10th Anniversary of Citizens United

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A few Oklahoma state senators want to offer residents “Make America Great Again”-themed license plates, a move that could violate campaign finance laws. Welcome to 2020… it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

A Not-So-Happy Anniversary: This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark and controversial ruling in Citizens United. Ridiculous amounts of money in politics is not a new phenomenon, but it’s definitely gotten worse since then. That is why the Seattle City Council is taking up the charge and challenging that decision in its local elections.

Since the Federal Election Commission can’t do much without a quorum (it’s been more than five months now), Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub has spent much of her time advocating for reforms to online political advertising regulations and campaign finance laws. Weintraub penned an op-ed praising the city council for passing a law that requires outside groups to certify that none of their funds come from foreign contributions. (read more)

Candidates Coordinate with Outside Groups: Political candidates and their campaigns have grown increasingly creative over the years to skirt anti-corruption laws (and in some cases, outright break them) that prevent coordination with outside groups.

These laws prohibit outside groups from linking up with candidates to raise money beyond the legal limits for individual campaign contributions. But it hasn’t stopped them from finding ways to coordinate without breaking those laws — or by breaking the laws and getting away with it — according to a new report by the political reform group Issue One. (check out the report here)

Some groups have even used social media to buy advertisements so candidates could see where the most people were receptive (and donated) through the geotags of each ad. Other groups have been more explicit in their coordination, taking multimedia content that candidates post online themselves and creating their own advertisements — giving candidates room for plausible deniability. (read more)

Technology Meets Its Match: It’s not just money clouding the political process, either. Even the voting machines that states insisted were good to go last year have been found to have numerous issues. In Georgia, state officials had to undergo a second certification for the Peach State’s voting machines after thousands of voters questioned why officials skipped key parts of the original certification process. To this day, officials vow that their touchscreen voting machines are safe and dismiss any reason for alarm.

Perhaps it’s because now, we’ve learned that a cybersecurity expert said he found evidence of hacking in Georgia’s central server as recently as 2014.

Logan Lamb, a cybersecurity expert representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Georgia, said he discovered a bug that was most likely exploited before the 2016 election. The computer logs that would’ve detected any wrongdoing were destroyed just two days after President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp oversaw that election as secretary of state, as well as the 2018 gubernatorial race in which he was a candidate. (read more)

Is it Time for Paper Ballots Everywhere? It’s not all bad news when it comes to voting machines, however, as other traditionally red states are starting to show more interest in hand-marked paper ballots. In Shelby County, Tennessee (no, not the one that sued to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act), officials want to use the $2.5 million allocated for election security to get rid of touchscreen voting machines.

Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton said that he intends to advocate for hand-marked paper ballots during the next commissioners meeting. Specifically, he prefers “printed ballots voters mark by hand that are then run through an optical scanner.” (read more)

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