Connect with us

Politics

Georgia Primaries Become a Voting Nightmare

Published

on

  • Voters in Georgia experienced long lines and wait times of several hours in the state’s primary elections on Tuesday.
  • While problems were reported all over the state, the majority of the issues were in predominantly black communities in Atlanta.
  • Most of the complications stemmed from poll workers being unable to operate new voting machines that the state’s Republican leadership rolled out, despite warnings from election security experts.
  • Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger blamed local officials for the failures and said he took no responsibility. 
  • Election officials, however, said Raffensperger was directly to blame and accused the state’s leadership of intentionally engaging in voter suppression.

Georgia’s Disastrous Primary

Long lines, hours-long waits, and poll workers struggling to operate voting machines— those were the scenes that voters all over Georgia were met with as they went to cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary elections.

While problems were reported across the state, the vast majority of issues were centralized in Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs, specifically in predominantly black communities.

Reports of long lines first emerged even before polls opened and continued throughout the day.

Part of the reason for the lengthy wait-times can be chalked up to coronavirus precautions. Leading up to the election, more than 80 polling places were closed and consolidated in the Atlanta metro area. New rules for social distancing also limited the number of voting machines and voters in a polling place at one time.

But the long lines were also made worse by the fact that many people who requested absentee ballots said they never received them. As a result, numerous people waiting to vote told reporters that they were there because their mail-in ballots never came.

The biggest problems, however, came from the new voting machine system, which was put in place after a federal judge last year ordered the state to replace outdated voting machines that did not provide paper records.

Instead of just printing a ton of good old fashion paper ballots, as urged by most election experts and advocacy groups, state officials decided to spend over $100 million on a touch-screen system that produces a paper record after the virtual ballot is filled out.

Numerous election security experts warned that there was not anywhere near enough time to switch the systems before the 2020 primaries and properly train people, especially as the coronavirus pandemic had scared away many of the usual, generally elderly poll workers.

Even before the pandemic, the ACLU of Georgia had warned in January that the state at-large was poorly prepared for the elections. Others also said that while the new machines were better than the old ones, they still risked major malfunctions.

Problems With Machines

Nearly all of those warnings came true on Tuesday, as precincts all over the state reported that machines were not working or missing entirely.

In fact, there was no place in the entire state that had a fully functional voting experience, election officials said, though Atlanta, again, was hit the worst.

On top of machines not working, election officials across the city also reported that they had not been delivered on time.

In some places, precincts delayed opening because poll managers were not given the correct access codes to set up the voting machines.

Other delays were caused by the fact that some officials were forced to processing paper ballots by hand.

After it was reported that several majority-black polling locations had zero working machines, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms took to Twitter to encourage people to stay in line.

“If you are in line, PLEASE do not allow your vote to be suppressed,” she wrote. “PLEASE stay in line. They should offer you a provisional ballot if the machines are not working.”

But there were not enough provisional ballots either. According to multiple observers, polling precincts ran out of both provisional and emergency ballots in the first hour of voting.

One poll manager told Georgia Public Broadcasting that his precinct only had 20 provisional ballots and that he had to wait nearly four hours before the county’s technical support got the voting machines online.

Officials Point Fingers

Despite the fact that election experts had essentially predicted exactly what would happen, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger responded Tuesday by blaming local officials.

“We do have reports of equipment being delivered to the wrong locations and delivered late, we have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment,” his office said in a statement.

“While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training, and failures of leadership.”

Raffensperger also announced in another statement that his office would be opening an investigation.

In a separate interview later on Tuesday, Raffensperger himself said that none of what happened was his fault and that he did not accept any responsibility.

“The counties run their elections,” he said. “The problems in Fulton County are the problems with their management team, not with me.” 

That was echoed by Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs, who also claimed Raffensperger was not to blame.

“There is nothing the secretary of state could have done to prevent this,” she said. “This is the singular failure of poor planning at the local level.”

But many pointed out that the lack of training was a failure on the part of Raffensperger. According to Democratic State Rep. David Dreyer, a training session for poll workers held Monday consisted only of a one-hour training video provided by the secretary of state explaining how to use the voting machines

“You needed an I.T. professional to figure it out,” Dreyer said of the training.

Many other local officials, statewide Democrats, and activists also placed the blame squarely on Raffensperger, arguing that he was responsible and that it was his fault for rushing to use the new machines and not providing proper training and resources.

“It is the secretary of state’s responsibility to train, prepare and equip election staff throughout the state to ensure fair and equal access to the ballot box,” said Michael Thurmond, the chief executive of DeKalb County where many of the issues took place. 

“Those Georgians who have been disenfranchised by the statewide chaos that has affected the voting system today in numerous DeKalb precincts and throughout the state of Georgia deserve answers,” he continued, also calling for Raffensperger to be investigated.

Others went after Raffensperger’s assertion that he had no responsibility, pointing out that, in fact, there were many things he could have done to prevent the voting problems.

“It is a disaster that was preventable,” 2018 Georgia gubernatorial Stacey Abrams said in an interview Tuesday. “It is emblematic of the deep systemic issues we have here in Georgia.”

“One of the reasons we are so insistent upon better operations is that you can have good laws, but if you have incompetent management and malfeasance, voters get hurt, and that’s what we see happening in Georgia today.”

Concerns About Voter Suppression

Beyond the political finger-pointing, the voting catastrophe in Atlanta specifically also fueled accusations that Raffensperger and the other Republican leaders in the state were intentionally engaging in voter suppression.

Those allegations were also bolstered by the fact that so many of the problems were in largely black neighborhoods, despite several reports of voting going smoothly in the white suburbs of Atlanta, a fact that basketball star LeBron James drew attention to on Twitter.

“Everyone talking about ‘how do we fix this?’ They say ‘go out and vote?’ What about asking if how we vote is also structurally racist?” he wrote.

While discussions of systemic racism in the voting system have become more and more prevalent, the issue is especially pertinent in Georgia, where racially motivated voter suppression is not a new issue.

Black citizens and activists have long accused the white Republican leadership, which for years has controlled both the state and elections, of engaging in racist voter suppression.

Those concerns were magnified on a national scale during the 2018 midterms when Abrams lost the race for governor to then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp by just 50,000 votes. 

The win came after Kemp, who refused to recuse himself from overseeing the election he was participating, enacted tough new voter ID laws and conducted massive voter roll purges— both of which disproportionately impacted black Georgians.

Politicians, activists, and advocacy groups all over the country cried afoul and accused Kemp of voter suppression, including Abrams, who said she lost the election because of the voter suppression. Kemp denied the accusations.

Implications for November

In addition to dredging up past allegations, the latest incident in Georiga has also prompted fresh concerns for the general election come November.

For the first time in a generation, Georgia is expected to be a battleground race. The state is home to two very competitive Senate elections, and with the presidential race gearing up to be very bitter and hotly contested, the explosive combination of razor-thin margins, allegations of voter suppression, and issues with voting machines could spell disaster.

“The fiasco is also the starkest warning yet for election officials across the country they must increase their efforts to avoid a similar disaster in November that could throw the results of a hotly contested presidential contest into chaos,” Joseph Marks wrote in the Washington Post.

That sentiment was also reiterated by a spokesperson for the campaign of Joe Biden, presumptive Democratic nominee.

“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “What we see in Georgia today, from significant issues with voting machines to breakdowns in the delivery of ballots to voters who requested to vote absentee, are a threat to those values, and are completely unacceptable.”

However, the campaign of President Donald Trump, who has recently pushed a number of false claims about mail-in voting, had a very different assessment of the situation.

“The chaos in Georgia is a direct result of the reduction in the number of in-person polling places and over reliance on mail-in voting,” a senior political adviser said in a statement. “We have a duty to protect the constitutional rights of all of our citizens to vote in person and to have their votes counted.”

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

Politics

Supreme Court Allows Release of Jan. 6 Documents in Major Loss for Trump

Published

on

The high court’s decision initiates the release of White House documents that the former president had attempted to block the Jan. 6 investigation committee from viewing.


SCOTUS Ruling

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s efforts to block the White House from handing over records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump filed a lawsuit against the panel and the National Archives to prevent the committee from seeing key documents, testimonies, and other evidence lawmakers had requested.

In the suit, he argued that the records were protected by executive privilege, which he said still applied to him even though he’s not president anymore, and despite the fact that President Joe Biden decided not to exercise his executive privilege over the documents.

Trump also claimed that the information has “no reasonable connection to the events of that day” or “any conceivable legislative purpose.”

In an 8-1 decision with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, the Supreme Court rejected the effort to block the records from the committee until the issue is resolved by the courts — a process that could take months if not years.

In their ruling, the justices wrote that there are “serious and substantial concerns” regarding whether a former president can obtain a court order to prevent the disclosure of records, especially when the incumbent president waived their right to exercise executive privilege over said documents.

However, they still agreed with the determination by an appeals court that Trump’s claim of privilege over the documents would fail “even if he were the incumbent.”

Records Handed Over to Committee

According to reports, within just hours of the ruling, the National Archives began sending the roughly 800 pages of documents to the Jan. 6 committee.

The documents have not been made public, and it remains unclear if and when they will be.

What is known is the nature of the content that the committee has requested, including records detailing all of Trump’s movements and meetings on Jan. 6. 

Notably, the lawmakers also requested information about plans by the administration to undermine Congress’s confirmation of the electoral college vote and Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the results of the elections.

Also unknown is what the panel will do with the documents if it finds damning evidence. While the committee’s powers are limited in scope, it could make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which has its own ongoing probe into the insurrection and the events that preceded it.

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

Continue Reading

Politics

NY Attorney General Says Investigation of Trump Business Found “Significant Evidence” of Fraud

Published

on

The state attorney general’s office accused the former president and his family business of falsely inflating the value of assets and personal worth to lenders, the IRS, and insurance brokers.


New York Attorney General’s Filing

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced late Tuesday she had “significant evidence” that former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization “falsely and fraudulently” misrepresented the value of assets “to financial institutions for economic benefit.”

The allegations mark the first time James has made specific accusations against Trump and his business. They come as part of a nearly 160-page filing asking a judge to order the former president — along with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. — to comply with subpoenas for the investigation after the family sued James to block her from questioning them.

The filing claims that Trump and the company inflated the value of six properties, including several golf courses and Trump’s own penthouse in Trump Tower, on financial statements to obtain favorable loans, tax deductions, and insurance coverage. 

The document adds that many of the financial statements were “generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”

James outlined several specific examples, such as a financial statement where the value of Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Westchester was boosted because it listed seven mansions on the property worth $61 million that did not actually exist.

That resulted in Trump receiving millions of dollars in tax deductions on that property, as well as another in Los Angeles.

In another notable instance, the attorney general’s office said that the $327 million value of Trump’s penthouse in Trump Tower was calculated off a financial statement that falsely reported his home was nearly triple its actual size.

While the statement claimed the apartment was 30,000 square feet, Trump had signed documents stating it was actually 10,996 square feet.

Alleged Direct Involvement

The allegation regarding the apartment is especially significant because it directly ties Trump himself to the accusations of financial wrongdoing. It is also not the only instance where Trump was implicated.

The filing additionally asserts that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg — who was indicted last summer on multiple criminal charges relating to the business’ tax dealings — implied the former president was involved in finalizing the false valuations. 

According to the documents, Weisselberg “testified that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump discussed valuations with him and that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump reviewed the Statement of Financial Condition for a particular year before it was finalized.” 

Another top Trump Organization executive also testified that he was under the impression Trump reviewed the statements before they were finalized.

While the filing provides less direct links to Trump’s children, it does detail their involvement. Specifically, it alleges that Ivanka Trump rented an apartment at Trump Park Avenue and was given an option to buy it for $8.5 million, despite the fact that the property was valued at $25 million.

It also connected Donald Trump Jr. to some of the properties flagged by claiming investigators found evidence he “was consulted” on the Statements of Financial Condition.

Response

Citing these connections, James argued in a series of tweets Tuesday that it is necessary for her inquiry to question Trump and his two children on their alleged involvement.

“We are taking legal action to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” she wrote. “No one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them.”

The former president has not yet addressed the matter, but a Trump Organization attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump responded by arguing the subpoenas violate the constitutional rights of the family and that the filing “never addresses the fundamental contentions of our motion to quash or stay the subpoenas.”

In a statement Wednesday, the Trump Organization denied James’ allegations as “baseless” and accused her of trying to “mislead the public yet again.”

As far as what happens next, James’ office has said it “has not yet reached a final decision regarding whether this evidence merits legal action.”

Because James’s investigation is civil, she can sue Trump, his company, and his children, but she cannot file criminal charges. However, her probe is running parallel to a criminal investigation into the same conduct led by the Manhattan district attorney, who does have that power.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)

Continue Reading

Politics

Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win

Published

on

The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.


New Maps Upheld

A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.

Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.

The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.

The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.

In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”

The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”

Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.

Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution. 

The Path Ahead

While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.

There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.

A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected. 

See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)

Continue Reading