Rick Hasen

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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.”

Full Article: Zachary Roth's 'The Great Suppression' Overstates Its Case - The Atlantic.

Editorials: How to end American plutocracy | Rick Hasen/New York Daily News

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.

Full Article: Rick Hasen: How to end American plutocracy - NY Daily News.

National: U.S. Supreme Court to hear key voting rights case | San Jose Mercury News

With the potential for a seismic shift in the political landscape of California and other states hanging in the balance, the U.S. Supreme Court this week takes on a case that will test the framework of the “one person, one vote” principle that has defined political boundaries for generations. The high court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case out of Texas that threatens to upend the way states draw their political districts based on census-driven overall population numbers — and which could alter political influence in states such as California, where mushrooming Latino populations in urban areas, including illegal immigrants and other noncitizens, play a key part in shaping political maps. Conservative groups have challenged the “one person, one vote” premise based on a simple argument that counting overall population, including those ineligible to vote, unfairly diminishes the power of citizens who are eligible to vote. They have urged the Supreme Court to invalidate the current system, which would force states to completely redraw local and state political districts using different factors and perhaps open the door to eventually reconfiguring congressional districts.

Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court to hear key voting rights case - San Jose Mercury News.

Hawaii: Supreme Court Blocks Native American Election Vote Count | Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked votes from being counted in a unique election that’s considered a major step toward self-governance for Native Hawaiians. The high court granted an injunction requested by a group of Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians challenging the election. They argue Hawaii residents who don’t have Native Hawaiian ancestry are being excluded from the vote, in violation of their constitutional rights. The order blocks the counting of votes until at least the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issues its ruling. The group suing to stop the election appealed a district court’s ruling allowing voting to proceed. University of California Irvine election law expert Rick Hasen said it’s “very unusual” for the high court to enjoin the counting of votes during an ongoing election. “I can’t think of another instance where the Supreme Court has done that,” Hasen said. “The court has stopped … the recounting of votes, for example most famously in Bush vs. Gore” in the 2000 presidential election.

Full Article: News from The Associated Press.

National: US turning into plutocracy as small number of donors buy into power | Irish Times

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.”

Full Article: US turning into plutocracy as small number of donors buy into power.

Editorials: Why there’s hope for easing Texas’ voter ID law | Carl P. Leubsdorf/Dallas Morning News

It was ironic but perhaps fitting that the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling challenging the constitutionality of the restrictive Texas voter identification law on the eve of last week’s 50th anniversary of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. After all, the 2011 Texas law exemplifies current efforts to undermine that still relevant act. But though the three-judge panel concluded the Texas law has a “discriminatory effect” on the poor and minorities, the nature of the ruling and the prospects for appeal suggest this is less than the sweeping judicial success for which opponents hoped. Indeed, its Republican sponsors made clear that, despite this defeat, they still hope to win the war in the Supreme Court, if necessary. That’s hardly surprising, given the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts has repeatedly questioned the continuing validity of the 50-year-old Voting Rights Act.

Full Article: Carl P. Leubsdorf: Why there’s hope for easing Texas’ voter ID law | Dallas Morning News.

Wisconsin: Scott Walker, GOP lawmakers want to change elections board by 2016 | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans who control the Legislature plan to restructure the agency that runs elections by the fall of 2016, when Walker hopes to top the ballot as a candidate for president. GOP lawmakers also plan to rewrite campaign finance laws for state candidates to put them in line with recent court decisions. As part of that effort, they are considering at least doubling the amount of money donors can give candidates, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said. Also on the docket this fall is putting limits on the ability of district attorneys to conduct John Doe probes that allow them to compel people to turn over documents and give testimony. The law also gives them the power to bar targets and witnesses from telling anyone but their attorneys about such investigations. The moves come in response to a John Doe probe into whether Walker’s campaign illegally worked with conservative groups. The state Supreme Court last month ruled campaigns can work closely with issue groups, declared the investigation over and ordered prosecutors to destroy evidence they have gathered.

Full Article: Scott Walker, GOP lawmakers want to change elections board by 2016.

Editorials: With ‘Motor Voter’ bill, Oregon perpetuates voting wars | Paul Gronke/The Oregonian

Last Thursday, House Bill 2177, the “New Motor Voter Bill,” passed the Oregon Senate following passage on Feb. 20 in the House. Gov. Kate Brown has said she’ll sign the legislation; it was a signature piece of legislation for her while secretary of state and was introduced at her request in each of the last two legislative sessions. Oregon’s move makes sense given the national movement to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the voter registration system in the United States. Our current voter registration system is costly, inaccurate and antiquated. And there is no doubt that the barriers to registration depress voter turnout by keeping otherwise eligible voters from the polls. … Keeping these records up to date is very costly. A 2008 study in our own state of Oregon found that the government spends $4.11 per active voter to maintain current records and $7.67 to add new records. The total bill to the Oregon taxpayers was nearly $9 million!

Full Article: With 'Motor Voter' bill, Oregon perpetuates voting wars (OPINION) | OregonLive.com.

Voting Blogs: Evaluating Reform Argument as False, True, Barely Either, or Something Else | More Soft Money Hard Law

Rick Hasen has twice posted in the last several days a sharp criticism of the President’s fifth anniversary statement about Citizens United. He objects to the assertion that Citizens United opened up the avenue for unlimited foreign corporate spending in the United States. Rick says this is false, citing in support of that position PolitFact’s prior rating of that statement as “mostly false,” which that fact-checking enterprise arrived at after originally rating the statement as “barely true.” And a review of PolitiFact’s analysis reveals that a statement merits criticism as “mostly false” if it is an ”overstatement.” Readers will probably think very little is at stake in tracing the chain of reasoning from false to mostly false to barely true, or somewhat true, or whatever, and trying to sort out what fine differences distinguish one of these ratings from the others. But because Rick stakes out a strong position—that the statement is simply “false” —he should have a high degree of confidence that it is a black-and-white matter subject to no disagreement.

Full Article: Evaluating Reform Argument as False, True, Barely Either, or Something Else -.

Wisconsin: Supreme Court could rule on Wisconsin voter ID law | MSNBC

Voting rights advocates want the Supreme Court to rule on Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law—and if they get their way, the impact could go way beyond the Badger State. Lawyers for the challengers to Wisconsin’s ID measure filed documents Wednesday asking the high court to review a ruling last October by a federal appeals court that upheld the controversial law. “Efforts to restrict access to the ballot demand a full and thorough hearing, which is why we are asking the Supreme Court to review this case and ultimately strike down Wisconsin’s voter ID law,” said Dale Ho of the ACLU, which is representing the challengers. It’s by no means certain that the Supreme Court will take the case. If it says no, the law would stay in effect.

Full Article: Supreme Court could rule on Wisconsin voter ID law | MSNBC.

National: Lengthy vacancy ends for election commissioners | USA Today

The last-minute flurry of action by the Senate Tuesday included filling three of four seats on the federal Election Assistance Commission, which had languished without commissioners since 2010 — or two election cycles, to put it in Washington terms. The Senate confirmed Thomas Hicks, a former election law counsel on Capitol Hill, Matthew Masterson of the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, and Christy McCormick, a Justice Department civil rights lawyer, to the commission. A fourth nominee, Matthew Butler, former CEO of liberal media watchdog Media Matters, has yet to be confirmed. House Republicans have tried to shut down the EAC, and Senate Republicans resisted nominating commissioners. But reviving the commission was one of the recommendations of the bipartisan panel formed by Obama to look into long voting lines during the 2012 election. For one thing, the Election Assistance Commission is in charge of setting federal standards for voting systems, which  haven’t been updated since 2005.

Kentucky: Judge Denies Grimes Lawsuit Over McConnell ‘Election Violation’ Mailer | TPM

A Kentucky judge on Monday rejected a court motion filed by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes seeking an immediate injunction to stop Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign from sending out mailers that have the appearance of an official Kentucky notice. The mailers, reported Friday by TPM, read “ELECTION VIOLATION NOTICE” and go on to warn voters that they may be acting on “fraudulent” information from the Grimes campaign. The tactic ultimately amounts to a creative attack on Grimes, although the mailers could create the impression that the voters who received them are at risk of committing voter fraud if they cast a ballot. Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd denied the Grimes motion, spokespersons for the Grimes and McConnell campaigns confirmed on Monday. Grimes is “exploring options” on what to do next, her spokesperson said.

Full Article: Judge Denies Grimes Lawsuit Over McConnell 'Election Violation' Mailer.

National: Today’s voting freakout: noncitizens are coming to steal your election | Los Angeles Times

With only a few days left before election day, pretexts for panic over the sanctity of the ballot box are dwindling down to a precious few. Two political scientists from Virginia’s Old Dominion University have done their part, with an article on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage politics website asserting that control of the Senate could be “decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens” on Tuesday. The column by Jesse Richman and David Earnest is based on their longer paper in the journal Electoral Studies. Their methodology already has been challenged by other political scientists who argue that Richman’s and Earnest’s statistical sample doesn’t warrant their conclusions. That hasn’t kept some right-wing pundits from using it as a justification for the wholesale restrictions on voting imposed by Republican state governments across the nation. That’s because the Old Dominion researchers conclude that the noncitizens at issue tend to skew Democratic. Breitbart.com’s headline was “Study: Voting by non-citizens tips balance for Democrats.” RedState’s was “Study: Illegal votes can determine elections; Voter ID not sufficient.” Keep your eye on that RedState headline for a clue to how the study, as meager as it is, will be misused in the voter ID wars. What Richman and Earnest say isn’t that Voter ID is “not sufficient”; they say it’s not effective. In fact, they call it “strikingly ineffective” at stemming non-citizen voting.

Full Article: Today's voting freakout: noncitizens are coming to steal your election - LA Times.

Editorials: The Supreme Court and voting rights: Silent treatment | The Economist

The supreme Court’s weirdly busy October brings to mind an old Cadillac commercial showing a sedan gliding silently down the highway, driver calm and confident in a hermetic, leather-appointed cabin, while the announcer intones, “quietly doing things very well.” Whether the justices are doing their jobs well depends on your point of view. But there is no disputing that they have been doing their most consequential work in uncharacteristic silence in recent weeks. The justices’ moves on gay marriage, abortion and voting rights have been delivered all but wordlessly, as Dahlia Lithwick of Slate recounts. The notable exception to the rule is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justice who refused to hold her tongue over the weekend, when six of her colleagues permitted Texas to enforce its new photo identification law in the November elections. The Court’s announcement came down at the ungodly hour of 5am on Saturday. It followed a federal district court decision on October 9th that the Texas law was discriminatory in both intent and effect and “constitutes a poll tax”—a ruling that was stayed by the Fifth Circuit Court on October 11th. The stay prompted an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court via Antonin Scalia, the justice assigned to the Fifth Circuit. The six justices who denied the request to lift the stay before dawn on October 18th were mum as to why; they released no reasoning for the decision, which effectively gives Texas’s questionable voter law a pass. But Justice Ginsburg and her clerks apparently ordered pizza and downed some Red Bull on Friday evening, pulling an all-nighter to compose a six-page dissent, which Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined. (Rick Hasen asks why Justice Stephen Breyer, the fourth liberal justice, did not sign on to the dissent; one strong possibility is that he was asleep.)

Full Article: The Supreme Court and voting rights: Silent treatment | The Economist.

Editorials: Voter ID: Confusion on Top of Chaos | Jesse Wegman/New York Times

There are so many things wrong with voter-ID laws — 143 pages’ worth, you might say — that it can be hard to decide where to begin. Still it’s worth trying once again, now that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has, predictably, reversed a federal judge’s takedown of Texas’s strict voter-ID law and allowed it to be enforced for the upcoming election. The law, SB 14, requires prospective voters to show up to the polls with a government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license or passport. On Oct. 9, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued a no-holds-barred ruling that SB 14 violates the Equal Protection Clause, the Voting Rights Act, and the 24th Amendment, which prohibits poll taxes. Judge Ramos found that more than 600,000 Texans, or about 4.5 percent of all registered voters, did not have the required ID; that a disproportionate number of those were poorer and minority voters, who lean Democratic; and that the law itself — passed by a Republican-dominated legislature, as all voter ID laws have been — was intended to make it harder if not impossible for these people to participate in elections.

Full Article: Voter ID: Confusion on Top of Chaos - NYTimes.com.

Wisconsin: State will enact voter ID law denounced as ‘recipe for chaos’ | The Guardian

A controversial voter ID law in Wisconsin, which critics fear will disenfranchise thousands of voters in the November midterm elections, must be implemented after a federal appeals court turned down a request to re-hear a legal challenge. The seventh circuit court of appeals in Chicago declined to take up the application to hear the challenge before its full panel of judges. On 12 September, three judges stayed an injunction issued by a district court that had prevented the law’s implementation. With less than six weeks to go until the 4 November midterms, voter-rights advocates fear chaos as people rush to get the required identification, and confusion at the polls as election workers and voters struggle with the new rules. Previous testimony in the case indicated that about 300,000 people who had previously been eligible to vote will have difficulty obtaining the identification now needed to cast their ballots. The plaintiffs in the voter ID cases include Ruthelle Frank, the League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, and the Advancement Project.

Full Article: Wisconsin will enact voter ID law denounced as 'recipe for chaos' | World news | theguardian.com.

Voting Blogs: In Ohio, A Stirring Defense of Early Voting That Leaves Everyone Unhappy | Texas Election Law Blog

As a number of bloggers have reported,  (including, separately, Professors Rick Hasen and Derek Muller) a generous pro-voter convenience decision has just come out of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court found that by eliminating a five-day period where voters could do same-day-registration and early voting all in one go, the State of Ohio had unjustifiably curtailed the opportunity for poor and minority voters to cast ballots. The reason why some analysts of the decision (including legal scholars from the Left) aren’t enthusiastic about the decision is that they find their credulity strained by the argument that voting rights are badly injured when a 35-day early voting period is reduced to a 28-day early voting period. The decision in Ohio State Conference of the NAACP v. Husted, et al. (pdf helpfully provided by Rick Hasen’s election law blog) is receiving criticism because of a perception that the court is going crazy and ruling that even the most inconsequential, incidental or de minimus injuries to voters rights are unacceptable.

Full Article: In Ohio, A Stirring Defense of Early Voting That Leaves Everyone Unhappy « Texas Election Law Blog.

Kansas: State Supreme Court orders ballot case to go to Shawnee County District Court | The Wichita Eagle

The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered that a case brought by a registered Democrat against the Kansas Democratic Party be transferred to the district court of Shawnee County. David Orel, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., filed a petition with the court last week to compel Democrats to appoint a replacement for Chad Taylor in the U.S. Senate race. The race has gained national attention and could prove critical in determining which party wins control of the Senate. Orel, whose son works on Gov. Sam Brownback’s campaign, invoked a statute that says when a vacancy on the ballot occurs after the primary, the party “shall” appoint a replacement.

Full Article: Kansas Supreme Court orders ballot case to go to Shawnee County District Court | The Wichita Eagle.

Editorials: Electoral Chaos in Wisconsin | New York Times

It is difficult to understand the reasoning of the federal appeals court panel that permitted Wisconsin officials to enforce a controversial voter ID lawless than two months before Election Day. That’s partly because the panel’sfive-paragraph order, issued late Friday only hours after oral arguments, offered the barest rationale for lifting the stay that Judge Lynn Adelman of the federal district court had placed on the law in April. Judge Adelman issued a remarkably thorough 70-page opinion finding that the law violated both the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution by making voting harder for a substantial number of Wisconsinites — disproportionately those who are minority and poorer, and who tend to vote Democratic. (The law, passed in 2011 by a Republican-controlled Legislature but since tied up in lawsuits, requires prospective voters to present a government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license or passport.)

Full Article: Electoral Chaos in Wisconsin - NYTimes.com.

Editorials: ‘A Big, Big Mistake’ in Voter ID Case | Jesse Wegman/New York TImes

Wisconsin officials say they plan to enforce the state’s controversial voter-ID law less than two months before the 2014 midterm elections, after the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit lifted a stay on the law on Friday afternoon. In April, a federal trial judge invalidated the law, finding that it would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters — largely poorer and minority citizens who tend to vote Democratic . The Republican-dominated legislature claimed the law was necessary to stop in-person voter fraud, but the judge found that to be virtually nonexistent. In July, the state’s supreme court revised the procedures for getting a photo ID to make it easier for those who could not afford one, or had trouble tracking down the necessary underlying documents, such as a birth certificate.

Full Article: ‘A Big, Big Mistake’ in Voter ID Case - NYTimes.com.