Local and state elections were held this week, and although Democrats had historic victories, they would have had a much harder time winning had it not been for grassroots organizing to level the playing field and judicial wins.

In Virginia…
Democrats overcame years of gerrymandered districts to flip the state house. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in July that left threw out the 2011 legislative maps after local activists filed a lawsuit because of racial gerrymandering, giving Democrats a fighting chance for the first time in years.

In Tennessee…
A federal judge blocked a law that placed restrictions on registering voters in Tennessee on Thursday, which will last until February 2021 — the trial date challenging two laws on voter registration — after the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit.

With this new order, perhaps Tennessee’s rank as 44th in the nation on voter registration will rise.

In Kentucky…
Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear —who made voting rights a key part of his campaign — ousted Republican incumbent Matt Bevin by just over 5,000 votes.

Kentucky doesn’t have a law that automatically triggers a recount, yet Bevin demanded a recanvass of the votes — which basically means double checking the vote counts that voting machines printed for accuracy instead of recounting all of the votes cast.

WhoWhatWhy’s Election Integrity Weekly keeps you informed of who aims to tip the scales, what they are planning, and why they are doing it. Check out previous newsletters here.

What to Do About Online Ads

Just quit the use of “microtargeting,” says Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub.

What is microtargeting? It’s a type of online advertising that, instead of a geographical region, targets specific demographics by using data like age, gender, and even one’s favorite sports team.

Weintraub’s “hot plan” as she described it on Twitter, has three parts:

  1. Target political ads only by large and fully disclosed geographic areas

  2. Allow targeting no more specific than one political level below the election at which the ad is directed

  3. Nix “custom audiences” programs, which defeat any efforts to effectively publicly disclose how ads are targeted

Could it work? Perhaps. Her idea came in the wake of Twitter announcing that, at the end of this month, political advertising ends on their platform. Facebook and Google have been floating the idea of ending microtargeting in recent weeks.

Thanksgiving Day will mark three months since the FEC lost its legally mandated minimum of four commissioners to vote on enforcement measures, but that hasn’t stopped Weintraub from using her platform to warn about political advertisements on social media.

It’s not the first time Weintraub spoke out about not regulating online political advertisements. Before FEC Vice Chair Matt Petersen resigned in August, Weintraub spent weeks trying to hold a vote on enforcing new disclosures on ads online.

“For the last four weeks since the last meeting, my staff has reached out to your staff virtually on a daily basis trying to see if there was something we could talk about — some way to move the ball forward,” Weintraub pleaded during the meeting. (read more)

What We’re Watching

It’s official — former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has entered the 2020 Democratic primary race… in Alabama? Why did he choose to file there? He didn’t file like other candidates did in New Hampshire, either.

The deadline for candidates to add their name on the ballot in the Alabama primary election was Friday, but another billionaire stepping into the race speaks to the power of money in politics.

Tom Steyer, who said he wouldn’t run before eventually declaring his candidacy, is the other billionaire running for the Democratic nomination.

Steyer announced he would run in July and made the debate stage in October after a spokesperson for his campaign told the New York Times that they planned on spending $100 million.

It may be too late for Bloomberg to make the next Democratic presidential primary debate in Georgia, but it shouldn’t be difficult for him to keep his name in the news.

Just days before the 2018 midterm elections, for example, he spent $5 million on “Get Out the Vote” television ads.

In the Courts

A federal judge ordered Ohio election officials to stop imposing stricter deadlines on late-jailed voters than it does for late-hospitalized voters for absentee voting.

Organizers from the Recall Dunleavy campaign filed a complaint to appeal Republican Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s rejection of their application to recall GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Recommended Reading

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