How Jan. 6 Enabled Greater Interference In Our Elections

“In around a half dozen states under Republican control, new laws have reduced the authority of state election officers who haven’t backed Trump’s “Big Lie” and/or allowed GOP-controlled statewide boards to more easily override or threaten local election administrators in Democratic-leaning areas. And that could be just the tip of the iceberg, as bills to create similar laws have been proposed in other states, too, as well as even more extreme proposals that would make it easier for state legislatures to subvert or even ignore election results.

For instance, some Republican-controlled states have even targeted statewide officials to reduce their oversight over elections. In Arizona, for example, the GOP took away the authority over election-related litigation from the secretary of state – currently a Democrat – and shifted it to the state attorney general — a Republican. Tellingly, however, this change is set to expire in January 2023 at the same time the secretary of state’s term ends. Meanwhile in Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s refusal to help Trump interfere in Georgia’s 2020 election result not only earned him a Trump-endorsed primary challenger who supports the Big Lie, but it also led state Republicans to remove the secretary of state as a voting member of Georgia’s State Election Board and give the Republican-run state legislature control over appointing the board’s chair.

New laws in GOP-run states have also placed local election officials more overtly under the thumb of state authorities, enabling Republicans to target the election apparatuses of Democratic-leaning localities. In Georgia, for instance, the Republican majority on the State Election Board can suspend local officials and appoint temporary replacements. County boards have the power to decide challenges over voter eligibility and certify election results, so this law creates a conceivable path for Republicans to influence the results in heavily Democratic counties by disqualifying votes based on challenges to individual voters’ eligibility — or even by refusing to certify results.

Laws in some Republican-controlled states also now include heavy penalties for election officials who supposedly step out of line. Take Iowa, where officials can now face felony charges for failing to carry out election laws or failing to follow the guidance of the secretary of state, who is currently a Republican. They can also be fined $10,000 for “technical infractions” of their duties. Such rules could have a chilling effect whereby local officials may not govern as they see fit out of fear of being targeted.

In fact, faced with such legal changes, threats made by Trump supporters and the stress of the 2020 election, many local election officials have quit en masse — a loss of experience that could weaken the election system. This exodus has also created vacancies in state and local election administration that supporters of the Big Lie have sought to fill. Coupled with the far right’s concerted effort to recruit precinct officers who often decide poll worker assignments and choose local election boards, the likelihood of future election chicanery motivated by Republican electoral interests has undoubtedly increased.

And this may only be the beginning. Graver threats lurk, such as a Republican proposal before Arizona’s legislature that could permit the legislature, by simple majority vote, to ignore the state’s presidential vote and appoint the state’s electors in the Electoral College. Republicans in Wisconsin are also considering ways to upend the state’s bipartisan election agency and assert partisan control over Wisconsin’s election results.

Rather than ebbing, the movement on the right to threaten free and fair elections appears to be picking up speed. The nation’s small-d democratic backslide is already happening — the question now is just how far will it go?”

Joe Biden Says He’s Willing To Kill the Filibuster

“”I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” Biden said. “Debate them, vote, let the majority prevail. If that majority is blocked, then we have no choice but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster.”
Democrats hold the slimmest possible majority in the Senate, which is currently split 50–50 with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) says he’s prepared to bring a pair of election bills to the floor in the coming weeks despite nearly unanimous Republican opposition. The Freedom to Vote Act would limit state-level efforts (led by Republicans) to restrict mail-in voting and absentee balloting, make Election Day a federal holiday, impose new rules for the redistricting process, and require more disclosures from political donors. The second bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would reimplement a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

On Tuesday, Biden positioned the two bills as a response to Republican efforts (in Georgia and elsewhere) to tighten election laws, and a necessary rejoinder to former President Donald Trump’s craven efforts (in Georgia and elsewhere) to influence the results of the 2020 election.

“That’s not America,” he said. “That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote.”

Those Republican efforts to impose new rules on elections do indeed run the risk of corroding democracy, and Trump’s attempts to overturn the last presidential election were grotesque and condemnable. Even so, it’s not clear that the Democrats’ proposals make sense. If anything, greater federal control over elections might make it more likely that a future president could exercise undue influence over democratic proceedings.

But whether Democrats can pass those bills after suspending the filibuster might be a moot point because it doesn’t seem like there are 50 votes in the Senate for abolishing the filibuster in the first place.”

Terry McAuliffe Bet on Voters Hating Trump. Turns Out They Dislike Democrats More.

“many progressives still seem reluctant to engage in any sort of deeper introspection into why they may have alienated former members of their base. Many prefer to cling to the concept of “asymmetric polarization” that blames the widening split solely on conservatives because Republicans have moved farther to the right than Democrats have to the left.

But that view was challenged earlier this year by Kevin Drum, who cited studies showing that, in fact, it had been Democrats who had drifted to the left on issues like immigration, guns, religion and gay marriage.

It is not “both-sides-ism” to point this out. Like others, I have written hundreds of thousands of words about how the Republicans have not only moved hard to the right, but have also gone mad in the process. So this does not suggest any sort of moral equivalence.

The derangement of the GOP, however, has tended to obscure what happened on the left, where elite Democrats have increasingly lost touch with many of the voters who will determine the outcome of the next few elections.

At soccer matches and PTA meetings, or other gatherings of suburban parents, you won’t hear talk of “intersectionality,” or debates about the proper use of pronouns. The words “autocracy” or “authoritarianism” seldom come up; and if you try to define the terms, it’s as likely as not that people will bring up mask and vaccine mandates, cancel culture and what they see as the overreach of the progressive nanny state. References to “white supremacy” are likely to be greeted or with eye rolls or treated as conversation-ending insults.

At times, it seems as if Democrats are speaking a different language than many Americans.”

Nicaragua’s Ortega seeks reelection in questioned vote

“Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega sought a fourth consecutive term in elections..against a field of little-known candidates while those who could have given him a real challenge sat in jail.”

“The opposition called on Nicaraguans to stay home in protest of an electoral process that has been roundly criticized as not credible by foreign powers.”

“The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions against those in Ortega’s inner circle, but Ortega responded only by arresting more of his opponents.
…a senior U.S. State Department official, who spoke with reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the U.S. government was willing to consider additional targeted sanctions, but had tried to avoid measures that would more broadly impact the Nicaraguan people.

“It is very hard when you have a government that has very minimal goals that include remaining in power at any cost and disregarding the will of their own citizens or the needs of the citizens to retain that power,” the official said.

The Organization of American States has condemned Nicaragua’s holding of political prisoners and unwillingness to hold free and fair elections, but Ortega’s government has only railed against foreign interference.”

Iraq’s parliamentary vote marred by boycott, voter apathy

“Iraqis voted..in parliamentary elections held months ahead of schedule as a concession to a youth-led popular uprising against corruption and mismanagement.

But the voting was marked by widespread apathy and a boycott by many of the young activists who thronged the streets of Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces in late 2019. Tens of thousands of people took part in the mass protests and were met by security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas. More than 600 people were killed and thousands injured within just a few months.

Although authorities gave in and called the early elections, the death toll and the heavy-handed crackdown — as well as a string of targeted assassinations — prompted many who took part in the protests to later call for a boycott of the vote.”

“The election was the sixth held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many were skeptical that independent candidates from the protest movement stood a chance against well-entrenched parties and politicians, many of them backed by powerful armed militias.”

How the Christian right embraced voter suppression

“White evangelical Protestants now make up 14 percent of Americans, down from 23 percent in 2006, “the most precipitous drop in affiliation” for any religious group, according to a 2020 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. Even though white evangelicals made up 34 percent of Trump’s voters, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of election data, their support wasn’t sufficient to propel him to reelection. “Without such broad support for Trump among White evangelicals, [Joe] Biden would have beaten him by more than 20 points,” the Pew analysts wrote earlier this year.

Trump’s defeat proves that even massive conservative Christian turnout is no longer enough to win. The strategy white evangelical supporters have coalesced around to supplement it: election laws built on the lie that the other side’s ability to turn out voters must be “fraudulent.””

“As Trump tried to strong-arm state election officials to throw out the ballots of 11,780 Georgians and declare him the winner of the state’s 16 Electoral College votes, the Family Policy Alliance of Georgia sent a fundraising email to its supporters in December: “Election reform is coming to Georgia, and we are all in!”

Cole Muzio, the group’s executive director, acknowledged that this was new territory for his organization. “As you know, this is not one of our ‘core issues’,” he wrote. “However, issues like life, religious freedom, and school choice will never win if the vote is being diluted by radical leftists exploiting the system to cheat.””

“When Democrats stunned even themselves by winning both seats in the January 5 runoff, Georgia Republicans sprang into action, introducing a slate of bills that would, among other things, eliminate drop-box sites, impose more restrictive rules for absentee ballots, and prohibit judges from extending voting hours at precincts experiencing long waits, all under the guise of stopping fraud. Another objective was to defeat Warnock, who is up for reelection in 2022.

The flurry of legislation overtly became about religion and race, pitting white evangelical Republicans against Black church leaders, whose flocks are predominantly Democratic. One provision would have eliminated Sunday voting, a potentially dire blow to get-out-the-vote efforts of Black churches and their “souls to the polls” events that have been at the core of Black voter mobilization for decades.

A national outcry led legislators to nix that provision. But Republican lawmakers ignored the objections of the state’s Black pastors to the bill’s many other restrictive provisions. Black leaders couldn’t even get a meeting with GOP leaders, said Rev. Timothy McDonald III, senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “They didn’t pay any of us any mind.”

Less than two months after the bill was introduced, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a 98-page law that criminalizes providing water or food to voters standing in line and empowers state officials to replace local election officials — for example, the Democratic registrar of voters in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta — with appointees from their own party. The impact would be greatest on Black voters. “It is How to Steal an Election 101,” McDonald said.”

“National organizations aligned with the Christian right embraced “election integrity” with fervor. In March, Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of the right-wing policy hub the Heritage Foundation, announced it would pour at least $10 million into lobbying and TV and online ads about the urgent need to “protect the rights of every American to a fair election.” In a video obtained by Mother Jones, a Heritage Action official admitted that the organization drafted the legislation in many states, including Georgia, and helped organize support.

At the same time, evangelical leaders opposed measures that would make it easier to vote. Advocates particularly targeted the For the People Act, which would create nationwide automatic voter registration, restore voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, and expand voting by mail and early voting, while shoring up the security of election infrastructure. The Phyllis Schlafly Eagles — an offshoot of the group once headed by the late conservative figure best known for helping kill the Equal Rights Amendment — claimed (falsely) that the bill “would enshrine Democrat ballot stuffing into federal law forever.” The Family Research Council called it “a federal power grab that cripples states’ ability to run elections and increases the likelihood of voter fraud” (another lie). Other conservative activists contended that the act’s financial disclosure requirements violated First Amendment protections for religious speech.”

“There were plenty of true believers. A June Washington Post/ABC News poll found that while only 30 percent of all respondents favored passing “new laws making it harder for people to vote fraudulently,” 51 percent of white evangelicals supported such legislation. While 62 percent of all Americans expressed support for “new laws making it easier for people to vote,” only 43 percent of white evangelicals did.

By that time, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 17 states already had enacted 28 new laws suppressing voting rights.”

Texas’s New Law Is The Climax Of A Record-Shattering Year For Voting Restrictions

“The sheer number of bills — both enacted and proposed — really emphasizes what a big priority tightening election laws has become for the GOP since the 2020 election. But it’s also important to remember that a single law can contain numerous far-reaching voting restrictions. And as such, Texas’s Senate Bill 1 is probably the most comprehensive voting-restriction law passed since Florida’s SB 90.

SB 1 requires absentee voters to provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on both their absentee-ballot application and absentee-ballot envelope; gives partisan poll watchers “free movement” around polling places; requires the secretary of state to check the voting rolls for noncitizens; and creates more paperwork for people who help other people fill out their ballots. It also bans specific ways of encouraging voting that were used by heavily Democratic counties, such as Harris, in last year’s election — including automatically mailing absentee-ballot applications to voters, drive-through voting and 24-hour early voting. The law does, however, include some provisions supported by Democrats, such as allowing voters to fix, or “cure,” mistakes on their absentee ballots and requiring training for poll watchers.”

“both the severity and quantity of voting restrictions has increased dramatically in 2021. While we don’t know whether these changes will actually affect the outcomes of elections (as many Democrats fear and at least a few Republicans hope), it will undoubtedly be harder to vote in 2022 in many states than it was in 2020.”

Kyrsten Sinema Is Confounding Her Own Party. But … Why?

“Most Democrats in Congress are united around the Democratic agenda, but a small number of senators and representatives have so far been able to hold up its passage. “I need 50 votes in the Senate. I have 48,” President Biden said last week, regarding his social spending bill. As for who is standing in the way, his blame was clear: “Two. Two people.”

Those two people are Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. The two moderates have forced Democrats to water down several priorities (such as election reform and the $3.5 trillion budget bill) and are blocking more ambitious reforms entirely (such as abolishing the filibuster). But while congressional observers — from the commander-in-chief on down — usually mention Manchin and Sinema in the same sentence, it’s a mistake to lump together their resistance to their party’s priorities. Manchin’s centrism is unsurprising: He has been a conservative Democrat his entire career, and his home state of West Virginia is so red that it might be politically impossible for him to move left, even if he wanted to.

But neither is true of Sinema. Once a staunch progressive, Arizona’s senior senator has taken a hard turn to the right. On the surface, that appears to have been an effort to make her more electable by courting moderate and conservative voters. If so, she may have overcompensated: Arizona is no West Virginia, and no other swing-state senator has vexed Democratic leadership so thoroughly. In fact, Sinema’s established such a firm anti-progressive reputation that she may have lost the support of enough Democrats to endanger her reelection just the same.”

“Democrats are lucky that Manchin is in the Senate at all. Because of how red West Virginia is, a typical senator from the state would almost certainly be a Republican.2 Indeed, based on Trump’s margin in West Virginia in 2016, we’d expect that a generic replacement for Manchin would have voted in line with Trump’s position 89.3 percent of the time during his presidency. Manchin, though, voted with Trump just 50.4 percent of the time — a lot for a Democrat, but not a lot considering the partisanship of his home state.

Using the same methodology, we’d have expected a generic replacement for Sinema to vote with Trump just 39.8 percent of the time — a reflection of the purpler partisanship of her state and her congressional district at the time. Yet Sinema voted with him 50.4 percent of the time too, as much as Manchin. That made her the only Democratic senator who voted with Trump significantly3 more often than expected based on the politics of senators’ states. Her voting record during the Trump years looked more like Manchin’s, Sen. Joe Donnelly’s, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s or Sen. Claire McCaskill’s — all Democrats from substantially redder states.”

“If Sinema is acting moderate for electoral reasons, she clearly disagrees with the conventional wisdom about how moderate a swing-state senator needs to be. On one hand, maybe she has a point: Donnelly, Heitkamp and McCaskill all lost reelection in 2018, as did Sen. Bill Nelson, whose home state of Florida is about as purple as Arizona but who voted with Trump less often than Sinema did. All four voted with Trump significantly less often than we’d have expected given the partisanship of their state, suggesting that Sinema’s strategy of hewing closer to expectations might have been smarter. (Although this doesn’t justify her approach of voting with Trump more often than expected.) On the other hand, political science research has found that candidates and congressional aides are really bad at assessing where voters stand on the issues. One 2013 study found that politicians overestimated by several percentage points how conservative their constituents were, in direct contradiction of Sinema’s entire theory of the case.”

“Sinema is presumably betting that Democrats who dislike her will vote for her regardless, and that at least some Republicans who like her will vote for her, too.”

“If Democratic opinion of Sinema sinks low enough, she could even be in danger of losing in a primary.”

“It may be her donors. In a September report, liberal group Accountable.US found that Sinema raised at least $923,065 from business interests that opposed Biden’s budget reconciliation plan, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a longtime Sinema ally. She’s also been the recipient of large donations from the pharmaceutical industry, which critics have blamed for her opposition to letting Medicare negotiate down drug costs. Of course, it’s possible that the causation is reversed — that such interest groups are donating to her because they like her positions on these issues.”

“Another explanation for Sinema’s centrism could be that she genuinely believes in it. In her 2009 book “Unite and Conquer,” Sinema described how she was initially frustrated at her inability to get things done in the state legislature — so she decided to stop being a “bomb-thrower” and start working with Republicans. Perhaps now, after so many years of embedding with the GOP to get things done (this is the first time she has ever served in a legislative chamber controlled by Democrats), she has internalized the conservatism of her peers — and even embraced bipartisanship as a policy goal unto itself. (That would explain her fierce opposition to ending the filibuster and her dogged negotiation of a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill earlier this year.)”

Germany’s (sort of) change elections

“German election officials released results for the parliamentary elections, putting the Social Democrats (SPD) ahead with 25.7 percent of the vote. They narrowly beat the conservatives Merkel had helmed for almost two decades, who won 24.1 percent.”

“The SPD’s slim victory showed a vote for change — of sorts. For the first time in 16 years, a center-left party will have the most seats in the Bundestag, or German parliament.”