H.R.1, which contains voting protections and much else, just passed the house, 220 -210.
Yesterday conservative news, social, and digital media, as well as the President’s campaign went into freakout mode because the US Attorney (USAO) for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, David Freed, issued a statement that nine absentee ballots submitted by members of the US military voting for the President had been first lost and discarded and then discovered by election officials in Luzerne County, PA. It didn’t take long for that statement to be withdrawn; the actually pulled it off of the DOJ website. Then a revised statement was issued and finally a final revised statement was posted (emphasis mine).
Department of JusticeU.S. Attorney’s OfficeMiddle District of Pennsylvania
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, September 24, 2020
Letter to Luzerne County Bureau of Elections
Shelby Watchilla, Director of Elections of Luzerne County Bureau of Elections
Dear Ms. Watchilla:
On Monday, September 21, 2020, at the request of Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis, the Office of the United States Attorney along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Scranton Resident Agency, began an inquiry into reports of potential issues with a small number of mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections.
Since Monday, FBI personnel have conducted numerous interviews and recovered and reviewed certain physical evidence. While at this point the inquiry remains active, based on the limited amount of time before the general election and the vital public importance of these issues, I will detail the investigators’ initial findings.
The FBI has recovered a number of documents relating to military ballots that had been improperly opened by your elections staff, and had the ballots removed and discarded, or removed and placed separately from the envelope containing confidential voter information and attestation. Specifically, a total of nine (9) military ballots were discovered to have been discarded. Seven (7) of those ballots when discovered by investigators were outside of any envelope. Those ballots were all cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump. One (1) of those seven (7) ballots was able to be identified to an envelope that was recovered, and thereby potentially tied to a specific voter. Two (2) military ballots that had been discarded were previously recovered by elections staff, reinserted into what appeared to be their appropriate envelopes, and then resealed. Therefore, the votes cast on those two (2) ballots are unknown. Thus, is appears that three (3) of the nine (9) recovered ballots can be potentially attributed to specific voters. Six (6) of the ballots were simply removed and discarded, and cannot be attributed to a specific voter at this time.
In addition to the military ballots and envelopes that were discarded and recovered as detailed above, investigators recovered four (4) apparently official, bar-coded, absentee ballot envelopes that were empty. Two (2) of those envelopes had the completed attestations and signatures on the reverse side. One (1) envelope with a handwritten return address was blank on the reverse side. The fourth empty envelope contains basic location information and the words “affirmation enclosed” on the reverse side. The majority of the recovered materials were found in an outside dumpster.
As you know, the appropriate method for processing received military ballots is to securely store the ballot, unopened, until such time as ballot pre-canvassing can begin, which is in no event earlier than 7:00 a.m. on Election Day. Opening a military or overseas ballot, or an absentee or mail-in ballot for that matter, violates the controlling statutes and is contrary to Pennsylvania Department of State guidance. The preliminary findings of this inquiry are troubling and the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections must comply with all applicable state and federal election laws and guidance to ensure that all votes—regardless of party—are counted to ensure an accurate election count. Even though your staff has made some attempts to reconstitute certain of the improperly opened ballots, there is no guarantee that any of these votes will be counted in the general election. In addition, our investigation has revealed that all or nearly all envelopes received in the elections office were opened as a matter of course. It was explained to investigators the envelopes used for official overseas, military, absentee and mail-in ballot requests are so similar, that the staff believed that adhering to the protocol of preserving envelopes unopened would cause them to miss such ballot requests. Our interviews further revealed that this issue was a problem in the primary election–therefore a known issue–and that the problem has not been corrected.
While the assigned investigators are continuing their work including reviewing additional discarded materials, it is imperative that the issues identified be corrected. District Attorney Salavantis and I would be happy to meet with you at a mutually convenient time to discuss this matter. Please be assured that the investigators will carefully preserve all documents collected in connection with this investigation. Our goal, that I am sure you share, is to ensure that every properly cast ballot is counted.
DAVID J. FREED
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
cc: David Pedri, Luzerne County Manager
Tim McGinley, Luzerne County Council Chair
Stefanie Salavantis, Luzerne County District Attorney
This wasn’t some sort of criminal conspiracy, but human error. Specifically good faith human error caused by the Luzerne County officials wanting to ensure that these members of the military did actually get absentee ballots
during the primary. That’s right, these aren’t general election ballots, they were for the primary. That doesn’t make it right, but it means that no one has stolen nine votes from the President’s tally in Pennsylvania for the general election. Frankly, that human error was created because of the confusion that Pennsylvania Republican officials, members of the President’s campaign, and the campaign and RNC attorneys, and the GOP majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have created by constantly taking every good faith attempt to ensure a safe and fair election during the pandemic to court.
Here’s what the Pennsylvania election website says about these Special Write-In Absentee ballots:
What actually happened, which is nothing really out of the ordinary expect some Luzerne County election officials opened envelopes as it was unclear what was in them because they weren’t sent back in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court mandated security envelopes. This led the county officials to think they were absentee ballot requests, not the Special Write-In Absentee Ballots that Pennsylvania sends to military voters before they finish printing the actual primary and general election absentee ballots.
Yup. From the latest DOJ statement, it seems like:
9 military voters sent write-in absentee ballots to Luzerne.
Because these letters weren't in SC-mandated privacy envelopes, Luzerne officials thought they were *requests* for absentee ballots. They opened them, spoiling them. https://t.co/WsAJw9gBg1
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) September 25, 2020
8 hours later, the Trump spokesman's instigating tweet—"Democrats are trying to steal the election"—is still posted, with 67,000 retweets/likes and counting.
This sort of disinformation is going to get innocent people hurt. pic.twitter.com/xGOb8WICHT
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) September 25, 2020
The whole thing is AG Barr’s USAO in Harrisburg trying to make something out of nothing because AG Barr knows that the initial reporting is all that matters, not the corrections. By now everyone who watches Fox News, listens to right wing talk radio, follows the President, his campaign spokespeople, and his other surrogates in social media, and get their news from conservative news and digital news sites, as well as from closed information silos on Facebook, believe that Pennsylvania election officials are trying to steal the election from the President. And this is part of the Democratic plot to use mail in ballots to steal the election. None of that is true, it was just a good faith error caused by confusing requirements and instructions imposed by multiple Pennsylvania state authorities.
That’s the play with this sort of thing. It is to create misinformation, disinformation, and agitprop and then get it pushed to people like those in the video below, people who only get their news from sources that are not reliable because they’ve already been indoctrinated to the belief that these unreliable sources are the only reliable ones, who will then further disseminate the misinformation, disinformation, and agitprop. Having a US Attorney push the misinformation and agitprop just makes it that much better because the intended audience for this stuff already believe that AG Barr, on orders from the President, is working behind the scenes with only trusted members of the Department of Justice to root out the illegal and un-American activities of Vice President Biden, his campaign, his supporters, and Democrats through things like USAO Durham’s re-review of AG Barr’s previously ordered re-review of what the DOJ and FBI and the US Intelligence Community did in 2016 in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Russian interference, part of a war that Russia began against the US no later than 2014, that is still ongoing!
Update at 5:15 PM EDT
Based on reviewing the most recent reporting it is very unclear if these were primary ballots or general election ballots. So I have made some revisions to the original post to strike through the references to these being primary ballots.
As we all know, Trump is trying to steal the election by (among other things) buggering the postal service. Rep. Ted Lieu understands the scale of the emergency, and he says everyone who’s voting by mail needs to mail in their ballots by October 22:
The House cannot adequately fund USPS without the consent of @POTUS. Only other option is veto override with Senate. Does that seem remotely plausible? NO.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) August 13, 2020
Other people say Democrats should vote in person if they can and vote early to 1) reduce the chance of having to stand in line for hours and risk their health, and 2) foil Trump’s obvious scheme, which is to hope for an election day lead and cry foul if it evaporates when mail-in votes are counted.
The thing is, every state has its quirks. Some accept ballots postmarked prior to election day even if received after, while other states require that the ballot is received by a designated hour on election day.
In my county here in Florida, you can vote in person even if you requested a mail-in ballot, but you’re supposed to bring the mail-in ballot with you to the polls. I don’t know what happens if you show up without it. Provisional ballot maybe?
This Sunday, 2 AUG 2020, Citizens Against Intolerance and the League of United Latin American Citizens will be telecasting a virtual rally to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the issuance of Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the US military. The rally is virtual because of Washington, DC’s COVID-19 response precautions and orders and was recorded this past Sunday, 26 JUL 2020.
The League of United Latin American Citizens and Citizens Against Intolerance
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has partnered with Citizens Against Intolerance (CAI) to conduct a voter registration drive and rally to celebrate the 72nd Anniversary of Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 2020, and to galvanize voters to turn out, November 3, 2020, to exercise their civic duty. LULAC and CAI will conduct a program to “Honor our Heroes” in Black Lives Matter Plaza, Washington D.C., with a star-studded array of some of the world’s leading experts in their respective fields of public policy and social justice.
You can register for the virtual rally at this link, which includes some further details:
Date:: Sunday, August 2, 2020
Time:: 2:00 pm EDT – 4:30 pm EDT
Troy Mosley, President, Citizens Against Intolerance
Rick Collins, Co-Chair, Richard Colllins III Foundation
Dawn Collins, Co-Chair, Richard Colllins III Foundation
Ty Seidule, Professor of History Emeritus, West Point (invited)
As a teaser, here’s a short clip of LTC (ret) Troy Mosley, the founder and president of Citizens Against Intolerance:
We hope to virtually see you all there! And please share the info far and wide.
Full disclosure: I am the senior advisor for policy at Citizens Against Intolerance.
I oscillate regularly between optimism and pessimism about the upcoming election. If you’re on Team Don’t Drink Bleach, then Trump must go, of course, but the composition of Congress is everything too. Whether we get an opportunity to take a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to the orange shit-stain in the White House, pass legislation that will address galloping inequities in everything from justice, wealth, health, etc. — it all depends on a free and fair election.
Republicans showed in Wisconsin just how far they’re willing to go to deny people the franchise. Thanks to that state’s excellent party organization, Democrats beat back the GOP effort to rig a state supreme court election. Are parties in the other states prepared? Probably not, but now is the time to get ready.
We got some good news over the weekend in Florida:
TALLAHASSEE — A federal judge ruled Sunday that it is unconstitutional to prevent felons in Florida from voting because they can’t afford to pay back court fees, fines and restitution to victims, striking down parts of a law passed by Republican lawmakers and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year.
Calling the law a “pay-to-vote system,” U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s 125-page ruling declares that court fees are a tax, and it creates a new process for determining whether felons are eligible to vote.
Poll tax, zapped. But the governor is a Trump toady, and he will surely appeal the decision, which may make it to the SCOTUS before the election. I don’t doubt for a second that the partisan Republican majority on the SCOTUS will reinstate the FL poll tax if they think it will help the party keep the Federalist Society conveyor belt running to deposit hard-right cranks onto the bench.
Trump has been bellowing about voter fraud on Twitter for
weeks years and is at it again today, equating the same mail-in ballots he and the Third Lady use to ALL CAPS VOTER FRAUD. As we know, voter fraud isn’t really a thing in U.S. elections. In-person voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and the few cases of consequential fraud detected are almost always perpetrated by Republican operatives committing election fraud (like the NC 9th case) or the recent Florida kook whose party registration scheme imploded due to stupidity.
But reality is no obstacle to determined liars and cheats. So, we need to make this the question in each and every state: Why are Republicans trying to stop you from voting?
One persistent problem we have with our electorate is that too many regard the franchise as an act of performance art rather than a civic duty. Among that group, many are non-voters overcome with ennui because “both sides.” Well, here’s a clear contrast that will become clearer every day between now and the election: Republicans want to make it hard for you to vote. If voting becomes an act of defiance as it did in Wisconsin, maybe Republicans’ cheating to win strategy will blow up in their ugly faces again.
For this election cycle, I’m focusing 100% of my volunteer efforts on supporting voting rights nationwide and encouraging swing state Democrats to vote by mail. In the six swing states that will likely determine the election (AZ, FL, NC, MI, PA, WI), voters can already apply for a mail-in ballot, no excuse needed.
As we know to our sorrow and ruination, Republicans have an enduring structural advantage in the Electoral College. But we’ve already won the war on mail-in ballots in these crucial states, and since we can anticipate the levels of fuckery the GOP will throw at us and cannot know what wrinkles the pandemic will introduce in November, we need to press that advantage starting right now.
I’ve said this before and will probably continue to be a broken record on this for the next several months. I apologize in advance for that. But it’s super-important! There are many wonderful organizations out there already engaged in this fight. I’m a fan of VoteRiders and Postcards to Voters, but please feel free to share links to other outfits that are working on these issues in comments.
90,000 Americans are dead.
1,400,000 confirmed U.S. cases.
36,000,000+ unemployment claims filed.
— CAP Action (@CAPAction) May 18, 2020
The Washington Post did an anodyne and extremely predictable beat-sweetener on “The Power of Stacey Abrams” last week, and it completely unhinged that portion of the Very Serious Commentariat which would predictably come unhinged at the very possibility that a voting-rights activist might be getting serious attention. Give Jen Rubin her due, she can hear the dog whistles:
There is now a whole genre of right-wing punditry declaring, in hysterical and angry tones, that Stacey Abrams would be the worst pick in the history of vice-presidential picks. No, really. The people who defend their vote for President Trump, who support the most unqualified Cabinet in history and who think political experience is overrated now see a catastrophe if the former minority leader of the Georgia state House, the founder of Fair Fight and Fair Count and a rising star in the Democratic Party is picked as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee…
Why all the venom? Let’s begin with the assumption that it is perfectly reasonable to argue she is not the best VP choice or that her lack of national experience would weaken the ticket. But the anger, the determination to ignore her accomplishments (she did found a voting rights group, deliver a response to the State of the Union and hold the minority leader position in her state for more than half a decade), the resentment over her insistence on calling out voter suppression as the reason for her loss and feigned offense at her ambition (horrors!) smack of racism. I suggest the tone of these voices — How dare she?! — would be far different if, say, Pete Buttigieg or Beto O’Rourke were promoting themselves for the job.
Abrams has committed the cardinal sin for an African American woman in the eyes of the right: She will not accept the legitimacy of elections won through voter suppression, and she will not be appropriately docile and humble. Unfortunately, I fear that this is just the beginning of the thinly disguised racism that we will see should former vice president Joe Biden select an African American as his running mate…
Abrams’ political style is “Person Who Is Never Afraid to Demand What Her Constituents Need”, which puts her squarely in the camp of such political stars as Shirley Chisholm (“If they won’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”), Bella Abzug, and Ann Richards, among others. The current Democratic quest for Biden’s VP gives her a space to advocate for her goals, and she’s out there doing the work.
Some samples: From the AP, Q&A: Stacey Abrams is ready to serve but not on top court
… AP: The pandemic has elevated calls for mail voting. Can states make the changes necessary for that by November?
ABRAMS: No-excuse absentee balloting has to become the law of the land. It’s so critical that the next (pandemic response bill from Congress) include the $4 billion or $3.6 billion to help every state scale (up their absentee mail balloting.) The reality is we cannot afford not to do this. We have no excuse not to comply and not to meet our responsibilities for democracy, and it’s absolutely possible if we scale it up.
AP: The president said recently that people “cheat” by mail voting. How do you compete with that given his platform?
ABRAMS: I would ask journalists to tell the truth, which is that voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Donald Trump voted by mail. It is actually the safest and most accessible way of voting. In 2017, Donald Trump convened a voter fraud task force. It was so impossible to prove rampant voter fraud that they disbanded the committee before they had to issue a report…
AP: Can you talk about black identity politics and what might seem to be a more accepting environment for “blackness” in politics today?
ABRAMS: Writ large, identity politics simply means I can see you, and I understand that there are barriers to your ability to access what is considered a general good.
I enter this space as a black woman with natural hair, who does not look like everyone else. That doesn’t diminish my capacity to be effective, but it heightens my responsibility to be vocal.
Going back to COVID-19, black people are dying at a higher rate here in Georgia: 32% of the population, 54% of the deaths. That’s directly tied to identity, and if we do not acknowledge it, we are never going to find the solutions to address it. And so I think identity politics is a necessary part of our politics, but it’s also not new.
This nation began with identity politics. White men who owned land were allowed to vote and no one else was. That is the most strident degree of identity politics I think you can imagine, and what makes America such an important country is that we evolve, we continue to expand who is a part of our narrative and who has access to leadership (and) access to opportunity.
AP: The bottom line for November – do you believe that 50 states will be able to put together a fair election, an accurate count of the public will?
ABRAMS: Yes, we can have a free and fair election if, one, we have federal investment in those state elections now. Because this is a matter not simply of will, but of capacity. What I want everyone to pay attention to is that as Democrats work to expand access to the right to vote for all Americans, Republicans are doing their level best to limit that access. Why would we want to limit access to our democracy? That should be a question every person asks.
On this auspicious occasion, we wish a #HappyVaisakhi to sangat across the world.
This year, we'll miss our Nagar Kirtans and Vaisakhi programmes – but we each have to do our bit to protect the sangat we love, by staying home.#VaisakhiAtHome #Vaisakhi2020 #Vaisakhi pic.twitter.com/7b9mTyG4v1
— Sikh Tories (@SikhTories) April 13, 2020
It’s the traditional Sikh New Year, another Spring festival / solar new year I didn’t know until now. (And it’s the traditional Punjabi season for bhangra, if anyone’s looking for a way to recharge their lockdown exercise routine.)
— Look! A Singh! (@LookASingh) April 13, 2020
Other uplifting news:
Ok so a reporter called my collaborators and boss and made a story and I’m crying, cause loveeeee…
— KizzyPhD (@KizzyPhD) April 12, 2020
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 12, 2020
BREAKING: Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend, Indiana mayor @PeteButtigieg is joining our new virtual series, #FrontRowSeat! Join our host committee and grab your seats today: https://t.co/gUsAAzKilC pic.twitter.com/gvMPwPGl6S
— Run for Something (@runforsomething) April 11, 2020