With the 2020 presidential election a year away, adversaries of US democracy will spend that time finding new ways to gain improper advantages.
WhoWhatWhy dedicates a significant amount of original reporting to election integrity and covers related topics that national outlets often overlook or neglect.
By launching this weekly newsletter, we aim to keep you informed of who wants to undermine US democracy, what they are planning, why they are doing it — and what you can do about it.
Is Social Media Anti-Social?
If it hasn’t been made clear already, a lot of people are unhappy with social media companies for their response to Russia’s massive disinformation campaign during the 2016 election.
And, the juxtaposition of Twitter and Facebook’s positions on what to do was made clear this past week. At the end of the month, Twitter users can say goodbye to political advertisements cluttering their timelines.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, thinks it’s the right way to go and called out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a not-so-subtle way. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey tweeted when he announced the policy change.
He continued: “For instance, it‘s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!’”
In September, a Twitter representative was asked if they would ban President Donald Trump’s account if he spread misleading information on their platform. He wouldn’t engage the person that asked, but it was clear that Twitter, too, has its limits. (READ MORE)
Notably, Zuckerberg told Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) at a House Financial Services Committee hearing that, if she wanted to, she could probably run an ad on their platform claiming that Republican candidates voted for the Green New Deal.
The problem with that, however, is that he probably should have known that almost every Republican politician opposes it. Ocasio-Cortez would be lying. “I think lying is bad, and if you were to run an ad that had a lie, it would be bad,” Zuckerberg added.
Zuckerberg also responded to Dorsey’s decision: “In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news,” he said in a lengthy Facebook post.
Klobuchar Spotlights Election Integrity
Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar took an opportunity during the fourth Democratic presidential primary debate to talk about protecting our elections.
“Vladimir Putin is someone who has shot down planes over Ukraine … and we have not talked about what we need to do to protect ourselves from Russia invading our election,” Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar has yet to poll above 3 percent, but zoning in on this issue could be her biggest contribution to the 2020 election if she fails to become the Democratic nominee.
In Washington, Klobuchar has made numerous pleas on the Senate floor urging colleagues to pass legislation that would require back-up paper ballots in every state and also mandate that campaigns notify the FBI if a foreign government contacts them. (read more)
What We’re Watching
Local and state elections are this week, and we’re keeping an eye on Kentucky’s gubernatorial race. Will Republican Matt Bevin succeed in his reelection bid?
Bevin’s in a tough match-up against the state’s Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear. Recent polls show Beshear leading by double digits, which is surprising for a state that continues to send Republican lawmakers to its state capitol and Washington.
The outcome of this race could have major implications for felon voting rights. In 2015, Beshear issued an executive order to automatically restore voting rights for individuals with felony convictions once they finish their jail sentences — but Bevin reversed it.
If Beshear wins, it’s likely that he would support a bill in the General Assembly that does what he tried to do in 2015. And, if that happens, more than 312,000 Kentuckians could have their voting rights restored in time for the 2020 elections.
In the Courts
— New Virginia Majority Education Fund v. Fairfax County Board of Elections: Settlement Reached
Election officials avoided a trial and allowed 171 George Mason University students that live on campus to get their voter registration applications approved by updating their residential addresses to include their dorm room information.
— Harper v. Lewis: Redraw the Maps
A North Carolina superior court blocked the use of gerrymandered maps and urged the General Assembly to “act immediately and with all due haste to enact new congressional districts … in a transparent and bipartisan manner.”
- The Justice Department’s Criminal Inquiry Into Russia Probe (NPR Illinois)
- Al Sharpton, Civil Rights Leaders to Meet With Zuckerberg About Political Ads (The Hill)
- Dissent Erupts at Facebook Over Hands-off Stance on Political Ads (New York Times)
- Democratic Congressman Demands ‘FEC Investigation of Deadbeat Trump Campaign’ (IJR)
- Voting Rights Groups Question Philly’s Polling Place Changes (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Florida’s ‘Arbitrary’ Election Laws Keep Thousands From Voting, Experts Argue (Orlando Sentinel)
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