Elections & Voting

Assorted Election Stupidity

Ballot box

As some of you may have noticed, the United States had an election the other day. The party not led by Donald Trump made significant gains, and now controls the House of Representatives. The party that is led by Donald Trump added a few seats to its Senate majority, but also it is still led by Donald Trump.

Here are some other things that happened.

  • In Nevada’s 36th Assembly District, Dennis Hof easily defeated Lesia Romanov by a 26-point margin (63–37). Hof will not serve in the state legislature, however, because he has been dead for almost a month. It appears that in Nevada, being dead is not a reason to remove the dead person’s name from the ballot.
  • Notably, nothing in the Nevada Constitution specifically prohibits a dead person from serving in the state legislature, but it is possible to infer this from the requirement that all legislators must be “duly qualified electors….” Nev. Const. art. 4, § 5. Qualified electors include “[a]ll citizens of the United States” who are 18 or older and “resided in the state six months, and in the district or county thirty days next preceding any election….” Id. art. 2 § 1. Hof stopped living in Nevada on October 16, and if he “resided” there in any form for the remainder of the required period, there is no evidence of it.
  • Also notable: Dennis Hof was a pimp. Or, if you prefer, a “brothel owner,” who owned a number of brothels in Nevada, where that is legal (in most of the state). Hof was, in fact, the most famous brothel owner in America, as one of his establishments was featured in the HBO series “Cathouse.” He first ran for office in 2016 as a Libertarian Party candidate, but lost. This year, he ran as a dead Republican, and won.
  • Also dead: the gubernatorial dreams of Lowering the Bar non-favorite Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State whose official Kansas Secretary of State page currently displays both his smiling face and election results showing that he lost by 56,000 votes (48–43%), despite having driven around the state in a car with a fake machine gun mounted on top, which is usually a sure thing. Kobach’s official biography describes him as a “nationally recognized litigator,” which is true but not in the way his official biography means it.
  • Then there’s U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who is recognized both nationally and by the Justice Department as someone who probably committed insider-trading fraud. Following his indictment in August, Collins insisted he would stay on the ballot and seek re-election anyway, but then he didn’t. But then he did, and then he won. Which raises the question: Can a convicted felon serve in Congress? Experts say yes. See Can a Convicted Felon Serve in Congress?” Lowering the Bar (Dec. 24, 2014). But they usually don’t.
  • Such as the subject of that 2014 post, former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (also R-NY), who was also re-elected while under indictment, but who later resigned after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion, thus allowing Congress to avoid yet again the embarrassment of having a sitting member serve while sitting in jail. Grimm, of course, ran again this year, having been paroled. But he lost in the primary to the non-felon who had replaced him.
  • The question above may also be relevant to U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who was indicted in August for misusing campaign funds. Sorry—allegedly misusing campaign funds. See Campaign Funds [Allegedly] Used for Rabbit Travel,” Lowering the Bar (Aug. 27, 2018). Hunter, too, decided to seek re-election despite the indictment, and earned bonus points for awfulness by accusing his opponent of being a Muslim with a terrorist grandfather, though he is actually a Christian whose grandfather died long before he was born (but was, in fact, a terrorist). Since he ran a campaign like that, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Hunter also won.
  • Any indicted Democrats? Yep! Or, at least, the until-recently-indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who survived a trial last fall on bribery charges, courtesy of a hung jury. In January, the DOJ said it would not retry the case. According to the Senate Ethics Committee, Menendez did not dispute that he had “accepted numerous gifts” from someone and then “took official actions related to [that person’s] interests,” but I guess the jury decided that was something other than “bribery.” The Committee “severely admonished” Menendez, though, and if there’s one thing we know about legislators, it’s that they’re always deterred by the prospect of a severe admonishment. The New Jersey race was considered a toss-up, but Menendez ended up winning by about 10 points.
  • Finally, “congratulations” also to Inmate No. 232573 (D-TX), a.k.a. Rep. Ron Reynolds, a Democratic member of the Texas House. Reynolds won re-election on Tuesday even though his campaign headquarters were then located in Pod 2 of the Montgomery County jail. Reynolds had reported there on September 7 to start serving a one-year sentence resulting from five misdemeanor convictions, and that’s where he was on election night when voters overwhelmingly chose to send him back to the state house. Sometime in 2019, that is, or maybe earlier with good behavior. Reynolds was unopposed, but 47,305 voters still chose to mark their ballots for a guy who was in jail at the time.
  • Reynolds was the incumbent, and did not have to resign from office under Texas law because the charges were misdemeanors. It appears that the Texas Legislature is currently out of session, but according to the report, “[u]nless Reynolds’ sentence is reduced, he will likely be sitting in a jail cell when the legislature reconvenes in January 2019,” and could miss the entire first year of the session if not released before next September.
  • Special Lowering the Bar bonus points go to Reynolds because of this detail: he was convicted on five counts “of using a middleman to chase ambulances in order to solicit clients for Reynolds’ law firm,” also known as “barratry.” His law license has been suspended. Wait—double bonus points because he was also recently fined $52,000 for failing to properly file campaign-finance records, but mainly because Reynolds was a member of the House’s campaign-finance committee at the time.

“Congratulations” to all!