Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Last Call For Elector Defector Detector Director

Axios games out the "new slate of electors/faithless electors" scenario that seems to be Trump's best chance of actively engineering an illegal coup to nullify the presidential election, and while I'm seriously infuriated that this appears to be happening, you can't say I wasn't warning folks around here that this was going to be a distinct possibility.

What we're watching: In this long-shot scenario, Trump and his team could try to block secretaries of state in contested states from certifying results. That could allow legislatures in those states to try to appoint new electors who favor Trump over Biden.

"It's basically hijacking the democracy," one lawyer familiar with the process tells Axios. "They've got nothing else; you'd be trying to deny Joe Biden 270." If Trump were to pursue this course, it likely would become apparent the week leading up to Thanksgiving, as states face deadlines to finalize election results.

Between the lines: Trump has not directly said he would pursue this strategy. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo each noted on Tuesday that the election results don't become official until electors cast their votes next month. To date, Biden's status as president-elect is rooted in media projections based on raw vote totals reported by individual states. 
Those totals don't become official, though, until states certify them. The Constitution prescribes that those official results will be used to apportion electors who officially pick the president.  “At some point here, we’ll find out finally who was certified (the winner) in each of these states, and the Electoral College will determine the winner and that person will be sworn in on January 20," McConnell said. "No reason for alarm.”

One Senate leadership aide said McConnell was not signaling an elector strategy and was simply noting that it's not uncommon for there to be litigation before the Electoral College results are complete. 
Pompeo, who raised eyebrows with a line about how there would be a "smooth transition to a second Trump administration," independently raised the Electoral College during a State Department news conference. “When the process is complete, there’s going to be electors selected," he said. "There’s a process; the Constitution lays it out pretty clearly.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

How it works: If a lawsuit successfully stops certification of results in a state, legislators there could step into the void and pick a pro-Trump slate of electors. The lawyer, who requested anonymity to speak about the scenario, said Trump's team now appears to be trying to throw enough dirt at the process for counting late ballots to argue that accurate results can't be ascertained.

The next step could be to try to get federal or state courts to enjoin secretaries of state from certifying results. Any move to provide an alternative slate of electors could force the first real test of the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and could land before the Supreme Court. Among the key swing states, Arizona and Georgia have GOP governors and legislatures. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have Democratic governors but GOP legislatures.

"This is a horrible idea, one that should be morally repugnant to every American," elections law expert Edward B. Foley wrote recently in The Washington Post. "For a state legislature to reclaim this power after voters have already cast their own ballots would be an even more egregious intrusion into the democratic process."
Now this definitely sounds like Axios is laying scaffolding here for making mountains out of molehills, it's what they do. But at the same time, this is how the coup would play out.

It's why this particular Supreme Court hearing a case on state legislatures and appointing slates of electors is so very dangerous. We already know there's at least three votes on the court to embrace former Chief Justice William Rehnquist's crackpot theory that state legislatures get the final say in electors and elections.

If there's two more, who knows? We shouldn't be anywhere near this point, but here we are.

Householder Of Cards, Con't

Despite former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder's arrest for bribery and corruption charges, despite evidence that the Ohio GOP received millions in slush fund money in order to vote for a corrupt energy bill that made Ohio's largest energy company billions of dollars at direct taxpayer expense, Ohio voters simply reelected everyone involved in the mess, and actually gave even larger margins to the state's GOP supermajority.
The scandal surrounding House Bill 6 took out the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives. It has dominated the news pages and airwaves for months. It was the subject of countless campaign attack ads.

In the end, voters didn’t seem to care.

The scandal implicating former Speaker Larry Householder and his effort to get a nuclear bailout enacted into law emerged as a major theme in the 2020 Statehouse elections, but seemingly had little impact on the results.

In total, there were 46 lawmakers who voted for House Bill 6 and were on the ballot this November for a seat in the Ohio House or Ohio Senate. The unofficial results show that every single one of them won their election: 46-for-46. That includes Householder himself, who won reelection to his 72nd District over a slate of write-in opponents.

In contrast, there were 35 “no” votes who were up for election. Four of them have been voted out, and a fifth lawmaker’s race is too close to call.

That’s a striking result considering the extent to which the scandal has enveloped Ohio politics since the July arrests of Householder and four political operatives.

In recent months, news outlets have extensively covered an 81-page affidavit outlining the years of alleged corruption and bribery that went into HB 6 being enacted to benefit the former FirstEnergy Solutions of Akron. So too did news stories highlight the vote to remove Householder as the House leader; the ensuing trials; and the ongoing effort to get HB 6 repealed.

Voters got one last reminder last week, when two people charged in the alleged scheme pleaded guilty.

The yearslong plot, as alleged by federal investigators, involved FirstEnergy Solutions funneling “dark money” toward a group controlled by Householder. These resources were used to get Householder and a number of other Republican allies elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. These allies joined with more than two-dozen Democrats to elevate Householder as House speaker in 2019.
In fact, even more Ohio lawmakers have been arrested by the FBI over the FirstEnergy Solutions scam, including Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor, just this week, as the guilty pleas and evidence pile up.

Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor has been arrested, according to sources. Pastor, a Republican, is expected to face federal charges including bribery, extortion and money laundering.

A press conference is scheduled at the FBI headquarters in Cincinnati at 2:30 p.m. featuring U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers and Chris Hoffman, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI’s field office.

As previously reported by and The Plain Dealer, the FBI may have been running an operation in Cincinnati last year involving two mysterious men identifying themselves as real-estate developers. The two men made the rounds there, seeking help from local public officials with a planned hotel project.

They also ended up hiring Columbus lobbyist Neil Clark, ostensibly for his help changing state law to benefit the planned hotel by amending a pending sports-betting legalization. But the amendment ultimately did not make its way into the bill. Chinedum Ndukwe, a former Cincinnati Bengals player who now is a real-estate developer in Cincinnati, was involved with the hotel project and attended some of the meetings, which Clark said he felt appeared to give it legitimacy.

After his and others' arrest in July on corruption charges linked to the passage of a nuclear bailout bill, Clark said quotes of his that appeared in the indictment were recorded during meetings he held with the Cincinnati hotel developers. He said he suspects they were either undercover FBI agents, or at the least, informants working with the FBI. Clark has pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing.

Efforts by and The Plain Dealer to locate the men who hired Clark were unsuccessful. Officials in Cincinnati recalled interacting with the men, believing they were from Nashville and either North Carolina or Georgia, but said they haven’t heard from them since last summer. Federal officials declined to comment on any ongoing investigation.
But again, every Republican who voted for Householder's corrupt kickback bill, and every Republican who made Householder Speaker before he was forced to step down, was reelected by Ohio voters.
But that's also proof of how moribund and useless the Ohio Democrats are, they couldn't beat a single Republican, with several indicted. Outside Sherrod Brown, the state's Democrats are 100% worthless, useless, and pointless.

You know, kind of like the KY Democrats.

Corruption means nothing in this state. I guess we'll have to wait until the Biden Justice Department gets around to actually trying the cases in court.

That Poll-Asked Look, Con't

NY Times Upshot pollster Nate Cohn talks to The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner about what the polls got wrong this year compared to 2016, and it's a long, long list, and a fair amount of "I don't knows" in that list.

Isaac Chotiner: In a lot of preelection polling, Trump was running ahead of Republican Senate candidates. But Republicans seemed to do better than Trump in the generic House vote, and in some of these Senate races. Why do you think that was?

Nate Cohn: I don’t know why that turned out to be the case. I think one of the most interesting parts of the polling error this year is that it was greater down-ballot than it was as at the top of the ticket, and in 2016 it was the opposite. And so while a lot of our explanation for what went wrong in 2016 was searching for things that were mainly about the President, I’m not sure that the pollsters would be right to suppose that this year’s polling error is unique or specific to the President.

IC: In 2016, the national polls were off a couple points, and then Midwestern polls, especially polls that didn’t weight by education, were off more. This year with your polling for the New York Times, with other polling, there were a lot of misses. And these were the polls that really took weighting by education seriously and took a lot of steps after 2016 to fix errors, and in your case nailed the 2018 midterms. Do you know what happened this time?

NC: I don’t. I can offer you some theories.

IC: Yeah, please.

NC: But, before I say that, I do want to agree that this was a much bigger polling miss, in important ways, than in 2016. It was a bigger polling miss in the national surveys. It was a bigger polling miss for the industry’s most prominent and pricey survey houses. The state polling error will be just as bad, even though, as you mentioned, many state pollsters took steps to increase the number of white voters without a degree in their surveys. And state polls look a lot like they did in 2016.

But, if the state polls are just as bad as they were in 2016, despite steps that we know improved the President’s standing in the surveys, we can say with total confidence—and I know this was true in our data—that the underlying survey data has to be worse than it was in 2016. Or, if you prefer, if all the pollsters were using the 2016 methodology, the polls would have been far worse this year than they were in 2016. And that is really interesting. As I said, I can list a bunch of theories for you.

IC: Yeah. What are your theories?

NC: Well, the key framing is what’s changed since 2016. What would make the polls worse now than they were then? So one possibility is that it’s four more years of Trump, and that as American politics grew more and more defined along the lines of your attitudes about the President, and as old political allegiances sort of fell away, that non-response bias in polling became more and more correlated with Presidential vote choice.

Another possibility is that “the resistance” is what broke the polls. Think of all of the political engagement on the left, the millions of dollars that were spent to help Jon Ossoff in 2017 or to help Jamie Harrison in 2020. This portrays a tremendous increase in the level of political participation on the part of progressives. We know that politically engaged voters are more likely to respond to surveys. And so it may be that as the Trump Presidency has totally energized the Democratic base, it has also led those same kinds of voters to increase their propensity to respond to political surveys.

Another possibility is the high turnout this year. We in the polling world have tended to assume that higher turnout makes polling easier, because we think of turnout as something that’s an additional variable that the polls have to get right beyond just taking a nice sample of the population. This year, though, we have this huge increase in turnout, and most people have supposed that it was good for Joe Biden. Maybe it was good for Joe Biden. But I think we also have to be open to the idea that it was not good for Joe Biden. In Florida, where we were collecting turnout data live on Election Day, I can tell you with certainty that the electorate was more Republican than it was in 2016, more than our polls projected, no matter your likely voter methodology. That may be true elsewhere in the country. I don’t know. It may not be. We just don’t have that data yet.

But I would note that many of the late polls stopped showing a gap between the preferences of registered and likely voters, and in some cases it went into reverse, where the Democrats were faring better among likely voters and registered voters. A few late examples—the CNN poll showed Biden up ten in Pennsylvania, but only up five among registered voters. I believe the final ABC News/Washington Post poll in Pennsylvania showed Joe Biden doing better among likely voters than registered voters.

And then a final thing I would raise is that maybe it was the coronavirus. You may recall that, one year ago, at the time we published a series of polls that showed Biden narrowly ahead of Trump and Elizabeth Warren trailing Trump, and those polls were a lot more accurate than the polls that we did since then
There are a lot of factors, but the big one was education. Education, not race, is now the single biggest predictor of partisan voting, but race is still a close second.

And Democrats did badly with Latino men and White college-educated women in particular. The polls had support for Biden from these groups overestimated by double-digits at the minimum. 

But the major problem is this: you can't fix voter suppression with turnout. You just get turnout that favors the suppressors.
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