InfoWars mob terrorizes mothers and small children arriving at a Catholic Charities facility

Remember Alex Jones? He is the guy that runs InfoWars, the conspiracy-smothered, fact-free dreck-machine that people like Donald Trump and the Republican Party rely on to confuse and obfuscate reality for them. Unlike Fox News’ Tucker Carlson—who spews very similar BS—Jones comes in a repellent package that embodies the hedonism, corruption, and narcissism of the conservative movement in our country. 

On Wednesday, Jones and his InfoWars sociopaths decided to try and one-up the Republican Party’s anti-immigrant publicity stunts by staging one of their own. According to the Daily Dot both Jones and Drew Hernandez—a self-described investigative reporter who believes Black Lives Matter is a “Marxist terrorist organization”—released video of themselves stopping child trafficking! Whoa, that’s big news! Except it’s the opposite of that. What the two men and their film crews did was in essence terrorize three mothers and their children, along with a man driving them from the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the city of McAllen, Texas, to the Human Respite Center, also in McAllen.

In video that was posted by Hernandez and subsequently taken down on many sites, Jones can be seen in the middle of the afternoon on a McAllen street, standing and screaming at the occupants of a white minivan. Jones calls for the police while Hernandez points out that the children aren’t wearing seat belts and don’t have car seats. “No car seats. What organization is this? I want to know who the hell this is,” he demands. The Daily Dot reports that later in the video, in classic charlatan nonsensical histrionics, Jones yells, “If I drove around with three of my kids in the back of the car, I’d get arrested.” That’s not the law in Texas, to be clear. Also, Alex Jones not being allowed to drive with children might be more related to the fact that he’s had questionable judgement when driving. 

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande, released a statement to reporters saying the video misrepresented what was happening. These children were not being “smuggled” anywhere; they were being driven from one place to another to receive some help from an organization that works to ameliorate poverty conditions for families. Pimentel did, however, say that the children should have been wearing seatbelts, but “unfortunately, this was not the case.”

“I urge you to look past the fear-mongering and mischaracterizations,” said Pimentel. “Remember to actually see the human beings fleeing persecution and their need for human dignity, which mirrors our own.”

Jones has long wrestled with clear personal issues. He is a bad person who has frequently preyed upon families in order to make his money. In recent years he has lost lawsuits filed by parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School for promoting the truly horrific conspiracy theory that the whole thing was made up and the parents were “crisis actors” pretending for years and years to have lost their children. To be Alex Jones is to be lost in the heart of darkness. Donald Trump’s mediocre mind and his popularity among the conservative movement created fertile ground for Jones and others to exploit the more openly white supremacist members of the right wing.

Ted Cruz is the poster boy for disaster capitalism, but then, he always has been

All it took for Ted Cruz to displace Bernie Sanders’ mittens at the top of the national meme board was a display of callous indifference so grand that the writers of the new Cruella de Vil movie are wondering if they can incorporate Ted’s move without it seeming too cartoonish. With the Republican-designed disaster capitalism power system leaving millions of Texans in the cold and dark, Ted decided to just skip the whole scene and take in the sun in Cancun. Because somehow, Cruz, with the most identifiable mini-mullet on the planet, thought he’d just slip through a Texas airport and collect a few beach days and no one would notice.

Cruz then hastily booked an abrupt return flight just seventeen hours later, then proceeded to lie about it, claiming this had always been the plan. Then he fell back on blaming his 10- and 12-year-old daughters, and admitted that he had intended to stay through the weekend to help them relax after a “tough week.” It was all such a display of over the top sneering at the people he is supposed to be serving, smeared with a frosting of rich-person privilege, that even Ted Cruz realizes it was a mistake. And that’s saying something.

Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke made over 150,000 wellness checks on seniors left in the cold during the blackout, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped raise over $1 million in relief funds through ActBlue. Do you get it yet, Texas?

Ted Cruz is not actually the Texas mayor who told his constituents to stop calling him for help because, “No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice! … Only the strong will survive and the week will perish.” That mayor was forced to resign for his words. All Ted Cruz did was demonstrate those statements through his actions.

Rather than stay to help the people who elected him, Cruz left that to O’Rourke and AOC. Instead he decided a little beachside massage and umbrella drinks was the appropriate response to a crisis. Which means that Cruz’s reception on his return to his home state has been about as warm as the average Texas water pipe at this point. 

People at Ted Cruz’s house, waiting for him to get home. pic.twitter.com/3juZZ7nIa5

— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) February 19, 2021

Even Cruz’s “I had intended to stay over the weekend” is underselling his action considerably. His family absconded to Mexico on Wednesday. What he meant was he was actually taking a whole week off in the middle of a crisis that has turned deadly for his state. And his only real excuse seems to be that he’s worthless anyway, so why bother to stay? In fact, Cruz’s intrinsic lack of any purpose was the main defense provided to him by his pals at Fox News, who indignantly huffed on Thursday about how, if Cruz stuck around, it wasn’t like he was going to do anything.

As The Washington Post eloquently puts it:

“Nobody likes Ted Cruz. This was the place that Ted Cruz was starting from earlier this week. Then he went to Cancun. He went to Cancun, where it is mostly sunny and in the low 80s, while many of his ice-blasted constituents were without heating and plumbing, watching their ceilings collapse, huddling in warming centers, defecating in buckets, and generally not packing for a few days on the Yucatán Peninsula.”

To make it even more damning. This is also the Ted Cruz who voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy. The Ted Cruz who mocked California for much less severe rolling blackouts by saying the state “is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization.” And the Ted Cruz who not only has announced his opposition to President Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill, he voted against the last COVID-19 relief bill. This is the Ted Cruz who thinks nothing of paying for a week at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun and airline tickets bought on a whim with no advance discount, but believes that Americans don’t deserve a $2,000 relief check. That’s a lot of baggage, even for a spiffy bit of brand-new rolling luggage. 

And, oh yeah, this would also be the same Ted Cruz who helped to incite, support, and defend a deadly insurgency that smashed into the halls of the Capitol on January 6 and sought to murder members of Congress. It’s also the same Ted Cruz who openly and smugly conferenced with Donald Trump’s legal team to give them advice on the best way to escape justice in the Senate. 

On Friday, temperatures in Texas are up, and while hundreds of thousands are still purposely without power as the overstressed electrical grid puts itself back in order. All over the state, Texans are discovering that their homeowner’s insurance will not cover the damage caused by bursting pipes, even when that led to collapsing floors and ceilings.  

And now Ted Cruz is back to his real job, which is appearing on Fox News to join in the endless lies about how the problems in Texas are actually all Democrats’ fault, even though Republicans have been running the system for decades. That’s because, as MSNBC host Chris Hayes has noted, Cruz sees himself as “Rush Limbaugh with a Senate office.” He’s not there to do anything. He’s not there to do anything for the people of his state. He only exists to make snide remarks and attack democracy.

On Friday, the Houston Chronicle summed Cruz up in an editorial as hot as the state’s been cold.

Take our advice, senator, and resign. Seems like you could use a break and we could, too, from an ineffective politician who, even in crisis, puts his personal itinerary before the needs of Texans.

Ted Cruz's vacation and the Mars rover landing coincide in a meme https://t.co/at3uefsdAl pic.twitter.com/dE8HO0w9KP

— Mashable (@mashable) February 19, 2021

Caught vacationing in Cancun during a pandemic as Texas voters froze, Ted Cruz blames his kids

All right, we have to do it. We have to spend a few moments celebrating these new accomplishments by the forever hapless but somehow still-sociopathic Sen. Ted Cruz, a man who once had presidential aspirations but who now spends his days humiliating himself and those around him, chipping away at his own integrity in what appears to be a spirited game of Dog Turd Jenga.

Oh, Ted. What are you, even?

As we all now know, Ted Cruz was caught taking a flight to the resort town of Cancun, Mexico, during (1) a massive natural disaster in his home state that caused much of the state to lose power and is now resulting in citizens dying in their homes and (2) a global pandemic that has killed 500,000 Americans, closed schools, shuttered businesses, and prevented many Americans from seeing their friends or loved ones for something approaching a full year now.

When caught, Ted blamed his young children. "Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too," says Ted. "With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon."

You've heard of the general edict between politicians and press to "leave the children out of it." This is the other edict: When in political danger, throw your youngest daughter at reporters and bolt.

Now, there are sev-er-al problems with Cruz's statement up there, and that's being generous. Cruz previously said that his home did not lose power, suggesting he was selflessly hosting the neighbor children who were not so fortunate. The airport pictures show Cruz with a rather significant amount of luggage for a supposed one-night stay, but we will be good sports and presume that he is merely moonlighting as a Texas drug mule or that he never, ever leaves the country without a two week supply of his favorite canned soups.

Fine. But then there's the rather bigger problem of Ted Cruz, a United States senator, willingly declaring that despite a deadly global pandemic, his kids got bored during a school break and insisted daddy spirit them off to Mexico for funsies, which he of course did, but of course he had to shepherd them there himself before, um, turning right around and coming back. Really now? Really? The rest of us are conducting half our lives over Zoom to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe during a plague while the senators ostensibly in charge of these things are letting their daughters organize their own international superspreader events? Outstanding. Just outstanding.

By far the biggest flaw with Ted's claims here, however—and it is a doozy—is that an airline-knowledgable reporter was quickly able to check with a source and reports that Cruz's original United Airlines tickets originally had him booked to return Saturday. Ted Cruz is, apparently, just brazenly lying his confederate beard off on this one.

I realize that does not really come as a surprise to anyone, given that the current crop of propaganda-spewing Republicans quite literally uses lying as means of governance and therefore lies about absolutely everything, all the time, but it still needs to be said that this yellowbellied Texas lungfish blamed a weekend Cancun vacation on his kids, then lied to everyone in his state about how Actually he was just tagging along to show them how to work the hotel vending machines.

Nope. It seems Cruz had, among senators, a very particular reason for being outraged at the notion that the Senate might have to hear evidence in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump for longer than a few days. Cruz had an international beach trip planned for the Senate break, and didn't intend to let a probe of whether a former president attempted to have his vice president and a good chunk of the presidential line of succession killed in a coup attempt interfere with that.

Oh, and apparently he didn't even tell his staff where he was going, which was the reason his staff had no immediate response when pictures began flowing in of their boss leaving the damn country. The last time that happened we learned that a certain Republican governor had an Argentinian mistress, but not before his staff had piped up with a cover story claiming he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail on—shoulda done a little research on that one, kids—National Nude Hiking Day.

You may, at this point, be almost close to maybe having a microscopic bit of sympathy for Ted Cruz in the form of at least being embarrassed on his behalf for being such an amazingly craven little sea squirt. Don't bother. Once the Jan. 6 seditionist had been caught and had to book a quick flight back to Texas in order to pretend that he gave two biscuits about his voters freezing to death in their homes, one of the things his staff quickly made sure of was to contact the Houston Police Department to arrange for their "assistance" at the airport when he got back.

Sure, it's not like anyone in Texas has anything better to do right now. Surely there're some spare officers available to guide Cruz through an airport terminal and fend off anyone who wants to ask for more details about his international pandemic superspreader sleepover.

Cruz has managed to be a truly amazing human being these last few years, and that should not be taken as praise. He has managed to throw every member of his family, from his father to his wife to his children, under ye olde tour bus in his various attempts to slither through a political career. He has both Trump's sociopathic unwillingness to stick to the truth and a personality so magnificently awful that he could save 10 orphans from a burning orphanage and still somehow come out of it more hated than he was when he went inside. Above all, he somehow managed to maneuver himself into playing a central role in the biggest seditious anti-government conspiracy since the actual Civil War, all in service to an incompetent blowhard and gasbag, under the apparent impression that what the nation really needs these days is to just nix elections outright and put tax-dodging rapists in charge.

Did he support the nullification of an election because his kids and their friends were bored and wanted to play insurrection, or was that one on him? If any of us could still stomach even hearing this mulletfaced Gulf treasonfish bubble at us any longer it might make for a fascinating story, but if Texas voters still have a drop of dignity left maybe they'll run Ted out of town—the roads are slick, so a pair of skates and a little push is probably all it would take—and appoint a particularly irritable rat snake to fill out his term.

Texas Sheriff Claims Biden Admin Releasing Illegal Immigrants Into U.S. Without COVID Testing

A Texas Sheriff claimed on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that the Biden administration is releasing illegal immigrants into the interior of the U.S. without any COVID testing.

Sheriff A.J. Louderback of Jackson County made his comments to Tucker after the host asked him whether or not illegal immigrants who are released into the United States after being detained were getting tested. 

The Sheriff replied in the affirmative:

“It’s absolutely true. It’s even, if I can continue, Tucker, the memo, the memo that I received this last week, it’s essentially a defund the ICE by memo, by a memorandum that was sent out by David Borkowski on Jan. 20 or 21. So this is a particularly devastating document for Texans and Americans here in the United States.

The memo Sheriff Louderback referred to in his reply was sent out by then Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021. 

RELATED: Governor Greg Abbott Wants Texas To Be A Second Amendment Sanctuary State

Sheriff Makes Shocking Claim About COVID-19 Testing

Sheriff Louderback, in his interview with Carlson, did not hold back.

He said that the memo, put out to CBP (Customs and Border Patrol), ICE, and USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) essentially ties the hands of these immigration enforcement agencies. 

The Sheriff stated that, “This is a particularly devastating document for Texans and Americans here in the United States. When I read it and looked at it, it’s a message to the world that you can come here illegally, you can commit crimes here against Americans, and remain illegally.”

At a time where the U.S. and the rest of the world are still in the grips of a global pandemic, the Sheriff was particularly bothered, as should all Americans be, by the very vital issue of COVID testing being overlooked. 

 “The COVID issue [is being] during that time. So I struggle for a thought process, like many Americans and Texans, on how an administration can conduct themselves in this manner,” stated Sheriff Louderback.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been many news articles about illegal immigrants who have been afraid to get tested for COVID for fear of being identified and deported. 

RELATED: Biden Administration In ‘Active Conversation’ To Require COVID Test Before Domestic Flights

Back To Obama-Era Lawlessness

Sheriff Louderback also said that this was not the first time that America had gone the way of lax enforcement of immigration law. “We walked this path from 2008 to 2016,” he said.

The Sheriff stated that the policy was very similar to the Priority Enforcement Program in 2014 and 2015 during the Obama administration.

In his interview, Sheriff Louderback painted a very grim view of the safety of Americans, at least for the next four years.

“Every peace officer in the United States should be extremely concerned about the attitude, the lawlessness, the complete abject removal of law.

We have a full nullification of the law going on here. We’re going to allow our ICE officers, USCIS, all affected by this memo, which guts the INA and handcuffs them so that they’re unable to respond. So in law enforcement here, those of us that don’t have the jurisdiction to enforce the federal laws here, we’ve created a situation that is unthinkable for the public.”

RELATED: Constitutional Professor: Why Senate Cannot Bar Trump From Being President Again

Immigration Under Joe Biden

New Biden administration policies include guidelines for Homeland Security that will mean fewer arrests and deportations for drug crimes, DUI’s, and low-level assaulters, fraudsters, and thieves.

Sheriff Chuck Jenkins of Frederick County Maryland says that traditionally in the deportation process, criminal histories are considered.

With fewer arrests for these kinds of crimes, those who may have committed crimes will be free to walk the streets. 

Those coming into the country through the southern border are not just from Mexico and Central America.

Recently, eleven Iranian citizens were apprehended in Arizona, and there is evidence of Chinese drug lords assisting Mexican drug cartels in smuggling fentanyl and other substances across the border.

The new policies are a strong departure from the policies of the Trump adminstration.

To see the entire interview with Tucker Carlson and Sheriff A.J. Louderback, see below.

The post Texas Sheriff Claims Biden Admin Releasing Illegal Immigrants Into U.S. Without COVID Testing appeared first on The Political Insider.

Capitol Rioter From Texas Arrested For Threatening To ‘Assassinate’ AOC

A Texas man who took part in the Capitol riots earlier this month has been hit with new charges related to him allegedly threatening to “assassinate” the radically liberal Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Capitol Rioter Charged With Threatening To ‘Assassinate AOC’

Court documents obtained by CNN show that Garret Miller is currently facing five criminal charges related to the Capitol riots, including trespassing offenses and making death threats. Specifically, the court papers show that Miller tweeted, “assassinate AOC.”

On top of that, Miller reportedly said that the police officer who fatally shot a Trump supporter during the attack “deserves to die” and won’t “survive long” because it’s “huntin[g] season.” Prosecutors stated that Miller was very active on social media before and during the Capitol riots, saying a “civil war could start” and “next time we bring the guns.”

Related: AOC Claims She Was Not Safe In Secure Location With House Republicans That Sympathize With The ‘White Supremacist Cause’

Miller’s Lawyer Responds

Miller was arrested last Wednesday, and prosecutors have requested that a judge keep him in prison until his trial. Clint Broden, a lawyer for Miller, has since spoken out to say that his client “certainly regrets what he did.”

“He did it in support of former President (Donald) Trump, but regrets his actions,” Broden said. “He has the support of his family, and a lot of the comments, as viewed in context, are really sort of misguided political hyperbole. Given the political divide these days, there is a lot of hyperbole.”

“Mr. Miller takes responsibility for his actions taken on January 6 on behalf of his support for former President Trump and wants to move forward and put this behind him. He has the support of his family and his comments reflect misguided political hyperbole that will not be repeated,” he added in a separate statement to Dallas Morning News.

AOC Claims She Thought She ‘Was Going To Die’

Ocasio-Cortez has previously claimed that she thought she “was going to die” in the Capitol riots last week after a “close encounter” shook her to her core.

“I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a lengthy video posted to Instagram. “Not just in a general sense, but in a very, very specific sense.”

“I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die,” she added. “And you have all of those thoughts where, at the end of your life…all of these thoughts come rushing to you. And that’s what happened to a lot of us on Wednesday and I did not think – I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive.”

Full Story: AOC Claims She ‘Thought She Was Going To Die’ During ‘Close Encounter’ In Capitol Riot

This piece was written by James Samson on January 25, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
Meghan McCain Unleashes On Biden, Fauci, And Amazon Over Hypocrisy – ‘I Was Lied To’
Katie Couric’s Calls To ‘Deprogram’ Trump Supporters Come Back To Haunt Her As She Prepares To Host ‘Jeopardy’
Democratic Senator Hirono Reveals Real Goal Behind Trump Impeachment Effort

The post Capitol Rioter From Texas Arrested For Threatening To ‘Assassinate’ AOC appeared first on The Political Insider.

Voting Rights Roundup: Georgia Senate wins pave way for Democrats to pass historic election reforms

Leading Off

Congress: With victories in Georgia's Senate runoffs, congressional Democrats now have the opportunity to pass the most important set of voting and election reforms since the historic Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. These reforms face a challenging path to passage given Democrats' narrow majorities, but their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attacks upon it by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress.

Chief among these proposals is the reintroduction of H.R. 1, the "For the People Act," which House Democrats passed in 2019 and would enact groundbreaking reforms by (1) removing barriers to expanding access to voting and securing the integrity of the vote; (2) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (3) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission subject to nonpartisan redistricting criteria.

Democrats have also called for enacting a new Voting Rights Act, which the House passed in 2019 and subsequently named after the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement who died last year. Finally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to bring a bill to the floor to finally end the disenfranchisement of 700,000 Americans by making Washington, D.C. a state, which House Democrats also approved last year. We'll detail each of these major reforms below.

Pelosi has indicated that passing H.R. 1, symbolically named as the first bill of the session, will be a top priority for the new Congress. This bill would adopt the following reforms for federal elections:

  • Establish automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies;
  • Establish same-day voter registration;
  • Allow online voter registration;
  • Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they'll be on the rolls when they turn 18;
  • Allow state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies;
  • Ban states from purging eligible voters' registration simply for infrequent voting;
  • Establish two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours;
  • Standardize hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races;
  • Require paper ballots filled by hand or machines that use them as official records and let voters verify their choices;
  • Grant funds to states to upgrade their election security infrastructure;
  • Provide prepaid postage on mail ballots;
  • Allow voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose;
  • Allow voters to track their absentee mail ballots;
  • Require states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting (likely not until 2030);
  • End prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they're incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting;
  • End felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and require such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored;
  • Provide public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate;
  • Expand campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United;
  • Ban corporations from spending for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders; and
  • Make it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, meanwhile, would restore the protections that the Supreme Court's conservatives eviscerated in an infamous 2013 decision. That ruling removed a requirement for a number of largely Southern states and localities with a pervasive history of racial discrimination to "preclear" all efforts to change voting laws and procedures with the Justice Department. The VRAA would establish new criteria for deciding which jurisdictions would fall under the preclearance requirement after the 2013 court ruling struck down the old formula.​

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​Under the new setup, any state where officials have committed at least 15 voting rights violations over a 25-year period would be required to obtain preclearance for 10 years. If the state itself, rather than localities within the state, is responsible for the violations, it would take only 10 violations to place it under preclearance. In addition, any particular locality could individually be subjected to preclearance if it commits at least three violations.

Based on this formula, the VRAA would put 11 states back under preclearance: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. While most of these states are still in the South (and also under Republican control), the list also includes the two largest Democratic-leaning states in the country, California and New York.

Lastly, the bill to grant statehood to D.C. would shrink the federal District of Columbia down to a handful of important federal buildings surrounding the National Mall while admitting the rest of the district as a new state. All but one House Democrat (who is now no longer in Congress) voted for D.C. statehood last summer, and 46 of the 50 incoming members of the Democratic Senate caucus either sponsored last year's bill or have expressed public support, while the remaining four have yet to take a firm position.

While Democrats winning full control of Congress and the presidency makes it possible to pass the above reforms, their success is far from guaranteed. For starters, Democrats would need unanimous support in the Senate and near-unanimous backing in the House given that every Republican is likely to oppose these reforms.

The most important hurdle, however, is the legislative filibuster, and the fate of these reforms will depend on Senate Democrats either abolishing or curtailing it. Progressive activists have relaunched a movement to eliminate the filibuster entirely following the Georgia victories, while some experts have suggested that Democrats could carve out an exception for voting rights legislation. Either way, Democrats will need to address the filibuster in some fashion, since Senate Republicans have made it clear they will not provide the support necessary to reach a 60-vote supermajority on any of these measures.

Voting Access

Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill and legislative Democrats are pushing to pass a series of voting reforms, including the adoption of no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and automatic voter registration. Last year, lawmakers passed a statute to temporarily expand the definition of illness to allow all voters to cast absentee ballots without needing a specific excuse, and Democrats are considering passing similar legislation this year for upcoming local and special elections with the pandemic still ongoing.

Democrats may also try to permanently remove the excuse requirement by passing a constitutional amendment, as well as once again approving an amendment they passed in 2019 to allow up to three days of early voting. Unless the GOP has a change of heart and supplies enough votes for a three-fourths supermajority, amendments must pass in two sessions with an election in between before going to a voter referendum.

Delaware: Democratic lawmakers in Delaware have introduced two constitutional amendments to expand voting rights: The first would remove the excuse requirement to vote absentee by mail while the second would enable same-day voter registration. Last year, the state temporarily waived the excuse requirement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amendments in Delaware must pass the legislature with two-thirds supermajorities in two consecutive sessions, so lawmakers could enact the no-excuse absentee voting amendment this session since they passed it the first time in 2020. (The same-day registration amendment could not go into effect until the 2024 elections at the earliest.) However, since Democrats are just shy of the two-thirds mark in the state House, they will need at least two GOP votes in support. Uniquely among the 50 states, Delaware does not require constitutional amendments to be approved by voters.

District of Columbia: In late November, the Democratic-run Washington, D.C. Council advanced a bill to make permanent a measure temporarily adopted in 2020 that let voters cast ballots at any "vote center" citywide in 2020 instead of just their local polling place. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser has yet to sign the bill, which also requires a polling place at the city jail, into law.

Hawaii: Hawaii election chief Scott Nago plans to ask the Democratic-dominated legislature to pass legislation giving voters more time to complete their ballots and to expand the number of in-person "vote centers," where any voter in a county can cast their ballot, to better accommodate voters who can't readily vote by mail or don't want to.

Additionally, voting rights advocates have announced that they will renew their push to ask lawmakers to adopt a bill enacting automatic voter registration through the state's driver's licensing agency and potentially other state agencies, too. The state Senate and House each passed separate bills to adopt automatic registration in 2019, but the proposal failed to become law after the two chambers couldn't agree on a single version.

Illinois: State House Democrats have passed legislation in committee that would make permanent some of the reforms lawmakers adopted in 2020 due to the pandemic, including: counting absentee mail ballots without postage; allowing officials to set up drop boxes for mail ballots; and continuing curbside voting for mobility-limited voters. However, the bill wouldn't extend the practice of sending applications for mail ballots to all voters who have cast ballots in recent election years.

Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed an emergency voting plan for lawmakers to approve for upcoming local elections and the March 20 special elections for the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts. Committees in the state Senate and House both advanced the proposal to their respective full chambers earlier this month.

The plan would let voters cast absentee ballots by mail if they are at higher risk for COVID-19, seeking a diagnosis for it, or are subject to a physician's isolation order or caring for someone under isolation. However, it would not waive the excuse requirement for all voters or expand the number of early voting days.

Maine: Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who was elevated to the post by Maine's state legislature last month, will push for lawmakers to adopt online voter registration and prepaid absentee ballot postage. Meanwhile, several Democratic legislators have introduced various bills to codify the use of drop boxes, implement a system for letting voters track their absentee ballots, and let absentee ballots be counted earlier.

Maryland: Maryland Democrats have introduced legislation intended to strengthen voting access on college campuses, military bases, retirement homes, and other "large residential communities." Sites like these would be able to request an in-person voting location, and colleges would also be required to establish voter registration efforts on campus and give students an excused absence to vote if needed. The bill would let military service members register online using their identification smart cards issued by the Defense Department.

New Jersey: Committees in both chambers of New Jersey's Democratic-run legislature have declined to advance a measure that would have adopted two weeks of early voting for this year's state-level general elections and some municipal races in May. The New Jersey Globe reported that it was unclear why the bill failed to move forward but also noted that legislative leaders have yet to reach an agreement on the specifics of early voting, including whether to extend it to primaries, despite supporting the idea in principle. Committees in both chambers also passed early voting bills last year, but they did not advance further in 2020.

New York: The past three weeks have been a busy period for voting rights expansions in New York, beginning when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law an automatic voter registration measure that will involve a variety of different state agencies. Democratic state senators also passed several other reforms this week, including measures to:

The proposals to enact same-day registration and permanently remove the absentee excuse requirement are constitutional amendments that previously passed both legislative chambers in 2019 and must pass again before they can appear on this November's ballot, while the other measures are all statutory and can become law if the Assembly and Cuomo sign off on them.

Oregon: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has called for several voting reforms in her budget proposal to the Democratic legislature, including reinstituting same-day voter registration; counting mail ballots that are postmarked by Election Day instead of only those received by Election Day; increasing the number of mail ballot drop boxes; and expanding Oregon's automatic voter registration system from just the DMV to include other agencies.

Same-day voter registration would likely require lawmakers to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot thanks to an especially bizarre chapter in state history. Oregon previously offered same-day registration, but lawmakers amended the constitution to repeal it in 1986 after a religious cult called the Rajneeshees attempted large-scale voter fraud in concert with biological warfare that left hundreds of residents poisoned in their unsuccessful plot to take over rural Wasco County's commission in 1984. However, 21 states and D.C. use same-day registration today without problems.

Vermont: Both chambers of Vermont's Democratic-run legislature have passed a bill that lets municipalities decide whether to mail every active registered voter a ballot for the upcoming March 2 "Town Meeting Day" or let them postpone the elections to the spring if needed due to the pandemic. Town meetings are a form of direct democracy unique to New England, during which localities can hold public votes on budgetary and other matters.

Virginia: Virginia Democrats have introduced several major voting reforms, which would expand on the sweeping changes they passed in 2020. This year's measures include:

Democrats have full control of state government, but constitutional amendments must pass both legislative chambers in two consecutive sessions with a state election taking place in between before going to a voter referendum. The felony voter reforms, therefore, could not become law before 2022 at the soonest. While civil rights groups and progressive Democrats support the amendment that would outright abolish felony disenfranchisement, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam backs the competing amendment that would keep those who are in prison, on parole, or on probation unable to vote.

Voter Suppression

Georgia: Republican state House Speaker David Ralston says he is open to considering removing oversight of Georgia's elections from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office, and Ralston claims he wouldn't need a constitutional amendment to do it.

Raffensperger recently incurred the ire of fellow Republicans after he refused to go along with Trump's illegal efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, prompting Raffensperger to release a recording of an incriminating phone call early this month during which Trump had pressured him to "find" 12,000 fake votes that would allow Trump to claim victory. The New York Times reported on Friday that state prosecutors are increasingly likely to open a formal criminal investigation into Trump over the incident.

Separately, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has called for adding a voter ID requirement to absentee voting, which Republicans exempted when they initially adopted a voter ID law in the mid-2000s. Up until 2020, absentee voting was disproportionately used by elderly Republican voters, but the GOP's push for new voting restrictions on the practice comes after mail voting heavily favored Democrats, both in November and the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.

Many Georgia Republicans also want to reinstate the requirement that voters present an excuse in order to request an absentee ballot, along with calling for banning mail ballot drop boxes and restricting who can send ballot applications to voters. Ralston, however, says he opposes eliminating excuse-free absentee voting.

Kansas: The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to take up Kansas Republicans' appeal of a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last year that had struck down a law requiring voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, effectively dooming the measure. The law was the signature legislative achievement of former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who rose to national notoriety as the leader of Trump's bogus "voter fraud" commission.

By the time it was blocked in 2016, the Kansas law had led to one in seven new voter registrations being suspended for lack of documentation, affecting 30,000 would-be registrants in total—a group that was disproportionately young and Latino. The lower court that eventually struck down the law also eviscerated Kobach's credibility and seriously undermined his reputation even among Republicans.

Separately, Kobach's successor as secretary of state, fellow Republican Scott Schwab, reportedly won't implement a bipartisan 2019 voting reform until 2023. That law allows counties to replace traditional local polling places with countywide "vote centers" where any voter in a county may cast their ballot. A provision of the law requires it to first take effect for odd-year local elections before it can be implemented for even-year federal and state elections, so if Schwab's foot-dragging delays it past this year, it couldn't take full effect until 2023.

North Carolina: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in December unanimously overturned a lower federal court ruling that had temporarily blocked a voter ID statute passed by North Carolina Republicans from taking effect last election cycle while the case proceeded on the merits. The appellate judges ruled that the lower court had "abused its discretion" by blocking the law.

The lower court had found that there were significant similarities between this law, which Republicans approved in a 2018 lame-duck session, and one they passed in 2013, which another federal court had struck down in 2016 for being part of a package of voting restrictions that they deemed had targeted Black voters "with almost surgical precision."

The 4th Circuit, however, held that the lower court had erred by not presuming that lawmakers had acted in "good faith" when passing the laws, despite the many times that Republican legislators have had their voting laws struck down in court for discrimination. The plaintiffs are in the process of filing a petition to ask the entire 4th Circuit to rehear their case over the preliminary injunction while the case proceeds on the merits.

However, even if they succeed at the 4th Circuit, there's a strong risk of the U.S. Supreme Court eventually reversing them, which is why voting rights advocates may have better odds of blocking the voter ID law in state court instead. Last year, in fact, a state court issued its own preliminary injunction that blocked the law for the November election, and that case is also still ongoing.

Unfortunately for voting advocates, though, the 2020 elections complicated their odds of success at the state level. Democrats suffered three close losses in last November's state Supreme Court elections, leaving them with a slim 4-3 advantage on the bench

The contest for control of the court and the narrowing of Democrats' majority may have implications not only for the voter ID dispute. It could also play a role in the resolution of ongoing litigation over a separate constitutional amendment that authorized the voter ID statute, as well as with cases over North Carolina's felony voter disenfranchisement law, and upcoming lawsuits over redistricting, where the court is the lone bulwark at the state level against renewed GOP gerrymandering.

Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority has refused to take up state Democrats' appeal in a lawsuit that sought to overturn a Republican-backed restriction that's used in Texas and several other red states to require that only voters under the age of 65 must have an excuse to vote absentee by mail. By refusing to take up the case, the high court left in place a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the Texas law in defiance of the 26th Amendment's ban on age discrimination by using logic that if applied to race would effectively result in the revival of Jim Crow voting laws.

Meanwhile, in the Texas state Senate, several GOP senators have introduced a bill that would ban the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballots applications. Populous Democratic-run counties such as Houston's Harris County sought to send applications to all voters in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Republicans convinced the GOP-dominated state Supreme Court to block them.

Existing Senate rules required 19 votes to bring bills to the floor, but after Republicans were reduced to just 18 seats following the November elections, they lowered that threshold for the third time in recent years so that they can overcome Democratic objections and pass new voting restrictions and gerrymanders.

Post Office: One key consequence of Joe Biden's victory and Democrats winning the Senate is that Biden will be able to appoint members of his choosing to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, who in turn could fire Donald Trump's postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who was instrumental in Trump's attempt to sabotage mail voting last year. With Mitch McConnell unable to block him, Biden can now fill three vacancies on the nine-member board, which currently has four Republicans and two Democrats, thereby giving it a new Democratic majority that could sack DeJoy.

Felony Disenfranchisement

Alabama: Federal District Judge Emily Marks, a Trump appointee, granted Republican defendants' motion for summary judgment in December in a lawsuit where the plaintiffs had sought to strike down a state law that serves as a de facto poll tax by requiring people with felony convictions who have served their sentences to also pay off any court fines and fees before regaining the right to vote. The plaintiffs say they are considering whether to appeal.

Minnesota: The ACLU is now asking a state appellate court to overturn a lower court's dismissal last August of their lawsuit that sought to strike down Minnesota's ban on voting for people serving out parole or probation for a felony conviction. If the effort succeeds, only people who are currently incarcerated would remain unable to vote.

Tennessee: Voting rights advocates have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to simplify Tennessee's cumbersome process for people with felony convictions who have completed their sentences to regain their voting rights. Plaintiffs in particular object to the GOP's de facto poll tax requirement that requires affected individuals to first pay off all court fines and fees, which they argue violates state law.

Redistricting and Reapportionment

Illinois: Democratic legislators have passed a bill in both chambers that will end the practice of "prison gerrymandering" for state legislative redistricting, sending it to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The bill would count incarcerated people for redistricting purposes at their last known address instead of where they are imprisoned.

Iowa: The liberal blog Bleeding Heartland reports that top-ranking GOP state legislators won't rule out using their power to implement gerrymanders by amending the maps submitted to lawmakers by Iowa's nonpartisan redistricting agency. Republicans are in a position to do so because they hold unified control of state government in a redistricting year for the first time since the 1980s, when the nonpartisan agency first came into place.

Maryland: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has issued an executive order to create an advisory commission that will propose new congressional and legislative maps for the upcoming round of redistricting. The nine commissioners will include three Democrats, three Republicans, and three independents, three of whom will be chosen by Hogan while the other six will be ordinary citizens who can apply here.

Hogan has the power to submit legislative maps to the Democratic-run legislature at the start of the legislative session, but if Democrats pass their own maps within 45 days, Hogan can't veto them. The commission's congressional map, meanwhile, would be strictly advisory in nature. While Hogan could veto new congressional districts, Democrats have the numbers to override him. The commission's proposal could nevertheless influence a court in the event of litigation.

New York: In addition to the voting access measures in our New York item above, Senate Democrats also passed a third constitutional amendment that would make it easier for Democrats to gerrymander new maps next year by lowering the threshold for overriding the state's new bipartisan redistricting commission from a two-thirds supermajority to just three-fifths. Democrats already passed this amendment in 2020, and it would also appear on the November ballot if Assembly Democrats again follow suit. However, it's possible that the lowered threshold won't even matter for the upcoming round of redistricting, since Senate Democrats gained a two-thirds supermajority in November.

The amendment also includes some nonpartisan redistricting reforms, including enshrining in the constitution an existing statutory ban on "prison gerrymandering"; freezing the number of state senators at 63; sharply limiting how cities can be split among Senate districts to prevent a repeated of the anti-urban gerrymandering that occurred when the GOP drew the lines after 2010; and authorizing state to conduct its own census if the federal count is tainted.

Pennsylvania: State House Republicans have passed a constitutional amendment out of committee by a single vote that would effectively gerrymander the state Supreme Court and Pennsylvania's two intermediate appellate courts by ending statewide judicial elections and replacing them with elections based on districts that GOP legislators would draw.

This move comes as retaliation for the state Supreme Court's Democratic majority striking down the GOP's congressional gerrymander in 2018 and protecting voting rights in 2020. Republicans could place it on the May primary ballot if it passes in both chambers for the second required time after the GOP approved the amendment in 2020.

2020 Census: The Trump administration has confirmed in federal court amid ongoing litigation that it will not release key data needed for Donald Trump to implement his attempt to unconstitutionally remove undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census population counts that will be used to reapportion congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states. The Census Bureau said that it had in fact stopped work on producing those counts altogether.

Instead, the bureau won't compile that data until at least after Biden is sworn in, meaning the incoming president will have a chance to reverse Trump's memo ordering its production and release. The U.S. Supreme Court in December had overturned one of the three lower federal court rulings that had blocked Trump's executive memo, holding that it wasn't yet ripe for adjudication, but the delays will likely moot that litigation.

In addition to the postponed release of reapportionment data, the more granular data needed to conduct actual redistricting itself will likely be delayed past the existing March 31 deadline set by federal law. That could in turn cause several states to delay or even entirely postpone redistricting for elections taking place this year. Some states, however, have deadlines for redistricting written into their constitutions, meaning that late-arriving data could cause unpredictable legal havoc.

Electoral College

Electoral College: Republicans in three key states have proposed altering how their states allocate Electoral College votes in different ways that would have each given Donald Trump more electoral votes in 2020. It's unclear whether these plans have widespread GOP support, and two of them face long odds of passage, but they're by no means the first time that Republicans have floated efforts to manipulate the Electoral College for short-term partisan advantage, and they raise the specter that the GOP will one day go through with it.

In Michigan, GOP Congressman Bill Huizenga called for switching his state from winner-take-all to allocating electoral votes by congressional district, which of course happens to be gerrymandered by the GOP in a way that would have resulted in an 8-8 split in 2020 despite Joe Biden winning the state (Michigan Democrats in fact did this very same scheme way back in the 1892 election cycle). Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could veto such a proposal if the GOP actually tries to pass it, but she faces a potentially competitive re-election contest in 2022 that could leave the GOP with full control of the state heading into the 2024 presidential election.

In Wisconsin, meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Gary Tauchen went further and actually introduced a bill that would similarly assign electoral votes by congressional districts that were gerrymandered by Republicans, a bill that would have given Trump a 6-4 majority in November even though Biden carried the state. As in Michigan, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers could veto the bill if the GOP were to make a serious push to pass it, but he could also be defeated next year, leaving Republicans with unfettered power.

Lastly, Republican state Sen. Julie Slama introduced a bill that would move Nebraska in the opposite direction by abolishing the allocation of electoral votes by congressional district after Joe Biden won the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District and its lone electoral vote. Unlike in the other two states, Republicans already have full control over state government, but they narrowly lack a filibuster-proof two-thirds supermajority. However, the GOP could eliminate the filibuster rule with a simple majority.

These schemes may or may not work as intended and could even backfire on Republicans in the long term, especially if Wisconsin and Michigan one day turn reliably red. However, these proposals are all motivated solely by partisan self-interest rather than any good-faith concerns about the fairness of the Electoral College.

This is in fact the third straight election to which Republicans have reacted by putting forth plans to tilt the Electoral College in their favor, even though they benefited more from its skew in both 2016 and 2020 than in any elections in a century, according to one analysis.

Two-thirds of Republicans in the U.S. House and several in the Senate unsuccessfully voted last week to overturn Biden's Electoral College victory and steal the 2020 election for Trump mere hours after far-right insurrectionists incited by Trump ransacked the Capitol building itself. That followed an unsuccessful effort by Trump and his allies to agitate for disenfranchising countless voters by asking state legislatures to reject Biden's win and use their gerrymandered majorities to directly install a slate of Trump electors instead.

If the GOP entirely gives up on trying to win the popular vote and instead focuses exclusively on translating its minority support into an Electoral College majority, it's likely only a matter of time before Republicans successfully overturn a Democratic presidential victory, whether through a vote in Congress or state-level schemes to manipulate electoral vote allocation even when Democrats win the popular vote. Doing so risks sparking a far worse crisis than the one America has been living through this past month.

Electoral Reform

Alaska: The Alaska Independence Party, a right-wing fringe party that advocates for the state to secede from the union, filed a lawsuit in state court last month seeking to overturn a statute enacted by voters at the ballot box in 2020 that replaces traditional party primaries with a "top-four" primary and instant-runoff general election. Republicans are considering whether to join the legal challenge.

New York City, NY: A state court rejected issuing a temporary restraining order last month that would have blocked the use of instant-runoff voting ahead of an upcoming City Council special election after opponents of the new law, approved in 2019, filed a lawsuit in early December. The plaintiffs have announced that they will appeal, arguing that the law will lead to confusion that disenfranchises voters in communities of color unless changes are made, a charge that other candidates of color dispute.

Elections

Pennsylvania: Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster was finally seated by the Pennsylvania Senate's Republican majority after federal District Judge Nicholas Ranjan, a Trump appointee, upheld Brewster's narrow victory last year. Republicans sparked outrage after they had refused to let Brewster take the oath of office for another term even though election officials had certified his victory and the state Supreme Court had upheld it. GOP lawmakers even ejected Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman from presiding over the chamber after he had objected to their power grab.

Republicans rejected the legitimacy of several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on the outer envelope, even though the Supreme Court said they were otherwise valid and should be counted. Mail ballots favored Democrats by a lopsided margin thanks to Trump's demagoguery against mail voting, even though it was Republican lawmakers who pushed for a state law that, among other things, removed the excuse requirement to vote by mail in 2019.

This ordeal is an example of state-level Republicans following the lead of Trump and their congressional counterparts in trying to reject the outcome of elections after they've lost. Particularly worrisome for the rule of law is that the GOP refused to abide by the decisions of Democratic state Supreme Court justices and election officials and only capitulated after a Trump-appointed judge rejected their ploy.

Morning Digest: Texas’ suburbs zoomed left in 2020, but Democrats failed to make gains in the House

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to Texas, where the GOP gerrymander helped the party hold on to 23 of the state's 36 U.S. House seats despite several Republican retirements. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in Texas 52-46 four years after he beat Hillary Clinton 52-43 in the Lone Star State, a shift due in part to a decline in third-party voting. Trump once again carried 22 congressional districts while the remaining 14 constituencies backed Biden, but as we've seen in so many states, these seemingly stable toplines mask considerable churn just below the surface, which we'll explore below. To help you follow along, we've put together a sheet that compares the 2016 and 2020 presidential results by district and also includes the results for the 2020 House races.

Two districts did in fact flip on the presidential level: Trump lost the 24th District in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs while recapturing the 23rd District along the border with Mexico. Biden, however, made major gains in a number of other suburban districts and nearly won no fewer than seven of them. Trump, meanwhile, surged in many heavily Latino areas and likewise came close to capturing three, but except for the 24th, every Trump seat is in GOP hands and every Biden seat is represented by Democrats.

Campaign Action

The 24th, which includes the suburbs north of Dallas and Fort Worth, is in fact a good place to start because it saw one of the largest shifts between 2016 and 2020. The district began the decade as heavily Republican turf—it backed Mitt Romney 60-38—but Trump carried it by a substantially smaller 51-44 margin four years later. Biden continued the trend and racked up a 52-46 win this time, but the area remained just red enough downballot to allow Republican Beth Van Duyne to manage a 49-47 victory in an expensive open-seat race against Democrat Candace Valenzuela.

Biden fell just short of winning seven other historically red suburban seats: the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 10th, 21st, 22nd, and 31st, where Trump's margins ranged from just one to three points, and where the swings from 2016 ranged from seven points in the 22nd all the way to 13 points in the 3rd, the biggest shift in the state. However, as in the 24th, Biden's surge did not come with sufficient coattails, as Republicans ran well ahead of Trump in all of these seats (you can check out our guide for more information about each district).

Two seats that Democrats flipped in 2018 and stayed blue last year also saw large improvements for Biden. The 7th District in west Houston, parts of which were once represented by none other than George H.W. Bush from 1967 to 1971, had swung from 60-39 Romney to 48-47 Clinton, and Biden carried it 54-45 in 2020. Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher won by a smaller 51-47 spread against Wesley Hunt, who was one of the House GOP's best fundraisers. The 32nd District in the Dallas area, likewise, had gone from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton. This time, Biden took it 54-44 as Democratic Rep. Colin Allred prevailed 52-46.

Biden's major gains in the suburbs, though, came at the same time that Trump made serious inroads in predominantly Latino areas on or near the southern border with Mexico. That rightward shift may have cost Team Blue the chance to flip the open 23rd District, which stretches from San Antonio west to the outskirts of the El Paso area.

Romney carried this seat 51-48 before Clinton took it 50-46, but Trump won it 50-48 this time. That makes the 23rd the first Romney/Clinton/Trump seat we've found anywhere in the country, and it may in fact be the only one. Amid Trump's rise here, Republican Tony Gonzales beat Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones 51-47 to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd, who had held off Ortiz Jones only 49.2-48.7 in 2018.

Trump also fell just short in three other seats along the Rio Grande Valley. The 15th District, which includes McAllen, had supported Clinton by a 57-40 margin, but Biden prevailed only 50-49 here. Democratic Rep. Vicente González, who had won his first two general elections with ease, likewise came shockingly close to losing his bid for a third term, fending off Republican Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, who didn't raise much money, just 51-48 in a contest that attracted minimal outside spending from either party.

The 34th Congressional District around Brownsville similarly moved from 59-38 Clinton to 52-48 Biden, though Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela ran well ahead of the top of the ticket and prevailed 55-42. Finally, the Laredo-based 28th District went from 58-38 Clinton to 52-47 Biden. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who has long been one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, won 58-39 several months after he came close to losing renomination against a progressive opponent.

Governors

NJ-Gov: Democratic Assemblyman Jamel Holley, a notorious anti-vaxxer, last year did not rule out a primary challenge to Gov. Phil Murphy, but he's reportedly taken that option off the table and will instead run against state Sen. Joe Cryan, another fellow Democrat.

PA-Gov: Former healthcare executive Daniel Hilferty is reportedly considering a bid for governor as a Republican, but as the Philadelphia Inquirer's Andrew Seidman notes, he'd start off with a serious liability: Hilferty served on the host committee for Joe Biden's very first fundraising event for his presidential campaign, and he went on to donate more than $85,000 to help elect him.

TX-Gov: It's almost inevitable that, every four years, there's talk of a primary challenge to Texas' governor, and sometimes they even happen (see 2010), so why should this cycle be any different? The Dallas Morning News' Robert Garrett suggests Rep. Dan Crenshaw and former state Sen. Don Huffines as the latest possibilities, and an unnamed Crenshaw aide would only say that their boss is "not thinking about running." That places Crenshaw in the ranks of two other Republicans, both fanatical extremists, who previously did not rule out bids of their own: state party chair Allen West and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Texas, however, has an early primary and consequently an early filing deadline, typically in December. What's more, Abbott already has $38 million in his campaign account, so any would-be primary opponents will need to engage soon.

House

LA-05: Julia Letlow, whose late husband, Luke Letlow, died last month from COVID-19 after winning an all-GOP runoff in Louisiana's 5th Congressional District, has announced that she will run in the March 20 special election for the now-vacant seat. Rep. Steve Scalise, the no. 2 House Republican and one of the most powerful GOP officials in Louisiana, also offered his endorsement.

In response, a number of fellow Republicans said they would defer to Letlow, including state Sen. Stewart Cathey, state Rep. Michael Echols, state Rep. Mike Johnson, and Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson. However, state Rep. Lance Harris, who lost the December runoff, hasn't commented about his plans following Letlow's decision, nor has another potential candidate, state Rep. Chris Turner.

Votes: David Jarman takes a look at four consequential votes within the last couple weeks — the second impeachment of Donald Trump, the vote to challenge Pennsylvania’s electors, the vote to provide $2,000 stimulus checks, and the vote to override the veto of the National Defense Authorization Act — and finds that when the votes are aggregated, House Republicans are genuinely in some disarray. Their votes fall into 11 different permutations, which show some interesting fissures not just on the usual moderate-to-hard-right spectrum but also some other, harder-to-describe axes.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: City Council President Kim Janey, who would become mayor should incumbent Marty Walsh be confirmed as U.S. secretary of labor, confirmed this week that she was considering running in her own right this year. State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz meanwhile, announced Thursday that he wouldn't enter the race.

Cincinnati, OH Mayor, OH-Sen: Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee for Ohio's 1st Congressional District, announced Thursday that he would run to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent John Cranley this year. Pureval, who is of Indian and Tibetan ancestry, would be the first Asian American elected to this post.

Pureval challenged Republican Rep. Steve Chabot a little more than two years ago for a seat that includes about three-quarters of Cincinnati (the balance is in the 2nd District) and lost the very expensive campaign 51-47. Pureval decided to run for re-election last year rather than seek a rematch against Chabot, and he beat his Republican foe 57-43 as Joe Biden was carrying Hamilton County by a similar 57-41 margin. Pureval hadn't ruled out a 2022 bid against Republican Sen. Rob Portman when he was asked about it back in October, but his mayoral campaign means we can cross him out for that race.

Pureval joins a May 4 nonpartisan primary that already includes a number of fellow Democrats, and more could enter the race ahead of the Feb. 18 filing deadline. Former Mayor Mark Mallory, who served from 2005 to 2013, and City Councilman Chris Seelbach have each been gathering petitions, though neither has announced that they're in yet.

The Cincinnati Business Courier's Chris Wetterich also reports that two other Democrats, Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus and former County Commissioner David Pepper, who also recently stepped down as state party chair, are also considering.

Fort Worth, TX Mayor: Nonprofit head Mattie Parker, who served as chief of staff for the mayor and council under retiring GOP incumbent Betsy Price, said this week that she was considering a bid for mayor.

New York City, NY Mayor: Businessman Andrew Yang, who waged an unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, announced Wednesday that he would run for mayor. Yang would be the city's first Asian American mayor.

Yang, who launched his campaign by pledging to implement the universal basic income plan locally that he championed during his White House bid, entered the contest with the backing of freshman Rep. Ritchie Torres, who represents a seat located in the Bronx. Yang joins a number of other candidates in the June 22 Democratic primary, which will be conducted using instant-runoff voting.

Yang has lived in New York City since 1996, but he's had little involvement in city politics until now: Indeed, City & State reported last month that he had not even voted in any of the last four mayoral elections.

Yang also attracted some bad press this week when he explained that he'd temporarily relocated to upstate New York last year as the pandemic worsened by saying, "We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. And so, like, can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?" That remark quickly drew plenty of scorn from his rivals, who didn't hesitate to portray him as out-of-touch with regular New Yorkers.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now: Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged on Thursday with two misdemeanor counts of "willful neglect of duty" stemming from his role in the Flint water crisis, and eight other state and local officials were also indicted Thursday by Attorney General Dana Nessel. Snyder, who pleaded not guilty, could be punished with up to a year in prison on each charge.

WH Official: Trump To Visit Texas To See Border Wall Construction – A ‘Promise Kept’

President Donald Trump will spend part of his last full week in office in Alamo, Texas checking on the progress of the wall on the U.S. southern border. Roughly 450 miles of border wall have been completed thus far.

The border wall was the signature campaign promise issued by Trump and his administration. 

Trump’s Border Wall – “Promises Kept”

The President’s visit to observe the ongoing wall construction comes as Congress considers a vote of impeachment stemming from last week’s violent protests in Washington D.C. 

An unidentified Senior White House official announced the visit, which will happen on Tuesday.

“President Trump is expected to travel to Alamo, Texas, on Tuesday to mark the completion of more than 400 miles of border wall — a promise made, promise kept — and his Administration’s efforts to reform our broken immigration system,” the White House official told Fox News.

Building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border was a mainstay topic during the 2016 presidential election as then candidate Trump traveled the country. “Build the wall!” was a common chant among Trump’s supporters at his rallies.

The idea behind building a border wall was to protect the roughly 1000 miles that does not have any natural barriers. Trump had promised to have 450 miles completed by the end of 2020.

Congress recently passed an omnibus spending bill that included $16 billion in funding.

However Acting Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Mark Morgan said that the $1.375 billion included in that package was enough to complete at least 800 miles of border wall.

In addition to the completed 450 miles, there is another 350 miles ready with funding to go in the ground. The contracts for those parts of the wall have already been awarded.  

Biden May Halt Border Construction

Construction on the wall could halt within the next few weeks, however.

According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, Biden has stated that, while he would not tear down any existing wall, but he would cease construction of any future stretches of wall.

Biden says he favors a, “high-tech virtual wall to ensure border security.” 

In an article in the Washington Post, the Post claims it has reviewed estimates by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and that if Biden were to discontinue construction, it would save the U.S. government $2.6 million. 

However, If Biden were to halt construction, that could leave the the U.S. government, and in turn, taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in settlement fees should those contracts be abandoned

CBP Commissioner Morgan also went on to say that, not only would walking away rom the project cost taxpayers in funds, it would also cost “thousands of jobs.”

The post WH Official: Trump To Visit Texas To See Border Wall Construction – A ‘Promise Kept’ appeared first on The Political Insider.

A Democratic wave pickup of 10 Senate seats is a real possibility

Early in the cycle, the big question was wether Democrats could pick up the net-four seats they needed to get control of the U.S. Senate (assuming they won the presidency, and the tie-breaking vote). It was a tall order, given that only one top pickup opportunity (Colorado) was in a 2016 blue state. But Donald Trump’s disastrous and deadly presidency hasn’t just crushed his own reelection chances, but is now threatening Republican Senate seats no one would’ve ever thought would be at risk, even in some solidly red states. 

Welcome to my inaugural ranking of Senate races, by most likely to flip. 

TIER ONE (expected to switch)

1. AlabamaDoug Jones (D)

Our two-year Democratic rental, thanks to a narrowly won special election against a child predator, should come to an end this November as Alabama’s strong Republican lean and a run-of-the-mill Republican challenger ends Jones’ term. No regrets. It was great while it lasted. 

2. Colorado, Cory Gardner (R)

Joe Biden will win Colorado by double-digits. There’s no way Gardner overcomes that margin, and especially not against former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who remained popular throughout his two terms in office. In fact, Gardner has acted as someone vying for a spot on a second Trump term, reliably defending his president during the impeachment proceedings, rather than a blue-state senator trying to differentiate himself from the top of the ticket. 

3. Arizona, Marth McSally (R)

McSally narrowly lost in the Democratic wave in 2018, and since appointed to fill Sen. John McCain’s seat after his death, she is headed toward another defeat at the hands of Democrat Mark Kelly, an astronaut and husband to former congresswoman and gun violence victim Gabby Giffords. Polling is showing both Biden and Kelly pulling away, in a state in which resurgent Latino voters and suburban white women are heavily engaging. 

4. North Carolina, Thom Tillis (R) 

Democratic Iraq and Afghanistan war vet Cal Cunningham has proven a surprisingly strong challenger to first-term Republican Thom Tillis, handily leading him in all recent polling. It’s not even looking close, in a state in which Biden has also led (albeit more narrowly). Tillis runs weakly against Republicans, who see him as a traitor to Trump’s cause. And the double-whammy of Trump losing the state, and Tillis losing Trump voters, looks too much to overcome. 

5. Maine, Susan Collins (R)

Collins survived decades as a Republican in blue Maine by pretending to be a “moderate” independent-minded legislator. The Trump years have torn that facade away, as she’s sided with the wannabe despot in both his Supreme Court nominations, and in voting to acquit him during the impeachment proceedings. Democrat Sara Gideon, Speaker of the Maine House, is leading in all recent polling, and would be the first woman of color (Indian American) elected in Maine. 

These five races would net Democrats the +3 seats they need for a 50-50 Senate, with Biden’s vice-president casting the tie-breaking vote. But what a nightmare that would be, right? We’d have the nominal majority, but well-short of the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and without the Democratic votes needs to eliminate that stupid filibuster. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has already declared he’d vote against any such efforts. So it is imperative that Democrats pad their majority in order to have the votes to get rid of the filibuster and push through critical legislation like statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico (if its residents vote for it), voting right protections, economic stimulus, police reforms, measures to address climate change, and other Democratic priorities. 

TIER TWO (toss-ups)  

6. Montana, Steve Daines (R)

How can Democrats be competitive in a state which Trump won by over 20 points? First, convince popular Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to run, then watch Trump’s numbers collapse to the point that Biden is actually competitive. Recent polling in this hard-to-poll state show Republicans with the narrow edge, but it’s narrow. 

7. Iowa, Joni Ernst (R) 

This wasn’t a state that was supposed to be competitive, with Trump winning by nine points in 2016. Yet Trump disastrous trade wars decimated Iowa farmers, and the coronavirus pandemic has only added to anti-GOP sentiment. So this state of rural non-college whites—the core base of the modern Republican Party—is suddenly flirting with voting Democratic. Most recent polling shows Trump leading by a hair, the same as Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. 

8. Georgia, Kelly Loeffler (R)

Georgia has a racist Jim Crow-era election system, in which candidates require 50% in the first round, otherwise the race moves to a January runoff. This is a special election, thus features a “jungle primary” in which all candidates, of all parties, run on the same ballot. If none reaches 50% (and none will), this gets decided January next year. Democrats are running several candidates, and would be best served if they rallied around Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (where Dr. Rev, Martin Luther King preached). 

While Democrats have traditionally suffered turnout woes during the runoff elections, I doubt that’ll be an issue this cycle. January will be HOT in Georgia. 

9. Georgia, David Perdue (R)

Same as above, except that there’s no jungle primary. Democrats nominated Jon Ossoff to take on the incumbent. Polling has been mixed in this race, with some showing a tied race, and others showing Perdue close to 50%. But at the same time, almost all polling is showing a competitive presidential contest. If Biden can extend his lead in this coronavirus-stricken state, he could very well pull Democrats across the line with him, at least into January runoffs where defeated and demoralized Republicans might just sit things out. 

TIER THREE (lean Republican)

These solidly Republican states shouldn’t be competitive at the Senate level, yet amazingly, they are! 

10. Kansas, Open (R)

The conventional wisdom is that if Republican nominate crazed right-winger Kris Kobach, that this seat in this +20 2016 Trump state becomes far more competitive in November. That would make sense, since Kobach cost Republicans the governorship in 2018. Our own Civiqs polling, actually, found Democrat Barbara Bollier competitive no matter who Republicans nominate. A tough state, for sure but Kansas is one of the few remaining Republican states with high educational attainment (the other being Utah). Given the nation’s partisan stratification based on college education, we can expect Biden to narrow the gap from 2016, improving Bollier’s chances down the ballot. And if Republicans nominate Kobach? That can’t hurt, either. 

11. Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R)

Alaska is competitive at the presidential level (more here), despite the fact that Trump won it by 15 in 2016. No polling has shown the Senate race competitive, but that’s because 1) there is no Democratic nominee—an independent is filling that slot, and 2) that nominee, Al Gross, has a name ID of about zero percent. Gross is now up in the air, and that should boost that name ID in this cheap state. Also, Democrats will now learn that he is their guy, and will answer accordingly the next time they’re polled. 

Without strength at the presidential level, this seat isn’t in play, but Alaska has been trending Democratic for several cycles now, and this year may be the year when that vast swath of land is painted in glorious blue. 

12. South Carolina, Lindsey Graham (R)

Pinch me I must be dreaming. Infamous Trump bootlicker Lindsey is vulnerable? Yes. Yes he is. The polling has shown the state tightening at the presidential level, and the pandemic is hitting South Carolina hard, further weakening the state’s dominant Republican Party. Democrats have an awesome candidate in Jaime Harrison. His problem has been that while he’s running even with Graham, most undecideds in the race are conservative voters. It’s a tough hill to overcome. But this is happening: 

Every point Trump falls is a point that could cost him in the presidential election, and every point that presidential race narrows is one point less Harrison needs to overcome to win the Senate seat. The play here isn’t for Biden to win, he doesn’t need South Carolina (as nice as it would be!). We need it close enough to give ourselves a chance down ballot. 

This is a long-shot, by all means, but it’s a real shot. And Harrison has raised record amounts of cash and has the resources to wage a real campaign in this final three-month sprint to Election Day.  

13. Texas, John Cornyn (R)

The big question in Texas is whether it is competitive at the presidential level or not. It’s clear where the state is trending, and no doubt in a cycle or two it will be legitimately purple. But polling is mixed on whether this is the year. And that will inform whether the Senate race is flippable. On its merits, Cornyn should be cruising to reelection. He has none of the baggage Sen. Ted Cruz had in 2018, where he held on to his seat by just 2% of the vote. But if Texas Democrats can get the state’s chronically underperforming Latino vote to activate, then all bets are off—at both the presidential and senate levels. 

CONCLUSION

Of the 13 Senate seats currently in play, 12 of them are held by Republicans. The odds of Democrats picking up 10 or 11 seats are currently low, but the trends just keep getting worse and worse for the GOP. The toll of the pandemic isn’t just worsening nationwide, it’s currently disproportionately affecting some of the very states discussed above, like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, South Carolina, and Texas. 

Meanwhile, Trump is doing nothing to reverse his precipitous collapse in his national standing, while also refusing to allow Republicans to distance themselves from him. 

So can we get to a double-digit pickup in the Senate? Not today, we wouldn’t, but Republicans still have three months to fall. 

Voting Rights Roundup: Trump order to remove noncitizens from key census data sparks lawsuits

Leading Off

2020 Census: Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Tuesday directing the census to exclude undocumented immigrants from the data that determines how many House seats and Electoral College votes each state will get following the 2020 census.

Within days, civil rights advocates and Democratic officials filed separate federal lawsuits arguing both that Trump's order violates the Constitution because the 14th Amendment mandates counting the "whole number of persons" for reapportionment and that it intentionally discriminates against Latinos.

This order comes after Trump's failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the census last year, a move that documents showed was motivated because GOP operatives believed it would be "advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites" in redistricting.

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​While that effort imploded, Republicans still aim to let states such as Texas draw districts based strictly on the adult citizen population instead of the more diverse traditional total population, which would shift representation away from Democrats and Latinos in states with large immigrant populations. To that end, Trump issued a separate executive order last year directing the Census Bureau to match existing administrative records with 2020 census responses in order to determine citizenship status, a step that prompted litigation of its own.

But while the Supreme Court could ultimately allow the use of citizenship data for redistricting, it's unlikely to do so for reapportionment: A unanimous 2016 ruling saw even arch-conservative Justice Samuel Alito acknowledge that the 14th Amendment required using the total population for reapportionment purposes. But even if the justices did overturn hundreds of years of precedent, excluding undocumented immigrants from reapportionment would likely have a far smaller partisan impact nationally than citizen-based redistricting would within states such as Texas.

However, Trump's continued push for this change shows that the GOP will not give up in its fight to exclude noncitizens from redistricting and representation, and further litigation is certain. Additionally, Trump asked Congress for $1 billion in the next pandemic spending bill to ensure a "timely census," which suggests Trump is backing away from a potential delay in the deadlines by which the administration must deliver apportionment and redistricting data to the states.

The Census Bureau has previously said it didn't expect to be able to meet its year-end deadline to give the White House its reapportionment data, or the March 31, 2021 deadline for sending redistricting data to the states. Any such delays mean that Joe Biden could block the release of citizenship data if he defeats Trump and takes office on Jan. 20. However, if the first batch of census data is released on time, that would mean Trump would still be in office, meaning opponents would have to rely on court challenges to block him.

Voter Registration and Voting Access

Deaths: Following the death of Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who was one of the nation's most prominent supporters of voting rights both during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and his long career in Congress, Senate Democrats introduced a bill named in Lewis' honor to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court gutted in 2013, a bill that House Democrats already passed last year.

Should the bill become law, it would be a fitting way to enshrine Lewis' legacy in public life. The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer aptly called Lewis “an American Founder” for his role in creating the modern American republic, which was no less than radically transformed by the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. These two landmark pieces of legislation ended the authoritarian one-party oligarchy that existed in the South under Jim Crow and finally established America as a liberal democracy nationwide—almost 200 years after the country's founding.

Lewis was one the leading figures in the civil rights movement for Black Americans from an early age. When he was just 23, he was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech. Two years later, he marched for voting rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965. There, law enforcement reacted to the peaceful protest by brutally attacking the marchers and beat Lewis nearly to death, fracturing his skull. But even real and repeatedly threatened violence did not deter his activism.

The events in Selma became known as Bloody Sunday, and TV news audiences around the country were so shocked by images of police brutality against the marchers that it galvanized the ultimately successful effort to pass the Voting Rights Act, which became law on Aug. 6, 1965. Civil rights leaders like Lewis and King deemed the Voting Rights Act the most important achievement of their movement because it protected the right that helped secure all the others that they were fighting for.

Lewis' career of activism for the cause of civil rights did not end with the 1960s, nor did his role as a protest figure end with his election to Congress in the 1980s: Even in his final decade, he led a sit-in on the House floor to protest the GOP's refusal to pass gun safety measures after a horrific mass shooting in Orlando left 49 dead and 53 wounded in 2016. Lewis would steadfastly make the case that the struggle for civil rights was an unending one, and his leadership inspired countless people who came after him. You can read more about Lewis' lifetime of activism in The New York Times and The Atlanta Constitution.

New York: Both chambers of New York's Democratic-run legislature have passed a bill to enact automatic voter registration, sending the measure to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his likely signature. Senate Democrats had approved similar measures both this year and last, but Assembly Democrats refused to sign off until changes were made.

Part of the compromise between the chambers means the law wouldn't go into effect until 2023. However, automatic registration would involve a number of state agencies beyond just the DMV, which is critical since New York has one of the lowest proportions of residents who drive of any state.

Separately, Senate Democrats also passed a constitutional amendment that would let 17-year-olds vote in primaries if they will turn 18 by the general election, a policy that many other states have already adopted. The amendment would have to pass both chambers before and after the 2020 elections before needing the approval of voters in a referendum.

Felony Disenfranchisement

District of Columbia: Mayor Muriel Bowser has signed a bill into law that immediately restores voting rights for several thousand citizens and will require officials to provide incarcerated citizens with registration forms and absentee ballots starting next year. However, because the bill was passed as emergency legislation, it must be reauthorized after 90 days, though Council members plan to make it permanent soon.

With this law's passage, D.C. becomes only the third jurisdiction in the country after Maine and Vermont to maintain the right to vote for incarcerated citizens. It is also the first place to do so with a large community of color: The District is 46% African American, and more than 90% of D.C. residents currently disenfranchised are Black.

Voter Suppression

Alabama: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 2-1 to uphold a lower court ruling dismissing the NAACP's challenge to Alabama Republicans' voter ID law. The two judges in the majority, who were both appointed by Republicans, ruled that "no reasonable factfinder could find that Alabama’s voter ID law is unconstitutionally discriminatory," even though Judge Darrin Gayles, an Obama appointee, noted in dissent that one white GOP lawmaker who supported passing the law said that the lack of an ID requirement was "very beneficial to the Black power structure and the rest of the Democrats."

Republicans passed this law in 2011 to require a photo voter ID in nearly all circumstances, with the only exception being if two election officials sign an affidavit that they know the voter. However, the law didn't go into effect until 2014, after the Supreme Court's conservative majority gutted a key protection of the Voting Rights Act that had required states such as Alabama with a history of discriminatory voting laws to "pre-clear" all changes to voting laws and procedures with the Justice Department before implementing them.

The plaintiffs sued in 2015 by arguing that the law violated the Voting Rights Act and Constitution and presented evidence that Black voters were less likely to possess acceptable forms of ID than white voters. That year, Republicans sparked a backlash by trying to close 31 of the state's 75 driver's licensing offices, which subsequent reporting revealed was an effort by GOP Gov. Robert Bentley, who later resigned in disgrace, to pressure his legislative opponents, but Republicans ultimately reversed course amid litigation.

Election expert Rick Hasen called this latest decision "very troubling" because it ruled unequivocally for GOP officials without letting the case proceed to trial, despite the plaintiffs' evidence of both the intent and effect of racial discrimination against Black voters. The plaintiffs could seek to request that all judges on the 11th Circuit reconsider the ruling, or they could appeal directly to the Supreme Court. However, with Republican appointees holding majorities on both courts, their chance of success appears small.

Michigan: A panel of three judges on the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled 2-1 along ideological lines to uphold Republican-backed voting restrictions that Democrats were challenging. The ruling maintains a limitation on what counts as proof of residency for voter registration. It also rejects Democrats' demand that the state start automatically pre-registering all citizens under age 18 who conduct business with the state's driver's licensing agency so that they will be automatically added to the rolls when they turn 18. Currently, only citizens aged 17-and-a-half or older are automatically registered.

Democrats have not yet indicated whether they will appeal to Michigan's Supreme Court. The high court has a 4-3 Republican majority, though one of the GOP justices has been a swing vote when similar issues have come before the court.

Tennessee: Voting rights advocates have filed a lawsuit in state court to require Tennessee officials to comply with a 1981 law that restores voting rights to people convicted of a felony in another state if they have had their rights restored in that state. The plaintiffs argue that the state's Republican-run government has failed to educate affected voters of the ability to regain their rights. They also charge that the state is requiring the payment of any legal fines or fees, even though such repayment isn't required under the law.

Texas: A federal district court has rejected a Republican motion to dismiss a Democratic-backed lawsuit seeking to require that Texas allow voters to register online via a third-party website. The case concerns the website Vote.org, which allows applicants to fill out a registration form and then (on its end) automatically prints it and mails it to local election officials. However, the GOP-run secretary of state's office rejected thousands of such applications shortly before the registration deadline in 2018 on the grounds that the signatures were transmitted electronically rather than signed with pen on paper.

Democrats argue that these rejections violate both state and federal law. They note that the secretary of state already allows electronic signatures if they're part of applications when voters register in-person through the state's driver's licensing agency. Texas Republicans have long resisted online registration, making it one of just a handful of states that doesn't offer it to most voters. As a result, the Lone Star State is home to a majority of the Americans who live in states without full online registration.

Electoral Reform

Massachusetts: Massachusetts officials have approved an initiative for the November ballot that would enact a statute implementing instant-runoff voting in elections for Congress and state office. It would also apply to a limited number of local contests such as countywide posts for district attorney and sheriff, but not those at the municipal level, which is the primary unit of local government in New England. If adopted, the new system would come into effect in time for the 2022 elections and would make Massachusetts the second state after Maine to adopt this reform.

Redistricting

New York: Democratic legislators in New York swiftly passed a constitutional amendment with little debate that would increase the likelihood that they could exercise full control over redistricting after 2020 and gerrymander the state's congressional and legislative maps. However, the amendment's provisions are more complicated than an attempt to just seek partisan advantage, and it still has a ways to go before becoming law.

New York has a bipartisan redistricting commission that proposes maps to legislators for their approval. Legislative leaders from both parties choose the members, and the 2014 amendment that enshrined it in the state constitution requires two-thirds supermajorities for legislators to disregard the commission's proposals and enact their own if one party controls both legislative chambers, as Democrats currently do. The biggest partisan impact this new amendment would have involves lowering that threshold to three-fifths.

Democrats hold a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly but currently lack that in the state Senate. However, they exceed three-fifths in the upper chamber, meaning they would gain control over redistricting if the amendment were law today. However, there's a good chance the lowered threshold would be irrelevant for the next round of redistricting.

That's because Democrats have a strong opportunity to gain a Senate supermajority in November, thanks to a large number of Republican retirements in swing districts and an overall political climate that favors Democrats. Still, lowering the supermajority requirement to three-fifths could still prove decisive in the future, especially if Democrats fall short of their hopes this fall, so it's therefore fair to describe the move as an attempt by Democrats to gain greater control over redistricting.

Nevertheless, several other provisions in this amendment promote nonpartisan goals that would strengthen redistricting protections regardless of who draws the lines, complicating the case for whether or not New York would be better off in the short term if the amendment were to become law. Most importantly, the amendment would let New York conduct its own census for redistricting purposes if the federal census does not count undocumented immigrants, as Trump has ordered.

It also enshrines an existing statute that bans prison gerrymandering by counting incarcerated people for redistricting purposes at their last address instead of in prisons that are largely located in whiter rural upstate communities, restoring representation to urban communities of color. In addition, it freezes the number of senators at the current 63; in the past, lawmakers have expanded the size of the body in an attempt to gain a partisan advantage. Finally, it sharply limits the splitting of cities between Senate districts, something the GOP used extensively in their successful bid to win power (supported by several renegade Democrats) after the last round of redistricting.

Democrats would need to pass this same amendment again in 2021 before putting it on the ballot as a referendum that year, meaning it could pass without GOP support, but it would still require voter approval. If enacted, it would immediately take effect.

North Carolina: Earlier this month, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill passed almost unanimously by North Carolina's Republican legislature to undo one of the GOP's many gerrymandering schemes, specifically one involving gerrymandering along racial lines in district court elections in Mecklenburg County. The GOP's about-face came as Republicans were facing a near-certain loss in state court for infringing on Black voters' rights in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Mecklenburg County is a Democratic stronghold that's home to Charlotte and more than one million residents. In 2018, Republican lawmakers changed Mecklenburg's procedures for judicial elections from a countywide system to one in which the county is split into separate judicial districts, even though all of the elected judges still retain countywide jurisdiction. The GOP's 2018 law gerrymandered the districts in an attempt to elect more white Republicans in place of multiple Black Democratic incumbents—precisely what came to pass that November.

Republicans had already agreed to revert back to countywide elections for 2020 while their case proceeded, but the lawsuit is moot now that Republicans have repealed the law in question. This GOP defeat means Republican legislators this past decade have lost lawsuits over their gerrymandering once or even multiple times at virtually every level of government in North Carolina, including for Congress, state legislature, county commission, city council, local school board, and, as here, judicial districts.

Ballot Access

West Virginia: A federal district court has denied the GOP's motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit in which Democrats are challenging a law that gives the party that won the last presidential election in the state—which has voted Republican in every race since 2000—the top spot on the ballot in every partisan contest. Barring a settlement, the case will now proceed to trial, which was previously set for July 27.

The plaintiffs argue that this system violates the First and 14th Amendments because candidates listed first can enjoy a boost in support that can prove decisive in close elections, particularly in downballot races where voters have much less information about the candidates than they do for the top of the ticket.

Court Cases

Maine: Maine Republicans have filed yet another lawsuit in federal court arguing that instant-runoff voting violates the U.S. Constitution and should be blocked in November, when it will be used in all federal races. Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap recently determined that Republicans were roughly 2,000 voter signatures shy of the 63,000 signatures needed to put a veto referendum on the ballot in November that would suspend the use of IRV for the Electoral College until voters weigh in, but the GOP will separately challenge his decision in state court.

The federal suit is just the latest in the GOP's long running campaign against IRV after voters approved it in a 2016 ballot initiative for state and congressional races (a state court later blocked it for state-level general elections). However, they may not have much more success than former Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin did when he argued that IRV was unconstitutional after he lost the 2018 election to Democratic Rep. Jared Golden once all instant-runoff calculations were completed. In that case, a federal court thoroughly rejected Poliquin's arguments that IRV violated voters' First and 14th Amendment rights.

ELECTION CHANGES

Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete summary of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to elections and voting procedures as a result of the coronavirus.

Arkansas: A panel of three GOP-appointed judges on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously overturned a district court ruling that made it easier for redistricting reformers to gather signatures for a ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting commission. The lower court's ruling, which the 8th Circuit had already temporarily blocked while the appeal proceeded, had suspended a requirement that voter petition signatures be witnessed in-person, enabling supporters to sign the forms at home and mail them in.

Republican Secretary of State John Thurston had recently thrown out all signatures gathered for the redistricting reform initiative and a separate initiative to adopt a variant of instant-runoff voting, and initiative supporters are separately challenging that decision in state court. Organizers have not announced whether they will appeal this latest federal court ruling.

New Hampshire: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has signed a law passed by New Hampshire's Democratic-run legislature that will allow voters to use a single application to receive absentee ballots for both the Sept. 8 state primary and Nov. 3 general election.

North Carolina: North Carolina's Board of Elections has issued a rule that every county this fall must have at least one early voting location for every 20,000 registered voters and that smaller counties only operating one location must provide for a backup location and extra staff as a precaution.

Oregon: A panel of three judges on the 9th Circuit Circuit Court of appeals has ruled 2-1 against Democratic officials' request to block a lower court ruling that resulted in officials having to lower the number of signatures and extend the deadline to collect them for a ballot initiative to establish an independent redistricting commission. It's possible that the Supreme Court could block the district court's ruling if Oregon Democrats appeal, but they have yet to indicate whether they will do so.

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to effectively short-circuit a federal lawsuit that the Trump campaign and several GOP Congress members recently filed to restrict voting access, which the federal district court recently agreed to expedite.

Democrats are asking the appellate-level Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to guarantee that counties can set up drop boxes for returning mail ballots; count ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received within a few days afterward; give voters a chance to fix problems with mail ballot signatures; count mail ballots lacking an inner secrecy envelope; and prohibit voters from serving as poll watchers in a county where they aren't a resident. The GOP's federal lawsuit is trying to block drop boxes and allow out-of-county poll watchers, which is likely intended to facilitate voter intimidation.

Rhode Island: Voting rights groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging Rhode Island's requirement that mail voters have their ballots signed by two witnesses or a notary, something that very few other states require. The plaintiffs argue that this requirement violates the Constitution during the pandemic, and they're asking the court to waive it for the Sept. 1 primary and November general election.

Tennessee: A federal district court judge has sided against civil right groups seeking to ease access to absentee voting ahead of the state's Aug. 6 primary, ruling that the plaintiffs waited too long to bring their challenge, but the court allowed the case to proceed for November. The plaintiffs wanted the court to require that voters be notified and given a chance to correct any problems with their mail ballots and also allow third-party groups to collect and submit absentee ballots on behalf of voters.

Texas: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with state Democrats' request to expedite consideration of the GOP's appeal of a lower court ruling that had ordered that all voters be allowed to vote absentee without needing an excuse instead of only voters aged 65 and up. The expedited timeline means there's a chance of a resolution in time for November.