Photo source: The New York Times
- Georgia began its early voting period Monday, and at many locations, lines quickly stacked. Some people even reported waiting more than eight hours to cast their votes.
- While many have since called those lines evidence of voter suppression in Georgia, a number of election officials have said the lines are actually evidence of voter enthusiasm.
- In fact, Georgia’s Secretary of State estimated that nearly 127,000 voted on Monday, shattering the previous single-day record of 90,000.
- Still, others have said that while the lines clearly show voter enthusiasm, there is a larger problem that must be addressed if people are having to wait hours on end to vote.
Georgia Polls Open to Long Lines
Georgia began its early voting period Monday with massive lines that resulted in some people waiting for more than eight hours to cast their ballots.
Altanta-based news outlet WSB-TV reported that at some locations, people were still waiting in line well past 10 p.m. In fact, lines were so long that people even brought their own lawn chairs to sit in.
“It doesn’t matter how long it takes, we will stand in line to vote,” voter Viola Hardy told a local reporter. “So I think that’s the most important part. We’re voting like our life depends on it.”
This is the voter. Her name is Viola Hardy. She got in line at 6:20am. She was still in line to vote at 11:15am. pic.twitter.com/dbcHcIRrf8— Andy Pierrotti (@AndyPierrotti) October 12, 2020
While Hardy was able to wait in line for more than five hours, many others weren’t. A woman by the name of Elizabeth Brownlie told BuzzFeed News that she had to leave after an hour and a half of standing in line because she had an appointment to go to.
“For me, it’s very, very, very important and [it was] disheartening… to have that experience,” Brownlie said. “Voting should not be this difficult.”
Voter Suppression or Voter Enthusiasm?
One video tweeted by former Senator Claire McCaskill (R-Mo.) showed people lined up more than a street away at one voting center.
“This is a picture of voter suppression,” McCaskill said. “Why do Americans have to wait in lines this long?”
McCaskill was far from the only person accusing Georgia of engaging in voter suppression.
“What’s happening in Georgia should upset us all,” one person tweeted. “There is NO REASON people should wait hours in line to vote. Pure voter suppression.”
Despite cries of voter suppression, Georgia’s voter turnout on Monday was unprecedented. In fact, according to the secretary of state, nearly 127,000 Georgians cast their votes, up from the previous single-day record of about 90,000 voters.
In an interview with a WSB-TV reporter, one election official essentially compared the voting lines to lines when a new iPhone goes on sale. Many others have agreed, pushing against the claims of voter suppression.
“So much voter suppression happened in Georgia yesterday that almost 37,000 more people voted than any other early voting day!!” one person sarcastically tweeted. “Someone should be arrested for this travesty of justice!”
Others have also referenced the fact that Georgia allows any registered voter to request an absentee ballot.
Alongside that, a number of experts have questioned if the long lines are truly evidence of voter suppression. That includes David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, who told BuzzFeed News, “I’d be concerned if I didn’t see long lines.”
“We’re 22 days away from the election,” he said. “Anyone who sees a long line and does not have the time to wait can come back tomorrow.”
Becker called long lines for early voting a sign of voter enthusiasm, saying that each person who votes early is one less person who could potentially be stuck waiting to vote on Election Day.
Long Lines Are Still a Fundamental Problem
A full explanation may be more complicated than either just voter suppression or enthusiasm.
“Some of this is voter enthusiasm,” Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, saying on Twitter. “But this is just not acceptable in a modern day democracy. We need restoration of the [Voting Rights Act] & officials who’ll provide more voting opportunities during a pandemic.”
Essentially, Clarke is making the argument that while there was a record-breaking turnout, if people are still finding themselves in situations where they’re having to wait hours on end just to vote — with some people having to leave before they could even cast their vote — then there is still an underlying, fundamental problem that needs to be addressed.
Some have wondered how many of those people who couldn’t vote on Monday will actually return to try to vote again.
Others have wondered how many voters will wait until Election Day to vote. That itself could lead to similar delays like those that were seen on Monday.
Glitches, Paper Ballots, and Other Unexpected Holdups
Part of the reason lines were so long in some places Monday wasn’t just because of the sheer number of people turning out to vote.
It was also reportedly because of technical glitches that delayed voting. For example, at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, lines came to a stop when check-in tablets started giving voters error messages.
Instead of issuing emergency paper ballots, poll workers and tech support staff held up lines to fix the tablets.
The same day, a federal judge in Georgia rejected an effort to require higher numbers of emergency paper ballots at Georgia polling places, ruling that the request “invites the court to plunge into the task of advising election officials on precise details of election administration.”
Election officials do still have the option to provide more backups if they want to.
In addition to glitches and questions about the role of paper ballots, lines were also held up Monday by people who had originally requested mail-in ballots, now showing up to vote in-person instead.
“That slows things down because they have to cancel that one in order to vote in-person so there’s more steps,” Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said.
One man who spoke with BuzzFeed News said he switched from voting by mail because he was concerned about potential delays and President Donald Trump’s attacks on the U.S. Postal Service.
See what others are saying: (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (WSB Channel 2) (BuzzFeed News)
Trump Issues Over 140 Pardons and Commutations Ahead of Biden’s Inauguration
- In his last moments in office, now-former President Donald Trump granted clemency to more than 140 people at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
- Among the notable pardons and commutations were rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Trump megadonor Elliott Broidy.
- Trump’s final round of clemency did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reform advocates.
- Still, many also condemned Trump for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have been rehabilitated. Instead, critics feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.
Trump Grants Clemency
Former President Donald Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, just hours ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The move marks Trump’s final major act before the end of his term. Many of the most notable pardons and commutations were given to people whose names had been circulating in reports earlier this week, including rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, as well as former adviser Steve Bannon.
Bannon’s pardon is especially significant because he has not yet stood trial for the charges he faces. The charges against Trump’s former right-hand man center around allegations that he defrauded half a million people who donated to a crowdsourcing campaign to fund the construction of the border wall.
The leaders of the charity, aptly named We Build the Wall, had claimed that the more than $25 million they had solicited in donations would go to their goal, but prosecutors claim that Bannon took $1 million for his own personal expenses.
Bannon’s pardon is also significant because, according to reports, the reason the clemency announcements were late was because Trump could not decide whether or not to pardon him. However, as The Washington Post notes, Trump’s ultimate decision “underscores how Trump has used his presidential power to benefit allies and political backers.”
Trump has recently granted pardons to several of his former top aides, many of whom seem to have a knack for committing crimes for him.
At the end of last year, he pardoned his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his close friend and adviser, Roger Stone. All three had been convicted of crimes during the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In this newest batch of clemency grants, the former president also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a top Trump campaign fundraiser. Broidy pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws and accepting millions of dollars as part of a secret campaign to lobby the administration for Malaysian and Chinese interests.
Trump additionally pardoned a number of politicians who have been indicted for corruption, including three former Republican members of Congress and one former Democratic mayor.
Those Left Out
Trump’s last round of pardons and commutations did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reformers. One of those individuals was Chris Young, a man who had been sentenced to life for drug conspiracy, and whose commutation Kim Kardashian West had lobbied.
But in general, Trump has largely been condemned by criminal justice advocates for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have rehabilitated. Instead, they feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.
Despite the attention some of his pardons have received, either because they had celebrity power behind them or were controversial, Trump has actually approved fewer clemency requests than most previous presidents who served one term or less. Until this week, he had only granted clemency to 95 people.
Also of note are the controversial pardons that Trump was reportedly considering but ultimately decided against. These included WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic, the latter of whom was so sure he would be pardoned that he had a limo waiting for him outside his prison.
Trump was also reportedly considering preemptively pardoning himself and his children, but he apparently decided against the move. In addition to a self-pardon being questionably unconstitutional, any clemency for the former president and his family would require them to admit they committed crimes they have not yet been charged with.
While Trump decided against becoming the first president to ever pardon himself, the fact that he decided to give clemency to so many of his allies might pose some issues.
President Bill Clinton faced both congressional and criminal investigations for giving out 140 pardons and commutations on his final day in office in 2001, though notably, no wrongdoing was ultimately found.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Accused of Leading Capitol Tour Before Insurrection
- Rep. Steve Cohen told CNN Monday that he and another lawmaker personally saw GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert guiding a “large” group of people around the Capitol days before the insurrection.
- Numerous representatives have said they saw GOP members leading an unusual amount of tours before the riots. They also said some of the visitors were involved with the rally that preceded the attack.
- Boebert preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week before any official accused her by name.
- She reiterated that denial in a statement responding to Cohen’s accusations and claimed that she had only ever given a tour to members of her family.
Rep. Cohen’s Claims
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tn.) said Monday that he and a fellow Democratic member of Congress personally witnessed Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) leading a “large” group of people around the Capitol complex in the days before the violent attacks on Jan. 6.
While speaking on CNN, Cohen said that he and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) “saw Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.”
“I don’t remember the day we were walking in a tunnel and we saw her and commented who she was and she had a large group with her,” he continued. “Now whether these people were people that were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know.”
Notably, Cohen said he did not know who was in the group or if they were part of the attack. That fact was also echoed by Yarmuth, who confirmed in a statement that he did see Boebert with a group of people around her but added that he “has no knowledge of who they were or if they were with her.”
Over the last few weeks, dozens of Democrats have been demanding that officials investigate whether or not Republican lawmakers aided in the riots. Last Tuesday, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) told reporters she saw some of her GOP colleagues leading “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol with people who she later saw during the riots.
The following day, 31 House Democrats signed a letter claiming they and some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol on Jan. 5.
“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,” they wrote. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
Boebert’s Checkered Record
Until Monday, no lawmakers had named any of the members involved in the alleged tours, but many outlets and political analysts both implicitly and explicitly tied Boebert to the accusations.
In her roughly two-week-long tenure as a member of Congress, the young Republican has received significant heat for her role in the insurrection among other recent, controversial moves.
Last week, Boebert was temporarily banned from Twitter and faced numerous calls to resign for tweeting out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location during the insurrection.
She has also been widely criticized for publicly announcing she would bring her gun to the Capitol complex, refusing to have her bag searched after she set off a metal detector, and voting to invalidate millions of votes by objecting to the certification of the electoral college.
In fact, Boebert has faced so much scrutiny that she preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week, even before anyone directly named her. At the time, she issued a statement saying she has only ever given a tour to her children, husband, mother, aunt, and uncle.
Boebert reiterated those claims in a letter to Cohen Monday, where she called his remarks “categorically false.”
“I have never given a tour of the U.S. Capitol to any outside group,” she wrote. “As I previously stated, I brought my family to the Capitol on January 2nd for a tour and on the 3rd for pictures to commemorate the day I was sworn in as a Member of the U.S. Congress.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (CPR News)
Washington, D.C. Ramps Up Security Before Inauguration
- Officials in Washington are ramping up security measures and imposing heavy restrictions ahead of the inauguration Wednesday.
- The National Mall has been closed down since Friday, barricades have been put up all over the city, car traffic has been limited, and many public transit routes have also been shut down.
- Around 25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed from across the country, and the FBI is vetting all of them due to concerns of an insider attack.
- Security has also been significantly increased in many state capitals nationwide following calls for armed protests in all 50 states, but so far, most of the protests at statehouses have been peaceful and exceptionally small.
Capitol Increases Security Measures
With two days to go until the inauguration, security has been massively ramped up in the nation’s Capitol.
While the inauguration is usually a high-security event, Washington has now instituted security measures not seen since the Civil War following a Jan. 6 insurrection attempt on the U.S. Capitol. Intelligence agencies have since warned about more threats of violence.
In an unprecedented move, the National Park Service announced Friday that the National Mall — which usually hosts massive crowds during the inauguration — will be closed until at least Thursday. The inaugural ceremony itself will also be scaled down due to both security threats and the pandemic.
Various barricades ranging from small metal barriers to tall fencing reinforced with heavy concrete blocks have been set up around the Mall and in other parts of the city, such as at federal buildings and businesses.
The Capitol complex itself, which will be entirely shut off to the public on Wednesday, is currently surrounded by a 7-foot fence topped with razor wire.
Over a dozen metro lines will be shut down and more than two dozen bus routes will be detoured around the security perimeter. Car traffic in most of the city will be either banned entirely or limited exclusively to residents and businesses only. Several bridges that connect DC to Virginia will also be shut down, and all street closures are subject to change or to be extended at the discretion of the Secret Service.
In addition to the wide variety of military and law enforcement personnel who are normally involved in inauguration security, around 25,000 National Guard troops have also been deployed from all across the country.
That is nearly two and a half times the number present for previous inaugurations. Notably, officials have been vetting all 25,000 coming to Washington because they are worried about an insider attack.
States Ramp Up Security
It is not just D.C. that is ramping up security. There have been mass deployments of the National Guard and other law enforcement officers to state Capitols all across the country. According to The New York Times, 19 states have deployed their National Guards following calls for armed protests in all 50 states.
So far, most of the activity that has been seen around statehouses are small, peaceful demonstrations by a few people, some of whom are armed. Even the most attended rallies had two dozen people or less.
Notably, all of the largest demonstrations documented so far have reportedly been held by or included members of the Boogaloo Boys, a far-right group that wants to start a second Civil War. The group showed up in some of the highest numbers in front of the Capitol buildings in Ohio, Michigan, and Utah.
As was the case with all of the other demonstrations so far, the protestors have been far outnumbered by security officials — and in some cases, spectators.