According to a report from the Washington Post, Republican election officials in states that are currently starting up 2020 presidential vote audits of their own or are considering initiating one, are having second thoughts after the embarrassing end of the Maricopa County, Arizona audit that seemed to show that President Joe Biden won by a larger margin than first reported.
The Arizona audit, conducted by the pro-Donald Trump Cyber Ninjas, was supposed to turn up evidence of voter fraud that would not only flip the state to Trump, but would also be used as proof that the election may have been stolen from the Republican candidate.
That not only failed to come to pass, but Biden picked up more votes while Trump lost votes, and that has led to some questioning about the costs of going forward with their own audit as well as the damage another flop would do the reputation of the Republican Party.
According to the Post's Amy Gardener, "A GOP-commissioned report that did not find evidence fraud-tainted Arizona's 2020 election has intensified the fight over similar partisan ballot reviews in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, with former president Donald Trump pressing for such examinations and Democrats stepping up their efforts to block them."
The report goes on to note that it is not only Democrats who are opposing what could be another debacle for Trump but also state GOP officials who are even more skeptical after the Arizona flop.
According to Rohn Bishop, county GOP chairman in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the results of the Arizona audit made the GOP look foolish.
"Eventually, you have to find fraud, and they haven't," Bishop raged. "Are we going to be a serious political party that tries to win an election, or are we going to keep talking about these kooky, fringe audits?"
"It's bat-poop crazy. And 2022 should be a very good year for us. Basically, this election is ours to lose — if we're not stupid about it," he added before conceding, "Trump is still very influential. If Trump comes in and makes an endorsement in a primary, it's a big deal. We're kind of in a conundrum right now, where you can't win with him and you can't win without him."
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Three months later, very few of those concerns have been answered or addressed and there's also a lawsuit.
In August, the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) joined a federal lawsuit against state education officials, arguing that aspects of the law threaten the right to free speech. The federal lawsuit was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida by faculty members and students of Florida's college and university systems.
“Any law that relies on the good will of legislators and politicians over the protections of the Constitution is not a good law," said Andrew Gothard, the UFF president. “And that is why we are challenging HB 233 (now the law) in court and that is why we do not believe that these viewpoint diversity surveys have any place in higher education in this state."
Earlier this week, Marshall Criser III, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, updated lawmakers about the survey during a committee meeting leading up to the 2022 legislative session. However, Criser didn't provide many concrete details.
He did say that the survey will need to be designed, and it would be conducted in the spring of 2022. Results would be assessed over the summer to meet a deadline to publish the survey's findings by Sept. 1, 2022, as outlined in the law.
Criser said that the Institute of Politics at Florida State University is involved in the creation of the survey, but it's not yet clear to what extent.
The Phoenix reached out to the Board of Governors for more information about the institute's involvement, and is awaiting a response. The Phoenix also reached out to the Institute of Politics itself, and was told to speak to the Board of Governors.
“What I would describe is we are working with the political institute (Institute of Politics) at Florida State University. And when I say 'working with' – I have individuals on my staff who are very good at data and data analysis. They have people who are incredibly talented and do survey work," Criser told lawmakers.
The Institute of Politics was created by the Florida legislature in 2020, with certain goals such as becoming “a national and state resource on polling information and survey methodology."
Criser continued: “And so, we are trying to understand what the right questions are and what the right approach is and also getting some professional — I'd say they have some professional guidance to us about size and number of questions and the way you ask questions."
Rep. James Mooney, a Republican who represents Monroe and part of Miami-Dade County, asked Criser to specify the Board of Governor's decision on whether the Board of Governors will create the survey or contract another entity to create it.
“I'd think I'd say, generally, we are not contracting out, but we are working closely with them (Institute of Politics) to help develop this," Criser said.
Meanwhile, UFF President Gothard told the Phoenix on Friday that, “So far, very little has been said about how these, what they call 'viewpoint diversity surveys,' are going to be constructed."
“Sure, this survey could be innocuous if it's designed in the right way," Gothard said, “but there is no guarantee it will be innocuous."
He continued: “Unfortunately, we cannot imagine a scenario where the survey will go well. At its baseline it might be 'acceptable,' but there's really no reality where this survey could do anything useful or productive for the Florida higher education system…The real problem with… the survey is that there are virtually no limitations on the kinds of questions this survey can ask, and then what can be done with the results of that survey afterword."
The law says that the survey must be objective, nonpartisan, and statistically valid. The law does not require the survey to be anonymous.
It also must consider “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented and members of the college community, including students, faculty, and staff, feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom."
The new law also allows students to film lectures without permission of the professors, and forbids institutions from “shielding" students from opinions and ideas that they may find “uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive."
Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: email@example.com. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.
Instead, only those who received the Pfizer shots will be eligible for boosters, and boosters will be limited to those 65 and older or individuals with underlying medical conditions, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel recommended Thursday.
The initial eligible groups will also include health care workers, teachers and others at higher risk of exposure to the virus at their workplace — a category that the CDC panel declined to recommend, but the top CDC official added them back in the agency's official guidance late Thursday night.
The federal booster effort ran into challenges in the month since President Joe Biden made his announcement, including the time it takes to gather data on booster shots.
Pfizer was the first to submit its data to federal regulators, and is the only one of the three vaccines so far to be formally considered for booster use.
Given a lack of data on the safety of mixing vaccines from different manufacturers, Americans who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots must wait to have their own boosters approved.
As federal health officials have scrambled to assess data on booster shots, the U.S. has been facing a fourth wave of cases, with an average of 130,000 infections and more than 2,000 deaths per day.
The overwhelming majority of current COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among people who have not received a vaccine against the disease. Some members of the CDC advisory panel expressed uncertainty over the potential for boosters to tamp down the spike in infections.
“We may move the needle a little bit" by recommending booster doses, “but that's not really the answer to this pandemic," said Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, emphasizing the need to vaccinate those who still haven't received their initial shots.
Here are some questions and answers about boosters:
Who can get a vaccine booster?
Pfizer booster shots will initially be recommended to those 65 and older, or in long-term care facilities, as well as those between 50 and 64 who have underlying medical conditions.
The CDC panel also voted to allow those between 18 and 49 years old with underlying medical conditions to obtain booster shots, based on an individual assessment of their risk from COVID-19.
The panel rejected a broader recommendation of a booster for anyone 18-64 who is in an occupational or institutional setting where risk of COVID-19 transmission is high, such as health care workers. Several experts on the panel expressed concerns about the category being too broad and including some who may not receive much benefit from a booster shot.
But Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, included it in her guidance, as did the Food and Drug Administration when that agency granted its signoff on Wednesday.
Roughly 26 million Americans are at least six months past their second Pfizer dose, and about half of those individuals are 65 or older, according to the CDC.
What if I'm not in one of the approved categories?
You should wait to seek out a booster shot.
Data presented during the FDA and CDC hearings shows that while the vaccines' effectiveness has waned when it comes to being vulnerable to infections, breakthrough infections still tend to be mild and the shots' protection against severe illness and hospitalization remains strong.
“If you're not in a group for whom boosters are universally recommended, it's really because we think you're well-protected," said Dr. Matthew Daley, a senior investigator with Kaiser Permanente Colorado's Institute for Health Research.
If you're not in a group for whom boosters are universally recommended, it's really because we think you're well-protected.
– Dr. Matthew Daley, senior investigator with Kaiser Permanente Colorado's Institute for Health Research
What if I received a shot made by Moderna or Johnson & Johnson?
For now, you'll have to wait.
Moderna has submitted its federal application for a booster shot, and Johnson & Johnson said this week that it has provided data to the FDA on its booster study.
A number of health experts at Thursday's CDC advisory panel meeting expressed frustration about the lack of safety data on whether the shots can be mixed across manufacturers. FDA officials said they are working with those drug companies and the National Institutes of Health to gather the information needed for a science-backed ruling.
What if I want to get one anyway?
The recommendations do not include any requirements that health care providers confirm that those seeking a booster vaccine are in the eligible categories (which also include people who are immunocompromised, who were approved last month for boosters).
But the federal regulations on using those boosters under emergency approval mean that providers are supposed to strictly follow requirements on how the vaccines can be used.
When and where can I get a booster dose?
For the eligible groups, booster shots are recommended at least six months after receiving the second dose of Pfizer's vaccine.
Most individuals can head to their local pharmacy: More than 70% of COVID-19 vaccines currently are being administered through pharmacies, according to the CDC.
Will this change what it means to be fully vaccinated?
Not yet. Regulators said Thursday that the definition of being “fully vaccinated" — which is used by workplaces, entertainment venues and a range of other public and private settings — will still be the two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (and one of the single-dose J&J shot).
Will the booster recommendation be expanded to more Americans?
These won't be the last COVID-19 vaccination recommendations from federal health officials.
Throughout Thursday's meeting, CDC doctors emphasized that the recommendations are on an interim basis, and will be re-evaluated and updated.
Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.
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