Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Some NYC Voters' Ballot Choices Revealed By Officials' Latest Error

Ballot Secrecy is a Right every Voter is supposed to be Afforded. But for Hundreds of New York City Voters, including the Mayor's Son, their Privacy was Violated, further Tarnishing the Board of Election' already Damaged Reputation.

Researchers at Princeton University's Electoral Innovation Lab, and the Stevens Institute of Technology, found that Mistakes made by the New York City Board of Elections, allowed them to Inadvertently determine the Ballot Choices of 378 Voters in the June Ranked-Choice-Voting (RCV) Mayoral Primary. Their Post-Election Analysis was Released Monday.

While this is a Small Fraction of the 1 Million Votes cast Overall, the Rrror raises a Major Privacy Concern and Violates, the New York Voter Bill of Rights, Secret-Ballot Provision.

It's also another Example in a Long List of Blunders made by the City's Board of Elections.

The New York City Board of Elections, is Required by Law, to release the Vote Records after each Election, which Lists the Ballot Choices, made by a Voter, as well as the Voter's Precinct.

To Anonymize the Voter Records, an Additional Step is taken to Associate the Vote Records with Numerical Identifiers rather than the Voter's Name.

Precincts with only a Few Voters are typically Bundled with another Larger Precinct. However, for this year's Primaries, that Step was Not taken. This meant that in Precincts consisting of only One Voter, that Person's Ballot Choices could be Matched-Up with the Voter Rolls, Leading to their Identification.

Jesse Clark, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Electoral Innovation Lab, Lindsey Cormack, a Political Science Professor, at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and Sam Wang, Director of the Electoral Innovation Lab, Discovered that Misstep made it possible to Identify 378 Voters.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's Son, Dante, was among the Voters Identified through the Researchers' Post-Election Analysis, along with former Deputy Mayor, Robert Steel.

"I am appalled by this violation of my privacy," Dante de Blasio, a Registered Democrat said. "My main concern is not that people will know who I voted for, but rather that the B.O.E. has repeatedly shown complete incompetence and still hasn't been reformed by the state. Hundreds of my fellow voters have had their right to a private ballot violated by the B.O.E.'s blatant carelessness. Enough is enough." Dante was the Only Voter Registered at the Mayor's Residence, Gracie Mansion.

This Privacy Issue is the most Recent Mishap caused by the City's Election Officials. In June, following the Mayoral Primaries, the Board of Elections, Accidentally included 135,000 Test Ballots in an Official Vote Tally.

Ahead of the November General Election, nearly 100,000 Voters were Mailed Absentee Ballots with Incorrect Names and Return Addresses.

And last year's Races were also Plagued with Numerous Problems that Resulted in Extremely Long Vote-Counting Delays.

To Prevent another Privacy Violation, the Researchers said an easy Fix would be to, Return to the Past Practice of Lumping Single-Voter Precincts in with Larger Ones, so that it's No Longer possible to Identify Individual Voters. However, Election Officials say that Method was Not Legally Permissible and would Require a Change to the City Charter.

"It is our hope that by raising this issue we may better protect the privacy of voters in New York City in a way that preserves important access to election data," the Researchers' Report concluded. "These two interests — voter privacy and data transparency — do not have to come into conflict. By allowing re-aggregation of small precincts, neither principle would have to be sacrificed."

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

SCOTUS Revises Oral Argument Format Ahead Of Blockbuster Term

In advance of the New Term set to begin in October, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday, that it is Revising its Oral Argument Format, Importing a System it employed when it held Arguments over the Phone after the Courthouse Doors were Shut because of Covid.

While the Court will maintain the Traditional Practice of allowing Justices to Engage in Questioning in No particular Order, the Traditional Free-for-All, there will now be an Opportunity, once an Attorney's time has Expired, for the Justices to ask Specific Questions in order of Seniority.

The Hybrid System appears to be an attempt, to blend together Two approaches from the Court's recent History.

The Traditional Format produced more lively Hearings, with Justices often Interrupting each other, and Advocates unable to always respond fulsomely. At times, Justices seemed to be using the Argument Session, to Probe the Positions of their Colleagues, almost Ignoring the Attorney, who was left on the sidelines with little Opportunity to break in.

When the Justices asked Questions in order of Seniority during the Height of Covid, the Process was more Stilted, but it had the Advantage of giving a Justice the opportunity to fully Probe a Line-of-Inquiry.

Sometimes the Justices, after several Questions without Interruption, would Forecast how they would eventually Rule.

At times, especially early on, Chief Justice John Roberts was left having to Manage the Process, calling on each Justice to begin their Questioning and sometimes Cutting-Off a Colleague if they went long.

In later Sessions, the Justices seemed to do a Better Job of watching the Clock and their Allotted Time.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who spent years rarely asking Questions from the Bench, was an Active participant during the Telephonic Hhearings, giving the Public, who could Listen via Live Audio, a much Better sense of his Jurisprudence and his Personality. One Case concerned so called "faithless electors", a Member of the Electoral College that does Not Vote for the Candidate for whom they had Pledged to Vote. Thomas worried that a Rogue Elector, without Fear of Penalty, could Vote for Anyone, including a Hobbit.

"The elector," Thomas said, "who had promised to vote for the winning candidate, could suddenly say, you know, I'm going to vote for Frodo Baggins, I really like Frodo Baggins."

The Public, on Social Media, reacted Quickly to the Lord of the Rings Reference.

In another Case, when a Lawyer for the House of Representatives suggested that a Subpoena for President Trump's Financial Records wouldn't Trigger a Separation of Powers concern, Thomas shot back. "I think we all know it's about the President," he said.

In General, Court Watchers seemed to prefer the Traditional System, even though it could seem Chaotic to the Outside Observer.

Lyle Denniston, the Dean of the Supreme Court Press Corps, who is now mostly Retired after covering the Court for some 70 years, tweeted that he Missed the "rapturous joy of cross talk."

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

LA Gov. Delays Elections Including Constitutional Amendments

On Sept. 9th, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), Postponed the State's Fall Elections. The State has No Primary. If in the General Election, No Candidate gets 50%+1, The Top-Two Candidates goes to a Run-Off Election.

The State's First-Round and Second-Round Elections, will now take place on Nov. 13th and Dec. 11th.

The First-Round and Second-Round Elections were originally Scheduled to take place on Oct. 9th and Nov. 13th.

Louisiana Secretary of State, Kyle Ardoin said, "A number of issues stemming from Hurricane Ida's devastation, including questions about nursing home operations, postal service delivery, extensive power outages, polling location damages, and election commissioners and staff members still displaced, would make holding the election on its original dates virtually impossible without impairing the integrity of the election."

The Fall Ballot includes Three Special State Legislative Elections, Municipal Elections in New Orleans, Four Constitutional Amendments, and Several Local Ballot Measures.

The Louisiana State Legislature referred Four Constitutional Amendments to the Ballot. The Measures concern Taxes and the State Budget.

The Louisiana Constitution Limits Legislation and Constitutional Amendments, in Odd-Numbered years, to matters concerning the State's Budget, Government Finance, and Taxation.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Federal Court Sends States Proof Of Citizenship Requirement Back To EAC For Reconsideration

Judge Richard J. Leon in the District Court of the District of Columbia, issued a Decision in the States Proof Of Citizenship Requirement, League of Women Voters v. Harrington (once League of Women Voters v. Newby).

This longstanding Dispute traces back to 2016, when then-Director Brian Newby Approved Kansas’s, Georgia’s, and Alabama’s Requests, to Modify the “Federal Voter Registration Form” to include, Proof of Citizenship instructions, for their States.

The Legacy of this Dispute also goes back to Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., a Supreme Court Decision back in 2013, on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)’s Authority, and Proof-of-Citizenship on the Federal Voter Registration Form.

The Court found that under the Administrative Procedure Act, Newby’s Decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA or Motor Voter Act), Requires that the Instructions on the Federal Form are “necessary to enable [States] to assess the eligibility of [] applicant[s] and to administer voter registration and other parts of the election process.”

The Federsl Form states:

I have reviewed my state's instructions and I swear/affirm that:

I am a United States citizen.

I meet the eligibility requirements of my state and subscribe to any oath required.

The information I have provided is true to the best of my knowledge under penalty of perjury.

If I have provided false information, I may be fined, imprisoned, or (if not a U.S. citizen) deported from or refused entry to the United States.

The Court found that Newby was “mistaken” in believing that he was Not Required to consider the “necessity” of the Changes. Without any Belief he needed to consider the Matter, he acted Improperly.

There are a Series of Tenth Circuit Cases on Kansas’s Saga after Inter Tribal on this matter.

But the Case is now sent back to the EAC, Five years after the Original Decision, to consider Georgia’s and Alabama’s Requests, pursuant to the NVRA, to the extent they continue to seek State-Specific Instructions, that Voters has to show, Proof of Citizenship, to Vote in Local Elections.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

NYC Looking At Allowing Non-Citizens To Vote

A push to allow Non-U.S. Citizens, to Vote in New York City Local Elections, is gaining steam, going before the City Council for a Hearing yesterday.

The Bill, would let Legal Permanent Residents and Immigrants authorized to Work and Pay Taxes, Cast Ballots for Mayor and other City Offices.

This could Expand the City’s Eligible Electorate by nearly a Million People.

The Legislation has the Support of 34 Council Members, a clear Majority, and could be put up for a Vote in the coming weeks.

The biggest Obstacle is Term Limited Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who has Legal and Philosophical Problems with the Bill. “I don't believe it is legal,” he said Friday, arguing that State Law governs who is Eligible to Vote.

He also says he has “mixed feelings” on the Issue personally, since he wants to encourage Immigrants to pursue Full Citizenship.

De Blasio has Not Vetoed a Single Bill, in his Two Terms as Mayor, but with 100-odd days Left in Office, there’s still time for Firsts.

Whatever happens in the next Three months, the Proposal may fare better, if Democratic Nominee Eric Adams becomes Mayor in the new year.

Adams is throwing his Full Support behind the Measure, saying in Testimony submitted to the Council: “Expanding the right to vote to people who live here, work here, raise families here, and collectively pay billions of dollars in taxes here should not be controversial.”

If passed, this will change the City's Charter. Then comes how the Courts determines how the State Constitution is the controlling Authority.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Senate Democrat Asks Social Media For Policies On Extremist Violent Content

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman, Gary Peters (D-MI, 14th District) has written Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, asking for Information about their Policies and Practices to Monitor and Remove Extremist violent content.

This is the First, Major Public Document Request from the Committee Investigating the January 6th Insurrection, after it released its Bipartisan Review in early June, into the Security Breakdowns leading to the Capitol Riot.

In his Letters, Peters asked each Company to provide its "policies on monitoring and removing extremist and conspiracy content that advocates violence, its actions to address the increase in use of its platforms to promote acts of domestic terrorism and violent extremism, and its use of targeted advertising to reach individuals and groups that engage in these activities."

Peters directed the Companies hand over Information about Content that Promoted, Recruited, or Advocated for Events leading to the Insurrection, that was Removed, prior to the Attack.

In his Letters, Peters also Requested more Detailed Information about Innerworkings of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, asking for "guidelines and parameters for recommending content, including without limitation a description of how their algorithms identify and decide how to recommend content."

The Letters acknowledged the Social Media sites have Outwardly committed to Prohibit Posts that Promote or Incite Violence.

"However, in the aftermath of recent events, questions remain about the effectiveness of these policies," and the Companies' willingness to Enforce them, the Letters said.

Following the Release of its Bipartisan Report, the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee Refocused its efforts on the Broader Threat of Domestic Violent Extremism, Hosting a Two-part Hearing in August to examine White Supremacist and Anti-Government Violence.

Peters' Request echoes efforts by the House Select Committee Investigating January 6th, which wrote to more than a Dozen Social Media Companies, including: Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, seeking to understand how Misinformation and Efforts to Overturn the Election, by both Foreign and Domestic Actors, existed on their Platforms.

The Panel specifically asked for Data and Analysis on Domestic Violent Extremists affiliated with Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, particularly around the January 6th Attack.

Responses to the Senate Letters are due October 4th.

A Twitter Spokesman said the Company was Reviewing the Letter and intends to Respond, and CNN has reached out to Facebook and YouTube for Comment.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Monday, September 20, 2021

GOP Activists Accused Of Russian Straw Donor Conspiracy Donation In 2016 Election

Republican Activists and Allies of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), are Charged with Conspiring to use a “straw donation” to Funnel a $25,000 Donation, Illegally from a Russian National, to Trump’s Presidential Victory Fund, during the 2016 Election.

The Justice Department (DOJ) Unsealed an Indictment, on Monday, that Accuses Jesse Benton, 43, and Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, of a “conspiracy to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effect a conduit contribution, and cause false records to be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).” The duo “conspired together to solicit a political contribution from a Russian foreign national” known in the court records only as "Foreign National 1," according to Federal Prosecutors.

The 19-page Indictment said the Men “conspired to illegally funnel thousands of dollars of foreign money from a Russian foreign national into an election for the Office of President of the United States of America” and “concealed the scheme from the candidate, federal regulators, and the public by secretly funneling foreign money from the Russian foreign national through Benton, who acted as a straw donor.” Wead “conveyed to Foreign National 1 that he could meet Political Candidate 1, a candidate for president during the 2016 election cycle, in exchange for a payment," the DOJ said. The Unnamed Candidate is Identifiable as Trump.

Prosecutors said after the Russian agreed to make the Payment, Benton reached out to the Republican National Committee (RNC) and “arranged for Foreign National 1 to attend a political fundraising event and get a photograph” with Trump “in exchange for a political contribution to … a joint fundraising committee comprised of the campaign committee” for Trump, the Republican Party, and related GOP state committees.” DOJ said, “Foreign National 1 ultimately wired $100,000” to a Political Consulting Firm owned by Benton and “to disguise the true purpose of the transfer of funds, Wead and Benton created a fake invoice for ‘consulting services’ and invented a cover story.”

FEC Records show a $25,000 Donation to the “Trump Victory” Fund from a “Jesse Bentor” [sic] on Oct. 27th, 2016, the same day mentioned in the Indictment.

Benton was Paul’s Campaign Manager for his Successful Senate Bid in 2010, and he worked on the Unsuccessful 2012 Presidential Campaign for Rand Paul’s Father, former GOP Rep. Rand Paul.

Benton was Convicted, along with Others, in 2016 on Charges of allegedly Funneling $73,000 to Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson, to Change his Endorsement to Ron Paul before the Iowa Caucuses. Benton denied Wrongdoing, though the Supreme Court Declined to hear Benton’s Conviction Appeal in 2019. Trump Pardoned Benton, in December 2020, after urging from Rand Paul and former FEC Chair, Lee Goodman.

Benton was Hired as the Campaign Manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) 2014 Reelection Campaign, but Resigned in August 2014, when the 2012 Scandal began to make News. He was Hired by the Pro-Trump Great America Super PAC in 2016.

Wead Failed as a Candidate for Congress in 1992, helped former President George W. Bush in the 2000 GOP Primaries, and Advised former GOP Ron Paul’s 2012 Presidential Campaign and Rand Paul’s 2016 Presidential Campaign. He penned Inside Trump’s White House in 2019, and appears on Right-Wing Media Outlets such as One America News Network and Newsmax.

The Justice Department said Wead and Foreign National 1 “attended the political fundraising event” for Trump on Sept. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia, and were accompanied by “Foreign National 2,” who was working as a Russian-to-English Translator for Wead. DOJ said, “All three individuals had photographs taken at the event” with Trump. Trump had a Fundraiser at the Ritz Carlton that day.

After the Event, Prosecutors say Benton “repeatedly represented to a consultant working for” the Republican Party “that he had already sent the promised contribution for the event, but in actuality he delayed sending the contribution.”

DOJ said Benton “ultimately filled out a contributor form, indicated that he was the contributor, and used a personal credit card to make a $25,000 contribution” and then “retained the remaining $75,000 of Foreign National 1’s money.” Because of Benton’s Straw Donation, DOJ said that “three different political committees unwittingly filed reports with the FEC that inaccurately reported Benton, rather than Foreign National 1, as the source of the funds.”

Benton and Wead were also hit with “one count of contribution by a foreign national, one count of contribution in the name of another, and three counts of making false entries in an official record.”

If Convicted, Benton and Wead face a range of Maximum Penalties from Five to 20 years in Prison, per Count, the DOJ said.

Prosecutors did Not accuse, Trump nor the Republican Party, of knowingly Committing any Wrongdoing or having any Knowledge the Donation came from a Russian, rather than from Benton.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker