California Supreme Court blocks tax initiative from ballot as an unconstitutional “revision”

Unanimous decision in Legislature of the State of California v. Weber. From the introduction:

Petitioners — the Legislature of the State of California, Governor Gavin Newsom, and elector and former Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton — filed this original proceeding seeking a writ of mandate or prohibition to bar the Secretary of State (Secretary) from placing an initiative measure on the November 2024 general election ballot. The measure at issue has been designated Attorney General Initiative No. 21-0042A1 and Secretary of State Initiative No. 1935, and has been named the “Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act” by its drafters. We refer to it as the “TPA.” The petition primarily contends that the TPA is invalid because it attempts to revise the California Constitution via citizen initiative. Petitioners also argue that the TPA is invalid because it would seriously impair essential government functions. Petitioners named Thomas W. Hiltachk, the proponent of the challenged measure (Proponent), as real party in interest.

“We stress initially the limited nature of our inquiry. We do not consider or weigh the economic or social wisdom of general propriety of the initiative.” (Amador Valley Joint Union High Sch. Dist. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1978) 22 Cal.3d 208, 219 (Amador Valley).) The only question before us is whether the measure may be validly enacted by initiative. After considering the pleadings and briefs filed by the parties and amici curiae as well as the parties’ oral arguments, we conclude that Petitioners have clearly established that the challenged measure would revise the Constitution without complying with the appropriate procedure. The changes proposed by the TPA are within the electorate’s prerogative to enact, but because those changes would substantially alter our basic plan of government, the proposal cannot be enacted by initiative. It is instead governed by the procedures for revising our Constitution. We therefore issue a peremptory writ of mandate directing the Secretary to refrain from taking any steps to place the TPA on the November 5, 2024 election ballot or to include the measure in the voter information guide.

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“Ranked-Choice Voting Draws Bipartisan Ire”


In an era warped by extreme partisan discord, ranked-choice voting has managed to unsettle Republican and Democratic politicians alike. Long fearful of African American voter strength and cross-racial coalitions that sometimes spring up, many white Republican political power brokers in the South have been strategizing to eliminate an option like RCV before it can garner an iota of interest or support.

Republicans can point to losses from the RCV system. Only Alaska and Maine use RCV in state and federal elections (Hawaii also uses RCV in certain statewide races). In Maine, Jared Golden earned his 2018 swing-seat victory in Congress after an instant runoff put him over the top against Republican Bruce Poliquin, the incumbent congressman, who led after the first round.

RCV opponents in Alaska have launched a repeal campaign after Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola fended off 12 candidates, including former Republican governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, after three rounds of balloting in 2022 for the state’s sole congressional seat. The 2024 initiative proposes a return to a traditional partisan primary system and will appear on the November ballot.

Rolling Stone/Documented investigation found that far-right groups have poured millions into a coordinated campaign to destabilize RCV, principally because the mechanism gives voters more choices—and when they have choices, they have the opportunity to select less polarizing candidates. The Republican National Committee officially declared its opposition to ranked-choice voting in 2023. The party claimed that the mechanism makes voting too complex and time-consuming, leading to “ballot exhaustion” and other euphemisms that would make George Orwell seize up.’Some longtime Democratic incumbents are also keen to shut down threats to their power. The District of Columbia Democratic Party has opposed a ballot initiative, currently in the signature-gathering phase, that would institute RCV for the city elections. Now in her third term, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has called RCV “a bad idea.”…

Rick Hasen, a UCLA professor of law and political science who specializes in election law, told the Prospect that RCV is “better understood as a fear of moderate candidates being elected to office.” He adds, “If you think about places like Alabama and Mississippi, they’ve got Republican majorities, but they’ve got a fairly sizable Black population that hasn’t been able to get its fair share of political power. Maybe moving toward ranked-choice voting could [create] coalitions that could produce some more moderate Republicans.”

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“Georgia becomes first state to require election law training for police”

The Guardian:

Georgia is the first state to mandate training in election law in order for police to become state certified, a reflection of lessons learned in the aftermath of the state’s 2020 race.

The new requirement for police trainees to take a one-hour course on election laws is meant to keep officers from trying to guess at how to enforce the law on election day, said Chris Harvey, deputy executive director for the Georgia peace officer standards and training council.

“Cops just really need to know what are some of the basic ground rules around elections and voting, because they’re very specific,” he said. “In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen is if you have a partisan person or partisan force trying to manipulate the police, and have the police not have any idea what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Harvey’s long career as a police officer took a side road in 2015 when then-secretary of state, Brian Kemp, named him Georgia’s director of elections. He carried the experience from 2020 into his recent appointment to the state body certifying police officers.

“Having seen the threats to election officials, having seen things happen to polling places, having myself been threatened during the 2020 election, I know that … it was likely that election officials were going to be calling the police,” Harvey said.

In the worst case, police may have to respond to threats of violence or actual violence at a polling place. More likely, they will be responding to a cranky individual who refuses to take direction from a poll officer who has asked someone to turn a campaign shirt inside out or refuses to get off their phone in the polling place.

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“Republican lawmakers working on sweeping changes to Ohio election administration”

Ohio Capital Journal:

Legislation in the Ohio House and Senate would make sweeping changes to the way Ohioans vote and how those votes are counted. Despite sterling post-election audits in Ohio and the arrival last year of strict new photo voter ID requirements, backers insist more must be done to secure the state’s elections.

Among their demands are provisions allowing hand-counted ballots, and new voting machine requirements that could force counties across the state to replace the voting machines they have. Moreover, certified voting machines don’t exist that would meet the bill’s standards, and hand-counting has been shown to be more timely and less accurate than the currently certified voting machines that do exist. The bill would also extend photo ID requirements to absentee voting — making voters include a photocopy of their ID with their completed ballot.

And the drafters have plans for in-person voting as well. The bill directs county boards to include a voters’ photograph in the pollbook, so poll workers won’t simply compare a photo ID to person standing in front of them, but also to a photo on file from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The League of Women Voters of Ohio policy affairs manager Nazek Hapasha argued the measure is rooted in conspiracy theories about non-citizens voting in Ohio’s elections. Ohio’s secretary of state has referred more than 500 of cases of alleged non-citizen voter fraud since taking office. Only one of those cases led to charges.

“All of this together,” she said, “opens up the door to election deniers to cast doubt over our election systems, and the reliability and integrity of our election system.”

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“Trump raised so much last month he erased Biden’s cash advantage”


Former President Donald Trump’s huge May fundraising haul erased President Joe Biden’s longstanding cash advantage as the two gear up for a rematch.

Trump’s campaign had $116.6 million in the bank at the end of May, compared to $91.6 million for Biden.

It wasn’t due to poor fundraising on the incumbent’s part — Biden’s campaign saw a decent fundraising rebound in May after a weak showing the month prior. But Trump’s fundraising while he was on trial in New York that month, punctuated in the final days when he was convicted, was enough to surpass Biden in campaign cash, something that had long been seen as a crucial strength of his.

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“Timothy Mellon, Secretive Donor, Gives $50 Million to Pro-Trump Group”


Timothy Mellon, a reclusive heir to a Gilded Age fortune, donated $50 million to a super PAC supporting Donald J. Trump the day after the former president was convicted of 34 felonies, according to new federal filings, an enormous gift that is among the largest single disclosed contributions ever.

The donation’s impact on the 2024 race is expected to be felt almost immediately. Within days of the contribution, the pro-Trump super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., said in a memo that it would begin reserving $100 million in advertising through Labor Day.

The group had only $34.5 million on hand at the end of April, and Mr. Mellon’s contribution accounted for much of the nearly $70 million that the super PAC raised in May. On Wednesday and Thursday, the super PAC began reserving $30 million in ads to air in Georgia and Pennsylvania around the Fourth of July holiday.

Mr. Mellon is now the first donor to give $100 million in disclosed federal contributions in this year’s election. He was already the single largest contributor to super PACs supporting both Mr. Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent. Mr. Mellon has previously given $25 million to both.

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