Males In Ballots, Not Mail-In Ballots
February 23, 2021
The Good News
- Virginia lawmakers vote to abolish the death penalty (AP)
- Greyhound racing in the US is coming to an end (NatGeo)
“Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.” — Lyndon B. Johnson
Republicans Support Males In Ballots, Not Mail-In Ballots
Donald Trump voiced out loud what lots of us already knew: Republicans would never be elected again if it were easier to vote. So, since the GOP lost both elected branches of government in the 2020 election, Republican state officials are racing to make voting more difficult before the 2022 election cycle.
Said differently: the Republican solution to losing an election is to make it harder to vote.
2020’s expanded vote-by-mail system made it far easier for many Floridians to vote. So, Governor Ron DeSantis has a new plan to make it harder to do that, which he announced at a news conference in Palm Beach last Friday. DeSantis called on the legislature to address “ballot harvesting” (when mail-in ballots are collected for delivery at a drop-off location) and ballot drop boxes, to ban mailing out ballots to voters who haven’t requested one, and to tighten the rules around requesting a ballot so that requests must be made every election year. He also wants to make existing signature verification laws tougher.
Many of these policies are already in place. Florida doesn’t permit mass mailing of unrequested vote-by-mail ballots, and there are substantial restrictions on “ballot harvesting.” Currently, a request for a vote-by-mail ballot is good for two general election cycles; DeSantis wants that limited to one. He also admitted that Florida had the most “transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country,” and that his state — which went for Trump in 2020 — counted ballots far quicker than some other states. Regardless, he claimed the new measures are necessary to ensure election integrity, so that “our citizens have confidence in the elections.” It should be noted that Trump falsely attacked ballot harvesting as “rampant with fraud,” and that he himself had his 2020 Florida vote-by-mail ballot submitted by a third party.
Florida certainly isn’t alone. According to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice: “Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).”
Georgia introduced a measure eliminating early voting on Sundays, which unabashedly targets Black voters and their churches that host “Souls to the Polls” get-out-the-vote events, where church leaders transport parishioners to polling places after services. A Republican-backed bill in Arizona would require all vote-by-mail ballots to be notarized, which would make it harder (and cost money) for everyone to cast a ballot.
These states — Arizona and Georgia, along with Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Iowa — all have competitive Senate races in 2022. In Florida, Senator Marco Rubio is also up for reelection. (Guardian, Vox)
Finding Oil Near Greece
(Carol Guzy via Getty Images)
- An oil leak, thought to be from a tanker in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel, is causing the country’s biggest maritime ecological disaster in decades. The spill likely happened about a week ago when stormy weather affected the region, and chunks of sticky, black tar began washing up on the coastline.
- Israeli authorities closed the beaches and started a massive cleanup effort. More than 4,000 volunteers from the Israeli nonprofit group, EcoOcean, have helped remove the tar and rescue sea birds, turtles, and fish that were covered in oily residue or had ingested oil.
- Israel’s National Sea Turtle Rescue Center confirmed it was treating multiple turtles covered in tar, and the Nature and Parks Authority warned that the “consequences will be seen for years to come.” It’s not yet known which ship or ships are responsible; Israeli officials are working with European authorities to review satellite images of ships that passed through the area. (NPR)
France Has A GI Problem
- France is beginning the process of shutting down the far-right group Generation Identity (GI), after an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera exposed its dangerous violence, racism, and connections with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party.
- Over the weekend dozens of pro-GI supporters wearing blue vests emblazoned with the French name of the group, “Génération Identitaire” protested in Paris. GI advocates for “defending the identity and culture of white Europeans,” decrying what it calls the “great replacement” by immigration and “Islamisation.”
- Evidence gathered during Al Jazeera’s investigation led to the December 2020 conviction of three far-right activists, including one GI member, for inciting terrorism,
Additional World News
- U.S. ban on China’s Xinjiang cotton fractures fashion industry supply chains (WaPo, $)
- Oil Spill Leads Israel To Close Beaches (NPR)
- As Bollywood Evolves, Women Find Deeper Roles (NYT, $)
- Iran, U.N. Regulators Agree On Reduced — But Continued — Nuclear Verification (NPR)
- Generation Identity: France begins shutting down far-right group (Al Jazeera)
- Climate-Driven Flood Damage Threatens Towns Across US (NPR)
- DR Congo: Italian ambassador killed in attack on UN convoy (CNN)
- Getting an abortion on Guam requires a $1,000, eight-hour flight. A lawsuit could change that (Guardian)
- White House: China And WHO Need To ‘Step Up’ On Investigation Into Origin Of Pandemic (NPR)
- Boris Johnson set to take England out of lockdown (CNN)
- The Pandemic Will End—but Covid-19 May Be Here to Stay (Wired)
- US: South African COVID strain found in New York state resident (Al Jazeera)
Going Without The GOP
- After a month’s worth of good-faith effort to win bipartisan support for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, House Democrats doubt they would get a single GOP vote. So they’re going it alone, determined to deliver aid to millions of Americans reeling from the pandemic and facing a jobless benefits cliff in mid-March.
- The House Budget Committee met Monday afternoon for the bill’s final markup in preparation for floor passage on Friday or Saturday. The bill should then go to the Senate next week, where Dems will use a procedural maneuver known as reconciliation that allows passage of the bill by a simple majority vote without fear of a filibuster.
- That doesn’t mean the final aid package going to Biden’s desk will look exactly like the House version. The House and Senate must resolve any differences and agree on any amendments before the measure is sent to the Oval Office.
- We already know Senate consideration will be laden with political minefields, and major provisions in the bill — such as its minimum wage hike or paid sick leave expansion — could be stripped out or reworked as Democrats in the upper chamber muddle through budget restrictions during floor debate.
The End To A Long, Taxing Legal Battle
- Former President Trump has finally lost his lengthy battle to keep his tax records away from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. In August 2019, as part of an ongoing investigation into whether Trump’s companies had violated state law, Vance subpoenaed eight years of personal and corporate tax returns from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars.
- In July 2020, the Supreme Court ruled the president is not immune from a criminal investigation while he holds office, but said he had the right, as every citizen does, to challenge the specific subpoena for being overbroad or issued in bad faith. Those attempts failed.
- After another four-month delay, the justices finally issued a one-sentence order on Monday denying Trump’s last-ditch attempt to keep his private financial records from the district attorney. Vance has assembled a large team of investigators who are expected to dive into the tax records quickly once they are obtained. Evidence gleaned from the records will be presented to a grand jury, but will continue to be shrouded from public scrutiny due to grand jury privacy rules. (WaPo, $)
Additional USA News
- West Virginia’s Vaccination Rate Ranks Among Highest In World (NPR)
- Urgency to ramp up vaccination clashes with Biden’s equity focus (Politico)
- Nevada Is Moving to Vote Before Iowa in 2024. Harry Reid Makes the Case. (NYT, $)
- On the Post-Pandemic Horizon, Could That Be … a Boom? (NYT, $)
- How HEB Helped Texans After the Winter Storm (NYT, $)
- Attacks on Asian Americans during pandemic renew criticism that U.S. undercounts hate crimes (WaPo, $)
- Florida Women Pose As ‘Grannies’ In Foiled Plot To Get 2nd COVID-19 Vaccine Doses (NPR)
- Reps. Pressley and Tlaib’s BREATHE Act aims to reduce police violence against Black Americans (Vox)
- The $15 minimum wage could be the first major test of Democratic unity (Vox)
- How George Floyd’s Death Is Pushing Minneapolis to Rethink Public Safety (Appeal)
- ‘Exceedingly deep convictions’: Inside Xavier Becerra’s quest for health care for immigrants (Politico)
- Facebook political ad ban blocks pro-vaccine messages (Politico)
- Biden changes PPP loan rules, only small firms can claim for 2 weeks (Business Insider)
- Impeachment is over. But other efforts to reckon with Trump’s post-election chaos have just begun. (WaPo, $)
(Cocaine-)Frosted Flakes: Part Of A Complete Breakfast
- What WILL those drug smugglers think of next?
- Bico, a narcotic detector dog with US Customs and Border Protection, recently assisted customs agents in Ohio by finding $2.8 million worth of cocaine. The drugs happened to be on a perfectly innocent-looking shipment of frosted cereal flakes coming from South America and headed to a private residence in Hong Kong.
- “Officers found white powder and the flakes were coated in a grayish substance after the dog alerted on the shipment,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
- While frosted breakfast cereal seems like an ingenious way to smuggle drugs, it’s hardly the most unusual. Smugglers have hidden their highly sought after, yet still quite illicit, product under a wig, in a pair of fake buttocks, inside hollowed-out pineapples, and under the habits of drug mules pretending to be nuns. (Guardian)
- Why an Animated Flying Cat With a Pop-Tart Body Sold for Almost $600,000 (NYT, $)
- TikTok is trying to counter misinformation about eating disorders (Verge)
- Happy Birthday To The Phillips Collection, America’s First Museum Of Modern Art (NPR)
- Judas and the Black Messiah: why it took so long for Hollywood to investigate the FBI (Guardian)
- Malcolm X family says letter shows NYPD and FBI conspired in his murder (Guardian)
- Boston Dynamics’ Robot Dog Is Now Armed—in the Name of Art (Wired)
- The Mantis Shrimp Inspires a New Material—Made by Bacteria (Wired)
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