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US voting rights trampled in Georgia governor’s race: lawsuit

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Advocates for Democrat Stacey Abrams filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday alleging far-reaching U.S. voting rights violations during the Georgia governor’s contest she lost this month to a Republican who ran the election as secretary of state.

Abrams, who vied to become the nation’s first female African-American governor, pledged to fight for electoral changes after a protracted vote count saw Brian Kemp win the race by little more than 1 percent of the nearly 4 million votes cast.

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Kemp resigned as secretary of state after the Nov. 6 election.

The lawsuit filed by Fair Fight Action, a voting advocacy group headed by Abrams’ campaign manager, said state election officials “grossly mismanaged an election that deprived Georgia citizens, and particularly citizens of color, of their fundamental right to vote.”

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, cited issues from sweeping purges of the voter rolls to shuttered precincts, voting equipment failures and late absentee ballots.

It highlighted stories of voters who said they were turned away from polls under state requirements that their personal information on voter applications exactly match state databases. Many voters also experienced long waits at polling places that lacked sufficient provisional ballots as backup.

Black and minority voters were disproportionately disenfranchised, the lawsuit said, noting that 70 percent of the voters whose registrations were pending over the “exact match” policy before the election were black, although African-Americans account for about one-third of the population.

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The main defendant in the lawsuit is Georgia’s interim Secretary of State, Robyn Crittenden, whose office did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked for comment on the lawsuit, Ryan Mahoney, a spokesman for Kemp, said the governor-elect was “focused on building a safe and prosperous future for Georgia families.”

The lawsuit asks the courts to recognize that voting rights under the U.S. Constitution and federal law were violated, and to help prevent problems in future elections.

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“Your ZIP code, your race, your gender or your income level should not determine if your vote is counted,” state Senator Nikema Williams said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. She is the state director of Care in Action, a group advocating for domestic workers that joined the lawsuit.

While Abrams was not named as a plaintiff, the lawsuit drew on more than 40,000 calls to a campaign hotline that documented problems at the polls, the plaintiffs’ attorney said.

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Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis


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Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers

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The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Trump is deploying national guardsman to provide pandemic support without any health benefits: report

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The National Guard are an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of them have potentially been exposed to infected civilians, making it a particularly dangerous and important time to serve.

But according to The Daily Beast, the guard has been deployed in a way that prevents them from being eligible for the military's health care system.

"The approximately 20,000 guardsmen who have been called up to help states around the country deal with the spread of the coronavirus are federalized on what’s called Title 32 status, which puts them in command of their various state governors but with the federal government paying costs," wrote senior national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman. "But according to the National Guard’s advocates and the U.S. governors’ association, the guardsmen are activated on orders that last 30 days. That puts them one single day shy of the requirement allowing the military health insurance system known as TRICARE — think of it as Medicare For All In Uniform — to cover them."

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Vaccine researchers grew ‘alarmed’ as Trump’s CDC wasted weeks of their time with a flawed coronavirus test: report

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According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.

As it turned out, that test was flawed.

Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, "On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing 'unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,' according to an email summarizing the call."

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