Obamas Back Vote-By-Mail Expansions While Trump Makes False Claims About Voter Fraud
- President Donald Trump has repeatedly hit back against calls to expand vote-by-mail access, saying the process is corrupt with voter fraud and suggesting it favors Democrats.
- However, studies show that there is no widespread voter fraud issue in the U.S. In fact, a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice said in the rate of voter fraud in the U.S. was somewhere between 0.00004% to 0.0009%.
- Meanwhile, Barack and Michelle Obama both publically backed expanding vote-by-mail access over the weekend, with the former president criticizing Wisconsin for holding in-person voting and encouraging the public to check the facts behind voting by mail.
Trump Speaks Out Against Expanding Vote-By-Mail
The former president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, have thrust their support behind voting-by-mail during the coronavirus pandemic as the nationwide conversation about fair, safe, and accessible voting grows.
The coronavirus outbreaks have forced some states under stay-at-home orders to postpone primary elections. Because of this, several politicians and celebrities have been ramping up calls for expanded access to voting by mail.
However, President Donald Trump has been a vocal opponent against the move. Instead, he has continued to push for in-person-voting during the pandemic, despite the fact that doing so contradicts social distancing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his own coronavirus task force’s recommendations against gatherings of more than 10.
In fact, the CDC specifically recommends states “encourage mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction” given the coronavirus threat.
At a press briefing last Tuesday, the president said, “Mail ballots — they cheat. OK? People cheat. Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters.”
“The mail ballots are corrupt in my opinion, and they collect them, and they get people to go in and sign them, and then there are forgeries in many cases. It’s a horrible thing.”
The president has continued to use that same rhetoric on social media and has also suggested that the process would be harmful for Republicans.
Last month, he told Fox News that he opposed funding for mail-in voting as part of the stimulus bill because, “They had things, levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Trump on March 30 on why he opposed funding for mail-in voting as part of a coronavirus stimulus bill: “They have things, levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” pic.twitter.com/kpDQX3zxY8— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 8, 2020
Some have viewed Trump’s comments as hypocritical since Trump himself cast an absentee ballot by mail in last month’s Florida Republican primary. He also voted absentee in the 2018 midterms as well. When asked about this contradiction in his messaging, he said it was fine “because I’m allowed to” vote by mail while living outside the state of Florida. At the time, he also said, “I think if you vote, you should go.”
Other prominent members of the Trump administration have also repeatedly voted absentee with mail-in ballots, according to The New York Times, including Vice President Mike Pence.
Debunking Trump’s Voter Fraud Claims
The bigger issue here, as many news outlets have since pointed out, is that Trump’s claims about voter fraud are false. Voting fraud in the U.S. is actually pretty rare.
Several studies have confirmed that there is no widespread voter fraud issue in the country and millions of Americans vote-by-mail every year without problems.
According to the Associated Press, it is true that some election studies have shown a slightly higher incidence of mail-in voting fraud compared with in-person voting, but the overall risk is extremely low. In fact, a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice said in the rate of voter fraud in the U.S. was somewhere between 0.00004% to 0.0009% off all votes.
Ari Berman, a leading expert on voting rights told CNN. “This is a flat-out lie from the President.”
“We have tons of data on the prevalence of voter fraud in this country, and it’s a very small problem, whether you vote in-person or by mail. In Democratic-controlled states like Oregon and Republican-controlled states like Utah, there has been no evidence of significant voter fraud.”
Something important to note is that Trump has peddled theories about voter fraud before. He even set up a commission to investigate the issue, but the panel disbanded in 2018 without ever finding evidence to support his claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, costing him the popular vote.
Critics of Trump’s rhetoric have also pointed out that though instances are rare, one of the most serious and credible allegations of absentee ballot fraud in decades was actually designed to help a Republican.
During the 2018 race for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, a Republican operative was charged with election fraud after rounding up absentee ballots for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris. State election officials refused to certify the results and held a redo election in 2019.
However, experts also use this case as an example that fraud big enough to sway at election outcome will likely be detected.
Despite Trump’s claims, several Republican leaders across the country have been pushing voters to cast ballots by mail given the current health concerns. Among them are the Republican governors or secretaries of state in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Iowa.
Obama’s Back Vote-By-Mail Expansions
The Obamas have stayed mostly on the sidelines during the 2020 election process so far, but now they’ve spoken out in support of expanding vote-by-mail access. On Friday, former President Obama weighed in on the issue while criticizing Wisconson’s decision to hold in-person voting.
“No one should be forced to choose between their right to vote and their right to stay healthy like the debacle in Wisconsin this week,” he tweeted, sharing a New York Times article.
Public health experts have warned that in-person voting during the pandemic puts voters and poll workers at risk. Last week, Wisconsin became a state at the front of the issue when it held its election amid a stay-at-home order issued by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
Evers made a last-minute attempt to postpone the election that was blocked by courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Reports and images on social media later showed voters waiting in long lines at the few open polling locations. By Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it was tracking the potential spread of the coronavirus during the election, but cases that were contracted as a result of in-person voting might not be known for some time.
“Everyone should have the right to vote safely, and we have the power to make that happen. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Obama added in another tweet.
“Let’s not use the tragedy of a pandemic to compromise our democracy. Check the facts of vote by mail,” he continued, sharing a link to a New York Times story about debunking Trump’s claims that the process favors Democrats.
Michelle Obama and her organization, When We All Vote, also announced that they will back legislation aimed at expanding vote-by-mail options, online voter registration, and early voting. She launched the organization in 2018, with co-chairs Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw.
“There is nothing partisan about striving to live up to the promise of our country; making the democracy we all cherish more accessible; and protecting our neighbors, friends and loved ones as they participate in this cornerstone of American life,” she said in a statement.
The issue of voter access brought forth during the pandemic has also inspired change in other states. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northan announced that he signed a series of new measures into law aimed at expanding voter access.
The new legislation will establish Election Day as a holiday and expands early voting to be allowed 45 days before an election without a stated reason. It also removes the requirement that voters show ID before casting a ballot
“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” Northam said in a statement. “No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into law.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The New York Times) (CNN)
White House Endorses Bipartisan Senate Bill That Could Ban TikTok
The measure does not target TikTok specifically but instead would set up a framework to crack down on foreign products and services that present a national security threat.
The RESTRICT Act
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow the federal government to restrict or even outright ban TikTok and other technologies produced by foreign companies.
Under the legislation, dubbed the RESTRICT Act, the Commerce Department would have sweeping authority to identify and regulate technologies that pose a risk to national security and are produced by companies in six “foreign adversary” countries: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.
In other words, the proposal would not explicitly ban TikTok, but instead creates a path for future prohibitions on the Chinese-owned platform.
While the bill’s text does not specifically mention TikTok, the group of senators made it clear that the app is their number one target, directing most of their criticism to the platform in statements announcing the measure.
The legislation, however, would go way beyond TikTik: it is also designed to prepare for future situations where apps or technologies from an “adversary” country become popular in the U.S.
The bill’s Democratic sponsor, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Ma.), echoed that point in his remarks Tuesday.
“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S.,” he said. “Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices.”
“We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”
Proponents of the bill also hope that, given the broad scope of the legislation, it will gain more traction than past proposals that zeroed in on TikTok. Support for the measure was further bolstered when the White House announced it would back the move shortly after it was rolled out.
“This bill presents a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “We look forward to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the President’s desk.”
A Bumpy Road Ahead
Despite the bipartisan push, there are still some hurdles for the RESTRICT Act to overcome.
Although the legislation does not directly ban TikTok, because that is clearly its intent, the same issues with an outright prohibition still stand. One of the most serious concerns is that banning TikTok would violate the First Amendment.
There is past precedent on this front: in 2020, a federal magistrate judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple and Google to take the Chinese-owned app WeChat off their app stores.
In that decision, the judge argued that the government only had “modest” evidence about the app’s risks and that removing it from app stores would “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security.”
TikTok has emulated that argument. In a statement responding to the RESTRICT Act Tuesday, a spokesperson for the company said the legislation could “have the effect of censoring millions of Americans.”
Meanwhile, even if the act does pass, there is also the question of whether the Biden administration would decide on a full-scale ban.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would be the one responsible for overseeing the process under the bill, and while she said she said in a statement that she “welcomed” the proposal and promised to work with Congress to pass it, she has also previously expressed hesitation for a full prohibition.
On the other end of the equation, there are concerns that this measure will not ultimately get enough bipartisan support from Republicans who do want an outright ban and will refuse to accept anything that falls short of that.
While speaking with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said the new plan did not go far enough and argued that Congress “should pass a bill that bans TikTok.”
Even if the legislation does get enough support in the Senate, its path is unclear in the GOP-held House, where it also does not yet have a companion bill. Republicans in the House recently introduced a measure that would give the president the power to unilaterally ban TikTok in the U.S.
That proposal, however, is not bipartisan like the RESTRICT Act, which will be a key test to see if legislators can find a middle ground on the matter.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (NBC News)
What You Need to Know About Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Race — The Most Important Election in 2023
Gerrymandering, abortion, the 2024 presidential election, and much more are on the line.
An election to fill an empty seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that has been described as the most consequential race of 2023 has now been narrowed to two candidates after the primary Tuesday.
Liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz easily took first place, winning 46.4% of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. In second place with 24.2% was conservative Daniel Kelly, a former Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice who was appointed by the state’s then-Republican governor in 2016 but lost his re-election in 2020.
Notably, the wide discrepancy in votes can be explained by the fact that Kelly split Republican ballots with another conservative candidate who came in a close third with 21.9%. As such, the general election is expected to be tight.
Also of note, this race is technically supposed to be non-partisan, but Protasiewicz has closely aligned herself with Democrats and Kelly has done the same with Republicans. Both parties, as well as dark money groups, have poured millions of dollars into the high-stakes election that will determine whether liberals or conservatives will have a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court at an incredibly consequential time.
There are a number of paramount issues at play here that have widespread implications not just for Wisconsin but America at-large.
Gerrymandering and Elections
Wisconsin is one of the most important swing states in the country: it helped decide the outcomes of both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and it is the center of debates on gerrymandering and free and fair elections that have played a role in those races.
The state Supreme Court, which has had a conservative majority for the last 14 years, has been instrumental in shaping those policies, having weighed in on many of the most crucial topics and almost always siding with Republicans.
For example, in what VICE described as “arguably the most important decision the court made in recent years,” the court ruled 4-3 last year to uphold one of America’s most gerrymandered maps that gave Republicans a massive advantage.
“The maps are so gerrymandered that Republicans hold six of Wisconsin’s eight House seats and nearly two-thirds of legislative seats in the state—even though Democrats won most statewide races last year,” the outlet reported.
That ruling created something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the conservative majority court has decided so many critical topics because the state government is deadlocked with a Republican majority in the legislature and a Democratic governor.
So, by approving a map that massively favored Republicans, the conservative court kept that system in place, ensuring that they would continue to have the final say on so many of these essential areas.
However, if Protasiewicz wins the general election, the court is all but certain to revisit the gerrymandered map. Protasiewicz, for her part, explicitly stated in a recent interview that a liberal majority could establish new election maps. Kelly, meanwhile, has said he has no interest in revisiting the maps.
A decision unfavorable to the GOP-drawn maps would have significant implications for the internal politics of Wisconsin and control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans currently hold a very slim five-seat majority.
To that point, the Wisconsin Supreme Court also plays a big role in how the state’s elections are administered and how its ten Electoral College votes will be doled out in the 2024 presidential election.
Last year, the conservative court banned absentee ballot drop boxes, and in 2014, it upheld a GOP voter ID law that studies have shown suppressed Black voters. While the court did vote against considering former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to try and overturn the 2020 election in Wisconsin, it only did so by a thin margin of 4-3.
The court will very likely be tasked with wading into elections-related cases in the coming years. Already, it is anticipated that the justice will hear a lawsuit by a conservative group aiming to further limit voting access by banning mobile and alternate voting facilities.
Abortion and Other Important Statewide Subjects
In addition to the ramifications for America broadly, there are also plenty of paramount issues concerning the state Supreme Court that will materially impact the people of Wisconsin.
Much of the race has been centered heavily on the topic of abortion and reproductive rights because the composition of the court will almost positively determine whether or not abortion will be legal for the state’s six million residents.
Following the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade, an 1849 Wisconsin law banning abortion went back into effect. Currently, a lawsuit against the ban is winding its way through the court system, and it is all but assured that battle will eventually go before Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
Experts and analysts say that if Kelly wins, it is essentially guaranteed that abortion will remain illegal in almost all cases. Protasiewicz, by contrast, has campaigned extensively on abortion rights and vocally supported the right to choose.
Beyond that, there are also several other major issues the court will likely rule on in the coming years. For example, Protasiewicz has also said she believes a liberal majority could reverse a 12-year-old law that basically eliminated collective bargaining for public workers. All of that is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Everything is at stake, and I mean everything: Women’s reproductive rights, the maps, drop boxes, safe communities, clean water,” Protasiewicz told VICE. “Everything is on the line.”
See what others are saying: (VICE) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)
Republicans Want to Cut Food Stamps — Even As Pandemic-Era Programs Wind Down
Experts say cuts to food stamps could have a devastating impact on the 41 million Americans who rely on the program.
GOP Weighs SNAP Cuts in Budget
In recent weeks, top Republican lawmakers have floated several different ideas for cutting food stamp benefits.
Earlier this month, Republicans now leading the House Budget Committee flagged food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP — as one of the ten areas they would support cuts to in their new budget proposal.
In a memo, the panel argued that stricter work requirements would “save tens of billions,” while a more rigid verification process for applicants would limit waste, fraud, and abuse. The idea comes as part of a broader effort to reduce the federal deficit.
Experts, however, say the proposed changes could result in debilitating cuts for the 41 million Americans who rely on food stamps and exacerbate an ongoing hunger crisis at a time when inflation has sent food prices rising.
SNAP provides low-income households with an average of around $230 a month for groceries. For many of those families who are also the most impacted by inflationary price increases across the board, that money is absolutely essential.
Experts have also noted that any additional cuts to SNAP would be especially harmful because Republicans are still proposing new cuts despite the fact that Congress already agreed just two months ago to end a pandemic-era program that had increased benefits in some states.
Under the pandemic policies, SNAP was expanded so households could receive maximum benefits instead of benefits based on income testing while also giving bigger payouts to the lowest-income Americans.
That expansion is now set to expire in March, and according to the anti-hunger advocacy group the Food Research and Action Center, an estimated 16 million households will see their per-person benefits drop by around $82 a month.
The Farm Bill Debate
Even if Republicans do not end up cutting SNAP in the budget, the program may still be in hot water.
While raising the debt limit is at the forefront of ongoing partisan battles at the moment, there is already a fight shaping up over another essential piece of legislation: the farm bill.
The farm bill is a package that has to be updated and reauthorized every couple of years. One of the most important legislative tasks Congress is responsible for, the farm bill includes many important subsidies and programs that are imperative to America’s food systems, farms, and much more.
SNAP is among the nutrition-based programs that fall under the purview of the farm bill, and Republicans have already tossed around the idea of cutting food stamp benefits in their ongoing negotiations.
Those debates are quite forward-looking, though it is normal for such discussions to occur early during a year in which Congress is charged with passing the farm bill. Lawmakers have until Oct. 1 to either enact a new version or agree on some kind of extension.