Each year on April Fools’ Day I intersperse some false but plausible news stories among the real ones on my Election Law Blog. Last year, I got a number of prominent election-law attorneys and activists to believe a false report that a federal court, relying on the Supreme Court’s controversial campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, held that the First Amendment protects the right to literally bribe candidates. This year, among false posts, was one in which I had Donald Trump declaring that he would not abide by the results of the Electoral College vote if he was the popular vote winner. The made-up story had him plotting with his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to seize power in the event of a popular vote/electoral vote conflict. Many people believed the post, and it even made aWashington Post list of debunked April Fools’ stories that people fell for. It’s not a surprise. Trump railed against what he perceived as the unfairness of the Electoral College when President Obama won re-election in 2012. And he has consistently whined about what he perceives as unfairness in the electoral process. Combine that with his inflammatory rhetoric, and the idea of a Trump coup is not so crazy.
Editorials: The electoral college could still stop Trump, even if he wins the popular vote | Derek T. Muller/The Washington Post
Donald Trump will be the GOP’s presidential nominee. Within the party, talk of a brokered Republican National Convention or even a supporting a third-party candidate has circulated among those hoping to stop him from becoming the next president, leaving Trump antagonists across the spectrum to ponder whether there’s any fail-safe left, after November, to stop a Trump administration from becoming a reality. There is. The electoral college. If they choose, state legislators can appoint presidential electors themselves this November, rather than leaving the matter of apportioning electoral college votes by popular vote. Then, via their chosen electors, legislatures could elect any presidential candidate they prefer. Remember, Americans don’t directly elect the president. The electoral college does: Slates of electors pledged to support presidential and vice presidential candidates are voted upon in each state every four years. Each state, and the District of Columbia, is apportioned at least three of the 538 electors, allocated by the total number of U.S. senators and House members each state has. In December, these electors will gather in their respective states and cast votes for president and vice president. And in January, Congress counts these votes, determines if a candidate has achieved a majority — at least 270 votes — and then certifies a winner.
Cleveland will be ready should Donald Trump’s prediction come true of riots at the Republican National Convention if he’s denied the presidential nomination, security officials say. Though the Ohio city won’t say whether Trump’s remarks have it reconsidering security for the July 18-21 gathering, preparations for possible unrest are well under way. The convention is designated a national special-security event, like Pope Francis’s visit last year and the Democrats’ nominating meeting in Philadelphia in July. “It’s going to be a secure event,” said Kevin Dye, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, the lead agency coordinating with federal, state and local law enforcement.
Nevada: Donald Trump wins messy GOP caucuses after contest was plagued by alleged voter fraud, intimidation and men in Ku Klux Klan garb | NY Daily News
Donald Trump won the Nevada GOP caucuses Tuesday in a messy night of voting punctuated by allegations of fraud, intimidation and a slew of other instances of disorganization and chaos. In one of the most extreme cases of such irregularities, several alleged Trump supporters at a caucus site at a Las Vegas high school were photographed sporting white, hooded Ku Klux Klan robes. The men, holding signs saying they were members of the New England Police Benevolent Police Association — a controversial group that endorsed Trump in December — expressed their support for the GOP front-runner. “Make America Great Again,” read one sign, which was equipped with a GoPro camera.
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.
It says something about the topsy-turviness of the Republican presidential race that TV star and frontrunner Donald Trump spent more on his “Make America Great Again” hats in the last quarter than down-the-field candidate Bobby Jindal spent on his entire campaign. In the US money and politics are firmly bound in a mutually beneficial relationship. The quarterly fundraising figures are as closely watched as the day-to-day polls for indicators of how the candidates are performing. The money race is the “invisible primary” as the cash totals are used as a proxy for viability and popularity. Large numbers of small donors show broad support which can turn on big donors too. “Success begets success,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California, Irvine who specialises in election law. “Being able to show you have lots of people supporting you is a good way to get the big fish to give you money too.”
National: With flourish, Trump rejects independent bid if he loses GOP nomination | Los Angeles Times
With his typical showmanship and a hint of the absurd, Donald Trump promised Thursday to forgo an independent bid for the White House if he loses his quest for the Republican nomination, a move that was aimed at easing worries of the party establishment but may only serve to boost his unpredictable, rogue campaign. Standing in the opulent and packed lobby of his Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, Trump held up the document — which was mistakenly dated Aug. 3 instead of Sept. 3. — at a midday news conference and declared he was “pledging allegiance to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands.” … Republican Party officials circulated the 70-word pledge to all 17 GOP candidates this week, but the effort was aimed squarely at the one leading the pack in most polls. The billionaire celebrity was the only top-tier candidate who would not publicly promise to rule out an independent bid in the general election when he was asked to do so at the first primary debate last month.
The Republican National Committee, in a move designed to box in Donald Trump and prevent him from a third-party run, on Wednesday asked the party’s presidential candidates to sign a loyalty statement vowing not to run as an independent or third-party candidate in the general election. Trump and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus plan to meet Thursday in New York, according to a Trump campaign spokeswoman. Trump has scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference where he could make an announcement about the RNC pledge. All summer, Republican leaders have been trying to prevent Trump, the billionaire businessman who has rocketed to the top of GOP polls, from running as an independent candidate if he does not win the Republican nomination.
Republican voters have welcomed Donald Trump with open arms. More than twice as many back him in polls as any other candidate. In charts, support for Trump looks like a moonshot. Trump would seem to have little incentive to take his presidential run independent. But lingering doubts about Trump’s ideological purity – he is a past Democratic donor and former supporter of abortion rights – and about the willingness of party elders to embrace him have fuelled speculation that, at some point, Trump might take his act solo. Trump himself has propped the door open on a third-party run – most famously at the start of the Republican debate earlier this month. “I’m a frontrunner – obviously I’d much rather run as Republican and let that be clear,” he told MSNBC. “And I just want to see if somebody gets in that I like and if I’m treated with respect, I would not run as an independent. But I want to leave the option open just in case that doesn’t happen.” Running as an independent, however, would require more than a change of heart by Trump – it would require a national campaign to document the support of hundreds of thousands of voters across the country, in the form of signed petitions and new voter registrations.
Donald Trump’s appearance in Thursday night’s GOP debate in Cleveland just made it harder for him to run as an independent candidate for president. Ohio is one of several states that have “sore loser” rules prohibiting a candidate from appearing on the ballot as an independent or third-party candidate after they have previously declared themselves a candidate in another party. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has concluded that since Trump has filed with the Federal Election Commission to pursue the Republican nomination and “voluntarily participated” in the Republican presidential debate in the state of Ohio, he has “chosen a party for this election cycle” and declared himself “as a Republican in the state of Ohio,” said Husted spokesman Joshua Eck