Texas has been trying to make its voter photo-ID law happen since 2011, despite the fact that the U.S. Justice Department and federal courts have found on numerous occasions that it would burden black and Latino voters. Most recently, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck the law down in a July ruling that the law may have even been passed with the express purpose of racial discrimination. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Monday that the state would appeal that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court; good luck with that with the high court down a justice. But much like in North Carolina and Wisconsin, the reason Texas insists on having a photo voter-ID law is that it swears that zombie relatives, “illegal aliens,” and cloned voters are rigging elections. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate known for plushly accommodating endless conspiracy theories, is the latest to indulge the voter-fraud fantasy. He’s lately been baselessly fomenting predictions of election-rigging as the only explanation for how he could lose in a battleground state like Pennsylvania.
With Donald Trump’s unorthodox and vitriolic campaign seeming to suck up all the oxygen on the planet, it is easy to lose sight of a core truth this election has revealed: A presidential contest between a billionaire and a multimillionaire does not magically lessen the influence of the wealthiest over our elections and public policy. If anything, the sagas of Trump and Hillary Clinton only illustrate the scope of a much wider problem. Let’s start with Trump, who despite professing to be worth billions of dollars has stepped away from an unfulfilled promise to self-fund his campaign. During the primaries Trump billed himself as the only candidate not beholden to the big donors. A year ago he explained: “By self-funding my campaign, I am not controlled by my donors, special interests or lobbyists. I am only working for the people of the U.S.!” Never mind that Trump never fully funded his campaign and that his only plan to fix our broken campaign finance system has been to elect people too rich to be bought by other rich people. Now, facing the need to raise or spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stay competitive with Clinton and the fundraising of Democrats and their allied super PACs, Trump has given in, not only raising money for his own campaign but giving the green light to the supportive super PACs he used to scorn.
I’ve been genuinely confused about the whole Foundationgate thing. Did big donors to the Clinton Foundation get extra special access to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State? By all the evidence, no. They may have tried to get access, but for the most part they didn’t. So far I haven’t seen any emails that even remotely suggest otherwise. If anything, Hillary seems to have been unusually careful to avoid entanglements with the Foundation. So what’s the problem? I chatted about this on Twitter last night with Rick Hasen, a guy I trust on these kinds of things. But I still came away confused. So here is Hasen at greater length this morning in USA Today.After talking a bit about Donald Trump, he turns to Hillary:
… The Clinton team is quick to argue that there’s no evidence the meetings Clinton gave to big donors led to any official actions. But those donors get more than just a picture with a candidate; they get a chance to make their pitch for the policies they want pursued or blocked, a pitch the rest of us don’t get to make because we don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to contribute to campaigns.
This is fine. If the beef with Hillary is that she’s an ordinary politician who’s more likely to see you if you’re (a) important, (b) a party wheelhorse, and (c) an important donor, then I have no argument. I also have no argument that this is unseemly.
Editorials: Court ruling in Kansas voter ID law case could have national ramifications | Mary Sanchez/The Kansas City Star
The exasperation in at least one judge’s voice is palpable. As is the mental scurrying of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as he studiously replies to the queries. The audio of arguments made Tuesday in a Denver courtroom provides a 30-minute summary of why this case is so crucial to the right to vote. The back and forth between the three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Kobach and lawyers representing the American Civil Liberties Union deftly outlines the dangers of Kobach’s long-running arguments to undercut the right to vote. Of course, that is not Kobach’s stated intention, but it will be the outcome if he prevails. What the courts will ultimately decide is this: How far can Kobach legally go to satisfy his urge to chase after nonexistent voter fraud? And if he gets his way, how might any decision in the case bleed out to other states, harming even more people’s right to vote?
Donald Trump has taken to saying it over and over again: that the November election is “going to be rigged,” that “crooked Hillary” and her scheming accomplices will somehow manage to steal a victory that should rightfully be his. He has said this in many ways, about the election nationwide and about the election in specific places. As he told his supporters at a recent rally in Altoona, “The only way we can lose . . . is if cheating goes on.” Only Trump himself can know whether he is saying this to pre-explain an anticipated defeat, to cast doubt on his opponent’s integrity, or simply to kick up a cloud that will further arouse the fears of the alienated Americans who have fueled his campaign all year. And he isn’t saying. But more than any of Trump’s other outlandish claims—more than any of his other inaccuracies and falsehoods—this one is dangerous. It’s dangerous because it undermines faith in the integrity of democracy itself.
The mainstream media have treated Donald Trump’s claim that the election will be rigged against him as a dangerous threat to the very legitimacy of the American election system. And they’ve warned that his call for poll “observers” to prevent people in “certain parts” of Pennsylvania from voting “five times” reeks of intimidation. They’re right on both counts. But at the same time, the corporate media, especially on television, have largely ignored the actual attempts to rig state and local elections across the country through laws that make it much harder for certain people to vote. Voter suppression—that Republican-generated roster of voting restrictions that disproportionately impact minorities, students, and other traditionally Democratic voters–comes in many guises. There are strict voter ID laws requiring hard-to-come-by documents; illegitimate purges of the voting rolls; hurdles to voter registration; cut backs on early voting days; reductions in polling places, often resulting in three- and four-hour lines. Courts have recently blocked or weakened restrictions in six states, but voter suppression in one form or another will likely affect hundreds of thousands of people in this, the first presidential election without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Editorials: Voting machines should be seen as critical democracy infrastructure | Gregory Miller/The Hill
At the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET), a 10-year old Silicon Valley based nonprofit election technology research institute, we are encouraged by valuable dialog underway about how to protect America’s aging and vulnerable voting machinery and evolve our systems with technology for ease and confidence. Setting aside some misunderstanding about the challenges elections officials face in administering a nationwide patchwork quilt of election technology, there is a critical mass on the left and the right discussing how to protect our “critical democracy infrastructure.” Part of the problem is that by design, our nation’s voting infrastructure is a balkanized system comprised of a small number of vendors’ machinery, combined with a variety of ways of casting and counting ballots. While a large-scale national attack is highly unlikely, such would be unnecessary to derail a general election. In fact, it only requires a targeted attack of a few machines in a key county of a swing State.
In this tumultuous election year, little attention has focused on the groundswell of support for political reform across grass-roots America. Beyond Bernie Sanders’s call for a political revolution, a broad array of state-level citizen movements are pressing for reforms against Citizens United, gerrymandering and campaign mega-donors to give average voters more voice, make elections more competitive, and ease gridlock in Congress. This populist backlash is in reaction to two monumental developments in 2010: the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling authorizing unlimited corporate campaign donations, and a Republican strategy to rig congressional districts. Together, they have changed the dynamics of American politics. That January, Justice John Paul Stevens warned in his dissent that Citizens United would “unleash the floodgates” of corporate money into political campaigns, and so it has. The overall funding flood this year is expected to surpass the record of $7 billion spent in 2012. Later in 2010, the Republican Party’s “Redmap” strategy won the party control of enough state governments to gerrymander congressional districts across the nation the following year. One result: In the 2014 elections, Republicans won 50.7 percent of the popular vote and reaped a 59-seat majority. Now, with Congress often gridlocked by Republicans from those safe districts, the initiative on reform has shifted to the states. Insurgency has spread beyond California and New York to unlikely Republican bastions like Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Editorials: Donald Trump, a ‘Rigged’ Election and the Politics of Race | Maggie Haberman/The New York Times
As he seeks to revive his embattled candidacy, Donald J. Trump has seized on a new argument to rally his supporters and to explain away a possible defeat in November: that Democrats are preparing to exploit weak voter identification laws to win a “stolen election” through fraudulent voting. The claim has spurred outrage among Democrats and has alarmed some Republicans who worry his tactics will backfire, angering minority voters and threatening the party’s chances in close races down the ballot. Since 2010, Republican governors and Republican-held state legislatures have fought for stricter voter identification laws, which Democrats argue are intended to hinder turnout by the poorest voters, many of them black and Hispanic, who tend to vote Democratic. But Mr. Trump’s language has moved beyond his party’s call for rigid identification requirements and the unfounded claims that polls are “skewed” to predictions of outright theft of the November election. And his warnings have been cast in increasingly urgent and racially suggestive language, hinting that the only legitimate outcome in certain states would be his victory.
In Texas, Michigan, North Carolina and elsewhere, federal courts in recent months have struck down one discriminatory voting law after another in a series of major victories for voting-rights advocates. Millions of voters, especially minorities who might have otherwise been obstructed by voter-identification requirements or shortened early voting times, will now be able to cast…
Someone — the Russian military, say many cyber experts — broke into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, releasing emails and sensitive documents. Sounds bad, and is. But a worse danger looms: the possibility that hackers (whether Russians or others) will manipulate our voting machines, casting doubt on the election’s outcome. Imagine. It’s the day after the election. Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has “won.” But the victor’s triumph rests on close results in five or six states, where the winner had a few thousand more votes. Assume also that each of these states used — at least partially — electronic voting. Assume then that the loser alleges that cyber tampering stole the election. The resulting furor would be unavoidable. It would raise partisan anger still further. It would subvert faith in our basic democratic institutions and, probably, excite all manner of conspiracy theories. It would make the combat of the Bush-Gore election in 2000 — the disputes over which of Florida’s “hanging chads” should be counted — look like child’s play. It would be a disaster.
Gov. Pat McCrory has every right to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision regarding the legislature’s discriminatory election law, as he did Monday, But he should drop his unwise request. The Fourth Circuit has already spoken loudly and clearly on this. But McCrory wants provisions of the legislature’s rejected law to be reinstated for the coming November election as lawyers for him, legislative leaders and other state officials craft an appeal. The key provisions they want reinstated are requiring the legislature’s chosen forms of ID to vote and reducing early voting to 10 days rather than 17.
We have less than 90 days to go until Election Day 2016. Citizens across the United States will go to the polls to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—or possibly one of the alternative candidates, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or Evan McMullin. There is a lot at stake in any general election, but this one feels more important than most—especially as it relates to cybersecurity. Security itself is certainly not new—I’ve worked in computer and network security for years. In May of 2013, however, a lot changed. The revelations of the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden shook the foundations of computer security and the mechanics of data intelligence. It seems there are corporate, government, and military data breaches on a regular basis. We have entered into a sort of Cold War of cyber espionage, and the stakes and consequences continue to escalate.
Editorials: If you’re worried about rigged elections, look at Trump’s tactics first | Rick Hasen/ LA Times
Donald Trump has begun claiming that the only way he can lose the 2016 presidential election is if the voting is rigged. But if there’s a threat to the integrity of the election, it’s coming from Trump himself, and the best response may be for Democrats and voting rights activists to take him to court to protect the franchise. Let’s start with a fair definition of “rigging”: An election is rigged when eligible voters are prevented from voting, when some voters can vote multiple times, when ineligible voters are allowed to vote, or when vote totals are changed, all with an intent to affect an election outcome.
Editorials: Donald Trump Is Encouraging Intimidation and Racial Profiling at the Polls | Ari Berman/The Nation
In 1981, during a New Jersey gubernatorial election, the Republican National Committee launched a “Ballot Security Task Force” that sent sample ballots to voters in predominantly African-American and Hispanic precincts. When 45,000 letters were returned as undeliverable, the RNC tried to remove the voters from the rolls and hired off-duty cops to patrol polling sites in black and Hispanic neighborhoods of Newark and Trenton. Police carried firearms at polling places and wore armbands reading “National Ballot Security Task Force,” while the RNC posted large signs saying, “this area is being patrolled by the national ballot security task force. it is a crime to falsify a ballot or to violate election laws”. After the election, the Democratic National Committee won a court settlement ordering the RNC to “refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities.” Now Donald Trump may be violating the consent decree against the GOP by asking his supporters to become a “Trump Election Observer” to “Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election.” Trump unveiled the page on his website the same day he campaigned in Pennsylvania, where he claimed, “The only way we can lose, in my opinion—and I really mean this, Pennsylvania—is if cheating goes on…. And we have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching…. The only way they can beat it in my opinion—and I mean this 100 percent—if in certain sections of the state they cheat, OK? So I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the 8th, go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine, because without voter identification—which is shocking, shocking that you don’t have it.”
Editorials: Florida is running out of time to give all voters equal early voting | iara Torres-Spelliscy/Tampa Bay Times
Florida’s supervisors of elections are running out of time to provide equal access to voting to all Florida voters by offering a full two weeks of early in-person voting. The supervisors of elections across the state work year-round to ensure that the right to vote is a meaningful one for Floridians. They don’t get enough credit for being the backbone of our democracy. As the U.S. Supreme Court once said in Reynolds vs. Sims, “The right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights.” Florida law grants supervisors of elections the discretion over how many days of early voting are offered in each county. This has resulted in a confusing patchwork of different early voting days, which can vary county to county, even among counties that are side by side.
Editorials: North Carolina Took 17 Days To Ask Supreme Court To Rescue Its Voter ID Law | Christian Ferias/Huffington Post
The state of North Carolina on Monday filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court so that it can enforce a broad set of voting restrictions that an appeals court in July called one of the worst “since the era of Jim Crow.” That ruling was significant because it found that North Carolina lawmakers purposefully targeted African-American voters, leading the court to invalidate the law in full ― including the voter ID provision and those restricting early voting, same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting. North Carolina said that restoring some of these requirements will minimize confusion on Election Day. “Maintaining the status quo … and permitting this year’s general election to proceed under the same rules as this year’s primary election will avoid voter confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls,” the state’s lawyer, Paul Clement, a former solicitor general who specializes in Supreme Court practice, wrote in the petition.
Editorials: Canada need not import Australia’s woes with ranked ballot voting system | Joan Bryden/The Canadian Press
Australia’s deadlocked election last winter has been held up as a grim example of the chaos that could be unleashed in Canada were this country to adopt a system of ranked ballots — as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at one time openly preferred. Instability. A plethora of tiny, extremist or vanity parties. Unholy alliances among the micro-parties that wind up holding the governing party to ransom. There’s just one problem with the warnings: neither Trudeau nor anyone else thus far has suggested that Canada adopt the Australian model. In fact, Australia has two different voting models — a simple ranked ballot system for its House of Representatives (equivalent to Canada’s House of Commons) and a single transferable vote system (STV) for its elected Senate (Canada’s Senate is appointed). STV is actually a complex form of proportional representation, which includes a ranked ballot. Yet some of the purported dire consequences of adopting a simple ranked balloting system here have been based on the worst features of Australia’s Senate elections.
Editorials: The Election Won’t Be Rigged. But It Could Be Hacked. | Zeynep Tufecki /The New York Times
Voting isn’t a game, of course, and we need to trust the machines that count our votes. Especially this year. Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, raised the possibility of “rigged” elections, and his former adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. has warned of a “blood bath” in such a case. A recent poll found that 34 percent of likely voters believed the general election would be rigged. It’s unclear what mechanism the Trump campaign envisions for this rigging. Voter fraud through impersonation or illegal voting is vanishingly rare in the United States, and rigging the election by tampering with voting machines would be nearly impossible. As President Obama pointed out in a news conference last week, where he called charges of electoral rigging “ridiculous,” states and cities set up voting systems, not the federal government. That’s true, and it means the voting machine landscape is a patchwork of different systems, which makes the election hard to manipulate in a coordinated way. But it’s still a bleak landscape.
The disastrous Supreme Court ruling that crippled the Voting Rights Act three years ago has emboldened aggressive new attempts at voter suppression by local officials in jurisdictions that have been freed from federal oversight. In Sparta, Ga., last year, white election officials decided to systematically question the registrations of more than 180 voters, mostly African-Americans, by dispatching sheriff’s deputies to flag them down. These voters were served with “courtesy” summonses ordering them to appear in person to prove their residence to officials or lose their voting rights. In an echo of the Jim Crow South, the black voters described how they were suddenly approached by a uniformed police officer challenging their right to vote.
In the last two weeks, there have been credible reports that Russia is attempting to influence our elections by hacking into the Democratic Party’s email server and other campaign files. These reports are troubling. But an attack on our country’s voting machines, once deemed far-fetched, is even more disturbing. In response, the Obama administration is considering designating America’s electronic voting system as “critical infrastructure,” which would likely bring more federal resources to protecting these systems from attack. But with just three months before the presidential election, what can be done? In truth, making big changes to election machinery before this November isn’t realistic. There isn’t enough time. Fortunately, security experts and activists have worked for several years to shore up election integrity, and there is much we can do to secure the technology currently in place. In the short term, election jurisdictions must review their security measures with experts in the next three months. One of the great victories of security specialists and advocates in the last few years was convincing jurisdictions to move from paperless computerized voting machines to machines that have some kind of voter verified paper trail. This November, 80 percent of citizens will vote on paper ballots that are read by electronic scanners, or touch screen machines that produce a paper trail that can be reviewed by the voter before she casts her vote. This should deter would-be hackers looking to alter the result of an election: the paper record can be used to check the totals provided by the machine and catch incorrect results.
Voting rights advocates celebrated last month after a string of court rulings against a group of restrictive voting laws seemed to knock out some major hurdles to the ballot this fall. But now they’re having to fight tooth and nail to keep those wins on the board. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court reinstated a strict version of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which in July had been significantly softened by a lower court. Also on Wednesday, an agreement was announced to soften Texas’s ID law, but lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case say they’ll need to closely monitor the state’s compliance. And in North Carolina, voting rights advocates worry that Republican-controlled local election boards could still restrict access to early voting. Courts are still weighing other states’ voting rules that could have a big impact this fall. Among them are both cuts to early voting and a controversial purge of voter rolls in Ohio, as well as Kansas’scontroversial proof of citizenship requirement for those registering to vote.
Editorials: Despite court ruling, North Carolina GOP lawmakers will benefit again from illegal voting maps | News & Observer
A panel of three federal judges delivered a welcome but frustrating ruling Thursday. The judges unanimously found that 28 of North Carolina’s 170 legislative districts were illegally drawn to concentrate black voters in a way that minimized their statewide political influence. U.S. Circuit Judge James Wynn wrote in the panel’s ruling that “… plaintiffs, and thousands of other North Carolina citizens, have suffered severe constitutional harms” from districts that were improperly drawn to bolster Republican control of the General Assembly. But the court also said the Nov. 8 election is too close to change the maps and that changes would have to be made afterward.
Editorials: A blow to Hong Kong’s clean and fair electoral process – dealt by its own election officials | Cliff Buddle/South China Morning Post
Democratic reform remains a highly contentious issue in Hong Kong. But, for all the controversy over the city’s lack of universal and equal suffrage, we can take some pride in the Legislative Council elections. The polls have become much more democratic over the years, despite the continued presence of small-circle functional constituencies. Most important of all, they are generally regarded as being clean and lawful, returning candidates from across the political spectrum. But the integrity of next month’s election could now be undermined by the government’s clumsy intervention in the nominating process, in an apparent bid to exclude pro-independence candidates. Prospective candidates were, for the first time, asked to sign an additional form when tendering their nomination.
Editorials: Facebook may soon have more power over elections than the FEC. Are we ready? | Nathaniel Persily /The Washington Post
For political advertising, like so much else, the digital revolution inspires both utopian and apocalyptic predictions. And as in many other arenas where Internet-based “disruption” looms, the optimists and pessimists both have a point. For those of us who study campaign and election regulation, however, new technology poses a serious challenge to the existing ways of thinking about and addressing the campaign finance problem. Government regulation becomes increasingly difficult once communication moves online, thus, large Internet platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter will become the primary regulators of political campaigns. They need to recognize their new role and use their power responsibly. One error that observers often make in thinking about the evolution of campaign communication is to view the technological shift as one from television to the Internet. To be sure, what we are seeing is a shift in the “devices” used to connect with audiences — adding computers, tablets, gaming consoles and (in particular) smartphones to televisions as the pathways for communication. But television itself is changing and becoming less distinct from those other devices, as younger viewers in particular move from linear watching to on-demand programming of various types. (That said, Americans continue to watch, on average, more than four hours of live TV per day!)
Last month, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that, for the first time in 50 years, the U.S. Department of Justice will not be able to send federal observers to the polls on Election Day this November to protect voters against racial intimidation and harassment when they attempt to vote. And this in a year where the possibility of racial intimidation at polling places across the country is particularly acute, given the racially charged rhetoric animating the presidential campaign. The federal observer program, created in 1965 by the Voting Rights Act (VRA), was designed to ensure that newly enfranchised African-American citizens would be able to vote free from discrimination, intimidation, or harassment. Over the years, the program has been used by both Republican and Democratic Administrations to protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring basic access to polling places for all voters. There are countless examples of the federal observer program being used to protect voters from racial discrimination at the polls. In 2012, federal observers monitoring an election in Shelby County, Alabama, documented the closing of doors on African-American voters before the voting hours were over, as well as voting officials using racial epithets to describe voters. That same year, observers were sent to Alameda and Riverside Counties in California to gather information regarding reports of serious failures to provide language assistance to voters who needed it. In 2011, a federal court relied on observer reports to conclude that Sandoval County, New Mexico, had effectively disenfranchised members of the Keres tribe. In 2010, during the early voting period in Harris County, Texas, federal observers documented intimidation and harassment targeting Latino and African-American voters by an organized, well-funded Texas-based organization with clear partisan electoral goals. And during a primary election in Grenada, Mississippi in 1999, white poll watchers showed up at polling sites with cameras that were used to take pictures of black voters who needed assistance casting their ballots, in an effort to intimidate them. Thankfully, as soon as these individuals found out that there were federal observers monitoring the election, they exited the polling site.
Editorials: Republicans Are Not Attacking Democracy; Not every battle over voting is an assault on democratic values | Rick Hasen/The Atlantic
Has the Republican Party engaged in “a coordinated attack on democracy,” by restricting voting rules, opening the campaign-money spigot, blocking progressive local laws and consumer protections, engaging in partisan gerrymandering, and stacking the courts with judges to give their repressive program a green light? That’s the provocative thesis of Zachary Roth’s engaging and very readable book, The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy. But Roth’s argument is overwrought, painting the picture of a vast right-wing conspiracy with too broad of a brush, and failing to distinguish between normal political competition and political chicanery. Don’t get me wrong. There’s been plenty of chicanery around the issue of voter fraud by the charlatan members of the fraudulent-fraud squad, who have ginned up false reports of voter fraud to claim Democrats are stealing elections. As Roth demonstrates, Donald Trump’s ranting about people voting 10 times echoes earlier Republican statements, such as then-Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain’s statement during the 2008 campaign that the voter registration group ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”
Editorials: Questioning If An Election Will Be ‘Rigged’ Strikes At The Heart Of Democracy | Danielle Kurzleben/NPR
On Dec. 13, 2000, after perhaps the most hotly contested presidential election in American history (and a Supreme Court decision that divided Americans), Al Gore did one of the most important things that keeps American democracy working: he conceded. “Let there be no doubt: While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it,” he said in a seven-minute statement. He added, “And tonight for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.” No one expected a recount process that would drag out until December. But this year, before the ballots are even cast — much less counted — Donald Trump is signaling that he is ready to challenge the presidential election results. “I’m telling you, Nov. 8, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged,” Trump told Fox News earlier this week. “And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.” His former adviser and longtime associate Roger Stone elaborated later in the week that the campaign should encourage supporters to challenge any unfavorable results. “I think he’s gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath,” he said. “The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in. No, we will not stand for it. We will not stand for it.”
Federal courts across the country have finally recognized that legislative maneuvers designed to limit access to the ballot box violate federal law against discrimination. In effect, the courts agreed with critics who have been saying for years that such efforts are racist. Since mid-July, federal courts have used the Voting Rights Act to strike down voter ID laws in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and North Dakota. Specifically, the courts have focused on the protection afforded by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That provision outlaws any voting procedure that “results in a denial or abridgment” of the right to vote based on race. One of the most significant rulings was issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. A three-judge panel denounced a blatantly racist effort by North Carolina legislators to impose new voter ID requirements and to end voting procedures favored by blacks, including voter registration on Election Day and early voting. The law also blocked out-of-precinct voting. Florida also has a voter ID law, but it allows 12 different forms of identification. This is deemed ample and flexible enough to allow most voters to pass legal muster.
Has the tide against restrictive voting laws turned? In the last few weeks, voting rights groups, in some instances working with the Department of Justice, have posted a series of victories that seemed unlikely when their cases against these laws were first brought. The rights of hundreds of thousands of voters are at stake. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, perhaps the most conservative federal appeals court, ruled 9-6 last month that Texas’ strict voter identification law had a racially discriminatory effect on African-American and Latino voters. Not only did the Fifth Circuit send the case back to the trial court to establish a procedure to make it easier for those who lacked one of the narrow forms of identification to be able to vote, but also to decide if Texas had acted with racially discriminatory intent. Such a finding could lead the courts to put Texas back under direct federal supervision. Last Friday, a Fourth Circuit panel ruled that a North Carolina voting law, possibly the largest rollback of voting rights since the 1965 Voting Rights Act, was enacted with racially discriminatory intent. The court threw out not only the state’s strict voter ID law, but also other voting restrictions that could make it especially hard for minorities to vote.