State says it will accept ballots for 8 days after election, even without postmark
Republicans are challenging a move by Minnesota election officials to allow ballots to be counted past Election Day even if they are not postmarked.
State representative Eric Lucero (R.) and Republican elector James Carson filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging secretary of state Steve Simon’s consent decree that allows mail-in ballots to be counted as late as eight days after Election Day with or without a postmark. The lawsuit argues the decree violates the U.S. Constitution by moving the ballot deadline without the authority of the state legislature and violates federal law by permitting “ballots with no post mark and no evidence of having been cast on November 3” to be counted.
“This means that persons in Minnesota may vote for days after Election Day and have their votes counted,” the lawsuit states. It also warns that the decree will likely lead to disputed results, disenfranchised voters, and may even cause the results of the vote in Minnesota to be rejected entirely.
The consent decree states that if a ballot is not postmarked, “the election official reviewing the ballot should presume that it was mailed on or before Election Day unless the preponderance demonstrates it was mailed after Election Day.” Simon described the seven-day window as “an automatic seven-day cushion” for Minnesota voters.
Simon’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the assumption that unmarked ballots were sent on or before Election Day.
The lawsuit was filed with the support of the Honest Elections Project, a nonpartisan election integrity group whose executive director Jason Snead told the Washington Free Beacon that the decree could incentivize illegal voting.
“You wind up with these ballots that arrive potentially many days after the election, they could be the decisive ballots. But there’s absolutely no proof that they were cast validly on Election Day,” Snead said. “And when you consider what’s at stake here, not only does that amplify the need for us to have clear outcomes, it also amplifies the incentive to try to gin up a few extra ballots after the fact if you see that your candidate is losing.”
“Even if that’s not going to happen, the mere fact that it is possible risks casting doubt on the result,” he said.
Minnesota is among 16 other states this year that permit mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day to be counted, including the battleground states of North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Texas. With the exception of West Virginia, which allows ballots without postmarks to be counted up to one day after the election, it is the only state to allow ballots without postmarks to be counted.
As the election nears, Republicans and Democrats have stepped up efforts to litigate state voting regulations. Lawsuits filed in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, and Nevada have pitted the parties against one another in protracted fights over the use of ballot drop boxes, and ballot deadlines, as well as rules for collecting, processing, and counting ballots. Republicans have largely favored maintaining existing voting regulations within states, while Democrats have advocated expanding voting access and loosening regulations.
Twitter, the social media giant that dominates online chatter, suspended Friday the account of the pro-ballot integrity group “True the Vote,” after alleging the group’s tweets about military ballots and voting deadlines violated the platform’s rules.
True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht responded angrily to the move, the latest in a series of actions by the media platform that have some accusing it of trying to stifle debate and the free flow of information during the election season to the detriment of conservative candidates and activists.
Twitter temporarily suspended the group’s account, according to a statement from Engelbrecht, after a Sept. 15 post that encouraged citizens and potential voters to confirm their counties were following the rules for mailing out ballots to members of the military serving in other states and overseas.
Twitter and other social media sites have in recent months announced new policies to protect against tampering by foreign nationals and security agencies seeking to affect the 2020 election. The increased supervision of posts began after congressional investigating committees and an inquiry overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller all concluded the Russians had penetrated U.S. social media platforms with misleading messages during the 2016 campaign. No evidence was ever produced, however, that demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow in these activities as many Democrats charged then and still maintain was the case.
Advocates for the military have for some time complained that ballots for local, state, and federal elections are often not mailed out early enough for soldiers, sailors, and Marines serving overseas to receive them, fill them out, and return them in time for them to be counted. Effectively, they say, this leaves America’s troops in the field – many of whom are presumed to vote Republican – disenfranchised.
“True the Vote, an election integrity advocacy organization, was sending out information of public interest regarding deadlines for our military voters, pursuant to the ‘Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment’ Act, federal law, which requires states to send absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters at least 45 days before federal elections,” Englebrecht said, adding that information “in no way” violated Twitter’s terms of service.
The now-controversial tweet was “retweeted” by President Donald J. Trump two days after it was initially posted, an act Engelbrecht suggested in a statement might have provoked the ire of Trump opponents inside Twitter supervising what goes up on the platform while searching for electoral disinformation.
True the Vote is appealing the sanction and said it fully expects to have its access to the site restored in short order. Officials at Twitter could not be reached for comment.
With less than two months to go until the election former Vice President Joe Biden’s once considerable lead over Donald J. Trump appears to be vanishing. Polls are showing the Democrat still ahead nationally and in several crucial swing states. Many equally reliable surveys however show the president closing.
Whether this is due to a change in voter attitudes or a change in polling methodology and the way pollsters look at their numbers is anyone’s guess. Public opinion surveys are highly objective analyses of electoral sentiment that can be influenced by both those crunching the numbers and those participating.
Any good survey seeks to replicate the partisan and ideological breakdown of the electorate that will be participating in the next election based largely on what happened in the last. That’s not always a reliable measure as it requires those conducting surveys to manipulate the numbers to account for ideology, partisanship, race, religion, and gender among the respondents that may not resemble who shows up on Election Day.
Environment influences optics. People in solidly Democratic areas are likely to feel comfortable putting Biden/Harris signs in their yards while Trump/Pence supporters in the same neighborhoods might be reluctant to bring attention to their intentions. Demonstrating support for the president, an admittedly divisive figure, can have adverse consequences. In one notorious incident, two 21-year-old women stole a “Make America Great Again” hat off the head of a seven-year-old boy at August’s Delaware Democratic state convention.
They’re now charged with hate crimes as well as robbery, conspiracy, and endangering the welfare of a child – and what they did what was inarguably cruel – but it hardly scratches the surface of what’s going on around the country. The social sanction shown toward Trump supporters is severe and encouraged by Democratic leaders. Congresswomen Maxine Waters, chairman of the House Banking Committee, famously told participants in a California rally that, as far as administration officials were concerned, “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Rhetoric and behavior like that can be intimidating. Few people want to open themselves up to the social sanction and shunning that attaches to being a supporter of the president. This may be why, as a recent Rasmussen Reports poll indicated, 17 percent of likely voters who give Trump’s job approval high marks say they are reluctant to let others know how they intend to vote in the fall. “A similar but narrower gap is evident between the two parties,” the polling firm said, with 16 percent of Republicans being less likely to tell others how they intend to vote, compared to 12 percent of Democrats.
This phenomenon was likely present in 2016 as well. Most pre-election polls showed former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton winning the White House easily. Instead, Trump won by the narrowest of margins by pulling together enough narrow victories in the 50 separate state elections that constitute a presidential contest to win a clear if not necessarily convincing victory in the Electoral College. If it is again present, as Rasmussen Report’s latest survey suggests, then most national and state surveys are undercounting the president’s level of support.
If that’s true, then the race is a lot tighter than people are being led to believe by most of the reporting on the race. Other surveys have shown GOP satisfaction with Trump to be much higher than the Democrat’s happiness with Biden. Republicans who say they are likely to vote are also showing much more enthusiasm as regards their participation in the upcoming election than their counterparts. These numbers too suggest support for the president’s re-election is being under-estimated rather than reported accurately even if the numbers in the national surveys say what they say.
The Donald Trump Show
The 2020 political conventions have drawn to a close with the dramatic (and late night) end of the Republican Convention. And what a show each party presented.
Last week we discussed the Democrats’ effort based on two criteria, technical and content. We’ll do the same for the Republicans.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) broke new ground technically with this production. The bulk of the time for the first 3 ½ sessions was a series of testimonies by a vast variety of people, mostly non-politicians, who told their personal stories. All were interesting, many were gripping – like the widow of the retired police chief in St. Louis who was killed by the rioters, or the young Congressional candidate, who rose from his wheel chair to salute the flag, or the young ex-Planned Parenthood staffer who was appalled by what she saw in a live abortion – and the list goes on.
From a technical point of view, the variety of settings for each presentation, the musical interludes, and, most of all, the pacing of the program was exceptional. The only way so many speeches could have been packed into the time allowed depended on strict discipline of timing, variety of material, insertions of video clips to dramatize the speaker’s prose, and of the settings – all of which were exceptional. This discipline included even time limits on usually long-winded politicians – one of the more impressive features of the program.
The program ended with a brief but spectacular fireworks display and a closing few songs featuring tenor, Christopher Macchio, although the lateness of the hour may have made this segment harder to appreciate.
In all, the technical framework of the convention set a new standard for this type of program, using many of the techniques of documentaries for live presentations. Actually, it is hard to imagine anything but a state-of-the-art production for a man who topped TV ratings for years.
Like last week’s content, the content of either party tends to be controversial, appreciated by the advocates, scorned by the opposition. So, it is with this convention. As a sympathizer with the Republicans, my vies are colored by my own preferences.
That having been said, I was very impressed by the messages of this convention. Among the most impressive features were the number and variety of the presenters. Most were ordinary Americans, whose stories varied in content, tone, accent, and perspective. All, of course, came to the same conclusion – they were voting Republican. The interesting part was the individual starting points. Especially interesting were the Black endorsements, some from Democrats. Also impressive were the young men and women who are the future of the party, led by Nikki Haley, Rand Paul, and Tim Scott, among several others.
The last half of the last evening was devoted to Donald J. Trump, sitting 45th President of the United States of America. The earlier testimonials were a mixture of endorsements of the President, criticisms of the Biden/Harris ticket, and explanations of generic preference for either the Republican party or specific issues, especially reasons for Black support for Trump over Biden. This last segment was devoted to endorsements of Trump by a variety of people, ranging from ordinary Americans to politicians. Finally, the President himself gave his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination for the presidency.
The speech was an indictment of the Democrats’ prospective policies, Mr. Biden himself, based on his half century record of public service, recap of Mr. Trump’s own record of the past three+ years, and his plans for the future. His agenda is mostly well known, although he supplied a surprising detail of some of the planned initiatives. His tone was somewhat subdued compared to some other speeches, but he covered a wide range of subjects. As expected, his speech was very long.
While we on the subject of Mr. Trump, here are some observations I would like to share. I recently had occasion to watch some of his 2015-16 debates. There is no question that he was a brutal, bullying candidate. Never have I seen such behavior before in a formal setting like a presidential debate. It was prompted, I believe, by his distain for all politicians, especially in national office, although he also criticized Dr. Ben Carson as being “low-energy”. Looking back, I think that it was this behavior which gained him a bad reputation among many otherwise open-minded people. I believe he is still paying for that period, even though it did not stop him from winning both the nomination and the election.
I believe that Donald J. Trump has experienced some significant changes since he became President. One of the most significant changes has been his attitude towards politicians. He quickly realized that he needed their support in order to get done some of his most important priorities. He has succeeded in converting some of his most offended victims (but not the Bushes) as well as virtually all the Republicans in Congress from enemies into fervent advocates. Prime examples are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He even persuaded Dr. Carson to join his cabinet. Since taking office, he has turned into a great advocate of the Republican Party, campaigning religiously for Republican candidates throughout the country. He has accepted the mantle of head of the Party and pursued it with his characteristic vigor.
Another area of his life has also seen change in my opinion. That is his private life, particularly his personal conduct and his religious practice. Like many other presidents, (not all) he has “grown into the job”. His life is now lived in a glass house – everything he does or says is noted and publicized. He cannot afford to be seen in any questionable behavior. He has become a straight arrow.
He also has, I believe, become more aware that he depends on a force beyond his or anyone’s control. Never known to be particularly religious, he is now seen praying in church and in public, seen as a strong advocate of freedom of religion, and generally deserving of the strong support he received from the evangelical community. Some would say he is masquerading. I believe he is sincere, influenced perhaps by Melania. Sincere or not, it is hard to contest the behavior.
The case for a Trump electoral victory was strengthened by the 2020 Republican convention, with its message of hope, prosperity and equality. We will see how long it lasts.
Everyone who has considered universal mail-in ballots for any length of time knows it would be disastrous.
With the upcoming presidential election, the left is increasingly dispensing with logic and common sense as they push for universal mail-in ballots. It doesn’t take much to see what a disaster this election would become under such an approach. As Attorney General Bill Barr rightly responded when asked if he had evidence that a mail-in ballot election could be rigged, “No, but I have common sense.”
The same logical fallacies that plagued the ridiculous 2+2=4 controversy are now repeated ad nauseam to convince Americans they should adopt universal mail-in ballots to ensure a fair and safe election. In states such as California and Nevada, residents have received mail-in ballots automatically.
Many have gone along with universal mail-in ballots because “experts” endorse them, not necessarily because they have examined the reasoning behind the movement. Arguments from authority, a popular logical fallacy these days, will successfully sway many people who have no interest in looking into the matter. If a so-called fact-checker such as Snopes labels “mostly false” the claim that universal mail-in ballots are vulnerable to fraud, many will agree and assume the issue is closed.
For those who bother to examine the reasoning for universal mail-in ballots, they will find more logical fallacies behind it all. Beyond relying on arguments from authority, many advocates of universal mail-in ballots will primarily mix up the terms to muddy the waters and derail the conversation, conflating absentee voting, early voting, and universal mail-in voting and treating them all alike. As a bonus, they then accuse President Donald Trump of being a hypocrite for applying for a mail-in ballot himself, and pop-star pundits such as Taylor Swift will stridently condemn his refusal to increase funding for a dysfunctional U.S. Postal Service.
To be clear, an absentee ballot requires an application and various forms of authentication from the person making the request. Universal mail-in ballots do not require an application or much authentication from the voter, so no one can say where they go or who is filling them out. Early voting is simply another option for people to vote before the Election Day rush. Each method works differently, so no one should equate the success of one method with the others. Trump successfully mailing his ballot to Florida doesn’t somehow justify sending a random mail-in ballot to a deceased cat.
Another tactic that abuses the same fallacy is to equate one state’s experience with that of every other state. Mail-in voting proponents love pointing to Utah’s universal mail-in ballots — and what conservative American could argue against anything Utah does? Utah, however, has built up the infrastructure to distribute and collect universal mail-in ballots while other states, such as New York and California, have not, which explains the long delays in tallying votes and innumerable ballots being voided.
If those opposing universal mail-in ballots can make it through these bad arguments, they will then run another one: that mail-in voting has shown little actual evidence of fraud. This statement begs the question because few people ever explain how fraud is detected for a mail-in ballot. In most cases, ballots are verified by a simple signature. If election officials detect a difference between the signature on the ballot and another signature presumably on file, they can report an instance of fraud, which a court can then arbitrate.
This means a person counting votes has every reason to accept a signature and no reason to contest it, unless he wants to go through a messy legal process he might not be able to win. If this is the case, there could be many instances of fraud in mail-in voting, but no one would ever really know.
Furthermore, instances of election officials losing ballots or throwing them away, which happens often, does not actually count as fraud. Even if one-fifth of ballots from New Yorkers might never be counted, that doesn’t necessarily translate to massive fraud in universal mail-in ballots, but massive incompetence. This distinction thus allows Trump’s opponents to attack him for using the word “fraud” when “failure” would be a much more accurate term.
Using universal mail-in ballots would be like giving a test to a class without bothering to proctor it, count out the number of tests correctly, nor even pass it out to the correct students. No one reports any cheating — not the students, the random kids who have a copy of the test, nor the negligent proctor. When the administrator collects the test, he finds many copies in the trash. In the end, however, everyone involved claims the test was fair and that changing this method of testing would be unwarranted and discriminatory.
That’s why everyone who has considered universal mail-in ballots for any length of time knows it would be disastrous. As Barr said, common sense strongly argues against universal mail-in ballots.
Nonetheless, common sense means little when so many people accept the false dilemma of risking their health to exercise their right to vote. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a woman who said marijuana could be used to treat COVID-19, declared without a hint of irony, “People should not have to choose between their health and their vote, and that’s very important.”
Pelosi is right to say voting is important, but she’s wrong to say it’s a choice between health and voting. It really a choice between accepting reason or succumbing to insanity.
We’re in uncharted territory: lockdowns, social anarchy and violence, virtual campaigning, and a heap of known unknowns.
We’re in uncharted territory: lockdowns, social anarchy and violence, virtual campaigning, and a heap of known unknowns.
The nation has never seen an election like this. A mysterious virus from China has terrified the country, killed perhaps 180,000 Americans, and is now weaponized as a political asset to neuter the president. Half the country is still in de facto quarantine. Governments — national, state, and local — for the first time have induced an artificial but severe recession.
The country is convulsed by riots, looting, and urban violence, but with the novelty that many governors and mayors have either turned a blind eye to the anarchy or contextualized it as a legitimate reaction to social injustice.
Joe Biden has been incommunicado for nearly four months, so much so that the Democratic Party believes that his vice-presidential running mate may well be the next president much sooner than later. And the media seek to shield Biden from himself by aborting normal journalistic scrutiny — on the unspoken surety that he is not cogitatively able to conduct a normal campaign and, indeed, in one unguarded moment of confusion and bewilderment, might well sink the entire 2020 progressive agenda.
The result is a virtual candidate, with virtual issues, and a virtual campaign. How then can we adjudicate what issues will matter?
1) The Lockdown. More or less, Americans followed the March–June lockdowns that seemed at least for a while to slow the viral spread. Of course, “flattening the curve” to prevent hospital overcrowding soon insidiously morphed into the impossible task of stopping the virus by shutting down the economy and quarantining the population. I suppose the theory was “we had to destroy the health of a society to ensure it was healthy.”
We know from Sweden and the gradual diminution in cases in the hardest hit states of the U.S. Northeast that the virus has a say in such policies. It seems determined to have an initial spike followed by a lull and yet another lesser spike, before it finds it harder to infect more vulnerable victims, as antibodies and T-cells increasingly ensure either growing de facto immunity or asymptotic infection, all while herd immunity rises and the virus plays itself.
We will soon, perhaps in a year or so, learn of the real tally of forced quarantines — the substance abuse, child abuse, retrogression in millions of young students denied K–12 learning and supervision, missed health diagnostics and preventative care, and delayed or cancelled surgeries. And the tab will likely be far higher than the coronavirus death count and the post-viral fatigue and morbidity of stricken but recovering patients. In other words, there were never blue/red choices or Democratic/Republican ones, but only bad and worse and all in between.
Fairly or not, the lockdown as a political issue is now crystalized as back-to-school/not-back-to-school for millions of the nation’s students, the vast majority of whom are either going to be immune — or asymptomatic if infected. To the degree Trump makes the moral argument that in such a lose/lose scenarios we have far more to forfeit by keeping kids home than at school, and that we can protect vulnerable teachers through reassignments from classroom teaching, he will win the issue.
Biden’s insistence that schools remain closed is likely a losing issue, because voters know that locked-in families are increasingly not viable —economically, physically, and psychologically, and in a way that outweighs even their fear of the virus. As a grandfather of a special-needs child, I can attest that the months without skilled teaching and classroom stimulation have been disastrous — they’ve now wiped away much of the stunning progress achieved in the past year by skilled and emphatic classroom teachers.
2) COVID. Like any other natural or manmade disaster — from 9/11 to Katrina to the 2008 financial crisis — the sitting president gets praised or blamed depending on whether the catastrophe is seen as waning or waxing, even if it is well beyond a president’s ability to either worsen or mitigate any such disaster.
COVID up until now is a he said/she said, dead-ender, as data can be adduced that the U.S. did better than the UK or Spain but worse than Germany, or should have/should have not issued the travel ban, quarantines, or earlier/later or not at all. The point is not the past status of the virus, but that the trajectory from October 1 to November 3 — Election Day — will become political. If the second spike deflates, the virus seems to decline, and people instinctually regain confidence, with news of impending vaccines and far better treatments, then Trump will benefit from that reality. If we see a third spike at this time — say, one that falls heavily on teachers who returned to work in some states — then Biden will claim “I told you so.”
3) The Economy. Even Biden cannot argue that the pre-viral economy was inert when he knows it was booming by any historical marker. Its weakness — huge deficits — is neutralized as an issue because Biden and Harris, to meet their fantasy agendas, would borrow far more than even Trump has. Polls understandably continue to suggest more voter confidence in Trump than in Biden on economic issues. Whether the economy — rather than the lockdown and virus — is the news will hinge on whether it continues to recover or suffers a sudden debt/financial/liquidity crisis.
4) The Violence and Social Anarchy. The wreckage of the inner core of our major cities should be Trump’s greatest issue, given that even blue-city mayors and the network and cable news industry cannot censor all the sickening and nihilistic violence. The Left and its appeasers own the violence. Initially, they proudly enabled the demonstrations in hopes of weaponizing the outrage over the death of George Floyd into another “Charlottesville” writ against Trump.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
The meme that Trump’s “stormtroopers” want to take over cities is now a stale joke, given that Antifa seems eager to roast Portland police personnel in their barricaded precinct, while looters in the million-dollar mile of Chicago greedily target Gucci and Nikes as “reparations” justice.
If Trump frames the issue that he is the only sane impediment between all that and civilization, he will be helped enormously. Biden’s recourse seems to be to stay quiet about the violence and to outsource support for the demonstrators to Harris, while he now and again nods to law and order and claims he wants to defund the police without defunding the police. In a larger sense, Biden seems fixated on past May-June inert issues that often drove down Trump’s polls, but seems baffled that the real challenges are August-October issues that are quite different, fluid, and breaking in Trump’s direction.
5) The Strange Case of the Biden VP. In Democratic terms, Harris was the only viable pick once Biden explicitly limited his running-mate selection to a woman and implicitly to a black woman. The other younger, more woke candidates were unvetted — and for good reason given their now exposed pasts. The only other candidate with stature is Susan Rice, who has never been elected to anything; but, more important, seems incapable of telling the truth, and she tends to alienate everyone with whom she deals.
But Harris has problems of her own that explain why she exited the Democratic primaries early with nonexistent support. She is rude, often ill-prepared, demagogic, and seems to think her role as VP is threefold: a) Trotskyization of her recent hard-left social persona that failed so miserably in the primaries; b) a wink and nod “centrist” rebirth, by carefully referencing her career as a California prosecutor (when in fact she was a vindictive DA), and c) privately reassuring leftists, donors, Sandernistas, and the Antifa/BLM crowd that if they elect Biden now, they will be very soon be electing Harris, who will revert to her hard-core leftist essence, since she will not have to face voters as she did in 2019. In sum, her appointment prompted short-term giddiness; but in retrospect, her long-term negatives will start becoming an issue.
6) Socialism. The new old Joe Biden is not really a socialist convert. He is a naïve Menshevik who has no idea of the nature of those who are telling him what to say and do. So far, he has mixed the message that he is impaired and personally fearful of the coronavirus — understandable given his age and health — with his usual platitudinous phrases (“first, second, . . .”; “come on, man”) and calls for patriotic obeyance to the quarantine. Throughout, he avoids telling America what he is for and what he is against— and whether the agendas of Bernie Sanders, AOC, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren are his own.
Whether before or during the debates, Biden will have to answer yes or no to fracking, reparations, government confiscations of semi-automatic guns (even the U.S. government cannot buy “back” what one never “owned”), Medicare for all, the end of border-wall construction, decoupling with China, free health care for illegal aliens, a wealth tax, a 40 percent-plus income-tax rate on higher incomes, and getting back into the Iran deal and the Paris climate accord. The strangest thing about this strange Biden campaign is that we all know what the hard Left was for in the primaries, we all know that Biden and Harris have embraced that losing message, and yet we known that no one will simply say, New Green Deal? Hell, Yes! Reparations? Of course! Open borders? Why Not?
Never have such contortionist candidates disowned the very issues that they bragged would usher them to victory, while reinventing themselves as something they are not — with the surety that they’d revert to what they are if they were elected.
7) Tweeting versus Mental Confusion. The proverbial swing voter in the ten or so states is the key to the election. Without much sweat, Trump will fire up his base and the old Perot/Reagan Democrat/Tea Party voters who previously hid in 2008 and 2012 or voted Obama. He may well capture 10–15 percent of the black vote and 40 percent of the Latino vote. But he could still lose, given lots of new variables, like mass mail-in voting and third-party vote harvesting like the kind that destroyed California’s quite accomplished congressional incumbents and candidates in 2018.
Conventional wisdom reminds us that Trump needs to win a majority of independent suburbanites in these key purple states. The issue is simple: Do they fear getting only a recorded message when calling 9/11, an Antifa punk showing up at their corner park, a BLM looter across the street from their Costco, or another no-bail, turnstile, parolee carjacking — more than they are turned off by Trump’s tweeting, his epithets, and his shouting about “fake news”?
What bothers these pivotal voters most: Trump on the rampage whining about how biased reporters spin fake news, or ten seconds of dead silence as Biden looks in vain for his wife, or a toady reporter, to steer him back to his prompt and his place in the script? In contrast, Trump’s most able cabinet members and advisors—Barr, Pompeo, and the recently arrived Scott Atlas—are increasingly appearing in high-profile, visible roles, and proving invaluable to the campaign
8) Known Unknowns. In the next eight days, all sorts of breaking news can change the pulse of the election. Will other Gulf Arab states join the UAE in recognizing Israel? Will Russia intervene in Belarus? Will China provoke an incident with Hong Kong or Taiwan or unleash its pit bull North Korea to embarrass Trump? Will the health of the septuagenarians Biden and Trump stay constant? Will John Durham flip a wannabe fixer like Eric Clinesmith to snare the principles in the veritable coup to destroy Trump? Will Kamala Harris go full Antifa/BLM? Will a mysterious tape, recording, intercept of a long dormant scandal appear in Access Hollywood/George W. Bush DUI style? Will Biden or Trump go full Howard Dean/I have a scream and shout “YAAAAHH!” to wreck his campaign? We all know some sort of attempted October surprise is coming, we just don’t know its magnitude and effect.
9) The Virtual Election. No one knows either how we can elect a president through virtual campaigning, virtual conventions, and perhaps virtual debates and virtual voting by mail. We suspect that Joe Biden’s cognitive challenges are the stimulus for the left-wing effort to cite the virus as grounds for changing the rules. But even when rules change, they don’t always change as the changers anticipated.
10) Sleeper Cells. In 2016, money didn’t matter. Hillary Clinton vastly outraised and outspent Trump in nearly every state. Polls of the Electoral College were way off. Voters do lie to pollsters because they don’t want their names on electronic lists, or they decline to say out loud what they like about Trump, or they’re just amused by the idea of screwing up left-wing analyses.
Worse in 2016 were the silly quoted odds that Clinton would win — often reaching absurd disparities such as a 4–1, 5–1, or 10–1 sure thing. In 2016, “organization” didn’t matter. Robbie Mook was declared a genius and proved a fool; Trump’s campaign was said to be foolish run by a bigger fool Steven Bannon, plagued by government subversion and serial firings and hirings — and yet it proved far more sophisticated in its analytics and strategies. Do record gun sales, crashing ratings for the woke NBA, weird outlier polls, voters’ own belief that Trump will win or that their neighbors will vote him in, etc. mean anything? Is right now August 2016, when the polls just can’t be wrong — again?
In sum, the more Trump talks about his empathy for the suburbanite and inner-city dweller, both deprived of their civil rights to safety and security by deliberately lax, blue-state law enforcement, the more he expresses his bewilderment but undeniable compassion for Biden’s tragic, steady cognitive decline, and the more he seems too busy to tweet about much other than the landmark Israel–UAE deal, an impending COVID vaccine and therapy breakthroughs, unexpected economic uptick indicators, and his efforts to save the nation’s children from the disaster of two lost two school years, all the more likely swing voters will break in his favor.
And all the more likely he will confound the learned-nothing/forgotten-nothing polls.
President Trump has repeatedly warned of potential voter fraud associated with mass mail-in ballots for the November election, but a bigger threat might be sheer incompetence. Can we really rely on the U.S. Postal Service to handle a nationwide influx of mail-in ballots beginning next month?
So far, there’s not much reason for confidence. Last week in New York City, the Board of Elections threw out more than 84,000 mail-in ballots for the June 23 Democratic primary. That was out of a total of nearly 319,000 mail-in ballots, which means about 21 percent of all mail-in ballots were invalidated.
The New York Post reported, “One out of four mail-in ballots were disqualified for arriving late, lacking a postmark or failing to include a voter’s signature, or other defects.” What’s more, it took six weeks to declare a winner in two closely watched Democratic congressional primary races, largely because of delays associated with a surge of mail-in votes.
Elsewhere around the country, similar problems are cropping up. In Pennsylvania, mail-in ballot problems kept tens of thousands of residents from voting in the June primaries. In California, more than 100,000 mail-in ballots were rejected in the March presidential primary, mostly for missing the postmark and arrival deadlines.
Missing deadlines is turning out to be a real problem. A recent NPR analysis of 2020 mail-in primary ballots found significant rates of rejection because of late arrival. In Virginia, for example, more than 5.6 percent of all primary mail-in ballots were thrown out for arriving after the deadline. The numbers themselves are not large, but in a close election they can make all the difference—after all, Trump won in 2016 because of just 80,000 votes in three key states.
All these problems suggest the Postal Service isn’t prepared to handle an influx of voting by mail this November, as well as the possibility that no winner will be declared on election night because of mail-in ballot delays.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy last week said the Postal Service is expecting “an unprecedented increase in election mail volume due to the pandemic,” yet insisted it “has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on time in accordance with our delivery standards.”
Based on all the mail-in ballot problems we’ve seen so far this year, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Postal Service has been bleeding money for a long time—its losses this year reached $1.5 billion, compared to $1.1 billion last year—and the coronavirus pandemic has made things worse as the volume of mail sent by businesses has plummeted. Last month, the Postal Service agreed to a $10 billion loan from the U.S. Treasury Department after congressional negotiations to give the service as much as $25 billion fell through.
DeJoy’s efforts to manage these losses, which include a hiring freeze for leadership positions announced last week, have been denounced by Democrats who sound increasingly like conspiracy theorists. Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, the Democrat who chairs the committee overseeing the postal service, accused DeJoy of “deliberate sabotage to disrupt mail service on the eve of the election—an election that hinges on mail-in ballots.”
Democrats complain that DeJoy, a Republican and a Trump supporter, is a “partisan” postmaster general, and that his efforts to shore up the Postal Service are really a ploy to steal the election.
But to the extent the Postal Service has a political bias, it certainly isn’t DeJoy’s fault—and in fact, it goes in the other direction. Last month, the American Postal Workers Union’s National Executive Board endorsed Joe Biden, saying in a statement that Trump is “a serious threat to our decent postal jobs, our unions and to the right of the people to a public Postal Service.”
That’s not to say there’s a conspiracy in the other direction, that Postal Service workers are going to mishandle mail-in ballots on purpose to hurt Trump. Only that relying on a failing government agency like the Postal Service to ensure the integrity of a presidential election might not be a good idea, especially given all the problems we’ve already seen with mail-in ballots in primary elections this year.
Election security has a key issue since the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Over the past three years, many states have taken aggressive actions to strengthen their election infrastructure to provide enhanced security and resiliency for the 2020 primary and general elections. The global COVID-19 pandemic has added a new layer of complexity as local election authorities consider how to protect voter registration systems and rapidly pivot to a massive increase in the mail-in and absentee voting. The prevalence of election officials working from home and accessing election systems only expands opportunities for bad actors to disrupt or cause a loss of public confidence in the election system.
Election security issues range from direct threats, to the vote tally itself, to disinformation and influence operations by foreign actors. As of June 2019, we have not observed threat actors successfully altering vote tallies or results in any US election. That is the good news. The bad news is we know there are threat actors out there actively trying to influence U.S. voters, and by extension, the outcome of elections. The impact from the pandemic only exacerbates this concern.
Election security threats should be looked at as an ecosystem categorized into three principal layers. Each layer is equally important but is targeted in different ways by those trying to collect intelligence, target data, and impact the confidence of American voters. This impact would give threat actors precisely what they are looking for — the power to sway a vote or extend a political agenda. Each layer also has its own unique set of information technology, processes, and related risks that must be accounted for when planning for a robust defense.
The inner, and most critical segment is the voting infrastructure layer. This layer encompasses all of the systems and technology directly supporting the casting, recording, tallying, management, and certification of votes. The targeting of this infrastructure is the most concerning because it could have a direct impact on both the integrity and availability of the voting process. Fortunately, given the federated and generally segmented nature of voting systems in the U.S., there is a its limited attack surface presented to threat actors. Modifying or preventing the casting of enough ballots to change the outcome of national election undetected would be extremely difficult. Although we haven’t directly seen vote tallies altered by malicious actors in U.S. elections, that doesn’t mean they have not been trying. The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian targeting of U.S. election infrastructure stated that they observed adversaries conducting vulnerability scans targeted at election systems in every single state in the U.S. during the runup to the 2016 election. The larger systemic risk at this layer is an erosion of public trust in the voting process and the integrity of the results if these critical systems cannot demonstrate consistent and sustained security and resiliency against cyberattacks.
The second layer of the election ecosystem are the organizations and systems involved in supporting elections. These include infrastructure such as voter registration systems, and boards of election and election commission networks. For any adversary who intends to disrupt or influence elections, these government administrative networks represent the next most direct and impactful targets of opportunity. In the past, state and local officials, electoral registers, and commissions have all been targeted by actors in attempts to disrupt elections. While such compromises may not provide access to properly segmented election systems, threat actors compromising institutions affiliated with elections have the potential to disrupt pre-election and election day activities and more deeply damage the public’s faith in the electoral process should news of such intrusions become public. Beyond the threats from nation state actors, U.S. officials are publicly concerned about the effect ransomware attacks might have on the 2020 presidential elections, as the threat from criminals utilizing disruptive malware continues to impact state and local governments.
The third and most exposed layer of the election ecosystem represents all of the individuals and organizations with some stake in the political campaigning process, from social networks and news organizations to donor groups and political parties. Threat activity that has historically been observed in this segment has included cyber espionage — and in some cases the purposeful leaking of the data obtained in that manner — as well as disinformation campaigns. While far removed from altering actual systems that votes are cast or tabulated on, this sort of threat activity presents opportunities for malicious actors to attempt to influence public perception and guide a narrative which they hope will amplify a particular message or divide voters on crucial issues, This layer is often forgotten or much less visible to voters and the media, and yet can have an impact on their decisions inside the polling booth. If threat actors can successfully manipulate information so close to the election that there isn’t enough time to authenticate fabricated content being disseminated, irreversible damage may be done. Even if our adversaries are not directly successful, the fallout from foreign manipulation (actual or perceived), can have major consequences to both policy and public discourse for years after the election.
The seriousness of this threat transcends politics or policy disagreements. All stakeholders in the democratic process, from state and local election officials, to federal support functions, to campaigns and parties, have limited time and resources to adapt given new challenges posed by COVID-19. To best secure the U.S elections this year we must take an approach that understands the same threat actors and sponsors may target multiple parts of the ecosystem. Similarly, election security is not about a single candidate or one party over another. All sides are targets. This is about an attempt to divide and erode democratic institutions and confidence in our voting process. There is an urgent need to defend our democracy against these disruptive and divisive attacks. We are all much more aware and educated about the risks and threats facing our elections than we were four years ago. With a concerned and focused effort, we can ensure a safe, fair, and free election for all Americans.
It’s been decades since the Democrats settled on a presidential nominee as weak as former Vice President Joe Biden. He’s not popular in his own party. In Tuesday’s Kentucky presidential primary, for example, he only won about 60 percent of the vote—and he’s already clinched the nomination.
Party leaders should be worried about this. It’s not as though the only Democrats to show up in the Bluegrass State on Tuesday were the fringes and the freaks. The suddenly competitive race between former congressional candidate Amy McGrath and State Senator Charles Booker for the nomination to go against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the fall brought out Democrats of all stripes all over the state. Much of the party faithful, it’s clear, just doesn’t like the idea of a Biden presidency.
If things were any worse, the talk of replacing him at the top of the ticket might be at a fever pitch by now. Instead, while he hides in his basement—and perhaps because he does—Biden is ahead in every national poll, just about every poll in just about every swing state and is preferred by most voters to Donald Trump on every issue except the handling of the economy. And even if the polls are suspect, as Trump’s team and many Republicans say they are, the Democrats must be pleased with the sentiments those polls reveal.
For all intents and purposes, it is a strange election indeed. Which makes the decision to play the “Obama card” so early in the process curious.Ads by scrollerads.com
Obama is the big gun. He’s Mr. Charisma. He’s the face of the Democratic Party everybody loves. Usually, you’d hold someone like him back for the fall election and then work him nearly to death, sending him to every targeted state, time and again, on the party’s behalf. If Hillary Clinton had been able to do that with husband Bill in 2016, she might have won, but—for reasons already discussed ad nauseam—Republicans like Roger Stone kept him pretty much on the sidelines. Yet rather than hold Obama in reserve to move the voters they need to win late in the election, the Biden people rolled him out earlier in order to raise money.
It makes some sense. Biden may be leading the polls, but he’s trailed way behind Trump in fundraising. That, oddly enough, may end up being what makes the difference in November. The free campaign being waged by the pundits, political reporters and news channels on Biden’s behalf have made the election a referendum on Trump.
That’s a hard race for anyone to win, let alone the current president—especially given the cynical nature of most American voters. No contemporary politician except possibly Ronald Reagan—who won 49 of 50 states in 1984—could run against his own record and win. No one is that good. No one is that beloved. Even Barack Obama, unlike Bill Clinton, got fewer votes running for re-election than he did in 2008.
If it were up to the people who establish the national campaign narratives on the newspapers and TV screens, the campaign would remain a referendum on Trump. But they can’t control that. The president needs to change the conversation and make the election a choice between competing visions of what America should be—and force voters to make that choice.
Team Trump can do it. It has more money in the bank than any of his predecessors, money that’s being used to establish communication channels all over social media. The campaign is even doing original programming to counter what’s airing on the networks. It’s a great leap forward, and Biden alone can’t raise the money to match. So in that sense, playing the Obama card now makes sense. The former vice president’s campaign needs the kind of money only someone of the former president’s stature can raise right now.
It may also be that Obama, while of great value to candidates down-ballot in the general election, won’t be able to help Biden on the stump much at all. The former president will always overshadow the would-be future president at every joint appearance. Appearing on his own, he’s a constant reminder to every Democrat and independent of how charisma- and vision-challenged Biden actually is.
Keeping Biden in the basement may not have been intended as a strategy, at first. It may have just been a response to the COVID-19 lockdowns. But now it looks like a blessing in disguise. The voters, at least right now, are showing a decisive preference for the candidate they can’t see over the one they can. It’s not clear if that is sustainable, but the Democrats will try to keep it going for as long as they can. Unfortunately for the down-ballot races, that may mean keeping Obama under wraps, too. They can’t risk giving Trump anything to play off other than himself.
As Bernie Sanders exits stage left, the general election begins. Where do things stand?
Our unprecedented president—the first to win office without prior government or military experience—confronts an unprecedented situation: A pandemic that has forced the government to put the economy to sleep months before a presidential election.
The last time America faced something similar was 1918. The Spanish Flu decimated a population mobilized for its first European war. State and local governments implemented lockdowns, quarantines, and other social-distancing measures to slow the spread of infection.
The midterm campaign was conducted against a background of fear. In San Francisco, authorities required poll workers and voters to wear masks. It was, said the San Francisco Chronicle, “the first masked ballot ever known in the history of America.”
If this masked ballot is anything like its predecessor, the incumbent is in trouble. The voters who showed up on Election Day 1918 rebuked Woodrow Wilson’s Democratic Party. It lost control of both the House and the Senate. Two years later, Democrats lost the White House as well.
As Jason Marisam observes in an excellent paper on the 1918 election, the epidemic changed campaign practices. Mass gatherings were canceled. Candidates relied on newsprint and direct mail. It was a preview of the campaign that may be in our future, where coronavirus task force briefings replace MAGA rallies and Joe Biden addresses a virtual Democratic National Convention from his rec room.
The other noticeable effect of the flu was low turnout. Indeed, when you look at voting patterns during times of emergency—times of war, hurricanes, earthquake, tornado, and plague—you see low turnout across the board. It’s the one constant.
A low-turnout election would interrupt the recent trend upward. Who would benefit? It is too early to say. Republicans have the mistaken impression that high turnout favors Democrats. That is not necessarily the case. After all, Republicans have a larger pool of irregular voters—whites without college degrees—to draw from. And in a polarized environment, in a base mobilization election, every marginal voter counts.
President Trump needs massive turnout from his rural and exurban supporters. He starts this race behind. For the past month, Biden has led in every poll but one in the RealClearPolitics average. (Fox has a tie.) That lead may narrow when pollsters screen only likely voters. That lead might not be as great as Hillary Clinton’s was at this point in 2016. But this race is different.
Trump isn’t an outsider staring down the epitome of the Beltway elite. He’s the incumbent. His personality and record have been on display for four years. And Biden isn’t Clinton. He is winning big margins among voters who hold unfavorable views of both candidates—a group that went for Trump by double digits in 2016.
Trump trades within a narrow band. He won the Electoral College with 46 percent of the popular vote, a level of popularity he has exceeded only once in the RealClear average since February 2017. On the other hand, he hasn’t fallen below 40 percent job approval since March 2018. Election analyst Henry Olsen estimatesTrump’s pre-election approval rating needs to stand at 46 or 47 percent for him to win a second term. As I write, he is at 45 percent.
What must worry Republicans is the effect that rising jobless numbers will have on President Trump’s fortunes. As the saying goes, when the economy is the issue, it’s the only issue. And the direction of the economy matters more than static figures. The pre-coronavirus economy over which Trump presided was a political asset. Things were on the upswing. Americans were confident about their future. A deep and prolonged recession will be a liability.
Which is one reason many Republicans are eager for the economy to reopen. Trump as well as the jobless would benefit from a “V-shaped” recovery in the weeks before Election Day. The question is whether that is a likely possibility. Some skepticism is warranted. Nor is it the case that the president simply can announce the economy is reopened. Most authority lies in states and localities. And the ultimate verdict is the people’s. Everyone from Trump to Pelosi to DeWine to Cuomo could say it’s time to work and shop and dine out. If Americans are still worried about contracting the virus, they will stay home.
The president’s job is to demonstrate competence and compassion while leading the federal response to coronavirus. I’ll leave you to judge his performance. The public seemed to approve of his initial handling of the outbreak, but now things are reverting to the mean. It’s a position that leaves Donald Trump little room for error as America prepares its second masked ballot.
According to many viewers, the presence of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the Democratic stage Wednesday night turned a debate between presidential wannabes into a dumpster fire.
That’s a colorful way to look at what transpired in Nevada, but it’s also wrong. The dumpster fire started weeks ago, when it became clear Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was going to be the man to beat on the way to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg’s appearance just added a lot more fuel.
While Bloomberg, a multibillionaire financial news executive and philanthropist funding liberal causes, may be the most electable candidate in the race, he’s also the one least likely to be nominated. He’s not surging so much as shimmering, a flash in the pan that for all practical purposes is likely soon to burn out.
His billions, even if he’s spending them on defeating Trump and other causes deemed worthy by the folks who write the editorials for The New York Times and like-minded publications, render him anathema to the party activists and allies who believe the wealth gap is an urgent crisis the nation must confront. He’s not a socialist. He believes in markets and defends the capitalist system, which, in the years since Barack Obama became president, has fallen into disfavor among many in the Democratic base.
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His policies regarding the need for people to take responsibility for their life choices runs into the victimization organization of the Democratic Party like a log into a buzz saw. He says things about the poor and minorities that make people uncomfortable or even angry. And he can’t win their votes while alienating them.
The people who believe that money is everything in American politics think that’s what makes Bloomberg a factor. They’re probably right. He couldn’t get as far as he has without spending something just south of $500 million in this election alone. But, as the song says, “money isn’t everything.” You have to have a compelling message to go with it, and Bloomberg showed on the stage Wednesday night that he does not. Sure, “Mike Gets It Done” is a great slogan, but there are a lot of folks asking themselves what the “it” he’ll get done as president is.
There are other problems with his candidacy that have been better described by writers more capable than I, so there’s no need to take him apart piece by piece. Suffice it to say, every problem he has on issues is encapsulated in one form or another in the difficulties he’s having on both sides of the issue of “stop-and-frisk.”
For many independents and people concerned with basic “kitchen table” issues like law and order, it was a crime prevention policy that made sense. And contrary to the misinformed opinion of critics, the practice itself is constitutional. The United States Supreme Court said so in 1968, which is the last time it had something to say on the matter.
The crime rate came way down once the political leadership in Manhattan decided that people who jump subway turnstiles just might be committing other crimes like rape, robbery and murder. New York became known as the safest big city in North America. By turning his back on “stop-and-frisk,” Bloomberg is in effect apologizing for effective law enforcement and keeping people safe.
That’s going to alienate many independents, whom he’d need to win the election, while liberal activists who think America’s police are out of control and, in a manner of speaking, at war with African-Americans and Latinos remain furious the policy ever existed. And that’s an issue for Bloomberg that won’t be going away anytime soon.
To put it another way, Bloomberg’s biggest problem is the things that make him electable also make him unelectable. He may continue to surge a bit in the national polls, but he’ll start in the back of the pack in the hunt for delegates and likely stay there. That is probably appropriate, since he isn’t really a Democrat. Then again, neither is the man most likely to win the party’s nomination, unless the superdelegates, the super PACs and the people who hold the real power in the Democratic Party can figure out a way to steal the nomination from him again.
As part of their populist platforms, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have vowed to get rid of the Electoral College, so that the U.S. President is chosen by a direct popular vote. Likewise, Pete Buttigieghas also pledged support for the initiative, with Amy Klobuchar indicating her openness to the proposal. That structural change, if made, would profoundly impact all future political campaigns, as candidates would ignore former swing states in order to run up tallies in populous places like California, Florida, New York, and Texas. The consequences that would follow from such a dramatic realignment of voting power would greatly increase the risk of election fraud, such that the ensuing nationwide recounts would make Bush v. Gore look like a modest political skirmish.
Progressives are highly unlikely to gain sufficient support to implement this major reform through constitutional amendment. But right now, two major Supreme Court cases—Colorado Department of State v. Baca and Chiafalo v. Washington—pose the serious risk of undermining the integrity of the Electoral College by changing the long-established practice that all electors must vote as a bloc to support the presidential nominee of their party. In 48 states, the entire state follows that winner-take-all mandate. In Maine and Nebraska, the winner-take-all system is done by congressional district.
But in the aftermath of the November 2016 election, which Trump won by 306 to 232 electoral votes, both of the named electors in each aforementioned case were committed to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton but did not vote for her. In Colorado, Michael Baca, a Clinton elector, cast his ballot for then Ohio governor John Kasich; in Washington, Peter Bret Chiafalo voted for Republican Colin Powell. These two votes were not isolated events, as ten electors followed the same path in an attempt to block Donald Trump from becoming president by persuading enough Republican electors to defect so that Trump’s total would fall below 270 votes. Their acts of defiant independence brought forth prompt responses. Colorado replaced Baca with a new elector who voted for Clinton; Washington fined Chiafalo $1,000 for his action.
The intellectual leader of this movement to undo the Electoral College is Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, whose Equal Citizen’s initiative has spurred the campaign to transform the American electoral system. Taking a page from Lessig Equal Citizen’s playbook, Baca and Chiafalo describe themselves as Hamilton Electors, because they insist that their actions are meant to return the Electoral College to the initial prominence ascribed to it by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 68. Hamilton regarded popular democracy as a debased form of government, in contrast to the elitist republican form of government. The former relied heavily on direct elections; the latter used more complex indirect elections. He wrote: “And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place. . . . Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption.”
In essence, the original Electoral College required that each state would have its own mini-deliberative sessions until the electors made up their mind. This setup is patterned on the Catholic College of Cardinals, which uses a similar voting method to pick the next pope. But there is a vast difference between the two devices. The Cardinals who vote are not the agents of anyone, so it is proper for them to be able to vote their own consciences. But the electors in a presidential election are the agents of the voters who selected them. Faithless electors could therefore betray the wish of the voters who selected them.
Hence the practice quickly arose for electors to “pledge” themselves to the candidate whose slate of electors they joined. As noted in McPherson v. Blacker (1892), “experience soon demonstrated” that these electors “were so chosen simply to register the will of the appointing power in respect of a particular candidate.” Sixty years later, Ray v Blair (1952) held that the Executive Committee of Alabama was within its rights when it refused to certify Blair as a primary elector because he refused to “pledge to aid and support ‘the nominees of the National Convention of the Democratic Party for President and Vice-President of the United States.’” In so doing, the Court rejected the view that the complex Twelfth Amendment, passed in 1804 and which called for electors to “meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President,” necessarily gave them the same discretion that Hamilton had contemplated in Federalist 68.
Ray might be distinguished from Baca and Chiafalo for two reasons: first, Ray involved a primary election contest, and second, it did not specify any sanctions that could be lodged against a certified elector who voted his own conscience. But neither of these points should make the slightest difference. The principles of electoral integrity that apply to primaries carry over to general elections, where the stakes are even higher.
In addition, Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” The words “shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” cannot be sensibly read to say that the only power of the state is to make the appointment, when it is certainly necessary and proper that it imposes restrictions that ensure that the appointed elector will follow the instructions of the state legislature.
Nonetheless, this Clause is given just that truncated meaning by Equal Citizens, which writes: “of ‘electors’—that is, choosers—to make their own free choice, as politicians of both parties have recognized.”
That argument should be emphatically rejected. It should never be the case that the potential elector who makes known his independence before selection can be rightly denied his place, but the savvy elector who conceals his intention before being chosen is entitled thereafter to vote his conscience and disregard his oath.
In this connection, Colorado therefore was fully within its rights to pull the errant Baca from his place and appoint a substitute. Full relief against this constitutional abuse cannot be obtained by any lesser means, so that removal and replacement is needed to stop the ex post defection. Washington state, in contrast, did not exercise its full constitutional power when it imposed a small fine to achieve that same end. But that small fine is little deterrent to future defections, so Washington should adopt the Colorado solution. Otherwise, the risk that mass defections could turn any election into a free-for-all becomes too great.
Ironically, these faithless electors purport to return to some originalist conception of the Constitution. But their unilateral actions do not get us to that place, given that they reserve the right to defect without participating in any collective deliberation, past or future. Moreover, if that constitutional transformation were accepted, then the entire system of selecting electors would become hopelessly politicized, with little chance that Hamilton’s elites would control.
Right now, the selection of electors is no big deal. But if their individual views were to count, then voters would want to know their electors’ (nonbinding) intentions to determine whether they would defect from the party’s nominee once chosen. At this point, the entire selection process would become far more complex and indeterminate. Just who would choose them? And once chosen, could these electors resist powerful interest group pressures to change their views? A new round of campaigns would begin before the vote took place, and continue nonstop in close elections until the votes were cast in December.
People might even insist that their electors actually deliberate, instead of just mouth-off, which could further postpone the final tally until those sessions were concluded. That delay could in turn postpone the transition between presidents, inviting yet further discord. Increased popular disaffection would undermine presidential legitimacy. And for what?
To be sure, today’s practices unmistakably deviate from the design of the Founders. But such transformations are common to our constitutional history. Judicial review, which gives the Supreme Court final say over the validity of all federal and state laws, forms no part of the original constitutional plan, but was instituted by judicial decision from an early date—most notably in Marbury v. Madison(1803), and Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (1816). As I argued in The Classical Liberal Constitution, these decisions have become embedded in our prescriptive constitution through long-use. That deliberative process protects the nation from imprudent convulsions, which would follow if Hamilton’s misguided elitism somehow became law.
The Supreme Court should reject emphatically this unwise invitation to rewrite our nation’s history. And when it does, calmer heads in the political arena will reconfirm the wisdom of its ways.
By Red State•
I have to admit that my biggest surprises of this election cycle have been the speed with which former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s favorite underling, Kamala Harris, crashed and burned and the difficulty that Elizabeth Warren has zipping to the head of the field. If you check my writing earlier in this year, I fully expected the 2020 contest to be a Trump-Warren cage match.
That has not materialized. Harris is out. Warren is engaged in a race for second place with superannuated commie Bernie Sanders. And, as in most competitive endeavors, the technical term for someone finishing in second place is “loser.”
Why might that be? The New York Times has an answer, the major media are just too biased towards centrist candidates.
Last month, [Politico founding editor and current columnist John F.] Harris wrote a column that I can’t get out of my head. In it, he argued that political journalism suffers from “centrist bias.” As he explained, “This bias is marked by an instinctual suspicion of anything suggesting ideological zealotry, an admiration for difference-splitting, a conviction that politics should be a tidier and more rational process than it usually is.”
The bias caused much of the media to underestimate Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Donald Trump in 2016. It also helps explain the negative tone running through a lot of the coverage of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders this year.
Centrist bias, as I see it, confuses the idea of centrism (which is very much an ideology) with objectivity and fairness. It’s an understandable confusion, because American politics is dominated by the two major parties, one on the left and one on the right. And the overwhelming majority of journalists at so-called mainstream outlets — national magazines, newspapers, public radio, the non-Fox television networks — really are doing their best to treat both parties fairly.
Once you start thinking about centrist bias, you recognize a lot of it. It helps explain why the 2016 presidential debates focused more on the budget deficit, a topic of centrist zealotry, than climate change, almost certainly a bigger threat. (Well-funded deficit advocacy plays a role too.) Centrist bias also helps explain the credulousness of early coverage during the Iraq and Vietnam wars. Both Democrats and Republicans, after all, largely supported each war.
The theory goes this way. Because the media are unwilling to give a fair hearing to outside-the-box ideas, those ideas never take off. And the columnist points to many things that were not considered moderate and now are.
The abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, labor rights, the New Deal, civil rights for black Americans, Reagan’s laissez-faire revolution and same-sex marriage all started outside the boundaries of what either party favored.
I think that is a fairly shallow understanding of any of those issues. For instance, when you read the Republican platform for the 1860 election, it is pretty obvious that at least one party was running for office on the idea of abolition of slavery. If this columnist is in doubt, the slave state governors were not.
All in all, I think this theory is one of those self-pleasuring exercises to which our media is prone. If you look at the coverage given any campaign by the media, you will actually find next to no coverage of any significant issue. If you’re getting your economic commentary from any outlet that employs Paul Krugman, you’re really doing it all wrong. Quite honestly, the media are not at all reticent about pushing outlandish ideas when their reporters are sympathetic to the cause. If you’re trying to tell me the media did not push homosexual marriage and are not agitating for a pride of place for transgenderism now, you’re nuts.
Neither Warren nor Sanders failing to excite the masses is a mystery. Everyone knows Warren is a fraud and a liar. Even if you think President Trump is also a fraud and a liar you are forced to admit that Trump is, at least, an entertaining one who doesn’t care how you spend your money or how many sheets of toilet paper you use per bowel movement. Sanders is a communist. He’s a guy who honeymooned in the USSR while it was aiming nuclear missiles at the United States. No number of position papers and supporting experts is going to get that past a majority of Americans.
As to some of the other specifics. Americans aren’t, at least for another few decades, going to support a “wealth tax” because most Americans hate the IRS much more than they hate rich people. And a lot of us have a sneaking desire to be wealthy one day. Americans aren’t going to support Medicare for All because we saw how the government’s ability to make a soup sandwich out of a functioning program by the Obamacare debacle. Seniors don’t want the system changed. People who have other means don’t want to be a part of it.
The reason why nutty ideas don’t make it to the top tier is because Americans are a fairly conservative people unless faced by extraordinary circumstances. The media don’t push the nutbaggery their staff would support because in order to be credible you have to at least pretend to have a grip on reality. Media coverage of issues actually follows policy debate, it doesn’t lead them.
The claim that the media try to treat both parties fairly is so bizarre as to rate a 911 call and have the nice guys with the butterfly nets and Thorazine cappuccino show up to save the writer from himself.
Nope. It isn’t centrist bias holding back Warren and Sanders. It is their own flaws and the silliness of the policies they are pushing, both of which are readily discernible to even a casual observer, that is causing them to flounder. If there were a centrist bias, then Joe Biden, at least in this Democrat field, would be well over 50%. But he isn’t because there isn’t such a bias and even if there were, the media doesn’t have that kind of impact on the electorate. Or maybe Joe Biden isn’t a centrist. He’s the guy campaigning on free sex-change operations in prison.
This is just another example of a moribund industry trying to puff up its own importance. It is superficial and silly and a perfect metaphor for our political punditry.
The highest law of the land is the Constitution, not the House of Representatives.
The prevailing rationale for the entire impeachment procedure has been that the House of Representatives is the ultimate authority governing the impeachment process. Forgotten in all the blather about the actions of the House is the fact that the highest law of the land is not the will of the House but the Constitution of the United States of America. The Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution explicitly grant to every citizen of this Republic the inalienable right to due process, including the right to face his or her accuser and the right to defense in a court of law.
The “due process amendments” apply to the President of the United States as well as all others. The House denied those rights in this case. The President should file forthwith a lawsuit against the House asking the court to set aside the entire procedure. Likewise, the Senate should refuse to consider the House action until the Supreme Court renders its verdict.
Why is this important? Because the precedent set by this House action portends the doom of our democracy. The House has proven that no elected official is safe from unlawful dismissal from office by the majority vote of the opposition party. In this case, the Democrat majority has unlawfully indicted an American President duly elected by the people without any semblance of due process as established by law and custom.
In addition, the action resulted in re-defining “high crimes and misdemeanors” to include actions which are not crimes by any accepted practice. In this case, “abuse of power” is not a criminal offense because it is simply too vague to be provable. Likewise, the exercise of Executive Privilege is customary and has been accepted practice for the entire history of the Republic.
Consider the consequences of this current action. All that stands between this President and his removal from office is the incidental fact that his party controls the Senate. Suppose he wins reelection but that the opposition party wins control of both Houses of Congress. The current House of Representatives has proven that partisan politics is the primary factor in the decision as to whether or not to vote for his removal from office. Otherwise, there would have been bipartisan support for the House action. This partisan loyalty was also proven in the Clinton case, when both Houses of Congress voted along party lines. It is therefore reasonable to assume that all actions of impeachment and removal will continue to be governed by partisan loyalties.
Back to our example then. Having failed to remove the President from office the first time, it is entirely predictable that the Democrats would try a second time. This time the Senate would convict. Then suppose the President refused to leave office voluntarily and instead, as Commander-in-Chief, he called up the Army to declare martial law and arrest the Democrat members of Congress. Presto: we are now a “Banana Republic” where the military controls the government and dictatorship is a whisker away. Democracy rapidly becomes a thing of the past. No office is safe from partisan impeachment including Supreme Court Justices.
We cannot let this happen. But, if the current House impeachment is allowed to stand, our democratic elections are doomed to fall.
If the National Popular Vote drive kills the Electoral College, rural and small town Americans who supply our food and energy will lose their voice.
By USA Today•
Should rural and small-town Americans be reduced to serfdom? The American Founders didn’t think so. This is one reason why they created checks and balances, including the Electoral College. Today that system is threatened by a proposal called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, or NPV.
Rural America produces almost all our country’s food, as well as raw materials like metals, cotton and timber. Energy, fossil fuels but also alternatives like wind and solar come mostly from rural areas. In other words, the material inputs of modern life flow out of rural communities and into cities.
This is fine, so long as the exchange is voluntary — rural people choose to sell their goods and services, receive a fair price, and have their freedom protected under law. But history shows that city dwellers have a nasty habit of taking advantage of their country cousins. Greeks enslaved whole masses of rural people, known as helots. Medieval Europe had feudalism. The Russians had their serfs.
Credit the American Founders with setting up a system of limited government with lots of checks and balances. The U.S. Senate makes sure all states are represented equally, even low-population rural states like Wyoming and Vermont. Limits on federal power, along with the Bill of Rights, are supposed to protect Americans from overreaching federal regulations. And the Electoral College makes it impossible for one population-dense region of the country to control the presidency.
This is why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. Instead of winning over small-town Americans, she amassed a popular vote lead based on California and a few big cities. She won those places with huge margins but lost just about everywhere else. And the system worked. The Electoral College requires more than just the most raw votes to win — it requires geographic balance. This helps to protect rural and small-town Americans.
Now a California millionaire named John Koza is trying to undo this system. He is leading and funding the National Popular Vote campaign. Their plan is to get state governments to ignore how their own citizens vote in presidential elections and instead get them to cast their electoral votes based on the national popular vote. If it works, this will be like getting rid of the Electoral College but without actually amending the Constitution.
California has already passed NPV, along with 13 other states plus Washington, D.C. Nevada, with six electoral votes, could be next. NPV only takes effect if it is joined by enough states that they control 270 electoral votes, which would then control the outcome of all future presidential elections. If that happens (NPV needs 81 more electoral votes), and if the courts do not strike it down, big cities will gain more political power at the expense of everyone else.
The idea that every vote should count equally is attractive. But a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin famously reminds us that democracy can be “two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for lunch.” (City dwellers who think that meat comes from the grocery store might not understand why this is such a big problem for the lamb.) And when you think about it, every check on government power, from the Electoral College to the Bill of Rights, is a restraint on the majority.
The Electoral College makes it even harder to win the presidency. It requires geographic balance and helps protect Americans who might otherwise have their voices ignored. All Americans should value constitutional protections, like the Electoral College, that remind us that the real purpose of government is to protect our individual rights.