Progressives Every Day: The Right to Live Is Under Attack

Welcome to the midweek edition of Progressives Every Day!

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And now, to the news!

Georgia’s Secretary of State announces vague election fixes:

After being embarrassed by the debacle that was last week’s primary election (and then likely frustrated that turnout surged nonetheless), Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger proposed a few modest tweaks to the system ahead of November’s general election.

Without offering any numbers or targets, he called for technicians to be placed in every polling place and more polling places to be opened up. Voters were forced to wait in lines that stretched up to six hours in precincts across Georgia last Tuesday, due in part to problems with the faulty new $110 million voting machines as well as the reduced number of polling places available to voters.

He also asked for the state legislature to pass a law that would give his office the ability to intervene in troubled county elections, which sounds like a reasonable request until you remember that it was Raffensperger’s office that left county election offices hanging out to dry this month, with little training on the new machines being foisted on them.

On the flip side, Raffensperger will not send absentee ballot applications to voters this time around, but instead will set up a website where voters can apply for them online. Georgia’s handling of absentee ballot requests was disastrous during the primary period, as tens of thousands of people either receiving their applications too late or not at all. That added to the confusion on election day, as voters who had applied for ballots but did not get them showed up at polling places, throwing off the untrained poll workers.

All told, Raffensperger’s proposals fall far short of what we were told was necessary by Sara Tindall Ghazal, the GA Democratic Party’s former Voter Protection Director who is now running for legislature in the state.

Texas can’t (and won’t) mask this catastrophe:

Yesterday, I noted that Arizona hit its all-time single-day high for new coronavirus infections and that infections were surging in Texas, as well. But Texas was not content to be a side note, it seems, so late last night, the state announced a dramatic increase in new COVID-19 cases that obliterated its previous record.

On Tuesday evening, when the announced number was 2622 (still a record, mind you), GOP Gov. Greg Abbott attributed the increase to over 500 new cases being reported out of prisons in the state and more coming out of an assisted living facility near Austin. I love when elected officials shrug off a spike in terrible illnesses because it’s happening to only segments of the population!

Obviously, the increase announced after his press conference rendered much of what he said moot, but that’s not even what’s most frustrating about what’s happening down in Texas. Just as the state is strenuously working to stop local officials from helping its more conscientious citizens request absentee ballots, Abbott on Tuesday stood behind an executive order he signed in late April barring cities and counties from requiring people to wear face masks to prevent the spread of the disease during Texas’s very premature reopening.

At the same time, Abbott also said on Tuesday that wearing masks would be key to cutting down the rate of infection, even going so far as to acknowledge that people who partied in close contact over Memorial Day weekend were likely partly responsible for the coronavirus spike.

I used to annoy some folks when I’d tweet that “Republicans are terrorists,” but I don’t know what else to call people who actively work to put people in harm’s way and use demagoguery and threats to shut down those who are trying to help. Texas Republicans (as well as national Republicans, Florida Republicans, Arizona Republicans, Georgia Republicans, etc.) are forcing people to risk their lives to make rent by cutting off unemployment benefits, making it impossible for them to exercise their right to vote in any safe way, and hamstringing local officials who want to take modest steps to protect them from a vicious and deadly disease for which there is no known cure.

What else is that, other than terrorism?

As we saw last week in Georgia, in-person elections are going to be a disaster this year without serious preparation to mitigate all the new variables. (Check out my interview about that very topic with Georgia’s Democratic Party Voter Protection Officer, who is now running for the state legislature!) And as you can guess from the above story about Texas, that’s exactly what Republicans are counting on — voter suppression has become their number one campaign strategy.

Now, some are more nefarious than others. Places like Texas and Georgia are just blatantly making life difficult for voters. Then there are places like Ohio, where Secretary of State Frank LaRose is, to his credit, expanding absentee ballotting… but also standing by as counties shutter polling places by the dozen over the objections of their citizens.

Generally, we’ve seen headlines about polling places being closed in cities, which has the effect of creating massive lines that wind up disenfranchising tens of thousands of people. But it’s a problem in rural America, as well; not as many people will wind up lining up to vote, but that’s because polling places wind up being so far away from another that making the drive is often not possible for people who have other responsibilities.

Last fall, a report revealed that nearly 1200 polling places that were previously subject to Department of Justice oversight (read: in the South) were closed between 2014 and 2018.

“Closing polling places has a cascading effect, leading to long lines at other polling places, transportation hurdles, denial of language assistance and other forms of in-person help, and mass confusion about where eligible voters may cast their ballot,” it stated. “For many people, and particularly for voters of color, older voters, rural voters and voters with disabilities, these burdens make it harder – and sometimes impossible – to vote.”

Mondaire Jones pulling ahead in a race that progressives have to win:

A few weeks ago, I ran an interview with Mondaire Jones, a remarkable young candidate running for an open Congressional seat just north of NYC. At the time, he was neck-and-neck with three other candidates running in the Democratic primary, including David Carlucci, the IDC turncoat who is in no way a real Democrat. Now, Jones has opened up a nice lead in the race, according to at least one new poll:

Nothing’s guaranteed, of course, especially as early voting has already started in New York. But this is great to see, especially because it’s firm evidence of my massive personal influence… and OK, the influence of national liberal groups, the New York Times’ endorsement of Jones’ campaign, Elizabeth Warren’s tweets on his behalf, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the latter of whom endorsed Jones just days after I spoke with him.

(OK, so I have nothing to do with Jones’ lead, but I will say that we’ve raised over $2,300 for his campaign thus far.)