Young voters historically tend to be one of the least reliable demographic groups when it comes to turning out to vote regularly in elections. However, there is preliminary evidence to indicate this year’s election will be an exception to the rule. Survivors of the Parkland shooting have been vocally active in gun control and voter registration efforts during the past seven months, and their efforts might be starting to show results, according to findings from the Democratic-aligned data firm TargetSmart. Based on a review of voter registration data for 18-29 year-olds in 39 states, the organization found:
- The share of youth voter registrants nationwide has increased by 2.16 percent since February 14, 2018 – the date of the Parkland shooting.
- How that surge in youth voter registration breaks down states that have key elections this November:
- Arizona: +8.16 points
- California: +3.37 points
- Florida: +7.99 points
- Indiana: +9.87 points
- Minnesota: +4.68 points
- Montana: +3.81 points
- Nevada: +6.62 points
- New York: +10.7 points
- Ohio: +5.95 points
- Pennsylvania: +16.14 points
- Tennessee: +3.82
- Texas: +0.12
- Virginia: +10.49
- Wisconsin: +5.64
- In contrast, youth voter registration dropped in only four states and the District of Columbia.
- District of Columbia: -2.99
- Iowa: -0.3
- South Dakota: -1.4
- West Virginia: -11.52
- Wyoming: -7.1
The numbers for competitive swing states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania are particularly stunning. New York and Virginia are safely Democratic states for their statewide candidates on the ballot this year, though the real beneficiaries of that increased turnout might be downballot Democratic candidates and ballot initiatives. In a close election, the slightest margin could make all the difference.
Another data point worth keeping in mind: according to the U.S. Census, only 46.1 percent of 18- to -29-year-olds voted in the 2016 election, but this group reported a 1.1 percent increase in turnout from 2012. According to exit polls, Hillary Clinton won this age group 55-37. Why is this important? Because if TargetSmart’s 2.16 percent nationwide calculation is correct, it means that youth voter turnout increase in 2018 may double what it was two years ago.
In summary, if this data is correct and more young people are registering to vote, it means that Democrats are expanding their base of voters, which was a crucial element to Barack Obama’s political success in 2008 and 2012.
Because of the constitutional quirks of the Electoral College, Donald Trump was elected president because of approximately 80,000 voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A newly released NBC News/Marist poll of two of those three states does not bode well for the president nearly two years before he runs for re-election.
In Michigan, the president’s approval rating is 36-54.
In Minnesota, the president’s approval rating is 38-51.
In Wisconsin, the president’s approval rating is 36-52.
In contrast, only about one third of voters in all three states say President Trump deserves re-election.
The poll was done mostly after the President’s widely criticized summit and press conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on July 16. A majority of voters in all three states were in favor of a Democrat-controlled Congress: 45-36 in Michigan, 48-36 in Minnesota, and 47-39 in Wisconsin. A majority of voters in all three states said the message of their vote in November would be that more Democrats are needed in Congress to act as a check and balance on the president.
Besides House congressional races, all three states also have governor and U.S. Senate races as well.
Tennessee was one of approximately 40 states with laws under which drivers could lose their licenses if they were too poor to pay court costs or traffic fines. Judge Aleta Trauger struck down Tennessee’s law earlier this week, noting in her ruling:
“The damage that the lack of a driver’s license does to one’s employment prospects is just the beginning. Being unable to drive is the equivalent of a recurring tax or penalty on engaging in the wholly lawful ordinary activities of life—a tax or penalty that someone who committed the same traffic violation, but was able to pay her initial traffic debt, would never be obligated to pay.”
“As a general proposition, the cities, towns, and communities of Tennessee are pervasively structured around the use of motor vehicles. Anyone who doubts that premise is welcome to attempt to run a day’s worth of errands in a rural Tennessee county with no car and very little money… Nashville is a city where motor vehicle travel is, for the vast majority of the population, an essential part of ordinary life, particularly for anyone seeking to maintain or build economic self-sufficiency. All of these facts, together, leave very little room for doubt regarding the plaintiffs’ assertion that an indigent person who loses her driver’s license is only going to be made less likely to be able to meet the ordinary expenses of life, let alone pay hundreds of dollars in traffic debt.”
This ruling could have an impact on voter turnout in the midterm elections, where Tennessee has an open U.S. Senate race and an open governor’s race on the ballot. According to the Secretary of State’s office, “all voters must present a federal or Tennessee state ID,” which includes driver’s licenses. According to the New York Times, more than 100,000 Tennesseeans could get their licenses reinstated. Judge Trauger is also presiding over a separate lawsuit arguing that unpaid traffic fines have cost almost 250,000 Tennessee residents their licenses. The Times article also notes:
According to evidence presented in the Tennessee case, 93.4 percent of workers who reside in the state drive to work.
The state revoked 146,211 driver’s licenses for failure to pay court debts between July 2012 and June 2016. Only about 7 percent of those people were able to get their licenses reinstated in that same period.
Tennessee Democratic legislators had previously introduced bills on this subject. A state Democratic Party official said, “We believe this is a major positive development because being poor is not a crime, and this is a huge burden lifted from many Tennesseans. Not having a valid photo ID is also a barrier to voting, so this could potentially have a positive impact on voter turnout among this group.”
The ruling could create a voter demographic that neither political party had previously accounted for, which could make the difference in a close race. For comparison, during the last open Senate race in a mid-term election cycle in 2006, Bob Corker was elected to his first term in office by a margin of almost 50,000 votes.
Here is a running list of where Democrats stand on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in the aftermath of last night’s announcement.
* Up for re-election in 2016
+ Considering 2020 presidential run
# Member of Senate Judiciary Committee
Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.) – UNDECIDED*
Michael Bennett (Colo.) – UNDECIDED
Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) – AGAINST#
Cory Booker (N.J.) – AGAINST+#
Sherrod Brown (Ohio) – UNDECIDED*
Maria Cantwell (Wash.) – UNDECIDED*
Ben Cardin (Md.) – UNDECIDED*
Tom Carper (Del.) – AGAINST*
Bob Casey (Penn.) – AGAINST*
Chris Coons (Del.) – UNDECIDED#
Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.) – UNDECIDED
Joe Donnelly (Ind.) – UNDECIDED*
Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) – UNDECIDED
Dick Durbin (Ill.) – UNDECIDED#
Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) – UNDECIDED*
Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) – AGAINST+
Kamala Harris (Calif.) – AGAINST+#
Maggie Hassan (N.H.) – UNDECIDED
Martin Heinrich (N.M.) – AGAINST
Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) – UNDECIDED*
Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) – UNDECIDED#
Doug Jones (Ala.) – UNDECIDED
Tim Kaine (Va.) – UNDECIDED*
Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) – UNDECIDED*#
Patrick Leahy (Vt.) – UNDECIDED#
Joe Manchin (W.Va.) – UNDECIDED*
Ed Markey (Mass.) – AGAINST
Claire McCaskill (Mo.) – UNDECIDED*
Bob Menendez (N.J.) – AGAINST*
Jeff Merkley (Ore.) – AGAINST+
Chris Murphy (Conn. ) – AGAINST*
Patty Murray (Wash.) – AGAINST
Bill Nelson (Fla.) – UNDECIDED*
Gary Peters (Mich.) – UNDECIDED
Jack Reed (R.I.) – AGAINST
Brian Schatz (Hawaii) – UNDECIDED
Charles Schumer (N.Y.) – AGAINST
Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) – UNDECIDED
Tina Smith (Minn.) – UNDECIDED*
Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) – UNDECIDED
Jon Tester (Mont.) – UNDECIDED
Tom Udall (N.M.) – AGAINST
Chris Van Hollen (Md.) – UNDECIDED
Mark Warner (Va.) – UNDECIDED
Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) – AGAINST+
Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) – UNDECIDED*#
Ron Wyden (Ore.) – AGAINST
Angus King (I – Maine) – UNDECIDED*
Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.) – AGAINST+
It should be noted that the four red state Senate Democrats (Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Doug Jones, and Joe Manchin) who were invited to attend last night’s announcement declined the invitation, as did the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
DEMOCRATIC SENATE CANDIDATES
Phil Bredesen (Tenn.) – UNDECIDED*
Jacky Rosen (Nev.) – UNDECIDED*
Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) – UNDECIDED*
Jenny Wilson (Utah) – UNDECIDED*
Steve Bullock – UNDECIDED+
Andrew Cuomo – UNDECIDED+
Jay Inslee – UNDECIDED+
Terry McAuliffe – AGAINST+
President Donald Trump and his son traveled to Great Falls, Montana today for a political rally to support Republican candidate Matt Rosendale, who is trying to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester in November. It’s worth noting the differing responses from Tester and Gov. Steve Bullock, the state’s top Democrats.
And here is the email sent out from Bullock’s Big Sky Values PAC. (In fairness, Bullock was just elected to a second term a year and a half ago, and is term-limited for 2020)
Follow Buzzfeed reporter Anne Helen Petersen for tweets and dispatches from the ground.
Tucked in this Washington Post story is an ominous detail that does not bode well for the Virginia Republicans: State party chairman John Whitbeck and Kevin Gentry, a member of the executive committee resigned from their posts, as did Davis Rennolds, chairman of the Richmond Republican Party. Most of the other Republicans quoted in the article threw Corey Stewart under the bus.
This is not a good sign four months before Election Day, especially from a party that has not won a statewide race since 2009.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire four months before the election is the best thing that could have happened to Republicans, conventional wisdom says. It is difficult to disagree with that logic, but it is also necessary to keep in mind the counterargument – which is that enthusiasm cuts both ways. (To be fair, the more adequate word for Democrats still reeling from the announcement isn’t enthusiasm, but fear.)
Historically, Republican voters have been more motivated to go to the polls because of the issue of judicial nominations than Democrats. Exit polls from the 2016 election confirm this view. According to CNN, 56 percent of Trump voters said Supreme Court appointments were the most important factor in their decision. Evidence strongly suggests that filling Supreme Court vacancies was a big reason for Donald Trump’s win. Though the stakes for filling any court vacancy are always high, they aren’t as high or urgent from the Republican perspective this time around. Why? Two years ago, the presidency was up for grabs and, with it, the next two or more court vacancies, including the seat held by Scalia which could have altered the court’s majority if Hillary Clinton had won. Now, Donald Trump is in the middle of his first term, with a Republican-controlled Senate. It may gin up enthusiasm among some Republican voters, but it doesn’t have the same existential sense of urgency that Democrats are now feeling.
“Misery motivates, not utopia,” Karl Marx once wrote. That principle, combined with lingering anger over the Senate Republican blockade of Merrick Garland and the recent string of losses in Supreme Court decisions during the week leading up to the Kennedy retirement, strongly suggest that Democratic candidates and their allies aren’t going to treat this Supreme Court vacancy like any other opening in the past.
State Democratic parties and candidates are fundraising off the Kennedy retirement, some on the specific message of running as a defender of abortion rights. Others have spoken more generally about the urgency of electing Democratic governors and legislators to have as a check on any sweeping future rulings from the Supreme Court on issues like abortion, voting rights, gun control, campaign finance, or redistricting. However, the initial messaging from Democrats and various interest groups on the actual Supreme Court vacancy itself is all over the map, depending on who you ask. Their options to block a nominee are nonexistent after Senate Republicans abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees for the Neil Gorsuch vote. Their only chance at blocking a nominee is the slim chance that minority leader Charles Schumer can hold all 49 Democrats and is somehow able to get two Republicans to join them in voting against.
Just as there will be enormous pressure on a handful of red state Democrats who are running for reelection this cycle (specifically Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly, who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch last year), there will also be enormous pressure on Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are the only pro-choice Republicans in their party’s Senate caucus. Collins and Murkowski have the benefit of not running for reelection in this hyperpartisan political environment, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be feeling pressure. As Republican pro-choice women in the Senate who have a vote in judicial nominations, do they want their legacies to be defined by potentially casting the deciding vote to seat a Supreme Court justice who might one day vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?
It is also necessary to look beyond Murkowski and Collins for potential pressure points. Even though they aren’t on the ballot this year, the governors of Alaska and Maine are, as is Maine’s independent senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats. Voters in both states won’t be able to vote against Murkowski or Collins in this cycle, so they may opt to flex their political muscles by voting for (or against) the candidates who are on the ballot in November.
While Senate Democrats have a terrible electoral map to defend this year, when it comes to governors and state legislatures, the map becomes almost the inverse, meaning that they will have ample pickup opportunities in down ballot races. Democrats have shown more interest and energy in down ballot state legislative races in the first eighteen months of the Trump presidency, and have already demonstrated some success in special elections – the DLCC has flipped 44 Republican-held seats to the Democrats, in addition to a Wisconsin state supreme court seat, a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, and stunning off-year results up and down the ballot in Virginia. If Democrats can harness this anxiety about the court and turn it into votes in November, that could drive them to some surprise victories.
Democrats might not be able to stop Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee, but they can put themselves in a better political position for the second half of his term: retaking the House or Senate will give them subpoena power and the ability to launch investigations, as well as control of nominations to the upper chamber; control of governor’s mansions, state offices and state legislatures will give them control of state voting rights as well as drawing the congressional maps for the next round of redistricting after 2020.
As painful as losing cases at the Supreme Court will be, the Democrats’ best hope for now is that they can use the court as an issue to play the long game: rebuild their bench in state and federal offices, gain congressional majorities, and eventually win the presidency.
Amid all the hoopla about the Supreme Court in the past several days, it’s easy to overlook the fact that there has been some movement in the Russia investigation. Here is a list of events that are already known and set on the calendar, scheduled to happen before the election:
- July 25: Paul Manafort Virginia trial begins.
- August 24: Mueller will update the court on sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn.
- September 7: George Papadopoulos sentencing hearing. (Could be postponed to October, depending on judge’s availability)
- September 17: Paul Manafort DC trial begins.
- November 6: Election Day
Trials can be messy affairs – witness examination and cross-examination, as well as presentation of evidence by both sides virtually guarantees that a lot of Paul Manafort’s dirty laundry will be aired out in public for the world and a grand jury to see. While the charges focus on Manafort’s work as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian political clients in Ukraine, it is entirely possible that facts and allegations about Manafort’s time as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman come out during the trial.
Keep in mind, these are events we know about, based on court filings and public statements. It is entirely possible Mueller could drop another bombshell or two. For example: a subpoena to get the president’s testimony, or the long-expected indictment surrounding the email hacks that caused so much chaos during the 2016 election. The thinking is Mueller will indict Russians who were involved in the hacks in the same way he indicted Russian individuals and organizations in connection with the social media efforts. If this is the case, the potential wildcards are if he indicts WikiLeaks as an organization, Julian Assange as an individual and the head of that organization, and if any Americans are named or indicted as well.
All of this does not take into account any potential developments in the Michael Cohen case, which may or may not overlap with the Russia investigation. (Reminder: it was Mueller’s office who referred the case to the Southern District of New York) When the FBI raided his home, office and hotel room, they seized more than 3.7 million items which federal prosecutors could potentially use as evidence. As of this writing, the judge overseeing the case has ordered that a review of documents and data files seized as evidence in the case must be finished by the first week of July. (Reminder: federal agents seized eight boxes worth of documents, approximately 30 cell phones, iPads and computers, and the contents of a shredder)
The court-appointed special master has for the most part rejected claims of attorney-client privilege by Cohen. According to a court document from earlier this month, out of nearly 300,000 items reviewed, only 161 were privileged and seven of them were conversations between Cohen and a legal client containing legal advice. This means that the vast majority of the evidence seized in the raids is fair game for prosecutors.
There has been reporting that Cohen is leaning toward cutting a deal and collaborating with a government but no concrete evidence of that yet. There has also been reporting that Cohen has had a falling out with his former boss and the Trump family, which might make him more willing to talk to federal investigators – whether it by the Southern District of New York or Robert Mueller’s office.
Watch this space.