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


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The Most Brazen Attempt at Voter Suppression Yet
New revelations show GOP officials in key battleground states are
attempting to purge millions of minorities from the voter rolls​

by Jamelle Bouie | October 29, 2014 |

Let’s assume—despite what most liberals suspect—that the most vocal voter ID boosters are sincere. That, as National Review’s Rich Lowry argues in Politico, they want nothing more than to protect the vote from fraud with a minor imposition on the time and effort of prospective voters. “Where you come down on this issue,” he writes, “really depends on whether you think it’s reasonable to require the minimal effort to establish your identity by producing an ID at the ballot box or not.”

Fair enough. That’s a reasonable sentiment. Despite substantial evidence to the contrary, Republicans and other voter ID supporters don’t want to make it harder for more vulnerable voters to cast a ballot—although that’s the practical outcome of an ID requirement—they just want to secure the process and protect the integrity of the vote.

But this doesn’t explain the Republican-led push to end or limit same-day registration (condemned by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a “trick”) and early and weekend voting, procedures used most by minorities, black Americans in particular. Nor does it explain an incredible effort just uncovered by Al Jazeera America that could shift the direction of the midterm elections.
<span style="background-color: #FFFF00">
<b>According to a six-month-long investigation conducted by Greg Palast for Al Jazeera,</b></span>
- - <span style="background-color: #FFFF00"><b>“voting officials in 27 states, almost all of them Republicans, have launched what is threatening to become a massive purge of black, Hispanic, and Asian-American voters.</b></span>

<span style="background-color: #FFFF00"><b>Already, tens of thousands have been removed from voter rolls in battleground states, and the numbers are set to climb.”</b></span>

<span style="background-color: #FFFF00"><b>Specifically, officials have a master list of 6.9 million suspected “potential double voters.” And in Virginia, Georgia, and Washington the lists are “heavily over-weighted with names such as Jackson, Garcia, Patel, and Kim,” all common to Democratic-leaning minority groups.</b></span>

<span style="background-color: #FFFF00"><b>The process for checking those names, a computer program called Crosscheck—touted by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a vocal supporter for voter identification—is incredibly inaccurate. “The actual lists,” notes Al Jazeera America, “show that not only are middle names mismatched, and suffix discrepancies ignored, even conflicting birthdates are disregarded. Moreover, Crosscheck deliberately ignores any Social Security mismatches, in the few instances when the numbers are even collected.”</b></span>

Conservatives across the country are working to weaken
voting laws and put new barriers to the ballot box.

Given the tight races in Georgia and other battleground states, even a small number of false positives could turn the tide of an election, giving a strong advantage to Republican candidates for statewide and congressional offices.

Yes, voting officials have to prune the rolls of deceased or inactive voters. The question is whether they’re taking the narrowest route and trying to avoid mistakes. They aren’t; compared with other voter lists, Crosscheck is incredibly broad with a strong bias toward removing people from the rolls. And the means for verifying voter identity—sending postcards to addresses on file—puts the burden of proof on individual voters and is almost designed to take people off the rolls; with false positives and duplicate names, there’s no guarantee that anyone gets their verification card, to say nothing of voters who have moved or don’t have a permanent address.

Whether Republican officials are trying to nudge the electorate in the GOP’s favor is almost beside the point—since, intentions aside, that’s what’s happened. And when you take this out of its isolation chamber and put it in context—a world where Republicans want voter identification and reduced early voting and stiffer registration laws—it looks like a pattern of deliberate suppression, where some officials prune voter rolls with lists of minorities while others make it harder to vote altogether.

This news comes just a day after the verdict in Georgia, where a state judge denied a petition from the New Georgia Project—a group that spearheaded registration drives across the state—to process 40,000 missing registration forms, striking a blow to voter mobilization efforts in the state. Last month, after it submitted 80,000 forms, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp accused the group of fraud and opened an investigation into its voter drives. Soon after, thousands of forms went missing, prompting this lawsuit.

Again, it’s the pattern that makes this suspect; the consistent effort from GOP officials, lawmakers, and judges to make voting more difficult, or facilitate efforts in that direction. Conservatives across the country are working to weaken voting laws and put new barriers to the ballot box. And in every case, Democratic constituencies are those most affected.

Which is why it’s hard to take pro-ID arguments—like Rich Lowry’s—in good faith. Liberal and Democratic claims of voter suppression aren’t just about voter identification, they’re about the package of policies and techniques that burden voters and shrink the electorate in the process. Indeed, it’s worse than this. Voter ID advocates insist that their reasonable moves are intended to protect the integrity of the process and the sanctity of the vote, but the reality is that their policies have created confusion and chaos for hundreds of thousands of voters. Put another way, there’s not a serious Republican effort to expand the electorate and bring new people into the process. But there is a major one to do the opposite. And it hasn’t popped up in response to threats to the sanctity of the vote—even conservatives are beginning to acknowledge there isn’t much voter fraud—it’s emerged in a world where electorates are increasingly filled with people who don’t support Republicans. It’s brazen, it’s indefensible, and it needs to end.



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Voter ID Law Turns Away Texans

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Voters head to the polls tomorrow in Texas, a state with one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation. This is the first federal election since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which would have required Texas to get government approval for these changes. Below are stories from actual voters and the difficulties they’ve encountered during early voting. Initials are used for those voters who wish to remain anonymous. In many cases, Texas failed these voters twice — first by requiring identification they did not have, and second by not training election officials to help them navigate the rules.

More stories are here, here, and here. Voters in need of assistance should call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, where trained volunteers are standing by to assist voters and answer any questions they may have.

“He didn’t even look at me. He just told me I couldn’t vote.”

Catherine Overton lives in Pleasant Grove. She is 70 years old and disabled. She has been voting since she was 18 years old. As a black woman who grew up in the South, she does not take her right to vote for granted — she remembers a time when black people couldn’t vote, or do much of anything else white people were allowed to do. She also remembers “getting her behind beat” and thrown in jail when she tried to stand up for her rights.

She moved from Las Vegas to Pleasant Grove in June, and registered to vote. But when she registered, she was not told about the new Texas voter ID law. She has a valid Nevada driver’s license, but she does not have a Texas license as the law requires.

When she went to vote early, the poll worker, a white man, told her that she could not vote with her Nevada license — she needed a Texas ID. When she asked why her Nevada license was not adequate for proving her identity, she was rudely told “you had time to register to vote, you had time to get a Texas ID.” She thinks her rude treatment was because of the color of her skin — she says growing up as she did, you can just tell when people are prejudiced. She left without voting. The poll worker didn’t even tell her anything about the Election Identification Certificate (EIC) — the “free” ID that is supposed to be available for voting. “He didn’t even look at me. He just told me I couldn’t vote.”

This experience was especially hurtful given the personal sacrifices she made to make our country more inclusive. When she was in 10th grade, she was getting on a train to New Orleans for Mardi Gras when she and her sister were attacked for going on the “white” side of the carriage. She defended herself by hitting a man with a telephone, but she hit a Ku Klux Klan member who was joined by two truckloads of men armed with guns, sticks, and iron pipes. She and her sister were beat. A month later, she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the first time.

She had also been in high school during the heart of the civil rights struggle. Some of her friends had done a sit-in at the segregated Woolworth’s in McComb and gotten arrested. The principal of her segregated high school said they could not come back to school because they had a police record. So she and some other friends walked out of school, went to the courthouse, and started to pray. While they were praying, they were arrested. She had to go to school away from home in Jackson, Mississippi because she had a police record.

Once she turned 18, she made sure to vote. Voting in Mississippi was not easy when she was young, either — she remembers voting tests such as having to recite part of the Constitution. She moved to California in 1971, and Nevada in 1984. She had not seen those kinds of barriers since she left Mississippi, and thought those days were behind her. She voted regularly without any trouble — until she moved to Texas.

“What if I only had my military ID?”

Sandra McCartney, 69, lives in Wood County and is a regular voter. This time, she knew she would need a picture ID at the polls, so when she went to vote, she presented a military ID. Ms. McCartney’s husband served in the Air Force, and she uses this ID to enter a military base. Since the ID has her picture and an expiration date, the poll worker should have accepted it as ID — but he did not. Instead the poll worker said she could not use a military ID because “it couldn’t be scanned in the system.”

Ms. McCartney tried to argue with the election worker and explain that she could use her military ID to vote, but eventually she gave up. Fortunately, she was able to retrieve her driver’s license and vote with that. But she says if she did not have a driver’s license, she might have been stopped from voting entirely: “What if I had only had my military ID?” The confusion over the acceptance of military ID has gotten some notoriety.

A poll tax by another name

Donna Buesing is 72 years old and has been voting in every election since she turned 18. When she moved to Texas in 1960, she remembers having to pay a poll tax in order to vote — she was shocked to see that kind of obstacle to the ballot.

This year, Ms. Buesing was able to vote by mail, but two of her elderly neighbors needed her help to get the ID they needed to vote in person. Neither of her neighbors would have been able to drive themselves to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) office. One is still working on getting her EIC.

Ms. Buesing said the burdens for obtaining an EIC could be quite significant if a voter doesn’t have a car, and is too frail or physically limited to take the bus, as is one of her neighbors. She believes that calling an EIC a “free ID” is misleading because of the time, effort, and money it takes to obtain some of the needed documents.

Ms. Buesing thinks the elderly “are at the mercy of” the system, and she worries that in order to “be able to vote, cast your ballot and have a say in what’s going on, senior citizens have virtually no option. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican…we should have our vote count.”

Election Protection Dispatch: $44 to Vote

Election Protection, a nonpartisan coalition formed to ensure all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process, reports the story of Larissa Chernock, who recently moved from California to Dallas, Texas. Her new Texas registration card said she needed a driver’s license to vote, so she thought she would be able to vote with her California license.

Only when she double-checked the ID requirement online to make sure she had acceptable ID did she find out that she needed a Texas license. She had a passport, but it was in California, so she had her friend overnight her passport to Texas. She said the cost of shipping it was $44. She was able to vote Friday, but she is worried about other people being stopped because of the law.

Help is available!

Voters should not be discouraged from exercising their right to vote! Anyone in need of assistance with the new voter identification requirements, or with other questions about the voting process, should call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, where trained volunteers are standing by to assist voters and answer any questions they may have. The hotline is run by Election Protection.

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90 Year Old Legendary Speaker of the House Jim Wright Denied Texas Voter ID Card

FORT WORTH — Former House Speaker Jim Wright was denied a voter ID card Saturday at a Texas Department of Public Safety office.

“Nobody was ugly to us, but they insisted that they wouldn’t give me an ID,” Wright said.

The legendary Texas political figure says that he has worked things out with DPS and that he will get a state-issued personal identification card in time for him to vote Tuesday in the state and local elections.

But after the difficulty he had this weekend getting a proper ID card, Wright, 90, expressed concern that such problems could deter others from voting and stifle turnout. After spending much of his life fighting to make it easier to vote, the Democratic Party icon said he is troubled by what he’s seeing happen under the state’s new voter ID law.

“I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Star-Telegram. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”

Wright and his assistant, Norma Ritchson, went to the DPS office on Woodway Drive to get a State of Texas Election Identification Certificate. Wright said he realized earlier in the week that the photo identifications he had — a Texas driver’s license that expired in 2010 and a TCU faculty ID — do not satisfy requirements of the voter ID law, enacted in 2011 by the Legislature. DPS officials concurred.

But Wright and Ritchson will return to the office Monday with a certified copy of Wright’s birth certificate, which the DPS employees assured them would be good enough for the Texas personal identification card, designed specifically for people who do not drive.

“It can be used for anything, not just voting,” Ritchson said.

While Wright will be able to vote, Ritchson worried that others of his age may find the obstacles and inconvenience she and Wright encountered so off-putting that they just don’t vote.

“I’ve been thinking about the people who are in retirement homes,” Ritchson said. “I’ve read that this is the lowest early voter turnout in a long time and I wonder if this [ID requirement] is the cause. We’ve tried so hard to make voting easy, and now the Texas Legislature has made it harder by making you have a photo ID.”

Voting still OK

Election officials in Tarrant County and statewide have stressed that voters who have no valid photo ID or election identification certificate can still cast ballots Tuesday.

They will be allowed to cast a provisional vote and then will have about a week to take the proper ID to the county elections office to “cure,” or validate, the ballot, said Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman with the Texas secretary of state's office.

“We want to make sure that every eligible Texan who wants to cast a ballot can,” Pierce said. “We want to help any Texan who needs additional information."

Wright, who said he has voted in every election since 1944, lamented that such help is called for.

“From my youth I have tried to expand the elections,” Wright said. “I pushed to abolish the poll tax. I was the first to come out for lowering the voting age to 18.”

Wright, a Fort Worth native, is a former state legislator and mayor of Weatherford who served in the U.S. House from 1955 until he resigned in 1989.

How to get an ID

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said Saturday that people who might find themselves in a similar situation should cast a provisional ballot and obtain identification needed to “cure” it within six days.

“There could be people surprised by this,” he said. “Some people have always voted with their voter certificate. We don't want to discourage anybody from voting. The last resort is for them to vote the provisional ballot.”

Raborn's office reached out to people who might have expired driver licenses, such as those who live in nursing homes, to let them know that the license can be expired by no more than two months to be a valid photo ID for voting.

Anyone who doesn't have a valid photo ID can go to a local driver’s license office to get an EIC.

They must have proof of citizenship, such as a passport or certified copy of a birth certificate. If a person doesn't have a certified copy of a birth certificate, he or she can go to the Tarrant County clerk's office and get a certified copy for $3 if it is for the purpose of getting an EIC.

Along with the birth certificate, people need to show two other pieces of identification — such as a driver license expired less than two years, a voter registration card, school records, military records or a Social Security card — to get the EIC.

A temporary EIC, issued on site and good until a permanent card arrives in the mail, may be used both at polling sites Tuesday and to validate a provisional ballot that has been cast.

Typically, voters would have six days to take the necessary identification to the county elections office to validate a ballot. But because the sixth day falls this year on Veterans Day, voters have until Nov. 12.

For more information, voters may call the Texas secretary of state's office at 800-252-VOTE (8683) or the Tarrant County Elections Office at 817-831-VOTE (8683). Go online for more information at or

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APNewsBreak: Georgia election server wiped after suit filed

FILE - This Sept. 22, 2016 file photo shows the screen of an electronic voting machine during testing at the Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems in Kennesaw, Ga. A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean in July 2017, just after the suit was filed. Data on the server could have indicated whether Georgia elections were manipulated by malicious hackers. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz, File)

A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned.

The server's data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state's election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case that was later obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe.

The lawsuit, filed on July 3 by a diverse group of election reform advocates, aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily criticized election technology. The server in question, which served as a statewide staging location for key election-related data, made national headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn't fixed six months after he reported it to election authorities.


It's not clear who ordered the server's data irretrievably erased.

The Kennesaw election center answers to Georgia's secretary of state, Brian Kemp, a Republican who is running for governor in 2018 and is the main defendant in the suit. A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office said Wednesday that "we did not have anything to do with this decision," adding that the office also had no advance warning of the move.

The center's director, Michael Barnes, referred questions to the university's press office, which declined comment.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who are mostly Georgia voters, want to scrap the state's 15-year-old vote-management system — particularly its 27,000 AccuVote touchscreen voting machines, hackable devices that don't use paper ballots or keep hardcopy proof of voter intent. The plaintiffs were counting on an independent security review of the Kennesaw server, which held electronic poll book and other elections staging data for counties, to demonstrate the system's unreliability.

Wiping the server clean "forestalls any forensic investigation at all," said Richard DeMillo, a Georgia Tech computer scientist who has closely followed the case. "People who have nothing to hide don't behave this way."


The server data could have revealed whether Georgia's most recent elections were compromised by malicious hackers. The plaintiffs contend that the results of both last November's election and a special June 20 congressional runoff— won by Kemp's predecessor, Karen Handel — cannot be trusted.

Possible Russian interference in U.S. politics, including attempts to penetrate voting systems, has been an acute national preoccupation since the Obama administration first sounded the alarm more than a year ago.

Kemp and his GOP allies insist Georgia's elections system is secure. But Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff, believes the server data was erased precisely because the system isn't secure.

"I don't think you could find a voting systems expert who would think the deletion of the server data was anything less than insidious and highly suspicious," she said.


It could still be possible to recover relevant information from the server.

The FBI is known to have made an exact data image of the server in March when it investigated the security hole. The Oct. 18 email that disclosed the server wipe said the state attorney general's office was "reaching out to the FBI to determine whether they still have the image."

On Wednesday, it notified the court of its intent to subpoena the FBI seeking the image, according to a court document obtained by the AP that was Thursday emailed to lawyers in the case.

Atlanta FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett, responding to AP questions on Wednesday, would not say whether that image still exists. Nor would he say whether agents examined it to determine whether the server's files might have been altered by unauthorized users.

Other backups also appear to be gone. In the same email to plaintiffs' attorneys, assistant state attorney general Cristina Correia wrote that two backup servers were also wiped clean on Aug. 9, just as the lawsuit moved to federal court.


A 180-page collection of Kennesaw State emails, obtained Friday by the Coalition for Good Governments via an open records search, details the destruction of the data on all three servers and a partial and ultimately ineffective effort by Kennesaw State systems engineers to fix the main server's security hole.

As a result of the failed effort, sensitive data on Georgia's 6.7 million voters — including social security numbers, party affiliation and birthdates — as well as passwords used by county officials to access elections management files remained exposed for months.

The problem was first discovered by Atlanta security researcher Logan Lamb, who happened across it while doing online research in August 2016. He informed the election center's director at the time, noting in an email that "there is a strong possibility your site is already compromised."

Based on his review of the emails, Lamb believes that electronic polling books could have been altered in Georgia's biggest counties to add or drop voters or to scramble their data. Malicious hackers could have altered the templates of the memory cards used in voting machines to skew results.

An attacker could even have potentially modified "ballot-building" files to corrupt the outcome, said Lamb, who works at Atlanta-based security firm Bastille Networks.


The tale of the wayward election server is striking, but to voting experts it's only part of a much larger problem.

The Department of Homeland Security says 21 states had elections systems scanned or penetrated by Russia-backed hackers last year, though there is no evidence they altered voting outcomes.

But computer security experts say it's possible Russians or other malicious actors have sown undetected booby traps in the highly decentralized U.S. voting landscape. In June, a leaked National Security Agency memo showed that 122 elections officials in various states were targeted with phishing emails crafted by Russian agents intent on stealing their passwords.

That revelation helped persuade Lamb to go public in the first place.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This version deletes mention of ballot definitions residing on the wiped server. It's not clear from the available evidence whether they existed on that particular machine.


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Gov. Scott Walker signs bill to tighten Wisconsin recount rules

MADISON - The state is tightening the rules for conducting election recounts, under legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker Thursday.

Assembly Bill 153 comes in response to 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's demand for a recount after Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since 1984.

Stein received just 1% of the vote but was able to force a recount here under state law by agreeing to pay $3.5 million to fund it. But the recount didn't change the outcome in Wisconsin — Trump actually padded his victory margin by 163 votes.

The Assembly passed the GOP bill in June on a voice vote and the Senate passed it on a party line vote of 20-13.

Under the bill, candidates could request recounts only if they lost by 1 percentage point or less in an election with at least 4,000 votes total. For elections that don't receive that many votes, the candidate would need to lose by no more than 40 votes for a recall.

The measure also would reimburse the entity that conducts the recount and shorten the deadline to apply for a presidential recount by two days.


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Inside the Pro-Trump Effort to Keep Black Voters From the Polls
Breitbart staffer recruited Sanders activist Bruce Carter to get African Americans to support the Republican—or stay home.

Bruce Carter

Breitbart News landed anelection scoopthat went viral in August 2016: “Exclusive: ‘Black Men for Bernie’ Founder to End Democrat ‘Political Slavery’ of Minority Voters… by Campaigning for Trump.”

If the splashy, counterintuitive story, which circulated on such conservative websites as Truthfeed and Infowars, wasn't exactly fake news, it was carefully orchestrated.

The story’s writer—an employee of the conservative website run by Steve Bannon before he took over Donald Trump’s campaign—spent weeks courting activist Bruce Carter to join Trump’s cause. He approached Carter under the guise of interviewing him. The writer eventually dropped the pretense altogether, signing Carter up for a 10-week blitz aimed at convincing black voters in key states to support the Republican real estate mogul, or simply sit out the election. Trump’s narrow path to victory tightened further if Hillary Clinton could attract a Barack Obama-level turnout.

Bannon’s deployment of the psychological-operations firmCambridge Analyticain the 2016 campaign drew fresh attention this month, when a former Cambridge employee told a U.S. Senate panel that Bannon tried to use the company to suppress the black vote in key states. Carter’s story shows for the first time how an employee at Bannon’s former news site worked as an off-the-books political operative in the service of a similar goal.

Carter’s recollections and correspondence, which he shared after a falling-out with his fellow Trump supporters, provide a rare look inside the no-holds-barred nature of the Republican’s campaign and how it explored new ways to achieve an age-old political aim: getting the right voters to the polls—and keeping the wrong ones away.

“If you can’t stomach Trump, just don’t vote for the other people and don’t vote at all,” Carter, 47, recalls telling black voters. It’s the message he says the Trump campaign wanted him to deliver. “That’s what they wanted, that’s what they got.”

The work Carter says he did, and the funds he was given to do it, also raise questions as to whether campaign finance laws were broken.

The group Carter founded,Trump for Urban Communities, never disclosed its spending to the Federal Election Commission—a possible violation of election law. In hindsight, Carter says, he believed he was working for the campaign so he wouldn’t have been responsible for reporting the spending.

His descriptions of the operation suggest possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and his nominally independent efforts. If there was coordination,election lawdictates that any contributions to groups such as his must fall within individual limits: no more than $2,700 for a candidate. One supporter far exceeded that cap, giving about $100,000 to Carter’s efforts.

Another potential issue is whether the unusual role played by the Breitbart reporter amounted to an in-kind contribution.

“There are some real problems here,” says Lawrence Noble, who served as general counsel at the FEC during Republican and Democratic administrations and is now senior director and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan advocacy organization. “I would think this is more than enough evidence for the FEC to open an investigation.”

The Trump campaign and the White House didn't respond to repeated requests for comment. Bannon dismissed allegations that he sought to suppress the black vote, blaming their lower turnout on Clinton. “When you ask them why they didn’t vote for her or why they didn’t turn up, it’s because they didn’t like her policies,” he told Bloomberg in an interview last week. Bannon didn't respond to separate requests to explain his involvement with Carter.

“If you can’t stomach Trump, just don’t vote for the other people and don’t vote at all”

Carter’s work on Trump’s behalf ended badly, despite the campaign’s victory in November 2016. A little more than a week after the election, Carter’s financial supporters backed away from plans to work with him on ambitious urban-restoration efforts. In an email, one of them cited a background check on Carter but didn’t specify its findings. Carter acknowledges that he spent 18 months in federal prison nearly two decades ago after a felony gun-possession conviction.

While it’s impossible to precisely measure Carter’s effectiveness, Trump performed particularly well in the areas Carter targeted, says Dustin Stockton, the Breitbart reporter who recruited him. In Philadelphia, where Carter spent much of his time, Clinton won about35,000 fewer votesthan Obama did in 2012, and that drop was primarily in majority-black wards. Those ballots alone could have cut Trump’svictory marginin Pennsylvania by more than half. Nationwide, Trump garnered a higher-than-expected share of black voters, while Clinton won significantly fewer than Obama did four years earlier.

“Trump vastly outperformed the projection models in the 12 areas Bruce was targeting” in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida, Stockton says. “I never like telling people not to vote. But from a tactical and strategic position, we looked at it: If you could get them to vote for Trump, that was a plus two.” It was a “plus one,” he says, if they simply didn’t vote at all.

Carter’s unlikely conversion to cheerleader for Trump started in mid-summer 2016 with a call from Stockton. Broad-chested and 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Carter had become something of a B-list celebrity on the campaign trail, showing up at Sanders’s events in a tour bus emblazoned with the Vermont senator’s photo and yelling through a bullhorn to rally anybody who would listen. He spent months on the road for Sanders, with three of his teenage daughters accompanying him, selling T-shirts and other merchandise to help fund their tour.

Carter says his initial conversations with Stockton seemed more like a chat than an interview. At some point, the Breitbart reporter asked if he had ever considered backing Trump. “I said, I’m not going there,” recalls Carter, a registered Democrat who twice voted for Obama. But Carter had been so angry with how the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had been treating Sanders that he wasn’t opposed to Trump winning. His anger crystallized when a mention of Carter’s views appeared in the DNC emails released byWikileaks. So when Stockton asked if they could meet at the Democrats’ national convention in Philadelphia, Carter agreed.

Bruce Carter, founder of Black Men for Bernie, emerges to meet Sanders supporters in front of Los Angeles City Hall in June 2016.

They spent hours at the convention, hanging out. In retrospect, Carter says it felt like a courtship, if at times an aggressive one. Stockton showed Carter a movie calledClinton Cash, which Breitbart was screening in Philadelphia for disaffected Sanders supporters. He discussed Clinton’s shortcomings and the fresh start Trump could offer. “We just kind of struck up a friendship,” says Stockton. “We wanted to make him aware of some of the research that Breitbart was pushing at the time.”

The two chatted regularly after the convention by phone. On Aug. 17, Bannon, thenBreitbart’s executive chairman, was named chief of the campaign. The announcement coincided with a push by Stockton to formalize Carter’s role. He says Stockton dangled an intriguing promise—a chance to engage with Bannon. That pushed him over the top: He endorsed Trump.

Stockton and Carter sketched out plans for him to travel to swing states. Carter created a website and launched a GoFundMe campaign that raised about $7,000. On Aug. 26, about 10 weeks before the November 2016 elections, Breitbart published Stockton’s exclusive about Carter.

Not long after, Carter replaced his “Black Men for Bernie” T-shirt with one that sported a black-and-red logo depicting “Trump for Urban Communities,” and he hit the road. Across battleground states, he visited churches, street corners, and storefronts. About that time, Carter says, Stockton introduced him to Bannon.

Carter sent an email to Bannon on Sept. 2 seeking money to sustain the effort. He asked that it be funded by “either Trump personally (best case), the RNC, another donor or the Trump campaign,” according to the email. Five days later, Carter received an email from Bannon, introducing Karen Giorno, a senior Trump campaign adviser. Later that day, Carter replied to Bannon and Giorno: “Per my conversation with Steve: ‘Florida, Philadelphia and North Carolina are the three initial markets we will target. Our goal and mission is simple to inform Urban Communities as to why Donald Trump is the only option if they want their communities RESTORED.’”

A Twitteraccountfor Trump for Urban Communities was created on Sept. 11. Carter, who by his own admission doesn’t tweet, enlisted a colleague who did social media for Black Men for Bernie to start tweeting on behalf of his new pro-Trump group. The account originally pushed messages on topics familiar to his former audience, including the Flint water crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Black Lives Matter. Soon, the account adopted a more Trumpian voice, blasting a steady stream of tweets highlighting the rolling WikiLeaks dumps of stolen Democratic campaign emails and the latest twists in Clinton’s email server scandal, and retweeting such right-wing provocateurs as Mike Cernovich or Infowars.

More people probably had access to the Twitter account than Carter and his Black Men for Bernie colleague. An analysis showed that it was accessed in at least three different geographic locations and by at least two smartphones. A geolocation function on the account was switched off, suggesting that somebody may have been trying to cover their tracks.

Meanwhile, television coverage of Carter during the Democratic convention had drawn the attention of Ceil Pillsbury, a retired accounting professor who lives in Jacksonville, Fla. Watching him, she says, she saw someone who could help her improve the condition of inner cities through the creation of “gang-forgiveness centers” and mentorship programs.

Over time, she became the biggest supporter of Carter’s efforts, providing what she described in interviews as roughly $100,000. In a subsequent emailed statement to Bloomberg News, Pillsbury called into question Carter’s credibility, though she didn’t dispute the amount of support she provided. Pillsbury says she wasn’t aware of any coordination with the campaign and didn’t realize any funds she gave to Carter might have been subject to limits.

Carter says he used the money to help cover the costs of wrapping vehicles in images of Trump and historical black figures, buying T-shirts and other merchandise, and paying for expenses.

Carter’s vans sit parked in front of Trump Tower in New York City on October 28, 2016.

At each stop, Carter argued that Trump’s business experience would enable him to revive urban neighborhoods in ways Democrats had failed to do. He targeted such places as a barber shop in DeSoto, Tex., a town whose population is 70 percent black.

“So here’s why I’m here,” he begins, according to one video. “Everybody here is voting for Hillary … but let me give you a little history on Hillary. If you understood and saw that Hillary saw young black men as super-predators, would that affect you?” One patron nods his head, acknowledging one of Clinton’s more infamous remarks during her husband’s administration.

The message wasn’t always easy to deliver. People threw rocks at Carter’s Trump van as he steered through low-income housing projects. At one stop in Philadelphia, an elderly man threatened to beat him with a cane. Often, it was impossible to persuade black voters to support a candidate who had strong backing from white nationalist groups. In those cases, he urged them to simply stay home on Election Day.

By early October, Carter says, he needed additional money. With Stockton’s help, he sent a $160,000 funding proposal to Bannon. It included a $24,000 consulting fee for Stockton, which Stockton says was never paid. He has since left Breitbart, where he says colleagues warned him that his work with Carter could be viewed as a conflict of interest. (Breitbart Chief Executive Officer Larry Solov didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

Bannon put Carter in contact with a wealthy Dallas financier, Darren Blanton, who later became an adviser to Trump’s transition team. Blanton is the founder and managing partner of a Texas-based venture capital company called Colt Ventures. Carter said Bannon promised that Blanton would help him raise money.

They met in mid-October at a Starbucks across the street from the Dallas Country Club. Carter says Blanton was sitting with two men when he arrived. One was an Army veteran who ran a Blackwater-like company that provided paramilitary services. The other was Jon Iadonisi, a former Navy SEAL and computer-security expert who has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.

“That stuff ain’t going to help you win. You got to get them to the polls”

Blanton told Carter he would help him raise money, while Iadonisi would help spread his message on social media, according to Carter. Iadonisi runs a Texas-based digital marketing company called VizSense that specializes in “military-grade influencer marketing and intelligence services” to promote clients’ products on Instagram and Twitter. He also is a founder of White Canvas Group, a Washington-area firm that specializes in analyzing the dark web. “They were showing me these grids—it just looked like a map of dots,” Carter recalls. “I said, ‘That stuff ain’t going to help you win. You got to get them to the polls.’”

There are indications that both men had dealings with Trump’s campaign. It paid Colt Ventures $200,000 for “data management services,” according to federal disclosures—although Colt Ventures doesn’t advertise data management services. Iadonisi was introduced to the campaign by retired General Michael Flynn, and his work for the campaign involved social media, according to a person familiar with Iadonisi’s role. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said in a March report about the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that they wanted to interview Iadonisi and Blanton, who is an investor in VizSense. The Republican-controlled committee ended its probe without doing so.

For much of the campaign, Carter struggled to get enough money to run his operation. He sent Blanton a string of increasingly frustrated emails and texts complaining that he was having trouble paying his crews. Blanton assured him the funds were coming, according to correspondence Carter provided. In an email, Carter and Blanton’s assistant discussed the logistics of setting up a bank account to receive funds. In response to questions, an attorney for Blanton said in a letter to Bloomberg News that Blanton “did not proceed to set up” the bank account. According to a chain of emails and additional documents Carter provided, Blanton did raise at least some funds for him.

At times, Carter felt that Trump’s team rolled out the star treatment for him. On Oct. 19, the final presidential debate was held in Las Vegas, and Carter made his way to Trump’s luxury hotel, the campaign’s headquarters for the event. Blanton introduced Carter to Flynn and Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder whose sister, Betsy DeVos, would become Trump’s education secretary. At a sandwich shop across the street, Carter says he had lunch with hedge-fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, one of Trump’s most influential backers.

In the final weeks of October, Carter’s operation announced a “Don’t Vote Early” campaign designed to convince black voters not to take advantage of early voting, which tended to build up banks of votes for Democrats. Days before the election, Carter and his team made jabs at Clinton for appearing at rallies alongside stars such as Jay-Z and Beyoncé. “We said Hillary Clinton thinks all black people like rap and like to shake their booties,” he recalls. “It’s an insult.”

As the campaign drew to a close, Carter says, he genuinely believed Trump had big plans for urban neighborhoods. Carter outlined to Blanton in an email a daily strategy for the final days of the campaign. It included the cities he would canvass and an announcement he would make about a Trump-backed public-private partnership that was supposed to raise $1 billion over the administration’s first 24 months to invest in urban communities.

Alexandra Preate, a spokeswoman for Bannon, Breitbart News, and Mercer who runs a New York-based public relations firm called CapitalHQ, circulated a draft press release touting Carter’s efforts. It was sent to Blanton and Iadonisi, among others. The release promised that Trump would create a forgiveness program for non-violent offenders, staff a panel of single mothers to discuss the difficulties of unwanted pregnancies, and establish an Urban Community Commissioner and a Director of Community Justice to investigate police-involved shootings.

On Oct. 26, Trump gave what his campaign billed as a major policy speech in Charlotte. He laid out a “new deal for Black America” grounded in safe communities, better education, and higher-paying jobs.

Shortly after Election Day, Carter’s backers cut ties with him. In an email that Carter provided, Pillsbury cited a background check performed by Blanton that “prevented the campaign and Darren from being able to go any further with you.” Carter says he has never tried to hide his past. He thought it was odd if Blanton did a background check only after the election and Trump had won.

Carter’s work on Trump’s behalf exacted a personal price, leaving deep and lasting divisions in his family. Some of Carter’s children were horrified that their father had backed Trump. In one instance, a month after Pillsbury and Blanton severed their relationship with Carter, an alleged physical altercation over his support for the president-elect led his former girlfriend to obtain a protective order against him.

In early April, Carter got another cold call, this time from somebody who suggested he meet Mark Burns, a black Republican pastor and vocal Trump supporter from South Carolina who’s running to fill a House seat. On April 11, the two appeared together at a news conference in Greenville, where they announced an effort to register 75,000 voters.

Carter is also working on a new political movement that he calls the People’s Ticket—a coalition of single mothers, felons, hospitality workers, and those who owe child support—to “hold accountable” Republicans and Democrats at the polls in 2018 and ensure they deliver on promises for urban communities.

“I did everything that I said I would do,” Carter says, “and I did it in good faith.”


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“It is a non-partisan project,” said Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D) to the Washington Post. The group reached out pro-actively to the Secretary of State’s office, she said, to make sure all of their registrations were within state law.

Gov. Deal, meanwhile, has launched his own initiative to shut down Sunday voting, which polls have shown will disproportionately affect minority and working people who can’t take off work on Election Day.
Civil rights groups sue over Ga. voter backlog
In a statement, state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D), founder of the New Georgia Project’s parent group, said, “We hoped litigation would not be necessary, but with early voting beginning next week, eligible Georgians are dangerously close to not being allowed to vote in this election. All eligible registrants should be processed immediately; provisional voting is not an acceptable option.”

Georgia blocks move to close voting sites in mostly black county

Reuters Staff

(Reuters) - A Georgia elections board on Friday blocked a bid to close most polling places in a largely black county after critics called it a thinly-veiled attempt to undercut Stacey Abrams, who could become the country’s first female, African-American governor.

Both Abrams, the Democratic nominee, and her rival Republican Brian Kemp, who is white and serves as Georgia’s secretary of state, had urged county officials to drop the plan.

The ruling was a win for Abrams’ campaign, which aims to turn out more rural black voters, some of whom would have had to travel miles to cast a ballot in Randolph County if the measure passed.

It was the latest skirmish in a long-running U.S. political fight over restrictions on voting. Some Democrats argue that restrictions on voting such as fewer polling places or requirements to show ID restrict the rights of minority voters. Some Republicans have pointed to ID rules and dropping infrequent voters from the rolls as necessary to prevent fraud.

“We are pleased African-Americans voters in Randolph County will be able to access polling stations in November,” Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a phone interview. “Too often they are faced with voter suppression tactics like this which are clearly motivated by racial animus.”

The board of elections in Randolph County, about 125 miles (200 km) south of Atlanta, voted 2-0 to block the measure, a spokesman said in a phone interview. A crowd of voting-rights advocates packed the room for their morning vote, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Kemp said on Twitter that the board had done “the right thing.” Abrams did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The proposal would have closed seven of Randolph county’s nine polling sides because they were not wheelchair accessible, which board members said was a violation of federal disabilities law. It was submitted by an elections consultant who had donated money to Kemp’s campaign, the Journal-Constitution reported. County Attorney Tommy Coleman said officials fired him on Wednesday.

Some 60 percent of the rural county’s 7,100 residents are black.



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Congress Takes a Field Trip to Investigate Voter Suppression in Georgia

ATLANTA—When members of Congress heard stories about Georgia’s historic vote-stealing, the details sounded so absurdly evil, apparently an entire congressional subcommittee said, “I’ve got to see this for myself!”

Chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the Committee on House Administration is, among other things, tasked with the administration, oversight and legislation involving federal elections. Elections subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) took a delegation to Atlanta on Tuesday to investigate charges of voter suppression in the November 2018 midterm elections. What they found was a stack of interwoven intentional efforts by Georgia’s former secretary of state (now governor) Brian Kemp to disenfranchise black voters.

“As a longtime advocate for voting rights, I am deeply concerned about the impact on our democracy if action is not taken immediately to support voting rights for access to all citizens,” said former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who testified before the committee.

Abrams, who lost the election by 1.3 percent of the vote, explained that there was a massive increase in voter registration and turnout for the 2018 elections. But Abrams revealed the systemic problems in the election by outlining a disturbing list of details. She testified:

Voters, many of whom were first-time voters, experienced numerous issues with being located on the voting rolls receiving and returning absentee ballots and were given a disturbing number of provisional ballots, rather than being allowed to vote unhindered.

In some areas, the election officials refused to provide provisional ballots, citing a shortage of paper in counties polling locations [which] ran out of provisional ballots and backup paper ballots. Frustrated voters received inaccurate information regarding their rights, and thousands of voters were forced to vote using provisional ballots due to long lines. An untold number simply gave up, unable to bear the financial cost of waiting in line, because Georgia does not guarantee paid time off to vote.

Across the state, voters faced obstacles that shook their confidence in the electoral process, leading to more than 50,000 calls to a local voter protection hotline in a 10-day period immediately following the election. From issues with registration, to ballot access, to the counting of votes, Georgians faced systemic breakdown in its electoral process.

During Abrams’ testimony, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) specifically asked her about The Root’s report on the historic undervote in Georgia where 127,000 votes seemed to disappear into thin air.

“We know that, for example, in the 2018 elections ... there was a statistically significant dropoff that specifically affected African Americans,” said Abrams. “The reasons for that could be numerous. The challenges to that ... is that there is no way to find out the answer because Georgia has machines that do not provide an audit trail.”

Abrams noted that, later that day, the state legislature was scheduled to consider a proposal for new voting machines to replace what she called “Georgia’s outdated” voting machines. However, Abrams noted that the machines backed by Georgia’s Republican legislators would be provided by a company closely associated with Brian Kemp and the equipment still would not provide an auditable paper trail preferred by most fair-election advocates, who unanimously agree that machines that use hand-marked, paper ballots are the most effective tool for secure elections

Also testifying before the congressional panel was Sean J. Young, the legal director for Georgia ACLU; Cliff Albright, co-founder ofBlack Voters Matter and Gilda Daniels, director of litigation for the Advancement Project. Each speaker bore witness to the voter-suppression efforts in last November’s elections.

But it was Georgia voter Stacy Hopkins who brought down the house. Hopkins explained how she battled the state’s efforts to suppress her vote because, as she said, “No one is ever coming to take something that was so hard fought for by me or anyone else in Georgia.”

Hopkins testified how she was threatened with disenfranchisement after she moved within her voting district. By law, all that she was required to do was notify the U.S. Post Office of her address change. She recounted to the panel that her voter registrations and the registrations for three of her adult children were part of the 1.4 million Georgia voters targeted by Kemp.

“We were to be classified as inactive voters and designated to be purged off of the voting rolls using a method known as the postcard trick,” Hopkins said, holding the innocent-looking mail notification up for the audience to see. “I can’t really explain the range of emotions I felt when I saw this notice. I can only describe it as an abbreviated version of the seven stages of grief. Except the one thing I would never do is accept this.

“There is a fundamental question involving my case that cannot be answered,” Hopkins continued. “What list was I on?”

Explaining that she and her children had all voted in the election prior to receiving the card, Hopkins said she couldn’t have been deemed an inactive voter. She was not a new registrant, so Kemp couldn’t have used the flawed Crosscheck matching system to purge her registration. Yet, she still hasn’t heard an explanation for why she, and many more in her majority black community, received the notice in the mail.

“So I still ask the question: What list were we on? To date, no one on the state or county level can answer us or has even attempted to do so. What was done was done on the orders of the secretary of state, now governor, Brian Kemp [and] my county election board, headed by director Richard Baron, by utilizing a selective list of selected voters to receive the mailers. But we still don’t know the source.”

Then, on the eve of the election, Hopkins said she was suddenly contacted and offered a settlement, which she only accepted because she was concerned that she wouldn’t be allowed to vote.

Lawmakers at the packed hearing addressed the Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision that dismantled a key segment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Congress members said this was part of their efforts to rewrite Section 5 of the law, ensuring federal oversight to counties with a record of voter suppression.

Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) summed up the hearing by saying what everyone in the packed inquiry already knew:

“There are forces in our region trying to take us back to another time and another period,” Lewis said. “And you are bearing witness. But we must not go back.”



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source: New York Times

New Election Ordered in North Carolina Race at Center of Fraud Inquiry

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Board of Elections on Thursday ordered a new contest in the Ninth Congressional District after the Republican candidate, confronted by evidence that his campaign had financed an illegal voter-turnout effort, called for a new vote.

The unanimous ruling by the five-member board was a startling — and, for Republicans, embarrassing — conclusion to a case that has convulsed North Carolina since November. And it capped a dramatic stretch of testimony that described how a political operative had orchestrated an absentee ballot scheme to try to sway the race, now the single undecided contest in last year’s midterms.

“It certainly was a tainted election,” said Robert Cordle, the state board’s chairman, who cited, among other issues, “the corruption, the absolute mess with the absentee ballots” when he moved for a new vote.

The Republican candidate, Mark Harris, had a 905-vote lead over his opponent, but his success in Bladen County — where he won 61 percent of absentee ballots even though Republicans there accounted for just 19 percent of the submitted ballots — alarmed regulators and observers.

When he finally took the stand Thursday morning, Mr. Harris denied knowing of any wrongdoing in the operation, led by L. McCrae Dowless Jr., a veteran political operative known as a local “guru of elections.”

[Testimony this week revealed the inner workings of an operation to harvest ballots.]

But in a series of questions, Mr. Harris stumbled and appeared to mislead the board. When he returned to the crowded courtroom after a lunch recess, he asked whether he could read a statement. He apologized to the board and explained some recent medical issues, including two strokes.

And then he asked for a new election.

“It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the Ninth District’s general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,” Mr. Harris said to audible gasps.

Mr. Harris’s surprise announcement represented an abrupt collapse of the Republican effort to stave off a new vote in the Ninth, which includes part of Charlotte and runs through much of southeastern North Carolina.

His political surrender came after a damaging 24 hours for him and his supporters. Just before Mr. Harris called for a new election, he acknowledged that some of his testimony on Thursday morning had been “incorrect.” Hours earlier, state officials had accused the Harris campaign of withholding incriminating records that were subpoenaed months ago.

The board’s decision will leave the Ninth District without representation in Congress for at least several more months. It was not clear whether Mr. Harris would choose to run in the new election, which has not been scheduled.

“From the moment the first vote was stolen in North Carolina, from the moment the first voice was silenced by election fraud, the people have deserved justice,” said Mr. McCready, Mr. Harris’s Democratic rival. “Today was a great step forward for democracy in North Carolina.”

Robin Hayes, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, said the party had supported Mr. Harris’s decision “on behalf of the voters.”

The monthslong episode ranks among the highest profile examples of modern election fraud, and also underscored how absentee ballots remain susceptible to abuse. Witnesses this week have described an enterprise that was rife with misconduct, including the collection and completion of absentee ballots. Witnesses said that both actions, which are illegal in North Carolina, had occurred repeatedly.

If Mr. Harris does run, he will almost certainly be seen from the start as a hobbled candidate. Even before allegations of fraud swamped his bid, Mr. Harris was far from a universally beloved figure in his party. A campaign for Senate in 2014 faltered. So, too, did a run for the Ninth District’s House seat in 2016.

By Mr. Harris’s own account on the stand Thursday, it was his narrow defeat in the 2016 race that set a course toward the board’s decision. By March 2017, according to a text message turned over to investigators only on Wednesday, Mr. Harris was communicating with a political ally in Bladen County, a rural part of the district, about “the guy whose absentee ballot project for Johnson could have put me in the US House this term, had I known, and he had been helping us.”

“Johnson” was Todd Johnson, one of Mr. Harris’s rivals in the 2016 race, and “the guy” was Mr. Dowless, a Bladen County operative with a felony record and a reputation for shadowy work for Democratic and Republican politicians. Mr. Dowless and Mr. Harris met in a furniture showroom about a month later.

“How did you beat us so bad?” Mr. Harris said he had asked Mr. Dowless, who ultimately replied with an explanation of a two-phase effort that concentrated on absentee ballots.

[Who is L. McCrae Dowless Jr., North Carolina’s “guru of elections”?]

In the first phase, Mr. Harris recalled, Mr. Dowless and his associates would help people submit their requests for absentee ballots — an ordinary and legal political activity in North Carolina. In the second, Mr. Dowless said, according to Mr. Harris, workers would return to people who had requested absentee ballots to ensure they had received them and to inquire whether they needed assistance.

But under no circumstances, Mr. Harris was assured, were the workers to collect the ballots. Two weeks after the meeting, Mr. Harris pulled out his personal checkbook and paid a $450 retainer. The next month, before Mr. Harris even entered the congressional race, he paid Mr. Dowless another $2,890.

Mr. Dowless and his associates, who were often acquaintances or relatives with little interest in politics but hoping for fast cash, went to work.

Mr. Dowless, who refused to testify before the board, has not been charged with any crimes in connection with the 2018 election, nor have any of his workers. Prosecutors are examining the operation, though, and are considering whether to bring any criminal charges.

Within weeks of the election, state officials opened an investigation and declined to certify Mr. Harris as the winner, setting up this week’s extraordinary proceedings. For Mr. Harris’s campaign, the hearing was disastrous from its opening moments, when Kim Strach, the executive director of the state board, said investigators had found “a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme” that appeared to have cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Two witnesses described an array of misdeeds that they committed at Mr. Dowless’s behest — accounts that observers believed that, on their own, might have been enough to warrant a new election. But the state’s investigators had a surprise witness: one of Mr. Harris’s sons, John Harris, a self-assured 29-year-old Justice Department lawyer who, as a high school student, had been elected president of the honor council.

In testimony before a riveted courtroom, the younger Mr. Harris said he had been wary of Mr. Dowless after analyzing returns in the 2016 election. In an email the day after Mr. Harris and Mr. Dowless met, John Harris explained the stakes.

“The key thing that I am fairly certain they do that is illegal is that they collected the completed absentee ballots and mail them all at once,” John Harris wrote in an email that he shared with investigators — a document his father’s campaign had not done weeks ago, when it said it had complied with a subpoena’s demands.

Even though John Harris explicitly noted that he did not believe his father had known of any specific misconduct last year, the email and the testimony crippled the Harris campaign’s assertion that there had been no grounds to be suspicious of Mr. Dowless or his methods.

“I love my dad, and I love my mom,” John Harris said in his closing remarks, as his father wept. “I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle. I think they made mistakes in this process, and they certainly did things differently than I would have done them.”

And out of public view, Mark Harris’s perils were mounting. Just before his son climbed the witness stand, the campaign’s counsel acknowledged that they had more undisclosed documents to share with investigators. That revelation, which a lawyer for Mr. Harris attributed to differing interpretations over a subpoena’s scope, stunned state officials.

Board members, who had seemed mostly impassive through days of testimony, were outraged. A lawyer for Mr. McCready, Marc E. Elias, erupted.

Then, with Mr. Harris testifying just before lunch, Mr. Lawson posed a series of questions that suddenly sped up what had been a slow-motion political unraveling: Before Wednesday afternoon, had Mr. Harris told anyone that the email his son disclosed was not part of the evidence in the case?

Mr. Harris did not recall any such conversations. His lawyer soon asked for a recess.

When the hearing resumed, Mr. Harris asked to read a statement. On Tuesday night, he acknowledged, he had spoken to his other son “about the fact that I did not think John’s emails would be part of this hearing.”


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source: Huffington Post

Census Citizenship Question Was Meant To Aid Whites And GOP, New Documents Suggest
A Republican consultant believed adding the question would help the GOP during redistricting. He helped get it on the 2020 census, new evidence shows.

A Republican consultant involved in the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census believed that adding the question would pave the way for redistricting that would increase the political power of “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites,” according to explosive documents revealed in federal court Thursday.

The consultant, Thomas Hofeller, ghostwrote at least portions of what would later become the Justice Department’s formal request to add the citizenship question to the census, according to the court documents. The civil rights and immigration advocacy groups that oppose adding the citizenship question to the census and are suing to block it argue that the Trump administration added the question in order to dilute the political power of Democrats and minorities. The documents they filed in court Thursday are the closest they’ve found to a smoking gun.

A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from adding the citizenship question to the census in January; the case is now before the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in the case in April. The Trump administration has claimed that it wants to add the citizenship question to aid its efforts to enforce the Voting Rights Act. The groups suing to block the citizenship question say that’s a pretext, and the Trump administration’s real goals are to have fewer minorities respond to the survey and to exclude noncitizens from redistricting. In April, the high court’s conservative majority seemed unpersuaded by the argument that the Commerce Department had made an unreasonable decision in adding the question. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

The ACLU filed a notice with the Supreme Court alerting it to the filing on Thursday, but the Hofeller documents are not yet included in the official record before the court. It’s not yet clear whether lawyers will fight to make the documents part of the official record or whether the court will allow them to do so.

An inaccurate census would have severe consequences: In addition to being used to draw electoral districts, nearly $880 billion in federal funds are allocated annually based on census data, and businesses rely on it to make key decisions.

The Department of Justice and the Commerce Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hofeller, who died last year, was known for drawing maps that gerrymandered districts to protect Republican control.

After Hofeller died last August, his estranged daughter obtained hard drives containing back-ups of his files, according to The New York Times. Lawyers for Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, who are representing Common Cause in a gerrymandering lawsuit in North Carolina, subpoenaed those hard drives earlier this year. The hard drives contained the documents relevant to the census case, where Arnold & Porter is also representing some of the plaintiffs.

The filing also accuses two Trump administration officials of lying under oath in testimony about the role Hofeller played in getting the question on the census. John Gore, a top official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a deposition he ghostwrote the letter, but only disclosed in congressional testimony after the case that Mark Neuman, a top Commerce Department, official gave him an earlier draft of the letter.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs obtained documents from the late Hofeller’s hard drives that they say show he had a role in writing the draft Neuman gave Gore. A Word document on Hofeller’s computer contains similar language to what was eventually used in Neuman’s draft, the filing says. The Justice Department’s final letter requesting the citizenship question also appeared to have language that paralleled what Hofeller wrote in a 2015 study, the filing notes. That study analyzed the impact of using only the citizen voting-age population, not the total voting-age population, as the basis for redistricting, the filing notes.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to consider sanctions “or other appropriate relief” over the testimony from Gore and Neuman.

This story has been updated throughout.


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source: New York Times

Deceased G.O.P. Strategist’s Hard Drives Reveal New Details on the Census Citizenship Question

Thomas B. Hofeller, a leading Republican strategist, died in August and left a trove of computer files containing evidence that could now be relevant in a Supreme Court case.CreditCreditvia C-SPAN

WASHINGTON — Thomas B. Hofeller achieved near-mythic status in the Republican Party as the Michelangelo of gerrymandering, the architect of partisan political maps that cemented the party’s dominance across the country.

But after he died last summer, his estranged daughter discovered hard drives in her father’s home that revealed something else: Mr. Hofeller had played a crucial role in the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Files on those drives showed that he wrote a study in 2015 concluding that adding a citizenship question to the census would allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats. And months after urging President Trump’s transition team to tack the question onto the census, he wrote the key portion of a draft Justice Department letter claiming the question was needed to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act — the rationale the administration later used to justify its decision.

Those documents, cited in a federal court filing Thursday by opponents seeking to block the citizenship question, have emerged only weeks before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the citizenship question. Critics say adding the question would deter many immigrants from being counted and shift political power to Republican areas.

The disclosures represent the most explicit evidence to date that the Trump administration added the question to the 2020 census to advance Republican Party interests.

[Inside the Trump administration’s fight to add a citizenship question to the census]

In Supreme Court arguments in April over the legality of the decision, the Trump administration argued that the benefits of obtaining more accurate citizenship data offset any damage stemming from the likely depressed response to the census by minority groups and noncitizens. And it dismissed charges that the Commerce Department had simply invented a justification for adding the question to the census as unsupported by the evidence.

The disclosures represent the most explicit evidence to date that the Trump administration added the question to the 2020 census to advance Republican Party interests.

[Inside the Trump administration’s fight to add a citizenship question to the census]

In Supreme Court arguments in April over the legality of the decision, the Trump administration argued that the benefits of obtaining more accurate citizenship data offset any damage stemming from the likely depressed response to the census by minority groups and noncitizens. And it dismissed charges that the Commerce Department had simply invented a justification for adding the question to the census as unsupported by the evidence.

[How the Supreme Court’s decision on the census could alter American politics.]

Until now, Mr. Hofeller seemed a bystander in the citizenship-question debate, mentioned but once in thousands of pages of lawsuit depositions and evidence. Proof of his deeper involvement surfaced only recently, and only after a remarkable string of events beginning after his death in August at age 75.

Mr. Hofeller was survived by a daughter, Stephanie Hofeller, from whom he had been estranged since 2014. In an interview, Ms. Hofeller said she learned of her father’s death by accident after searching for his name on the internet, and returned to her parents’ retirement home in Raleigh, N.C., to see her mother, Kathleen Hofeller.

Sorting through Mr. Hofeller’s personal effects, looking for items she had asked her father to save for her, Stephanie Hofeller came across a clear plastic bag holding four external hard drives and 18 thumb drives, backups of data on Mr. Hofeller’s Toshiba laptop. Her mother gave Ms. Hofeller the backups, which turned out to hold some 75,000 files — family photographs and other personal data, but also a huge trove of documents related to Mr. Hofeller’s work as a Republican consultant.

Late last year, Ms. Hofeller said, she contacted the Raleigh office of the advocacy group Common Cause, seeking its help in finding a lawyer unconnected to her father to help settle his estate. Only after several conversations with a staff member there did she mention the hard drives in passing, she said, remarking almost jokingly that an expert on gerrymanders might find a lot in them that was of interest.

“My understanding was that anything that would be on these hard drives was duplicative of things that had already been hashed out” in court challenges to Mr. Hofeller’s maps, she said.

In fact, Common Cause had recently filed a new lawsuit in state court, challenging gerrymandered maps of North Carolina’s legislative districts drawn by Mr. Hofeller himself. When the staff member told her of the lawsuit, Ms. Hofeller said, she thought, “Wow — this might be of use.”

Lawyers for Arnold & Porter, the law firm representing Common Cause in the North Carolina suit, subpoenaed the drives in February. By happenstance, the same firm was representing private plaintiffs pro bono in the principal lawsuit opposing the citizenship question, in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The documents cited in the Thursday court filing includes an unpublished August 2015 analysis by Mr. Hofeller, who was hired by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet financially backed by Paul Singer, a billionaire New York hedge fund manager and major Republican donor. Mr. Hofeller’s charge was to assess the impact of drawing political maps that were not based on a state’s total population — the current practice virtually everywhere in the nation — but on a slice of that population: American citizens of voting age.

At the time, the study’s sponsor was considering whether to finance a lawsuit by conservative legal advocates that argued that counting voting-age citizens was not merely acceptable, but required by the Constitution.

Mr. Hofeller’s exhaustive analysis of Texas state legislative districts concluded that such maps “would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites,” and would dilute the political power of the state’s Hispanics.

The reason, he wrote, was that the maps would exclude traditionally Democratic Hispanics and their children from the population count. That would force Democratic districts to expand to meet the Constitution’s one person, one vote requirement. In turn, that would translate into fewer districts in traditionally Democratic areas, and a new opportunity for Republican mapmakers to create even stronger gerrymanders.

The strategy carried a fatal flaw, however: The detailed citizenship data that was needed to draw the maps did not exist. The only existing tally of voting-age citizens, Mr. Hofeller's study stated, came from a statistical sample of the population largely used by the Justice Department to verify that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was ensuring the voting rights of minority groups.

“Without a question on citizenship being included on the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire,” Mr. Hofeller wrote, “the use of citizen voting age population is functionally unworkable.”

Roughly 16 months later, as President-elect Trump prepared to take office, Mr. Hofeller urged Mr. Trump’s transition team to consider adding a citizenship question to the census, the transition official responsible for census issues, Mark Neuman, said last year in a deposition in the Manhattan census lawsuit.

Activists rallied outside the Supreme Court in April. The justices are expected to issue a final ruling on the census citizenship question before the court’s term ends in late June.CreditJ. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Mr. Neuman testified that Mr. Hofeller told him that using citizenship data from the census to enforce the Voting Rights Act would increase Latino political representation — the opposite of what Mr. Hofeller’s study had concluded months earlier.

Court records show that Mr. Neuman, a decades-long friend of Mr. Hofeller’s, later became an informal adviser on census issues to Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. By that summer, a top aide to Mr. Ross was pressing the Justice Department to say that it required detailed data from a census citizenship question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The court filing on Thursday describes two instances in which Mr. Hofeller’s digital fingerprints are clearly visible on Justice Department actions.

The first involves a document from the Hofeller hard drives created on Aug. 30, 2017, as Mr. Ross’s wooing of the Justice Department was nearing a crescendo. The document’s single paragraph cited two court decisions supporting the premise that more detailed citizenship data would assist enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

That paragraph later appeared word for word in a draft letter from the Justice Department to the Census Bureau that sought a citizenship question on the 2020 census. In closed congressional testimony in March, John M. Gore, the assistant attorney general for civil rights and the Justice Department’s chief overseer of voting rights issues, said Mr. Neuman gave him the draft in an October 2017 meeting.

The second instance involves the official version of the Justice Department’s request for a citizenship question, a longer and more detailed letter sent to the Census Bureau in December 2017. That letter presents nuanced and technical arguments that current citizenship data falls short of Voting Rights Act requirements — arguments that the plaintiffs say are presented in exactly the same order, and sometimes with identical descriptions like “building blocks” — as in Mr. Hofeller’s 2015 study.

In their court filing on Thursday, lawyers for the plaintiffs said that “many striking similarities” between Mr. Hofeller’s study and the department’s request for a citizenship question indicated that the study was an important source document for the Justice Department’s request.

The filing also says flatly that Mr. Gore and Mr. Neuman “falsely testified” under oath about the Justice Department’s actions on the citizenship question.

The Departments of Justice and Commerce had no immediate comment on the filings. Common Cause, which first obtained the hard drives, said the revelations on them were a wake-up call to supporters of the American system. “Now that the plan has been revealed, it’s important for all of us — the courts, leaders and the people — to stand up for a democracy that incudes every voice,” said Kathay Feng, the group’s national redistricting director.

Ms. Hofeller said her decision to open her father’s files to his opponents was a bid for transparency, devoid of personal or political animus. Although she believed he was undermining American democracy, she said, their estrangement stemmed not from partisan differences, but a family dispute that ended up in court. Ms. Hofeller described herself as a political progressive who despises Republican partisanship, but also has scant respect for Democrats.

Her father, she said, was a brilliant cartographer who was deeply committed to traditional conservative principles like free will and limited government. As a child, she said, she was schooled in those same principles, but every successive gerrymandered map he created only solidified her conviction that he had abandoned them in a quest to entrench his party in permanent control.

“He had me with the idea that we are made to be free,” she said. “And then he lost me.”


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Black Voters in Mississippi File Lawsuit to Challenge Racist Election Law

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Image: Getty Images
A group of black voters represented by a foundation affiliated with former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee is challenging Mississippi’s Jim-Crow era laws written to place black candidates for statewide office at a disadvantage.

According to ThinkProgress, four voters filed suit with the U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi Thursday, challenging election rules from the state’s 1980 Constitution.

In Mississippi, candidates for statewide office must win a majority of the state popular vote and a majority of House districts. The state Constitution gives the state legislature the power to pick a winner if a candidate fails to clear both paths to victory.

Under the current system, with black residents packed mainly into small legislative districts, Mississippi’s majority-white population regularly outvotes its concentrated black constituency. When the laws were conceived, however, black people represented the majority of the population. Despite the highest percentage of black residents of any state, no black Mississippian has won a statewide election since 1890.

While the constitution instituted other laws that have long since been struck down by courts, the remaining law has allowed candidates to openly brandish their racism during elections.

“The architects of this system for electing candidates to statewide office had one goal in mind: entrench white control of State government by ensuring that the newly enfranchised African-American citizens … would never have an equal opportunity to translate their numerical strength into political power,” the lawsuit states.

“This discriminatory electoral scheme achieved, and continues to achieve, the framers’ goals,” the suit continued, “by tying the statewide-election process to the power structure of the House. So long as white Mississippians controlled the House, they would also control the elections of statewide officials.”

The challenge comes months before the state gubernatorial election in November, which could give the winning side the upper hand in the state’s redistricting, set for a 2021 kickoff.


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source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia election documents haven't been turned over to Congress yet.
Capitol Hill investigators, Ga. officials in talks to hand over election docs

WASHINGTON — Georgia’s top election official is negotiating with congressional investigators who demanded a pile of documents about alleged voting irregularities during last year’s election.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp missed a March 20 deadline set by the House Oversight and Reform Committee for transmitting documents related to Georgia’s “exact match” law, consolidation of polling sites, long lines and a bevy of other election-related issues.

But Raffensperger said Tuesday his office has been in “regular contact” with Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and that the two have agreed to a “voluntary rolling but extended production schedule” to comply with the March 6 request.

The Democrat-led committee sought voting information after “reports that Georgians faced unprecedented challenges with registering to vote and significant barriers to casting their votes during the 2018 election.”

A committee spokeswoman confirmed Cummings has yet to receive documents from Raffensperger and Kemp, but that they have “committed to fully cooperating with our inquiry in a timely way.”

“We expect them to abide by that commitment,” the spokeswoman said.

The tenor of the negotiations is important, since the Oversight panel has subpoena power and could call in Kemp or Raffensperger to testify publicly.

“Our interest in this is intense,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who leads an Oversight subcommittee focused on civil rights and liberties. “The more I learn about what happened in Georgia in 2018, the more shocked I am.”

Raskin said Tuesday the panel will review its responses from Kemp and Raffesnperger before making any decisions about hearings.

An attorney for Kemp, Executive Counsel David Dove, said the scope of documents requested by the committee hasn't yet been determined. No “responsive” documents have been identified, Dove wrote in a reply to a request under the Georgia Open Records Act by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Kemp’s office didn’t respond to three emails seeking comment over the last week.

The governor’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill have trashed Cummings’ investigation, which they see as an effort to delegitimize Kemp’s victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams.

“Democrats — state and national alike — seem to have difficulty accepting the fact that Brian Kemp is the governor of Georgia,” said U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, a member of the Oversight panel. “This was a Georgia election run by Georgians — just as the Constitution prescribes —and it is disheartening to see congressional Democrats so blatantly attempt to discredit the results of an election because they are unhappy with the outcome.”

It’s not unusual for government officials to take time gathering information for congressional investigations, said Chris DeLacy, a Washington-based attorney who has represented clients asked to produce documents for Congress. He’s not involved in the request for Georgia election documents.

Usually, documents are turned over without Congress having to resort to subpoenas, he said. In the meantime, lawyers often negotiate over the focus of broad requests for information.

“If a subpoena is issued, that means negotiations have broken down,” DeLacy said. “The hammer is there if and when it’s needed. It’s a significant tool the committee can use, but it’s a tool of last resort.”


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source: Reuters

U.S. Supreme Court blocks redrawing of Ohio, Michigan electoral maps

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Friday blocked lower court rulings ordering Republican legislators in Michigan and Ohio to redraw U.S. congressional maps ahead of the 2020 elections, dealing a blow to Democrats who had argued that the electoral districts were intended to unlawfully diminish their political clout.

The justices granted requests from Republican lawmakers in both states to put those decisions on hold, halting further action in the cases and the need to rework electoral district boundaries. The justices did not provide any explanation for their brief orders.

The lower courts found that the electoral maps in the two states had been drawn to entrench Republicans in power by manipulating boundaries in a way that reduced the voting clout of Democrats - a practice known as partisan gerrymandering - in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

While both disputes involve U.S. House of Representatives districts in the two states, the Michigan case challenges districts in the state legislature as well.

The decisions in Michigan and Ohio that were put on hold by the justices were the latest rulings by federal courts determining that electoral maps designed by a state’s majority party unconstitutionally undermined the rights of voters who tend to support the other party.

But the action by the justices was not unexpected as they weigh two other gerrymandering cases - one from North Carolina and the other from Maryland - that could decide definitively whether federal judges have the power to intervene to curb partisan gerrymandering. The rulings in those cases, due by the end of June, are likely to dictate whether the legal challenges against the Ohio and Michigan electoral maps can move forward.

In the North Carolina case, Republican legislators were accused of rigging congressional maps to boost their party’s chances. In the Maryland, Democratic lawmakers faced similar allegations over one U.S. House district.

The Ohio and Michigan lawsuits accused Republican-controlled legislatures in the two states of discriminating against Democratic voters for their political views in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment under the law and freedom of association.

Critics have said that gerrymandering, a feature of U.S. politics for generations, has become increasingly extreme and effective at advancing the interests of a political party as a result of precise voter data and powerful computer technology, illegally shaping the outcome of elections.

The Supreme Court has previously intervened when legislators impermissibly sought to dilute the voting power of racial minorities, but it has never curbed gerrymandering for purely partisan purposes.

The Michigan and Ohio lawsuits were filed by voting rights groups and individual Democratic voters. Nine U.S. House and 25 state legislative districts were at issue in Michigan, while Ohio’s case involved 16 U.S. House districts.

A three-judge panel in Detroit on April 25 ruled in the Democratic voters’ favor in the Michigan case, calling gerrymandering a “pernicious practice that undermines our democracy,” and ordered state officials to draw new maps by Aug. 1.

A three-judge panel in Cincinnati on May 3 sided with the Democratic voters in the Ohio case, and ordered the state to create a plan to fix the map by June 14.

Electoral districts are typically redrawn once a decade after the U.S. census to reflect population changes. In many states, the party in power controls the map-making.


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Justice Ginsburg says deep divisions on the way,

and Supreme Court watchers look for clues

In a purportedly just-the-facts speech Friday to the judicial conference of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York, Ginsburg gave plenty to dissect.

She teased pending decisions in cases about whether the census may contain a question on citizenship, and if the court would for the first time decide that a state’s electoral maps are so influenced by partisan gerrymandering that they violate voters’ constitutional rights.

Be prepared for sharp disagreements as the court finishes its work this month, she said.

So far, only a quarter of the court’s decisions have been closely divided, she noted. “Given the number of most-watched cases still unannounced, I cannot predict that the relatively low sharp divisions ratio will hold.”

With the court set to finish its work the last week of June, the justices by now know the outcomes and are writing and delivering opinions. The next batch will come on Monday.

Ginsburg didn’t give anything away, but she offered what could be interpreted as clues to her own thinking.

On the citizenship question, for instance, she laid out the facts of what she called “a case of huge importance.”

The Trump administration wants to ask everyone who receives the census form whether or not they are a citizen, something that hasn’t been done since 1950. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said the information would be useful in protecting minority voting rights.

Challengers — some states and civil rights groups — have said it would result in an undercount, because respondents would fear reporting noncitizens in their households. The motive of enforcing voter rights is pretext, they say, and the Justice Department has never before asked for such information.

Ginsburg noted census experts agree about the undercount, and that three lower-court judges have said the question cannot be added.

Then she noted legal similarities to a case from last term, in which she was in dissent.

“Speculators about the outcome [in the census case] note that last year, in Trump v. Hawaii, the court upheld the so-called ‘travel ban,’ in an opinion granting great deference to the executive,” Ginsburg said.

“Respondents in the census case have argued that a ruling in Secretary Ross’s favor would stretch deference beyond the breaking point.”

Ginsburg also mentioned the partisan gerrymandering cases —
“very high on the most-watched cases list.”

One involves congressional district maps drawn by the Republican leadership of North Carolina, and the other by Democrats in Maryland.

“Given modern technology, a state legislature can create a congressional delegation dramatically out of proportion to the actual overall vote count,” Ginsburg said, adding “however one comes out on the legal issues, partisan gerrymandering unsettles the fundamental premise that people elect their representatives, not vice versa.”

Ginsburg’s remarks on the topic are hardly a surprise. The Supreme Court has wrestled for decades with the question of whether courts have a role in policing partisan gerrymandering, and Ginsburg has said in previous cases that they do.

The 86-year-old justice noted other facts about the court. With Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh hiring an all-female staff of four clerks, she said, the court for the first time in history had more women than men serving as clerks.

“Women did not fare nearly as well as advocates,” she said. “Only about 21% of the attorneys presenting oral argument this term were female; of the thirty-four attorneys who appeared more than once, only six were women.”

Because people track such things, Ginsburg noted Justice Stephen G. Breyer spoke more than any other justice during oral arguments, and that Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked the first question more than anyone else.

Ginsburg told her audience that the most important thing that had happened to the court since her address to them last year was the resignation of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who for years had been the most influential member of the court.

His retirement “was, I would say, the event of greatest consequence for the current term, and perhaps for many terms ahead,” she said.



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source: Salon

N.C. Republicans lied to federal court about racial gerrymander: report

As North Carolina scandal deepens, it appears Republicans lied in court in order to hang on to legislative power

JUNE 7, 2019 9:30PM (UTC)

North Carolina Republicans lied about their racially gerrymandered district map in an attempt to stop a special election, advocacy group Common Cause said in court filings Thursday.

The group said that files found on longtime GOP gerrymandering architect Thomas Hofeller’s hard drive after his death last year show that the North Carolina Republican Party misled a federal court into extending the deadline for revising the state's legislative districts, which had been ruled an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

Hofeller, who was paid millions by the Republican National Committee, left behind a trove of hard drives and flash drives detailing his work for the party. His estranged daughter discovered the files and turned them over to advocacy groups challenging the Republican policies in court.

Some of the files relate to Covington v. North Carolina, a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s racial gerrymander. The Republican-led legislature was ordered in 2016 to draw new maps by a federal district court. The Supreme Court agreed that the maps were unconstitutional but sent the case back to the district court to determine how soon the maps must be implemented, the New York Timesreported.

Republicans told the court that they would not be able to redraw maps in time for a special election in 2017. The party said it had not “start[ed] the laborious process of redistricting earlier” than July 2017, and could only “begin the process of compiling a record in July 2017 with a goal of enacting new plans by the end of the year.” State GOP leaders said they needed additional time to “engage in internal discussions about the design of remedial districts” and “prepare draft remedial plans.” The court was convinced and allowed the illegal map to stay in place for another year.

During a legislative hearing, North Carolina state Rep. David Lewis, a Republican who led the redistricting effort, said that there was not “anything that has been drawn by Dr. Hofeller or anybody else that you know of that have not yet been released.”

“I have not yet drawn maps nor have I directed that maps be drawn, nor am I aware of any other entity operating in conjunction with the leadership that has drawn maps.” Lewis said.

Common Cause said the newly discovered files show that the Republican Party’s statements to the court were false.

The Hofeller files, they said, show that the party had already completed more than 97 percent of the new Senate plan and 90 percent of the new House plan by June 2017.

Common Cause said the files also show that Republicans lied about their use of racial data in redistricting. Republicans said that “data regarding the race of voters was not used in the drawing of the districts, and, in fact, was not even loaded into the computer used by the map drawer to construct the districts.”

“We have not had and do not have racial data on any of these districts,” they said. “There was no racial data reviewed in the preparation of this map.”

But according to the court filings, Common Cause said Hofeller’s files show that none of the above statements were true.

Hofeller’s files showed data “regarding the racial composition of the proposed districts for each and every iteration of his draft maps,” according to the filings, and even displayed the black voting-age population in some of his draft maps.

Hofeller had “racial data on the draft districts in Excel spreadsheets,” the filing said.

But the federal court was told a completely different story and decided to allow the illegal gerrymander to stay in place for another year. Republicans’ veto-proof majority in both chambers of the North Carolina legislature was finally broken in 2018, after the maps were redrawn.

During their extra year with supermajority power, Republicans redrew judicial districts and tweaked election rules for the state Supreme Court, while voting to strip power from newly-elected Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Republicans, including Lewis, have denied that Hofeller had any input on the district maps and have described him as a private citizen who drew the maps “on his personal computer on his own time,” the Times reported.

The evidence on Hofeller's computer would seem to indicate otherwise. Hofeller continued to be paid millions by the Republican National Committee right up until he died last year, suggesting that his work was part of the party’s overall strategy.

Along with his longtime gerrymandering efforts, the files also showed that Hofeller was the driving force behind the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census —Stephccccc and even provided part of the dubious justification for the addition that was used verbatim in Justice Department documents.

Hofeller said that the question was necessary to draw maps based only on the number of voting-age citizens instead of the total population. These maps, he wrote, “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”

After lobbying the Trump administration to add the question, he urged them to justify the addition by claiming that it was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act and increase Hispanic turnout, despite writing the exact opposite just months earlier.

Republicans are now fighting the revelations in court, accusing Stephanie Hofeller, the dead man's daughter, of illegally providing advocacy groups with the documents. If not for her, troves of damning revelations about the Republican Party’s attempts to redraw maps to help “non-Hispanic whites” would have never seen the light of day.

“Virtually no public record of Mr. Hofeller’s work on gerrymanders exists beyond the maps themselves,” The Times reported, “because he was obsessive about leaving no paper trail that could be used against his handiwork in court.”


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“Republicans are now fighting the revelations in court, accusing Stephanie Hofeller, the dead man's daughter, of illegally providing advocacy groups with the documents. If not for her, . . troves of damning revelations about the Republican Party’s attempts to redraw maps to help “non-Hispanic whites” would have never seen the light of day.”

Thanks to the daughter and “Special Thanks” to the Poster !!!


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source: New York Times

Russians Hacked Voter Systems in 2 Florida Counties. But Which Ones?

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been told by the F.B.I. that he cannot publicly name the two Florida counties hacked by the Russians during the 2016 election.

May 14, 2019

MIAMI — The mystery surrounding a Russian intrusion into Florida’s voter registration systems during the 2016 election deepened on Tuesday when Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the F.B.I. had revealed to him which counties in the state had been targeted — then required the governor to keep the information secret.

At a news conference in Tallahassee, Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, said that officials from the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security had asked him to sign a nondisclosure agreement pledging not to identify the two counties that fell victim to a “spearphishing” attempt by Russian hackers.

That the Russians breached security protocols in not one but two counties was previously unknown. Last month, the Mueller reportconfirmed that the F.B.I. believed that the Russian military intelligence unit known as the G.R.U. breached “at least one Florida county government.” Elections officials said that if the intrusion came through a spearphishing email, as it apparently did, it would put hackers in a position to potentially alter registration data, though not the tabulation of ballots.

Mr. DeSantis said on Tuesday that the intrusion was limited to getting a glimpse of the voter rolls, which are public information in Florida.

“Two Florida counties experienced intrusion in the supervisor of election networks,” Mr. DeSantis said. “It did not affect any voting or anything like that.”

Mr. DeSantis, who took office in January, had insisted on being briefed on the hacking after the release last month of the report by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. Upon reading the report, the governor expressed frustration at the F.B.I. for not informing the state of its findings earlier, and vowed to make the details public if they were not classified.

“They won’t tell us which county it was. Are you kidding me?” he told reporters in Miami. “Why would you not have said something immediately?”

Yet in bewildering fashion, Mr. DeSantis found himself unable to publicly name the counties on Tuesday, citing federal officials’ concern that doing so could somehow tip off the Russians.

“I think they think that if we name the counties, then that may reveal information to the perpetrators that we know kind of what they did,” Mr. DeSantis said.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, has said that the authorities decided to get around those concerns by issuing a general notice to all counties that an intrusion had occurred.

“I think they should be named,” Mr. DeSantis said.

That the governor was asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement to receive classified information is not unusual. The F.B.I. makes similar requests of police chiefs when discussing cases involving classified terrorism threats, for example. Typically, the F.B.I. does not release the names of hacking victims for privacy reasons.

Less clear is why information, the gist of which has already been made public in the Mueller report, would be deemed too sensitive for public disclosure. There was an immediate flood of questions on social media, with many wondering how the public could feel confident that the voter rolls had not been tampered with and that local elections supervisors had taken the necessary steps to prevent a similar hack in the future — without knowing which counties had been breached.

“This is not acceptable, to keep secret attacks on the most public of our political processes: our elections,” said Ion Sancho, a Democrat and the former elections supervisor of Leon County, which includes the state capital, Tallahassee.

On Sept. 30, 2016, while still in office, Mr. Sancho took part in a conference call among Florida elections supervisors in which, he said, the F.B.I. told local officials that no Russian hacking had taken place. The F.B.I. had asked elections supervisors to keep the content of the call confidential, but Mr. Sancho spoke about it at the time anyway.

“I’m not a member of a law enforcement agency — I’m a member of the elections profession,” he said on Tuesday. “I did talk about it, because it seemed to me we needed that kind of impetus if we’re going to prepare and ensure we’re going to protect our election system, which we still have not done.”

Not one of Florida’s 67 counties has admitted to being one of the hacking victims. The intrusion was first made public last year by former Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, who came under stinging criticism from his re-election opponent, former Gov. Rick Scott, who dismissed his claim as unfounded. The state, he said, had not been informed about any Russian hacking. Mr. Nelson said then that he had come across the information as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence — but like Mr. DeSantis now, could not reveal more.

In a statement on Tuesday, the F.B.I. said it had provided information to Mr. DeSantis “involving the attempted intrusion into Supervisor of Elections networks throughout the state.”

“The F.B.I. also provided assurance that investigators did not detect any adversary activity that impacted vote counts or disrupted electoral processes during the 2016 or 2018 elections,” the statement said. “The F.B.I. and D.H.S. continues to work with elections officials and our local, state and federal partners to proactively share information in a concerted effort to protect elections networks in Florida, and across the country, from adversary activity.”

The bureau was scheduled to hold additional confidential briefings with members of Florida’s congressional delegation later this week.

Mr. DeSantis said that identifying the two counties was important in order for the Florida secretary of state to work with those elections supervisors to determine whether they needed additional cybersecurity resources.

“The two counties at issue here, the F.B.I. was working with them in 2016, to identify and to take whatever action,” Mr. DeSantis said. “This stuff is really very, very significant.”


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source: Sun Sentinel

Here are the Florida counties that were sent a Russian phishing attack. Two of them were hacked.

The search is on to determine which two Florida counties’ voter data was accessed by Russian hackers.

A South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation found that at least 13, and as many as 20, elections offices in Florida were sent an email by GRU, a Russian military intelligence agency. According to an FBI investigation, that email included an attachment that appeared to be a harmless Word document, but contained software that allowed the sender to access the computer files of anyone who opened the attachment.

The emails came from a Gmail account that appeared at a glance to come from VR Systems, a Florida-based elections software company that serves many elections offices throughout Florida. The practice of disguising a malicious email to appear as though it comes from a trusted source is known as spear phishing.

The malicious email address has since stopped accepted emails, suggesting it has been shut down.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that the FBI informed him the spear phishing attempt was successful in two Florida counties, but he added that he could not say which counties because he had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI.

The Sun Sentinel filed a public records request for the agreement but was told DeSantis did not have a copy. A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed with the FBI, but getting the results of a FOIA request can take a long time.

Prior to DeSantis’s announcement, the Sun Sentinel filed a public records request to all 67 Florida county supervisors of elections offices for all emails sent from the email address used by the Russian hackers to their offices in a date range that included several weeks before and after the 2016 election, when the FBI reported the attack had taken place.

Who received the Russian phishing emails?
The Sun Sentinel asked Florida's 67 counties if they received phishing emails from Russian hackers just before the 2016 election. Of those that said they did, none admitted the attachments were opened.

  • Received phishing emails
  • Denied receiving emails
  • Did not reply to records request
Source: County supervisors of elections offices

Of the 67 county elections offices contacted, 47 replied that they did not receive the email. That could mean they didn’t receive it, or that it was immediately quarantined and didn’t turn up in a search of email records. The other option is that employees of these elections offices destroyed the email or lied and refused to turn it over, both of which would be a violation of the state’s public records law.

Thirteen counties confirmed they were sent the email from Russian hackers but say they did not open it: Alachua, Broward, Citrus, Clay, Duval, Gulf, Lee, Leon, Pasco, Putnam, Taylor, Volusia and Wakulla. The political makeup of these counties is all over the map. For example, Wakulla is closely balanced between registered Democrats and Republicans, while Clay has a more than two-to-one Republican advantage and Broward has a more than two-to-one advantage in favor of Democrats.

Of the seven remaining counties, four acknowledged receiving the public records request but never responded with a follow-up offering either the requested email or a statement that a search of their records hadn’t turned it up. Those counties were Charlotte, Escambia, Highlands and Hillsborough.

Three others never acknowledged receiving the public records request: Calhoun, Jefferson and Washington counties.

The Sun Sentinel sent the records requests to elections offices on April 24, a few days after the release of the redacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 election produced by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The Mueller Report noted an FBI investigation had found that “in November 2016, the GRU sent spear phishing emails to over 120 email accounts used by Florida county officials responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. election. The spear phishing emails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer.”

According to the report, the spear phishing attempt “enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government," though Mueller’s office did not independently verify the FBI’s findings.

Further, as part of a 2017 report on a leaked National Security Agency document detailing the spear fishing attempt, the online news publication The Intercept printed the email address Russian intelligence used in sending the emails to Florida elections office officials. This email address became the subject of the Sun Sentinel’s public records request.

It’s still unclear just which two counties opened the attachment in the email sent by agents of a Russian intelligence agency.

Florida members of Congress were given a classified briefing Thursday morning, after which a source familiar with what was discussed told the Sun Sentinel that neither Broward nor Palm Beach counties were among the two hacking victims.

Congress briefed by the FBI on 2016 election hacking: Russian intrusion didn’t affect Broward or Palm Beach counties. »
Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci has stated unequivocally that the spear phishing attempt was not successful in his office.

On Wednesday, the Miami Herald published the results of its own survey, in which the paper’s reporters asked each county supervisor of elections whether their offices were one of the two that was hacked. All said they were not, except those in Gadsden and Hardee counties, which did not respond to reporters’ questions. But Gadsden and Hardee elections officials responded to our public records request, saying they had not received the spear phishing email.

Something doesn’t add up, and Florida’s elected officials are demanding that the FBI release the counties that were hacked.

The FBI Jacksonville field office said federal investigators are not obligated to release the names of the affected counties, and a timetable for any potential release doesn’t exist.

“That information is classified,” FBI Jacksonville spokeswoman Amanda Videll told the Sun Sentinel Thursday.


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NC RepubliKlans Move To Slash Budget Of First Black Supreme Court Chief Justice To Punish Her For Expected Decision Overturning Gerrymandered NC Districts

North Carolina’s first black woman to become supreme court justice has come under fire by Republicans because she is expected to strike down gerrymandered districts in the state by 2020.

On Wednesday, Justice Cheri Beasley’s office revealed that Republicans have moved to drastically cut her funding.

“With these cuts to our staff, the chief justice would be the only appellate judge in the state with a single law clerk,” Chief of Staff Anna Stearns explained to WUNC. “It would severely limit the work she can do to modernize our courts and bring about desperately needed reforms.”

WUNC reporter Jeff Tiberii revealed on Twitter that half of the existing staff would be cut under the Republican plan.

Stephen Miller, a writer for DailyKos, argued that Republicans in the Legislature are punishing Beasley for her expected decision overturning gerrymandered districts.