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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

Paper – Presidential Control of Elections

Manheim, Lisa Marshall, Presidential Control of Elections (June 1, 2020). Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 74, 2021 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3616390 – “In recent decades, Presidents of both political parties have asserted increasingly aggressive forms of influence over the administrative state. During this same period, Congress has expanded the role that the federal government plays in election administration. The convergence of these two trends leads to a troubling but underexamined phenomenon: presidential control of elections. Relying on their official powers, Presidents have the ability to affect the rules that govern elections, including elections meant to check and legitimize presidential powers in the first place. This self-serving arrangement heightens the risk of harms from political entrenchment, subordination of expertise, and disillusionment of the electorate. These harms, in turn, threaten to compromise election outcomes. By extension, they also threaten the electoral connection purportedly underlying the administrative state, and therefore the legitimacy of the work of the modern executive branch. This Article identifies, defines, and examines this phenomenon — presidential control of elections — and explores its broader implications. It demonstrates that, across the executive branch, this phenomenon manifests differently, and sometimes counterintuitively, in ways that tend to track how Congress has structured the relevant grant of power. Three forms dominate, with Presidents influencing election administration primarily through priority setting (for grants of power running through executive agencies), promotion of gridlock (for grants of power running through independent agencies), and idiosyncratic control (for grants of power running directly to the President). This analysis reveals that congressional efforts at insulation at times can backfire, with Presidents able to exercise particularly problematic forms of control over agencies that Congress designed in blunt ways to resist presidential influence. To that end, this Article proposes that Congress and the courts avoid trying to eliminate or otherwise indiscriminately curb presidential control of elections — a quixotic endeavor that would give rise to its own constitutional hurdles and normative harms. Instead, the legislative and judicial branches should identify specific areas where the President’s control over election administration lacks an effective check, and seek to empower other political actors in those spaces. [h/t Mary Whisner]

Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee

CRS report via LC – Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee, Updated September 28, 2020: “The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court in… Continue Reading

This is how police request customer data from Amazon

TechCrunch: “Anyone can access portions of a web portal, used by law enforcement to request customer data from Amazon, even though the portal is supposed to require a verified email address and password. Amazon’s law enforcement request portal allows police and federal agents to submit formal requests for customer data along with a legal order,… Continue Reading

5 Calls – easiest and most effective way for citizens to make an impact in national and local politics

How do I use 5 Calls? Type in your ZIP code (or let your browser or the app find your location for you). Choose an issue that’s important to you. Make calls! You have three members of Congress – two senators and a House rep. Some issues need calls to all three (we’ll tell you… Continue Reading

Internal USPS documents link changes behind mail slowdowns to top executives

Washington Post includes the 16 page presentation – “A senior executive at the U.S. Postal Service delivered a PowerPoint presentation in July that pressed officials across the organization to make the operational changes that led to mail backups across the country, seemingly contradicting months of official statements about the origin of the plans, according to… Continue Reading

Cherokee Nation reservation is now visible on Google Maps

Cherokee Nation – Anadisgoi: The Cherokee Nation’s reservation boundaries are now mapped on Google Maps. “After the monumental US Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v Oklahoma, we’ve had many questions about our reservation boundaries, which always existed on paper maps. Now that our reservation is labeled on Google Maps, it’s easy for people around the… Continue Reading

The Election That Could Break America

The Atlantic -“…The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous… Continue Reading

Unplug the Internet Kill Switch Act of 2020

News release: “Yesterday, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Thomas Massie (KY-04) introduced H.R.8336, the Unplug the Internet Kill Switch Prevention Act, which would prevent the President from using emergency powers to cut off America’s access to the internet and undermine Americans’ Constitutional protections. The bipartisan, bicameral bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Rand… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Appointment Process: Consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee

CRS report via LC – Supreme Court Appointment Process: Consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Updated September 22, 2020: “The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee

CRS report via LC Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee, Updated September 21, 2020: “The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court in the… Continue Reading

CRS – The Civil Rights Act of 1964: An Overview

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: An Overview, September 21, 2020 [108 pages/PDF]: “The Civil Rights Act of 1964, comprised of eleven titles and numerous sections, has been called the “most comprehensive undertaking” to prevent and address discrimination in a wide range of contexts. From discriminatory voter registration practices to racial segregation in business establishments… Continue Reading