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Updated: 1 hour 38 min ago

Colorado Repeals Ballot Selfie Law

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 18:37

Politicians in Colorado have recently overturned a 126 year old law that makes it illegal for people to publicly share photos of their ballots from the voting booth. These types of “selfie laws”, as they have become known, came to us with the development of smartphones and newer technology, became a hot topic during the 2016 as many millennials challenged the law taking photos of their ballot inside the voting booth.

“The idea of voting is an awesome opportunity and we should give people a chance to celebrate that anyway they darn well please,” Colorado state Senator, Owen Hill said of his support of the bill.

Hill is a Republican and a main sponsor of the bi-partisan which stalled last in last year’s legislative session but the co-sponsors were able to get enough votes to pass the bill through the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“You shouldn’t go to jail and you shouldn’t be fined for precipitating in a political democracy,” Hill continued after the bill passed the Senate. The bill passed the Senate 31-4, with a group of bi-partisan politicians opposing the legalization of the ballot selfie.

Three Republican Senators and one Democratic Senator voted against the bill. The three Republicans who voted no were, State Senators, Kevin Priola, Vicki Marble, and Jack Tate. The lone Democrat to oppose the bill was Daniel Kagan.

Unlike many issues in this country at our present time, this bill was both supported by Republicans and Democrats, and opposed by Republicans and Democrats. The bill was in response to a current outpouring of challenges to the law nationally, as the voting age has become younger and technology is started to become more influential within our daily and political lives.

The concern for the law came out of the original law which was passed and signed in 1891. The original law prevented people from disseminating their ballots, and was classified as a misdemeanor which carried a penalty of up to a year in prison.

22 states and the District of Columbia allow ballot selfies, and 19 states have laws specifically banning the ballot selfie. 9 states have laws that are categorized as “unclear,” as to where the state stands on the ballot selfie.

“Our concern is the downstream policy impacts of allowing this practice and what it would lead to, intimidation, fraud, vote selling, those types of things, Deputy Secretary of State, Suzanne Stairet said of her concern about the bill.

House Bill 1014 was in response to a growing trend during the 2016 general and primary election where people known as “never trumpers,” shared the ballots on social media in key states in an effort to try and stop President Trump from winning the Republican and Presidential election.

Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on March 16 2017.

In conclusion, Colorado did the right thing by decriminalizing the celebration of people wanting to share that they participated democracy, which is one of the most patriotic civic duties a citizen can participate in.

Links to recently published clips:

  1. Coloradoan Link:
  2. The Denver Channel:
  3. Denver Post:
  4. NBC news:

Questions about Liu Xiaobo’s Treatment in China Prison

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 15:34


Activists are calling for Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Liu Xiaobo’s unconditional release

A growing chorus of Chinese human-rights lawyers and activists are calling for Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Liu Xiaobo’s unconditional release after he was granted medical parole to undergo treatment for late-stage liver cancer. The US also added its voice on Tuesday urging China to give Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, freedom to move and choose…


Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident imprisoned since 2009, has been released from confinement on medical parole, but his supporters are pressing for him to be allowed to seek treatment abroad for liver cancer. Liu, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in absentia in 2010, was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer on May…


Brazilian President Michel Temer Charged With Bribery

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 15:30

Brazilian President Michel Temer was charged of taking multimillion-dollar bribes by top federal prosecutor, Monday. The 64-page-long indictment looks to impeach the incumbent president if he does not resign first. The formal accusation has been brought on by Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, who began investigation into Temer’s financial dealings in May 2016. Janot has alleged that…


Brazil’s top federal prosecutor has charged President Michel Temer with taking multimillion-dollar bribes. Rodrigo Janot submitted the charge to the country’s Supreme Court, alleging Temer had “fooled Brazilian citizens” and owed the nation millions in compensation for accepting bribes. What do the charges relate to? Temer was charged in connection with a graft scheme involving the…



China’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Released From Prison

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 20:25


Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been released from prison on a parole

Noted Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been released from prison on a medical parole. He was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer last month and is being treated at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang, according to his lawyer. Liu, who is 61, was sentenced to 11 years in prison…


Beijing (dpa) – Chinese writer and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo said he had “no enemies” when he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for subversion of state power. One year later, Liu, who in his decades-long career has called for political reform and the end of China’s one-party rule, was awarded the…


Voting Underway in Mongolian Presidential Elections

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 20:21

Voting is under way across Mongolia’s cities, townships and prairies as the country chooses a president

Voting is under way across Mongolia’s cities, townships and prairies, as the country chooses a new president amid worries about corruption and economic turmoil. Most voters expect a two-horse race between the ruling Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) candidate Miyeegombo Enkhbold, the former mayor of capital Ulaanbaatar, and former martial arts star and property tycoon Khaltmaa Battulga…


Marathon Papua New Guinea National Election Starts

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 20:18

Voting has begun in Papua New Guinea’s marathon national elections as the PM faces an arrest

Voting has begun in Papua New Guinea’s marathon national elections as the Prime Minister faces an arrest warrant for corruption. Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress won the last poll in 2012, but critics are accusing him of “burying” the economy in debt. Papua New Guinea, or PNG, is a South Pacific nation of almost 7 million…


Hong Kong Activists Hold China Protest Ahead of Xi Trip

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 20:15

Pro-democracy protesters draped a black flag over a statue symbolising the city’s return to China

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters on Monday draped a black flag over a statue symbolising the city’s return to China by Britain, days before a visit by President Xi Jinping to mark 20 years since the handover. High-profile student campaigner Joshua Wong and a dozen demonstrators attached the black cloth to the giant golden bauhinia flower on…


Vietnam Exiles Dissident After Revoking His Citizenship

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 20:48


A Vietnamese dissident blogger with dual French citizenship has arrived in Paris

A Vietnamese dissident blogger with dual French citizenship has arrived in Paris, after he was stripped of his birth nationality by the Asian country and deported. Former mathematics lecturer Pham Minh Hoang was put on a plane to the French capital, weeks after his Vietnamese citizenship was revoked – a rare move that has sparked outrage…


Albanian Democracy Tested in Key Parliamentary Election

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 20:22

Albanians are voting in a key parliamentary election that follows a landmark agreement

Albanians are voting in a key parliamentary election that follows a landmark agreement between the country’s two biggest political parties to back efforts to secure European Union membership. Sunday’s race pits socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama against Lulzim Basha of the centre-right Democratic Party. Neither party won an outright majority in the 140-seat parliament in the…


Why a Mark Zuckerberg Presidential Run Won’t Happen

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 19:57


Rumors about a run for president won’t go away for Zuckerberg despite previous denials in public. One colleague is not convinced. Zuckerberg will be 36 in 2020, putting him in place to be the youngest president ever if he ran and won. A new post by Eric Johnson, the Podcast producer at Recode had a story recently that raised doubts about a run:

If you pay even a little attention to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, you’ve heard about his yearlong project to travel around the United States, which plenty of armchair observers have claimed is him getting ready to run for political office. Facebook has repeatedly denied this, though not everyone believes it. The political rumor mill started turning again this week when Zuckerberg used Facebook Stories to praise the early-caucus state of Iowa and its pork tenderloin sandwiches…

…He called the idea of Zuckerberg running for president “silly,” saying instead it’s more plausible that the U.S. tour reflects the Facebook CEO’s long-held “ruthless survival instinct.” Hubbard did, however, close with the hashtag #Sheryl2020 — meaning Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who also denies she’s running.

See his full tweetstorm by Zuckerberg friend and Twitter’s former media/commerce boss Nathan Hubbard can be read here. There is even one group raising money to convince Zuckerberg to run:

A newly formed progressive Super PAC named “Disrupt for America” is now accepting donations for their cause: convincing Zuckerberg to run in 2020. “We will have to convince the American people to convince Mark,” a spokesperson for the PAC said in an email, noting that 2020 is still awhile away. And why is the group fixated on Zuckerberg?  

“His comments on the topic are measured, sensible, and allow him to retain flexibility. I think most people would (and should) say something very similar in this situation, ” the spokesperson said. ” Having done some preliminary focus group work on this, we are confident that we can overcome any hurdles we might face with respect to the electorate’s perception of Mark as a viable candidate.”

Zuckerberg denied he would run for president in a long statement on Facebook:

My personal challenge this year is to visit every state I haven’t spent time in before to learn about people’s hopes and challenges, and how they’re thinking about their work and communities. After my early trips, people asked me what I was learning but I wanted to be careful not to generalize because every state is so different. I have a lot more to learn, but I’m starting to see some common threads.

My biggest takeaway so far is that our relationships shape us more than we think — how we consider opportunities, how we process information, and how we form habits. There is a lot of discussion about inequality, but one under-looked dimension of inequality is in the makeup of our social networks.

There’s a widely held myth that if people in other places just had better information they’d make better decisions.

I’ve found this is generally wrong and the people I’ve met are rational. Now, it’s true we’re all missing some information that would help us make better decisions no matter where we live. But the people I’ve met have good reasons for the decisions they make based on their experiences and those of their friends and family.

The more fundamental issue seems to be the friends and family we surround ourselves with. This is a powerful force upstream of the information we receive and it determines how we process and factor it into our decisions.

I’ll share three stories about how our relationships affect very different social problems.

First story: I was in Ohio and sat down with recovering heroin addicts. They told me the first step in fighting addiction is to detox, but the second is to get completely new friends. If you stay friends with the people you were using with — or even with people who are using on their own — you’re almost guaranteed to relapse. It’s tough when those people are your close friends and even tougher when they’re your family, but building new relationships is the most important predictor of staying clean.

This isn’t a matter of information. These recovering addicts all know heroin is bad for them and they know they shouldn’t use it. But the people around you are a much stronger influence than information. So to move forward, we need to operate on the level of helping people build better relationships, not just getting them information.
Second story: I was in Indiana at a juvenile justice center. Some of the kids had committed serious crimes like murder or robbery, but others had just misbehaved in class. The most striking fact is that those kids are more likely to become criminals after going through detention than they were before they went in. The correctional system is building a negative and self-reinforcing social network.

Similar to the first story, these kids know crime is bad and they don’t want to go to prison. But we all model our behavior on people around us. If we want to help them, we should help these kids build positive relationships with role models.

Third story: This one is about economic upward mobility. When I was driving through some depressed areas in the south, I was struck by how few people move to seek better opportunities elsewhere. It turns out there’s good research showing how a lot of economic inequality comes from our lack of willingness or ability to move geographically. (See Raj Chetty’s work here:

From my conversations, a lot of people’s decisions about whether to move depend on their friends and family in a couple of ways. First, if you grow up in a place where all your friends and family move away for college or to seek a job, then that sets an example for you. The reverse is also true, and if all your friends and family stay home, that sets a norm too. Second, and perhaps stronger, if all your friends and family move away for opportunities, there is less reason to stay where you grew up. On the other hand, if all your friends and family stay in the same place, there is a strong pull back home.

I’ve heard lots of stories of people who went away to college, but when they had kids they needed help, and since childcare is so expensive, they moved back home to be closer to their family. Coming home has great advantages, but if you don’t have a diversity of friends and family who can expose you to different things, that may limit your ability to find opportunity.

I’ve seen lots of more stories like the three above that point to your friends and family as the most powerful force in shaping your path, including positive ones.

In Detroit, I met community leaders who turned an abandoned building into a safe place where kids can hang out after school. The founder told me: “We want kids to be able to think again, and that comes from seeing men and women who care about what they do. We’ve got whole neighborhoods of kids just waiting for someone to give them a sense of purpose.”

This isn’t a scientific study and it requires further research, but I think there’s something to this idea that your relationships shape your path more than we realize.

I also think this is an area where Facebook can make a difference. Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office. I’m not. I’m doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we’re best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

In many ways, relationships are the most important things in our lives — whether we’re trying to form healthy habits, stay out of trouble, or find better opportunities. And yet, research shows the average American has fewer than three close friends we can turn to for support.

Facebook has been focused on helping you connect with people you already know. We’ve built AI systems to recommend “People You May Know”. But it might be just as important to also connect you with people you should know — mentors and people outside your circle who care about you and can provide a new source of support and inspiration.

There are a number of models for how this might work. The Peace Corps creates service opportunities where people exchange culture and build new relationships. Perhaps we could build a new digital peace corps. Another model is Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, where people who have struggled with these challenges and overcome them go on to become mentors for others, with the hope of training them to one day become mentors themselves. This is something I’ve only recently started studying and working with our teams at Facebook to build.

One thing I’ve been inspired by is that if we can just help a few percent of people, that can make a huge positive impact on our society overall. On the unfortunate side, even though only a few percent of people are addicted to opioids, we all know someone affected by this. But that also means that if we can just help a few percent of people build new positive relationships, that will affect all of us as well. That gives me hope that we can do this.

My hope is that we can help more people build positive relationships with people who expand their sense of possibility. I believe that if we do this, we will make progress on a lot of our greatest opportunities and challenges.

I hope a lot of you have challenged yourselves to get out and learn from other perspectives this year too. I’d love to hear your stories and reflections as well

Is a North Korean Collapse Getting Closer?

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 10:33

Thanks to its official state ideology ‘Juche’ North Korea is in rude health in 2017

In 1994, just five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) signed the Agreed Framework, which was aiming to suspend the latter’s nuclear programme, Although the agreement eventually failed, US policy became predicated on the belief that the Democratic People’s Republic, like the communist…


Dennis Rodman Takes Credit for American’s Release From North Korea

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 10:31


North Korea’s decision to release U.S. student Otto Warmbier was partly down to Rodman’s trip

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman made an appearance on Friday’s “Good Morning America” and essentially took credit for North Korea’s release of Otto Warmbier, an American college student imprisoned in the country for 18 months. Warmbier returned home to Ohio on June 13 with severe neurological injuries. He died Monday. Chris Volo, Rodman’s agent, sat alongside…


North Korea’s decision to release U.S. student Otto Warmbier—who died on Monday after returning home in a coma—was partly down to ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trip to the authoritarian state, at least according to the former basketball player himself. Warmbier was detained by North Korea for almost 17 months after being arrested in January 2016, allegedly…


Rights Groups Call Out Middle Eastern Media Crackdown

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 10:30

Rights groups warn that rulers across the region are stepping up efforts to silence political dissent

Rights groups warn that rulers across the Middle East are stepping up efforts to silence political dissent, detaining journalists, shuttering newspapers and blocking news sites. Egypt added seven sites to its blacklist last weekend, including Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, bringing to 103 the number of its blocked news sites, according the Association for Freedom of Thought…


Verified Voting With a Paper Trail is the Voter Hacking Solution

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 00:31


Two of America’s top election reform champions, Verified Voting and Common Cause, released a letter to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that is investigating the 2016 election tampering controversy. The letter is titled, “Government Needs to Do More to Deal with Risk of Voting Machine Hacking”. Thanks to Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog for the link:

This letter was sent to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence following a hearing on June 21, 2017. (Download PDF)

Verified Voting vigorously applauds the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its leadership and commitment to securing our elections. With clear evidence that foreign attackers sought to attack our 2016 elections through various means, our intelligence agencies warn that hostile attackers will be back to attack future elections. Congress and the most vulnerable states should act with urgency to fund and implement protective reforms that will make our election systems resilient against cyber attack: funding the adoption of paper ballots and accessible ballot marking systems, and implementing robust, manual post-election audits of the votes.

The June 21 hearing is an important first step toward those reforms, providing valuable information through witness testimony and questions of the Senators. We wish to expand on several key points that were raised in the hearing to ensure a clear understanding of the challenges we face in securing our elections.

It is crucial to understand that further reforms are urgently needed to bolster the mitigations currently in place so that it is possible to detect and correct a cyber attack on the vote count.

Some testimony asserted that pre-election testing and post-election audits currently in place would catch errors in vote tallies caused by a malicious attacker or software failure. Unfortunately, pre-election testing, though helpful for ensuring the completeness of ballot programming, can be defeated by malicious software designed to detect when the system is in test mode. This is what happened with Volkswagen diesels cars: the software caused the cars’ emissions systems to behave correctly during testing, but then allowed them to pollute under non-testing conditions.

Likewise, while post-election audits currently in place in some states may serve to detect errors in the vote count—and indeed in a number of past elections have detected outcome-changing errors—such audits cannot be relied upon nationally. A post-election audit requires examination of some number of paper ballots marked by voters, to serve as a check on the software vote count. Because voters in five states are consigned to paperless machines, and nine other states contain jurisdictions that do not have paper ballots, it is impossible to conduct a legitimate post-election audit to detect software errors in 14 states.

Moreover, while roughly 70% of the nation has paper ballots,1 little more than half the country conducts post-election audits2 and, with few exceptions, these audits are not strong enough to always reliably detect vote count errors caused by cyber attacks or software problems. This is why we need paper ballots and robust post-election audits: to have sufficient evidence to detect and correct errors in all jurisdictions, not just in some jurisdictions.

Although most voting machines are not directly connected to the Internet, they nonetheless may be exposed to hacking attacks through other connections, as Dr. Alex Halderman explained in his testimony.3 Furthermore, 32 states allow the online casting of ballots for military and overseas voters;4 these ballots are directly exposed to Internet attacks. Because these ballots are cast electronically, their accuracy cannot be verified or accurately audited.

At the hearing, Senators pressed the important point that our current system does not ensure that State election directors will disclose breaches to the public or other entities. In some localities, election systems are managed by outside vendors, some of which may not have the resources to implement strong security. In these cases the vendors would be responsible to detect and report vulnerabilities or intrusions. But vendors may feel a financial and reputational disincentive to disclose vulnerabilities or breaches of their systems. Without reforms to require such disclosure, we cannot reasonably expect to learn of all breaches and vulnerabilities. This exacerbates the difficulty of addressing security challenges.

Paper ballots and post-election ballot audits provide resilience to cyber attacks on our voting process, because the paper ballot is physical, tangible evidence of voter intent that will remain untouched by a cyber attack. In the hearing we were told that one of our adversaries’ aims is to sow distrust in our elections so as to undermine U.S. democratic principles. Paper ballots and audits provide transparency and instill voter confidence in the process. By combining paper ballots with routine, mandatory post-election manual audits, we directly and effectively undercut our adversaries’ ability to shed doubt on the election outcome. Voters will have evidence to support the computer tallies, improving both transparency and voter confidence.

We thank you for focusing on this critical issue and for your commitment to address it. We hope to work with you to move the entire nation to resilient, auditable, transparent and accessible voting systems and stand ready to assist any way we can.

  3. Expert Testimony by J. Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science, University of Michigan before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence June 21, 2017
  4. “Secret Ballot at Risk, Recommendations for Protecting our Democracy,” Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause, Electronic Privacy Information Center,

Russia Bars Alexei Navalny 2018 Presidential Bid

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 00:16

Russia announced that Alexei Navalny is barred from challenging President Vladimir Putin

Russia’s electoral body has announced that Alexei Navalny, the o pposition leader, is barred from challenging President Vladimir Putin in next year’s elections. In a statement released on Friday, the Central Electoral Commission said Navalny is “not eligible to stand for office” because he is currently serving a five-year suspended sentence for embezzlement. The body said…


Colbert Considers 2020 Presidential Run

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 00:11


Colbert considering running for president of the United States in the next election period

“Late Night” host Stephen Colbert revealed Friday during an appearance on Russian talk show “Evening Urgant” that he is considering running for president of the United States in the next election period. During a game of Russian Roulette that used vodka shots instead of bullets, Colbert verified the news with the show’s host Ivan Urgant. Read:…


Study Authors Warn Against False Claims About Illegal Voters

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 20:45


Authors of falsely quoted survey had warned in the survey against using the data in regard to non-citizen voters. They expressly made clear their research should not be used to reach such conclusions. A recent article by Amy Sherman at Politifact goes point by point showing where this false and ‘ridiculous’ narrative was born. Fox and Friends and the Washington Times are among the news outlets pushing the false story as true. From Politifact:

The claim made on Fox and Friends is based on an extrapolation of a controversial study that relied on a very small number of responses. Researchers involved in the underlying survey of voters have cautioned against using their data to reach conclusions about noncitizen voters.

We emailed a spokeswoman for Fox News and did not get a reply; however, the Washington Times article showed that the information came from Just Facts, a think tank that describes itself as conservative/libertarian and was founded by James D. Agresti, a mechanical engineer in New Jersey.

Agresti’s conclusions are based on data from a paper by Old Dominion University researchers who used data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, or CCES. He multiplied the findings in that data with U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the noncitizen population to come up with a conclusion about the number of noncitizen voters nationwide.

The Huffington Post also wrote about the revelations regarding the origins of the false claim that they called ‘crazy extrapolation’. Here is the Huffington Post article quoting University of Massachusetts Amherst political science professor Brian Schaffner, who manages the database in question:

In addition to ignoring the major issue with the original study, they also claim that we should take any supposed non-citizen at their word if they claim to have voted even if we can’t match them to a vote record because they probably used a fraudulent identity. However, the issue here is why would a non-citizen who is going through the trouble of using a fraudulent identity to vote then admit to voting in a survey and give us their actual name and address?

Schaffner went on to explain how statistics works in surveys of the public:

If I do a survey of 1,000 people and on that survey five people say something crazy or non-truthful, that wouldn’t be something hard to imagine, that five people out of 1,000 people might lie, might not have actually read the text very carefully, might click on a button wrong.

Schaffner has this public bio up at University of Massachusetts Amherst:

My research focuses on public opinion, campaigns and elections, political parties, and legislative politics. I am co-PI of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. I am co-author (with Ray La Raja) of the forthcoming book Campaign Finance and Political Polarization: When Purists Prevail (University of Michigan Press), co-Editor of the book Winning with Words: The Origins & Impact of Political Framing, and co-author of Understanding Political Science Research Methods: The Challenge of Inference.

My research has appeared in over thirty journal articles, including the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Communication, Political Analysis, Political Research Quarterly, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Social Science Quarterly. I am also the Founding Director of the UMass Poll.


Vietnam’s Political Bloggers Are Imperiled in Crackdown

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 20:06

From Al Jazeera:

Since the reunification of North and South in 1975, the Communist Party has ruled Vietnam – and state’s control over the media is near-absolute.

However Vietnam’s bloggers are putting that control to the test. They’ve been challenging mainstream media outlets, pushing them to cover topics and issues the Communist Party has declared off limits. Blogs, messaging apps and Facebook carry stories that would otherwise have gone untold. And the bloggers are finding a ready-made audience. There are more people online in Vietnam than any other country in Southeast Asia.

Bloggers have also attracted the attention, and ire, of the authorities. Facing a mix of old laws and new ones, intimidation and closed trials, many have been disciplined, silenced and put away. Last year alone, 18 bloggers and activists were jailed.


  • Tran Le Thuy, director, Centre for Media Education & Consultancy
  • Shawn Crispin, senior southeast asia representative, Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Nguyen Van Hai, exiled Vietnamese blogger


PODCAST: Legislative Versus Executive Power Today

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 20:02


The latest Election Law Blog Podcast focuses on how the executive branch’s power has changed under Trump.
From Rick Hasen:

In this era of polarization in politics, how much power does Congress have compared to the President and the courts? Is the Republican Congress a meaningful check on President Trump? How well does Congress do at policing ethical lapses of its own members?

On Episode 17 of the ELB Podcast, we talk with Josh Chafetz, Cornell Law School professor and author of the new book, Congress’s Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers.

You can listen to the ELB Podcast Episode 17 on Soundcloud, subscribe at iTunes or just click here:

New Research Gives Top-Two Election Systems Thumbs Down

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 19:08

Eric McGhee and Boris Shor have revolutionized the way we measure redistricting, they now take on top-two voting. A new article, “New Political Science Research on Top-Two”, posted on Ballot Access News by Richard Winger had some analysis:

Political scientists Eric McGhee and Boris Shor have published “Has the Top Two Primary Elected More Moderates?” Anyone may read the 36-page paper at this link. The authors studied California and Washington, which are the only two states that use top-two (as they explain on page 6 and 16, Louisiana and Nebraska don’t have top-two systems).

They conclude that since top-two started in each state, California Democrats in the legislature have become more moderate, but California and Washington Republicans and Democrats in Congress have not; nor have Republicans in the legislatures of either state moderated. The paper suggests that a strong reason why California Democrats in the legislature have moderated is because of three other changes made almost simultaneously: (1) redistricting reform; (2) term limits were eased; (3) the California budget no longer takes a two-thirds majority in each house of the legislature. But the paper believes that top two has probably had some moderating effect on California legislative Democrats.

Page 27 says, “The results of these analyses suggest virtually no effect of the Top Two in Washington or for Republicans in California.” That page also says that because members of congress are not subject to term limits, whereas members of the California legislature are subject to term limits, therefore term limits is probably the main reason why the results are different for California Democratic legislators, versus California Democratic members of the U.S. House. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Here is the abstract from the paper:

Party polarization is perhaps the most significant political trend of the past several decades of American politics. Many observers have pinned hopes on institutional reforms to reinvigorate the political center. The Top Two primary is one of the most interesting and closely-watched of these reforms: a radically open primary system that removes much of the formal role for parties in the primary election and even allows for two candidates of the same party to face each other in the fall.

In this paper, we leverage the adoption of the Top Two in California and Washington to explore the reform’s effects on legislator behavior. We find an inconsistent effect since the reform was adopted in these two states. The evidence for post-reform moderation is stronger in California than in Washington, but some of this stronger effect appears to stem from a contemporaneous policy change—district lines drawn by an independent redistricting commission—while still more might have emerged from a change in term limits that was also adopted at the same time. The results validate some claims made by reformers, but question others, and their magnitude casts some doubt on the potential for institutions to reverse the polarization trend.

Here is some more on top-two voting systems from the supporting side thanks to the Independent Voter Project:

The Top-Two primary fundamentally changes the traditional approach to elections. Under a traditional primary system, whether the primary is “open,” “closed,” “semi-closed,” or any other iteration, the PURPOSE of the primary election is for political parties to choose which candidate best represents THEM.

Then, after the primary, voters participate in the general election and choose from the field of candidates predetermined by the political parties. Under a nonpartisan Top-Two system, instead of having separate primaries for each political party, there is one single primary. All candidates, voters, and political parties participate on the same ballot, and the rules are the same for everyone. Unlike a traditional system, the PURPOSE of the primary is to narrow the candidate field to the “top-two” candidates who best represent ALL OF US, regardless of the candidate or voter’s party affiliations.