Spencer Bokat-Lindell | Did the Supreme Court Just Kill the Voting Rights Act? – The New York Times

Mr. Bokat-Lindell is a staff editor.

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“Bans on ballot collectionLimits on vote-by-mail drop boxesShorter hours at polling places. Across the country, Republican legislatures are passing laws to make it harder to vote. Which is why, for proponents of expansive voting rights, the Supreme Court decision last week upholding two such laws could scarcely have come at a worse time.

“What is tragic here is that the court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent, which was joined by the two other liberal justices. “What is tragic is that the court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’” “

Editorial | You’ve Heard About Gerrymandering. What Happens When It Involves Prisons? – The New York Times

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Credit…Illustration by Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times; photograph by Getty Images

“Where do you live? For most people, that’s an easy question to answer when the census comes around. It’s much harder for those locked up in a state or federal prison, often hundreds or even thousands of miles from the place they last called home.

Longstanding Census Bureau policy is to count people as residing wherever they usually eat and sleep, known as the “usual residence” rule. For prisoners, that means being counted in the legislative districts where they are incarcerated.

But that makes no sense, because virtually everyone who goes to prison comes from somewhere else, and almost all will return there after being released. While they are behind bars, they can’t vote, nor do they have any attachment to the local community or its elected officials. They are counted, even though they can’t hold their representatives accountable.

The result is one of the more persistent and pernicious distortions in the redistricting process, known as “prison gerrymandering.” Now that the 2020 census count is over, and the nation begins its decennial struggle over how to draw new congressional and other legislative district lines — and who gains or loses political power as a result — it’s a good time to talk about how we can get rid of prison gerrymandering at last.” . . .

Opinion | Georgia’s Voter Law Is Called ‘Jim Crow 2.0’ for a Reason – The New York Times

Mr. Ward is a historian who has written extensively about the civil rights movement, the South and politics.

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Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photographs by Getty Images

“Seventy-five years ago this July, a World War II veteran named Maceo Snipes reportedly became the first Black man to cast a ballot in his rural Georgia county. The next day, a white man shot him in his front yard, and Mr. Snipes would soon afterward die from those wounds.

Fortunately, three generations removed from the political reign of terror that claimed Mr. Snipes’s life, voter suppression seems much less likely to arrive by bullet. But we may not be as distant in our political moment from theirs as we might think: The long struggle to block access to the ballot has always relied on legal maneuvering and political schemes to achieve what bullets and bombs alone could not.

What legislators in Georgia and across the country have reminded us is that backlash to expanded voting rights has often arrived by a method that our eras share in common: by laws, like Georgia’s Senate Bill 202, passed by elected politicians.

Opponents of the new Georgia law denounce the legislation as “Jim Crow 2.0” precisely because they recognize the continuities between past and present. The bill’s most ardent supporters, who lined up in front of a painting of a building on the site of an antebellum plantation to watch Gov. Brian Kemp sign it into law, seem less interested in distancing themselves from that past and more eager for Americans to forget it.” . . .

Bob Bauer | How to Counter the Republican Assault on Voting Rights – The New York Times

Mr. Bauer teaches constitutional law concerning the presidency and political reform at New York University Law School. He was a senior adviser to the Biden campaign and served as White House counsel to President Barack Obama.

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Credit…Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos

“Republican-dominated state legislatures around the country have responded to the cynical calls from Donald Trump for “election reform” with an array of proposals to restrict voting rights. They include limiting early-voting opportunities, constraining access to vote-by-mail and imposing more voter identification and other requirements to protect against what Mr. Trump falsely claimed to be “a level of dishonesty” that “is not to be believed.”

In Washington, congressional Democrats have rallied around H.R. 1, which has already passed in the House and would establish specific voting rules that states would be required to follow for federal elections, empowered by Congress’s clear constitutional authority to “make or alter” state regulations governing the “Times, Places and manner” of holding such elections.” . . .

Good op-ed, excellent comments.

For Voting Rights Advocates, a ‘Once in a Generation Moment’ Looms – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — State and national voting-rights advocates are waging the most consequential political struggle over access to the ballot since the civil rights era, a fight increasingly focused on a far-reaching federal overhaul of election rules in a last-ditch bid to offset a wave of voting restrictions sweeping Republican-controlled state legislatures.

The federal voting bill, which passed in the House this month with only Democratic support, includes a landmark national expansion of voting rights, an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and new transparency requirements on the flood of dark money financing elections that would override the rash of new state laws.

The energy in support for it radiates from well-financed veteran organizers to unpaid volunteers, many who were called to political activism after former President Donald J. Trump’s upset win in 2016. It is engaging Democrats in Washington and voting rights activists in crucial states from Georgia to Iowa to West Virginia to Arizona — some facing rollbacks in access to the ballot, some with senators who will play pivotal roles and some with both.

But after approval of the Democratic bill in the House, the campaign to pass the For the People Act, designated Senate Bill 1, increasingly appears to be on a collision course with the filibuster. The rule requires 60 votes for passage of most legislation in a bitterly divided Senate, meaning that Republicans can kill the voting bill and scores of other liberal priorities despite unified Democratic control of Washington.

To succeed, Democrats will have to convince a handful of moderate holdouts to change the rules, at least for this legislation, with the likelihood that a single defection in their own party would doom their efforts. It is a daunting path with no margin for error, but activists believe the costs for failure, given the Republican limits on voting, would be so high that some accommodation on the filibuster could become inevitable.

Two left-leaning elections groups, the advocacy arm of End Citizens United and Let America Vote along with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, plan this week to announce an infusion of $30 million to try to hasten the groundswell. The money will fund paid advertising in at least a dozen states and finance organizers to target Democratic and Republican swing senators in six of them.

“We are at a once-in-a-generation moment,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote. “We either are going to see one of the most massive rollbacks of our democracy in generations, or we have an opportunity to say: ‘No, that is not what America stands for. We are going to strengthen democracy and make sure everyone has an equal voice.’” ” . . .

Thomas Edsall | How Long Can Democracy Survive QAnon and Its Allies? – The New York Times

“. . .  Several political scholars and strategists argue that the fault lies in our political system, that the unique way America has combined its government structure with the mechanics of its elections serves to exacerbate conflict in a deeply polarized country. These scholars have produced a variety of proposals, many involving the creation of multi-member congressional districts and the encouragement of proportional representation to replace the current single district, winner-take-all system.

Lee Drutman, author of “The Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multi-Party Democracy in America” and a senior fellow at New America, is a leading proponent of proportional representation.

In an email, Drutman contended that “a big consequence” of the reforms he and others are calling for

is that the MAGA wing would be cut loose from the rest of the G.O.P. coalition and left to operate on its own. It’s certainly conceivable that there could be even a few more Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Lauren Boeberts elected, but proportional representation (PR) would also mean more Adam Kinzingers (a House Republican who is a critic of Trump) and Romney-type Republicans elected as well.

Drutman wrote that he has “come to realize how much of an existential threat the current Republican Party is to the continuation of America democracy.” A two-party democracy cannot survive “for very long if one of two dominant parties gives up on the foundational institution of democracy: free and fair elections, in which all votes count equally.”

In addition, Drutman wrote,

I’ve also come to appreciate how much democracy depends on a conservative party that believes in democracy, and thus how important it is to create electoral institutions in this moment that will allow the currently-marginalized small “l” liberal Republicans to separate from the MAGA wing of the party and still win some representation in the Congress.

Proportional representation, he argued “is the only way to break up the current Republican coalition and free the pro-democracy forces within the Republican Party to compete on their own.” “

Opinion | There’s Still a Loaded Weapon Lying Around in Our Election System – The New York Times

Mr. Pildes is an author of the casebook “The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process.”

Credit…Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

“The 2020 election revealed longstanding fractures in the foundation of our system for conducting presidential elections. Before these lead to an earthquake in a subsequent presidential election, we need to shore up that foundation.

The single most dangerous threat the election exposed was the prospect of legislatures directly appointing a state’s electors and overriding the vote of the people in that state. No state legislature has attempted to do this since at least the Civil War. But in the run-up to the 2020 election, this seemed the most likely means that might circumvent the voters and subvert the election. This concern has been proven warranted: After the Trump campaign’s postelection lawsuits failed around the country, its strategy was precisely to get state legislatures in key swing states to appoint the electors themselves.

Indeed, President Trump continues to pursue that strategy even now — he reportedly twice called the Republican speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in recent days — despite these states having legally certified Joe Biden as the winner of their state’s popular vote.

There is no legal basis for what the president is urging, but it calls attention to a previously obscure provision in federal election law. This provision, known as the “failed election” provision, lies around like a loaded weapon. It is the only place in federal law that identifies circumstances in which, even after a popular vote for president has been taken, a state legislature has the power to step in and appoint electors.”

Trump lawyers suffer embarrassing rebukes from judges over voter fraud claims – The Washington Post

November 11, 2020 at 11:53 a.m. EST

“By now, it’s well-established that most of the arguments put forward by President Trump’s reelection campaign in its challenge of the results of the 2020 election are baseless and highly speculative. Even Trump allies, as The Washington Post reported late Tuesday, acknowledge the apparent futility of the effort. Others have reasoned that there’s no harm in going through the motions, with one anonymous GOP official asking, “What’s the downside for humoring him” for a little while?

But as scenes in courtrooms nationwide in recent days have shown, there is indeed a downside for those tasked with pursuing these claims. Repeatedly now, they have been rebuked by judges for how thin their arguments have been.

The most famous scene came in Pennsylvania, where a Trump lawyer strained to avoid acknowledging that their people were, in fact, allowed to observe the vote-counting process in Philadelphia:

At the city’s federal courthouse on Thursday evening, attorneys for Trump asked a judge to issue an emergency order to stop the count, alleging that all Republican observers had been barred.
Under sharp questioning from Judge Paul S. Diamond, however, they conceded that Trump in fact had “a nonzero number of people in the room,” leaving Diamond audibly exasperated.
“I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?” asked Diamond, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush. Denying Trump’s request, Diamond struck a deal for 60 observers from each party to be allowed inside.
At one point on Friday afternoon, 12 Republican observers and five Democrats were watching the count, according to a ballot counter who was working.

After that “nonzero” answer, Diamond pressed the Trump campaign lawyer to be more explicit — and he suggestively invoked their standing with the bar: “I’m asking you as a member of the bar of this court: Are people representing the plaintiffs in the room?” The lawyer responded more directly: “Yes.” By the end of the hearing, Diamond invoked his right to make sure lawyers in his courtroom acted in good faith.

Another Trump lawyer, Jonathan S. Goldstein, was also grilled by a Pennsylvania judge this week. Under questioning, he acknowledged that, contrary to Trump’s claims about rampant voter fraud, he wasn’t alleging fraud in the 592 ballots he sought to disqualify in Montgomery County, Pa.

Again, Trump’s lawyer strained to avoid directly answering the question but was ultimately forced to acknowledge it:

THE COURT: In your petition, which is right before me — and I read it several times — you don’t claim that any electors or the Board of the County were guilty of fraud, correct? That’s correct?
GOLDSTEIN: Your Honor, accusing people of fraud is a pretty big step. And it is rare that I call somebody a liar, and I am not calling the Board of the [Democratic National Committee] or anybody else involved in this a liar. Everybody is coming to this with good faith. The DNC is coming with good faith. We’re all just trying to get an election done. We think these were a mistake, but we think they are a fatal mistake, and these ballots ought not be counted.
THE COURT: I understand. I am asking you a specific question, and I am looking for a specific answer. Are you claiming that there is any fraud in connection with these 592 disputed ballots?
GOLDSTEIN: To my knowledge at present, no.
THE COURT: Are you claiming that there is any undue or improper influence upon the elector with respect to these 592 ballots?
GOLDSTEIN: To my knowledge at present, no.”

The Trump campaign also sought to temporarily stop counting some ballots in Detroit. It cited a GOP poll watcher who had said she had been told by an unidentified person that late mail ballots were being predated to before Election Day, so they would be considered valid.

The judge repeatedly asserted this was hearsay, but Trump campaign lawyer Thor Hearne sought to argue that it wasn’t — despite it having been someone who said they heard about something they weren’t personally involved in. He pointed to a vague note the poll watcher produced — which said “entered receive date as 11/2/20 on 11/4/20” — as evidence:

STEPHENS: So I want to make sure I understand you. The affiant is not the person who had knowledge of this. Is that correct?
HEARNE: The affiant had direct firsthand knowledge of the communication with the elections inspector and the document they provided them.
STEPHENS: Okay, which is generally known as hearsay, right?
HEARNE: I would not think that’s hearsay, Your Honor. That’s firsthand personal knowledge by the affiant of what she physically observed. And we included an exhibit which is a physical copy of the note that she was provided.

The two later returned to the point, after Stephens reviewed the note, and Stephens echoed Judge Diamond’s exasperation:

STEPHENS: I’m still trying to understand why this isn’t hearsay.
HEARNE: Well, it’s, it, I –
STEPHENS: I absolutely understand what the affiant says she heard someone say to her. But the truth of the matter … that you’re going for was that there was an illegal act occurring. Because other than that I don’t know what its relevancy is.
HEARNE: Right. I would say, Your Honor, in terms of the hearsay point, this is a firsthand factual statement made by Ms. Connarn, and she has made that statement based on her own firsthand physical evidence and knowledge —
STEPHENS: “I heard somebody else say something.” Tell me why that’s not hearsay. Come on, now.
HEARNE: Well it’s a firsthand statement of her physical –
STEPHENS: It’s an out-of-court statement offered where the truth of the matter is asserted, right?

In a later written decision, Stephens slammed the argument as “inadmissible hearsay within hearsay.” And after the campaign appealed, a Michigan appeals court rebuked it Monday for not including required documentation.

“I regret to inform you that your submission is defective,” the court wrote said, outlining the missing attachments.

Another of the Trump team’s claims crumbled rather quickly in Georgia.

In Chatham County, as in Michigan, the Trump campaign cited supposed evidence that 53 late ballots may have been predated so they could be counted. Except two witnesses they called acknowledged under oath that they didn’t know whether the ballots were received after the deadline. And two others for the local board of elections testified that they were, in fact, received on time.

Judge James Bass dismissed the case in a one-sentence, eight-word ruling, saying, “I’m denying the request and dismissing the petition” and abruptly adjourned the hearing. He then elaborated in a written opinion, saying that “the Court finds that there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7:00 p.m. on election day, thereby making those ballots invalid. Additionally, there is no evidence that the Chatham County Board of Elections or the Chatham County Board of Registrars has failed to comply with the law.”

The common thread running through all of these is that Trump’s lawyers are regularly offering a significantly more watered-down version of Trump’s claims about rampant voter fraud — because they, unlike Trump, have to substantiate their claims. And as these exchanges show, it’s a rather thankless task that can quickly land them on a judge’s bad side.”    -30-

Source: Trump lawyers suffer embarrassing rebukes from judges over voter fraud claims – The Washington Post

Opinion | What’s Not the Matter With Georgia? – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

“Right now, we all have Georgia on our minds. It’s probably going to end up called for Joe Biden; his lead is razor-thin, but most observers expect it to survive a recount. And the January runoff races in Georgia offer Democrats their last chance to take the Senate.

Beyond the immediate electoral implications, however, the fact that Democrats are now competitive in Georgia but not in Ohio, which appears to have become Trumpier than Texas, tells you a lot about where America is heading. In some ways these changes in the electoral map offer reason for hope; but they also suggest looming problems for U.S. democracy.

How did Georgia turn faintly blue? As The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson wrote, in a phrase I wish I’d come up with, the great divide in American politics is now over “density and diplomas”: highly urbanized states — especially those containing large metropolitan areas — with highly educated populations tend to be Democratic.

Why this particular partisan association? Think about the longer-term political strategy of the modern G.O.P. Republican economic policy is relentlessly plutocratic: tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for everyone else. The party has, however, sought to win over voters who aren’t rich by taking advantage of intolerance — racial hostility, of course, but also opposition to social change in general.

But both living in large, diverse metropolitan areas and being highly educated seem to make voters less receptive to this strategy. Indeed, many big-city and highly educated voters seem repelled by G.O.P. illiberalism on social issues — which is why so many affluent Americans on the coasts back Democrats even though Republicans might reduce their taxes.

In practice, density and diplomas tend to go together — an association that has grown stronger over the past few decades. Modern economic growth has been led by knowledge-based industries; these industries tend to concentrate in large metropolitan areas that have highly educated work forces; and the growth of these metropolitan areas brings in even more highly educated workers.

Hence the transformation of Georgia. The state is home to greater Atlanta, one of the nation’s most dynamic metropolises, which now accounts for 57 percent of Georgia’s population. Atlanta has drawn in a growing number of college-educated workers, so that at this point the percentage of working-age adults with bachelor’s degrees is higher in Georgia than in Wisconsin or Michigan. So at some level it shouldn’t be surprising that Georgia apparently joined the “blue wall” in securing the presidency for Biden.

But if there’s one thing I hope Democrats have learned these past dozen years, it is that they can’t simply count on changing demography and growing social liberalism to deliver election victories. Red-state Republicans have fought tooth and nail to hold power — not by moderating their policies, but through gerrymandering and vote suppression. And Democrats need to do what they can to fight back.

Which is why Georgia’s blue shift is in one way a reason for hope.

Why, after all, did Biden win Georgia even as he was losing North Carolina, another relatively well-educated state with growing knowledge industries? The answer, in two words: Stacey Abrams.”

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