Corporate-Backed ALEC Creates Secret Internal Project to Work on Redistricting and Election Issues

Updated on June 17th, 2020 to include details of the “process working group” meeting during the 2019 States and Nation Policy Summit.

More than a year before the 2020 election, the GOP-dominated and corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) created a secret working group that would address redistricting, ballot measures, and election law. The working group does not appear anywhere on ALEC’s website and has not been reported on until now. Documented obtained information about the working group through a public records request. 

“At the board meeting, I will speak briefly about the need for a board approved ‘working group’ to tackle some of these issues and I’d like to invite you to participate in this group,” ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson said in an email, which was sent to 10 state legislators’ private email addresses. “The issues we plan to cover include but are not limited to; election law and ballot integrity, campaign finance, electoral college, redistricting and citizen vote questions.”

Nelson noted ALEC Action (ALEC’s 501C4 entity) president Michael Bowman, Arizona State Rep. Shawnna Bolick, and the GOP attorney Cleta Mitchell planned on leading the effort. 

ALEC held a “special” meeting about the ALEC Political Process Working Group at its 2019 Annual Meeting. Slate obtained an audio recording from a session at the same conference where Mitchell sarcastically said “We’re going to teach you how to gerrymander.” Slate reported:

“Slate has obtained an exclusive audio recording of the closed-door panel called ‘How to Survive Redistricting,’ moderated by influential Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell. The panel’s four experts—Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, North Carolina election lawyer Thomas Farr, former Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, and Texas state Rep. Phil King—are among the architects and defenders of some of the most notorious gerrymanders and voter suppression plans of this decade.”

Following the Annual Meeting, the “process working group” met during the 2019 States and Nation Policy Summit that took place in Scottsdale, Arizona from December 4-6, 2019. The agenda, entitled “Process Issues at SNPS”, outlined a board-only model policy review of the electoral college, two redistricting workshops as previously reported  by Documented, and a meeting on election issues that has not been previously reported and did not appear on the publicly available schedule. The agenda confirmed Arizona Rep. Shawnna Bolick and GOP Attorney Cleta Mitchell are chairing the group. 

Topics during the meeting included a presentation on “National Popular Vote v. Electoral College” by Save our States Director Trent England. GOP political strategist Tim Mooney presented on the “Citizen Vote Initiative.” In 2019, the Washington Post reported Mooney “has been working on the noncitizen voting issue since at least 2017, when associates said he shared results of a national poll showing that the concept resonated with many voters.”

Vera Anderson presented on “Election Integrity Project Arizona.” Cleta Mitchell and former Federal Election Commission member and senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation Hans von Spaksovsky presented on “Election Integrity Principles.”  Von Spaksovsky also presented on Automatic Registered to Vote [sic], Ranked Choice Voting, and Ballot Harvesting. In partnership with Documented, The Intercept reported in 2019 that von Spakovsky told conservatives during a Council for National Policy-sponsored private gathering that “expanding voting rights and nonpartisan redistricting could imperil GOP political power.”

ALEC’s work on redistricting and elections dates back many years. In addition to its restrictive “Voter ID Act”, ALEC created a “Redistricting Working Group” and hosted workshops and presentations on the topic, as previously reported by the Center for Media and Democracy. Due to the widespread criticism of the task force responsible for adopting the Voter ID Act–and other controversial measures such as the “Stand Your Ground” model policy–ALEC disbanded its “Public Safety and Elections” task force in 2012 and claims that it no longer promotes the Voter ID Act.

ALEC adopted a model resolution in 2018 to limit judicial power on redistricting, making it easier for ALEC-dominated legislatures to gerrymander district maps. In 2017, ALEC adopted a resolution aimed at repealing the 17th Amendment, which would end U.S. Senate elections, allowing the ALEC-dominated legislatures to pick Senators.

The email outlining the goal of the working group can be viewed on documentcloud and below:

Photo by Unsplash user @element5digital. License.

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