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CA GOP Sets Up Unofficial Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes, Secretary of State Calls It Illegal.

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  • The California GOP has installed multiple, unofficial ballot drop-off boxes in Southern California, but Secretary of State Alex Padilla says those boxes are illegal and could result in felonies. 
  • Padilla has also argued the existence of such boxes could lead to confusion for absentee voters. 
  • The GOP, citing a 2016 law allowing third parties to collect and deliver ballots, argued that the boxes are legal. The GOP has repeatedly condemned this law before now. 
  • Padilla has said the 2016 law referenced by the GOP requires voters to designate a specific person to collect their ballot, something a drop box cannot do.

California GOP Sets Unofficial Drop Boxes

Republicans in California have illegally set up multiple, unofficial absentee ballot drop boxes in at least three counties, according to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Despite those drop boxes not being official locations established by local election offices, the GOP has listed them as such, reportedly setting them up outside of churches, gyms, gun stores, and gas stations.

Source: Since-deleted tweet acquired by The Washington Post

On Sunday, Padilla said these drop boxes — which have been found in Los Angeles, Orange, and Fresno Counties — mislead voters and violate state law.

“My office is coordinating with local officials to address the multiple reports of unauthorized ballot drop boxes,” he told the Orange County Register. “Californians should only use official ballot drop boxes that have been deployed and secured by their county elections office.”

According to Padilla, it’s even possible that these drop boxes could result in felony charges, with his office noting that criminal charges for erecting or advertising unofficial ballot boxes could result in a two to four-year prison sentence.

GOP Defends Putting Up Ballot Boxes

The California GOP has defended setting up the drop boxes. It has argued that it is operating under a law that allows third parties to collect and deliver ballots to election officials.

For example, in California, the law allows volunteers and campaign workers to go directly to the homes of voters to collect completed ballots. State Democrats have even held “ballot parties” where attendees fill out their ballots before leaving them with volunteers who later return them to election officials.

Because that law was written by state Democrats and later signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2016, the GOP said on Twitter that it was “not sure why people are all of a sudden surprised.”

“If a congregation/business or other group provides the option to its parishioners/associates/ or colleagues to drop off their ballot in a safe location, with people they trust, rather than handing it over to a stranger who knocks on their door – what is wrong with that?” it added.

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The National Republican Congressional Committee also suggested that Democrats are “only ok with ballot harvesting” when they’re the ones doing it.

Since the introduction of this law, the GOP has criticized it extensively. In May, the GOP sued Governor Gavin Newsom over the practice ahead of a special election.

Democrats have justified the law by saying that it can increase voter turnout for people living with disabilities, as well as for other people who might not be able to make it to the polls.

Still, there is a key difference between how that 2016 law works and how the California GOP is using it. Specifically, Padilla said these drop boxes are illegal because that law requires a voter to designate a person to return their ballot; however, no one is present at these drop boxes.

On top of that, Padilla said the unofficial drop boxes don’t meet security requirements.

Now, Padilla’s office has said that it will be sending updated guidance to both Democrats and Republicans, warning them that they could face criminal charges if they use unsanctioned drop boxes. 

If you’re a California voter, you can go to the secretary of state’s website to find official drop-off locations.

Confusion in Other States Over Absentee Voting Rules

COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented change to the American voter system. In return, that has brought with it confusion over how voters in each state are allowed to cast ballots. 

In North Carolina, at least 6,800 ballots are in limbo because of errors voters made while filling out those ballots. Notably, almost half are from people of color.

While the state’s Board of Elections said last month that it would allow voters to fix those errors, a federal judge halted the plan on Oct. 3, arguing that it changed the rules too close to Election Day.

North Carolina is a key swing state where both President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden are running a tight race. In fact, in 2008, Barack Obama only won it by 14,000 votes. 

In Pennsylvania, a federal judge has now denied the Trump campaign and the Republican Party’s attempts to make drop boxes in Pennsylvania unconstitutional.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation at the beginning of the month that blocked Texas counties from setting up more than one absentee ballot drop box location during the early election period.

That order was overturned on Friday by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, who called the order “perplexing” since it didn’t affect counties’ abilities to set up multiple drop-off locations on Election Day and since multiple drop-off locations had already been set up. 

Pitman also argued that Abbott’s proclamation created confusion among voters and disproportionately affected elderly voters, voters living with disabilities, and voters in populous counties. 

On Saturday, Pitman’s injunction on the proclamation was temporarily halted by an appeals court judge. The order will now stay in effect until the court rules on the matter. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Newsweek) (The Hill)

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Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan

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  • President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus proposal on Thursday.
  • Under the plan, $1 trillion would go to direct relief for Americans. This includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension and $400 weekly increase to federal unemployment benefits, and a $15 minimum wage.
  • The proposal would also allocate $440 billion for aid to local governments and businesses, as well as provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus with more testing and vaccinations, among other efforts.

Biden Outlines Direct Aid in Stimulus Plan

President-elect Joe Biden announced the details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package while speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.

Biden described the package, titled “American Rescue Plan,” as a set of emergency measures to immediately address the country’s economic and healthcare needs. The package will be followed by a second, broader relief package in February, which will aim to address more long-term economic recovery efforts.

Most significantly, $1 trillion — more than half of the funding allocated in the first package — will go to direct relief for Americans. Among other measures, the direct aid provisions in the plan include increasing federal unemployment benefits from $300 a week to $400 a week and extending them from March to September.

Biden’s plan also includes $1,400 stimulus checks to top off the $600 already approved in the December stimulus package. However, eligibility for the direct payments would be expanded to families of non-citizen immigrants as well as families with adult dependents.

Additionally, the proposal includes several other measures targeted at directly helping struggling Americans, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding billions in funding for child care, and expanding the child tax credit to poor and middle-class families.

Broader Goals

As for the broader economic and pandemic-centered measures, Biden’s package would allocate $440 billion for aid to states, local governments, and businesses. It would also provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus, with a major focus on expanding testing and accelerating vaccine distribution.

Biden has set the dual goals of delivering 100 million vaccines and reopening the majority of K-12 public schools in his first 100 days. To meet that objective, his plan includes $20 billion for a universal vaccination program, $50 billion to expand testing, and $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.

The proposal, overall, meets many of the demands for direct aid that Democrats have pushed for months but have been unable to approve with the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats hold the presidency and control of both chambers, many members have urged Biden to ask for an even higher price tag.

Biden, for his part, has said he would like to try for a bipartisan majority on his first piece of legislation, but given Republicans months-long resistance to many Democratic asks, that desire is likely a pipe-dream.

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

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Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters

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  • More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
  • The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
  • The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.” 
  • Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.

Demands for Investigation

Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.

In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack. 

In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.

They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.

The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.

“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.” 

The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”

Members Under Fire

Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.

In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection. 

Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.

“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”

While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.

“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”

Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office. 

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”

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

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House Impeaches Trump By Largest Bipartisan Margin in History

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  • The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
  • Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote in favor of impeachment, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
  • Ahead of the vote, sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he was pleased Democrats were moving forward with a vote because it will make it easier to “purge” Trump from the party.
  • McConnel later said he has not yet decided whether he will vote to convict Trump. Still, he has refused to convene the Senate before Jan. 19, meaning that as of now, there is little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before his term ends.

House Debates Impeachment

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.

All Democrats voted in favor of the single article. They were also joined by 10 Republicans, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.

The decision was debated on the floor after Vice President Pence rejected Democrats’ calls to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.

Most notable among the Republican members who voted to impeach was Liz Cheney (R-WY), the number three House Republican who announced her decision Tuesday night.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.

Questionable Path in Senate

No Republican Senators have publicly said they support removing Trump from office.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party.”

Sources separately told Axios that “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell would vote to convict Trump.

McConnell responded to the reports earlier on Wednesday but did not outright dispute many of the claims.

“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.

As for whether or not other members of the GOP would follow suit, a top Republican close to McConnell also told Axios that “Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump. 

Additionally, McConnell’s advisers have said that he has “privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict.” Notably, it would most likely require 17 Republicans to join Democrats in order for Trump to be found guilty.

In regards to a timeline, the Senate is in recess and not set to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. McConnell has rejected calls to ask that members return before then, meaning that as of right now there is very little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before he leaves office.

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

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