Progressives Every Day: They really hate voting!

Another day, another voting rights lawsuit

It’s Tuesday and you’re getting this email, so you know what that means: A new daily edition of Progressives Everywhere!

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Here’s your big headline: Amy McGrath declared victory in the Kentucky Democratic Senate primary today. Anointed by Democratic Party leaders last year, she’s proven a strong fundraiser but an absolutely uninspiring candidate, an inevitability more than a choice, and had the primary been held a few weeks later, there’s a very good chance that State Rep. Charles Booker would have completed his comeback victory.

Now it’s up to McGrath to quickly learn some lessons from Booker’s grassroots campaign and pivot to being a more impassioned candidate who takes some actual policy positions. I hope she means this:

While the progressive candidate didn’t win this time around, the excitement generated on the Democratic side had a nice down-ballot effect. Dems flipped a seat in the Kentucky State Senate for the first time since 2010 as Karen Berg beat her Republican opponent in a special election to fill the term of retiring GOP Sen. Ernie Harris.

Trump won the 26th State Senate district by 12 points in 2016, but it’s been trending blue ever since. Berger nearly beat Harris in the 2018 election and Gov. Andy Beshear won the district last November. Berg then crushed Republican Bill Ferko in the special election, winning by nearly 14 points.

The War on Voters continues:

Thanks to a bipartisan 2019 law that dramatically expanded absentee balloting, a record 1.5 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail in this month’s primary election. Naturally, the Trump campaign is now suing over the law, trying to curtail democracy under the discredited, paranoid guise of “voter fraud.”

The gist is that many counties, overwhelmed by the sheer demand for absentee ballots coming their way and concerned about the election night deadline for their return, opened up central ballot drop boxes to make it easier for citizens to cast their votes.

The AP has more details:

The lawsuit claims there was a "hazardous, hurried and illegal" roll-out of mail-in voting during the primary, saying the system now gives "fraudsters an easy opportunity to engage in ballot harvesting, manipulate or destroy ballots, manufacture duplicitous votes, and sow chaos."

The plaintiffs want an order to prevent counting ballots that lack secrecy envelopes or that have certain marks on them. They also want poll watchers to be able to monitor vote counting outside the counties where they live — and to be able to observe counting of all mail-in ballots.

The Trump campaign is arguing that those drop boxes were illegal because they weren’t specifically authorized by the 2019 law. It’s all a bunch of nonsense, but as we saw last night in Wisconsin, a lot of judges are pretty into absurd accusations and outrageous requests.

In a sweeping decision that took more than three years to come out, a panel of federal judges on Monday reinstated limits on early voting and a requirement that voters be Wisconsin residents for at least a month before an election.

The three judges also banned most voters from having absentee ballots emailed or faxed to them and told a lower court to continue to tweak the system the state uses to provide voting credentials to those who have the most difficulty getting photo IDs.

No state outside of the South has had its democracy as throttled by voter suppression and GOP gerrymandering as Wisconsin. The one silver lining in this ruling is that the judges decided that students could use their expired student IDs, but that’s a pretty thin lining.

Republican judges have taken to green-lighting voter suppression if it’s partisan and not explicitly racist, but as Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler notes, Republicans have made race a fully partisan issue. They focus their suppression explicitly on people of color, which makes these judges’ rulings a loophole to approve racism.

Defund the police means defund the police:

Early this morning, the NYPD tried to disperse the peaceful, jubilant protestors who have been camped down at City Hall for the last five or so days. The protestors have been demanding massive cuts to the bloated police budget, making it an intense and personal stand-off.

This was peaceful until you know who showed up. They are pinning us against barricades that they erected. Their contradictions demonstrate their irrelevance. #abolitionnow #occupycityhall #defundthepolice
June 30, 2020

The protestors held out and outlasted the cops, but it wasn’t long before more bad news came their way. The City Council submitted a budget to Mayor de Blasio that purports to cut nearly $1 billion from the NYPD budget but mostly just lists police expenses as social services.

Mayor de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the $1 billion in cuts to the NYPD would mainly come from shifting school safety agents from the NYPD to the Department of Education; slashing $296 million from the current police overtime budget of $523 million; and not hiring the July class of 1,163 NYPD cadets.

It’s an absolute farce, as City Council Speaker, who speaks activist far better than de Blasio, admits:

At a press conference announcing the budget agreement, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he was personally disappointed that the council could not ensure deeper cuts to the NYPD's budget, and disputed the de Blasio administration's stance that $1 billion was even cut from the NYPD. Johnson pegged the actual cuts at just north of $880 million, because he didn't consider fringe benefits and other items cited by the mayor to be actual reductions.

NYC is facing a huge budget shortfall, and in a fair and sane world, the NYPD’s kitty would be raided to fund municipal jobs, education, and other actual priorities. Expect many, many more protests this summer.

Just wear the masks, people!

Goldman Sachs released a study yesterday suggesting that a national mask mandate would not only save lives, it would also help the US avoid a 5% drop in GDP this year. Unfortunately, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is one of those Republicans who laugh in the face of statistical evidence, and in May, he issued an executive order that overrode local laws and declared that Georgians could not be forced to wear masks.

But with COVID-19 cases skyrocketing across the state, the mayor of Savannah on Tuesday said screw it and issued his own mask mandate, which will go into effect on Wednesday.

“Frankly, and honestly, I do not believe we have any other choice,” Johnson said Tuesday at a briefing at Savannah City Hall, pointing to rising numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases in the coastal Georgia city. “The numbers speak for themselves. These are not the numbers Savannah wants or needs to break.”

The governor’s office didn’t comment on Johnson’s decision. If Kemp attempts to block Savannah’s order, it could set up a thorny legal and political battle. If he doesn’t, it could clear the way for Atlanta and other cities to take similar steps.

Not even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who also refuses to issue a statewide mask mandate, is challenging cities that decide to take that extra step. Kemp is already being criticized for his handling of COVID-19, so he’d have to be a real dope to pursue legal action against Savannah. The fact that he’s now openly calling for people to wear masks makes me suspect that he’s not dumb enough to pick this political battle, but we should never count anything out.

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