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Court Decisions Force Wisconsin to Hold Primary During Pandemic. Here’s What You Need to Know

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  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the state must hold its primary Tuesday, overruling Gov. Tony Evers executive order to postpone the election.
  • Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a lower ruling that would have let absentee ballots be cast until April 13.
  • Both decisions were the results of legal challenges from the GOP-led legislature, which refused to delay the election or allow for full mail-in voting and also objected to extending absentee voting.
  • Wisconsin is now the only state to hold a major in-person election since shelter-in-place orders have been implemented all over the country.

Wisconsin’s Legal Battle

After a dizzying legal back-and-forth, Wisconsin held its primary election Tuesday despite warnings from public health experts about gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wisconsin is now the only state to hold a major in-person election since it and the majority of other states issued shelter in place orders. More than a dozen other states postponed their primaries in response to the outbreak, making Wisconsin the only state to hold in-person elections in April.

That, however, is not for lack of trying on the part of Gov. Tony Evers. On Monday, Evers issued an executive order delaying the election until June 9.

According to reports, Evers held off on the move until the last minute because many local offices on the ballot start their terms in April, and Wisconsin state law says only the state legislature can change the date of the election. 

But the GOP-led legislature refused to change the date or allow the election to go forward with all mail-in ballots. When Evers went ahead with the executive order, the state legislature filed a legal challenge, saying the governor was exceeding his constitutional authority.

Shortly after, a conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court shot down the order, ruling that the election had to go forward on Tuesday.

In a separate ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a federal court decision that would have extended absentee voting until April 13. The lower court’s decision had also received a legal challenge from the state’s Republicans.

In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that extending the deadline for absentee voting “fundamentally alters the nature of the election.”

All four of the liberal justices dissented. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a scathing review of the decision.

“The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic,” she wrote.

“With the majority’s stay in place, that will not be possible. Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own.”

Poll Workers and Condensed Locations

Similarly, there were also many concerns about the safety of poll workers and election officials as well.

While officials said they were taking precautions to protect their health at voting precincts, many also told reporters that all the legal back-and-forth created confusion and logistical problems.

That was made worse by the fact that thousands of poll workers said they will not work, with some reportedly saying they were being asked to risk their health.

According to the New York Times, “roughly 2,400 National Guardsmen were being trained as poll workers as late as Monday, it still won’t come close to the more than 7,000 who have already said they cannot work.”

The lack of poll workers has also prompted officials to shut down hundreds of polling stations. One of the most dramatic examples was in Milwaulkee, where the number of polling locations was cut from 180 to just five, despite the fact that election workers expected more than 50,000 voters to turn out.

The move forced those who did decide to vote in-person to wait in long lines and further risk exposing themselves to more people.

 Response

Many people took to Twitter to share videos of lines wrapping around buildings or spanning whole blocks.

A number of users argued that holding in-person voting during a pandemic was undemocratic or amounted to voter suppression.

Some directly accused the state’s Republicans of endangering their people, while others also condemned the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Many of those points were echoed by presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“It’s outrageous that the Republican legislative leaders and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court in Wisconsin are willing to risk the health and safety of many thousands of Wisconsin voters tomorrow for their own political gain,” he wrote on Twitter.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has not said much since the decision, but on Thursday, he took a different stance.

“There’s a lot of things that can be done; that’s for the Wisconsin courts and folks to decide,” he told reporters, adding that both in-person and mail-in voting could be done safely.

However, there were some who applauded the decision to keep in-person voting. 

Others appeared to downplay the move, like one Republican county chair, Jim Miller of Sawyer County, who said the voting process would be like picking up food under Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order.

“If you can go out and get fast food, you can go vote curbside,” he said. “It’s the same procedure.”

President Donald Trump, for his part, also chimed in Tuesday morning, encouraging people to go out and vote for a conservative state Supreme Court justice who supported the Second Amendment.

What’s Next?

Currently, it is unclear how voter turnout has been impacted. As for the election results, those are not to be expected for several more days.

The federal judge that initially allowed absentee ballots to be sent until April 13 also ruled that election officials had to hold results until that same date. According to reports, the U.S. Supreme Court decision does not seem to have changed that.

That said, Biden has been pulling out a strong lead over Sanders in Wisconsin’s polls for a while now. FiveThirtyEight predicts that the former vice president has a 90% chance of winning the most votes.

Wisconsin will likely be crucial to the future of Sanders’ campaign. In 2016, Sanders won the state, which has 84 pledged delegates up for grabs.

Wisconsin is also a key battleground state. Trump won the state in the general election in 2016, turning it red for the first time in 30 years.

Besides being an important state in both the primary and general, Wisconsin also has much bigger implications for both parties.

“The state stands as a first test case in what both national parties expect to be a protracted fight over changing voter rules to contend with the pandemic — potentially the biggest voting rights battle since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” the Times explains.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (Fox News)

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Why Kanye West Could Face an Election Fraud Investigation

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  • Kanye West could be subject to an election fraud investigation because of issues with petitions he submitted to get on the ballot in three states.
  • In New Jersey and Illinois, West has been accused of collecting hundreds of invalid signatures.
  • West removed himself from the race in New Jersey over the matter, and Illinois’ Election Board is expected to remove him from the ballot because of the nearly 2,000 invalid signatures he sent in.
  • In Wisconsin, the Democratic Party filed a complaint accusing West’s campaign of turning in petitions with fake signatures. It even included testimonies from multiple people who accused his campaign of tricking people into signing his petition.

West Withdraws Election Petition in New Jersey

Since announcing his run for president in July, Kanye West’s campaign has been an uphill climb. Now, the rapper and his team could be facing the possibility of an election fraud investigation.

At the end of last month, West’s campaign filed a petition to appear on the presidential ticket in New Jersey. However, a few days after that paperwork was sent in, a lawyer found that over 700 of the 1,327 signatures West collected had multiple issues. Those issues included having no last names listed, including people who were not registered to vote in New Jersey, and including people who did not even live in the state at all.

Last Monday, just hours before a scheduled hearing to determine the validity of his petition, West’s team withdrew the application. 

“At this time, Kanye 2020 has no further option than to regrettably withdraw from New Jersey and cease further efforts to place Mr. West’s name on the New Jersey ballot,” his campaign wrote in an email to the judge overseeing the matter.

Issues in Illinois

On Friday, an election board in Illinois ruled that 60%— or nearly 2,000 of the 3,218 signatures West collected— were invalid. The decision was handed down after it was reported that three different whistleblowers asked the state to take a closer look at the end of last month.

If the findings of the board hold up, West will fall 1,300 signatures short of the 2,500 he needs to be able to appear on the ballot in his home state. However, the board’s ruling is just preliminary, and their findings still have to go to a hearing examiner, who will make a recommendation as to whether or not West should stay on that ballot.

After that, the Illinois State Board of Elections will vote on the recommendation, which they are expected to do late next week. 

According to reports, the election board’s preliminary decisions historically have had a lot of weight on the hearing examiner’s recommendation. Ed Mullen, one of the lawyers who challenged West’s petition, said the determination means that West “is virtually certain to be kicked off the ballot.”

Both this ruling in Illinois and the New Jersey incident have prompted experts to speculate that West and his campaign could be subject to an election fraud investigation.

“Two states declaring #KanyeWest inelligible to be on #POTUS ballot due to faulty signatures could open him up to an #ElectionFraud investigation,” political analyst April Ryan said in a tweet. “I would imagine other states where reported GOP operatives assisted him to get on the ballot will soon be reviewing. #Election2020”

Complaints in Wisconsin 

However, hat’s not where this story ends. The same day that the state board in Illinois announced the results of their review, the Wisconsin state Democratic Party filed a complaint asking state officials to keep West off the ballot.

In their complaint, they allege that West’s campaign was late in submitting their paperwork and that there were numerous issues with those filings, including problems with signatures he collected.

According to reports, the complaint claims that the papers he filed included incorrect addresses for the people who circulated it, and that the petitions contained bogus signatures like “Mickey Mouse,” “Bernie Sanders,” and even two for “Kanye West.”

Very notably, the complaint also included affidavits from six people who say they were tricked into signing West’s petition. One of those affidavits was from a woman who said she unknowingly signed his papers outside a Walmart when one of West’s circulators told her signature was needed to ensure she was registered to vote in the general election.

“If I had known that, I wouldn’t have signed the papers, absolutely not,” she said in her affidavit. “Kanye West would not get my vote and I think it is a joke that he is running for president.”

Duping people into signing a petition is a serious allegation. “If the affidavits are true … crimes were committed by the West campaign,” the lawyer who collected those affidavits for the Democratic Party told reporters.

In this case, it appears that West’s team is pushing back. On Monday, his campaign filed a counter-complaint, where they alleged that the state Democratic Party filed their complaint because they “fear the candidacy of Kanye West and seek to silence him.”

The complaint also accused the Party engaged in an “organized effort of harassment and intimidation” against his candidacy and claimed they hired a private investigator to “track and spy” on his signature gatherers.

Now, the complaints will be reviewed by an Elections Commission panel is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, who will then make a recommendation regarding West’s filings and if he should be on the ballot.

While these incidents may open West up to legal issues, it is already mathematically impossible for him to win. So far, West has only filed petitions to appear on the presidential ticket in 10 states.

While he was able to get on the ballot in Oklahoma, he also withdrew his filings to appear on the ticket in New Jersey. Now, regardless of if he makes it on the ballot in Illinois or Wisconsin, he already will be on enough ballots to yield get 270 electoral votes.

See what others are saying: (Vanity Fair) (Mic) (Milwaulkee Journal Sentinel)

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Facebook and Twitter Remove Video of Trump Falsely Claiming Children are “Almost Immune” to COVID-19

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  • Twitter and Facebook have both removed a video of President Trump where he said children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus for violating their rules about spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
  • The video was posted to Trump’s personal page on Facebook, and it marks the first time the company has removed a post by Trump because it shared misinformation about the coronavirus.
  • On Twitter, the video was shared by Trump’s campaign, though he tweeted a link to that post on his personal account. Twitter temporarily froze the campaign account until it deleted the tweet.
  • Trump and his campaign responded by doubling down on the claims, and arguing the move amounted to censorship.

Trump Makes False Claim About COVID-19 Immunity 

Twitter and Facebook both took down a video of President Donald Trump Wednesday where he argued that schools should be reopened by falsely claiming that children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus.

The video in question came from a clip of remarks the president made during an interview on Fox and Friends earlier in the day.

“My view is the schools should open,” he said. “This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away.”

“If you look at children, children are almost— and I would almost say definitely— but almost immune from this disease,” he continued. “I don’t know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this.” 

“They just don’t have a problem.” 

Children are not immune to the coronavirus. While studies have shown that children are at less of a risk than adults, experts have said the word “immunity” is not correct in this context.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 240,000 children in the U.S. have been documented as testing positive for the coronavirus.

Additionally, around 300 children have also contracted a rare inflammatory disease as a result of COVID-19 called a multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which has killed six children.

Facebook and Twitter Remove Post

Shortly after his interview on Fox and Friends, Trump shared a clip of his comments on his Facebook account. About four hours after the video was shared, Facebook took it down.

“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

A Facebook representative later confirmed that it is the first post by Trump the platform removed because it contained coronavirus misinformation.

The decision represents a significant change for Facebook, which has long been criticized for its hands-off approach when it comes to certain content shared by Trump.

Recently, the platform has ramped up its efforts in this area. Back in June, Facebook removed another post from Trump that showed a CNN video of a Black toddler running away from a white toddler with the fake headline: “Terrified Toddler Runs From Racist Baby.” 

While some said that the clip was considered manipulated media, a spokesperson the video was taken down because of a copyright complaint.

Later that month, Facebook removed both posts and ads Trump’s campaign shared that showed an inverted red triangle— a symbol that was used by Nazis to mark political rivals. The company said the posts violated its rules against organized hate.

Twitter, for its part, has taken a more aggressive approach. In recent weeks, it has flagged multiple tweets posted by Trump as misinformation. Last month, the platform even blocked Donald Trump Jr. from tweeting for 12 hours after he broke their rules on sharing coronavirus misinformation.

On Twitter, Trump’s campaign account also posted the same video clip from the interview, and shortly after Facebook removed Trump’s post, a Twitter spokesperson told the media that the tweet “is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.”

Notably, Trump also shared a link to that tweet on his personal account, and as a result, that statement led to some confusion as to which account was frozen, which lead some outlets like The Washington Post and Mashable to report that Trump’s personal account had been blocked from tweeting.

In a later statement to Mashable, a Twitter spokesperson clarified that only the Trump campaign account had been temporarily banned, and when asked if Twitter would have blocked Trump’s personal account had he shared the video, the spokesperson declined to answer.

Both the original post and Trump’s personal tweet sharing the link to that post have been deleted, and Trump’s campaign account resumed tweeting Wednesday night after it took down the tweet as requested.

Trump & Team Respond

In a statement Wednesday, a Trump campaign spokesperson defended the post and tried to downplay the false claims.

“The President was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus,” the spokesperson said. “Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this President, where the rules are only enforced in one direction. Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”

Trump himself also doubled down on his claims about children and COVID-19 immunity during a press conference later on Wednesday.

I’m talking about from getting very sick. If you look at children, I mean, they’re able to throw it off very easily,” he said. “But for whatever reason, the China virus, children handle it very well. And they may get it, but they get it and it doesn’t have much of an impact on them.”

“If you look at the numbers, the numbers in terms of mortality fatality, the numbers for children under a certain age, meaning young,” he added. “Their immune systems are very, very strong. They’re very powerful. They seem to be able to handle it very well, and that’s according to every statistic.” 

During an interview on Fox News Thursday morning, Trump also said the actions of Twitter and Facebook amounted to censorship.

“They’re doing anybody, on the right, anybody, any Republican, any conservative Republican is censored and look at the horrible things they say on the left,” he said.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Business Insider)

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Trump Encourages Florida Mail-In Voting But Sues in Nevada

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  • President Trump claimed Tuesday that voting by mail in Florida is safe and encouraged Floridians to do so, a significant reversal from his numerous false claims about the security of voting by mail.
  • However, that same day, his campaign sued leaders in Nevada over a mail-in voting expansion law.
  • Critics pointed out that it is not the first time Trump has gone after Democrat-led states for expanding mail-in voting when Republican-led states have done the same. Others claimed that Trump only praised Florida because he voted by mail in the state during the March primary.
  • Experts have said that there is no difference between mail-in voting safety in states led by Democrats or Republicans, and while Florida does have strong safeguards, many other states have the same protections.

Trump Encourages Florida Mail-In Voting

After months of falsely claiming that mail-in voting will result in fraud, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that voting by mail is safe in Florida— where he voted by mail in the March primary— and encouraged Floridians to do the same.

“Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,” the president tweeted. “Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail! #MAGA” 

However, that same day, Trump’s campaign sued Nevada for expanding its mail-in ballot rules.

When asked by reporters later in the day why he believed voting by mail was safe in Florida but not other states, Trump said that the system is better because it was set up by Republican governors.

“So Florida has got a great Republican governor, and it had a great Republican governor. Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott, two great governors. And over a long period of time, they’ve been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. Florida is different from other states,” he said.

However, experts have pointed out that there is no evidence that Republicans run better mail-in ballot systems than Democrats. While it is true that Florida does have particularly strong safeguards for mail-in voting, so do plenty of other states with Democratic governors.

In fact, of the five states that held statewide vote-by-mail elections before the pandemic, four are lead by Democratic governors and only one is lead by a Republican.

While Trump telling people to vote by mail after numerous attempts to undermine the system represents a significant reversal, the move is not surprising. In recent weeks, Trump has specifically and repeatedly gone after states led by Democrats for expanding vote-by-mail rules during the pandemic even as states led by Republicans have done the same.

On Monday, Trump called a new Nevada law that sends ever registered voter a mail-in ballot “an illegal late-night coup” that would make it “impossible for Republicans to win the state.”

Hours after Trump made his erroneous remarks about Florida, it was reported that his campaign was suing Nevada leaders over the new law. According to reports, the lawsuit said the new rule will make “voter fraud and other ineligible voting inevitable.”

Among other things, the suit claims that the legislation is unconstitutional because it will allow ballots that do not have clear postmark dates to be accepted up to three days after the general election, which it says “effectively extends the congressionally established Election Day.”

Mail-In Voting & Michigan

For months, Trump has been accused of doing everything in his power to undermine the nationwide expansion of vote by mail systems. 

In addition to consistently spreading misinformation about mail-in voting, critics have also alleged that Trump has been gutting the U.S. Postal Service to intentionally slow down mail delivery— a move that could drastically sway the results of the election, and has particularly alarming implications for results in key swing states.

Every battleground state, with the exception of North Carolina, has laws that prevent mail-in ballots from being counted if they arrive after Election Day. A slow postal service could result in tens if not hundreds of thousands of ballots being invalidated.

For states like Michigan, where Trump won by just over 10,000 votes in 2016, that could prove pivotal. Even before the postal delays, 4,683 ballots were rejected during the state’s March presidential primary election because they arrived late.

With the new delays, election officials worry those numbers will be even higher, and it is possible they are already seeing the effects. On Tuesday, Michigan voters cast ballots in the state’s congressional and local primary races—which are held months after the presidential primary.  

In that election, officials reported that a record number of people voted absentee, with voters returning more than 1.6 million ballots. Notably, that is still almost half a million short of the over two million people that had requested absentee ballots. 

According to reports, it is unclear if that is due to people just not filling out the ballots, or if it was caused by the mail delays. While speaking to reporters Tuesday, Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she expects that even more ballots will be thrown out later this week when officials receive late ballots from the Postal Service.

Regardless, the surge in absentee voting has already lead to delayed results. To prepare for the general election, Benson says that legislation at both the state and federal level needs to be passed. The Michigan State Legislature, she argued, must pass a law allowing clerks to count absentee ballots before Election Day and allowing ballots postmarked on election day to be counted.

As for the federal government, Benson said it needs to fully fund the USPS again and provide money for things like high-speed tabulators for absentee ballots.

“In November, we’ll have potentially three million ballots sent through the mail,” she added. “And we’ve essentially reached the limits of our system.”

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

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