this blog will live on as one way for me to stay on top of (and share) ideas and issues in the elections field. I also expect to stay active on Twitter!

Doug is a gem in the election law community. Full of knowledge, scrupulously fair, Minnesota nice, and an island of calm rationality when everyone else’s heads are exploding. I learn so much from Doug’s work and his personal example. Good luck with the new endeavor, Doug!


“Kris Kobach used flawed research to defend Trump’s voter fraud panel, experts say”


One of the foremost proponents of stricter voter identification laws, Kobach, who is running in the primary Tuesday for the Republican nomination for the state’s governorship, has been undeterred since a federal judge struck down a restrictive voting law for which he had advocated in the state.

And in a statement sent to The Washington Post, Kobach accused Dunlap of being “willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” pointing to studies from two conservative groups about the supposed voter fraud about which he has been so vocal: a database from the Heritage Foundation that found 983 convictions in state, local and federal elections dating back decades; and a study from the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit founded by Stephen K. Bannon and another Breitbart editor, that purported to find 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election…

Kobach’s response was included in the reports of outlets such as CNN, the Associated Pressand HuffPost. But election experts interviewed by The Post said that the two studies made for a flawed portrait of the issue of voter fraud. Examining them provides a window into the ways in which statistics are massaged and studies are selectively deployed in the push to address the supposed mass scourge of voter fraud with stricter voter identification laws. Though a handful of people vote illegally, either intentionally or unintentionally, every year, election experts say that there is no evidence that voter fraud is a widespread issue of any statistical significance.


Is Kobach’s Controversial CrossCheck Program Dying?

Steven Rosenfeld:

That overall tally means that 17 out of the 28 states that were in Crosscheck as of early 2017 have backed away, at least for now. That list of states, that, under a legal memo, agree to share some of their voter data for analytics overseen by the Kansas Secretary of State, comes from a Supreme Court legal brief filed by ex-Bush administration officials known for overly policing the process. They supported a new purge process in Ohio.

But there’s more going on than a mass exodus or distancing from Crosscheck, as Illinois’ reference to “security issues” alludes. Last fall, Indivisible Chicago, a Democratic activist group, posted documents online showing Crosscheck security lapses: emails with logins and passwords; statements that it did not change passwords; and observing that it didn’t encrypt voter data. Since then, some of the attorneys defending Crosscheck in court have acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security sees Crosscheck as a cyber-security risk. That development led more states to suspend its interactions with it.


“Election Commission Documents Cast Doubt on Trump’s Claims of Voter Fraud”


Today, thousands of commission documents were released that show aspects of the body’s inner workings. As critics have suggested, the records — a mix of memos, internal emails and reports — make clear the commission’s work was driven by a small number of members who were convinced voter fraud was widespread, and that other members were often excluded from critical decisions about the commission’s aims and tactics….

On Nov. 18, 2017, Andrew Kossack — the executive director of the commission — circulated a draft “Staff Report” on the commission’s work. The report is a summary of the commission’s efforts, which Kossack appears to have been compiling beginning in August. The draft report included a prewritten section called “Evidence of Election Integrity and Voter Fraud Issues.” The section, with few exceptions, wound up almost entirely blank….

The documents released today also suggest that the commission had intended to ask states for far more information than has been publicly reported.

ProPublica first reported last October that Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams — two individuals who are closely associated with advocacy for strict laws to prevent voter fraud — provided feedback on the request for state voter rolls behind the scenes before their formal appointment to the commission. The documents now show their specific suggestions.

In addition to the voter roll data, von Spakovsky and Adams jointly recommended the commission ask for a long list of other data from states. Those on the email chain jointly agreed that the first request should be simple, and that additional data could be requested later.

It appears the commission quickly made plans to request some of the additional data the pair had requested, namely jury questionnaires. The documents show that in late June, at the same time the original letter was sent, Kobach and members of the Office of the Vice President had drafted and finalized a letter to send to federal clerks’ offices requesting information on “all individuals determined to be ineligible or who were otherwise excused from federal jury duty” because they had died, moved out of the jurisdiction, had a felony conviction, or were not U.S. citizens. They specifically requested the names of the individuals and their addresses, and the reason they were excused from jury duty, and “other identifying information associated with each individual.”



Group Challenging Constitutionality of Size of California Legislature Seeks Writ of Mandamus from Supreme Court to Convene 3-Judge-Court

You can find the petition at this link.

The petition alleges that the district court was going to convene a three-judge court until the Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit told the judge not to do so:

Petitioners claim no misconduct on the part of the district judge, the Chief Circuit Judge or any of the “attorneys” (presumably circuit staff attorneys) with whom the district judge had a “discussion” on this topic. Tr. of 6/14/2108 hearing at 29, Appendix at C-28a. Nevertheless, the Chief Circuit Judge did not have the benefit of briefing on this issue, and it is therefore a denial of due process for him to issue authoritative guidance to the district judge about how she must exercise her authority under 28 U.S.C. §2284(b)(1). Nor does the Chief Circuit Judge, acting in his administrative capacity under 28 U.S.C. §2284(b)(1), have authority to speak on this issue. Under the clear terms of the statute, his role is limited to “designat[ing] two other judges, at least one of whom shall be a circuit judge.” So whatever guidance or directive the Chief Circuit Judge gave to the district judge was ultra vires and injudicious.


“Wisconsin’s redistricting case draws new judge on panel as Barbara Crabb withdraws”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Wisconsin’s redistricting case is headed back to a three-judge panel — but it will consist of a slightly different set of judges.

Barbara Crabb, a U.S. district judge for Wisconsin’s western district, on Thursday withdrew from the case without explanation. She will be replaced by U.S. District Judge James Peterson, a colleague in her district who was randomly assigned to the case.

The case centers on whether legislative maps that GOP lawmakers drew in 2011 are so beneficial to Republicans that they violate the voting rights of Democrats.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June determined the Democrats didn’t have legal standingto bring their lawsuit, but found they may be able to establish standing and continue the case. The justices returned it to the three-judge panel for further proceedings.

I have asked the reporter for clarification on whether this was really a random draw replacement. As I understand it, it is the chief judge who gets to pick the composition of the three-judge panel.

UPDATE: It was in fact a random draw, as the reporter, Patrick Marley, explains.


“Russian Threat ‘Is Real,’ Trump Officials Say, Vowing to Protect U.S. Elections”


Top national security officials vowed Thursday to defend American elections against what they called real threats from Russia only weeks after President Trump seemed to accept President Vladimir V. Putin’s denials of interference during a summit meeting in Finland.

After the meeting, Mr. Trump said he had not meant to endorse Mr. Putin’s denial of election meddling, but insisted that the culprit behind the intrusion“could be other people.” A few days later, he asserted that the idea of any meddling by Russia was “all a big hoax.”

But the men and women charged with detecting and defending against any threats to the American political process showed no such ambivalence. They bluntly said that Russia was behind a “pervasive” campaign to weaken America’s democracy and influence the 2018 election.

They also sought to reassure voters that federal, state and local governments were taking steps to guard against what Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, described as a “24-7 365-days-a-year” effort by Russia to sow division as Americans head to the polls in the fall.


ELB Podcast, Season 2: Episode 1. Dale Ho: From the Trenches of the Voting Wars

After a long hiatus, the ELB Podcast is back in time for the midterm election season with a great first guest!

What is the state of voting rights in America? What did the ACLU’s lawsuit against Kris Kobach over the state of Kansas’s “show us your papers” citizenship voting law teach us about the extent of the voter fraud problem? What’s at stake in the litigation over the citizenship question which may appear on the 2020 census?

On Season 2, Episode 1 of the ELB Podcast, we talk with Dale Ho, Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who supervises the ACLU’s voting rights litigation and advocacy work nationwide.

You can listen to the ELB Podcast Season 2, Episode 1 on Soundcloud or subscribe at iTunes.


“Donation from prominent L.A. politician roils USC, which referred case to federal prosecutors”

Quite a story in the LAT:

When state Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas resigned suddenly in December, it marked an abrupt halt to a promising political career.

The son of powerful Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had enjoyed the backing of his father’s donors and the Democratic Party establishment.

Ridley-Thomas, 30, said at the time that unspecified health problems left him no choice but to step down. He needed “an extended period of time to recuperate,” he wrote in a statement.

Within months, the younger Ridley-Thomas reemerged at the University of Southern California.

The university, which sits in his father’s district, hired him as a professor of social work and public policy. USC also gave Ridley-Thomas, who lacked a graduate degree, a scholarship to pursue a master’s program in social work, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The unusual arrangement has come under scrutiny in recent weeks as the scandal-plagued university attempts to adopt more transparency in its affairs. Administrators launched an investigation and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was fired last month, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

After the internal probe, USC approached the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles. The university told federal prosecutors it had concerns about a recent $100,000 donation from a campaign fund controlled by Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The gift to USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work ended up in the account of a nonprofit group outside the university run by Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, according to sources and public records.


“Arrested, Jailed and Charged With a Felony. For Voting.”


Keith Sellars and his daughters were driving home from dinner at a Mexican restaurant last December when he was pulled over for running a red light. The officer ran a background check and came back with bad news for Mr. Sellars. There was a warrant out for his arrest.

As his girls cried in the back seat, Mr. Sellars was handcuffed and taken to jail.

His crime: Illegal voting.

“I didn’t know,” said Mr. Sellars, who spent the night in jail before his family paid his $2,500 bond. “I thought I was practicing my right.”

Mr. Sellars, 44, is one of a dozen people in Alamance County in North Carolina who have been charged with voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election. All were on probation or parole for felony convictions, which in North Carolina and many other states disqualifies a person from voting. If convicted, they face up to two years in prison.

While election experts and public officials across the country say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, local prosecutors and state officials in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Idaho and other states have sought to send a tough message by filing criminal charges against the tiny fraction of people who are caught voting illegally.


“Facebook Grapples With a Maturing Adversary in Election Meddling”


They covered their tracks, using software to camouflage their internet traffic. They created Facebook pages for anti-Trump culture warriors, Hispanic activists and fans of alternative medicine. And they organized protests in coordination with real-world political groups.

The people behind an influence campaign ahead of this year’s elections, which Facebook disclosed on Tuesday, copied enough of the tactics used by Russians in the 2016 races to raise suspicion that Russia was at it again. But the new efforts also revealed signs of a maturing adversary, adapting and evolving to better disguise itself, while also better imitating real activists.

The coordinated activity — a collection of memes, photos and posts on issues like feminist empowerment, indigenous rights and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — show the enormity of the challenge ahead of Facebook, as it tries to weed out impersonators. As the forces behind the accounts become harder to detect, the company is left to separate the ordinary rants and raves of legitimate users from coordinated, possibly state-backed attempts to sway public opinion.