Friday Readings: Vote because Our Lives depend on itPosted: October 19, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
The mural to the left is of Georgia gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams located on a building in the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta. This building is just blocks from MLK Jr.’s childhood home. White Republicans in Georgia are actively trying to beat her any way they can.
You can tell there is a lot at stake in this election due to the SCOTUS gutting of the Voting Rights Act because there is increasing opportunity and effort to suppress the votes of indigenous peoples in North Dakota and Black people in every southern state and else where. Republicans are trying to hold power in the Senate to continue the reign of terror and murder of US democracy.
The struggle continues . Dozens of black seniors on their way to early voting in Georgia were ordered off a bus in Jefferson County.
As early voting began Monday in Georgia,a group of black senior citizens gathered for a voter outreach event at Jefferson County’s Leisure Center. Members of Black Voters Matter, one of the groups behind the event, offered to drive the group of about 40 seniors to the polls.
But shortly after the seniors boarded the organization’s bus, county officials stopped the trip, prompting new accusations of voter suppression in a state already dealing with several such controversies.
The event, according to ThinkProgress’s Kira Lerner, was a part of Black Voters Matter’s “The South is Rising” bus tour across seven states to host voter outreach and engagement events. Black Voters Matter is nonpartisan, and the group’s leadership did not encourage the senior citizens to vote for a particular candidate or political party, according to LaTosha Brown, the organization’s co-founder.
Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett countered that the Monday event constituted “political activity,” noting that a local Democratic Party chair helped sponsor it.
“This is voter suppression, Southern style,” Brown told Think Progress. According to recent Census figures, Jefferson County is 53 percent black, and voting rights advocates cite a lack of transportation as a particularly high barrier to voting for black Georgians. Civil rights groups most recently raised this point in August when a majority-black Georgia county proposed closing all but two of its polling places.
There seems to be nothing White Republican men will do these days to hold on to power. It’s astonishing but not surprising. It’s not even subtle any more. One of the more strange things coming out of Georgia is forcing voter registration clerks to “match signatures” as if they’re experts on handing writing analysis. From Slate: “Georgia Is Using Amateur Handwriting Analysis to Disenfranchise Minority Voters. The scourge of “signature mismatch” laws strikes again.”
Say you live in Georgia. You’re eager to vote in this year’s election—a tight race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Trump acolyte Brian Kemp—so you fill out an absentee ballot and mail it in. Then, days or weeks after the election, you receive a notice in the mail. The signature on your absentee ballot, it explains, looked different from the signature on your voter-registration card. So an election official threw out your ballot. There is nothing you can do. Your vote has been voided.
If Georgia’s signature-mismatch law remains in effect through the November election, this fate will befall thousands of would-be voters. The statute directs elections officials to apply amateur handwriting analysis to voters’ signatures and reject any potential “mismatch.” Nearly 500 ballots in Gwinnett County alone have already been rejected for mismatch, a disproportionate number of them cast by minority voters. Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is suing, demanding that the state give all citizens an opportunity to cure ballots rejected for mismatch. Its suit will help determine how successfully Georgia will suppress minority votes in the upcoming race.
Signature-mismatch laws are a scourge of American elections. The very premise makes no sense: In a similar lawsuit filed in New Hampshire, a forensic document examiner testifiedthat effective signature comparison requires 10 signature samples “at a minimum” to account for variability. Even then, experts may struggle to verify a signature, because our signatures often change over time. Voters who are disabled or elderly, or are nonnative English speakers, are especially likely to have variation between signatures. That’s one reason why New Hampshire’s mismatch law disproportionately impacted seniors, California’s disproportionately impacts first-generation Asian Americans, and Florida’s disproportionately impacts Hispanics.
But there’s likely something more insidious going on here too. The extreme racial disparitiesamong those affected by mismatch laws may also reflect the broad discretion that election officials have to toss ballots. In states with stringent mismatch rules, a handful of election officials are frequently responsible for the vast majority of ballots voided for mismatch. And those officials routinely work in counties with large minority communities.
One of the most important ways to circumvent being stopped at the polls or slowed down at the polls on election day is to vote early. Early votes are pouring into Virginia. The number of absentee ballots arriving to be counted is nearly unbelievable. It’s another reason that Republican legislatures are trying to shorten early voting periods and create long drives to early voting sites.
The number of voters in Virginia who have cast early ballots ahead of the November elections is dramatically up compared with last year, suggesting an electorate that is energized by several hotly contested races for Congress that are spread across the state.
Virginia allows voters to cast “absentee” ballots in person if they have valid excuses for not being able to vote on Election Day.
Nearly 78,000 people have completed ballots since absentee voting began Sept. 15 — more than double the number who voted early by this point last year, according to an analysis of voting data by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.
That number is still shy of the 123,221 absentee ballots cast during the 2014 midterm elections, state data shows.
But with a little less than three weeks before the Nov. 6 elections, local election officials say this year’s absentee totals are on pace to eclipse 2014 and may even approach the turnout for the presidential election of 2016, when a near-record 496,452 Virginians cast their ballots early.
“It’s actually quite shocking,” said Richard Keech, deputy director of the elections office in Loudoun County, which has seen a 239 percent jump in absentee voting this year, with 11,106 ballots either already cast or mailed to voters so far.
“This would be the first time without a president on the ballot that we’ve seen this kind of increase,” Keech said
Fairfax County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, has seen a roughly 100 percent increase since last year, with 21,582 absentee votes cast so far, officials said. Nearby, Prince William County, the second-largest jurisdiction, has climbed by about 114 percent to 4,693 absentee ballots cast.
Here’s a suggestion from MIchelle Goldberg to prevent “political despair”. She suggests we “join the women trying to save America from Trump.”
This week, a friend texted me, “I feel a panic that won’t stop.” I didn’t have to ask what she meant; we are, after all, less than three weeks from the midterms. “#MeToo,” I replied.
Many women I know — though, of course, not only women — are walking around with a churning knot of terror in their stomachs. The confirmation of the cruel former frat boy Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court brought back the anguish and degradation so many of us felt after the 2016 election. Donald Trump grows more thuggish and mendacious by the day; “gaslighting,” a term taken from a play about an abusive husband trying to drive his wife insane, has become a byword of our national life.
Republicans are increasingly explicit about campaigning to preserve male power. Criticizing the #MeToo movementearly this month, Trump said it’s “a very scary time for young men in America.” Republican congressman Andy Barr of Kentucky ran a commercial attacking his opponent, former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, for describing herself as a feminist. The Washington Post wrote about how an “outbreak of male resentment” is poised to play a “defining role” in the midterms.
I too have this underlying, nagging anxiety all the time. No matter how many times I say the mani and take deep breaths. I cannot shake the feeling that the bad guys are pulling out all the stops to stop the rest of us from rising.
Meanwhile, Georgia still stands out as the worst example while the ghost of Lester Maddox grins somewhere from hell.
A handful of states, most of them led by Republicans, are using someone’s decision not to vote as the trigger for removing them from the rolls. No state has been more aggressive with this approach than Georgia, where Brian Kemp, the secretary of state, oversaw the purging of a growing number of voters ahead of his own run for governor, according to an APM Reports investigation. Voting rights advocates call it a new form of voter suppression, and they fear it will soon spread to other states.
Even by Georgia standards, the voter purge of late July 2017 was remarkable. In a single day, more than half a million people — 8 percent of Georgia’s registered voters — were cut from the voter rolls. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump who has described himself as a “politically incorrect conservative,” oversaw the removals eight months after he’d declared himself a candidate for governor.
The purge was noteworthy for another reason: For an estimated 107,000 of those people, their removal from the voter rolls was triggered not because they moved or died or went to prison, but rather because they had decided not to vote in prior elections, according to an APM Reports analysis. Many of those previously registered voters may not even realize they’ve been dropped from the rolls. If they show up at the polls on Nov. 6 to vote in the heated Georgia governor’s race, they won’t be allowed to cast a ballot.
Kemp’s opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, is vying to become the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve as a governor. The state has undergone a dramatic influx of African Americans and Latinos whose votes could challenge Republican dominance, and her campaign is trying to turn out people of color, who are more likely to be infrequent voters. If the race is close, the July 2017 purge could affect the outcome.
The APM Reports analysis is the first estimate of the so-called “use it or lose it” policy’s possible impact in Georgia. While 107,000 people may seem like a small number in a state with a population of 10.4 million, elections have been decided by far smaller margins. For instance, the 2016 presidential election was decided in favor of Donald Trump by a total of 77,744 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Using someone’s decision not to vote as the trigger to remove that person from the rolls is a highly controversial — yet legal — tactic that voting rights advocates say is a potential tool for voter suppression. And its use is on the rise.
APM Reports found that at least nine states — most of them with Republican leadership, including the key battlegrounds of Georgia and Ohio — have purged an estimated hundreds of thousands of people from the rolls for infrequent voting since the 2014 general election. States with these policies are removing voters at some of the highest rates in the nation, no matter the reason.
People are fighting for our right to vote. They have fought over the years and decades to expand the right to vote for all of us. We have the duty and obligation to honor their hard work. I live in a state that seems hopeless and a city that is well represented by Americans of all backgrounds. This election will send my Congressman Cedric Richmond back to the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. But, I have to admit that I am paying a lot more attention to the judicial races than I used to. Every race counts these days.
There is one ballot amendment here that will be a statewide vote that would bring significant justice to those incarcerated for major crimes with juries that are not unanimous. Overturning this law would be a significant step forward for Louisiana and I fully support this ballot effort to do so.
Amendment 2 would require the unanimous agreement of jurors to convict people charged with felonies. As of 2018, Louisiana requires the agreement of 10 of 12, or 83 percent, jurors to convict people charged with felonies. Amendment 2 would not affect juries for offenses that were committed before January 1, 2019.
As of 2018, Louisiana is one of two states—the other being Oregon—that does not require the unanimous agreement of jurors to convict people charged with felonies. Oregon does, however, require unanimous convictions in murder trials.
In Apodaca v. Oregon (1972), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution required unanimous juries to convict persons in federal criminal trials, but that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend the requirement of unanimous juries to state criminal trials.
Oddly enough, the Koch network is supporting this ballot initiative too. As we say, politics can sometimes make for odd bedfellows.
A conservative organization funded by the Koch network launched a digital ad Monday aimed at ending Louisiana’s law that allows split juries to convict people of serious felony crimes, an outreach effort that puts the group at odds with some of its usual allies.
Americans for Prosperity-Louisiana announced the online advertising campaign will be combined with direct-mail pieces and other outreach in support of the constitutional change on the Nov. 6 ballot that would do away with the Jim Crow-era law.
Currently, some serious felony trials in Louisiana, including some murder cases, can be resolved when 10 out of 12 jurors agree on a person’s guilt. Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that allow non-unanimous verdicts in felony cases. But even Oregon requires a unanimous verdict in murder trials.
Amendment 2 would require jury verdicts in Louisiana to be unanimous to convict someone in all felony cases.
Americans for Prosperity’s 30-second online ad — set to music and without narration — targets libertarian-leaning and conservative voters with a focus on constitutional rights, saying Amendment 2 will “protect American freedom and liberty.” It says Louisiana’s current law makes it “easier to send innocent people to prison.”
“Louisianans deserve a justice system that values, above all else, the rights of the accused in a jury trial. A system that places a higher value on conviction rates than the pursuit of the truth is a system that has no place in our society,” John Kay, Louisiana state director of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement.
The organization is the main political advocacy group for billionaire Charles Koch, who has supported criminal justice overhauls in several states, including Louisiana. With support of the unanimous jury amendment, along with the criminal-sentencing-law changes, the Koch network has diverged from some other high-profile conservatives in Louisiana, including Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and several tough-on-crime district attorneys.
But Amendment 2 has drawn an unlikely, bipartisan coalition of support across the political spectrum, from conservative and religious groups to liberal activists.
The constitutional amendment required two-thirds support of lawmakers to reach the November ballot. When Sen. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, first proposed the idea, passage during the regular legislative session was seen as a longshot.
The legislation became the surprise measure of the session, reaching a public vote with widespread support from Democrats and Republicans, picking up steam each step of the process.
I would like to say the only stand out thing about the Louisiana Election this year is that we are working to remove this Jim Crow Era law . Our Republican Secretary of State has also purged voter rolls. I made sure I checked my registration earlier this week. Our State AG is a doozy. We pretty much hate him here in New Orleans. “AG Landry: Free election day bus rides illegal”.
Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque withdrew a resolution from Tuesday’s agenda that would have provided free bus rides in the city of Lafayette on election days.
Conque said he spoke with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry who concurred with city-parish attorneys’ advice that free bus service is not legal.
“Jeff (Landry) … said he considers it a violation of the Louisiana constitution and he would legally challenge it if we moved forward,” Conque said.
Landry told The Daily Advertiser the Louisiana Secretary of State asked for advice on the matter, so Landry sent him a 1996 Attorney General opinion. That opinion said a school board could not use school buses to bring voters to election polls.
Even though the Lafayette buses would not directly bring riders to the polls, Landry said it is not allowed. The facts of the opinion may differ from the Lafayette case, he said, but the principle behind the conclusion is the same.
This impacts the poor and the elderly. Additionally, here’s some evidence of the Secretary of State’s voter suppression tactics from the Daily Beast. Rachel Maddow has been focusing on this issue of voter suppression over the country. We have not yet been featured but Louisiana has done it too. Here’s our experience with voter purges from Louisiana Weekly.
In July 2018, the Brennan Center for Justice released a report analyzing voter purging across the country showing that between 2014 and 2016 officials removed more than 16 million people from voting rolls nationwide. That’s four million more names than states removed between 2006 and 2008 (the last time frame analyzed).
The center attributes this increase in purging to an increase in the use of sometimes flawed data matching software across states to remove names, as well as conservative activist groups lobbying for, and sometimes suing to get, more purges and tougher legislation to protect against potential non-citizen voters.
Louisiana’s last voter purge was in 2017, a routine post-election clean up that resulted in 55,000 names removed from an inactive voter list of more than 100,000. (There are some three million registered voters in total in the state).
Voters become inactive after they don’t vote in a federal election and, “we don’t have a way to reach them by mail or phone,” says Louisiana secretary of state’s spokeswoman Meg Casper Sunstrom. “In other words, we can’t verify they are living where they are registered to vote. As soon as they participate and vote, they can be removed from the inactive list.”
Some voting rights advocates have criticized past purges in Louisiana, particularly a post-Katrina purge that resulted in a federal lawsuit against the state in 2007. Many displaced people registered for driver’s licenses and acquired temporary residences in other states, and data matching systems subsequently flagged their names as potential “double voters” – people registered to vote in multiple states. Millions of people are registered in two places, and research shows that since 2000, around 30 cases of voter fraud have been validated in the United States.
Despite little to no evidence of illegal voting across the country, the Trump Administration has aggressively pursued efforts to curtail even the possibility of fraud – creating a now defunct national voter fraud task force and asking states to turn over detailed information on individual voters. Then, Louisiana secretary of state Tom Schedler declined the task force’s request, offering only the same (less extensive) data available for purchase to political candidates online.
We must stop this dreadful disenfranchisement and removal of rights from citizens. If we don’t attack it by voting and by bringing attention to voter suppression efforts it will only get worse. It can only benefit Trump and the white patriarchy who oppresses the majority of people in the country and can only contain them with gerrymandering and voter suppression. Increased voter participation by the rest of this lessens the chance they are successful.
Don’t forget to vote!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?