Florida gonna Florida.
It used to be the case that all people with felony convictions were prohibited from voting in Florida — but in 2018, ballot initiative passed by voters changed that, re-enfranchising former offenders throughout the state. This week, the state Supreme Court threw a wrench into that plan.
Since the passage of Amendment 4, Republicans in the state have tried their damndest to stop people from voting. (We're sure that has nothing to do with the fact that people of color are vastly over-represented in our prison system.) One of their tactics was to pass a law saying that former offenders can't register to vote until they have paid all of their court-ordered fines, fees, and restitution -- which many former offenders simply can't afford. The Florida Supreme Court upheld this definition of the new voting rights amendment.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was on-brand, praising the decision and ignorantly calling voting a privilege.
Voting is, of course, a fundamental right and not a privilege. And the Florida Supreme Court can't overrule federal courts, which have ruled that the inability to pay can't be a barrier to exercising the right to vote.
So this is all a mess, but there's still hope.
But we're pretty sure they'll be back for a second round in state court.
On Friday, a federal judge declined to reinstate nearly 100,000 voters to Georgia's voting rolls after yet another voting roll purge by the Georgia Secretary of State's office.
Judge Steve Jones of the Northern District of Georgia ruled in Fair Fight Action v. Raffensperger that he could not step in and order Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reinstate some 98,000 Georgia citizens to the state's voter rolls after he purged them earlier this month. The challenge, led by Stacey Abrams's voting rights organization, Fair Fight Action, had sought to ensure that people would not be unfairly denied their right to vote.
Or at least Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
After a federal judge gave the go-ahead Monday, the Great State of Georgia announced it would purge more than 300.000 people from the state's voting rolls. Not because they did fraud or anything, but because they didn't vote often enough, at least according to Georgia's dubious records. Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, argued that the cancellations will eliminate about 120,000 voters who would be eligible to vote were it not for Georgia's dumb "use it or lose it" law, which strikes people from the rolls if they haven't voted in a general election since 2012. The remaining people to be purged either moved out of state, or were assumed to be unpersons after mail sent by state election commissars was returned as undeliverable.
What a great day for democracy, with fewer people able to vote!
And that's why this stuff is important.
Yesterday, Judge Paul Malloy ruled that the state of Wisconsin must purge 234,000 voters who "may have moved recently" from the state's voter rolls, the majority of whom reside in Democratic strongholds.
The ruling was in response to complaint from the right-wing law firm, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, against the Wisconsin Elections Commission, alleging that they needed to purge the voter rolls of people who had not responded to recent mailing. Why? Because the fewer people who can vote, the better Republicans do.
"State agencies comprised of political appointees and unelected staff do not have the authority to invent or amend policy contrary to state law," the institute's president and general counsel, Rick Esenberg, said in a statement at the time.
The commission, however, said it was allowing voters to stay on the rolls through the spring of 2021 based on a June vote by the commission."The commission is confident that it is complying with Wisconsin law," Meagan Wolfe, the state's chief election official, said in a statement at the time.
Given that Donald Trump only beat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes, this may seem like a cause for alarm — and it is. But among the many wonderful things to be found in Wisconsin — supper clubs that look like the 1970s inside, the Mars Cheese Castle, so much discount cheese in general, the Laverne and Shirley tour, Milwaukee in general (after all, it is Algonquin for "the good land") — is same-day voter registration.
What's Up Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi Elections? Oh, There Are Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi Elections?
Why do so many former Confederate states hold odd-year state elections? Why would they insist upon opening the polls every single year, spending millions of additional tax dollars and forcing voters to take yet another day off work, just to keep local and national votes separate? Yeah, it's a MYSTERY! It's almost like the system is deliberately structured to depress turnout and keep the electorate as rich and white as possible to ensure Republicans hold power forever.
Tomorrow Kentucky and Mississippi will hold closely watched gubernatorial elections, and Virginians will go to the polls to determine which party will control the legislature for the all-important redistricting after the 2020 census. Here's what to watch for.
Makes us want to barf, that's for sure.
The Republican war on voters continues apace. In Ohio, state election officials for the first time released their list of 235,000 voters who were slated to be purged from the voting rolls, and volunteers checking the list found a whopping 40,000 voters who were in fact eligible to vote. Including the name of Jen Miller, the state director for the League of Women Voters. The New York Times has the story:
Over the summer, the Ohio secretary of state had sent her organization and others like it a massive spreadsheet with the 235,000 names and addresses that would be purged from the state's voter rolls in just a month — a list of people that, state officials said, some part of the bureaucracy flagged as deceased, living somewhere else or as a duplicate. The League of Women Voters had been asked to see if any of those purged qualified to register again.
Why yes. Yes, they sure did.
Not all the vote-purge news is terrible, however: In Kentucky yesterday, a state judge put the brakes on a Republican attempt to purge 175,000 voters before this fall's gubernatorial election, agreeing with the plaintiffs in a Democratic lawsuit that the move ran too great a risk of disenfranchising qualified voters. So yay for pockets of sanity! In Kentucky.
See Republicans, telling the truth isn't so hard after all.
The Senate Intelligence Committee issued the second installment of its report on interference in the 2016 election. This edition was subtitled "Russia's Use of Social Media," and SPOILER ALERT, the committee agreed with everyone outside the Wingnut Bubble that it was the Russians. We don't know who needs to hear this, but:
The Committee found that the IRA [Internet Research Agency] sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.
LOL, we're kidding! We know exactly who needs to hear it, and it's Trump's Attorney General Bill Barr, who spent last week in Italy chasing down nutty professor Joseph Mifsud in an effort to prove that HILLARY CLINTON IS THE REAL COLLUSION because ...
We think that might be bad, maybe!
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is trying to make sense of a little electoral mystery from Georgia's 2018 elections: Roughly 100,000 votes in the state's race for lieutenant governor appear to have gone missing from electronic voting machines. It's the sort of thing that would have Lieutenant Columbo scratching his head and wondering out loud how such a thing could have happened, because it just doesn't make a lot of sense. In any election, the longer the ballot is, the more likely people are to skip filling in votes for down-ballot races. But in Georgia in 2018, there was a huge drop-off in votes between the governor's race and the lieutenant-governor race. Now, MAYBE that simply reflected far lower interest, since the lieutenant governor's contest wasn't nearly as interesting as the fight between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams.
But weirdly, the number of votes in down-ballot races were actually higher than in the lt.-gov. race, meaning
fewer votes were counted for lieutenant governor than for labor commissioner, insurance commissioner and every other statewide contest lower on the ballot. Roughly 80,000 fewer votes were counted for lieutenant governor than in other down-ballot elections.
That, says the Democratic candidate, Sarah Riggs Amico, is pretty odd. She lost the election to Republican Geoff Duncan, and despite her requests, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger isn't interested in investigating the anomaly, because maybe lots of people just didn't care as much about the second-listed election as they did about the hotly contested insurance commissioner race.
But there's no absolute proof of any fuckery, so there's no need to investigate, you see? It's the Georgia Way.
Give it a day.
So Puerto Rico has now had three governors (the equivalent of the president in any other country) in a week. Take that, mainland United States Congress!!!
After the Puerto Rico Supreme Court found that Pedro Pierluisi was unconstitutionally sworn-in as governor and told to him vacate La Fortaleza (The Fortress, the name of the governor's mansion in Old San Juan), Wanda Vazquez Garced became the Governor of Puerto Rico. On his way out, Pierluisi released a taped statement that appeared to be filmed in front of a green screen:
Pedro Pierluisi taped this short video for the people of Puerto Rico. It was released after he left the Governor's mansion but before Wanda Vazquez was sworn in as Governor. pic.twitter.com/rPqJmTenhm
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) August 7, 2019
Or on the set of Lex Luthor's library in Richard Donner's Superman.
Even had Otis doing sign language!
Your Mini-Constitutional Crisis Update!
When we last checked in with the United States most
ignored favorite colony, Puerto Rico had just forced their governor, Ricardo Rosselló, to announce his resignation effective August 2 after weeks of intense protests. The protests were sparked by years of corruption and 889 pages of leaked chats involving the governor, secretary of state, and other top officials. This forced many in the administration to resign and, after a disastrous Fox News interview, Rosselló soon joined them. But this was not a tidy happy ending.
Because the secretary of state (second in line for the governorship) resigned prior to Rosselló, there was no clear answer who was next in the line of succession. By Article IV of the Constitution of Puerto Rico, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez Garced would have been the next governor until the 2020 elections. But amid protests due to various scandals and controversies outlined by the New York Times (and probably not wanting to be in charge in a shitshow), Ms. Vázquez Garced announced she didn't want the job.
With the deadline bearing down, Rosselló announced July 31 that he had chosen
Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia as the new secretary of state to fill the vacancy left by Luis G. Rivera Marín. This effectively made him the next in line and successor as governor, so crisis averted! Just kidding.
WHOA, gutting the Voting Rights Act meant millions lost the vote? Who could have guessed?
The Brennan Center for Justice, using data from the federal government, found that since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the number of Americans purged from voter rolls has increased to are you kidding me levels of 17 million people. Worse, states that had a history of discrimination against minority voters purged a greater percentage of voters in the last two years than in other parts of the country.
Before that 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required jurisdictions that had a history of voting discrimination to get clearance from the Justice Department before making any changes to voting procedures. But in Shelby, the Supremes decided racism was largely a thing of the past, so such "preclearance" was clearly not needed anymore, and actually was very unfair to places that used to use underhanded tactics to rig the vote. After all, Republicans all over the country were emailing each other pictures of the White House surrounded by watermelon patches, not just in the South!
This guy again!
We will never be rid of Scott Walker. Wisconsin voters finally gave him the boot, but he's like a case of drug-resistant gonorrhea, never really gone. This time he's reared his little pinhead in Michigan to fight the scourge of voter-approved bipartisan redistricting commissions, which infringe on the sacred First Amendment right of Republicans to ratfuck themselves into permanent majorities forever. This tyrannical exclusion of politicians and party officials from the redistricting process based on the will of 61 percent of Michigan voters will not stand, man! Not if Scott Walker has anything to say about it!
Last November, Michigan voters approved a state constitutional amendment removing the redistricting process from the wildly gerrymandered legislature and putting it in the hands of a 13-member commission composed of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five unaffiliated voters. Commissioners will be randomly selected from a pool of applicants, using "accepted statistical weighting methods to ensure that the pools, as closely as possible, mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state," and the majority and minority leaders of both houses of the Michigan legislature will each be allowed to strike five applicants from the pool. Politicians, party officials, lobbyists, and their families are ineligible for positions on the commission, which pay about $40,000 per year.
Which all sounds pretty fair, right?
But lower-level Republican Party officials are howling like stuck pigs that the state is illegally discriminating against them and penalizing them for exercising their First Amendment right to affiliate with a political party and hold state office. Scott Walker's group The National Republican Redistricting Trust and its affiliate Fair Lines America (George Orwell would be proud!) are backing a consortium of GOP hacks in their lawsuit asking the US District Court in Grand Rapids to declare the entire law unconstitutional and return mapmaking power to the Republican-controlled legislature as White Jesus intended.
Here komes Kris Kobach's klown kar!
Welcome to Kansas's US Senate race, Chris ... errr, Kris Kobach! Godspeed, you crazy, immigrant-bashing dumpster fire. Your Wonkette has not lived a good enough life for this guy to throw another race to the Democrats. But if he wants to be a throbbing hemorrhoid in Mitch McConnell's ass, we're good with it!
Yesterday Kris Kobach made it official, declaring his candidacy to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Roberts in 2020. His crack team kicked off the proceedings by misspelling his name on the FEC filing.
Why, yes, "false, erroneous, or incomplete information" on this form may subject the filer to civil penalties. But Kobach, who fought to purge voters for similar typos on their registration forms, shrugged it off, telling the Kansas City Star, "We had a whole bunch of people helping over the past week and I don't even know who was the person that transcribed it. It's not the first time Kris has been misspelled in my case with a CH rather than a K ... They quickly corrected their typo, I'm told."
Sure his losing 2018 gubernatorial campaign in a state where Republicans outnumber Democrats two-to-one was a shitshow with lackluster fundraising and pathetic GOTV, but this time is different. This time they "quickly corrected" the misspelling of the candidate's own name. So you know they're at the top of their game!
How bad is the gerrymandering decision? It's really, really bad.
I got no jokes, people. This is a very bad day for democracy. We lost Rucho v. Common Cause, the gerrymandering case, in a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts giving Republican legislatures a thumbs up to ratfuck electoral maps forever. Reasoning that the Framers anticipated gerrymanders and failed to do anything about them, Roberts calls congressional districts a political question outside the purview of the courts.
Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust. But the fact that such gerrymandering is "incompatible with democratic principles," Arizona State Legislature, 576 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 1), does not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary. We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.
It's a darn shame that Republican minorities use maps to systematically entrench themselves in power despite the fact that they consistently get fewer votes than Democrats. Roberts really feels for people trapped in districts where their votes don't count, but dangitall, the Court's hands are tied.
Okay, now we know how this is going to go down.
In April, Donald Trump stood on the White House lawn and told reporters, "We're fighting all the subpoenas." This admission that the Trump administration is fighting just to fight, rather than based on the validity of any particular congressional inquiry, was distinctly unhelpful to Attorney General Bill Barr, whose job requires him to swear that he's defending the sacred privacy of the executive branch, rather than a petulant dotard who thinks he's America's god king. No one ever accused Trump of being a longterm, strategic thinker.
But Bill Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone have a job obstructing Congress, so they got down to it. We're now well into the second round of this nonsense, and the parties' tactics are becoming more clear. Basically, it's going down like this:
- Congress demands information on White House fuckery -- the Census, or the Mueller Report, or how the hell Jared Kushner got a security clearance, etc.
- The White House tells them to go piss up a rope.
- Congress subpoenas the information.
- The White House says congressional oversight is ILLEGAL and defies the subpoena.
- The relevant House committee schedules a committee vote on criminal and civil contempt citations.
- The White House threatens to invoke executive privilege over every piece of paper in the federal government if the contempt motions against Bill Barr aren't withdrawn, although they don't give a damn if Don McGahn, Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson, or anyone else goes to jail.
- The committee votes to bring civil and criminal contempt charges to the full House for a vote.
- The White House disgorges some portion of the disputed material and promises to keep negotiating, and the committee chair withdraws the criminal contempt motion, sparing Barr the prospect of being prosecuted by a future AG for criminal contempt.
- The civil contempt motion proceeds to a vote in the full House, where it passes on party lines.
Step 10 is probably litigation to enforce the subpoena and allow the court to find Barr in contempt of court, but we just got to Step 9 yesterday, when the House passed a bill authorizing Judiciary Committee Chair Nadler to sue McGahn and Barr to get them to comply with committee subpoenas and allowing the committee to petition a court to give them an unredacted copy of the Mueller Report. Nadler says he'll hold off on suing Barr immediately, to see if he actually forks over the documents on Trump's cough, cough alleged obstruction of justice, or if he tries to claw it all back with Steve Bannon's Hot Tub Time Machine Executive Privilege Defense. But Nadler is coming for McGahn TOOT SWEET, and Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson should also expect a visit from their friendly neighborhood process server, since the bill authorizes the committee chair to git his sue on with them, too.
Meanwhile, over at the House Oversight Committee, Chairman Cummings is on Step 7 in the fight to get Census documents from the White House. Trumpland is extra-sensitive about this at the moment, since the Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to accept Wilbur Ross's laughable assertion that they added the citizenship question to protect the rights of minority voters, rather than entrench Republicans in power forever. Ross and his deputies appear to have lied to Congress, and they'd very much prefer not to hand over evidence of that, thankyouverymuch.
So, last night Barr's deputy Stephen Boyd sent a letter -- you want snitty, Steve will show you snitty! -- whining that mean Elijah Cummings never negotiates with the DOJ and threatening to have Donald Trump throw a blanket of executive privilege over the entirety of the Census if Cummings went ahead with the contempt vote against Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Just to make this extra clear, the Justice Department is threatening to make a sham invocation of executive privilege as a weapon to protect Barr and Ross personally and to "reevaluate its current production efforts in ongoing matters," an unsubtle threat to shut down document production entirely based on events that have nothing to do with Congress's right to see the disputed materials.
Cummings responded with a HAHA FUCK YOU letter saying, "The Committee has a responsibility under the Constitution to conduct rigorous oversight of the Census, and we will not delay our efforts due to your ongoing obstruction." So Oversight went ahead with the contempt vote this morning, and the DOJ invoked some non-existent, bullshit version of executive privilege over the Census documents. As we type, the committee hearing is ongoing, but there are 18 Republican Oversight members and 24 Democrats so ... not exactly a nailbiter. Then they'll schedule a contempt vote before the entire House, as Nadler did with the Judiciary Committee.
Look for Bill Barr to have a miraculous change of heart about document production when Cummings withdraws the criminal contempt charge. But John Gore, the Census department employee who defied a congressional subpoena to testify without a department lawyer present to protect Trump's "executive privilege interests," and Carl Kline, the official who overrode career agents to grant Javanka's security clearances and defied a subpoena to tell Rep. Cummings about it, might want to start saving their pennies. Particularly since yesterday's bill empowered Cummings to start suing immediately.
This map leads directly to the federal courthouse in DC. And it's not likely to go well there for the Trumpers.
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The Mapf*cker's Revenge.
Okay, POP QUIZ! Ready?
If documentary evidence emerges to prove that your client lied to the court, should you:
A. Attempt to amend your testimony and throw yourself on the mercy of the court?
B. Loudly insist that those documents are PRIVILEGED and accuse your opponent of professional misconduct?
Pencils down! If you are a sane person, the answer is A. But if you and your clients are Republicans, the answer is B, any day of the week and twice on Sundays. And so we find ourselves in yet another day of legal batshittery in the Trump era. TGIF!
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