Category Archives: Courts

SCOTUS to review partisan gerrymandering in Whitford v. Gill

I gave you the background on this case earlier this year. Whitford v. Gill: Partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS.

On Monday, the Supreme Court granted review of this case in its next term, while also staying the lower court’s order requiring new maps be put on hold until they can resolve the state’s appeal.

This case has the potential to be a landmark opinion, for good or for bad, depending upon how the court rules.

We currently have a system in which the voters do not choose their elected representatives; elected representatives choose their voters through partisan gerrymandering, which can be done with mathematical precision to ensure “safe” districts. This destroys any notion of competitive elections in a democratic society. It is the way in which elections truly are “rigged.”

Amy Howe at SCOTUS blog explains, Today’s orders: Court to tackle partisan gerrymandering:

The Supreme Court will once again wade into the world of partisan gerrymandering – that is, the practice of purposely drawing district lines to favor one party and put another at a disadvantage. The justices announced today that they will review Wisconsin’s appeal of the decision by a three-judge district court striking down, as the product of partisan gerrymandering, the redistricting map that the Republican-controlled legislature created after the 2010 census. The lower court also ordered the state to create a new redistricting plan by the fall, but a deeply divided Supreme Court today put that order on hold. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case, which is likely to come next year, will almost certainly be a major one that could affect redistricting efforts for decades to come.

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Jan Brewer’s Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan goes to Arizona Supreme Court

Back in March, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the Maricopa County Superior Court decision upholding former governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan in 2013. AZ Court of Appeals upholds Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan.

The “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, naturally appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick, who was vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the time this lawsuit was filed, should be required to recuse himself from participating in this appeal under the court’s rules of ethics.

The parties are now filing their pleadings with the Arizona Supreme Court. Ducey administration argues to keep hospital levy paying for AHCCCS care:

The Ducey administration is asking the Arizona Supreme Court to preserve the levy that pays for an expanded Medicaid program — assuming that expansion isn’t undermined by Congress killing the program.

In legal papers filed Friday, attorney Doug Northup wants the justices to reject arguments by Republican lawmakers that money being paid by hospitals to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System is a tax. Instead, he contends, it is simply an “assessment” on hospitals.

That difference is more than wordplay.

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Another GOP voter suppression plan

Why is it every time I see a piece of bad legislation in the Arizona legislature, this guy’s name appears to be attached to it? What the heck is wrong with voters living in legislative district 6 (specifically in Navajo, Gila and Yavapai Counties)? You ought to be embarrassed to send someone as backwards as this to the Arizona legislature.

The latest bad legislation is yet another GOP voter suppression plan sponsored by Rep. Bob Thorpe still seeking to bar student voting on campus:

The proposal by Rep. Bob Thorpe would put a provision that students who want to vote would be able to do so only by signing up to get an early ballot from the voting precinct where they were living before they went to college, presumably the address of their parents.

More to the point, they would not be able to use their college address. And that would apply not only to those who live in a campus dormitory but even those who have off-campus apartments or houses.

This is where Howard Fischer in his reporting should have stated up front (he puts it at the very end of his report) that the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed (no opinion) that this was unconstitutional in SYMM v. U.S., 439 U.S. 1105 (1979), in which the Court summarily affirmed United States v. Texas, 445 F.Supp. 1245 (S.D.Tex. 1978), holding unconstitutional the denial to Prairie View students of the presumption of bona fide residency extended to other Waller County students. The three-judge District Court panel relied on a series of college student voting rights precedents under the Voting Rights Act and the 26th Amendment.

In other words, this issue has long ago been decided. Yet every election cycle some jurisdiction tries to keep college students from voting where they are attending college, and every election cycle this unconstitutional voter suppression effort is enjoined by the courts. The baffling part is the regularity with which jurisdictions keep trying to do this even when the law is clearly established.

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Georgia’s vulnerabe election system: why election systems are designated ‘critical infrastructure’

There is a special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District on Tuesday, between Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff and Republican candidate Karen Handel. Georgia is one of only five states that use electronic voting without any “paper trail” available for verification of the vote. (h/t Ballotpedia).

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That’s bad enough, but wait, it gets worse. Kim Zetter at Politico Magazine had an in-depth report this week about just how unsecure the voting system in Georgia is. Will the Georgia Special Election Get Hacked?:

Last August, when the FBI reported that hackers were probing voter registration databases in more than a dozen states, prompting concerns about the integrity of the looming presidential election, Logan Lamb decided he wanted to get his hands on a voting machine.

A 29-year-old former cybersecurity researcher with the federal government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Lamb, who now works for a private internet security firm in Georgia, wanted to assess the security of the state’s voting systems. When he learned that Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems tests and programs voting machines for the entire state of Georgia, he searched the center’s website.

“I was just looking for PDFs or documents,” he recalls, hoping to find anything that might give him a little more sense of the center’s work. But his curiosity turned to alarm when he encountered a number of files, arranged by county, that looked like they could be used to hack an election. Lamb wrote an automated script to scrape the site and see what was there, then went off to lunch while the program did its work. When he returned, he discovered that the script had downloaded 15 gigabytes of data.

“I was like whoa, whoa. … I did not mean to do that. … I was absolutely stunned, just the sheer quantity of files I had acquired,” he tells Politico Magazine in his first interview since discovering the massive security breach.

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Trump declares war on the Department of Justice

I’m not quite sure what to make of this report in the New York Times because I have never seen the Justice Department issue a statement such as this before. Don’t Believe Anonymously Sourced Reports, Justice Official Says (this woud put political publications like POLITICO out of business):

Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, encouraged Americans in a statement issued late Thursday to be “skeptical about anonymous allegations” after a string of recent news reports about the evolving focus of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible collusion with President Trump’s associates.

“Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated,” Mr. Rosenstein said in the statement.

He added: “Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”

He did not cite specific reports. The Justice Department released Mr. Rosenstein’s statement after 9 p.m., a few hours after The Washington Post reported that the special counsel was investigating the business dealings of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. That report was attributed to unnamed American officials.

Asked about the impetus for the statement, a Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. Mr. Rosenstein did not respond to an email seeking comment on Thursday night.

This statement appears directed at reporters covering this scandal. The Times and the Post are not going to disclose their confidential sources, but if reporters are talking to FBI agents or Treasury Department officials in FinCEN about money laundering investigations overseas, or to intelligence officers or their foreign intelligence counterparts in Europe, I would take this as a veiled threat that the FBI may be monitoring reporters communications with their sources overseas. If that is what Rosenstein meant to imply, that is a big effin’ deal.

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Donald Trump under investigation for obstruction of justice

ICYMI, Wednesday was Donald J. Trump’s birthday. Late in the day the Washington Post delivered a birthday card to the president, verifying that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating him for obstruction of justice. Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say:

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. [The third leg of this investigation.]

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on [1] Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for [2] any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.

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