President Trump’s Social Media Executive Order Violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joseph Shepherd Miller, Esq., Founder & CEO

May 29, 2020

(703) 259-8447

jmiller@washingtech.org

President Trump’s Social Media Executive Order Violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump signed a race-neutral

Executive Order using Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and other communications laws and policies, as a pretext to suppress votes under color of law. What makes the president’s pattern of conduct in recent months especially egregious is that it mocks the spirit of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[1]

The president’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, including his efforts to destroy the United States Postal Service, evince a calculated attempt to evade the Voting Rights Act by generally attempting to prevent citizens, who are otherwise qualified to vote, from voting, because California’s existing election legislation omits mail-in balloting as an option for individuals who are unable, or otherwise unwilling, to vote in person, in this case because of the risk that in-person voting poses for contracting COVID-19, a disease the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes as posing “a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.”[2]

In order to correct the omission in California’s existing law that did not include a mail-in ballot provision, and in accordance with the CDC’s March 10, 2020 recommendation for election officials to “encourage mail-in methods if allowed in the jurisdiction” to prevent the spread of COVID-19, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order permitting mail-in and in-person balloting in California. On May 26, President Trump tweeted the baseless claim that Governor Newsom’s Executive Order would “send ballots to millions of people, anyone, living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there” [emphasis added].

This tweet is evidence. It demonstrates the patently illegal and discriminatory basis upon which the president later issued an Executive Order (the “EO”) directing the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, two independent agencies over which the White House has no legal authority, to regulate interactive computer services. This meritless EO was issued in retaliation. It was issued in retaliation because the president formed the erroneous belief that Twitter’s attachment of a disclaimer to the aforementioned tweet gave him the cover he needed to suppress votes via a completely unrelated statute; namely,

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

[1] 52 U.S.C. §10101(a)(2)(B)(2020)(“No person acting under color of law shall … deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election.”), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2014-title52/html/USCODE-2014-title52-subtitleI.htm (last visited May 29, 2020). [2] Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020), https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html (last visited May 29, 2020).

Press Release_Social Media EO_finalpdf

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