Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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Maria Butina, the Russian national who ingratiated herself into U.S. conservative circles through gun rights activism, has been cooperating with the feds for months, but just days before her sentencing, a major fight has erupted over the government’s efforts to paint her conduct as part of a “spot and assess” operation that could aid Russian spies.

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Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s defense in front of the Supreme Court Tuesday of Secretary Wilbur Ross’ addition of a citizenship question to the census primarily came down to one paragraph buried deep in a Census Bureau analysis — one of several that Bureau experts put together advising Ross against including the question on decennial survey.

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With so much at stake — the apportionment of political power nationwide, the adequate representation of immigrant communities, the scope of executive power —the Supreme Court arguments Tuesday over whether the Trump administration could add a citizenship question to the 2020 census wound up being highly technical. The much-anticipated hearing included ample discussion of phrases like “comparative errors,” “maximal need,” and “credible quantitative evidence.”

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Ahead of Tuesday’s Supreme Court arguments in the census citizenship question case, I went through the timeline of everything that we know about how and why the question was added, starting with Secretary Wilbur Ross’ initial demands for the question soon after his confirmation and continuing through the formal Justice Department request that was sent to the Census Bureau in December 2017. Thanks to a year of legal wrangling over the question, we have access to internal emails, memos and depositions that give us insight into exactly what was going on.

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The Texas Senate last week passed legislation that would stiffen the penalties for those who provide false information on voter registration forms — a move that civil rights advocates say could affect those who make honest mistakes in filling out the applications. Under the new legislation, those errors would be a state jail felony rather than a class B misdemeanor. The bill would also make voter assistance efforts more burdensome by requiring people who help voters in need of assistance — such as those who are elderly or disabled — to fill out new forms. The bill now heads to the Texas House where it must pass through committee before being taken up by the entire chamber.

Tennessee meanwhile is advancing legislation that will make voter registration drives more onerous. Under a new GOP bill, if a registration organization turns in too many applications deemed “deficient” it could be fined, while violating other rules around registration drives could land paid workers in jail. The bill passed the state House last Monday.

Republicans in the U.S. House last week criticized the ongoing investigations by Oversight Committee Democrats into state-level voter suppression allegations. The Dems leading those investigations shot back at the GOPers. So far, Georgia has begun complying with the Dems’ records request and Kansas election officials have committed to producing the requested documents as well. Texas is resisting turning over the records requested by Dems.

The chaos behind the scenes that resulted in Georgia’s very long polling place lines last year is becoming known, thanks to documents produced last week for a public records request. They show election officials ringing the alarm after technology failures at certain election sites. One email reported a “very long wait” that prompted people to leave the line — because the polling place had only two felt pens to fill out paper ballots.

Ahead of the Census citizenship arguments in front of the Supreme Court Tuesday, lawmakers of both parties called upon the court to release the audio from the hearing on the same day. Chief Justice John Roberts denied that request, meaning it will not come out until Friday (a transcript should be available within a few hours of the hearing).

Missouri’s GOP legislature is looking at unraveling a ballot initiative passed last year that, among other things, overhauled the redistricting process. The initiative would have legislative maps be drawn by a demographer put forward by  the state auditor and require that those districts be competitive. The new bill would put back on the ballot a proposal eliminating the demographer’s role and creating a redistricting commission appointed by the legislators instead.

All Florida counties will be required to offer Spanish-language ballots, thanks to a federal judge’s ruling and an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Previously, only select counties offered the ballots, and a judge said last year that the failure of the other counties to do so was a Voting Rights Act violation. Rather than wait for the litigation to unfold around making that change permanent, DeSantis ordered his secretary of state to go through the rule-making process to carrying out the change.

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