“Trump Embraces the Traditional Fund-Raising He Once Shunned”


About 200 bundlers from across the country are expected to gather Tuesday at the Trump International Hotel for a series of meetings and workshops about the campaign’s new fund-raising program. Vice President Mike Pence will address the group. Brad Parscale, President Trump’s campaign manager, will play host. Stephen A. Schwarzman, the Wall Street billionaire, has R.S.V.P.’d yes.

The group will be divided into tiers, based on success in raising money. The “Trump Train” donors, or those who raise $25,000, will be given a lapel pin and access to a national retreat and leadership dinners. “Club 45” members, or those who raise $45,000, will get all of that, as well as monthly conference calls with Republican Party leaders. And the “Builders Club,” or those bundlers who raise $100,000 or more, will be given access to national campaign events.

It is the kind of traditional campaign fund-raising apparatus that Mr. Trump thumbed his nose at during his 2016 run. And it involves some donors who only grudgingly accepted him once he was the Republican presidential nominee.

“I don’t need anybody’s money,” Mr. Trump said after announcing his candidacy in June 2015. “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.” That fall, he wrote on Twitter, “This whole Super PAC scam is very unfair to a person like me who has disavowed all PAC’s & is self-funding.”

Mr. Trump did not solicit cash for his bootstrap campaign until a year later.

The tiered bundler system that Mr. Trump’s campaign has built — modeled after President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and complete with super PACs supporting it from the outside — is the most tangible example yet of Mr. Trump’s ceding to the reality of his second presidential race. This time, he is a candidate of the establishment, complete with bundlers who are lobbyists, even while he tries to run as if he is still the marauding outsider at the gates.


“House Democrats blast Florida’s ‘illegal poll tax’ amid federal oversight push”

David Smiley for the Tampa Bay Times:

House Democrats seeking to build a case for renewed federal oversight of election laws came to South Florida Monday and accused state lawmakers of systematically disenfranchising voters and passing legislation that would impose an illegal “poll tax” on former felons seeking to regain the right to vote.

Members of an elections subcommittee of the Committee on House Administration held a hearing on voter rights in Fort Lauderdale as part of a seven-city fact-finding tour to create a basis for an update of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. At times, the meeting felt as much an airing of grievances with Florida’s Republican-led state government as an evidentiary hearing, with Democrats ticking off a list of election-related offenses….

Over the last decade, Florida has created arduous voting lines by arbitrarily reducing early voting, been sued over the lack of bilingual voting services and repeatedly watched its elections become the source of national scrutiny. Monday’s hearing is a sign that the nation’s largest swing state is in Congress’ sights as it seeks to restore an oversight process known as “pre-clearance,” in which counties and states are forced to submit voting changes to the federal government for review.


“Turkey Orders New Election for Istanbul Mayor, in Setback for Opposition”


Turkey’s electoral authorities wiped away a crushing defeat for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, ordering a rerun of the race for mayor of Istanbul won by the opposition and heightening the prospect of social unrest and a new economic crisis.
The decision by the High Election Council was immediately condemned by the opposition party as a capitulation to Mr. Erdogan and a blow to the democratic foundations of the country, which have drifted closer to authoritarianism under his 18 years in power.
Mr. Erdogan has jailed journalists, isolated adversaries and conducted mass purges of the police, the military and the courts. He has strengthened his powers under the Constitution. Now, critics say Mr. Erdogan has managed to invalidate what had been a humiliating defeat for his party in Istanbul, the country’s largest city, commercial capital — and the president’s hometown.


Michigan’s New Voting Rules

The Detroit News reports on the implementation of same-day registration and other new rules in tomorrow’s elections, taking place in 65 of 83 Michigan counties. Secretary of State (and former Election Law Prof) Jocelyn Benson says: “The May 7 election will be the first time Michigan citizens can take advantage of the sweeping new voting rights instilled in our constitution as a result of the Promote the Vote constitutional amendment enacted last fall.”


“Ahead Of 2020, Microsoft Unveils Tool To Allow Voters To Track Their Ballots”

NPR: “In an effort to improve confidence in elections, Microsoft announced Monday that it is releasing an open-source software development kit called ElectionGuard that will use encryption techniques to let voters know when their vote is counted. It will also allow election officials and third parties to verify election results to make sure there was no interference with the results.”


CLC/Axios Report “Can I Count on You?”


A political organization run by David Bossie, President Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, has raised millions of dollars by saying it’s supporting Trump-aligned conservative candidates — but has spent only a tiny fraction of that money supporting candidates.

Instead, federal records suggest the Presidential Coalition has spent nearly all its money — raised mostly from small-dollar donations — on more fundraising, as well as administrative costs, which include Bossie’s salary, according to a new report produced by the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) in collaboration with Axios….


“Desperate drive to make the debate stage shakes Dem campaigns”


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sank a ping-pong ball into a cup of water — a spin on the drinking game, beer pong — and turned the moment into a digital ad urging $1 donations to her presidential campaign. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is hawking bumper stickers for $1 donations and used his recent CNN town hall to make a televised plea for more campaign contributions. Former Rep. John Delaney promised to give $2 of his own money to charity for each of the next 100,000 individual donors who gave to his campaign.

The unconventional, often gimmicky fundraising arms race is part of a desperate scramble to make it past a new threshold set by the Democratic National Committee, 65,000 individual donors, to the first primary debates in June and July.


Lessig: “American democracy is broken. We must demand 2020 candidates commit to a fix”

In The Guardian:

[P]erhaps surprisingly, given that she is among the most successful political fundraisers in America today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set the only meaningful bar. HR1, the reform package that she passed in the House, was extraordinary not just because of the incredible range of reform packed into that single bill… It was also extraordinary because it recognized that reform must happen first. “Fix democracy first” has become the slogan of many in this movement. And the essential question that we should be asking candidates now is not whether their campaign cash is pure, but whether their commitment to fixing democracy is real.


“How Americans — And Democratic Candidates — Feel About Letting Felons Vote”


In a March 2018 poll for HuffPost, YouGov found that 24 percent of U.S. adults supported restoring felons’ voting rights while they are in prison and 58 percent opposed it, including 41 percent who were “strongly” opposed….

But the public is more likely to support restoring the right to vote for felons who have been released from prison, even if they are on probation or parole — 38 percent of adults supported the idea in the HuffPost/YouGov poll, while 44 percent were opposed….

[T]he easiest proposal to pass might be one that simply returns the ballot to felons after they have completed all parts of their sentence, as a plurality of states currently do…. [C]rucially, it is downright popular as a policy: 63 percent of adults told HuffPost/YouGov that they supported restoring the vote to felons who had completed their sentences. Just 20 percent were opposed.


Stay Request in Michigan Redistricting Case


Michigan Republicans have asked the three-judge panel that ruled last week the Legislature must redraw maps for Michigan’s 14 U.S. House seats, the Michigan Senate and the Michigan House for an emergency stay of the ruling.

The motion for an emergency stay and immediate consideration was filed Friday by most of the state’s Republican members of Congress and several Republicans in the Legislature who have intervened in the case.

As expected.


“Have court rulings in Michigan and Ohio turned the tide on partisan gerrymandering?”

David Daley in Salon:

Since November 2016, federal courts and state supreme courts nationwide, exhausted by districts crafted with such surgical partisan intent that they become impervious to shifts in the electorate, have also struck down entire maps in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina…. Courts have additionally overturned individual districts in Maryland, Virginia and Florida as either unconstitutional racial or partisan gerrymanders….

Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules later this spring, it will take years, even a generation, to repair the damage to our civic fabric from this decade’s cynical and corrosive festival of partisan gerrymandering that has heightened and accelerated polarization, extremism and our dysfunctional politics….


“Pelosi Warns Democrats: Stay in the Center or Trump May Contest Election Results”

NYT on Speaker Pelosi’s belief that the only way to remove President Trump from office “is to defeat him in 2020 by a margin so ‘big’ he cannot challenge the legitimacy of a Democratic victory.”

Few people outside Ms. Pelosi’s inner circle were aware of how worried she was that Mr. Trump would try to stop the opposition party from taking control of the House unless the Democrats’ victory was emphatic enough to be indisputable.

“If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election,” said Ms. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections.


“How the ACLU is setting up Trump for a field day in 2020”


The debate over allowing the Boston Marathon bomber to vote started with a man named Rick in Muscatine, Iowa.

At a town hall in early April, he reminded Bernie Sanders that prisoners in his home state of Vermont are allowed to vote and asked if that right should be extended nationally. Sanders agreed it should, and before he knew it, he was being asked variations of the question at Fox News and CNN town halls. Sanders’ critics pounced, and the conservative outrage machine kicked into gear, fueled by President Donald Trump.

The chain of events didn’t start by accident: It was orchestrated by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is coaching activists like Rick as part of a multi-million dollar, below-the-radar campaign to get the 2020 candidates on record about its civil liberties priorities. 

In related news, Vox reports on a poll finding that 69% of registered voters believe that incarcerated felons should not be allowed to vote, and 89% believe that those incarcerated for terrorism-related crimes shouldn’t be allowed to vote.


“The Failures of the Mueller Report’s Campaign Finance Analysis”

Bob Bauer’s take on Just Security: “The Report treats the campaign finance issues almost cursorily—one could say, superficially— even to the point of failing to identify and address all the applicable law. The results are an unconvincing decision to decline any prosecutions, and a major question about the enforcement of this law in 2020 and beyond.”


Reaction to Ohio Gerrymandering Decision

On Friday, Nick Stephanopoulos offered his cogent analysis of the three-judge district court decision holdings that Ohio’s congressional districts violate the Equal Protection Clause and First Amendment right of association.

Politico notes that the judges on the case were ” [Sixth Circuit Judge] Karen Nelson Moore, appointed by President Bill Clinton; [U.S. District Judge] Timothy Black, appointed by President Barack Obama; and [U.S. District Judge] Michael Watson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush.”

Cleveland.com discusses the challenge that faces the Ohio legislature in enacting a new plan by June 14, as the district court ordered, given that this is “an already busy time for Republican lawmakers in Columbus, who are reckoning with passing a state budget, as well as whether to bail out two nuclear plants.”

As Rick anticipated, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has confirmed that the state will ask the Supreme Court to issue a stay of its ruling according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent offer a pessimistic take for opponents of gerrymandering, based on the oral arguments in the pending cases out of North Carolina and Maryland, suggesting that “conservative justices seem to believe there’s no workable standard to distinguish between a map gerrymandered so unfairly that it violates the Constitution, and one that doesn’t…”


Josh Douglas on Who.What.Why.

A podcast on his new book,Vote for US: ” Douglas argues that change best happens locality by locality and that, in spite of all the bad news, he is seeing many new efforts at voter expansion. Promising local experiments, mostly in blue states but some bipartisan efforts as well, include felon re-enfranchisement and lowering the voting age.”


Does Voter Suppression Really Suppress Voting?

The WSJ Editorial Board thinks not:

Democrats accuse Republicans of suppressing the minority vote with laws to ensure ballot integrity. But then how do they explain record minority turnout last November? If Republicans were trying to stop minorities from voting, their schemes were inept.

For a more sophisticated take on the issue, see Jacob Neilheisel and Rich Horner’s new article in Election Law Journal, “Voter Identification Requirements and Aggregate Turnout in the U.S.: How Campaigns Offset the Costs of Turning Out When Voting Is Made More Difficult.” Here’s the abstract:

In spite of the attention that has been lavished upon the subject in recent years, scholars have found little evidence demonstrating that voter identification laws have a substantial effect (either positive or negative) on aggregate levels of voter turnout. Recent work by Valentino and Neuner (2017) suggests that the disconnect between the predictions of rational choice models of voter turnout that focus on the costs of voting and the observed effects (or lack thereof) of voter ID requirements can be explained with reference to the countervailing influence of mobilization efforts on the part of Democrats. We test this proposition directly in this article using data on the location of Democratic campaign field offices over three presidential election cycles (2004, 2008, and 2012) coupled with information on the spread of voter ID requirements and other policies regulating access to the ballot box. Using a series of difference-in-difference models, we find some support for the notion that campaigns can effectively subsidize the costs of new legal-institutional barriers to the franchise.

In other words, they find some evidence that Democratic voter mobilization effectively countered the effects of voter suppression laws.


Foley on Ranked-Choice Voting in Presidential Elections

Ned Foley in Politico Magazine, suggesting that Electoral College reformers ” focus on a select group of battleground states and get them to adopt ranked-choice voting—or, if they prefer, a conventional runoff—in presidential elections”:

The key is to focus reform efforts on swing states—the battlegrounds where elections are decided—and get them to embrace, via ballot initiatives or legislation, electoral systems that reward only candidates who win a majority of the vote.

Ideally, the whole country would adopt this reform, but just having the five main “toss-up” states on board in 2020 would eliminate a significant amount of the risk that the election results could go against the national popular vote.


The Ohio Gerrymandering Decision

Today’s decision striking down Ohio’s congressional districts as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders is notable in several respects. First, it was again unanimous. By my count, this is the fourth consecutive decision (following those in Maryland, Michigan, and North Carolina) in which every judge has agreed that certain challenged districts are unlawful. Adding the Wisconsin case to the set, fourteen out of fifteen judges have ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the recent wave of partisan gerrymandering litigation. Moreover, six of these judges have ruled against districts that were drawn by the party of the president who appointed them (two Democratic appointees in Maryland, one Republican appointee in Michigan, one Republican appointee in North Carolina, one Republican appointee in Ohio, and one Republican appointee in Wisconsin). In an era of growing judicial polarization, this level of bipartisan consensus is remarkable.

Second, the Ohio decision adopted the same partisan vote dilution standard as the earlier Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin rulings. Under this test, “Plaintiffs must prove (1) a discriminatory partisan intent in the drawing of each challenged district and (2) a discriminatory partisan effect on those allegedly gerrymandered districts’ voters. Then, (3) the State has an opportunity to justify each district on other, legitimate legislative grounds.” The Ohio decision was also particularly clear about the role of plan-wide measures of partisan asymmetry in this analysis. These metrics “reveal if, and by how much, the map benefits one party over another by facilitating the more efficient translation of that party’s votes into seats.” “Multiple partisan-bias metrics should be used, and consistency across metrics and across data sets is key in evaluating this type of evidence.” Districts should thus be invalidated only if they belong to a map whose “partisan-bias metrics all point in the same direction” and reveal that “the redistricting plan is an historical outlier in its partisan effects.”

Third, the Ohio decision was the first to confront a serious argument that the Voting Rights Act justified the map’s bias. According to the defendants, the VRA required them to draw a black-majority district in northeastern Ohio (District 11, stretching from Cleveland to Akron) and thus to pack Democrats in that district. But as the court pointed out, there was no evidence of “effective white bloc-voting” in northeastern Ohio, meaning that no VRA claim in that area could succeed. In addition, the defendants made District 11 much more heavily black than it needed to be to elect a black-preferred candidate. “A 45% BVAP would be sufficient to elect the black-preferred candidate by a comfortable margin.”

And fourth, the Ohio decision was the first to analyze the plaintiffs’ associational claim using Anderson-Burdick balancing—a framework that Dan Tokaji has long advocated. As Dan has explained, Anderson-Burdick properly focuses courts’ attention on how severe the plaintiffs’ associational burdens are. Only heavier burdens trigger heightened scrutiny; lighter burdens, of the kind imposed by many district maps, result in something closer to rational basis review. Anderson-Burdick also properly instructs courts to balance the plaintiffs’ associational burdens against the government’s justifications for them. It thus avoids condemning all (or even most) maps designed by a single party: a scenario that several justices have warned against. Time will tell if the Ohio court’s use of Anderson-Burdick proves as durable as the partisan vote dilution standard it adopted.


Breaking: Unanimous 3-Judge Court, in 300-Page Opinion, Strikes Ohio Congressional Districts as Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymanders

You can find the opinion at this link. From the introduction:

We join the other federal courts that have held partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional and developed substantially similar standards for adjudicating such claims. We are convinced by the evidence that this partisan gerrymander was intentional and effective and that no legitimate justification accounts for its extremity. Performing our analysis district by district, we conclude that the 2012 map dilutes the votes of Democratic voters by packing and cracking them into districts that are so skewed toward one party that the electoral outcome is predetermined. We conclude that the map unconstitutionally burdens associational rights by making it more difficult for voters and certain organizations to advance their aims, be they pro-Democratic or pro-democracy. We conclude that by creating such a map, the State exceeded its powers under Article I of the Constitution. Accordingly, we declare Ohio’s 2012 map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, enjoin its use in the 2020 election, and order the enactment of a constitutionally viable replacement. 

I suspect that Ohio, as Michigan just did when faced with a similar ruling, will ask the United States Supreme Court to stay this ruling pending the decision in the pending partisan gerrymandering cases out of North Carolina and Maryland. I expect the Court will grant that request.

What the Supreme Court ends up doing here is uncertain, but it is quite remarkable how many lower courts, many of them unanimous, have now issued decisions, along similar contours, finding partisan gerrymandering to violate one or more provisions of the U.S. Constitution.


Florida: “Legislators make a deal on Amendment 4. Felons must pay but judges can waive costs.”

Miami Herald:

Florida lawmakers say they’ve settled on a way to implement Amendment 4 that requires felons to pay all court fees, fines and restitution before voting, but allows judges to waive those costs or convert them into community service hours.

The agreement between the House and Senate, reached Thursday night and near the end of Florida’s legislative session, provides an unclear path for felons with financial obligations to vote.

But the bill could prevent tens of thousands of felons — or more — from voting while creating an unequal system across the state for restoring their voting rights.

The deal will go to a vote on Friday, the last full day of the legislative session….

But the idea was criticized by former Miami-Dade circuit court judge Stanford Blake, who called the Legislature’s attempts to implement Amendment 4 a “fiasco.”

Should the state give judges broader discretion to alter sentences, Blake wondered if that might put a strain on the courts.

“If you have potentially 1.5 million people [seeking changes to their sentence], is that going to create such a backlog that each court would have to designate a judge to hear all the applications for a waiver?” Blake said. “And is that really the intent of Amendment 4 being carried?”

In November, nearly 65 percent of voters approved Amendment 4, which was supposed to restore the right to vote to more than a million felons.


“Are states equipped to tackle partisan gerrymandering on their own?”

Steve Mazie for the Economist.

Yet the difficulty of replicating Michigan’s transition in most other states is a hard reality. And the Wolverine state’s success is allowing some justices to believe that the courts can sit back and let democracy take its course. Ms Fahy bristles when she hears this. But she and activists in other states with independent commissions may have more disappointments ahead. In 2015, a redistricting commission in Arizona barely survived a constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court. The decision was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and clinched by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who left the bench last summer. Chief Justice John Roberts’s dissent accused the majority of “deliberate constitutional evasion”: Article I empowers only state legislatures to draw electoral lines, he wrote. With a more conservative Justice Kavanaugh now in Justice Kennedy’s seat, and the pointed dissenter in the Arizona case now the swing justice, independent commissions—and America’s electoral democracy—remain vulnerable. 


“In long-winding case, court considers federal oversight of Texas redistricting”

Alexa Ura for the Texas Tribune:

Back in the federal courthouse where most of an eight year-long case has played out, the fight over forcing Texas back under federal oversight of its mapmaking appeared to hinge on whether the state should be held accountable for political maps that never took effect.

The arguments for a return to the days when Texas needed approval of its political districts diverged significantly during a Thursday court hearing before a panel of three federal judges. The state and the plaintiffs — voters of color, civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers — each appeared to have a judge on their side. One judge was skeptical of any sort of supervision for state lawmakers, while another judge openly considered why Texas should be allowed to redraw its maps without any sort of guardianship given its recent discrimination against voters of color.

But the high-stakes fight — and ultimately the ruling from the three-judge panel overseeing the case — may very well rest on Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who made few remarks during the hearing but summed up the issue in one question.

“Is it actual injury or threatened harm that controls the issue?” Garcia asked.

See also Michael Li’s thread:


Lawsuit Filed Against New Strict Tennessee Voter Registration Restrictions

Release via email:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP, pro bono firm Hogan Lovells US LLP, Memphis-based firm Burch, Porter, & Johnson PLLC, Bromberg Law LLC, and community practitioner Daniel Ayoade Yoon filed suit today challenging Tennessee’s new third-party registration law. The complaint alleges that the law, which imposes burdensome requirements on persons and organizations who seek to help people register to vote, violates fundamental rights of free speech, free association, the right to vote, and due process. The suit was filed on behalf of the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP, Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities, The Equity Alliance, and The Andrew Goodman Foundation, all of whom engage in voter registration activities.
The law, signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee today, introduces a whole host of restrictions on third-party voter registration groups. It requires them to comply with preregistration, training, and affirmation requirements or face draconian criminal and civil penalties ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars. The statute stiffly penalizes groups for actions of voters who do not satisfy a vaguely-defined requirement that registration forms be “complete.” The statute also criminalizes “any public communication” made by a third-party group to a voter about the voter’s registration status if it is not accompanied by a disclosure that the communication was not authorized by the Secretary of State. 
“Tennessee’s law is one of the most restrictive voter suppression measures that we have seen this year. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to discourage and deter people from helping others to register to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “There is no basis for the law’s draconian provisions that will chill basic First Amendment rights. We will use every tool in our arsenal to fight a law that would undermine the work of voter registration organizations and advocates across the state. Tennessee has one of the lowest voter registration rates of any state in the country — lawmakers should be working to address this and instead have chosen to exacerbate the crisis.”
“While voter participation in Tennessee continues to rank among the lowest in the nation, the state of Tennessee has today taken unprecedented steps to make it more difficult – and risky – for individuals and groups to assist Tennesseans in registering to vote. Aside from having its priorities badly misplaced, the state’s actions conflict with some of our nation’s most fundamental ideals and, we believe, violate the U.S. Constitution. The NAACP is committed to having this badly flawed legislation overturned by the courts,” said Bradford Berry, general counsel of the NAACP.


Tennessee: “Did House Speaker’s office attempt to frame activist? DA asks for special prosecutor to investigate”


Did Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada’s office try to frame a young activist who had challenged Republican lawmakers during this year’s legislative session?

An exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation has uncovered new evidence – including racist text messages – that raise questions about the Speaker’s $200,000-a-year chief of staff, Cade Cothren.

Now, Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk has requested a special prosecutor to take a hard look at the case.

“This was an extreme form of retaliation where you are willing to lie to take away somebody’s freedom,” said Justin Jones, the student activist who was targeted by the Speaker’s office.

This year, Casada repeatedly found himself at the center of protests — protests over voting rights issues, as well as the legislature’s refusal to remove the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol.

One of the main thorns in the Speaker’s side has been Jones, a Vanderbilt divinity student and civil rights activist.


“FEC Dysfunction Now Threatens Democracy”


Of all the Federal Election Commission’s many chronic breakdowns in recent years, its failure to take the slightest action to either stave off or respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 election is the most damaging to American democracy.

The FEC repeatedly considered but never approved straightforward new rules to require internet advertisers to better identify themselves, a move that could have helped deter Russian disinformation on social media. And now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded that the Russian government interfered in the election “in sweeping and systematic fashion,” the FEC remains missing in action.

That the FEC is precisely the gridlocked and ineffectual agency that Congress intended it to be is nothing new. What’s new is that the FEC’s well-documented partisan stalemates have become so routine, and its staff so hollowed-out and demoralized, that the commission has moved from dysfunctional to essentially inoperative. Two new reports, from Issue One and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, portray an agency in shambles, no longer able to function at even the most basic level. 

Also new is the nature of the threat facing American elections. Even as President Donald Trump plays down the danger of Russian interference, U.S. national security officials are bracing for a new round of Russian cyber attacks and disinformation in 2020. Mueller’s report disclosed for the first time that, within hours of Trump’s appeal to Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, Russian government hackers compromised election systems in a Florida county.


Trump Pushing Barr to Investigate Biden?

Not out of the question, per the NYT:

The Trump team’s efforts to draw attention to the Bidens’ work in Ukraine, which is already yielding coverage in conservative media, has been led partly by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for Mr. Trump in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Giuliani’s involvement raises questions about whether Mr. Trump is endorsing an effort to push a foreign government to proceed with a case that could hurt a political opponent at home.

Mr. Giuliani has discussed the Burisma investigation, and its intersection with the Bidens, with the ousted Ukrainian prosecutor general and the current prosecutor. He met with the current prosecutor multiple times in New York this year. The current prosecutor general later told associates that, during one of the meetings, Mr. Giuliani called Mr. Trump excitedly to brief him on his findings, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Mr. Giuliani declined to comment on any such phone call with Mr. Trump, but acknowledged that he has discussed the matter with the president on multiple occasions. Mr. Trump, in turn, recently suggested he would like Attorney General William P. Barr to look into the material gathered by the Ukrainian prosecutors — echoing repeated calls from Mr. Giuliani for the Justice Department to investigate the Bidens’ Ukrainian work and other connections between Ukraine and the United States.

Mr. Giuliani said he got involved because he was seeking to counter the Mueller investigation with evidence that Democrats conspired with sympathetic Ukrainians to help initiate what became the special counsel’s inquiry.


“A Lawsuit About Trump and the NRA Could Upend How the Government Polices Campaign Finance”

Mother Jones:

A gun safety group, Giffords, and a campaign finance watchdog, the Campaign Legal Center, are suing the Federal Election Commission for failing to act on multiple complaints alleging that the National Rifle Association unlawfully coordinated with Donald Trump and other Republican candidates in recent elections. And the lawsuit is poised to act as a major test for the FEC chair’s new strategy to try and force the agency to take more aggressive action to police campaign finance.

Ellen Weintraub, the chair of the FEC, can’t discuss specific ongoing cases, but her recent statements make it clear that she doesn’t plan on voting to defend the agency in any cases involving delays in agency action. If she follows through on this promise, it would result in the first actual instance of her utilizing a new strategy, as Mother Jones first reported, to effectively sabotage her own agency in order to enforce campaign finance law, a move that one former FEC lawyer termed the “nuclear option.”


“Textualism for Realists:” Michigan Law Review Issue Includes Review of My Justice Scalia Book by Ian Samuel

You can find the 23-page review of my book, The Justice of Contradictions: Antonin Scalia and the Politics of Disruption, at this link. Although Samuel has much to disagree with, the former Scalia clerk says this: “Hasen’s book ought to be read by everyone with a strong opinion about Justice Scalia, in either direction. Skeptics of Scalia, of course, will find much to nod at. But actually, my recommendation is especially true for the justice’s admirers—who will find much to disagree with in the book, but who nonetheless ought to read it to understand what is likely to be the party line of sophisticated Scalia skeptics in the years to come. And although neither virtue counts for much in the academic press, for what it is worth, the book is very readable and (a virtue Scalia himself would have appreciated) admirably free of filler—Hasen gets to the point.”


“After Backlash, Personal Voter Information Is Removed by New York City”


Bowing to fierce criticism from elected officials and privacy advocates, the New York City Board of Elections has removed the voter enrollment books that it had posted online, which had included every registered voter’s full name, party affiliation and home address.

The books, spanning thousands of pages in searchable PDF format, were quietly posted in February, the first time they had been available on the Board of Elections website. Officials said the online publication was necessary given changes to election law at the state level.

But after a series of news reports regarding the decision, some election and privacy experts warned that it could make sensitive personal information too readily available. And officials including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, warned that the decision to publish the books could undermine public trust in the electoral process and jeopardize the security of voter information.

By Tuesday, the voter rolls had been removed from the Board of Elections’ website. Michael Ryan, the board’s executive director, said the board had made the decision during a conference call on Monday, partly in response to public outrage following the media reports.


“GOP appeals Michigan gerrymandering ruling to Supreme Court”

Detroit News:

Michigan legislative and congressional Republicans are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a blockbuster ruling that the state’s political maps must be redrawn because of an unconstitutional gerrymander of “historical proportions.”  

Attorneys for GOP lawmakers on Tuesday filed notices of appeal with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, where a three-judge panel last week ordered officials to create new boundaries for at least 34 state House, Senate and congressional districts.

The brief notices did not include arguments for the appeal, which would be filed separately with the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorneys are also expected to seek a “stay” delaying the panel ruling while the nation’s highest court considers separate gerrymandering cases out of North Carolina and Maryland.


“GOP Advances Bill That Could Let Missouri Exclude Non-Citizens From Redistricting”


The Missouri legislature moved one step closer on Monday to putting on the ballot a measure that would gut an anti-gerrymandering initiative passed by voters last year. The proposal, if it becomes law, would set the stage for the state to exclude non-citizens from its redistricting process, kicking off a major legal battle over who deserves political representation in the country.

The Missouri House passed the ballot measure out of its chamber Monday. The vote was  104-49, with eight Republicans opposing.
It moves now to the state Senate, and if passed there, it will need final approval from voters in the 2020 election.


“Does State Online Voter Registration Increase Voter Turnout?”

Jinhai Yu writes for Social Science Quarterly. From the abstract:

The results of this study demonstrate that state online voter registration increases voter turnout. The difference‐in‐difference analysis shows that the states’ implementation of online voter registration increases the turnout of young voters by about 3 percentage points in presidential election years. The instrumental variable analysis shows that the usage of online registration by voters increases their turnout by about 18 to 20 percentage points.