Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Training Woes in New York Underscore Need for Oversight in the Polling Place

A piece in yesterday’s New York Daily News recounted a sobering story from an observer of the training of election officials in New York City:

“There was an assistant trainer who arrived for an afternoon class wearing a letter carrier uniform. She also had her wheeled mail cart. While the lead trainer and other assistants taught the class, she used a table to sort her mail.
Then, around 5 p.m., she left and returned a little bit later in street clothes.”

And: “They wheeled in a woman to take the class in a walker wearing a nightgown. She needed to be in a hospital, not in a training class.”

And: “A woman who had taken the training gave answers to a friend who was taking the test. The trainer said she could stay. 

This is a distressing report to say the least. The adequate training of local poll workers, the very officials responsible for ensuring the election is run smoothly and with integrity at the polling place, is a prerequisite to a well-functioning electoral system. Poll workers are responsible for running the election from setting up the equipment, verifying the eligibility of voters, triaging voting equipment breakdowns, accurately reporting totals after the polls close, and following procedures to ensure the proper chain of custody of ballots and other election materials. If these folks are not adequately trained and able to perform their jobs competently, there is little reason to have confidence in our elections.

Certainly, we believe this is not the norm, either in New York City or nationwide. The vast majority of trainers and local poll workers are dedicated to their jobs and take pride in the civic duty of working an extraordinarily long day for little money. However, as we have seen in many past elections, a few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch. In a close election, one dysfunctional polling place can cast into doubt the results of the entire election.

This all underscores two important points. One, it is essential that candidates and political parties be given reasonable access to observe the election from within the polling place. Observers and monitors can ensure that the election is run transparently, competently, and without fraud and that both sides can accept the results regardless of who wins. Observers provide added legitimacy to a process that is complex and, unfortunately, has a long history of fraud that leads many voters to view our election process cynically. For our part, RNLA works tirelessly to ensure Republican attorneys and volunteers are trained and given the opportunity to volunteer to assist in these election integrity observation efforts. We will continue these efforts so long as there is the risk for fraud and election official incompetence.

Second, is the importance that election officials place a higher priority on its training efforts. Both the RNLA and the Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s reports recommended as much. You can find RNLA’s thoughts on the importance of improved training here

Monday, September 15, 2014

Highest Ranking Georgia Democrat in Hot Water Over Voter Fraud

An organization with links to Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), New Georgia Project, has been accused of forging voter registration forms and falsely telling registered voters they were required by law to re-register. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp received multiple complaints from at least six counties and in response to those complaints, subpoenaed the group to produce all documents related to their efforts to “register voters, store voter information, contact voters or any other canvassing project.”

New Georgia Project is an offshoot of the organization Third Sector Development, which was founded, and currently led, by Stacey Abrams.

In a memo sent to county elections officials, Mr. Kemp stated that:

“[A p]reliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities’ including forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information.”

When questioned by a local news reporter, Mr. Kemp continued to stand up for the integrity of the election process, saying:
“We’re just not going to put up with fraud. I mean, we have zero tolerance for that in Georgia so we’ve opened an investigation and served some subpoenas. At the end of the day this is not going to be about politics. This is about potential fraud which we think happened.” 

Considering Abram’s involvement in Michelle Nunn’s senate race, Senate candidate David Perdue’s spokeswoman Megan Whittemore released a statement, drawing similarities between the New Georgia Project and another group known for fraudulent election activity – ACORN – stating:

“The serious allegations of illegal activities and potential fraud from liberal voter registration groups are outrageous and should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law. As outlined in Michelle Nunn’s well-documented campaign plan, since Democrats cannot win on the issues they are aggressively trying to expand the electorate by any means necessary. The fact that an organization led by a well-known Nunn supporter would attempt to illegally register voters is unacceptable and reminiscent of the Obama-political machine’s ACORN scandal. There is nothing more fundamental to our democratic process than maintaining the integrity of our elections and any attempt to tamper with them is deplorable.”

Abrams is still “weighing her options” on responding to the subpoena. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

RNLA Statement on FEC agreement to revise campaign finance regulations

Led by its two newest members, the Federal Election Commission will finally revise its regulations following the landmark Supreme Court cases Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC.

“These rules are like fine wine. They’ve been four years in the making,” stated FEC Chairman Republican Lee E. Goodman, who arrived at the Commission last October. Democrat Ann M. Ravel, the FEC’s other relative neophyte echoed that sentiment, “It’s important to give guidance,” she stated.

The agreement would institutionalize the holdings of both Citizens United and McCutcheon through three rulemakings. The third will be an “advance notice,” which seeks public comment on whether current regulations on topics such as earmarking, anti-proliferation, and disclosure are adequate. Justice Roberts raised questions concerning all three topics in McCutcheon. And it is part of the Commission’s duty to seek public input on their clarity and viability as anti-corruption and anti-circumvention measures.  

The RNLA supports the rulemakings and applauds the Commissioners and staff who brought about this agreement. This positive development will provide clarity to the practitioners, candidates, and others whose activities are regulated under the Federal Election Campaign Act.

The mood of conciliation at the FEC stands in stark contrast to the political gamesmanship Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is currently engaging in on Capitol Hill. While FEC Commissioners seek to move forward from the stale battles and needless invective that followed these two cases, Senate Democrats are producing political theater with a constitutional amendment everyone knows is doomed.

Reid and his cohorts are playing politics with the First Amendment to try to manufacture a political issue before the mid-terms. “It’s painfully clear the majority leader’s priorities have to do with Nov. 4 . . . it’s all politics all the time, no matter what.” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). But the American people have no desire to have their voices neutered by obstructionist Democrats who are upset they can cannot control every aspect of political debate about government.

The Supreme Court correctly decided both Citizens United and McCutcheon based on first principles, First Amendment doctrine, and controlling precedent, while overturning a few outlier cases and statutory provisions. Senate Democrats should take a lesson from the FEC and accept that a more freedom-based campaign finance system is here to stay.  

The RNLA looks forward to having sufficient time to comment on the FEC Rulemakings to aid the Commission in revising these important regulations.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New Hampshire Senate Race Benefits from Outside Money

RNLA campaign finance blogger Paul Jossey has an opinion piece in the Daily Caller arguing how “outside” money has benefited the voters in the New Hampshire Senate race. Jossey argues outside groups, whatever their ideologies and even those who are involved in the race for cynical or disingenuous reasons provide voters valuable information about the candidates.

Outside money provides three main benefits: (i.) it neutralizes the enormous advantages of incumbency; (ii.) it encourages a better-informed citizenry by enabling outside groups to directly engage adversaries in ways a campaign may not be able (or want) to; and (iii.) it allows all interested parties to speak about political campaigns on their own terms, uncensored by control-freak candidate consultants.

In the case of New Hampshire, the incumbent Jeanne Shaheen has all the advantages of incumbency, including name recognition, paid staff in local offices helping constituents for the last six years, and a built-in donor base.

Outside money allows allies of Republican Scott Brown to counter this advertising on issues specifically to target her weaknesses e.g. her party’s very unpopular president and Granite State angst about the border situation.

This outside money benefits democracy by allowing a multitude of voices into the political marketplace to compete for voter attention. This is true even if those spending the money are using the political stage to cynically promote their own issues. Larry Lessig’s Mayday PAC is one such group. Mayday PAC is purportedly supporting Jim Rubens, but it has no desire to actually see him win, as a staffer readily admitted.

Mayday PAC’s main goal is to support its founder Harvard Professor Larry Lessig and to damage Scott Brown for not taking the “People’s Pledge” as he had previously in Massachusetts.

But that experience didn’t live up to the hype reformers had hoped. The race got nasty and was very expensive. The only real benefit came to campaign consultants who were better able to control the messages.

Instead of the staid, scripted Massachusetts campaign, New Hampshire voters are being treated to a multitude of voices who all get their chance to persuade. It may be messy, ugly, and even cynical, but democracy is better for it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Democrats Declare War. . . On the 1st Amendment

This week Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared war.  He has not declared war on ISIS or Muslim extremists; no he has declared war on the first amendment.  As RNLA Advisory Council Member and former Solicitor General Ted Olson writes:

Led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, these Senate Democrats claim that they are merely interested in good government to "restore democracy to the American people" by reducing the amount of money in politics. Do not believe it. When politicians seek to restrict political speech, it is invariably to protect their own incumbency and avoid having to defend their policies in the marketplace of ideas.

This scheme is doomed to fail when it comes to a vote in the Senate, perhaps as soon as Monday. The Constitution's Framers had the wisdom to make amending the Constitution difficult, and Mr. Reid's gambit won't survive a filibuster. But Senate Democrats know their proposal is a loser. They merely want another excuse to rail against "money in politics" and Supreme Court justices they don't like.

As RNLA life member Professor Ronald Rotunda explains:

S.J.Res. 19 would give political speech less protection than the First Amendment now gives to movies, novels, comic books and Nazis marching through Skokie, Illinois. What about movies that consider political subjects? Remember Fahrenheit 911, the 2004 documentary that political commentator Michael Moore directed? S.J.Res. 19 would authorize Congress or a state to ban that film. First, the language of S.J.Res. 19’s proposal to repeal the First Amendment for political speech is very broad. Second, we know that many of the supporters of S.J.Res. 19 were incensed that the Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment right of Citizens United (an organization with political views contrary to those of Michael Moore) to distribute its 90-minute documentary, called Hillary: the Movie. One movie was an attack on George W. Bush; the other was an attack on Hillary Clinton. Both are constitutionally protected, until S.J.Res. 19 becomes law. –

We will conclude with some quotes from Hans Von Spakovsky who points out the irony of the Democrats trying to destroy a cornerstone of the Constitution so close to September 17 and Constitution Day. 
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, Floyd Abrams, one of the foremost First Amendment litigators in the country, sounded the alarm about this amendment, saying it “is intended to limit speech about elections and it would do just that.” Abrams added that the resolution “would shrink the First Amendment and in doing so set a precedent that would be both disturbing and alarming.”
It is quite disturbing and alarming that nearly 227 years after the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, 48 U.S. senators led by their leader, Harry Reid, are proposing to restrict the First Amendment. This is an ignominious attempt by a group of senators to protect their own incumbency at the expense of a fundamental right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights to all Americans.
With all that is going on in the world right now, it is well worth noting that the Senate Democrats top priority is to pass an amendment to limit speech and protect their incumbencies.  This is another reason why Republicans are favored to take back the Senate.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Liberal Fantasies: No Targeting by IRS and Labor Unions Don’t Make Political Expenditures

According to this story:

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, is putting the finishing touches on his supposed “investigation” of the IRS scandal that will, in essence, be a press release for the IRS and the administration, a reliable source tells me.

The Michigan Democrat apparently dismisses all of the allegations made over the targeting of tea party and other conservative organizations and instead attacks the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which revealed the scandal when it issued its May 2013 report about the “inappropriate criteria” used to “identify tax-exempt applications for review.”

Of course this story, if true, is made even more ironic by the fact another recent story proved that Lois Lerner (the center of the IRS Scandal so far) has a long history of political bias

In 2007, Lerner responded directly to a complaint that some major labor unions reported completely different amounts of political expenditures when filing with the IRS and the Department of Labor.

At the time of the email, Lerner was the Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS.
Lerner wrote, “We looked at the information you provided regarding organizations that report substantial amounts of political activity and lobbying expenditures on the DOL Form LM-2, but report little to no political expenditures on the Form 990 filed with the IRS.”

“We believe this difference in reporting does not necessarily indicate that the organization has incorrectly reported to either the DOL or the IRS,” Lerner concluded.

In 2006, the year leading up to Lerner’s email, the national headquarters for the AFL-CIO reported no direct or indirect political expenditures with the IRS on their 990 form, leaving the line 81a blank. That same year, the AFL-CIO reported $29,585,661 in political activities with the Department of Labor.

Lerner acknowledged in the 2007 email, “The definition of political campaign activity required to be reported on Form LM2 coincides with the definition of political campaign activity expenditures required to be reported on Form 990.”

I don’t even think the most liberal defender of Lerner and targeting can say with a straight face Labor Unions had “zero” political expenditures in 2006.  Of course, only a zombie defender of the administration would buy a whitewashed report like Levin is supposedly about to issue. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Professor Rebuts Arguments Against Voter ID

Pennsylvania Professor Matthew Rouso published an Op-Ed yesterday entitled:  “Voter ID Would Protect Voter's Rights, Not Inhibit Them.”  In the Op-Ed Professor Rouso in his own way debunks the two main arguments against voter ID. 

The first argument he effectively rebuts is the lack of convictions:  

Opponents of voter ID laws to prevent fraud would quickly note that less than six-dozen cases in a state as big as Texas is almost nothing. But how often could we reasonably expect somebody who votes illegally to get caught when no identification is required? Shoplifters only get caught about one in fifty times and that’s with firms who have a huge incentive to catch them. Without voter ID, does anybody really think that illegal voters would be caught more than one in a hundred times? I don’t. With 66 cases exposed, this means a conservative estimate indicates that there have been at least 6,600 cases of voter fraud in the past decade in Texas alone. That doesn’t sound so trivial anymore, does it?

Professor Rouso is just scratching the surface here.  Other problems include limited resources to prosecute a “victim-less” crime that almost certainly guarantees charges of racial and political bias from the other side of the political spectrum from the criminal. 

Professor Rouso also addresses the second argument:

The second argument is that voter ID laws inhibit the right to vote. This is also incorrect. A voter ID requirement strengthens voters’ rights by protecting the votes of all who vote legally. When voter fraud occurs, it dilutes and weakens the votes of all law-biding voters. One could make a reasonable argument that by not forcing identification and encouraging fraud, you’re violating the promise of one person, one vote. Law-abiding voters are having their votes diluted by fraudulent votes.

We could not agree with the Professor more on that one.  The Professor concludes his Op-Ed by writing:

Opponents of voter ID claim that the law restricts voter rights and is too expensive. They’re wrong on both counts.  Given the benefits of a voter ID law and the low cost of implementation, there are two reasonable explanations for people to oppose voter ID laws. One is ignorance. The other is the understanding that there is widespread fraud, they’re benefiting from it, and they want to keep this illegal advantage.

Given the history and background of leading vote fraud deniers like the Brennan Center and Al Sharpton, the latter unfortunately seems all to all often to be true of the opponents.