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University of Georgia Walks Back on Decision to Get Rid of On-Campus Voting

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  • On Wednesday, UGA Votes, a student-run voting organization at the University of Georgia, announced that in-person early voting would not be allowed on campus because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • This led to frustrations from students and others in the community who felt it was outrageous that in-person classes and fans at school football games would be allowed but voting would not.
  • The school initially responded by saying that football games and voting are different and that it had plans to shuttle students to polling locations, but this only resulted in more outrage.
  • On Thursday morning, UGA fully reversed its decision and said it is working with local officials to use Stegeman Coliseum as an early voting location.

UGA To Allow Early Voting on Campus

After a wave of criticism, the University of Georgia said Thursday that it was walking back on its decision to cut in-person voting on campus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an official statement, the school said is now working with local officials to have in-person voting at its Stegeman Coliseum.

“UGA was pleased this morning to offer Athens-Clarke County and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office the use of Stegeman Coliseum as a site for early voting,” the school said.

“We look forward to working with state and local election officials to facilitate on-campus voting in this indoor venue, which is large enough to support safe social distancing.”

UGA’s Initial Plan

The announcement comes just 24 hours after the school was faulted for saying it could not hold early in-person voting on its campus, which it had done at the Tate Student Center in 2016 and 2018.

When revealing that initial plan, the school cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason behind the move. According to UGA Votes, a student-run voting organization, the school believed social distancing at the location would be impossible. UGA Votes did bring up the possibility of using the Coliseum but were initially told it would not work. 

“UGA Votes is deeply saddened to announce that there will be no on-campus early voting for the 2020 presidential election,” the group said in their statement, still encouraging students to vote despite this obstacle. 

One of the main reasons students and others were frustrated with this choice was because while the school rejected the notion of hosting early voting, which begins on October 12, the school’s Sanford Stadium will allow fans in for UGA football games starting October 3. The stadium will fill seats to 20-25% of its nearly 93,000 person capacity. 

Backlash

Many students, UGA community members, and others took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with the school’s decision. Some suggested that the school use its football stadium as an early voting location. 

The issue also caught the attention of Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and founder of Fair Fight, an organization devoted to fighting voter suppression.

“COVID19 must never be used as an excuse to limit voting access, including on college campuses,” she wrote. “Early voting at @universityofga has increased opportunity for participation among students in the past, and they should be safely given the same access this year.”

UGA’s chapter of Fair Fight also tweeted, “If we can have football, we should have voting, too.” Its account then shared a petition demanding that the school allow voting, which had over 2,300 signatures as of Thursday morning. 

“We strongly urge the University to immediately change course and not be complicit in voter suppression,” the petition reads.

“We find it interesting that the Administration would use student safety as an excuse to limit access to democracy while disregarding student welfare in other regards,” it continued, potentially in reference to the large COVID-19 outbreak the school has seen. 

Cases at the school are actually on the decline as of last week in comparison to the week prior. The school reported 421 cases between September 7-13, down from 1,490 cases between August 21-September 6. While it’s a significant decline for a week, overall, the outbreak at UGA is one of the largest college outbreaks across the country. 

UGA’s Initial Response

As the backlash continued to pour in, the school tweeted out a statement explaining and defending its initial choice to not hold in-person early voting. UGA maintained that with the ongoing pandemic, the long lines would make it unsafe. 

Those comparing this matter to a football game should be able to recognize that football games will be played outdoors but we will still require social distancing by substantially reducing capacity in the stadium,” the statement said to specifically address those mad that football spectating was still on. “We have eliminated tailgating as well due to a desire to keep the campus as safe as possible and limit visitors during the pandemic.”

It also said it would provide a shuttle to send students to other voting locations, like Downtown Athens. However, this response was met with even more outrage as some thought that if social distancing to wait in line would be impossible, then social distancing in a shuttle would be even harder. Others said that the shuttle would just make lines at other polling places even longer. 

Many also said that this was an attempt to suppress young voters. 

Before the school released it’s Thursday statement fully reversing course, it tweeted later on Wednesday that it would look into the potential of using the Coliseum. 

See what others are saying: (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (CNN) (Athens Banner-Herald)

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SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Police in Two Qualified Immunity Cases

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The move further solidifies the contentious legal doctrine that protects officers who commit alleged constitutional violations.


SCOTUS Hears Qualified Immunity Cases 

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of police in two separate cases involving qualified immunity, the controversial legal doctrine that shields officers accused of violating constitutional rights from lawsuits.

The topic has become a major flashpoint in debates over police reform and curbing police violence since the protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the summer of 2020.

On one side, supporters of qualified immunity claim it is necessary to ensure that police can do their jobs without worrying about frivolous lawsuits. 

However, opponents argue that judicial interpretations of the doctrine over time have given police incredibly broad legal immunity for misconduct and use of excessive force. Under a previous Supreme Court ruling, in order for officers to be held liable, plaintiffs have to show that they violated rights “clearly established” by a previous ruling.

In other words, officers cannot be held liable unless there is another case that involves almost identical circumstances.

As a result, many argue the doctrine creates a Catch-22: Officers are shielded from liability because there is no past precedent, but the reason there is no past precedent is because officers are shielded from liability in the first place.

An Ongoing Debate

Critics argue that the two cases the Supreme Court saw Monday illustrate that double bind, as both involved accusations of excessive force commonly levied against police.

In one case, officers used non-lethal bean bag rounds against a suspect and knelt on his back to subdue him. In the other, police shot and killed a suspect after he threatened them with a hammer.

The justices overturned both lower-court rulings without ordering full briefing and argument because of the lack of precedent. The court issued the decisions in unsigned orders with no dissent, signaling they did not even see the cases as close calls. 

Advocates for qualified immunity claim the decisions signal that the current Supreme Court is not open to changing qualified immunity, and the most likely path for opponents of the doctrine is legislation.

While Democrats in Congress have made numerous efforts to limit qualified immunity, including most recently in the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act passed by the House earlier this year, all those attempts have been blocked by Republicans.

At the state level, dozens of bills have been killed after heavy lobbying from police unions. As a result, it remains unclear what path proponents for reform have at this juncture.

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

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Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days

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The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.


Centner Academy Vaccination Policy

A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.

According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.

“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.

“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.

According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”

In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.

Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.

Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation

In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”

“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.

The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.

In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.

According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.

The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.

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

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Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem

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Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.


Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg

In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism. 

Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”

According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.

Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice

“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.

According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject. 

Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out. 

Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.

See what others are saying: (New York Post) (The Daily Mail) (Insider)

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