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Georgia Removes Over 300,000 Inactive Voters From Rolls

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  • A federal judge allowed Georgia’s Secretary of State to remove over 300,000 voters from the registry for being inactive. Around 120,000 of these voters were considered inactive because they had not voted, requested a ballot, or contacted county election officials since before 2012. 
  • Critics believe this is voter suppression, and that people should not be able to lose the right to vote just because they have not recently used it. 
  • Georgia has a controversial history when it comes to voter suppression. Many supporters of Stacey Abrams, who lost the state’s 2018 gubernatorial election, believe voter purging played a role in her loss.

Voters Removed

Over 300,000 voters were removed from Georgia’s registration list this week after a federal judge approved a plan from the Secretary of State’s office. 

The voters, which total to about 4% of Georgia’s registered voters, were officially removed on Tuesday. The state says this was part of list maintenance to get rid of inactive voters. 

“These updates are required by federal and state law in order to ensure that the state has the most up-to-date voter information,”  a statement from the Secretary of State’s office read when the plan was announced a little over a month ago.

Every state is required to update their voter lists, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that Georgia is “stricter” than most states. Georgia is one of nine states that follows a “use it or lose it” rule, which allows voters to be removed if they have not voted in a certain amount of time. 

When the state initially announced its plan, the list had 313,000 names. According to the AJC, 309,000 ended up being removed. Voters were considered inactive for three main reasons. First, because they filed a change of address showing they moved to a different state or county, which initially accounted for about 108,000 people. Another 84,000 had election mail returned as undeliverable. 

The last and most controversial policy was to remove voters who had not contacted their county election officials since 2012. In their original list, this accounted for 120,000 people who had not voted, updated their registration, signed a petition, renewed their driver’s license, or requested a ballot since then. 

“Election security is my top priority,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement. “Accurate and up-to-date voter rolls are vital to secure elections, but at the same time I want to ensure that anyone potentially affected by this routine process has notice and opportunity to update their information.”

Raffensberg’s office released a full list of those subject to cancellation so that those who were eligible could update their information.

Context of Georgia’s Voter Suppression

Georgia is not the only state to make a recent move like this. Last week, a judge in Wisconsin ordered 234,000 voters to be swiped from the state’s list. Their Attorney General is working to appeal this. 

This removal is especially noteworthy in Georgia, however, as the state has seen high-profile voter suppression controversies in the last several years. When Democrat Stacey Abrams lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial election, many believed voter suppression and purging played a role in the results. 

Abrams lost the election by 1.4%. She has called it a stolen election because of the potential voter suppression at hand, which she believes was orchestrated intentionally by Republicans in the state. Specifically, some believe Kem played a role because he was the Secretary of State at the time and did not recuse himself from overseeing elections and voter removals. Kemp is being investigated for voter suppression, and Raffensberger was asked to turn in documentation for this case. 

Since the election, Abrams has devoted much of her time to fighting for fair elections and increasing voter registration, not just in Georgia, but across the country. She founded Fair Fight Action in August, which is an organization devoted to making sure people have and exercise their right to vote.

Backlash to Voter Removals

Fair Fight Action filed an emergency motion against this sweep in Georgia, which they are referring to as a voter purge. The group’s CEO, Lauren Groh-Wargo, criticized the “use it or lose it” policy.

“Georgians should not lose their right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections, and Georgia’s practice of removing voters who have declined to participate in recent elections violates the United States Constitution,” she said in a statement.

With the 2020 election looming just around the corner, many were upset with this removal. Democratic politicians have condemned it particularly, seeing it as a Republican effort to maintain control in the state. Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called the alleged effort cowardly. 

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said this was “a shameful attempt at voter suppression.”

What Happens Next

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, defended his ruling. 

“It appears that any voter registration cancellations can be undone at a later date,” he said in his decision, obtained by the AJC. “The court’s ruling is based largely on defense counsel’s statement (at today’s hearing) that any voter registration that is canceled today can be restored within 24 to 48 hours.”

However, Jones still will be hearing Fair Fight Action’s side. In fact, on Thursday, he will hear arguments from both the activist group and state officials. 

See what others are saying: (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (Washington Post) (Slate)

Politics

Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena

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The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.


Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.

The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.

In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.

Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.

Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee. 

That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.

After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.

Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.

Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts

The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.

It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same. 

The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively —  are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.

Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.

As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.  

Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)

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Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December

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The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.


Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily

The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.

The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.

After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.

The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday. 

The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.

“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.

The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession. 

Major Hurdles Remain

While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.

Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain. 

Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.

Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.

Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.

Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.

Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.

In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul. 

As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported. 

It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent

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California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 


CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.

Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.

Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.

“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.

Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.

Others May Follow

The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.

Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.

“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.

“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”

The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Los Angeles Times) (The Sacramento Bee)

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