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Every election cycle, there’s disinformation put out to suppress the vote or turn a percentage point or two against a certain candidate. These efforts are usually done by shady political operatives or outfits so that politicians can have plausible deniability.
But this year is different. This presidential election, the disinformation is coming from within the White House overtly and consistently, as President Trump, his political appointees throughout the executive branch, and his allies scream about widespread mail-in ballot fraud (UNTRUE!), “deep-state” sedition (ALSO UNTRUE!) and advocating martial law if Trump loses the 2020 election (SO VERY DANGEROUS!).
I know many librarians who are putting together voter guides for their communities (check out this one from the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT)). This is a non-partisan way that libraries have always participated and helped their communities to register to vote.
Given that, I thought our readers would be interested in this anecdote from a friend and fellow government information librarian. She, like so many others, has put together a libguide on voting. She was contacted by this innocuous-sounding group called National Council for Safety, Protection and Wellness (NCSPW) (I won’t link to them since that’s exactly what they want, but you can google them) about adding their page on voting for seniors to her guide. Evidently, the group had also reached out to several faculty at her university in an effort to pressure her to add the link.
I did a little digging and found that this is a nasty astroturf group (I did a whois lookup and their domain was registered by “Domains by proxy LLC” rather than a real person or organization) pushing misinformation about voting and especially vote-by-mail and registration. Just for fun, I looked at their seniors’ guide for CA elections. The NCSPW site states that CA’s absentee ballot request deadline is Oct 27. THIS IS FALSE! The CA secretary of state site says that registration must be post-marked Oct 19 but that you can provisionally register on election day. This site is clearly meant to confuse would-be voters, and even worse, is targeted at seniors who may not have the ability to evaluate or check the information against trusted sources.
So, just a word to the wise. Check any voter information site you’re thinking of linking to in your libguide. Only link to sites from trusted organizations like your state’s secretary of state’s office or the League of Women Voters. Don’t take ANY site at face value. Use your librarian information literacy skills to help everyone in your community vote this November.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the Library of Congress is “Congress’ think tank.” Their reports are great resources on a wide variety of issues — don’t forget to look at the footnotes for more context and legislative histories!
Some Congressperson must have been thinking about the ramifications of postponing the November elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic currently sweeping the nation (check out the NCOV2019.live site for frequently updated data from around the world) because CRS published this report just a couple of days ago:
This Sidebar reviews the legal provisions that would constrain any efforts to delay or cancel federal elections during a public health crisis or other national emergency. The first part reviews laws pertaining to presidential elections, and the second part reviews laws relevant to congressional elections.
On a side note, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the “Vote By Mail Act of 2019” way back in january, 2019 (one of the first bills introduced in the 116th Congress!) and is now pushing a petition to get Congress to expedite the process for the November election. Please sign the petition to get your state’s Senators to co-sponsor this legislation and make it so we don’t need to postpone the November election. Elections are critical to a functioning democracy!
Got a document of the day that you’d like us to highlight? Send us an email at freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com!
Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, in conjunction with the #StanfordCyberPolicy event held last month, has published a new white paper on the security of US elections entitled “Securing American Elections: Prescriptions for Enhancing the Integrity and Independence of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Elections and Beyond.” Summary: it’s not good.
[HT to Bruce Schneier and his always fascinating/disturbing Crypto-Gram Newsletter. We highly recommend subscribing to the newsletter!]
Check out 538’s Gerrymandering Project. It’s an exploration into the history, complex issues, and reform ideas surrounding the process of redistricting of the US political map (Constitutionally mandated to be done every 10 years) and gerrymandering, or redrawing political district lines in a partisan, political way. The site includes an amazingly thorough Atlas of Redistricting, several articles, and a six-part audio documentary series that examines how four states — Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona and California — are dealing with very different districting challenges. And if you want the Cliffs Notes version, check out the 99% Invisible podcast episode which interviewed the 538 creators and explained the project and the issues surrounding gerrymandering.
I’ve been exploring the Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) and have been impressed by their historical lower house election data coverage from countries around the world, not just the US Congress.
Things are really starting to shape up (pun intended!) in having access to historical election results! And through the work of Jeffrey B. Lewis et al., you can get data describing the historical boundaries of each congressional district via their United States Congressional District Shapefiles site. In a Scientific Data article published last year, quantitative geographer Levi John Wolf presented a dataset that brings the two types of information together, so that all congressional election results from 1896 to 2014 are “explicitly linked to the geospatial data about the districts themselves.”
The Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) is a repository of detailed election results at the constituency level for lower house legislative elections from around the world. Our motivation is to preserve and consolidate these valuable data in one comprehensive and reliable resource that is ready for analysis and publicly available at no cost. This public good is expected to be of use to a range of audiences for research, education, and policy-making.
HT Daniel Schuman!