Editorials: Bills in Minnesota Legislature are at odds with balanced redistricting | David Schultz/StarTribune

One of the chief causes of the partisan polarization and political gridlock across the country is the gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts. To prevent this gerrymandering, voters across the country are taking the power to redistrict away from legislators and entrusting it to nonpartisan commissions. Minnesota should follow this example, but there are bills in the Legislature right now that would prevent that from happening. Dating back to the 18th century, state legislatures had the job of drawing congressional and state legislative district lines after the decennial census. Unfortunately, this task has not always been done fairly, with incumbents and the party in control drawing lines to favor them or to disadvantage people of color or some geographic region. Until the 1960s, rural legislators drew lines to favor their constituents at the expense of the larger and growing urban populations. But the Supreme Court issued several decisions launching a reapportionment revolution demanding that district lines honor the “one person, one vote” standard with equal populations. These decisions helped but did not eliminate the partisan drawing of district lines.

Editorials: The Kansas Model for Voter-Fraud Bluffing | Francis Wilkinson/Bloomberg

If President Donald Trump wants a good gauge of how much voter fraud he will find if he launches a federal investigation, one of his campaign advisers, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is a good person to ask. Kobach, you might remember, became a national hero among conservatives by championing restrictions on voting, with the avowed purpose of battling the scourge of voter fraud. During Trump’s presidential transition, he was photographed meeting Trump while holding a document listing plans to bar foreigners and deal with “criminal aliens.” Illegal immigration and voter fraud are intimately linked in conservative mythology, where dusky undocumented immigrants are forever handing election victories to Democrats by voting illegally. Kobach is a smart lawyer and a skillful salesman. “Voter fraud is a well-documented reality in American elections,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal after becoming Kansas’s secretary of state in 2011.

Editorials: Here’s How Trump’s Voter Fraud Investigation Could Produce Fake ‘Evidence’ | F. Perry Wilson/The Huffington Post

Somewhere, in a cubicle in Washington, a data analyst is panicking. She has just been asked by the Trump administration to show how 3 million people (or, preferably, more) voted illegally. Deep down, she knows that this is a ridiculous request. But she’s a team player. She will first try to identify specific cases of clear voter fraud. The goal will be to collate these clear cases into a list of names and addresses. A list with 3 million entries. She’ll start with the low-hanging fruit. She’ll cross-reference voting lists (not registration lists) to the National Death Index. She needs to look at real voting lists since dead people may still be on the registration lists without actually voting. She’ll find a few matches but, unfortunately, they will all prove to be false positives. People with the same name, people who didn’t really die, people who didn’t actually vote. She’ll then try to figure out if undocumented immigrants voted by cross-referencing voter lists with e-verify, the government’s electronic employment verification tool. She’ll get a few hits, but, again, they will all prove to be false positives. People with the same name, people who actually are citizens but aren’t in the system, and so on.

Editorials: Voter fraud investigations have already happened. They don’t support Trump’s assertions. | Bangor Daily News

President Donald Trump, who has big and expensive plans to build a wall with Mexico and to make huge federal investments in the nation’s roads, bridges and airports, could save a little taxpayer money by forgoing a federal investigation into voter fraud. Trump tweeted Wednesday that he would launch a federal investigation of voter fraud, “including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” Instead, he could review the reports already produced by and for people looking for voter fraud. Their conclusions: voter fraud is “extraordinarily rare.”

Editorials: There’s a reason Trump keeps lying about voter fraud | Jason Kander/The Washington Post

No doubt realizing that he was losing the cable-news message war, President Trump has called for a witch hunt in an attempt to prove the voter fraud lie he has been telling himself about why he lost the popular vote in November. On both sides of the aisle, conventional wisdom chalks this up to the president being a very insecure person struggling with the reality that 54 percent of American voters chose someone else, but that doesn’t give the president his due. Trump’s staggering inferiority complex clearly is just one of two reasons he’s telling the biggest version yet of a lie that his party has been telling about voter fraud for years. The other reason is that he’d like his party to win the 2018 midterm elections and he’d like to be reelected in 2020, and to do those things he needs to suppress voter turnout. By deliberately undermining confidence in the integrity of our democracy, the president can make it quite a bit easier for his party to push legislation making it harder for certain eligible voters to vote. Curtailing voting rights by dishonestly inventing widespread fraud has been a major part of the Republican Party’s political strategy for a while. Now that plan is getting a major boost from a president who has no problem just making stuff up.

Editorials: The Voter Fraud Fantasy | The New York Times

There are varying degrees of absurdity in the fallacies President Trump peddled during his first week in the Oval Office. Perhaps the most damaging was his insistence that millions of Americans voted illegally in the election he narrowly won. Mr. Trump first made that false claim in late November, tweeting that he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” On Wednesday, he announced that he intended to launch a “major investigation” into voting fraud and suggested the outcome may justify tightening voting rules. What once seemed like another harebrained claim by a president with little regard for the truth must now be recognized as a real threat to American democracy. Mr. Trump is telegraphing his administration’s intent to provide cover for longstanding efforts by Republicans to suppress minority voters by purging voting rolls, imposing onerous identification requirements and curtailing early voting. “This is another attempt to undermine our democracy,” said Representative Barbara Lee of California, one of the states where Mr. Trump falsely claimed results were tainted by large-scale fraud. “It’s about not honoring and recognizing demographic change.”

Editorials: Trump’s Lies Pave the Way for an Assault on Voting Rights | Dale Ho/The New York Times

President Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes, the largest negative margin for anyone elected president in the modern era. But on Monday, during his first official meeting with congressional leaders, Mr. Trump insisted that he actually won the popular vote — once you subtract the three million to five million illegally cast ballots, all of which he says, were cast “for the other side.” Now he is calling for a major federal investigation into election fraud that, according to the White House press secretary, will focus on “urban areas” in “big states” that Mr. Trump lost, like California and New York. Here are the (non-alternative) facts: There were more than 135 million ballots cast in November. A careful review by The Washington Post documented a grand total of just four cases of voter fraud nationwide — including an Iowa woman who voted twice for Mr. Trump. And during the recount litigation in Michigan, the president’s own legal team told a court that “all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.” But don’t take it from them. Just ask yourself if this story seems plausible: Sophisticated cheats committed widespread election fraud to the tune of five million votes and vanished without a trace. But they forgot to steal 80,000 votes in three states (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) that would have been decisive for Hillary Clinton. It’s as if the thieves from “Ocean’s Eleven” broke into Fort Knox, left behind the gold bars and took a stamp collection.

Editorials: Voting Fraud Inquiry? The Investigators Got Burned Last Time | Michael Waldman/The New York Times

For days President Trump has promoted the absurd notion that three million to five million people voted illegally in the presidential election. … When a president demands an investigation of voter fraud, what could go wrong? Based on recent history, a lot. Little more than a decade ago, the Justice Department made investigating and prosecuting voter fraud a major priority. When top prosecutors failed to find the misconduct and refused to make partisan prosecutions, they were fired. In the fallout, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign in the biggest Justice Department scandal since Watergate. It seems like an odd bit of history to try to repeat — unless the goal is to clear the path for voter suppression. Let’s begin with the underlying fact: There is no epidemic of voter fraud. After Mr. Trump claimed the election was rigged, election officials from both parties, scholars, journalists and experts noted that there was simply no widespread fraud. Mr. Trump’s lawyers even confirmed this in their own court filings in recount efforts in Michigan. There was no extensive voting fraud in 2002, either, when President George W. Bush’s attorney general, John Ashcroft, made finding it a top priority for the Department of Justice. And the federal prosecutors kept coming up empty. After years of trying, they had charged more people with violating migratory bird laws than voting statutes.

Editorials: Lie Is No Longer a Good Enough Word for Trump’s Repeated Voter Fraud Claim | Ben Mathis-Lilley/Slate

The poor New York Times gets it from every direction. Conservatives think it’s an organ of the Democratic Party. Leftists think it’s stuffy and out of touch. Moderates … I don’t know, let’s say they circumvent the online paywall system by using multiple browsers. Freakin’ cheapskate moderates! But anyway. One of the media controversies of the Donald Trump era has been over how to describe the nonsense he says. The old journalistic convention of writing that a politician has made a “controversial” or “disputed” claim seems inadequate to the relentless, bad-faith assaults on empirical truth that Trump and his goons regularly conduct. (See: “alternative facts.”) A lot of Trump critics think that journalists, especially the influential ones at the Times, should be more willing to say that Trump or his administration lied about this or that. Last night the Times used the L-word in a headline on its report that Trump, in a meeting with congressional leaders, had repeated and embellished his earlier claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally for Hillary Clinton last November. Many of Trump’s online haterz were pleased by this callout, including, to pick a random example, vampire expert Anne Rice. But, but, but. Was it really a lie? A lie, in the common definition, is an intentionally told untruth. For Trump’s statement to be a lie, it would have to be a “proven” “fact” both that millions of undocumented immigrants didn’t vote in 2016 and that Trump knows this.

Editorials: If 3-5 Million Illegal Votes Were Cast, We Must Have a Precinct by Precinct Recount or a New Election | Richard Greene/The Huffington Post

On January 17 I put forth “The Argument for Donald Trump’s Illegitimacy”. I should have simply waited a few more days. Donald Trump just made an even stronger argument himself and the only thing America can now do to resolve this issue is to either conduct a thorough, precinct by precinct recount or to accept The President at his word, declare the results to be illegitimate and call for a new election. On December 4, 2016, the country of Austria did exactly that. They called for and conducted a whole new election because of relatively minor vote counting issues in some of their precincts, significantly less of an issue that we now have in The United States. But in his press conference Sean Spicer said that these 3 – 5 million illegal votes were irrelevant because “Donald Trump won 306 electoral votes”. But did he? How in the world can we be certain who these “illegal voters” voted for?

Editorials: Time to revamp Virginia redistricting | The Virginian-Pilot

Much like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a mountainside, advocates for redistricting reform will spend today lobbying lawmakers in Richmond to support changes to the way that all-important process is conducted. Perhaps, this time, they’ll have better results than the mythological figure of Greek lore. The nonpartisan One Virginia 2021 group wants the General Assembly to amend the state constitution to clarify the legal obligations for representative districts. They are also seeking serious consideration of bills that would explore alternatives to the rigged process of drawing those lines. Theirs is a straightforward case to make: Fair and equitable representation in the General Assembly and in Congress demands nonpartisan, independent redistricting based on federal guidelines and common-sense parameters.

Editorials: Turkey′s crucial referendum on the horizon | Deutsche Welle

While the world was focused on the United States and the new president taking office, on the other side of the Atlantic, big changes were underway in an allied country. The Turkish parliament managed to pass controversial constitutional amendments. The two-round voting on the changes agreed to by the ruling AKP and nationalist MHP parties earned enough votes to carry the decision to the final stage: a vote by the people. The second round of voting lasted until after midnight and into the early hours of the morning. Even though the government refuses to say this vote will change Turkey, it will. The amendments give all the power to one person, with almost no accountability. The Turkish-style presidency, as the AKP likes to market it, would be a malfunctioning structure that is going to remove whatever is left of the instruments of democracy. The two-round voting took less than two weeks. The extremely technical and radical changes were barely mentioned in public. Besides some populist statements, citizens had little insight into what was being discussed in parliament and how this would influence their lives in the long run. The fact that the constitutional change has been brought before parliament during a state of emergency also raises questions as to why the government is so eager to make such quick changes. Should it not focus all its energy and attention on lifting the state of emergency and eliminating the instability and terror in the country? Instead, the AKP and MHP are busy changing structures that require thorough discussion and examination.

Editorials: Trump, Russia, and the News Story That Wasn’t | Liz Spayd/The New York Times

Late September was a frantic period for New York Times reporters covering the country’s secretive national security apparatus. Working sources at the F.B.I., the C.I.A., Capitol Hill and various intelligence agencies, the team chased several bizarre but provocative leads that, if true, could upend the presidential race. The most serious question raised by the material was this: Did a covert connection exist between Donald Trump and Russian officials trying to influence an American election? One vein of reporting centered on a possible channel of communication between a Trump organization computer server and a Russian bank with ties to Vladimir Putin. Another source was offering The Times salacious material describing an odd cross-continental dance between Trump and Moscow. The most damning claim was that Trump was aware of Russia’s efforts to hack Democratic computers, an allegation with implications of treason. Reporters Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers led the effort, aided by others. Conversations over what to publish were prolonged and lively, involving Washington and New York, and often including the executive editor, Dean Baquet. If the allegations were true, it was a huge story. If false, they could damage The Times’s reputation. With doubts about the material and with the F.B.I. discouraging publication, editors decided to hold their fire. But was that the right decision? Was there a way to write about some of these allegations using sound journalistic principles but still surfacing the investigation and important leads? Eventually, The Times did just that, but only after other news outlets had gone first.

Editorials: Are third-party candidates spoilers? What voting data reveal | Daniel P. Franklin/The Conversation

Green Party candidate Jill Stein does not see herself as a spoiler in the 2016 presidential race. Her voters, Stein claims, would not have come to the polls had she not been in the race. But what if Stein were wrong and she didn’t bring new voters to the polls? The number of votes Stein got in Michigan and Wisconsin exceeded the gap between Clinton and Trump in those states. If you assume that Stein voters were more liberal than conservative and therefore more likely to support Clinton than Trump, Stein could have been a spoiler in those two states. Of course, winning Michigan and Wisconsin would not have given Clinton the presidency. But the question of whether third-party candidates expand the electorate has important implications in last year’s election – and in presidential elections in general. We are scholars of politics and the presidency, but you don’t need to be an expert to know that a shift or addition of just a few thousand votes in one or two key states can determine the outcome of a presidential election. In other words, a handful of voters in the right place at the right time can truly change the course of American history. And so, we decided to test the notion that third-party candidates increase turnout in presidential elections.

Editorials: Jeff Sessions and Martin Luther King | USA Today

As the nation marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, the future of civil rights in this country will soon rest in the hands of a new president and in large part his attorney general, who must champion the rights of all Americans. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for that job, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is a troubling one on that score. While Sessions’ confirmation seems almost inevitable after a polished performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, the nominee’s encouraging promises cannot erase his often hostile record on civil rights, nor grave concerns about whether he will rise to the toughest challenges of the job. At times in the recent past, Sessions’ initial instincts have been the opposite of what one would seek in the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Asked in October about Trump’s remarks that he could grab women by their genitals, Sessions said it would be “a stretch” to “characterize that as sexual assault.” In 2015, he decried the Supreme Court ruling granting same-sex couples the right to marry, while two years earlier he celebrated the Supreme Court ruling obliterating the central enforcement tool in the Voting Rights Act.

Editorials: Russia Is Already Winning | Molly McKew/Politico

The whirlwind of Russian spy news over the past few weeks has forced Americans to confront questions that previously would only have seemed possible in fiction: Did a foreign power influence the American elections? Do the Russians really have dirt on the incoming president, or a hidden relationship with him? Did the Kremlin want Donald Trump to win? Why? We aren’t even certain that these are the right questions, and the data points in this tangled story—the meetings, the scandalous dossier, the tweets—don’t make much sense on their own. Together, though, they reveal a methodical campaign that closely resembles what we’ve seen Russia try elsewhere before. For the past eight years, since just after Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008, I have worked in nations around the Russian periphery, and watched the Kremlin systematically chip away at former captive nations that are viewed as threats to the Kremlin’s internal narrative of control and its corrosive worldview. What Russia has attempted in the United States is not an isolated action but one case study in the evolving, expansive hybrid war being waged by the Kremlin against the West. What’s happening isn’t about hacking, or cybersecurity, or fake news. It isn’t about BuzzFeed, or everyone’s new favorite buzzword, kompromat. In the most important sense, it isn’t really even about Donald Trump. The leaders in the Kremlin don’t care about any individual American winning or losing. They care about America as a nation losing.

Editorials: For King, the right to vote was sacred | Donna Brazile/CNN

Every third Monday in January we gather as Americans to commemorate the values and beliefs — as well as the ultimate sacrifice — of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His tireless advocacy for civil rights, equal protection under the law, labor rights, and for the ultimate realization of our essential creed that we are “one nation, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is taught in every school in America, and is now enshrined in a memorial on the National Mall. Dr. King believed so strongly not only in these values, but also in the moral imperative to heed the “fierce urgency of now.” He knew that in the face of injustice no moral man or woman can stay silent — and he paid for it with his life. He was a “drum major for justice” He inspired us — not just with his eloquent sermons, rich in purpose; or his speeches, inspiring and provocative — but he challenged us with his dream, his daring imagination: to see an America where all of God’s children would be equal; all of God’s children would have a seat at the table. Dr. King, along with other men and women of his generation did not just see the barriers. They believed in the opportunities that could be realized if we could just move beyond racial inequality and injustice. He truly believed that we had to “take the first step in faith, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Just take the first step. I’ve written and spoken about Dr. King many times, but this year, one area of his crusade seems particularly worthy of remembrance: the fight for the ballot.

Editorials: Running for president showed me how our elections are broken. We can fix them | Jill Stein/The Guardian

After a divisive election, with record levels of public distrust for a political system dominated by Super Pacs and lobbyists, ordinary Americans joined together to begin healing our wounded democracy – by verifying the vote in three key states. For three weeks, a historic recount campaign pushed forward in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, defying political blockades, bureaucratic hurdles, legal maneuvering and financial intimidation. This unprecedented effort by more than 10,000 volunteers and 161,000 donors coalesced in a matter of days. It affirmed the determination of the American people to raise the bar for our democracy. At its core, the recount essentially asked one question: do we have a voting system we can trust, that is accurate secure and just, and free from modern-day Jim Crow in our elections? The answer, we found, is a resounding “no”.

Editorials: How to Protect U.S. Elections From Russian Cyber Hacks | Phil Keisling/Fortune

From 1991 to 1999, my job as Oregon’s secretary of state gave me responsibility for working with local government officials to protect and ensure the integrity of the state’s election system. It’s of paramount importance in a functioning democracy that votes—as our citizens cast them—are collected and counted fully and accurately. Recent revelations about Russian efforts to affect the 2016 presidential election have unsettled citizens and election officials alike. To date, there’s no credible evidence that actual votes were tampered with or miscounted due to a cyber attack. But there’s growing unease about the potential vulnerability of the nation’s disparate election systems—operated by 50 states and thousands of local governments—to sophisticated hacks that could threaten the integrity of our voting systems. It’s impossible to guarantee with 100% certainty that election fraud won’t be attempted, or actually happen. But the collective goal must be to make such criminal activity—and that’s exactly what it is—exceedingly rare, easily detectable, and of minimal (or no) material consequence. … Mail-based voting systems today are far less risky than many polling place elections, precisely because they distribute ballots (and electoral risk) in such a de-centralized way. To have any semblance of success, an organized fraud effort must involve hundreds—if not thousands—of separate acts. All would be individual felonies, and all must go undetected to have any chance of success.

Editorials: Jeff Sessions Has Spent His Whole Career Opposing Voting Rights | Ari Berman/The Nation

On June 27, 2013, two days after the Supreme Court ruled that states with a long history of voting discrimination no longer needed to approve their voting changes under the Voting Rights Act, the mayor of Pasadena, Texas, proposed changing the structure of City Council elections so that whites could remain in control. With Latinos close to gaining a majority of seats in the racially divided city of 150,000 outside of Houston, Mayor Johnny Isbell proposed switching from eight City Council districts to six districts and two seats elected citywide—which would give white residents, who turn out in higher numbers, a better shot at electing their preferred candidates. The net effect was that one majority-Latino district was eliminated, and Latinos had three fewer seats on the council. Isbell proposed the change “because the Justice Department can no longer tell us what to do.” Voters narrowly approved the referendum in 2013, even though 99.6 percent of Latinos opposed it.

Editorials: Russia, Trump & Flawed Intelligence | Masha Gessen/The New York Review of Books

After months of anticipation, speculation, and hand-wringing by politicians and journalists, American intelligence agencies have finally released a declassified version of a report on the part they believe Russia played in the US presidential election. On Friday, when the report appeared, the major newspapers came out with virtually identical headlines highlighting the agencies’ finding that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Donald Trump win the presidency—a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence.” A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports. But the real problems come with the findings themselves.

Editorials: North Carolina GOP should drop effort to block 2017 election | News & Observer

A three-judge federal panel has delivered, to no one’s surprise, an expected order that North Carolina must push ahead with a special election in 2017. The election comes as a result of an earlier ruling ordering new legislative maps to be drawn by March 28 for new districts. Any districts that have to be altered to correct unconstitutional gerrymandering will have to hold special elections this year.

Editorials: The Rules of the Game: A New Electoral System | Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen/The New York Review of Books

Americans have been using essentially the same rules to elect presidents since the beginning of the Republic. In the general election, each voter chooses one candidate; each state (with two current exceptions) awards all its Electoral College votes to the candidate chosen by the largest number of voters (not necessarily a majority) in that state; and the president-elect is the candidate with a majority of Electoral College votes. Primary elections for president have also remained largely unchanged since they replaced dealings in a “smoke-filled room” as the principal method for selecting Democratic and Republican nominees. In each state, every voter votes for one candidate. In some states, the delegates to the national convention are all pledged to support the candidate getting a plurality of votes (again, possibly less than a majority). In others, delegates are assigned in proportion to the total votes of the candidates. These rules are deeply flawed. For example, candidates A and B may each be more popular than C (in the sense that either would beat C in a head-to-head contest), but nevertheless each may lose to C if they both run. The system therefore fails to reflect voters’ preferences adequately. It also aggravates political polarization, gives citizens too few political options, and makes candidates spend most of their campaign time seeking voters in swing states rather than addressing the country at large.There a re several remedies. Perhaps in order of increasing chance of adoption, they are: (1) to elect the president by the national popular vote instead of the Electoral College; (2) to choose the winner in the general election according to the preferences of a majority of voters rather than a mere plurality, either nationally or by state; and, easiest of all, (3) to substitute majority for plurality rule in state primaries.

Editorials: Showing ID at polling stations will not end election fraud | Matthew Cole/The Conversation UK

The UK’s former communities secretary, Eric Pickles, ended 2016 by claiming the mantle of defender of British democracy. To combat electoral fraud in local government he called for new controls to guarantee the probity of voting in municipal elections. Most notably, this would mean the requirement of voters to produce photographic ID before they are allowed into a polling booth. The proposals were dismissed by some as using “a sledgehammer to crack a nut”. But that metaphor may actually be too generous. The intended target of the reforms may be missed altogether, while the collateral damage to British elections could be significant. Pickles’s sledgehammer is more like a blunderbuss.

Editorials: Can and Should States Mandate Tax Return Disclosure as a Condition for Presidential Candidates to Appear on the Ballot? | Vikram David Amar/Verdict

Last week a few lawmakers in California went public with plans to introduce legislation in Sacramento that seeks to prevent presidential candidates who fail to disclose tax returns for the five most recent years prior to the election from having their names appear on the state’s November ballot in 2020 and beyond. The effort is patterned on a similar proposal being pushed by some legislators in New York state. The proposal there, dubbed the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public (or TRUMP) Act, requires each presidential candidate to disclose tax returns prior to 50 days before the November election, else his name will not appear on the ballot and the state’s electors will be prohibited by state law from casting their votes for him in the so-called electoral college. While many voters (and certainly many journalists) seem to want access to candidates’ tax return information (to see possible conflicts of interest, levels and directions of charitable giving, relative aggressiveness in seeking to minimize tax burdens, and so forth) before presidential elections are held (and were disappointed that Mr. Trump departed from modern tradition in declining to produce his returns), state legislative proposals like the TRUMP Act raise a number of legal and policy issues; in the space below, I address some of them.

Editorials: The Assault on Democracy in North Carolina | Michael Dorf/Newsweek

A recent special legislative session in North Carolina failed to result in the repeal of House Bill 2—the infamous “bathroom law” that has made the Tar Heel State synonymous with anti-trans/anti-gay intolerance and thus cost businesses and workers millions of dollars. Yet that was only the second-most appalling legislative news from Raleigh in the past couple of weeks. The even bigger story is the state GOP’s effort to override the popular will. In November, North Carolina voters chose Democrat Roy Cooper to replace incumbent Republican Pat McCrory as their governor. McCrory took a month to concede, raising bogus voter-fraud allegations. Then, in a special session just two weeks before Cooper’s inauguration, the GOP-controlled North Carolina Legislature passed new measures that strip the governor of many of the position’s powers. As a lame-duck governor, McCrory signed those bills into law.

Editorials: A new model for South Carolina elections? | Jack Bass/The State

As South Carolina faces the prospect of spending millions of dollars to buy new voting machines, Oregon’s system of vote by mail offers a model that could not only save us money but also eliminate long lines and increase security for election results. Oregon’s system is used for all elections — federal, state and local, whether primary, general or special — and has been in operation for roughly 25 years. One result is increased voter participation by working parents and senior citizens. The system makes voter fraud virtually impossible, and research has shown that it favors neither party. The idea originated with Oregon county election officials and has fully met their goals of substantially saving money and increasing voter participation. Voting by mail has been adopted in whole or part by three Western states, and South Carolina could become a leader in showing it works in the South.

Editorials: The Electoral College Doesn’t Work the Way the Founding Fathers Intended | Robert Schlesinger/US News & World Report

Regardless of whether you want to preserve the Electoral College as it is, tweak it (as I do) or scrap it entirely, you have to understand that it doesn’t function today the way the Founding Fathers planned. I think this is worth pointing out in light of the animated responses I’ve gotten from readers regarding my last column, which called for reform by adding a set of bonus electoral votes which would be rewarded to the winner of the national popular vote. People seem to make a couple of errors in their reverence for the Electoral College. First, they misunderstand its purpose, and concomitantly they misunderstand what it does and doesn’t constitutionally entail.

Editorials: Florida’s felon vote: Destroying lives and wasting taxpayer dollars | Martin Dyckman & Darryl Paulson/Tampa Bay Times

Florida has what many consider to be the most rigid and unfair felony disenfranchisement law in the nation. The highly respected Sentencing Project declared in a recent report that “in 2010, more people are disenfranchised in Florida than in any other state and Florida’s disenfranchisement remains highest among the 50 states.” We are not thrilled that Florida leads the nation in denying more citizens of the right to vote than any other state. How far out of line is Florida? In the United States as a whole, 1.77 percent of whites and 7.66 percent of blacks are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction. In Florida, 10 percent of the voting age population (VAP) is disenfranchised, but 23 percent — or almost one out of four black voters — is disenfranchised. Nationally, about 6 million individuals have lost the right to vote due to a felony conviction; about 1.7 million or 27 percent of all those disenfranchised reside in Florida. The felon vote was part of a package of legislation designed to cope with the emergence of black voter majorities throughout the South after the Civil War. In 1867, 15,434 of Florida’s 25,582 registered voters were black, something that Florida’s white voters were unwilling to accept. In fact, it was not until after the Civil War that Florida banned all voters with a felony conviction.

Editorials: An overwhelming response on North Carolina Democracy article | Andrew Reynolds/News & Observer

Last week The News & Observer published my op-ed on the failing grade North Carolina received for our elections and democratic health. Boy did it touch a nerve. Hundreds of comments poured in and the article went viral on social media. After thousands of retweets, reaching over 5 million accounts, I stopped checking the stats. There were features in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Slate, Huffington Post, Politico, even PerezHilton.com. Paul Krugman, Howard Dean and Fareed Zakaria tweeted it out to their millions of followers. The story ran around the world. On Christmas Eve the op-ed became the lead on the Twitter home page. Perhaps I should not have been so surprised. North Carolinians are exasperated as they watch the erosion of their democracy. We yearn for real change but feel impotent in the face of frozen power. More than ever, people are hungry for ideas on how to reverse the decline. There were thousands of comments online and I received over 100 emails directly. The vast majority agreed that our democracy was in trouble and thanked me for seeking to marshal evidence rather than use bluster. However, a small minority were very angry. There were online threats and abuse on my voicemail. I was told to go ‘back to Africa’ (I am not from Africa), I was told I was worse than cancer, feces, a fraud, a moron and corrupter of young people.