Texas Democrats Leaving State To Block Voting Restrictions Bill

Road sign reading Texas

Road sign reading Texas

Democratic lawmakers in the state of Texas are reportedly leaving the state today in order to break the quorum required to pass new voting laws. The governor had called the special session into order primarily for the purpose of passing the legislation.

From the Texas Tribune:

Upping the ante in both the legislative fight at home and the national debate over voting rights, most House Democrats are expected to board a flight out of Austin headed for the U.S. capital without a set return date.

At least 51 of the 67 Democratic representatives — the number needed to break quorum — were in the process of leaving, most arriving at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Monday to board a chartered flight.

The House is set to reconvene Tuesday morning, but the absent Democrats would mean there will not be enough members present to conduct business under House rules.

Texas Democrats are hoping to find some (any) leverage to force their way to the negotiating table as them say they’ve been shut out of drafting of the voting bill.

Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Voting Restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s new voting restrictions in a 6-3 ruling today.

From the New York Times:

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld voting restrictions in Arizona and signaled that challenges to new state laws making it harder to vote would face a hostile reception from a majority of the justices.

The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s three liberal members in dissent.

The new case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, No. 19-1257, concerned two kinds of voting restrictions in Arizona. One required election officials to discard ballots cast at the wrong precinct. The other made it a crime for campaign workers, community activists and most other people to collect ballots for delivery to polling places, a practice critics call “ballot harvesting.” The law made exceptions for family members, caregivers and election officials.

Read the full article here.

Justice Department Sues Georgia Over GOP Voting Restrictions

A prosecutor in Georgia is reportedly in the early stages of investigating Donald Trump for attempting to overturn the election results in the state
Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced the Justice Department will sue the state of Georgia over new voting laws that allegedly discriminate against Black voters
(image via Depositphotos)

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced the Department of Justice is suing the state of Georgia over its recently passed voting restrictions,

According to the DOJ, the new law passed earlier this year was “enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote.”

From Axios:

It’s the first major action the Biden administration has taken in response to the wave of voting restrictions that Republican-led states have sought to impose in the wake of President Biden’s election.

In a major policy speech earlier this month, Garland pledged to make voting rights a top priority, doubling the number of enforcement staff dedicated to protecting the right to vote.

The lawsuit is being overseen by Kristen Clarke, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan.

Garland also announced Friday that DOJ is launching a task force to investigate and respond to threats against election officials.

Joe Manchin Will Vote No On Voting Rights Bill

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (image via Facebook)

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) penned an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette-Mail to inform his constituents he will be voting against the For the People Act which would strengthen voting rights across the country.

He adds that he will not support jettisoning the Senate filibuster which calls for 60 votes to close debate on certain bills and move on to a final vote.

Some in my party have argued that now is the time to discard such bipartisan voting reforms and embrace election reforms and policies solely supported by one party. Respectfully, I do not agree.

I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.

For as long as I have the privilege of being your U.S. senator, I will fight to represent the people of West Virginia, to seek bipartisan compromise no matter how difficult and to develop the political bonds that end divisions and help unite the country we love.

American democracy is something special, it is bigger than one party, or the tweet-filled partisan attack politics of the moment. It is my sincere hope that all of us, especially those who are privileged to serve, remember our responsibility to do more to unite this country before it is too late.

I understand Manchin believing he’s taking a ‘principled’ approach here. But many say Manchin’s stand for “bipartisan compromise” will basically kill most of the policies Joe Biden promised the American people during his campaign – which got him elected.

Texas Democrats Walkout To Stop Voter Restriction Bill Vote

Road sign reading Texas

A high school senior was expelled right before the school year for coming out as gay and proud
With a midnight deadline hanging over the proceedings, Texas Democrats staged a walkout in the state House successfully blocking a voting bill that would have made it harder to vote by mail, limit driving non-family members to the polls, and more.

From the Washington Post:

The exodus from the floor came after Chris Turner, the House Democratic chairman, sent instructions to colleagues at 10:35 p.m. Central time instructing them to exit the House, according to an image shared with The Washington Post.

“Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly,” Turner wrote, referring to the key that locks the voting mechanism on their desks. “Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building.”

Texas sets a quorum for each legislative chamber at 2/3 of the elected members (Texas Constitution Article 3, Section 10). In the House, that means 100 representatives have to be present for a vote. Republicans only have 83 House seats.

The bill (Senate Bill 7) would ban drop boxes and drive-through voting – popular practices used in heavily Democratic Harris County last year. It would have moved early voting hours on Sundays to the afternoon. That clause was clearly aimed at the get-out-the-vote programs known as ‘souls to the polls’ popular among Black churchgoers.

The bill is dead for now, however, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced he will call a special legislative session to address the bill again later in the year.

News Round-Up: April 8, 2021

Hunky guy snaps a gym selfie
Hunky guy snaps a gym selfie
(image via kenneth-in-the-212)

Some news items you might have missed:

Kenneth-in-the-212: Kenneth’s weekly ‘Mask4Masc’ feature is a winner with all kinds of inspiration this week (plus more at the link).

TVLine: NBC’s streaming platform Peacock has ordered a reboot of the landmark queer TV series Queer As Folk.  Described as a “vibrant reimagining,” the new Queer as Folk will center on a diverse group of friends in New Orleans whose lives are transformed in the aftermath of a tragedy. The original QAF debuted on Britain’s Channel 4 in 1999 and ran for 10 episodes. The American version was created for Showtime and lasted five seasons (from 2000 to 2005).

Axios: A new Gallup poll shows more Americans identify as Democrats by the largest margin since 2012. Per the recent survey, 49% say they support Democrats, 40% support the Republican Party and 11% say they are Independents with no partisan leaning.

(graphic via Gallup)

Instinct Magazine: Grammy-nominated singer Kehlani shared this past weekend during an Instagram Live chat that she identifies as a lesbian. “You want to know? You want to know what’s new about me? I finally know I’m a lesbian,” said the singer.

Herald Leader: A southern state is actually making it easier to vote? Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) signed into law Wednesday a significant election reform bill that will make it easier for Kentuckians to vote early, bucking a national trend of more restrictive election laws in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

The Gaily Grind: The office of embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz released a statement purportedly written by female staffers defending the pro-Trump lawmaker amid his ongoing sex trafficking scandal. Despite being signed by “The Women of the Office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz,” not a single woman is named in the statement.

Instagram: Just a quick reminder that baseball is back – and I ain’t mad 🙂

MLB Announces All-Star Game Moved To Colorado

Logo for Major League Baseball

Logo for Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball has announced it will hold its annual All-Star Game in Denver, Colorado, after Georgia changed its voting laws in March which could potentially restrict voting access for people of color.

Of course, MLB has the right to hold its game anywhere it wants in an environment that it deems appropriate.

But Republicans are still mad at MLB for pulling its game from the Peach State, so they are now trying to compare Georgia’s new voting laws to those in Colorado.

One issue Repubs tried to press today was that Georgia now allows for 17 early voting days while Colorado has 15 early voting days. They also point to the idea that Colorado has a voter ID requirement as does Georgia.

But… it’s not that simple.

Colorado’s voter ID law for in-person voting (sometimes referred to as “non-strict”) allows for a variety of IDs including ones without photos. If voters don’t have ID on them at the time of voting, they can cast a provisional ballot and elections officials are charged with verifying their eligibility.

But Georgia’s in-person ID requirement is a “strict” law, requiring photo ID. And if a voter doesn’t have one with them at the polls, they can cast a provisional ballot, but the voter has to show a photo ID at a county registrar’s office within three days.

More importantly, though, Colorado votes almost universally via mail-in ballot.

All registered voters there receive an absentee ballot and almost 99% of voters there cast their votes via mail. So, the in-person ID requirement – and the number of early in-person voting days – is practically moot since the vast majority of ballots are cast by mail.

Also, as White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted today when asked about the “comparisons” by Fox News’s Peter Doocy, Colorado allows citizens to register to vote on election days which Georgia does not.

Survey: 71% Of Republicans Oppose Making Voting Easy

According to a new survey by Pew Research Center, the number of Republicans who say “everything possible” should be done to make voting easy has dropped precipitously since 2018.

Of course, this comes after their candidate lost the 2020 presidential election thanks to record-breaking voter participation.

As a response, state legislatures have introduced over 360 voter restriction bills this year.

Many election experts say the new laws will disproportionately affect voters of color, as well as those with disabilities.

Georgia, whose close elections for president and U.S. Senate drew national attention, has already passed a bill that effectively suppresses the vote in the Peach State.

Some aspects of the Georgia law include reducing the time period voters have to request absentee ballots, limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, and making it illegal to hand out water to voters standing in line for hours.

Crunching the Pew Center’s data:

59% of U.S. adults overall say everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote, while 39% say citizens should have to prove they want to vote by registering ahead of time.

85% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents say everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote, while 14% say citizens should have to prove they really want to vote by registering ahead of time.

28% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents say everything possible should be done to make it easy for all citizens to vote, while 71% say American citizens should prove they really want to vote by registering ahead of time.

It’s worth noting that prior to the 2018 mid-term elections, 48% of Republicans said everything possible should be done to make it easy to vote, while 51% said citizens should have to prove they really want to vote by registering ahead of time. That shows a clear 20 point shift in Republican attitudes on voting in less than 3 years.

Broken down by race, 84% of Black adults and 69% of Hispanic adults say everything possible should be done to make it easy to vote, only 51% of white respondents said the same.

On the issue of election security:

• 61% of U.S. adults overall say it would not make elections less secure if election rules were changed to make it easier to register and vote.

• 82% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents say the same.

• 37% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents say the same.

Read the full report from Pew Research here.

MLB Pulls All-Star Game From Georgia Over Voting Law

Major League Baseball has pulled its All-Star game from Georgia over the state's recent voter suppression law
Major League Baseball is making it known the organization is NOT having Georgia’s new voter suppression law.

From the New York Times:

In a firm rebuke of Georgia’s new elections law, Major League Baseball said Friday that it had abandoned its plan to play this summer’s All-Star Game in Atlanta.

The decision by the baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, came after days of pressure from civil rights groups and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

In a statement, Manfred said that after conversations with teams, players, former stars and players union officials he had concluded that “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.”

Earlier this week, President Biden voiced his support for MLB moving the midsummer showcase in light of the new voting law’s disproportionate impact on people of color.