Tag Archives: election

Wisconsin officials say Sanders shares blame for minors voting in primary

Wisconsin election officials this week blamed undertrained poll workers and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ social media posts for dozens of instances in which 17-year-olds managed to vote in last year’s state presidential primary.

A commission report found that as many as 70 teenagers in nearly 30 Wisconsin counties voted illegally in the April election. Sanders won the Democratic side of the primary; Ted Cruz won the Republican side.

Many states allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by Election Day to vote in their primaries, but Wisconsin requires voters to be 18 to vote in its.

In its report, the commission determined that “some political campaigns” provided false information about 17-year-olds being able to vote in primaries and it circulated on social media, creating confusion and driving the Wisconsin teens to the polls.

The report doesn’t name a specific candidate or provide examples of the alleged false information. But commission officials this week said it was primarily Sanders’ campaign, though commission spokesman Reid Magney acknowledged that staff didn’t see anything misleading from Sanders about Wisconsin laws, specifically. Magney said the report was based on “anecdotal” information the commission received from multiple sources.

Andrea Kaminski, executive director of Wisconsin’s League of Women Voters chapter, told the commission she was “distressed” to read about the 17-year-olds voting, saying voters and poll workers need to be better educated about voting laws.

Commission Chairman Mark Thomsen responded by telling her that Sanders’ national campaign “blurred the differences” in states’ laws in its messaging and “the candidate has to have responsibility for those errors.”

Asked during a break how Sanders could be held responsible for internet users misinterpreting his messages, Thomsen said he thinks candidates for national office need to keep in mind that election laws vary from state to state.

“It’s your obligation to tell your campaign people and the voters what the rules are in your jurisdiction,” Thomsen said. “You can just sit in D.C. and say here it is. I would hate to see youthful exuberance end up in criminal prosecution.”

Sanders’ campaign didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking reaction to Thomsen’s remarks. The Vermont senator enjoyed strong support among young voters and he pushed for the inclusion in primaries of 17-year-olds who would be eligible to vote on Election Day, successfully suing for that right in Ohio just weeks before Wisconsin’s primary.

Commissioner Ann Jacobs said during Tuesday’s meeting that it’s unclear who’s responsible for what appears online. Sanders may have said 17-year-olds could vote in one state and his supporters or kids twisted the message as it spread across the internet, she suggested.

“To say the campaign itself promulgated it may be the case, or it may not be the case,” she said.

Commissioner Julie Glancey said she didn’t want to point fingers at any campaigns. The panel ultimately voted unanimously to remove the phrase “some political campaigns” from the report and simply say false information spread through social media.

Thomsen added that it’s troubling Wisconsin poll workers allowed the 17-year-olds to vote. The commission will look at training to “make sure we’re not encouraging 17-year-olds to commit crimes.”

The commission consists of three Republicans and three Democrats. Thomsen, Jacobs and Glancey are all Democrats.

The 17-year-olds who voted were referred to local prosecutors. District attorneys in counties with the most underage voters told The Associated Press they chose not to charge them because they genuinely believed they could vote and didn’t intend to commit fraud.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, told The AP on Tuesday that he has reached deferred prosecution agreements in four of the seven cases that reached his desk. Deferred prosecution agreements are deals in which first-time offenders can avoid a conviction if they satisfy conditions such as completing community service.

Ozanne said he hasn’t decided whether to charge the remaining three teens. He declined to comment on whether he felt the teens intentionally tried to commit fraud.

Gov. Scott Walker told reporters in Milwaukee that 17-year-olds voting is all the more reason why voter photo identification is so important. He said he anticipates poll workers will probably make a point of checking birthdays as well as names on the cards from now on.

President Donald Trump has called for a “major investigation” into voter fraud and alleged, without any evidence, that 3 million to 5 million people may have voted illegally in the November general election. The commission report lists no instances of underage voters casting ballots in Wisconsin’s general election.

Democrat Tim Cullen weighs run for Wisconsin governor

A retired Wisconsin state senator who was one of the 14 Democrats who went to Illinois in an attempt to block Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union legislation said he’s on track for a run to challenge the incumbent Republican.

Tim Cullen, of Janesville, has been traveling the state for months with the intent of running for governor in 2018. He has been the most public about his desire to run against Walker, although several other Democrats are also considering it.

Cullen, 73, told The Associated Press “I don’t know” of any reason that would stop him from getting into the race at this point. Cullen said he was working on lining up the logistics of a campaign, including launching a website and hiring staff, so he could announce it sometime before the end of April.

His comments drew derision from Walker’s campaign spokesman Joe Fadness. “Headquarters in Rockford?” he asked in a message on Twitter.

Cullen, along with 13 other Democrats, went to Rockford, just across the border from Wisconsin in Illinois, in an ultimately vain attempt to stop a vote in 2011 on Walker’s proposal effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers. Cullen and others remained in Illinois for three weeks before Republicans passed the bill, known as Act 10.

Cullen has been outspoken about the need of Democrats to do a better job reaching out to rural Wisconsin residents who helped fuel Republican victories in the November election. Those rural voters, along with a lack of enthusiasm from urban Democrats, were vital to President Donald Trump being the first Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984 to carry Wisconsin.

Cullen retired after one term in the state Senate in 2015. He was previously in the Senate between 1975 and 1987. Cullen was head of the state Department of Health and Family Services under Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson for one year, leaving in 1988 to be an executive for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin.

Cullen has toured the state with former Republican Sen. Dale Schultz to speak about the need for more bipartisanship to solve the state’s problems. That moderate approach could be a liability for him in a Democratic primary for governor, when turnout among more partisan party stalwarts is high.

A number of other Democrats also are considering a run, but no one has officially announced. They include state U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, of La Crosse, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, state Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ.

Kind last month refused to rule out a possible run. Walker, in a fundraising email sent Tuesday, singled out Kind as a possible candidate, calling him a “liberal Washington insider.”

Walker hasn’t officially announced his plans to run again, but he’s raising money and making all the moves necessary to launch his bid for a third term sometime this summer.

Senate Democratic leader calls on Justice to investigate Russia’s ties to Trump associates

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday called on the Department of Justice’s inspector general to probe any possible political interference in its investigation of contacts between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russia.

In a letter to the department’s inspector, Schumer, D-New York, urged an “immediate investigation into whether there has been any political interference with an ongoing … investigation related to President Trump’s campaign, transition and administration’s contacts with the Russian Federation and attempts of Russia to interfere with the 2016 United States election.”

 

The Zuckerberg manifesto: How he plans to debug the world

Mark Zuckerberg’s long-term vision for Facebook, laid out in a sweeping manifesto , sometimes sounds more like a utopian social guide than a business plan. Are we, he asks, “building the world we all want?”

While most people now use Facebook to connect with friends and family, Zuckerberg thinks that the social network can also encourage more civic engagement, from the local to the global level. Facebook now has nearly 2 billion members, which makes it larger than any nation in the world.

His 5,800-word essay positions Facebook in direct opposition to a rising tide of isolationism and fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad. In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Zuckerberg stressed that he wasn’t motivated by the U.S. election or any other particular event. Rather, he said, it’s the growing sentiment in many parts of the world that “connecting the world” — the founding idea behind Facebook — is no longer a good thing.

“Across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection,” Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, wrote on Thursday. So it falls to the company to “develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.”

CONNECTING IN FACEBOOK’S INTEREST

Zuckerberg, 32, told the AP that he still strongly believes that more connectedness is the right direction for the world. But, he added, it’s “not enough if it’s good for some people but it’s doesn’t work for other people. We really have to bring everyone along.”

It’s hardly a surprise that Zuckerberg wants to find ways to bring more people together, especially on Facebook. After all, getting more people to come together on the social network more frequently would give Facebook more opportunities to sell the ads that generate most of its revenue, which totaled $27 billion last year. And bringing in more money probably would boost Facebook’s stock price to make Zuckerberg _ already worth an estimated $56 billion _ even richer.

And while the idea of unifying the world is laudable, some critics _ backed by various studies _ contend Facebook makes some people feel lonelier and more isolated as they scroll through the mostly ebullient posts and photos shared on the social network. Facebook’s famous “like” button also makes it easy to engage in a form of “one-click” communication that can displace meaningful dialogue.

Facebook also has been lambasted as a polarizing force by circulating posts espousing similar viewpoints and interests among like-minded people, creating an “echo chamber” that can harden opinions and widen political and cultural chasms.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Today, most of Facebook’s 1.86 billion members — about 85 percent — live outside of the U.S. and Canada. The Menlo Park, California-based company has offices everywhere from Amsterdam to Jakarta, Indonesia, to Tel Aviv, Israel. (It is banned in China, the world’s most populous country, though some people get around the ban.) Naturally, Zuckerberg takes a global view of Facebook and sees potential that goes beyond borders, cities and nations.

And that could allow the social network to step up as more traditional cultural ties fray. People already use Facebook to connect with strangers who have the same rare disease, to post political diatribes, to share news links (and sometimes fake news links ). Facebook has also pushed its users to register to vote, to donate to causes, to mark themselves safe after natural disasters, and to “go live .” For many, it’s become a utility. Some 1.23 billion people use it daily.

“For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community _ for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all,” he wrote.

LONG VIEW

Zuckerberg has gotten Facebook to this position of global dominance _ one that Myspace and Twitter, for instance, never even approached _ partly thanks to his audacious, long-term view of the company and its place in the world.

Last fall, Zuckerberg and his wife, the doctor Priscilla Chan, unveiled the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative , a long-term effort aimed at eradicating all disease by the end of this century. Then, as now, Zuckerberg preferred to look far down the road to the potential of scientific and technological innovations that have not been perfected, or even invented yet.

That includes artificial intelligence, which in this case means software that’s capable of “thinking” enough like humans to start making the sorts of judgments that Facebook sometimes bobbles. Last September, for instance, the service briefly barred the famous Vietnam War-era photograph dubbed “Napalm Girl” because it featured a nude child, and only reversed its decision after users — including the prime minister of Norway — protested.

AI systems could also comb through the vast amount of material users post on Facebook to detect everything from bullying to the early signs of suicidal thinking to extremist recruiting. AI, Zuckerberg wrote, could “understand more quickly and accurately what is happening across our community.”

Speaking to the AP, Zuckerberg said he understands that we might not “solve all the issues that we want” in the short term.

“One of my favorite quotes is this Bill Gates quote, that ‘people overestimate what they can get done in two years and underestimate what they can get done in 10 years.’ And that’s an important mindset that I hope more people take today,” he said.

 

Scientists protest Trump administration, march planned on D.C.

Hundreds of scientists, environmental advocates and their supporters held a rally in Boston on Sunday to protest what they see as increasing threats to science and research in the U.S.

The scientists, some dressed in white lab coats, called on President Donald Trump’s administration to recognize evidence of climate change and take action on various environmental issues.

Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies renewable energy solutions to climate change, said scientists are responding to the Trump administration’s “anti-science rhetoric.”

“We’re really trying to send a message today to Mr. Trump that America runs on science, science is the backbone of our prosperity and progress,” Supran said.

The “Rally to Stand Up for Science” in Boston’s Copley Square was held outside of the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, one of the first major gatherings of scientists since Trump was elected in November.

Protesters held signs that read “Science Matters,” “Scientists Pursuing Truth, Saving the World” and “Make America Smart Again.”

Some of those who turned out criticized Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency over the objections of environmental groups.

During six years as the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt filed 14 lawsuits challenging EPA regulations. He previously expressed skepticism about scientific evidence showing the planet is heating up and that humans are to blame. However, during his Senate confirmation hearing last month, he said he disagreed with Trump’s past statements that global warming is a hoax.

Science March on Washington

The March for Science in Washington, D.C., will take place on April 22, which is Earth Day.

The event will kick off at 10 a.m. with a teach-in and rally on the National Mall and end with a march through the streets of D.C.

The rally will be “a call for politicians to implement science based policies, as well as a public celebration of science and the enormous public service it provides in our democracy, our economy, and in all our daily lives.”

An announcement said the rally will feature main stage speakers and several large teach-in tents around the Mall, where scientists, educators and leaders from a wide variety of disciplines will discuss their work, effective science communication strategies and training in public advocacy.

Satellite marches also will be taking place that day.

Trump stands by baseless claim millions voted illegally, vows investigation

President Donald Trump stands by his belief that millions of people voted illegally in the U.S. election, the White House said, despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

“The president does believe that,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

On Jan. 25, his Twitter account said Trump is ordering a “major investigation” into voter fraud, specifically his belief that people voted in more than one state or “those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”

Officials in charge of the Nov. 8 election have said they found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and there is no history of it in U.S. elections.

Even House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican in Congress, said he has seen no evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

Trump won the Electoral College that decides the presidency and gives smaller states more clout in the outcome, but he lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by about 2.9 million.

Trump has repeatedly said he would have won the popular vote, too, but for voter fraud. He has never substantiated his claim.

Also, Trump’s attorneys dismissed claims of voter fraud in a legal filing responding to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount in Michigan last year. “On what basis does Stein seek to disenfranchise Michigan citizens? None really, save for speculation,” the attorneys wrote. “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

Secretaries of state across the country also have dismissed Trump’s voter fraud claims as baseless.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said invented claims such as Trump’s are used to undermine the advancement and enforcement of voting rights laws.

“The White House is bashing immigrants, undermining voting rights, and playing to bigotry all at once,” Henderson said. “Sen. Jeff Sessions once made up fraud charges to wrongly prosecute voting rights activists and the White House appears to be using the same anti-civil rights playbook. Peddling these lies just drives this administration farther from reality and from the people it claims to govern.”

Henderson added, “This conspiracy theory raises serious doubts about whether our new president can be trusted on anything.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Timothy Ahmann; editing by Grant McCool)

Priebus: Trump now believes Russia carried out cyber attacks during election

President-elect Donald Trump accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia engaged in cyber attacks during the U.S. presidential election and may take action in response, his incoming chief of staff said on Jan. 8.

Reince Priebus said Trump believes Russia was behind the intrusions into the Democratic Party organizations, although Priebus did not clarify whether the president-elect agreed that the hacks were directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia, so that’s not the issue,” Priebus said on Fox News Sunday.

It was the first acknowledgment from a senior member of the Republican president-elect’s team that Trump had accepted that Russia directed the hacking and subsequent disclosure of Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump had rebuffed allegations that Russia was behind the hacks or was trying to help him win, saying the intrusions could have been carried out by China or a 400-pound hacker on his bed.

With less than two weeks until his Jan. 20 inauguration, Trump has come under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans to accept intelligence community findings on Russian hacking and other attempts by Moscow to influence the Nov. 8 election. A crucial test of Republican support for Trump comes this week with the first confirmation hearings for his Cabinet picks.

A U.S. intelligence report last week said Putin directed a sophisticated influence campaign including cyber attacks to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and support Trump.

The report concluded vote tallies were not affected by Russian interference, but did not assess whether it influenced the outcome of the vote in other ways.

‘ACTION MAY BE TAKEN’

After receiving a briefing on Friday from leaders of the U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump did not refer specifically to Russia’s role in the presidential campaign.

In a statement, he acknowledged that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat(ic) National Committee.”

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told Reuters the president-elect’s conclusions remained the same and that Priebus’ comments were in line with Friday’s statement.

Priebus’ wording did not appear to foreshadow the dramatic reversal of Trump’s apparent Russia policy that experts say would be required to deter further cyber attacks.

“It will take a lot more than what we heard on television today to make Putin cool it,” the expert added. “In fact, there may not be anything that can deter Putin from pursuing a course he’s bet his future and Russia’s on,” said a U.S. intelligence expert on Russia, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss domestic political positions.

The expert added that Putin’s “multifaceted campaign of cyber attacks and espionage, propaganda, financial leverage, fake news and traditional espionage” had expanded in the United States since the election, “and it will be a shock if it does not escalate in France, Germany and elsewhere this year.”

Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman Trump tapped as White House chief of staff, said Trump planned to order the intelligence community to make recommendations as to what should be done. “Action may be taken,” he said, adding there was nothing wrong with trying to have a good relationship with Russia and other countries.

Two senior Republican senators urged Trump to punish Russia in response to U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Putin personally directed efforts aimed at influencing the election.

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain said evidence was conclusive that Putin sought to influence the election — a point that Trump has refuted.

“In a couple weeks, Donald Trump will be the defender of the free world and democracy,” Graham said. “You should let everybody know in America, Republicans and Democrats, that you’re going to make Russia pay a price for trying to interfere.”

On Saturday, Trump wrote on Twitter that having a better relationship with Russia was a “good thing.”

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said three U.S. presidents had tried and failed to be friends with Putin.

“I’m just not sure it’s possible,” Nunes said on the Fox News Sunday program. “I’ve cautioned his administration to be careful with Putin, as he remains a bad actor.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed it was not unusual for a new president to want to get along with the Russians. He added on CBS, however, that the Russians remained a “big adversary, and they demonstrated it by trying to mess around in our election.”

Obama, who himself tried to “reset” relations with Russia after he took office in 2009, told NBC he did not think he had underestimated the Russian president.

“But I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation for cyber hacking and so forth to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating,” he said in an interview with Meet the Press broadcast on Sunday.

Republican wins could lead to amending U.S. Constitution

The November election put Republicans in full control of a record number of state legislatures around the country, a level of power that gives the party an unprecedented opportunity: change the U.S. Constitution.

Republicans already control Congress, the White House and more governors’ offices than they have in nearly a century. But it’s the state legislatures that could produce lasting change.

The GOP now holds numerical majorities in 33 legislatures, one shy of the two-thirds required to initiate a convention on constitutional amendments. There is no credible talk of using that power for amendments on hot-button social issues, such as banning abortion or gay marriage. But conservatives have a list of bread-and-butter governing issues they would like to see enshrined in the Constitution.

One, to require a balanced federal budget, is already approaching the level of support that would trigger a convention. Beyond that, a major state-level push is planned during 2017 for a constitutional convention that could also consider amendments to impose term limits on members of Congress and rein in various federal powers.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged support for an amendment on congressional term limits.

“The possibility of constitutional change is in the air,” said law professor Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a nonprofit museum that is hosting academic debates and symposiums about the efforts to amend the Constitution.

The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times since it was ratified in 1788, and its Article V spells out two ways to propose amendments. By a two-thirds vote of each chamber, the U.S. House and Senate can refer an amendment to the states. Or two-thirds of the state legislatures can request that Congress call a convention of the states.

Both scenarios require three-fourths of the states — or 38 — to ratify an amendment before it takes effect.

If the supporters of a balanced budget amendment succeed, it would be the first time in the nation’s history that states initiated the process. That scenario has become more likely as a result of the November election.

It takes 34 states to trigger a convention for constitutional amendments, meaning a unified Republican push would need the help of only a few Democrats in a single state to reach the mark.

“The overwhelming success of one political party at the state level is something of real constitutional significance,” said Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale University.

Every state except Vermont has some sort of balanced budget requirement, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. government does not, but not everyone agrees that’s a problem. During recessions, for example, federal government spending can help drive the economy even if it means spending at a deficit.

Twenty-eight state legislatures already have approved measures calling for a convention to propose a federal balanced budget requirement, although they use a variety of terms that could raise legal questions about whether they all count toward the threshold.

Organizers at the nonprofit Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force have lined up sponsors in nine additional Republican-led legislatures — Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming — with the goal of reaching the two-thirds threshold in 2017.

But Republican control is no guarantee of success.

A Wyoming measure calling for a convention on a balanced budget amendment was shelved in 2015 after the state Senate altered it to make it contingent on assurances that Wyoming would not see a reduction in federal revenue.

Montana’s Republican-led House overwhelmingly defeated a resolution calling for a convention on a balanced budget amendment when it last met in 2015. Opponents expressed fears of a “runaway convention” during which delegates might propose all types of possible amendments.

Similar fears have thwarted past attempts at passing a balanced budget amendment. The movement peaked at 32 states when Missouri passed a resolution calling for a convention in 1983, then dipped to about half that as numerous states rescinded their resolutions. The tally began growing again after Republicans swept into control of many capitols in 2010.

The possibility of a convention dominated by delegates from a single party is “alarming,” said Carolyn Fiddler, a spokeswoman for the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

“There are no rules. They can just throw out the whole Constitution if they want to,” Fiddler said. “It’s the wildest of Wild West situations.”

Supporters of a balanced budget amendment hope to allay such fears by convening this coming summer in Nashville, Tennessee, to propose rules and procedures for a future convention on constitutional amendments. They contend a convention is unlikely to veer off into contentious issues such as abortion and gun rights because amendments ultimately will need bipartisan appeal to win ratification from 38 states.

The mere possibility of a state-initiated convention has been enough to prompt Congress to action in the past. With states just shy of the two-thirds mark in 1912, Congress instead wrote its own amendment requiring senators to be elected by a vote of the people rather than through state legislatures. The states then ratified the amendment.

But Congress has repeatedly fallen short of the two-thirds vote needed to refer a balanced budget amendment to the states. The last time both chambers tried was in 2011.

During the past three years, eight states have passed resolutions calling for a convention that would go beyond a balanced budget amendment to include other fiscal restraints, term limits for Congress and federal officials, and unspecified restrictions on federal power. Though still far from the two-thirds threshold, supporters of those causes believe the Republican rise to power could help their movement grow rapidly.

“With the election and things that have happened, it provides really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore critical structural checks in our constitutional system,” said Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, a Republican attorney.

Ivory was elected in September as the presiding officer of a simulated convention of the states designed to demonstrate that the method of proposing constitutional amendments actually can work. Among those present at the event was law professor Randy Barnett, director of the Center for the Constitution at Georgetown University.

“Amending the Constitution is always a longshot, no matter how you go about it,” Barnett said. But if 34 states — including 33 Republican ones — call for such a convention, “it would be very difficult for the Congress to stop that.”

Tough turf lessons: Assessing the GOP, Democratic ground games in Wisconsin

Seven months ago, as Wisconsin Republicans looked ahead to the upcoming presidential election, they focused on the state’s nonpartisan race for the state Supreme Court as a test run of sorts.

They figured out the most effective way to identify and register Republicans with a low likelihood of voting and persuade independents to get to the polls. They analyzed where and when to put resources into the field. They looked at how best to spend on mailings and phone calls.

“When we looked at the Supreme Court race, it was an opportunity for us to fine-tune our operation,” said Mark Morgan, state director for the Republican National Committee.

Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley won by more than 95,000 votes in April.

In November, Republican Donald Trump eked out a much tighter victory — just over 27,000 votes — against Hillary Clinton.

Republicans, both nationally and in Wisconsin, say the difference-maker for Trump was the ground game, which they built for more than a decade, first with a series of recall elections in 2011 and 2012 and honed with the Supreme Court race.

The Wisconsin GOP has a reputation as one of the best state party operations because of it, said Luke Martz, a Republican consultant who worked in eight states.

“They run a very tight ship,” said Martz, who was Bradley’s campaign manager and noted that though that race benefited from the party’s work, there was no coordination. “They know what they’re doing. They know how to win races.”

While Republicans revel in victory, Democrats are trying to chart a path forward as they look ahead to 2018, when they’ll have to defend U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s seat and attempt to win back the governor’s office.

The state spokeswoman from Clinton talked up Democrats’ efforts despite November’s outcome.

“Democrats up and down the ticket were supported by a robust organizing operation and an incredible volunteer network across Wisconsin,” said Gillian Drummond, who also is a longtime Wisconsin Democratic operative. “From phone banks in small towns to knocking doors in cities and organizing events everywhere in between, the Democratic operation was second to none.”

The Republican ground game can’t be credited for all of their success.

Clinton underperformed President Barack Obama’s 2012 totals in Democratic counties. Key voters — young people, women, African-Americans and Hispanics — did not turn out in the numbers she needed to win.

Plus, Democrats had to raise money without any visits from Clinton or the Obamas — the first presidential election since 1972 when one of the major party candidates skipped the state.

Still, the Republican track record in Wisconsin since 2010 shows:

  • Scott Walker winning three elections, including a recall.
  • Johnson twice, the second in a presidential year.
  • Republicans flipping control of the Legislature.

They now have their largest Senate majority since 1971 and their biggest in the Assembly since 1957.

Republicans shifted their strategy in 2004 after party leaders realized they couldn’t win elections just through television advertising alone, GOP operative Mark Graul said. Republicans have invested in sophisticated data analytics to target the right voters at their homes, contacts that are more effective than phone calls, Graul said.

Republicans also instituted a “turf model” or “neighborhood team” approach that divided the state into 99 different regions.

“We didn’t leave any stone unturned,” said Juston Johnson, the national party’s regional political director for Wisconsin. “We went into communities that we haven’t necessarily been in before.”

The GOP state operation wasn’t daunted like others after the 2012 presidential election, when Obama carried Wisconsin by 7 points. It kept the infrastructure for the 2014 midterm races and increased permanent staffing and number of offices in 2015.

Ultimately, the program went from four offices and eight staffers to 40 offices with 162 paid staff and trained organizers, Morgan said.

Republicans made 4.7 million voter contacts this election cycle, including knocking on 1 million doors in the final five weeks of the race, Morgan said. In 2012, less than half that many doors were knocked on in the final five weeks.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, provided a critical boost by funneling $1 million from his re-election fund to the state party.

Conventional wisdom among political operatives is that a solid ground game will, at best, yield up to 3 points in an election.

Trump won Wisconsin by less than a point and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson won by 3.4 points.

“The early investments paid off,” Morgan said. “The infrastructure is second to none.”

Meet California’s new US senator, Kamala Harris

Kamala Devi Harris is the first Indian woman elected to a U.S. Senate seat and the second black woman, following Carol Moseley Braun, who served a single term after being elected in 1992.

The daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica gives national Democrats a new face with an appealing resume — a career prosecutor and attorney general in the nation’s most populous state — and a lineage that fits squarely with the party’s goal to mirror a changing country.

By 2050, minorities are projected to be the majority in the U.S., as they are in California, and women are a majority in every state. Harris, who takes a seat in a Senate that remains overwhelmingly white and male, defeated another Democrat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in Tuesday’s election.

“Harris will help make the Senate look more like America,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Slowly, the Senate will catch up with the nation’s demographics, and Harris proves the point.”

She has drawn comparisons to her friend, President Barack Obama, another lawyer and racial groundbreaker.

Her sister, Maya Harris, was a senior policy adviser for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“Our diversity is our power,” Harris told fellow Democrats last year.

In picking the 52-year-old Harris to replace retiring Barbara Boxer, voters also looked to a new generation for leadership.

Boxer, who served four terms after being first elected in 1992, will turn 76 this week. California’ senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, is 83. Hillary Clinton will turn 70 next year.

In Harris, Californians are getting a liberal Democrat much in the mold of the senator they are replacing. It’s telling that her first major endorsement came from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the party’s liberal wing.

Along with her law-and-order credentials, Harris supports gay rights, reproductive rights and the $15 minimum wage. She want to do more to fight climate change and supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship for people who entered the U.S. illegally.

Born in Oakland, California, Harris calls Thurgood Marshall an inspiration and talks often about growing up with parents deeply involved in the civil rights movement. She married Los Angeles lawyer Douglas Emhoff two years ago, her first marriage.

Her economist father and cancer specialist mother met as graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, where Harris recalls they “spent full time marching and shouting about this thing called justice.” They later divorced.

She comes to the Senate after twice being elected state attorney general. As a candidate she stressed her fights with big banks during the mortgage crisis, for-profit colleges that were financially exploiting students and environmental wrongdoers.

A central theme for years has been recidivism and criminal justice reform, where she has advocated for a different approach to non-violent crimes that emphasizes rehabilitation and help getting back on track, not severe, one-size-fits-all punishment. She calls it smart on crime.

Harris emerged from the election largely unscathed after facing Sanchez, who suffered from a string of verbal gaffes and saw the party establishment line up behind Harris. Harris never trailed in polling or fundraising.

She was able to overcome a deficit of experience in foreign affairs _ rival Sanchez called her unready for the job _ while fending off criticism about rising crime rates and that she is too often cautious when faced with politically dicey subjects.

Sanchez and some other Democrats, for example, said she was not aggressive enough on prosecutions and investigations related to fatal shootings by police.

At an NAACP convention in Sacramento in October, Harris was describing the steps the state has taken to deter police bias when Jay King jumped to his feet and stalked out of the room.

“Police are killing us,” he shouted. “I can’t listen to this.”

King, a singer and volunteer host on a Sacramento radio station, said afterward that he previously voted for Harris and contributed to her campaign. But he criticized Harris and Obama for not doing more.

Harris took the interruption in stride.

“People are shouting in a room or on the streets because they feel they’re not being heard,” she said later. “We have to give voice to that.”

Thinly tested on the national stage, the next question will be can she deliver in a Congress riven by partisanship.

A glance at her website provides a snapshot of her goals, including free tuition at community colleges and increasing rainwater storage capacity in drought-plagued California.

In a state where millions struggle in poverty, where extremes of wealth and destitution can be witnessed by walking a few blocks in downtown Los Angeles, Harris talks about rebuilding the “ladder of opportunity” for those left behind.

“I wanted to do the work that was about being a voice for the vulnerable,” she has said.