Voter Suppression ((Supreme Court Just . . .))


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source: Think Progress

Emails show Census Bureau official communicated with GOP operative about citizenship question

The messages reveal a direct link between the government and the man who wanted to provide an advantage to "Republicans and non-Hispanic Whites."


Emails uncovered in a new court filing reveal a direct link between the Census Bureau and the GOP operative who wanted to rig the decennial survey in favor of “Republicans and non-Hispanic Whites.”

The filing came as part of an ongoing legal battle between several groups challenging the Census Bureau’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which could lead to a vast under-count, predominantly impacting black and Latinx individuals who might be afraid to report their status out of fear that their answers could be used for immigration enforcement.

Lawyers from Covington & Burling, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), who submitted the new evidence, said the emails, sent in January 2015, provide the clearest look at the ways in which the government made the decision to include such a question on the census, and “[contradict] the Trump administration’s claims” that it was done “simply to enforce the federal Voting Rights Act.”

“While the Supreme Court has taken up legal claims to remove the Census citizenship question based on violation of the Administrative Procedures Act and the Enumeration clause of the Constitution, there remain very serious questions around the increasingly strong evidence of unconstitutional racial discrimination behind the citizenship question,” Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel, said in a statement Friday evening. “These questions must be authoritatively resolved before the Census moves forward; our Census must be free of the horrible taint of unconstitutional discrimination.”

The emails in question were sent by Christa Jones, current chief of staff to Ron Jarmin, the bureau’s deputy director, to the late Republican redistricting operative Thomas Hofeller on January 6 and 7, 2015.

On January 6 that year, Jones sent Hofeller an email with a link to the Federal Register notice asking for public comments on changes to census questions. “Public comments highly useful in this context,” she wrote.

In a follow-up email the next day, Jones wrote, “This can also be an opportunity to mention citizenship as well.”

Hofeller, seen by Republicans as the main architect behind the country’s most successful gerrymandering efforts, wrote an unpublished study months later that showed how adding a citizenship question to the census “would be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

A citizenship question would also “provoke a high degree of resistance from Democrats and the major minority groups in the nation,” he wrote.

That study was discovered by Hofeller’s estranged daughter, along with a trove of other documents, after he died last year. The documents were cited in a court filing earlier this year.

The discovery, plaintiffs argued, seemed to prove that Hofeller was responsible for the key portion of the draft Justice Department letter that claimed a citizenship question was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Trump administration pushed back at that time, arguing that Hofeller had no role in adding the citizenship question, and claiming it was impossible to prove any link between Hofeller and the Census Bureau or its parent, the Commerce Department. Government lawyers claimed there was “literally no evidence that [Commerce] Secretary [Wilbur] Ross (or anyone else in the government) was aware of [Hofeller’s] study, its findings, or its theories.”

The newly discovered emails appear to contradict that claim, at least in part. The Census Bureau has so far not commented on the new filings.

Jones’ role in the decision to add a citizenship question is complex. As NPR notes,

In the months leading up to the administration’s March 2018 announcement of the addition of a citizenship question, Jones was advising Jarmin, who was the bureau’s then-acting director. Commerce Department officials who were under pressure from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to get the question on the census relied on Jones as a point of contact.

“Christa was my liaison over there to ensure that we could get a timely response from Census,” Commerce Department official Sahra Park-Su testified during a deposition for the lawsuits. “If she responded, then that was good as — as what Census was going forward with.”​

Jones was also responsible for advising Ross on which conservative groups to contact to discuss the citizenship question. Those groups included controversial organizations like the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies.

Experts say adding a citizenship question to the census imperils already marginalized populations and could lead to some 4 million individuals being left out of the final count. Such an under-count could have severe implications, politically.

“Census data are crucial to allocating seats in Congress, drawing accurate election districts and ensuring equitable distribution of federal funds for a wide range of vital programs,” MALDEF stated this week.

The latest discovery, it claimed, was further proof “members of the administration conspired to deprive racial minorities of their constitutional right to equal representation.”


In an email to ThinkProgress, a Commerce Department spokesperson responded to the newly discovered communications and reiterated the administration’s claim that Hofeller had not influenced the government’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

“Neither Dr. Hofeller nor his views were part of the Secretary’s decision to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” they wrote. “The Secretary’s reason to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 Census was laid out in his 2018 decision memos. Plaintiffs’ new unproven narrative is as ridiculous as their previous ones. All of Plaintiffs’ conspiracy theories are outlandish and should be disregarded.”


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The Hill
June 19, 2019

Judge to reconsider whether discrimination behind Trump census citizenship question

A federal judge on Wednesday said he would reconsider whether there was a discriminatory intent behind the Trump administration's addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Judge George Hazel, an Obama appointee, had previously ruled against the question, finding that officials acted arbitrarily and capriciously in adding it to the 2020 census, violating federal law.

He said in the initial ruling in April that there was not enough evidence to determine whether officials had intended to discriminate against minority Americans.

But Hazel on Wednesday ruled in favor of advocacy groups' request to reexamine a potential discriminatory intent in adding the question after the groups filed new evidence in the case.

He wrote in a brief order that the groups have raised "a substantial issue" in the case. Hazel indicated in the order that an opinion further explaining his reasoning would be released shortly.​

The ruling is a significant blow to the Trump administration and could add another hurdle as officials rush to make sure the question is included on the 2020 census. Officials have said they need to start printing census materials by July 1 in order to get the survey out in time.

The documents recently filed in the case indicate that a Census Bureau staffer was in touch with a GOP redistricting strategist about the question's potential addition to the 2020 census.

Hazel held a hearing Tuesday to hear arguments on whether he should reconsider the claims.

This lawsuit is separate but related to the census citizenship question case before the Supreme Court.

The justices heard oral arguments opposing the question from New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the House earlier this year. And while the liberal justices seemed wary of the question, the court's conservative majority signaled a willingness to allow it to be included on the census.

But the ACLU has now asked the Supreme Court to allow new evidence that it similarly filed last month indicating that Hofeller - the same strategist who was purportedly in contact with Jones - played a previously undisclosed role in developing the citizenship question.


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Supreme Court rules that partisan gerrymandering can continue

The Supreme Court said Thursday that federal courts must stay out of disputes over when politicians go too far in drawing district lines for partisan gain — a ruling could fundamentally affect the balance of power in state legislatures and Congress.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 decision for the conservative majority.

The court was asked to consider when politicians go too far in drawing lines for partisan gain in a set of cases arising from North Carolina and Maryland.

The North Carolina case was brought by Democrats challenging Republican-drawn maps, while the Maryland case was brought by Republicans challenging a Democratic map.



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. . . and the Census Case (which is inextricably related to the Gerrymandering case) could be dropped momentarily . . .


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AND the Census Case is dropping now.

This could be a day that lives in Infamy Cluster Fuck !!!


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Supreme Court blocks citizenship question from 2020 census for now

CNN's Ariane de Vogue

The Supreme Court blocked a citizenship question from being added to the 2020 census for now.

Writing for a 5-4 majority, Chief Justice Roberts concluded that there was sufficient reason for concern about why the Department of Commerce wanted to add the question, and insufficient explanation.


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Got to come out in record numbers. The next congress approtions the congressional districts.
Last edited:


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Got to come out in record numbers. The next congress apportions the congressional districts.
Without Question !!! For apportionment and, most of all, For the Presidency. Trump CANNOT be allowed to appoint any more justices to the Supreme Court -- to swing the court near irretrievably to the right.


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The nationwide battle over gerrymandering is far from over

Thursday's Supreme Court ruling merely moves the battlefield to the states.

The court’s ruling not only raises the stakes for legislative elections, it also heightens the importance
of securing liberal or conservative majorities on state high courts. | Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images


The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday that federal courts have no business deciding how much partisan gerrymandering is too much didn’t end the fight over how politicians draw political lines — it just moved the battlefield.

Democrats and reformers wanted the high court to set standards for when politically motivated map-making goes too far. Instead, justices accelerated the race between the two parties to tilt the system to their advantage by electing as many governors and legislators as possible or, in some states, getting voters to support ballot measures to take the redistricting process out of politicians' hands by 2021.

That’s when states will redraw their maps to conform to the 2020 census — now, without a worry that federal courts will throw them out for being excessively partisan.

But this is hardly the end of the story.

While the justices closed off filing legal challenges to gerrymandering in federal courts, they explicitly said those lawsuits are still fair game in state courts. It was there that Democratic-aligned plaintiffs successfully demolished Pennsylvania’s GOP-drawn congressional map before the 2018 elections.

“We’ll be fighting in the states to ensure that we have a fair redistricting process,” said Eric Holder, the former attorney general, who is now the chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “We will use the state courts where we are no longer able to use the federal courts.”

That means the high court’s ruling not only raises the stakes for legislative elections, it also heightens the importance of securing liberal or conservative majorities on state high courts, whether they are appointed by governors or directly elected by voters. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has a limited role in overseeing how state supreme courts interpret state laws, those state judges could become the final authority determining which maps stand or fall after the next round of nationwide redistricting.

The new importance of state courts will be on full display next month in North Carolina, where Democratic-linked plaintiffs allege GOP state legislators violated state law in drawing the congressional map. While the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday preserved North Carolina's GOP-drawn congressional map, Democrats can now take a similar case to the state Supreme Court. Six of the seven justices on that court ran as Democrats.

“We believe that this is a fruitful avenue,” said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director at Common Cause, the good-government group that brought the North Carolina litigation to overturn the map.

Republicans expect Democratic groups to pick up the strategy and unleash it across the country after the 2020 census, after their success in Pennsylvania and the attempt in North Carolina.

A map demonstrating a gerrymandered Ohio district in Cincinnati. While the justices closed off filing legal challenges to gerrymandering in federal
courts, they explicitly said those lawsuits are still fair game in state courts. | John Minchillo/AP Photo

“It’s clear, and Democrats have already signaled this, that they’re going to be taking these cases to state courts,” said Jason Torchinsky, general counsel for the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “That opens a Pandora’s box at the state level. State judiciaries are going to have to wrestle with the same questions” that the Supreme Court just did, Torchinsky continued — except in dozens of courtrooms around the country with different judges and different provisions of state constitutions at play.

Republicans also plan to fight Democrats outside the courtroom, said Adam Kincaid, NRRT's executive director. "The next phase of redistricting is going to be about [Democratic] groups doubling down on their attempts to flip state courts," Kincaid said, noting that Republican groups had recently boosted a conservative judge to victory in a nationally watched Wisconsin court race.

While the Supreme Court says federal judges can’t police partisan gerrymandering, it doesn’t mean that all gerrymandering is constitutional. Roberts stressed that Thursday’s ruling does not make racial gerrymandering — using race or ethnicity to pack voters into districts — permissible, and federal courts will still police that issue.

But Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., said he worried that — because the federal courts now can’t evaluate partisan gerrymandering claims — legislators who draw gerrymandered maps will cloak race-based mapmaking as actually motivated by party.

“We know partisanship can be used as a proxy for ethnicity, so this could provide the pretext for a type of racial gerrymandering where people say ‘Democrat’ instead of ‘Latino’ or ‘black,’ and ‘Republican’ instead of ‘white.’ And now, ‘OK, you can gerrymander,’” Mitchell said.

Democrats say litigation is only one page in their playbook, however. Already, some states have independent redistricting commissions or other guardrails against extreme partisan gerrymandering — including a number that have adopted them in recent years.

As if to draw a roadmap, Chief Justice John Roberts cited a number of state-level reforms in his majority opinion. He mentioned Florida’s “Fair Districts” amendments to the state constitution, which state courts used to throw out that state’s congressional maps in 2015 after finding GOP lawmakers violated the amendment’s prohibitions against any political consideration in redistricting.

Roberts also cited amendments to state constitutions approved by voters in Colorado and Michigan in the 2018 midterms that created redistricting commissions. Voters in Ohio also approved a proposal earlier in 2018 to give the minority party in the legislature more power in the redistricting process moving forward.


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A map demonstrating a gerrymandered Ohio district in Cincinnati. While the justices closed off filing legal challenges to gerrymandering in federal
courts, they explicitly said those lawsuits are still fair game in state courts. | John Minchillo/AP Photo
Just for clarification. This is not a map of Cincinnati. It is a portion of the Akron area, some 300 miles northeast of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati is very much gerrymandered also.


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Just for clarification. This is not a map of Cincinnati. It is a portion of the Akron area, some 300 miles northeast of Cincinnati.
Clearly! you’re right. The editor needs to join your correction, lest someone (you know who) soon yells, FAKE NEWS !!!



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Stacey Abrams Is Playing the Long Game

After skyrocketing to political stardom in 2018, the Georgia Democrat is now trying to get her party to care about voter suppression in 2020.

The Atlantic
August 16, 2019


Stacey Abrams was catapulted into the national spotlight in 2018, when the former state representative came within 54,000 votes of winning the Georgia governor’s race, in an election marred by extensive reports of voter suppression. But despite the wave of calls urging her to parlay that political stardom into a presidential (or Senate) bid, Abrams will instead focus on fighting voter suppression through a new initiative called Fair Fight 2020, which, as she put it, aims to “make certain that no one has to go through in 2020 what we went through in 2018.”

But Abrams didn’t entirely close the door on seeking elected office: On Wednesday, she told The New York Times that she was still open to being “considered by any nominee” for the vice-president slot—even though earlier in the year she had shot down the suggestion of playing second fiddle to former Vice President Joe Biden. As Democrats face the potential of another bout of voter suppression in 2020, having Abrams at the top of the ticket raises the possibility that voting rights will be elevated from something of an afterthought to a central issue on the campaign trail.

Abrams’s defeat in 2018 is a cautionary tale for Democrats: Voter suppression is a serious problem for the party, and it isn’t going away. In the election, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state and Abrams’s opponent in the race, closed several polling stations in predominantly black areas and put 53,000 voter-registration applications on hold, moves that potentially stifled turnout among supporters of Abrams. “I think what her experience this past year revealed was, regardless of how dynamic of a candidate you are, how much mobilization that you implement—particularly to mobilize voters who may not vote regularly and could not or have not voted at all—the effort to suppress the vote was, in her case, insurmountable,” says Pearl Dowe, a professor of political science and African American studies at Emory University. “I think it would be a mistake for any presidential candidate not to think about it.”

Read: The Georgia governor’s race has brought voter suppression info full view

In recent years, a wave of GOP-led states, under the guise of staving off voter fraud, has pushed initiatives including voter-ID laws and voter-roll purges that functionally serve to suppress voter turnout—and which disproportionately target Democratic voters. It’s a problem for Democrats that has only worsened since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which ended federal oversight of elections in states with a history of racial discrimination. For whomever secures the Democratic nomination, voter suppression could be a significant obstacle between the nominee and the presidency.

“We expect 2020 to be a banner year for voter suppression, especially given what’s at stake in the elections,” says J. Gerald Hebert, the senior director of voting rights and redistricting at Georgetown University’s Campaign Legal Center. “When you think about the fact that we’ve not only had recent widespread measures of voter suppression, but we’ve had foreign election interference, I think protecting the right to vote is more important now than it has been in a long, long time.”

But even as the 2020 candidates have engaged in rigorous policy debates on a slew of issues ranging from health care to climate change to immigration, voter suppression has hardly registered. In two rounds of Democratic debates featuring nearly two dozen candidates, voting rights were only discussed in passing, with Senator Kamala Harris of California promising to “fight against voter suppression” and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey arguing that voter suppression played a role in President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory.

Abrams has held several private meetings with 2020 candidates urging them to focus on the issue, according to the Times, particularly in purplish states like Georgia. But most candidates have not articulated a plan on how to combat voter suppression—a notable exception is South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose Douglass Plan includes a proposal for a “21st Century Voting Rights Act.”

Read: Voter suppression is warping democracy

In addition to threatening the most basic tenet of citizenship, voter suppression can also contribute to a less tangible problem: political fatigue. Americans need to have confidence that their votes count, literally and figuratively. “The strength of our democracy requires that people believe that, whatever they think of the results, the process is fair and reflects what the majority of American citizens believe should be the results,” says Andrea Young, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The eventual Democratic nominee may find that Abrams makes for an alluring vice-presidential pick in part because of her own experience with voter suppression and her ability to speak to disenchanted voters personally affected by it. More than perhaps other potential VP picks, Abrams could have an ability to make certain that her party doesn’t lose sight of the urgency of voter suppression. And Abrams, a black woman, has also shown the ability to mobilize black voters, a highly sought-after constituency that Democrats need to turn out in order to oust Trump.

Abrams is playing a sort of long game—by abstaining from a 2020 presidential run and instead channeling her energy toward combatting voter suppression, she could play a key role in shaping the future of the Democratic Party that may endure beyond four years in the White House. “My first responsibility is to ensure that when the primary is done—when the nominee decides to choose their running mate—that they are choosing based on knowing that we are in a country where we have built the infrastructure in those battleground states,” Abrams told the Times. “And that I’ve done my part.”


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source: AJC

Mystery of missing votes deepens as Congress investigates Georgia

To find a clue about what might have gone wrong with Georgia’s election last fall, look no further than voting machine No. 3 at the Winterville Train Depot outside Athens.

On machine No. 3, Republicans won every race. On each of the other six machines in that precinct, Democrats won every race.

The odds of an anomaly that large are less than 1 in 1 million, according to a statistician’s analysis in court documents. The strange results would disappear if votes for Democratic and Republican candidates were flipped on machine No. 3.

It just so happens that this occurred in Republican Brian Kemp’s home precinct, where he initially had a problem voting when his yellow voter access card didn’t work because a poll worker forgot to activate it. At the time, Kemp was secretary of state — Georgia’s top election official — and running for governor in a tight contest with Democrat Stacey Abrams.

The suspicious results in Winterville are evidence in the ongoing mystery of whether errors with voting machines contributed to a stark drop-off in votes recorded in the race for Georgia lieutenant governor between Republican Geoff Duncan, who ended up winning, and Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico.

Even though it was the second race on the ballot, fewer votes were counted for lieutenant governor than for labor commissioner, insurance commissioner and every other statewide contest lower on the ballot. Roughly 80,000 fewer votes were counted for lieutenant governor than in other down-ballot elections.

Republican Geoff Duncan and Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico ran for Georgia lieutenant governor in 2018. Duncan won the race, which drew 159,000 fewer votes than were cast in the governor’s race.

The potential voting irregularities were included among 15,500 pages of documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that have also been turned over to the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is looking into Georgia’s elections. The documents, provided under the Georgia Open Records Act, offer details of alleged voting irregularities but no answers.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office has refused to open an investigation. State election officials say the low number of votes could have been caused by low interest in the lieutenant governor’s race or where that contest appeared on the ballot.

The Georgia Supreme Court is also considering a challenge to the lieutenant governor’s race. Duncan won by 123,000 votes, but the plaintiffs contend missing votes could have changed the result.

The unresolved questions about the election have contributed to mistrust in the state’s electronic voting system and questions about election officials’ commitment to investigating complaints in a thorough and nonpartisan manner.

State election officials say they have looked into the lieutenant governor’s race but found no indication of problems with election equipment or vote counts.

A sharp decline

There were 159,000 fewer votes in the lieutenant governor’s race than the 3.9 million votes cast for the governor’s race, a 4% drop-off rate. Other statewide races had about 2% fewer votes than the governor’s race. It’s not unusual for voters to skip down-ballot races, but normally there’s a steady decline rather than an exceptional drop in the second-most-prominent contest.

“Voters deserve to know what happened,” said Amico, who is not involved in the court challenge and announced Tuesday that she’s running for the U.S. Senate. “There was insufficient action taken to secure the most foundational and basic element of our government: the right to vote. They don’t want to look.”

The decline in votes showed up on ballots cast on the state’s electronic voting machines in 101 of Georgia’s 159 counties. On paper absentee ballots, there wasn’t a significant decline in votes cast for lieutenant governor.

In addition, the drop-off in votes grew more extreme in precincts with large African American populations, according to an analysis by TargetSmart, a data-tracking firm affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for Georgia governor, with his daughter Amy Porter, casts his vote at the Winterville Train Depot on Nov. 6. He initially had a problem voting because his yellow voter access card didn’t work. Curtis Compton/

“Was this completely voter behavior and confusion, or was there something in the machine software or hardware to cause this to happen?” asked Chris Brill, a senior data analyst for TargetSmart. “I’ve never seen a drop-off pattern like this, ever.”

Georgia’s 17-year-old electronic voting system is already riddled with potential vulnerabilities to hacking, tampering and malfunctions, according to plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit who want voters to use hand-marked paper ballots. In a ruling this month, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg called the voting system “unsecure, unreliable and grossly outdated.”

The state’s electronic machines lack a paper ballot that could be used to double-check the accuracy of digital results.

Election officials purchased a $107 million voting system this month that will add computer-printed paper ballots to the voting process. The new system, which is scheduled for statewide use in the March 24 presidential primary, combines touchscreens with printers that create a ballot that voters can review before inserting into scanners for tabulation.

On Election Day last year, the Secretary of State’s Office conducted testing that mirrored the circumstances of the actual election, said Ryan Germany, the general counsel for the office. People cast randomized, videotaped mock votes in the office throughout the day. The results and video verified that votes exactly matched those recorded by the voting machines.

Voters may have skipped the lieutenant governor’s race because it appeared on the same screen as the governor’s race, unlike in most years when there’s also a U.S. Senate race alongside the governor’s race, he said.

“I think some people thought they were voting as a ticket for governor and lieutenant governor, which happens in some states. It doesn’t happen in Georgia,” Germany said. “Some bug (in voting machines) from our perspective would have had to appear in the checks that we did.”

Unanswered questions

Still, satisfying explanations are hard to come by.

Why would voters skip the lieutenant governor’s race on electronic voting machines but not on paper absentee ballots? Why would African American voters be disproportionately affected? If votes disappeared, could they have changed the results of the lieutenant governor’s race?

So far, state officials haven’t dug more deeply to find out.

Robyn Crittenden, who filled in as secretary of state for a few weeks after Kemp’s election as governor, declined Amico’s request for a recount because she didn’t identify any specific errors in the elections process. Crittenden wrote in a Nov. 17 letter that it’s not unusual for voters to skip races, and voters aren’t obligated to vote in every contest.

A judge in January dismissed a case contesting Duncan’s election, saying the plaintiffs didn’t prove specific problems with the recording of ballots that would alter the outcome of the contest. That’s the case now pending with the Georgia Supreme Court.

“There is a real wall up and real obstacles to prevent sunshine from coming in and having any kind of election transparency,” said Marilyn Marks, the executive director for the Coalition for Good Governance, an election security group that filed the lawsuit. “Let’s find some facts. It’s crazy to think that the paper-ballot voters felt one way about the candidates and the machine voters felt another way.”

Coding for voting machines could have been incorrect on touchscreens, so that votes for the lieutenant governor’s race showed up in another contest, she said. The race could have been missing from some electronic ballots. Or there could have been other malfunctions or programming errors.

In the Winterville precinct where one machine showed aberrant results, the elections director said she wasn’t aware of the issue, but it didn’t raise a concern to her.

“I’ve never heard of a flipped vote under direct-recording electronic machines,” said Charlotte Sosebee, the elections director for Athens-Clarke County. “As for one candidate or one party getting more votes than another on the machines, that’s not something that we track or is considered a red flag.”

County election officials ensure that the number of voters matches the number of ballots cast, Sosebee said. They also conduct logic and accuracy testing to ensure voting machines work correctly. They don’t look for out-of-the-ordinary results.

“The most plausible explanation (in the Winterville case) is that misconfiguration caused votes for Republican candidates to be recorded as votes for Democratic candidates, and vice-versa,” according to a paper published last month by Kellie Ottoboni and Philip Stark of the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Statistics.

The racial disparity in the undervote rate is harder to explain. Electronic voting machines have been marketed as a way to help people of different education and disabilities vote correctly, but the higher undervote rates for African American voters suggests that electronic voting harms historically disadvantaged groups, according to the findings of Ottoboni and Stark.

Without more information, it’s difficult to determine what could have gone wrong in the lieutenant governor’s race.

Critics of Georgia’s voting machines fear the possibility of hacking, but it’s unclear why a hack would target the relatively low-profile lieutenant governor’s race rather than the heated race for governor, which Kemp won by nearly 55,000 votes, a margin of 1.4 percentage points. There were no reported allegations of erroneous results in the governor’s race.

Another possibility is that there was a computer error at some point in the election process, said Eddie Perez of the Open Source Election Technology Institute, which recommends hand-marked paper ballots.

Election officials should check whether each race was coded correctly so that votes on touchscreens were correctly recorded on electronic ballots, he said. They should also look into the election programming process to ensure some races weren’t left off some machines.

“I don’t know why the state of Georgia appears to be resisting an examination,” Perez said. “They’re not getting any closer to the truth. This really is unusual, and it begs explanation.”


Vote disparity in lieutenant governor’s race

Race … Vote decline compared to governor

Lieutenant governor … -4%

Secretary of state … -1.4%

Attorney general … -2%

Agriculture commissioner … -2.4%

Insurance commissioner … -2%

State school superintendent … -2%

Labor commissioner … -2.3%

Source: Georgia Secretary of State’s Office


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source: NPR

As FEC Nears Shutdown, Priorities Such As Stopping Election Interference On Hold

The Federal Election Commission will be effectively prevented from doing much of its work at the end of August after it loses a quorum of its commissioners.

Barring some kind of miraculous last-minute reprieve, Friday will be the last business day that the Federal Election Commission will be able to function for quite a while, leaving the enforcement of federal campaign finance laws unattended ahead of the 2020 election.

The commission's vice chairman, Matthew Petersen, announced his resignation earlier this week, to take effect at the end of the month. With Petersen gone, the FEC will be down to three members and won't have a quorum.

In addition to collecting campaign finance data, the FEC investigates potential campaign finance violations, issues fines and gives guidance to campaigns about following election law — but not without a working quorum of at least four commissioners.

"To not have the FEC able to take action right now is deeply concerning," says Daniel Weiner, a former senior counsel at the FEC, who's now with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University law school.

In particular, Weiner is concerned about another attempt by Russia or other actors to interfere in the 2020 election.

"After 2016, it's become very clear that it is almost certain that the Russian government and potentially other U.S. rivals will seek to interfere in the U.S. election, including through online propaganda, cybersecurity incursions and other tactics," Weiner told NPR. As the regulator for campaign spending, he describes the FEC as one of the "front-line" agencies combating foreign interference.

The FEC has been in the midst of strengthening disclosure and transparency requirements for online political ads of the sort that Russian operatives used to manipulate voters in 2016.

The lack of a quorum, Weiner says, "will make that impossible until that seat is filled."

It's not clear how long the FEC will be effectively shut down. President Trump nominated Republican Trey Trainor to serve on the commission, but the Senate has not yet acted on the nomination. In the past, nominees have been paired, with one from each party. Congressional Democrats have yet to announce any nominees from their party.

Former FEC chair Michael Toner says he fears there is a "real possibility" the FEC could lack a quorum through the 2020 election.

But that doesn't mean the agency will completely go dark. "Public disclosure reports will continue to be due and will need to be filed by campaigns and PACs and committees, and those reports will be reviewed by the FEC staff just as they always are. So that's important," said Toner. Similarly, the agency's popular website will continue to operate, allowing people to get information on campaign fundraising and spending.

Toner argues the agency's inability to act without four commissioners won't mean that campaign finance will become a "legal free zone." There's a five-year statute of limitations on campaign finance violations, and FEC complaints can still be filed with the agency.

"At some point, presumably, the agency will regain a quorum," said Toner, "and will be able take action on enforcement cases. So campaigns and committees still have to follow the law."

But Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a campaign reform group, isn't so sure they will.

"It's kind of like saying there's a law against robbing banks," she said. "Ninety-nine point nine percent of the population will still not rob a bank if there wasn't a policeman. But there's always that element there that's going to be looking for an opportunity to get away with it.

"And I think what's really different about politics is that there's both so much gray area and there is political disagreement about the laws anyway."

The FEC is not the only government agency unable to act because of a lack of a quorum. The Merit Systems Protection Board, which investigates allegations of violations of federal personnel practices, including the Hatch Act, hasn't had one for over two years.


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source: WAPT

Malfunctioning voting machine caught on video
Machine repaired after 19 primary runoff votes cast, state says


Some problems were reported at the polls Tuesday during the primary election runoffs, including a malfunctioning voting machine that was caught on camera.

Video of the machine was posted on social media that appears to show a man trying to vote for Republican candidate for governor William Waller Jr., but the machine would only cast a vote for opposing candidate Tate Reeves.

“Our office was made aware this morning that one TSX machine was malfunctioning in the Republican Primary at the Burgess precinct in Lafayette County. We contacted the county. The county dispatched a technician to the precinct and the tablet is being replaced. To our knowledge, only one machine was malfunctioning. Apparently 19 votes were cast prior to the error being detected,” said Anna C. Moak, with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.

The primaries are run by the parties and the voting machines are owned by the counties, Moak said.

Election officials in Lafayette County said they believe the machine was dropped or damaged on its way to the polling location.

There were also voting problems reported in Hinds and Calhoun counties, election officials said. Several Republicans in Hinds County experienced problems with electronic pollbooks, which authorities said were not consistently displaying voter history. Poll workers manually checked paper pollbooks, election officials said.

Two voting machines malfunctioned at two separate precincts in Calhoun County, state election officials said. Technicians were dispatched.


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source: AJC

Check-in computers stolen in Atlanta hold statewide voter data

Two computers that are used to check in voters were stolen from a west Atlanta precinct hours before polls opened Tuesday for a city school board election.

Officials replaced the computers before voters arrived, and the election wasn’t disrupted, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

The express poll computers contain names, addresses, birth dates and driver’s license information for every voter in the state, said Richard Barron, Fulton County’s elections director. They don’t include Social Security numbers. They are password-protected, and the password changes for every election.

The computers, which were in a locked and sealed case, haven’t been recovered.

Poll workers discovered the burglary early Tuesday morning at the Grove Park Recreation Center near Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.

Atlanta police said they were first called to the recreation center at 12:30 a.m. on an alarm call. They found an unlocked door but saw no one inside.

When election employees arrived, they told police “the kitchen had been ransacked,” a microwave had been moved to a different room, food items were missing and the express poll machines were missing, Atlanta police Sgt. John Chafee said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he’s concerned about the stolen election equipment.

“They may not have realized what they were stealing. They may have just thought they were stealing computer hardware of some sort, but they stole a whole lot more than they thought,” Raffensperger said. “They’re in a whole lot of trouble. There will be a thorough investigation.”

At the Grove Park Recreation Center, turnout was low in the nine-way special election for school board District 2, a seat that became vacant when Byron Amos resigned to run for the Atlanta City Council.

After casting his ballot, Sean Harris said he was able to vote without a problem.

“I didn’t even know anyone had broken in,” Harris said.

This isn’t the first time express poll units have been stolen in the state. In 2017, a Cobb County machine was stolen from a precinct manager’s car.

Barron said the machines don’t connect to the internet and can’t be used for other purposes. He said they can’t be tracked.

“I’m sure whoever took them had no idea what was in that case,” he said. “A Palm Pilot from 2000 is probably more sophisticated than those things. They’re pretty primitive pieces of equipment.”

The check-in computers that were taken are part of Georgia’s 17-year-old voting system, which is scheduled to be replaced statewide starting with the March presidential primary election.

The new voting system will come with iPads for voter registration check-ins, which will include additional security capabilities. The Apple operating system allows election officials to remotely erase data and track the locations of iPads.

“These upgrades protect privacy and enhance security for the entire statewide voting system,” said Tess Hammock, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, which is also investigating the incident. “We encourage every county to secure its equipment, new or old, properly.”

The Secretary of State’s Office trains county election officials on cyber and physical security, she said.

Barron said he hoped voters’ information remained secure. He said it was frustrating to have to deal with the theft.

“In this era of distrust of everything, it’s just another thing to have to explain,” Barron said.

Atlanta police said they are working to identify who is behind the burglary.

The school board seat wasn’t the only special election on Tuesday. Voters in the south part of Fulton County were also voting in a special election for a new District 6 commissioner to replace Emma Darnell, who died this spring.

In addition to the theft, voters at the Southwest Arts Center were required to vote on provisional ballots when polls opened there. Barron said a 2-foot-long snake by the front door delayed normal voting.


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White City Council in Majority Black City Quietly Moves Only Voting Location to Police Station

The Root
Michael Harriot

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

The rapidly gentrifying Atlanta suburb known for banning sagging pants has outraged black residents while likely delighting the state’s vote-suppressing governor by announcing a decision to move the city’s only polling location to the local police department.

On September 3, the City Council of Jonesboro, Ga. voted to move the city’s sole polling place to the Jonesboro Police Department, angering residents and people who don’t wear skinny jeans.

In a letter to city leaders and election officials (pdf), the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under the Law called the decision “clear voter suppression,” adding that the decision did not comply with the state’s rules for notifying the public and violated laws barring election officials from changing locations 60 days before an election.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

City Manager Ricky Clark said the polling place had to be moved for this year’s municipal elections. The existing precinct at the Jonesboro Firehouse Museum is under construction for a redevelopment called the Broad Street Project.​

“The chambers of the police department where the polling place will be located is the exact location where all Council meetings of the city of Jonesboro take place, which makes it the most comfortable and familiar location for residents of the city of Jonesboro who will be coming to vote,” Clark said.​

Jonesboro City Hall doesn’t have enough space or parking for Election Day, but it will still be used for early voting, Clark said.​

Clark rejected the claim that the City Council’s vote didn’t comply with the law, explaining that the Council’s vote came 63 days prior to the Nov. 5 election day. On that matter, Clark seems to be correct. The agenda and video for the meeting clearly show the City Council discussing the decision during the Sept. 3 meeting for a grand total of 1 minute and 48 seconds, including an 8-second allowance for public discussion. And in an August 21 notice, the city did notify residents that they could come and voice any objections to moving the polling place.

If you’re wondering why citizens would be hesitant to vote at the new location, you should know that the Jonesboro Police Department has been dogged by allegations of police brutality and mistreatment for years, which led to the resignation of the city’s police chief in June 2018. In 2011, the City Council made national headlines when it passed a citywide ordinance declaring sagging pants an act of “disorderly conduct.” Although it is in metro Atlanta’s least affluent county, it is rapidly gentrifying, pushing many residents out of affordable housing.

,“Needless to say, this move is one that could have a chilling effect on African American voters given the city’s recent history,” explained Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law (and a 2019 Root 100 honoree). “The police department is far from the kind of neutral location where all people would feel free to vote.”

Jonesboro is 61 percent black.

Here is a picture of the Mayor and City Council:

Photo: City of Jonesboro

By the way, I’ll play the Jeopardy theme while you conjure a guess on where they held the City Council meeting...

Yep! The September 3 meeting was held at the Jonesboro Police Department. Unfortunately, you didn’t phrase your response in the form of a question so we can’t accept your answer. Had you simply asked “Why the hell would they expect people to explain why they didn’t want to vote at the police the police department?”you would have been correct.

Also, lower your voice.

And pull up your pants before you go to jail.

Groups oppose moving voting precinct to Jonesboro police station:




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North Carolina RepubliKlans Finally Give Up on Gerrymandered Black Voter Suppression Maps

State Court Bars Using Republican Drawn North Carolina House Map in 2020 Elections

by Michael Wines | Oct. 28, 2019 |

A North Carolina state court effectively threw out the state’s map of congressional districts on Monday, saying critics were poised to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans.

The ruling, by a three-judge panel in Superior Court in Raleigh, technically imposes a temporary ban on using the map in primary elections next spring. But the judges signaled that they were unlikely to change their minds by inviting plaintiffs in the case to seek a summary judgment ending the case in their favor. And the judges said they were prepared to postpone primary elections should that prove necessary to further litigate the case or draw new House districts.

The plaintiffs, North Carolina residents, were sponsored by the National Redistricting Foundation, an arm of a Democratic group led by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that is seeking to challenge Republican control of the next round of redistricting in 2021.

The House map drawn by Republican legislators in 2016 all but guaranteed the party’s control of 10 of the state’s 13 House districts, even though voters’ political preferences are split almost evenly between the two major parties. A separate challenge to the same map went to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in June that it did not have the ability to regulate partisan gerrymandering, however egregious.

But the state panel said the map violated broader provisions in North Carolina’s state constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and assembly and equal protection under the law, as well as a guarantee of free elections that does not appear in the federal Constitution.

“North Carolina Republicans tried to beat democracy with their gerrymandered maps, and the U.S. Supreme Court would have let them get away with it,” Stanton Jones, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said on Monday. “The state court’s decision today ensures that North Carolinians will finally get to vote in free and fair congressional elections.”

The order further upends a North Carolina political landscape that was, until this autumn, carefully crafted to maintain Republican dominance in all but the most unlikely Democratic landslides. The same three-judge panel struck down most of the state legislature’s maps in September as Republican partisan gerrymanders, citing the same violations of state constitutional clauses. Republicans elected then to redraw the maps, which were approved by the same court on Monday in a separate order.

Republican legislators did not immediately respond to the latest order. They could oppose a motion for summary judgment and, should it come, appeal it to the state Supreme Court. But the three-judge panel suggested on Monday that the Republican legislative leaders forego legal arguments and use the same bipartisan map-drawing process employed to draft the new state legislative districts.

North Carolina’s Legislative Maps Are Thrown Out by State Court Panel

The State court ruled on Tuesday that the current maps were an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander

Sept. 3 2019 | By Michael Wines and Richard Fausset |

In a major blow to Republicans who control the Legislature in one of the nation’s most bitterly divided states, a state court panel threw out North Carolina’s state legislative maps as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordered lawmakers to draw up new ones in two weeks.

The ruling on Tuesday by a three-judge panel in Raleigh had the potential to bring to a decisive end a yearslong battle over gerrymandering in a critical swing state and indicated that state courts could act to rein in patently partisan electoral maps after the United States Supreme Court ruled in June, by a 5-to-4 margin, that federal courts could not.

The Republican leader of the State Senate, Phil Berger, cast the decision as part of a national Democratic strategy to overturn Republican rule via the courts, but said the Legislature would not appeal the ruling. The North Carolina Supreme Court, which would hear any appeal, has six Democratic justices and one Republican.

“It contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent, but we intend to respect the court’s decision and finally put this divisive battle behind us,” Mr. Berger said in a statement. “It’s time to move on.”

But Democrats and the voting rights advocacy groups who challenged North Carolina’s maps were giddy over what they depicted as a vital victory for fair electoral maps.

“Our heads are spinning here in North Carolina,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, which filed the suit. “It’s a huge win, particularly for the voters of North Carolina, just to know that this entire decade they have never had an opportunity to actually vote for legislators in constitutional districts.”

And the effects of the ruling, which requires new maps to be drawn and approved by Sept. 18, could go beyond state legislative maps. Stanton Jones, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that the principles of the decision would also be applicable to the congressional map for the House of Representatives, but that a new lawsuit would be required to overturn it.

The 357-page ruling is the first major decision on partisan maps since the United States Supreme Court ruled in June that even the most extreme gerrymandered maps were beyond its jurisdiction. While the federal Constitution limited the Supreme Court’s authority over partisan maps, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote then, state constitutions could “provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply.”

The North Carolina court in Wake County said the Republican maps violated the State Constitution’s clauses guaranteeing free elections, equal protection under the law and freedom of speech and assembly. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court cited provisions of its Constitution in striking down the state’s congressional map in January 2018.

Tuesday’s decision, issued unanimously by two Democratic judges and one Republican, appears to end a legal battle over the legislative maps that already had forced the redrawing of 28 districts that a federal court had found to be racial gerrymanders. Since Republicans drew the legislative boundaries eight years ago, the party has maintained healthy majorities — and often supermajorities — in the State House and the State Senate, even when Democrats won a majority of the vote statewide.

While the debate over gerrymandering has taken on a bitter partisan cast in recent years, the North Carolina judges went out of their way to make clear that their ruling was based on the law, not politics.

“The conclusions of this Court today reflect the unanimous and best efforts of the undersigned trial judges — each hailing from different geographic regions and each with differing ideological and political outlooks — to apply core constitutional principles to this complex and divisive topic,” the judges wrote in their decision.

The judges’ ruling threw out State House and Senate maps that had been contested in state and federal courts almost since their enactment in 2011. To draw them, Republicans who had taken control of the Legislature after the 2010 elections hired a Republican political strategist, Thomas B. Hofeller, who was renowned for his skill in drafting partisan gerrymanders. Democrats in the Legislature were not allowed to meet Mr. Hofeller and had no role in the maps’ creation.

The Republicans turned again to Mr. Hofeller in 2017, after federal courts ruled that 28 of the districts he had created were racial gerrymanders and had to be redrawn. Seeking to avoid further charges of racial bias, legislative leaders told a federal court that racial statistics would not be used in drafting the new districts, although partisan data like past election results would.

The resulting maps were summarized for Republican legislators in so-called stat packs that forecast the new districts’ partisan leanings using results from 10 previous statewide elections. By that yardstick, the judges said, Republicans would have won the House and Senate supermajority in each of those 10 elections had the new districts been in effect.

And in fact, even after a strong Democratic turnout in last November’s midterm elections relegated Republicans to a minority of the vote statewide, the party still held on to 54 percent of State House seats and 58 percent of State Senate seats.

During the trial, the plaintiffs also claimed that Republican leaders misled the federal court when they claimed that race played no role in drawing the new districts. Rather, they said, data found on Mr. Hofeller’s computer backups after his death in August 2018 showed that he had calculated the racial balance of every new district.

Arguments by Republican leaders that those were after-the-fact checks of the districts’ racial composition were “not credible for multiple reasons,” the judges wrote.

In outlawing the partisan maps, the judges relied heavily on a broad reading of Section 10 of the State Constitution, which states in its entirety that “All elections shall be free.” While higher state courts have said little about the clause, they wrote, other rulings have made it clear that citizens express their will at the ballot box and that the state has a compelling interest in keeping the vote fair.

“The free elections clause of the North Carolina constitution guarantees that all elections must be conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the people,” the judges wrote. But “it is not the free will of the people that is fairly ascertained through extreme partisan gerrymandering. Rather, it is the carefully crafted will of the map drawer that predominates.”

The ruling could convince anti-gerrymandering forces in other states to battle partisan maps in state courts after the next round of redistricting in 2021, said Joshua Douglas, a University of Kentucky law professor and an expert on state constitutions and elections law. Roughly half of state constitutions have free election clauses, and all but one state have right-to-vote guarantees that also open a window to challenges to partisan maps.

“Given that the federal courts are closed,” he said, “I certainly expect this model to be used in other states where there are egregious partisan gerrymanders.”
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New-Voter Registration Is Plummeting
And Democrats aren’t the only ones who could lose out.


The Atlantic
APRIL 30, 2020

Gamers playing nintendo’s animal crossing encountered an unusual sight late one afternoon last week.

The massively popular online video game allows participants to customize their appearance, and in their onscreen avatar, some of the players were sporting political swag. A few wore T-shirts with the name nextgen or nga, for the liberal organizing group NextGen America. Some wore hats that read vote. And some stood beside virtual booths, like the kind you’d see at a carnival, that advertised the Tom Steyer–backed organization.

NextGen, which Steyer, the erstwhile presidential candidate, founded in 2013 to engage young voters, recruited the players by posting notices on Twitter and in Facebook groups devoted to the game. About 60 users agreed to tout the group’s cause as they played; one even built a podium and delivered a short address through the chat function about the importance of registering to vote.

The Animal Crossing event took place the day before Earth Day, when NextGen normally would have held an in-person voter-registration rally, likely featuring remarks from a political leader, says Mark Riffenburg, the group’s director in Nevada, who helped organize the event. Instead, with such outreach shelved by the coronavirus outbreak, the group tried to broadcast its message to the many players who spend hours inside the game building digital neighborhoods, buying and selling virtual crops, and interacting with anthropomorphic animals. At political events, Riffenburg says, “you are used to having a senator. But now it is a squirrel.

NextGen’s gaming push is only one of the many ways the pandemic has forced both parties to reimagine one of their core activities during any presidential-election year: registering new voters. The outbreak has eliminated all of the face-to face techniques that both sides usually rely on: door-to-door canvassing, setting up tables in college quads or Walmart parking lots, and sending out volunteers with clipboards to buttonhole attendees at political rallies.

The elimination of these traditional tactics is forcing organizers to shift almost completely toward online, mail, and phone efforts to reach new voters. Republicans are confident that will provide a tactical advantage to the GOP, because President Donald Trump’s campaign has invested so heavily in its digital operations—and some Democrats fear they may be right.

But after a year that began with predictions that turnout for the presidential race could reach its highest level in more than a century, both sides may struggle to meet their ambitious goals for identifying and registering new voters. In March and early April, new registrations plummeted in many states compared with the same period in 2016, according to new data provided exclusively to The Atlantic by TargetSmart, a Democratic voter-targeting firm. “Registration will almost certainly be diminished, potentially by millions of voters, when all is said and done,” says Tom Bonier, TargetSmart’s CEO.

Though many observers assume that Democrats have the most at stake in expanding the electorate, studies have shown that nonvoters don’t express a strong preference for either party. White voters without a college degree, Trump’s core group of supporters, constitute a majority of all eligible nonvoters in seven contested swing states, and more than three-fifths of them in the battleground states across the Rust Belt specifically, according to a survey released last week by the Voter Participation Center, which focuses on registering minorities, single women, and other Democratic-leaning constituencies.

In those battleground states, the poll found that unregistered African American voters expressed more interest in voting than unregistered white voters did. But it also revealed that nonvoters overall held at least as negative a view of the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, as they did of Donald Trump. That suggests both sides are leaving a large number of potential voters on the sidelines as registration activities are disrupted, notes Page Gardner, the Voter Participation Center’s founder and board chair. These lost weeks, she says, are imposing “an incredible opportunity cost on both sides.”

Key republican and democratic institutions working on registration say they have not yet lowered their expectations. “We set out in the beginning of this year to register 2 million new voters, with a focus on registering people of color and to have a minimum of 30 million voter contacts,” says Alexis Anderson-Reed, the CEO of State Voices, which works with affiliates in 23 states to promote turnout among Democratic-leaning constituencies. “That is still our goal.”

In Wisconsin, for instance, the outbreak “is not a dramatic disruption when you think about how Republicans go about” registering voters, says Mark Jefferson, the executive director of the state Republican Party. The GOP’s targets, he says, are located “predominantly [in] suburban and especially rural” communities. “When you’ve got an electorate like that and that’s where you are going,” Jefferson continued, “it is almost impossible to go door-to-door. It requires good digital and good mail, or you are not going to be effective.”

In terms of registering new voters, he says, in-person canvassing “is a key component” for Democrats, but “never was for us.”
Along those same lines, Gorka, the RNC official, says the GOP’s heavy investments in digital technology and voter-data acquisition have positioned it to quickly adapt. The RNC is spending mightily on digital advertising aimed at driving potential new voters to two online portals they have built to help people register. It has also created digital tools it can use to track their progress through the registration system—and to nudge the potential registrants, if necessary, with phone calls from volunteers. “For us to have spent the last three cycles building out these online platforms and trainings, it allowed us to seamlessly transition,” Gorka says.

Democratic groups more openly bemoan the loss of in-person organizing. “It is insanely disruptive,” says Ben Wessel, the executive director of NextGen America. The group planned to register nearly 300,000 young people this year, with half coming “from face-to-face conversations.” Now, he sighs, “that is just not going to be the case anymore.”

About one-third of all the in-person sign-ups the group expected to amass this year would have come solely from reaching students during orientation week this fall on college campuses. Now it’s unclear whether it will be safe for the group to set up tables outside dorms—or whether students will be moving into dorms at all. Likewise, he says, NextGen typically would have a heavy presence at gay-pride parades around the country in June; now it’s unlikely that many (or any) of those events will occur.

“We are still working with [LGBTQ] Instagram influencers to share our links as part of their Pride celebrations, but that’s pretty different than thousands of heaving masses in the streets of Detroit or Charlotte,” Wessel says.

For liberal-leaning , the question is how effectively digital efforts, as well as phone and mail, can replace their usual in-person contacts. “We have had to completely shift our programming and tactics,” says Anderson-Reed of State Voices. With its organizers reassigned, the group has already deployed so many texts and phone calls to potential registrants that it has consumed its annual budget for both activities; it’s now raising additional money to support more of that outreach. The group is also ramping up programs to mail registration information to every household in certain low-income zip codes.

In some ways, Anderson-Reed says, the outbreak is encouraging liberal voter-registration groups to accelerate a transition that will be necessary anyway, as Americans spend more of their lives communicating and interacting digitally. “There is nothing that can replace face-to-face interaction, and we know that,” she says. “However, we also know that more folks are engaging online … We are trying to look at this as having the largest impact we can this year and as an opportunity to strengthen our digital online organizing for the future. I think this is like a huge wake-up call.”

Though it reached a relatively modest number of people, the NextGen effort to engage young gamers through Animal Crossing offers one example of where that thinking can lead. The idea grew from a straightforward realization: Amid the lockdowns, the young people the group targets are shifting where they spend their own time. To reach them, the group needed to follow along. “The really key thing for me,” Riffenburg says, was thinking about online destinations “in the same way our organizers thought about tables outside the student union,” as “innately places where people gather.”

Crisaly Marquez-Santos, the group’s digital director, then had the idea of using Animal Crossing. Not only does it have a large audience, but it also allows for the kind of customization that would permit NextGen to deliver its message. The group is now exploring other games to target.

Gardner and Bonier say it’s unlikely the Republican and Democratic parties can register enough new voters later this year to offset the lost opportunities this spring. But analysts on both sides caution that doesn’t doom the earlier predictions that significantly more Americans will vote in 2020 than in 2016. Some groups are already shifting their efforts from registering new voters to encouraging higher turnout among existing ones. And Gardner notes that the increased focus on voting by mail this year could bring in millions of registered voters who don’t usually cast a ballot.

The growing reliance on absentee voting will force both sides to devote more resources to help guide voters through the often complex process of requesting and returning mail ballots and ensuring that their state has counted them. That’s just one aspect of the sudden lurch toward a digital-first approach that is likely to define this coronavirus election. “Those kinds of technologies are going to be used a lot more now,” Gardner says, “and people are scrambling to figure out the way to best take advantage of all of them.”

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Judge rules all voters in Texas can apply for mail-in ballots during pandemic

May 19, 2020

An I Voted sticker.
Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that during the coronavirus pandemic, every registered voter in Texas can apply to vote by mail.

Under state voting rules, absentee ballots can only be sent to Texans who are disabled, 65 or older, in jail, or have plans to be out of their county on the day of an election. The Texas Democratic Party argued that the coronavirus would place in-person voters at risk, putting unconstitutional and illegal burdens on them, and absentee voting needed to be expanded.

U.S. District Judge Fred Biery agreed, saying the right to vote "should not be elusively based on the whims of nature." Americans, he wrote, "now seek life without fear of pandemic, liberty to choose their leaders in an environment free of disease, and the pursuit of happiness without undue restrictions."

The Texas attorney general's office opposed the expansion of absentee voting, claiming there is widespread fraud in states where more people use mail-in ballots, but Biery wrote in his ruling the office cited "little or no evidence" and the court "finds the Grim Reaper's scepter of pandemic disease and death is far more serious than an unsupported fear of voter fraud in this sui generis experience. Indeed, if vote by mail fraud is real, logic dictates that all voting should be in person." In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he will appeal. Catherine Garcia



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Judge rules all voters in Texas can apply for mail-in ballots during pandemic

May 19, 2020

An I Voted sticker.
Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that during the coronavirus pandemic, every registered voter in Texas can apply to vote by mail.

Under state voting rules, absentee ballots can only be sent to Texans who are disabled, 65 or older, in jail, or have plans to be out of their county on the day of an election. The Texas Democratic Party argued that the coronavirus would place in-person voters at risk, putting unconstitutional and illegal burdens on them, and absentee voting needed to be expanded.

U.S. District Judge Fred Biery agreed, saying the right to vote "should not be elusively based on the whims of nature." Americans, he wrote, "now seek life without fear of pandemic, liberty to choose their leaders in an environment free of disease, and the pursuit of happiness without undue restrictions."

The Texas attorney general's office opposed the expansion of absentee voting, claiming there is widespread fraud in states where more people use mail-in ballots, but Biery wrote in his ruling the office cited "little or no evidence" and the court "finds the Grim Reaper's scepter of pandemic disease and death is far more serious than an unsupported fear of voter fraud in this sui generis experience. Indeed, if vote by mail fraud is real, logic dictates that all voting should be in person." In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he will appeal. Catherine Garcia



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Editorial Cartoon U.S. Georgia primary voting problems
Mike Luckovich Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicates

I voted like two months ago in the Georgia early election period. Then it was postponed. This was before many candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others suspended their campaigns. Georgia had just implemented this new voting system. I was dumbfounded at the multiple steps it took just to process my ballot. Load a card with your precinct information, take the card to the station, load the card, make your choices via touch screen, confirm your choices, remove the card and present it to the poll worker, poll worker processes your card and makes a print out, poll worker asks you to verify that the printout has your correct choices, insert printout in to an optical scanner and is supposedly archived. Talk about opportunities to steal elects!

Whatever happen to paper and pen ballots?


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SPEECHLESS This large group of voters arrived ON TIME to vote, but were locked out of the Expo Center due to a THIRTY-MINUTE WAIT TIME TO PARK after Kentucky shut down 95% of polling places and forced largely-black counties to vote in ONE polling location. THIS IS VOTER SUPPRESSION