I knew something like this was coming and quite frankly I’m surprised it took Trump so long to play the voter fraud card. It’s a logical extension of his demonization of Hispanics, Muslims, refugees and all the other people he believes are preventing America from being great again. It’s become an article of faith among Republicans that Democrats must cheat to win elections. The only difference here is that Trump is accusing another Republican of doing so. The GOP’s fraud crusade goes back to the George W. Bush administration. The 2000 election in Florida, which was marred by a disastrous voter purge of alleged ex-felons, empowered a new right-wing voter fraud movement, which hyped the threat of fraud in order to restrict access to the ballot for partisan gains. The Justice Department was taken over by ultra-conservatives like Attorney General John Ashcroft who made combating fraud a top priority. US Attorneys in states like New Mexico and Washington were fired for not undertaking new prosecutions, and new voting restrictions, like Georgia’s voter ID law, were approved by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division over objections from career lawyers. Rick Hasen dubbed these people the “fraudulent fraud squad.” (I write extensively about this in my book Give Us the Ballot Though little fraud was ever found, the fraud craze grew much louder when Barack Obama ran for president. John McCain alleged in 2008 that ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history.” After the election, one poll found that 52 percent of Republicans believed that ACORN had stolen the election for Obama.
A federal court could rule soon on challenges to North Carolina’s photo ID requirement for voters, which plaintiffs claim undermines the voting rights of racial minorities under the pretext of combating fraud. A federal appeals court held last year that a similar requirement in Texas violated the Voting Rights Act. But even if these and other judicial rulings roll back photo ID laws and other restrictions that disproportionately burden racial minorities, the real solution lies with Congress. Republicans who control the House and Senate need to look beyond partisan self-interest and join with Democrats to reinstitute the requirement that, in jurisdictions with a recent history of discrimination, the federal government must “pre-clear” changes in election laws that could needlessly make it harder for minorities to vote.
Forty years ago today, the Supreme Court decided Buckley vs. Valeo, a case that has distorted our thinking and talking about money in politics for nearly two generations and that has taken this country down a perilous path on campaign finance. We should no longer mince words about the consequences for our representative government. Buckley, and its better-known offspring, 2010’s Citizens United vs. FEC, are leading us to plutocracy, a country in which those with the greatest wealth have a much better chance to influence elections and public policy than the rest of us. Despite that bleak assessment, there’s a small window for change opening.
For the past week in North Carolina, that state’s new Voter ID law has been argued in federal court. Among those testifying against the law was Rosanell Eaton, a black woman who, at 94, still can remember having to recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution before voting under the state’s old Jim Crow laws, and who last year had to make 10 trips to various state offices to get an ID that complies with North Carolina’s new law. But guess what? North Carolina’s Voter ID law—the one that landed the state in federal court, in a case that’s being called a national Voter ID battleground—is less restrictive than is North Dakota’s Voter ID law. In North Carolina, among other differences, a voter can sign an affidavit swearing that he or she faced a “reasonable impediment” to getting an acceptable ID. In North Dakota, a voter in that situation is out of luck.
As the 2016 election season officially kicks off next week, beginning with the Iowa caucus on Monday, voters in several states are preparing to cast ballots under stricter laws for the first time. Over the past five years, more than 18 states have passed laws to impose restrictions on voters’ access to the ballot, according to a FRONTLINE analysis of voting laws nationwide. Even as at least six states have expanded access to the ballot, introducing automatic voter registration and online voting, these states have cut early-voting hours, limited felons’ ability to vote and imposed strict voter ID laws. That includes several key swing states, such as North Carolina, which passed a comprehensive voting bill in 2013, and Ohio, which passed a law to reduce early-voting days one year later. The most controversial of these laws are those requiring identification at the polls — usually a photo ID. That’s largely because support is split along partisan lines. Republicans tend to favor them, arguing the laws guard against voter fraud. Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed out that new restrictions are more likely to prevent some voters, in particular African-Americans and Latinos, from casting ballots.
Editorials: Ted Cruz’s Iowa Mailers Are More Fraudulent Than Everyone Thinks | Ryan Lizza/The New Yorker
… On Saturday, Twitter came alive with pictures from voters in the state who received mailers from the Cruz campaign. At the top of the mailers, in a bold red box, are the words “VOTING VIOLATION.” Below that warning is an explanation:
You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.
Below that, a chart appears with the names of the recipient of the mailing as well as his neighbors and their voting “grade” and “score.”
… After looking at several mailers posted online, I was more curious about how the Cruz campaign came up with its scores. On all the mailers I saw, every voter listed had only one of three possible scores: fifty-five per cent, sixty-five per cent, or seventy-five per cent, which translate to F, D, and C grades, respectively. Iowans take voting pretty seriously. Why was it that nobody had a higher grade?
Delbert Hosemann is back at it, trying to convince the Mississippi Legislature that there is still much work to be done to bring Mississippi’s voting procedures into the 21st century while also taking steps to reduce the potential for fraud or dirty tricks. The secretary of state, now beginning his third term, did an admirable job implementing voter ID, an oversold and overemotional issue that distracted this state from addressing where its biggest problem with voter fraud lies — absentee ballots. Hosemann’s newest proposals don’t tackle absentee-ballot fraud head-on either, although his pitch for allowing voters to cast their ballots in person at the courthouse for up to 21 days before Election Day should reduce the number of absentee ballots cast overall. Still, if you are a candidate inclined to cheat, you’re going to use mail-in absentee ballots anyway, since the fraud becomes much harder to catch that way. Even with that said, though, allowing no-excuse early voting is a good idea that should, if nothing else, increase voter turnout. It certainly eliminates one of the main excuses of people who don’t get to the polls. … A glaring omission in what is otherwise a good package of proposals is Hosemann’s silence on a disturbing trend in this state to eliminate the paper trail on voting. More than three-fourths of the 77 counties in Mississippi with touch-screen voting machines have disconnected their external printers, by which voters could previously verify on paper that their vote has been accurately recorded.
As a legal proposition, it’s difficult to prove that a government policy was devised with the deliberate intent of racial discrimination. But make no mistake: North Carolina’s highly restrictive voting rights law, enacted in 2013, is meant to suppress votes, in particular votes cast by minorities for Democrats. Even the federal judge who refused to suspend implementation of the law’s obnoxious voter ID rules acknowledged it was “highly suspect” that the GOP-dominated legislature had excluded public-assistance IDs from among acceptable forms of identification at the polls; they are disproportionately held by African Americans, who vote heavily for Democrats. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder has not yet ruled on the merits of the overall law or the voter ID part of it, which is being separately challenged by the NAACP and other groups. Nonetheless, in refusing to immediately suspend the voter ID requirements, he cited the state’s own estimate that roughly 5 percent of registered voters in North Carolina, about 218,000 people, appeared to lack suitable photo IDs when they voted in 2014, before the law was fully implemented.
Elmus Stockstill and Edward Course surely have no devious intentions in wanting to get the external printers off Leflore County’s touch-screen voting machines. But the county’s two top election officials are just wrong — and obviously not well-schooled — on how susceptible electronic voting machines are to hacking and why these printers are the only safeguard against it. Just 10 minutes on the Internet will turn up a decade worth of studies and reports showing that all it takes is access, a basic knowledge of electronics and a few minutes to rig voting machines like those used in Leflore County. I recommend the Board of Supervisors spends 30 minutes reading the study summaries or watching the videos produced by university and government researchers demonstrating the vulnerabilities of so-called “direct recording electronic” (DRE) voting equipment made by Diebold or any of the other touch-screen manufacturers. If the supervisors educated themselves the tiniest bit on this subject, they would see how comical it was of Stockstill, the circuit clerk, to talk — in response to a column I wrote last Sunday — of the memory card inserted in the machines as some kind of fail-safe against hacking. The memory card is actually one likely conduit for introducing a vote-stealing virus.
Editorials: Allowing transnational voting during European elections could alleviate the EU’s democratic deficit | LSE
The European Union is facing one of the most challenging moments in its recent history. While the struggle for a solution to the common challenge of migration and refugees continues, the spectre of debt, recession and high unemployment continues to haunt the countries of the southern Eurozone, with the likelihood high of another round of acrimonious negotiations between creditor and debtor countries in the near future. These crises have been toxic for public perception of the EU across the union, with trust in institutions such as the European Parliament declining to record lows in recent years (though they somewhat recovered in 2015). One common element among both of these crises is the question of whether the EU has any democratic legitimacy when making key decisions which appear to produce winners and losers among nation states. The EU’s (lack of) legitimacy as a democratic body is, of course, a classic problem in EU studies which has plagued the organisation since its inception.
Editorials: Radically Revise Campaign Laws to Give People, Not Billionaires, a Voice | Richard Hasen/New York Times
It’s not a new story: Some Americans are looking to the super wealthy to get us out of a political jam. This time, it might be billionaire Michael Bloomberg supposedly saving the country from a Donald Trump-Bernie Sanders race that could leave many voters without an acceptable alternative. Back in 1967, it was the GM heir Stewart Mott providing (what was then considered to be) lots of money to allow Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Wisconsin to challenge President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination. Johnson, mired in the Vietnam War and wounded by McCarthy, eventually withdrew from the race. We’d rely less on rich white knights If each voter in each election got $100 in publicly financed vouchers for political contributions.
Poll Americans on the leading Supreme Court cases of the past 100 years and Buckley v. Valeo, which turns 40 this month, won’t likely place alongside Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, or even Citizens United v. FEC. But it should. Buckley, which considered the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, has immeasurably impacted how we choose our leaders and discuss public affairs. Most importantly it created the “Buckley distinction,” which protected political expenditures and contributions differently. This court-created split reverberates beyond campaign electioneering to issues like how the IRS polices politics, how the Department of Justice criminalizes political activity, and how the parties influence campaigns. Four decades on, the distinction’s uneasy compromise supplies Buckley’s relevance—for better and worse.
These are probably frightening words to anyone who wants to maintain the political status quo: “I have a criminal record. I pledge to vote in 2016 elections because I care about my neighborhood and want to add my voice to improve everyone’s quality of life.” Let’s just suppose that a significant barrier to voting in Maryland is removed Feb. 5th and residents with felony convictions are allowed to vote as soon as they leave prison, rather than having to wait until they complete community supervision requirements. “We’re talking about infusing maybe 40,000 voters into the democratic process,” says Perry Hopkins, a community organizer who has been ubiquitous on this issue as well as on the untenable conditions that led city housing officials to agree to pay up to $8 million to settle sexual harassment claims brought by some of its public housing tenants.
In a matter of weeks, thousands of North Carolina voters will head to the polls unaware of what they’ll need to vote – and election officials will be hard-pressed to help them. Ironically, conservative Republicans who promoted voting changes could suffer the most. The excitement of the Republican presidential primary will motivate new voters to show up, but newbies are the most likely not to have followed the twists and turns of election rule changes. Will they be helped or frustrated at the polls? At this point, it’s up to Gov. Pat McCrory. Here’s why. The new law cuts out safety-net provisions for new voters and dumps a load of confusing regulations on poll workers. That combination is making it hard for election officials to do their jobs.
Buried less than two miles from the Capitol is the man many blame for the toxic partisanship infecting Congress today even though he died 202 years ago. Elbridge Gerry was a patriot, signer of the Declaration of Independence, drafter of the Constitution, House member, governor and vice president under James Madison. Yet he is best known today for the twist on his name that now defines the twisting of legislative boundaries to give one party or candidate an electoral advantage. This “gerrymandering” is seen by many as a root cause of Washington gridlock, a point President Obama underlined anew in his final State of the Union address. Mr. Gerry, as governor of Massachusetts in 1812, signed into law a state legislative map that included an irregularly shaped district obviously drawn to benefit his party. A cartoon in The Boston Gazette archly observed that the map resembled a salamander and added a head, wings and claws to bring it to life. “Better say a gerry-mander,” retorted the waggish opposition newspaper editor Benjamin Russell, who is often credited with coining the exact term. Thus, a lasting element of America’s political lexicon was born. (Mr. Gerry’s name was pronounced with a hard “G” that has been softened in the contemporary use of gerrymander.)
Six years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC. It is not a happy anniversary. I remember waiting for the ruling and opening it up on my computer: when I finally read it, I didn’t want to believe that the Court had gone as far as it had and been so careless with our democracy. Citizens United was bad history, bad logic, bad law. It was a major overreach on the part of the Court (the issue hadn’t even been raised initially). In his majority decision that day, Justice Kennedy allowed billionaires and big corporations to spend limitless amounts of money to influence politicians. His description of politics was pretty out of touch. Basically, the Court held that unless there is an explicit, open deal — “here’s $5 million for a vote against banking reform” — there’s no corruption. Nobody with any common sense thinks that huge corporate expenditures don’t corrupt politics, but the Court left common sense behind that day. One good thing came out of it: it has led to an extraordinary, community-by-community grassroots effort to reclaim our democracy.
Near the end of his final State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama lambasted the countrywide attack on voting rights, and called for Americans to stand up and fight back. He spoke of the need to make “voting easier, not harder,” and criticized “the influence of money in our politics” and the practice of redistricting “so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.” He outlined his intention “to travel the country to push for reforms,” while adding that he “can’t do these things on my own.” He invoked the concept of “a government of, by, and for the people” to ask Americans to act, saying that change “depend[s] on you,” and the future rests “on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen.”
Editorials: Voter ID laws advance in Missouri, but what about the state’s need to comply with federal ID standards so residents can board flights? | Lewis Diuguid/The Kansas City Star
Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday took action on the wrong photo identification issue. People statewide are more interested in whether their driver’s license will be accepted in the next few months as a credible identification for them to be able to board commercial flights. U.S. Department of Homeland Security last year notified state officials that Missouri’s exemption from federal Real ID requirements will come to an end Jan. 10. That deadline passed last week. Missourians no longer will be allowed to flash their driver’s license to get into federal facilities or a nuclear power plant. State driver’s licenses — for now — still enable people to get through airport security. But that’s not expected to last unless some corrective action is taken by state officials. So what does the Missouri House do instead? It approved two bills that will force state voters to show a photo ID to cast ballots in elections. One voter restriction bill would amend the state Constitution — with voter approval — to require a photo ID in polling places on Election Days. The Missouri Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that an earlier voter ID law was unconstitutional.
In researching my Scientific American column about the dismal prospects for online voting, I interviewed Avi Rubin, Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University, technical director of Johns Hopkins’s Information Security Institute, and author of Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting. He’s been deeply immersed in the research surrounding electronic voting for decades. Since I have more room on the Web than I do on the printed page, I would like to share more of our conversation here.
David Pogue: Are there any steps that would make you, a security researcher, comfortable with electronic voting?
Avi Rubin: In principle, I think that paper ballots are far superior to electronic voting machines. Even if the machines are high quality (and none of the current ones on the market have proven to be that), the inability to manually recount, to audit, and to prevent rigging and the potential for widespread, wholesale fraud are deal breakers for purely electronic voting. Paper ballots are not a panacea, but without them there is an opportunity for fraud that is much more widespread.
Editorials: It’s Time to Honor Dr. King’s Commitment to Voting Rights | Jose Calderon/Huffington Post
Among the many accomplishments in his all-too-short life, perhaps none was as important to Dr. Martin Luther King as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Dr. King understood that the single most important tool that African-Americans could use to unravel the worst elements of state-sanctioned discrimination was the ballot box. Decades before the Civil Rights movement emerged, communities across the nation had contrived a system of electoral exclusion that depended on a witch’s brew of poll taxes, literacy tests and “good character” clauses. When these obstacles failed to dissuade potential voters, violence or threats of violence offered a useful and effective supplement to the campaign of disenfranchisement.
Editorials: Online Voting Is the Future — And It Could Lead to Absolute Disaster | Jack Smith IV/Mic
This year, we’re going to choose a new president. We’ll debate with disgruntled friends on Facebook, monitor every debate on Twitter and use Google to find polling places. And then, those of us who are willing to make the trek will drive, walk, carpool or take trains to small outposts in order to vote. It’s 2016. Why don’t we have an app on our smartphones that allows us to vote remotely and instantly? … What’s holding back online voting? In short, security risks. If we’ve learned anything from the past few years of cybersecurity scandals — like the Office of Personnel Management hack, the Sony Pictures Entertainment fiascoor the Ashley Madison breach — it’s that no digital system can be proven to be totally safe. There’s a common refrain that digital voting experts are tired of hearing: “If I can bank online, why can’t I vote online?” If the internet is safe enough to store our money, shop, file our taxes and perform other sensitive tasks, why can’t it be used to vote? The truth is, we don’t bank or shop safely online. Major retailers and banking systems deal with hacking, fraudulent charges and identity theft every day. Companies like Amazon are used to a small percentage of transactions being fraudulent. And when fraud occurs in a financial transaction, those problems can be fixed after the fact.
U.S. Rep. David Jolly has a big idea in a little four-page bill. The Indian Shores Republican wants to ban federal officeholders from directly seeking campaign contributions. It’s a long shot in an election-year Congress whose members are obsessed with raising money and self-preservation, but it is a serious proposal from a serious lawmaker that deserves careful consideration. Jolly takes a targeted, straightforward approach in the legislation he plans to roll out today. He argues that members of Congress spend far too much time raising money when they should be focused on governing, and there are plenty of statistics and examples that illustrate those skewed priorities. Incumbents from both parties calculate how many hours they have to spend on the phone raising money to keep their jobs, while this Congress has been one of the least productive in modern history.
“If we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a president,” President Obama said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Instead of electing a few well-meaning people, the president insisted, “we have to change the system to reflect our better selves,” altering “not just who gets elected, but how they get elected.” Mr. Obama speaks from experience: He promised to be a political change agent in the Oval Office, and, seven years later, the country’s politics are more fractured than when he started. The truth is, as the president also acknowledged Tuesday, “our brand of democracy is hard,” with a certain amount of gridlock built into its system of checks and balances. No magic solution can bridge ideological and cultural rifts. But there are reforms that could help.
The Supreme Court is weighing the question of whether voting districts can be drawn in ways that give an advantage to one party, thereby violating the principle of one person, one vote. In Harris v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a group of Republican voters argue that the districting commission redrew the boundaries in 2011 such that, as the Tucson Sentinel put it, “almost all of Arizona’s Republican-leaning districts are overpopulated, and almost all of the state’s Democratic-leaning districts are underpopulated.” The US constitution requires every state to reevaluate the boundaries of voting districts after each national census, taken every ten years, and to redraw those boundaries to take into account changes in population. But did Arizona’s redrawing amount to gerrymandering—the deliberate manipulation of voting district boundaries to give Democrats an advantage? Or was the commission simply trying to comply with the Voting Rights Act amendments requiring that districts should be drawn so as to maximize minority voters?
Secretary of State Jon Husted has been vigilant about maintaining the integrity of Ohio’s voter rolls. He has followed a reasonable course based on understanding and common sense, and hasn’t been swayed by partisan sniping, either from within his own Republican Party or from the other side of the aisle. So the strong backing of both Husted and the Ohio Senate should assure members of the Ohio House that allowing online voter registration is a sound and reasonable idea. It only would make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote and would, if anything, make data that are already stored online easier to cross-check for errors and fraud. “Online registration can boost participation while improving efficiency, ensuring accuracy and preventing fraud at the same time,” Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley, told a House committee last week.
Editorials: The Future of Campaign Finance Rests with the Next Supreme Court Appointments | Lawrence Norden/The Atlantic
For the last 10 years, the Supreme Court has engaged in a systematic effort to transform American democracy. Steered by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court loosened restrictions on political advertising by corporations and unions, gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, upheld the rights of states to enact restrictive voting laws, and, in the words of Justice Stephen Breyer, “eviscerate[d] our Nation’s campaign-finance laws.” This year, the Court will decide a voting and redistricting case that could change the lines of virtually every state legislative district in the country. There is no area of the law the Roberts Court has more thoroughly transformed. Almost all of the Court’s major election cases were decided by a 5-4 vote. Of course, on the Court, the majority rules. But it would not take a constitutional amendment or a revolution in legal scholarship to bring this string of decisions to an end. It is extremely likely that the next president will have the opportunity to replace at least one (and very likely more than one) Supreme Court justice, as the previous five presidents have done. One new justice on the Court might be enough to push the law in the opposite direction.
Editorials: This is actually what America would look like without gerrymandering | Christopher Ingraham/The Washington Post
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called on lawmakers and the public to take a number of steps “to change the system to reflect our better selves” for “a better politics.” The top item on that list was to end partisan gerrymandering: “we have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around,” Obama said. In most states, state legislatures draw the district boundaries that determine how many delegates the state sends to the U.S. Congress, as well as the general partisan make-up of that delegation. State legislatures are partisan beasts, and if one party is in control of the process they can draw boundaries to give themselves a numeric advantage over their opponents in Congress. This process is called gerrymandering.
Forty years ago this month, the Supreme Court decided Buckley vs. Valeo, a case that has distorted our thinking and talking about money in politics for nearly two generations and that has taken this country down a perilous path on campaign finance. We should no longer mince words about the consequences for our representative government. Buckley and its offspring Citizens United, which turns six this month, are leading us to plutocracy, a country in which those with the greatest wealth have a much better chance to influence elections and public policy than the rest of us. Yet despite that bleak assessment, there’s some cause for hope. Although SuperPACs and mega-donors shelling out donations topping a whopping $100 million have emerged from the Supreme Court’s troubling decisions, a narrow opportunity for change is coming — provided we can change the way we think about the danger of big money in politics.
Editorials: Presidential Election Year? Not For Millions of Ex-Felons | Yosha Gunasekera/Huffington Post
Incoming Kentucky Governor, Matt Bevin, set to work quickly. Through a series of executive orders, Bevin ensured that thousands of poor and minority individuals would not vote this year or potentially ever. Bevin reversed the work of his predecessor, former Governor Steven L. Beshear, who sought to ensure that Kentucky would no longer be one of only three states to permanently ban felons from voting. Bevin’s executive orders continue the long and repressive system of disenfranchising and alienating ex-felons. Almost six million Americans will not have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote because they have been convicted of a felony. Ex-felons are released back into society with the expectation that they will lead full, law-abiding lives. However, denying felons fundamental freedoms that all other Americans enjoy make them second-class citizens. Out of the six million felons who have lost the right to vote, two-thirds have already completed their prison time. However, the punishment continues.
There will be an abundance of issues competing for state lawmakers’ attention when they convene starting Tuesday for the 2016 legislative session. Voting reform, however, is not among them. Not unexpected — after all, it is an election year — but it’s too bad all the same. Florida, in some ways, remains a regressive state when it comes to making voting convenient, secure and easy to access for those who are eligible. Too much of such stagnation is mired in politics and policies calculated to disenfranchise some Floridians, be they ex-felons who must petition the state to regain their ability to vote, students who couldn’t find a voting site on major campuses or African-American voters who have seen early-voting sites curtailed in their neighborhoods. And then there are the lines, the interminable lines that, in 2012, made Florida pretty much irrelevant in the presidential election. It’s time for state legislators to take more of their cues from their constituents, who increasingly are not waiting to schlep to the polls on Election Day — a long-enduring but increasingly archaic event that pays homage to the country’s agrarian roots. But farmers no longer need an entire day to travel by horse to the county seat to vote.