Archives for category: Elections

Joy Hofmeister, a lifelong Republican and Superintendent of Public Instruction in Oklahoma, has decided to join the Democratic Party and run for Governor against incumbent Kevin Stitt. Stitt is a devotee of Trump, and Oklahoma is a deep-red state. Hofmeister is a strong supporter of public schools and a very brave person. She was interviewed by Erin Burnett on CNN.

I met Joy a few years ago when I was invited to speak to the state’s superintendents. We had a chance to talk, and I was very impressed by her candor, her thoughtfulness, and her strength of character.

If you are reading this and you live in Oklahoma, get involved and help her. If, like me, you don’t live in Oklahoma, send money to her campaign. As soon as I have a link to her campaign, I will post it.

Thank you, Joy, for taking on this formidable challenge. We need more people like you in public life: principled, honest, intelligent, devoted to the common good.

Billy Townsend zeroes in on Lakeland, Florida’s mayoral campaign to illustrate how far off the rails the Republican Party has gone. The Republican candidate is promoting an extremist agenda that shows no concern for people who don’t agree with her. She is a Trumper through and through. Townsend sees her as symbolic of the loss of citizenship as a unifying principle.

She is running to represent people who agree with her. She reflects the bitter partisanship that is tearing the country apart.

He writes:

Saga Stevin will not represent the people who don’t believe the same way she does. She can’t — or won’t — even see them. They exist outside her frame of citizenship.

In a debate with the incumbent mayor, Stevin states bluntly:

“I don’t believe in equity,” she says to start the answer and then she ends it like this: “Lakeland’s a lovely mix of people. And I think we’re people who have American values that want a traditional family kind of lifestyle, conservative views…”

Shrinking Lakeland’s frame of citizenship to conform to her frame is the entire reason she’s running. Not representing the people who think and believe differently is the entire point of her campaign.

When you read Townsend’s post, you will worry about the fate of our democracy.

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, tweeted that today is the anniversary of the certification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

https://twitter.com/JimGrossmanAHA/status/1420396715723603972

On this date in 1868 Secretary if State William Seward officially certified the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Every American should read this text today. #EverythinghasaHistory constitutioncenter.org/interactive-co…

He suggests that today would be a good day to read the 14th Amendment, which guarantees full citizenship to all citizens born or naturalized in the United States.

In particular, read Section 2:

Section 2

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

If the Supreme Court rereads Section 2, it will strike down any state laws that abridge the right to vote, especially when those laws were designed to suppress the Black vote.

Much has changed since the 14th Amendment was written. Women and Indians have the right to vote, and the voting age has been lowered to 18.

But what has not changed is that it is unconstitutional to abridge the right to vote.

Paul Waldman is on the staff of the Washington Post. In this excerpt of his column, he says that Trump zealots will refuse to believe what the police officers said about the events of January 6. Nor will Trump devotees in the Congress be moved. The police officers saved their lives on that day, but they won’t heed what they testified. The Republican members of Congress were there as rioters plundered the U.S. Capitol and threatened the lives of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence. Only a thin blue line separated the mob and the esteemed members of Congress, who were only a few feet apart as they scurried to their hiding places. Yet still they say things like, “It was a normal tourist crowd,” or “it was a peaceful protest.” And they have response when Trump expresses his admiration and love for the mob that beat up police officers, shattered windows, and broke down doors in their absurd effort to reverse the election results.

Waldman writes:

There are people who believe that the moon landing never happened, that the astronauts in the footage all the world saw were actually bouncing around on a soundstage hidden away somewhere. But they aren’t making our laws, they aren’t invited on TV to discuss their perspective, and they don’t have the ability to influence millions.


Yet there are people who deny the truth of what happened in Washington on Jan. 6, despite all the video, all the contemporaneous reports, all the guilty pleas, and all the testimony. And they have a lot more power.


Tuesday’s first hearing of the select House committee investigating the insurrection, with vivid testimony from four police officers who stood against a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters overrunning the Capitol in an attempt to overturn a presidential election, should put at least some questions about that day to rest.

Still recovering from their physical and mental injuries, the officers seemed particularly incensed that the truth of what happened that day is denied by so many on the right, from Trump himself on down.
“To me, it’s insulting, just demoralizing because of everything that we did to prevent everyone in the Capitol from getting hurt,” said Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell about the effort to minimize what happened that day, including by Trump. (“It was a loving crowd,” the former president told Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, “There was a lot of love. I’ve heard that from everybody.”)

Gonnell also addressed the various conspiracy theories propagated by some very high-profile figures on the right, claiming that the insurrection might have been a false-flag operation. “It was not antifa,” he said. “It was not Black Lives Matter. It was not the FBI. It was his supporters that he sent them over to the Capitol that day.”
“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” said D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, slamming his fist on the table. “Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day.”

That denial takes various forms. Some, like Trump, assert that the riot was no big deal (“By and large it was peaceful protest,” said Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin). Others say that, while it was certainly bad, it doesn’t have anything to do with any larger political forces and should be put behind us.

But the truth is that there was nothing isolated about the event. Those rioters came to Washington at Trump’s behest. They assaulted the seat of our government in an effort to prevent the final certification of an American presidential election. And to this day, most of the GOP continues to stoke the fires of racial resentment and contempt for the democracy that made it possible.

One of the few exceptions in the Republican Party, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) dispatched the bad-faith argument so many in his party made that any investigation of Jan. 6 should also spend time talking about protests last summer against police misconduct, during which violence broke out:

“Some have concocted a counternarrative to discredit this process on the grounds that we didn’t launch a similar investigation into the urban riots and looting last summer. Mr. Chairman, I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an Air National Guardsman. I condemn those riots and the destruction of property that resulted. But not once did I ever feel that the future of self-governance was threatened like I did on January 6. There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law, between a crime, even grave crimes, and a coup.


That is the heart of what made January 6 so threatening: Not just the physical violence, but the assault on the American system.

The hearings about the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol opened with testimony by four police officers who were beaten and brutalized by the pro-Trump mob, trying to stop the certification of the election of President Biden.

This story appeared in USA Today.

The officers’ accounts provided a dramatic opening for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, when Trump’s fanatical supporters tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

“Here are highlights from their testimony.

“Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell

“An Army veteran, Gonell said his experience during the insurrection was more terrifying than serving in Iraq, where he had to conduct supply missions on roads laced with improvised explosive devices.

“Nothing in my experience in the Army or as a law enforcement officer prepared me for what we confronted on Jan. 6,” he told the panel, recounting hand-to-hand combat with the rioters that likened to a “medieval” battle.

“I did not recognize my fellow citizens,” Gonell said. One rioter, he said, “shouted that I —an Army veteran and a police officer — should be executed.”

“As he and his fellow officers were punched, kicked and sprayed with chemicals, “I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, ‘This is how I’m going to die’,” Gonell said.

“Six months after the riot, Gonell said he is still recovering from injuries.”

DC Metro officer Michael Fanone

Fanone, who nearly died on Jan. 6, has emerged as one of the most outspoken enforcement officials in the wake of the Capitol riot, during which he was beaten unconscious and suffered a heart attack.

In the months since Jan. 6, he has lobbied Congress to create a bipartisan, independent commission to probe the riot and lashed Republicans for downplaying the attack.

At Tuesday’s hearing, he moved into the spotlight once again.

“As I was swarmed by a violent mob, they ripped off my badge, they grabbed and stripped me of my radio, they seized a munition that was secured to my body,” Fanone recalled. “They began to beat me with their fists and what felt like hard metal objects.”

At one point during the riot, Fanone was pulled from a line of police by a rioter who shouted “I got one!”

As he was beaten, he heard a rioter shout to “Get his gun! Kill him with his own weapon.”

” … I was electrocuted again and again and again with a taser. I’m sure I was screaming but I don’t think I could even hear my own voice,” he recounted.

“I have kids,” he responded in a plea for his life.

“I still hear those words in my head today,” Fanone told lawmakers.

An unconscious Fanone was later driven by another injured officer to a nearby hospital, where he was told he suffered a heart attack and multiple life-threatening injuries. He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I thought I had seen it all, many times over,” Fanone said. “Yet what I witnessed and experience on Jan. 6, 2021, was unlike anything I had ever seen, anything I had ever experienced or could have imagined in my country.”

U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn recounted how pro-Trump protestors continued to swell at the side of the Capitol all morning on Jan. 6 before becoming violent after thousands had assembled.

Rioters chanted “Stop the steal!,” clinging to the false claim that Trump was still the true elected leader of the country. When Dunn said that he’d voted for Biden and inquired if his vote didn’t matter, the already hostile crowd became irate.

“One woman in a pink ‘MAGA’ shirt yelled, “You hear that, guys, this (N-word) voted for Joe Biden!” he remembered.

“No one had ever called me a (N-word) while wearing my Capitol Police uniform,” Dunn testified.

Dunn also recounted how the aftermath of the day had been a “blur” to him. At one point he broke down in despair in the Capitol rotunda and asked how the attack was even possible, he said.

In the months since the attack, Dunn has said he’s been in support groups for his mental health to deal with the trauma of the attack, declaring that “there’s absolutely nothing wrong” with seeking help. Two Capitol police officers have died by suicide in the months since the attack.

Dunn also directly addressed the rioters and insurrectionists who were at the Capitol that day, saying “democracy went on that night and still continues to this day… you all tried to disrupt democracy, and you all failed.”

DC Metro Police officer Daniel Hodges

Hodges said rioters bashed his head, kicked him in the chest, and sprayed him with a chemical irritant during the riot, among other assaults.

One attacker told him he would “die on your knees.”

During one scuffle, a rioter tried to take Hodges’ baton and another kicked him in the chest and moved his mask over his eyes, leaving him temporarily blind while under attack.

While at his post as rioters began to assemble, he saw people in the crowd in tactical gear, wearing ballistic vests, helmets and goggles, appearing “to be prepared for much more than listening to politicians speak at a park,” he recalled.

“Terrorists were breaking apart the middle fencing and bike racks and the individual pieces, presumably to use weapons,” Hodges told the committee.

In the haze, Hodges said he remembers seeing the “thin blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement” being carried by the rioters who then attacked the very officers they claimed to support. Hodges was told he was “on the wrong team” by one of the attackers.

As he was being gassed and having his head smashed, Hodges recounted screaming for help until fellow officers were able to save him from the attackers.

Ed McBroom is a dairy farmer in Michigan. He is also a Republican state senator who chairs the Oversight Committee of the legislature. It was his job to determine whether the election of 2020 was marked by fraud, as Trump said on many occasions. McBroom led hearings and investigated the claims. After eight months of searching, McBroom said he was unable to find evidence of fraud. His committee’s conclusion: “This Committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election.”

The stakes could hardly have been higher. Against a backdrop of confusion and suspicion and frightening civic friction—with Trump claiming he’d been cheated out of victory, and anecdotes about fraud coursing through every corner of the state—McBroom had led an exhaustive probe of Michigan’s electoral integrity. His committee interviewed scores of witnesses, subpoenaed and reviewed thousands of pages of documents, dissected the procedural mechanics of Michigan’s highly decentralized elections system, and scrutinized the most trafficked claims about corruption at the state’s ballot box in November. McBroom’s conclusion hit Lansing like a meteor: It was all a bunch of nonsense…

“Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan,” McBroom wrote in the report. “There is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters.”

For good measure, McBroom added: “The Committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain…”

Soon after the report was released, Trump issued a thundering statement calling McBroom’s investigation “a cover up, and a method of getting out of a Forensic Audit for the examination of the Presidential contest.” The former president then published the office phone numbers for McBroom and Michigan’s GOP Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, urging his followers to “call those two Senators now and get them to do the right thing, or vote them the hell out of office!”

McBroom had grown up a “history nerd.” He idolized the revolutionary Founders. He inhaled biographies of George Washington and McBroom had grown up a “history nerd.” He idolized the revolutionary Founders. He inhaled biographies of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. He revered the institution of the American presidency. And here was the 45th president, calling him out by name, accusing him of unthinkable treachery.

The Atlantic has the story. I hope it is not behind a paywall.

The Boston Globe wrote about other Republican officials who investigated the election results in their state and told the truth. The Globe titled its story: They kept the wheels on democracy as Trump tried to steal an election. Now they’re paying the price.

There was Republican Bill Gates, a member of the board of supervisors in Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix). He and his colleagues certified Biden’s victory and were reviled by angry Trump supporters.

There was Liz Cheney, who sacrificed her leadership position in the House of Representatives rather than follow the party line. She put her oath to the Constitution above the wishes of Trump and paid the price.

There was Aaron Van Langevelde, who lost his position on the Michigan Board of State Canvassers because he voted to certify Biden’s victory (Biden led Trump by 150,000 votes in Michigan). The Republican leadership punished him for his courage.

Van Langevelde revealed he faced pressure from political leaders to withhold certification in a March 26 speech at Cardozo Law School, which he provided to the Globe and which has not previously been reported.

“We were asked to take power we didn’t have. What would have been the cost if we had done so?,” Van Langevelde asked. “Constitutional chaos and the loss of our integrity.”

“There were a lot of people who would have preferred I said nothing, voted no, or abstained. I am sure a lot of people didn’t want me to make it to that meeting,” he continued. “I did everything I could to make it to that meeting, even though I knew it would cost me my position on the Board….”

That backlash could very well cost some Republicans their political careers. In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stood by the election results that gave Biden a narrow, 11,779-vote lead and resisted Trump’s entreaties to “find” more votes for him. Now, Raffensperger faces a challenge from a Trump-endorsed congressman, Jody Hice, who embraced Trump’s “stop the steal” movement. Few in the state are betting on Raffensperger’s survival.

“He’s done, he’s over,” said Jay Williams, a Republican strategist in the state. “There’s just no way he’s going to recover.”

Vice President Mike Pence let Trump’s fictions about the election fester through much of the fall, but he ultimately presided over the certification of Biden’s victory at the Capitol after rioters called for him to be punished — even hanged, some said. The move was widely seen as a betrayal by the Republican base and could imperil his political ambitions…

In Philadelphia, Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner, pushed back on the conspiracy theories that revolved around his city through television appearances and press conferences, particularly after Trump claimed repeatedly that, “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”

“They were lying about what was going on in front of us,” said Schmidt, who was still working in the city’s tabulation facility when, on Nov. 11, Trump tweeted about him by name. Soon, he and his family received threats that named his children and called him a traitor.

“What they were really saying is, ‘If you lie, this will go away,’” Schmidt said. He wouldn’t….

As some key officials who resisted election chaos lose their jobs, face uncertain political futures, or retire, experts are also worried about another development. Since January, at least 14 states have passed bills in state houses that give partisan lawmakers more power over elections and election officials….

Gates, the member of the board of supervisors in Phoenix, can see the latest iteration of that from his office. He has a view of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where his county’s ballots were “audited” by a private company in an exercise that is widely seen as a sham.

Gates opposes the audit. He and his colleagues refused to hand over ballots and voting machines until they were forced to do so under a court ruling following a subpoena from the Senate president. He has continued to speak out against the audit, even as it draws a parade of Republicans around the country who have come to admire it.

“This is about an attempt to delegitimize our democratic system,” Gates said.

For now, he is trying not to let the threatening messages — including a voice mail reviewed by the Globe that called for him to be given an “Alabama necktie” — get to him. And though he wrestled with the decision, he’s resolved to run again to keep his job, in an attempt to keep the guardrails on the electoral system for next time.

“If following the law … leads me to losing my next political race, that’s fine,” he said. “We have to stand up to these people.”

I endorse Maya Wiley for the Democratic candidate for Mayor of New York City.

There are many candidates in the Democratic primary for Mayor of New York City. Whoever is chosen will be the next mayor because the city is 3/4 Democrat and the Republican field is weak (Michael Bloomberg spent $100 million of his own money to win the mayoralty as a Republican and one of his top priorities was to persuade the state legislature to give him total control of the public schools).

My first choice initially was Scott Stringer, the City Comptroller, who has deep experience as a citywide official. Stringer was endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers because of his strong support for public schools. But his chances began to fade when a woman stepped forward to accuse him of groping her twenty years earlier.

Then two men emerged at the top of the polls: Andrew Yang and Eric Adams. Both have received large donations from GOP billionaires who support more charter schools.

The next top contender was Kathryn Garcia, a longtime city bureaucrat who has competence and experience. She was endorsed by the New York Times and the Daily News. With all of Garcia’s plans for change, the one area where she is weakest is education. Thanks to Bloomberg, NYC has mayoral control of the schools. Garcia has promised to lift the cap on charter schools (New York City already has nearly 300), to protect the elite public high schools, and to open more of them. she has shown little or no interest in helping the 88% of students who are in the public schools for which she would be responsible. She is a graduate of the city’s public schools, but treats them as an afterthought. For this reason, I cannot support her.

I endorse Maya Wiley. Wiley is a civil rights lawyer whose values and vision align with my own. She is not beholden to billionaires or the powerful real estate industry. In the debates, she shined as a fearless and principled advocate who did not defer to the front runners. She is committed to improving the lives of children, families, and communities. She is opposed to lifting the charter cap. A Mayor with a clear vision can hire outstanding talent to manage the city’s huge bureaucracy. What matters most is that she has a clear vision, grounded in a commitment to the public good.

https://www.mayawileyformayor.com

Max Boot, former conservative, wrote about the partisan attack on the elections of 2022 and 2024. Republicans are setting in place the process to steal the elections.

He writes:

Republicans have spent nearly seven months making bogus charges of fraud in the 2020 election under the banner of “stop the steal.” Now they have segued into a “start the steal” offensive to ensure that they will win the 2022 and 2024 elections — even if most voters once again support the Democratic Party.


The Brennan Center for Justice reports that “between January 1 and May 14, 2021, at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote” and “at least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 state legislatures.” Those bills are designed not to avert nonexistent voter fraud but to avert another election defeat for Republicans — and they are drawing perilously close to that goal.

In Georgia, for example, a new law stipulates that mobile voting stations “shall only be used in emergencies declared by the Governor,” who is a Republican. That will put out of business two “mobile voting units” — a.k.a. buses — that collected 11,200 ballots in Atlanta’s Fulton County in November. Also, under the new law, provisional ballots will no longer be accepted from voters who go to the wrong polling place; 11,120 provisional ballots were counted in November. “Combined,” writes my Post colleague David Weigel, “the ballots cast by both methods are nearly double the margin by which [Joe] Biden won Georgia.”

A new election law in Texas, which has been temporarily blocked by a walkout of Democrats from the state House, would outlaw many of the methods used to increase minority turnout, such as drive-through voting and early voting before 1 p.m. on Sundays (crimping “souls to the polls” events after church services). But the most alarming element of the bill is that it makes it easier to overturn election results even if there is no evidence that fraud affected the outcome.

The Georgia law, for its part, includes a pernicious provision giving the Republican-controlled state legislature the right to suspend county election officials and to name the chair of the State Election Board. Previously, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had chaired the board, but he incurred Republican wrath by certifying Biden’s victory. Raffensperger is being challenged next year by a Donald Trump-endorsed opponent, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who insists that Trump would have won in Georgia if the election had been “fair.”

Meanwhile, in Arizona — another state Trump narrowly lost — Republicans are trying to strip Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) of her power to defend election lawsuits. They want to vest that authority in the Republican attorney general. If she runs again, Hobbs, like Raffensperger, will face an election challenge from an advocate of the “big lie.” Trump die-hards are also running for the secretary of state posts in Nevada and Michigan.If the challengers win, pro-Trump conspiracy theorists will be supervising elections in key swing states.

While GOP efforts are ultimately aimed at the 2024 election, they will first make their impact felt in 2022. Off-year elections are always tough for the party in power. This one will be tougher still because of Republican-driven voter suppression, reapportionment and gerrymandering. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report writes that Republicans will have full authority to redraw 187 congressional districts, while Democrats will control just 75. He estimates that redistricting in just four states — Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina — could be enough to deliver the House to Republican control.

This brings us to a nightmare scenario: a Republican-controlled Congress overturning the 2024 presidential election results to install Trump or a Trump mini-me in the White House. In January, 139 House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans voted not to certify electoral college results in at least one state. Since then, the most prominent GOP opponent of the “big lie,” Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), has been purged from the House leadership. Willingness to lie about election fraud has become a litmus test for Republicans, with the implicit threat of mob violence if they don’t go along. Republicans are so scared of Trump and his fanatical followers that most of them just voted against a bipartisan investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Many congressional Republicans will refuse to certify a 2024 Democratic win in swing states. If Republicans control Congress, they could deny the Democrats an electoral college majority and throw the election to the House — where each state delegation, regardless of population, would cast one ballot. Given that Republicans already control a majority of state delegations, they could override the election outcome. If that happens, it would spell the end of American democracy.


I hope I am being overly alarmist. I really do. But after the storming of the Capitol — and the Republican failure to hold the instigators to account — we have crossed a Rubicon. The best way to protect our electoral system is to pass the For the People Act, which would curb partisan gerrymandering and protect voting rights. Senate Democrats have to choose between saving the filibuster and saving democracy. They can’t do both.

Republican-controlled state legislatures are writing scores of new laws to restrict voting. Some are passing laws that would permit the legislature to reverse the will of the voters.

Our democracy is at risk. The right to vote is fundamental. Voting should be encouraged, not restricted.

One hundred scholars signed a “Statement of Concern” about the current drive to make it harder to vote. Please read it.

Statement of Concern

The Threats to American Democracy and the Need for National Voting and Election Administration Standards
STATEMENT
June 1, 2021

We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.

When democracy breaks down, it typically takes many years, often decades, to reverse the downward spiral. In the process, violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.

Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes. They are seeking to restrict access to the ballot, the most basic principle underlying the right of all adult American citizens to participate in our democracy. They are also putting in place criminal sentences and fines meant to intimidate and scare away poll workers and nonpartisan administrators. State legislatures have advanced initiatives that curtail voting methods now preferred by Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as early voting and mail voting. Republican lawmakers have openly talked about ensuring the “purity” and “quality” of the vote, echoing arguments widely used across the Jim Crow South as reasons for restricting the Black vote.

State legislators supporting these changes have cited the urgency of “electoral integrity” and the need to ensure that elections are secure and free of fraud. But by multiple expert judgments, the 2020 election was extremely secure and free of fraud. The reason that Republican voters have concerns is because many Republican officials, led by former President Donald Trump, have manufactured false claims of fraud, claims that have been repeatedly rejected by courts of law, and which Trump’s own lawyers have acknowledged were mere speculation when they testified about them before judges.

In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.

Democracy rests on certain elemental institutional and normative conditions. Elections must be neutrally and fairly administered. They must be free of manipulation. Every citizen who is qualified must have an equal right to vote, unhindered by obstruction. And when they lose elections, political parties and their candidates and supporters must be willing to accept defeat and acknowledge the legitimacy of the outcome. The refusal of prominent Republicans to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, and the anti-democratic laws adopted (or approaching adoption) in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Texas—and under serious consideration in other Republican-controlled states—violate these principles. More profoundly, these actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy. As scholars of democracy, we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage.

The most effective remedy for these anti-democratic laws at the state level is federal action to protect equal access of all citizens to the ballot and to guarantee free and fair elections. Just as it ultimately took federal voting rights law to put an end to state-led voter suppression laws throughout the South, so federal law must once again ensure that American citizens’ voting rights do not depend on which party or faction happens to be dominant in their state legislature, and that votes are cast and counted equally, regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which a citizen happens to live. This is widely recognized as a fundamental principle of electoral integrity in democracies around the world.

A new voting rights law (such as that proposed in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) is essential but alone is not enough. True electoral integrity demands a comprehensive set of national standards that ensure the sanctity and independence of election administration, guarantee that all voters can freely exercise their right to vote, prevent partisan gerrymandering from giving dominant parties in the states an unfair advantage in the process of drawing congressional districts, and regulate ethics and money in politics.

It is always far better for major democracy reforms to be bipartisan, to give change the broadest possible legitimacy. However, in the current hyper-polarized political context such broad bipartisan support is sadly lacking. Elected Republican leaders have had numerous opportunities to repudiate Trump and his “Stop the Steal” crusade, which led to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Each time, they have sidestepped the truth and enabled the lie to spread.

We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.

Signatures are still being added. This list was last updated on 6/1/21 at 9:00 a.m. ET.

John Aldrich
Professor of Political Science
Duke University

Deborah Avant
Professor of International Studies
University of Denver

Larry M. Bartels
Professor of Political Science
Vanderbilt University

Frank R. Baumgartner
Professor of Political Science
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Sheri Berman
Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Benjamin Bishin
Professor of Political Science
University of California, Riverside

Robert Blair
Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs
Brown University

Henry E. Brady
Dean, Goldman School of Public Policy
University of California, Berkeley

Rogers Brubaker
Professor of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles

John M. Carey
Professor of Government
Dartmouth College

Michael Coppedge
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Katherine Cramer
Professor of Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Larry Diamond
Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution and Freeman Spogli Institute
Stanford University

Lee Drutman
Senior Fellow
New America

Rachel Epstein
Professor of International Studies
University of Denver

Henry Farrell
Professor of International Affairs
Johns Hopkins University

Christina Fattore
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Morris P. Fiorina
Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University

Joel L. Fleishman
Professor of Law and Public Policy Studies
Duke University

Luis Fraga
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

William W. Franko
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Francis Fukuyama
Senior Fellow
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University

Daniel J. Galvin
Associate Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University

Laura Gamboa
Assistant Professor of Political Science
University of Utah

Martin Gilens
Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Social Welfare
University of California, Los Angeles

Kristin Goss
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Duke University

Jessica Gottlieb
Associate Professor of Government & Public Service
Texas A&M University

Virginia Gray
Professor of Political Science Emeritus
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Jacob M. Grumbach
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
University of Washington

Anna Grzymala-Busse
Professor of International Studies
Stanford University

Jacob Hacker
Professor of Political Science
Yale University

Hahrie Han
Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Thomas J. Hayes
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Connecticut

Gretchen Helmke
Professor of Political Science
University of Rochester

Amanda Hollis-Brusky
Associate Professor of Politics
Pomona College

Daniel Hopkins
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Matthew B. Incantalupo
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Yeshiva University

Matt Jacobsmeier
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Hakeem Jefferson
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Bruce W. Jentleson
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Duke University

Theodore R. Johnson
Senior Fellow & Director, Fellows Program
Brennan Center for Justice

Richard Joseph
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
Northwestern University

Alex Keena
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Virginia Commonwealth University

Nathan J. Kelly
Professor of Political Science
University of Tennessee

Eric Kramon
Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs
George Washington University

Katherine Krimmel
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Didi Kuo
Senior Research Scholar, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
Stanford University

Matt Lacombe
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Barnard College, Columbia University

Timothy LaPira
Professor of Political Science
James Madison University

Michael Latner
Senior Fellow
Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy

Yphtach Lelkes
Assistant Professor, Annenberg School for Communication
University of Pennsylvania

Margaret Levi
Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Steve Levitsky
Professor of Government
Harvard University

Robert Lieberman
Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Scott Mainwaring
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Jane Mansbridge
Professor Emerita of Political Leadership and Democratic Values
Harvard University

Lilliana H. Mason
Associate Research Professor, Department of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Corrine M. McConnaughy
Research Scholar and Lecturer, Department of Politics
Princeton University

Jennifer McCoy
Professor of Political Science
Georgia State University

Suzanne Mettler
Professor of American Institutions, Department of Government
Cornell University

Robert Mickey
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Michael Minta
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Minnesota

Terry Moe
Professor of Political Science
Stanford University

Jana Morgan
Professor of Political Science
University of Tennessee

Mason Moseley
Associate Professor of Political Science
West Virginia University

Russell Muirhead
Professor of Democracy
Dartmouth College

Pippa Norris
Professor of Political Science
Harvard University

Anne Norton
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Brendan Nyhan
Professor of Government
Dartmouth College

Angela X. Ocampo
Assistant Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Norm Ornstein
Emeritus Scholar
American Enterprise Institute

Benjamin I. Page
Professor of Decision Making
Northwestern University

Tom Pepinsky
Professor, Department of Government
Cornell University

Anibal Perez-Linan
Professor of Political Science and Global Affairs
University of Notre Dame

Dirk Philipsen
Associate Research Professor of Economic History
Duke University

Paul Pierson
Professor of Political Science
University of California, Berkeley

Ethan Porter
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
George Washington University

Robert D. Putnam
Professor of Public Policy
Harvard University

Kenneth Roberts
Professor of Government
Cornell University

Amanda Lea Robinson
Associate Professor of Political Science
Ohio State University

Deondra Rose
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and History
Duke University

Nancy L. Rosenblum
Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government Emerita
Harvard University

Larry J. Sabato
University Professor of Politics
University of Virginia

Sara Sadhwani
Assistant Professor of Politics
Pomona College

David Schanzer
Professor of the Practice of Public Policy
Duke University

Kim L. Scheppele
Professor of Sociology and International Affairs
Princeton University

Daniel Schlozman
Associate Professor of Political Science
Johns Hopkins University

Kay L. Schlozman
Professor of Political Science
Boston College

Cathy Lisa Schneider
Professor, School of International Service
American University

Shauna Lani Shames
Associate Professor in Political Science
Rutgers University, Camden

Gisela Sin
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
University of Illinois

Dan Slater
Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

Anne-Marie Slaughter
Professor Emerita of Politics and International Relations
Princeton University

Charles Anthony Smith
Professor of Political Science and Law
University of California, Irvine

Rogers M. Smith
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Susan Stokes
Professor of Political Science
University of Chicago

Alexander George Theodoridis
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Chloe Thurston
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University

Antonio Ugues Jr.
Associate Professor of Political Science
St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Omar Wasow
Assistant Professor, Department of Politics
Princeton University

Christopher Witko
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Pennsylvania State University

Christina Wolbrecht
Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

Daniel Ziblatt
Professor of Government
Harvard University

*Institutions and titles are listed for identification purposes only.

Jeanne Kaplan is a veteran civil rights activist who was elected to serve two terms on the Denver school board. She has been active in multiple campaigns to stop privatization and over-testing and energize a genuine effort to improve the public schools. She wrote this piece for this blog.


  THE SISYPHEAN TASK IN DENVER

The dictionary defines Sisyphean task as something you keep doing but never gets completed, an endless task.  In Greek mythology Sisyphus is punished by the god Zeus and is tasked with endlessly pushing a rock up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down each time he nears the top.  I will leave the deeper philosophical meanings to others.  Simply interpreted, public education advocates residing in the Queen City of the Rockies, “transformers” if you will, will find similarities to this story as we reflect on our battle to defeat “education reform.”  In Denver’s case the Sisyphean task master has not been a vengeful god, but rather a school board member or a school board itself which through their betrayals continues to keep “transformers” tasked with pushing the education transformational rock up the mountain.

Call it the Sisyphean Challenge, Groundhog Day, a Broken Record, Déjà vu.  However you describe it, these “transformers” are experiencing another setback in their attempts to stop or at least slow down the business-based “education reform” model. In 2009 Denver voters thought they had put an end to the then still budding “education reform” movement.  “Transformers” won four of seven seats on the school board but quickly lost that advantage when, within hours of the election, one supposed “transformer” flipped sides.  For the next ten years education reformers had free reign in Denver. Four to three boards became a six to one board, became a seven to zero board.  All for “education reform.”  Forward ten years to today.  “Transformers” once again gained control of the Denver School Board in theory.  This time the transformer majority was believed to be 5-2.  But local education reformers – with a lot of help from national reform partners – once again figured out how to get their privatization agenda through this hypothetically anti-privatization 5-2 Board.  By consistently voting to renew and re-establish privatization policies and projects, today’s Board has deprived Denver voters once again of reaching the mountain top, and usually by a 6-1 vote.  And from today’s perspective the rock has once again rolled down the mountain.

The below listed organizations, initiatives and foundations have all had their hand in preventing educational transformation in Denver. The list is thorough but not comprehensive:

1 – A+ Colorado30 – Empower Schools
2 – Adolph Coors Foundation31 – Gates Family Foundation
3 – Anschutz Family Foundation32 – Janus Fund
4 – Bellwether Education Partners33 – KIPP – Knowledge is Power Program
5 – Bezos Family Foundation34 – Koch Family Foundations
6 – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation35 – Laura and John Arnold Foundation
7 – Bloomberg Philanthropies36 – Laurene Powell Jobs – Emerson Collective
8 – Boardhawk37 – Leadership for Educational Equity
9 – CareerWise38 – Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
10 – Chalkbeat39 – Lyra Learning – Innovation Zones
11 – Chan Zuckerberg Initiative40 – Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
12 – Schusterman Family Foundation41 – Moonshot
13 – Chiefs for Change42 – PIE Network (Policy Innovators in Ed)
14 – City Fund43 – Piton/Gary Community Investments
15 – City Year44 – Relay Graduate School of Education
16 – Colorado Health Foundation45 – Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation
17 – Colorado Succeeds46 – RootEd
18 – Community Engagement & Partners47 – Rose Foundation
19 – Daniels Fund48 – School Board Partners
20 – Democrats for Education Reform49 – Stand for Children
21 – Denver Families of Public Schools50 – Students First
22 – Denver Foundation51 – Teach for America
23 – Denver Scholarship Foundation52 – The Broad Academy/The Broad Center
24 – Donnell-Kay Foundation53 – Third Way
25 – EdLeadLeadership54 – TNTP
26 – Education Pioneers55 – Transform Education Now (TEN Can)
27 – Education Reform Now56 – Wallace Foundation
28 – Education Trust57 – Walton Family Foundation
29 – Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

Below are some of the reform ventures coaxed through by these groups.  Many have been used to maintain the failing status quo.  Some have been used to make money for friends and colleagues.  Some have been outright failures.   But by its failure to address them or by its continued tolerance of them, the DPS Board has sanctioned the continuation of privatization in our city:

·      At a time when education reform was truly hanging on by a thread in Denver, the Board assured its continued existence for the foreseeable future by voting to renew the use of the racially biased state accountability system, going even further into reformland by promising to develop a new accountability “dashboard” (a key “reformer” tenet).  While testing is state mandated, the District did not even explore the possibility of waiving its obligation to rely on this system. This one decision has also allowed the proliferation of many of the above listed groups and has given new life to the overall privatization movement.  A lot of new players are making a lot of new money from the public education system in Denver. After all, what is the business model really about if it is not about making money?  This one vote has allowed the continuation of some of the most divisive and punitive practices such as:

1.     Relying on high stakes testing even though the Board has given lip service to wanting a waiver this year due to COVID; 

2.     Relying on a non-transparent Choice system, which some believe is being used to fill unwanted charters;

3.     Ranking of schools and continued competition resulting in winners and losers among students and schools;

4.     Relying on Student Based Budgeting where the money follows the student;

5.     Marketing of schools, whereby wealthier schools and schools with their own board of directors (charters and Innovation Zone schools) have a distinct advantage;

6.     Giving bonuses to employees of schools based on test scores.  

Other recent reform-oriented Board decisions include:

·      Voting to renew or extend all 13 charter school contracts that were up this year even when some were struggling for enrollment and academic success.  The Board claimed it did not want to disrupt kids and families.  Portfolio model.

·      Promoting school MERGERS as opposed to school CLOSURES for under enrolled neighborhood schools, somehow thinking voters won’t notice that merging schools results in the same failed policy as school closures, that campaign promises have been broken, and that charter schools are being treated differently.  Portfolio model.  

·      Voting to approve new Innovation Zones, the hybrid portfolio model that supposedly gives schools more independence while, unlike charters, is still under the control of the school board.  These Innovation Zones do, however, have their own administrative staff as well as their own boards and have ushered in their own cottage industry. Portfolio Model.

·      Working with City Fund funded School Board Partners for Board training. City Fund is a relative newcomer to the education privatization world and is largely financed by Netflix Reed Hastings and John Arnold of Laura and John Arnold Foundation.  Locally, City Fund has dropped $21 million into Denver’s own RootEd to assure “every child in Denver has the opportunity and support to achieve success in school, college and their chosen career.” This needs to be done equitably, of course!  And only within a non-union school!  Grant funding from private sources to promote private interests.

·      Hiring a Broad trained Superintendent search company, Alma Advisory Group.  Alma has also been involved in executive searches for both City Fund and The Broad Academy, two quintessential privatizers.  More than four months have gone by since DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova resigned.  Four metro Denver school districts have had superintendent vacancies this winter.  Two have already found their leaders.  Denver is still holding community meetings which if they follow DPS history, will end up be ing rather meaningless.  Most importantly, will this “reform” inclined group be able to bring a wide-ranging group of candidates forward? The Broad Academy, training leaders in education reform.

·      Continuing to allow and expand non-licensed teachers and administrators from programs such as Teach for American and Relay Graduate School of Education into DPS’ schools and continuing to tell the public they are just as qualified as professional educators.   Anyone can teach!

Why do these examples matter, you might ask?

For starters, review the list of organizations and people pushing privatization.  The sheer number is staggering.  Then check out the similarity of language in their missions, visions, and goals and the uniformity of strategies and messaging.

·      Every child deserves a great school. 

·      Every school deserves all the support it needs to ensure equity.

·      Every school should have parent and community partners.

·      Every school should be anti-racist, celebrate diversity, be inclusive.

These are all worthy goals, albeit very general ones.  But what is the overall strategy to achieve them?  Privatization and the business model focusing on innovative and charter schools using an accountability system based on high stakes testing to define success seems to be their answer.  And in spite of claims that “reformers” are agnostic as to the type of school they foster, there are a few common characteristics they demand in their privatized schools:  

·      the ability to hire and fire anyone at any time; employees do not have to be licensed; at-will employees if you will.  That’s right.  No unions in innovation or charter schools.  Anyone can teach. 

·      an accountability system based on high stakes tests; schools and employees evaluated and punished by the results of these racially inappropriate tests.

·      market-driven criteria used to define school success.  Winners and losers, competition, closures, choice, chaos, churn.

·      “learning loss,” the pandemic-based slogan, must be addressed by unrelenting dependency on high stakes testing.  No test waivers for this crazy school year.  “Reformers” must have that data, and they must remind everyone that in spite of Herculean efforts on many fronts, public education has failed. 

Add to this scenario the amount of money being spent to further this agenda. Determining this takes some patience because the tax records are often difficult to find and decipher. Then try to deduce who is benefitting from each program.  This also takes some digging, for let me assure you, public education has spawned not a cottage industry but rather a mansion industry!  Search the group you are interested in and check out its board and staff.  And finally, look at the effect all of this has had on kids.  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Isn’t it always about the kids?  In reality few of these extra ventures have had any effect on kids.  Fewer still touch kids directly.

Each privately funded unit on this list has had a privatized DPS connection of some sort.  Some initiatives are duplicative. Some are very narrowly focused. Some purport to be THE ANSWER to public education’s struggles.  There is no tolerance for differing beliefs.  Yet, after 15 years of experimentation Denver’s students remain mired in mediocrity, suffering from an ever narrowing curriculum and dependent on evaluations, ratings, and a definition of success based on racially biased tests.  Nationally, Denver Public Schools remains a leader in implementing “education reform” but alas, it also remains a leader in teacher and principal turnover and home to one of the largest achievement/opportunity gaps in the nation. 

We in Denver have been subjected to the high-octane version of “education reform” for more than 15 years.  Choice, charters, competition, closures have resulted in three unequal tiers of schools (charter schools, innovation zones, neighborhood schools).  Reformers call this “the portfolio model.”  I call it structural chaos. Michael Fullan calls it fragmentation, a system wrongly focused on “academics obsession, machine intelligence, and austerity.”  To those privatizers who say, “but you have no solution,” Fullan has one that would turn public education on its head and could possibly produce what all of us involved in the public education scene say we want: robust, equitable education for all.  Fullan has a solution for whole system success that would be focused on the human elements of public education:  learning and well-being, social intelligence, and equality of investments.   But in order for anything like this to work the superintendent and the board must be on the same page.  Elections matter.  And candidates need to understand what is at stake and what they have been elected to do.

Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. (Given today’s America it might have slipped to second place behind voting rights). I ran for school board on that belief, I witnessed its importance through the lives of my immigrant parents. I do not believe our democracy will survive without public education, but the cornerstone must change. Radically.  Dramatically.

Imagine if all of the efforts of those 50 plus organizations were combined into one united movement focused on an anti-racist, equitable systemic change.  And imagine how truly revolutionary, transformative and unifying this movement could be if it included voices and ideas not aligned with the business model but with people who are willing to truly look at things differently, people who were willing to be honest and show leadership.  Imagine how during this unique time in our nation’s history this new system could have resulted in a new and exciting way of delivering and evaluating teaching and learning, well-being, equity and equality.  Imagine how exciting this unique time in Denver could been had we taken advantage of this opportunity.  , Instead, DPS decided to continue with the status where money and power continue to rule, where a business model has been buttressed to portray a non-existent success, and where an elected Board of Education has turned its back on its mandate.

Historically “transformers” in Denver have been dogged in their attempts to get that rock to the mountain’s peak.  We have kept fighting even when betrayed by school board members, even when organization after organization has put down roots to continue the mirage of success, even when untold millions of dollars have been invested in programs that have yet to make a significant difference in educational outcomes.  Can we in Denver defy Greek mythology and end this Sisyphean nightmare? Or are there too many yet unknown obstacles in our path to stop us once again?  Elections will decide. Time will tell.