“In March, Georgia Republicans passed SB 202, a sweeping new election law that erects obstacles between Georgia voters and their right to cast a ballot. While some are relatively minor or even popular, the most ominous provisions of this new law allow the state election board, which is dominated by Republicans, to seize control of county election boards. Those boards can disqualify voters, move polling precincts, and potentially even refuse to certify an election count.”
“letters from Republican lawmakers are the first step in the legal process Republicans may use to take over elections in Fulton County, the most populous county in the state, which encompasses most of Atlanta. In 2020, nearly 73 percent of Fulton County voters cast a ballot for President Joe Biden. Biden won the county by nearly a quarter-million votes, enough to push him ahead of former President Donald Trump in a state decided by 11,779 votes overall.
Both letters ask the state elections board to begin a “performance review” of the local officials who oversee elections in Fulton County. The senators claim that such a review is justified because “nearly 200 ballots were scanned twice last fall” during the initial vote count in Fulton — a claim that was previously featured on Tucker Carlson’s show.
The reality is much more nuanced, and it suggests that the state’s existing systems worked exactly as they were supposed to work. Although nearly 200 ballots were double-counted during the first count of Fulton County’s ballots, Georgia conducted both a machine recount and a hand recount of all its ballots, given how close the statewide result was. And there’s no evidence that any ballots were counted twice in the final tallies that showed Biden ahead of Trump.
It appears likely that a poll worker in Fulton County made a minor clerical error, and this error was corrected in the subsequent recounts.
Nevertheless, it is probably inevitable that the GOP-controlled state elections board will open an investigation into Fulton County. And once this investigation concludes, the state board can use it as a pretext to remove Fulton County’s local elections board and replace it with a temporary superintendent who can undermine voting within that county.”
“The outcome of Georgia’s 2022 statewide elections, in other words, may not be determined by the state’s voters. It could hinge on a sham investigation into Fulton County’s election administration — and by a partisan board’s subsequent decision to place a partisan official in charge of counting most of the votes in Atlanta.”
“prior efforts to restrict the franchise frequently placed unnecessary hurdles in the way of voters, such as by requiring them to show certain forms of ID or by limiting where and when voters can cast their ballot. These sorts of laws are troubling, but they can be overcome by determined voters.
SB 202, by contrast, is part of a new generation of election laws that target the nuts and bolts of election administration, potentially allowing voters to be disenfranchised even if they follow the rules.”
“An insufficient supply of ICU beds is one of the acute crisis points of the pandemic. When hospitals run out of room to treat patients who need the most help, doctors and hospital administrators must make difficult triage decisions. This affects not just COVID patients but anyone else who might be in urgent need of medical care—car crash victims or those who’ve had heart attacks—and it almost certainly means that some people will die who otherwise may have survived.
It’s a crisis that has been made worse by outdated and ineffective government regulations—known as “Certificate of Need” (CON) laws—that actually reduce the number of available hospital beds by requiring that hospitals get permission from the state before adding capacity.
In Alabama, which is one of 27 states that subjects the supply of hospital beds to CON oversight by the state, we’re now seeing some of the consequences of these rarely thought-of policies. While the surging number of serious COVID cases there and elsewhere across the country is largely the result of unvaccinated Americans being hit by the highly contagious delta variant, a restricted supply of hospital beds is not helping.
Since March 2020, states that use CON laws to regulate the supply of hospital beds have seen an average of 14.99 days per month where ICU capacity has exceeded 70 percent, according to Matthew Mitchell, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center who crunched Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) data and shared his findings with Reason. Meanwhile, states that do not have CON laws governing the supply of hospital beds have seen an average of just 8.65 days per month with ICU capacity exceeding 70 percent, according to Mitchell.”
“FOSTA and the takedown of Backpage have made finding and fighting sex criminals more difficult, according to the GAO report.
Since FOSTA’s passage, the commercial sex ad market has become more highly fragmented and more likely to be based overseas. This “heightens already-existing challenges law enforcement face in gathering tips and evidence,” the report says. Those running the newer platforms often “host servers abroad, reside abroad, use offshore bank accounts and financial institutions, or introduce third parties to attempt to obscure or distance themselves from the day-to-day operation of their platforms, according to DOJ officials.”
Whereas sites like Backpage and Craigslist were willing to work with legal authorities—reporting suspicious ads, turning over information relevant to prosecutions, etc.—the new crop of commercial sex ad platforms are much less responsive and helpful. As a result, prosecuting their users has become more difficult, as has finding the victims of sex trafficking.”
“DeSantis pushed the ‘anti-riot” bill in the aftermath of last year’s racial justice protests that spread across the nation — and even cited protesters blocking roads as a justification for the measure that includes extra penalties for people accused of participating in riots and violent protests.
But Democrats and other critics of the law — which is being challenged in federal court — accused DeSantis and other Republicans of supporting selective enforcement of the measure. They said the measure was designed to target Black protesters upset with police shootings. But now DeSantis and other GOP leaders are in a difficult position since they support the aims of many of the demonstrators backing Cuba in Miami and elsewhere.
This week, demonstrators blocked major roadways for hours in Miami-Dade County without any reports of arrests or citations. But the Tampa Bay Times reported on Wednesday that two demonstrators in Tampa were held in jail overnight without bail because of a provision in the new law.
On Tuesday, DeSantis sidestepped a question about whether authorities should arrest people blocking roads as part of protests in solidarity with Cuba. Those demonstrations popped up in several cities as Cuban Americans voice their support to Cuban protesters who are demanding an end to the authoritarian regime that has controlled the island nation for the past six decades.
On Thursday, the governor reversed course and said that authorities could not “tolerate” people blocking roads.
“It’s dangerous for you to be shutting down a thoroughfare,” DeSantis said during a press conference with Florida GOP Reps. María Salazar and Carlos Giménez calling on the Biden administration to help restore Internet access to Cuba. “You’re also putting other people in jeopardy. You don’t know if an emergency vehicle needs to get somewhere and then obviously it’s just disrespectful to make people stand in traffic.”
DeSantis repeated his assertion that his ‘anti-riot’ bill was meant to crackdown on violent protesters.”
“Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of voter suppression laws. Many provisions currently being pushed by Republican state lawmakers make it harder to cast a ballot in a certain way — such as by mailing in the ballot or placing it in a drop box. Or they place unnecessary procedural obstacles in the way of voters. These provisions often serve no purpose other than to make it more difficult to vote, but they also are not insurmountable obstacles.
Other provisions are more virulent. They might disqualify voters for no valid reason. Or allow partisan officials to refuse to certify an election, even if there are no legitimate questions about who won. Or make it so difficult for some voters, who are likely to vote for the party that is out of power, to cast their ballot that it’s nigh impossible for the incumbent party to lose.”
“the most common kind of law that seeks to make the results of an election impervious to the will of the voters: gerrymandering. The Census Bureau expects to provide states with the data they need to draw new congressional and state legislative districts this fall. Once that data is available, states like Georgia and Texas are likely to draw maps that seek to entrench Republican rule as much as possible. (Democrats also engage in gerrymandering, but blue states are more likely to use independent commissions to draw district lines, or to have other safeguards that limit partisan redistricting.)
Gerrymanders can potentially make the fight to control a legislative body all but impervious to the will of the voters. In 2018, for example, Democratic candidates for the Wisconsin state assembly received 54 percent of the popular vote, but Republicans won nearly two-thirds of the seats.”
“In the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Republican lawmakers are advancing a a number of new anti-protest measures at the state level — including multiple bills that specifically make it easier for drivers to run down protesters.
The most recent example of such a law came Wednesday, when Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a new law that effectively allows drivers to hit people with a car in a specific set of circumstances.
Under the new law, an Oklahoma driver will no longer be liable for striking — or even killing — a person if the driver is “fleeing from a riot … under a reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious injury or death.”
The measure also creates new penalties for protesters who obstruct streets or vehicle traffic, including hefty fines of up to $5,000 and as much as a year in jail.”
“If the recent spate of anti-protest measures in Florida, Iowa, and Oklahoma is disturbing on its face, however, context does little to make it better. There is a specific history in the US of the far right using cars as weapons, and it’s not hard to see how bills like the one that is now law in Oklahoma might only make things worse.
The most notable example is from August 2017: Heyer, 32, was struck and killed and at least 19 others were injured when neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. rammed a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville. Fields has since been sentenced to life in prison.
But it’s more than that single incident. According to Ari Weil, the deputy research director for the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, there were at least 72 incidents of cars driving into protesters over a relatively short span in 2020, from May 27 through July 7.
Examples aren’t hard to find. There’s even a Wikipedia page specifically dedicated to “vehicle-ramming incidents during George Floyd protests.” And as Weil explained in an interview with Vox’s Alex Ward last year, “there’s an online environment that for years has been celebrating and encouraging these types of horrendous attacks.”
“What’s particularly worrisome is where those memes spread,” Weil told Vox. “I know of at least four cases where law enforcement officers were sharing these in Facebook groups. [Fields] shared these memes twice in two months before his attack, and other planners of the Unite the Right rally shared these, too.””
“Even more concerning, it’s not always just random people driving through protests. In several cases, police have also used their cars as weapons against protesters. In Detroit last June, an officer drove his police SUV through a crowd, sending protesters flying; two New York police officers did likewise at a Black Lives Matter protest in May 2020.”
“The legislation says any interactive computer service provider—that means social media giants, small blogs, podcast hosting services, app stores, consumer review platforms, independent political forums, crowdfunding and Patreon-style sites, dating apps, newsletter services, and much more—will lose Section 230 protections if they fail to report any known user activity that might be deemed “suspicious.”
“Suspicious” content is defined as any post, private message, comment, tag, transaction, or “any other user-generated content or transmission” that government officials later determine “commits, facilitates, incites, promotes, or otherwise assists the commission of a major crime.” Major crimes are defined as anything involving violence, domestic, or international terrorism, or a “serious drug offense.”
For each suspicious post, services must submit a Suspicious Transmission Activity Report (STAR) within 30 days, providing the user’s name, location, and other identifying information, as well as any relevant metadata.
Those submitting the user surveillance reports would henceforth be barred from talking about or even acknowledging the existence of them. STARs would also be exempt from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The bill, which comes amid renewed calls to stamp out domestic terrorism after the Capitol riot, is impressive in managing to be both completely invasive and utterly unconcerned with even appearing to be about protection, since the remedy—report within 30 days—would hardly help stop the commission of crimes”
“The bill would set up a massive new system of intense user monitoring and reporting that would lead to more perfectly innocent people getting booted from internet platforms. It would provide the government with a new tool to punish disfavored tech companies, and it would enlist all digital service providers to be cops in the failed post-9/11 war on terror and the drug war.”
“Worse than simply overloading the system, it would make federal agents investigate all sorts of ordinary Americans for harmless comments. It also seems likely to make finding actual terrorists and violent criminals even more difficult.”
“federal law makes it a crime to engage “in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof.” Someone who violates this statute faces a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
It’s also worth noting that this law makes it a crime to incite such a rebellion, and violators “shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.” Thus, to the extent that a government official was complicit in Wednesday’s riot, they could potentially be stripped of their office.
Second, the law prohibits a “seditious conspiracy” to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States” or to “by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.” Participants in such a conspiracy could face up to 20 years in prison.
Third, federal law provides that “whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States … by force or violence” may face up to 20 years in prison, and may also be stripped of their ability to be employed by the federal government for up to five years.”
“another statute makes it a crime to conspire “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Thus, to the extent that members of Congress were exercising a “privilege” secured to them by the Constitution while they were disrupted by rioters, those rioters could potentially face criminal charges.”
“Members of the pro-Trump insurrection may have also violated several federal statutes intended to protect the peace.”
“Other criminal laws seek to protect the lives and safety of federal officials. Anyone who attempts to kill a member of Congress, for example, faces life in prison. And anyone who assaults a member of Congress may face 10 years in prison if they do so with a dangerous weapon or if “personal injury results.”
Even a relatively minor assault against a federal lawmaker can be punished by a year in prison.
Additionally, the law prohibits a conspiracy to “prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States.” As the purpose of the pro-Trump insurrection appears to be to prevent President-elect Biden from holding the office of president, this statute could apply to members of that insurrection.
Violators of this law face up to six years in prison.”
“Other federal laws make it a crime to damage, rob, or unlawfully occupy federal property.”
“”Every new law requires enforcement; every act of enforcement includes the possibility of violence,” Yale Law School’s Stephen L. Carter wrote in 2014 after New York City cops killed Eric Garner during a confrontation rooted in suspicion that he was illegally selling loose cigarettes.
Every violent enforcement action, I’ll add, involves enforcers acting through a filter of flaws and prejudices.”