Angelina Jolie made a surprise visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday, where she spent some time with children affected by the war, volunteers and refugees. Her visit was announced on Telegram by Lviv Regional State Administration Maksym Kozytskyy, The Associated Press reported. Jolie, 46, met and spoke with internally displaced Ukrainians — including children hurt in an attack in the eastern city of Kramatorsk earlier this month — who have found refuge in Lviv. “She visited children who suffered from a missile strike by the Russian military on the Kramatorsk train station,” K...
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Finally, The New York Times figured out something skeezy was going on in Georgia. From their article yesterday titled Turnout Was Strong in Georgia, but Mail Voting Plummets After New Law
“Data released by the Georgia secretary of state showed that mail voting in the state’s November general election plunged by 81 percent from the level of the 2020 contest. While a drop was expected after the height of the pandemic, Georgia had a far greater decrease than any other state with competitive statewide races, according to a New York Times analysis.”
Ever since 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court blocked full enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the GOP is making voting easier for rural and suburban white people and harder for urban Black people. Particularly in Georgia.
This is voter suppression at a world-class level, worthy of Putin or Orbán.
Donald Trump tells us that Joe Stalin once said words to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter who votes; what matters is who counts the votes.” Republicans in Georgia are today engaged in an act of political treachery worthy of Stalin’s quote.
There’s history here.
Grab the nearest Republican and ask them, “How did John Kennedy win the election in 1960?” Most will answer, “Mayor Daley stole the election in Chicago.“
In the modern era, that was the original sore-loser “voter fraud” story, and, of course, it came out of Richard Nixon and the GOP.
But, Jack Kennedy could’ve lost the entire state of Illinois and still would’ve had enough electoral votes (he won 303 to 219) to become president. He didn’t need Chicago. On top of that, Republicans insisted on, and got, two separate audits of the vote in Illinois, one immediately after the election and one in 1961 after Kennedy’s inauguration, and both showed that Kennedy won.
But Republicans still think Mayor Daley stole the day for JFK.
The persistence of political lies and mythology is extraordinary when a party is committed to perpetuating them, as Republicans have been about hanging onto this 62-year-old meme of “voter fraud.”
This isn’t just about grievance, though. After having their asses handed to them by both Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, the GOP got busy.
As I detailed yesterday, Richard Nixon rolled out his new “Southern Strategy” to pick up the white racist vote in the South that LBJ abandoned when he signed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1964/1965.
And then, starting in a big way in the early 1980s, the GOP started doing something about “voter fraud.”
Only problem: there is no consequential “voter fraud” in the United States and, outside of rigged elections in the pre-Civil War South, probably never has been. People just wouldn’t stand for it.
But Republicans have succeeded in chasing this unicorn for three generations because it’s a great excuse to make it harder for “some people” to vote or have their votes counted.
Republicans hyping a non-existent problem into a crisis is nothing new, and worked well for them with drugs back in the day. Now they’re repeating the scam around non-existent “voter fraud,” which is really just a variation — strategically speaking — on Nixon’s drug war of the 1970s.
Nixon, elected in 1968 after sabotaging LBJ’s efforts to end the Vietnam War, intended to run for re-election in 1972. Yet by 1971 he and his war were increasingly unpopular, particularly in the Black community (that was taking the brunt of the draft as white people were easily getting college and bone-spur exemptions) and generally hated by young people of all races.
So he huddled with his top advisors Haldemann and Ehrlichman to come up with a strategy to win the upcoming election.
The product of those planning sessions burst into public view on June 17, 1971 when Nixon officially rolled out his brand-spanking-new “War on Drugs.”
As Nixon’s right hand man, John Ehrlichman, told reporter Dan Baum:
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. Do you understand what I’m saying?
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.
“Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
And it worked:Source: adapted from Wikipedia on US Incarceration rates
While Nixon at least could point to drug users arrested by the police, until recently the GOP had simply howled into the wind about “voter fraud” without evidence. Who would be dumb enough, after all, to intentionally risk going to jail to cast a single vote?
So Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott put their police to work in a way truly worthy of Nixon’s best efforts, and, sure enough, they found a handful of Black people who didn’t realize it was illegal to vote in those states if they’d had a felony conviction. In fact, the states of Florida and Texas had helped them register to vote!
They were promptly re-arrested and paraded in front of the cameras.
That had two effects, both intended.
First, it scared the hell out of a lot of Black people who knew well how selectively laws can be enforced against them and how easy it is to get a white jury to throw a Black person in jail for just about anything.
Black voter turnout in Florida appears to have collapsed following those arrests this year, apparently taking down the Democratic Party with it. As the Miami NBC TV affiliate noted, city-dwelling [Black] Democrats simply failed to show up:
“DeSantis flipped counties President Joe Biden won in 2022: Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Duval. One major problem for Democrats was a mismatch in turnout. Republican registered voters showed up, and Democrats did not, according to unofficial results posted online by Florida's supervisors of elections.
“In Miami-Dade County, there are 135,229 more registered Democrats than Republicans, but more Republicans showed up: 61% of registered Republicans voted and only 46% of Democrat registered voters.
“There are 106,299 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Palm Beach County. 55% of registered Democrats showed up and 66% of Republicans showed up.
“The same thing happened in Central and North Florida in several major urban areas. There are 53,156 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Hillsborough County but only 39% of Democrats showed up and 44% of Republicans showed up to vote.
“In North Florida’s Duval County, there are 31,173 more registered Democrats than Republicans, but 65% of Republican voters voted compared to 49% of Democrats.”
Second, high-profile arrests for “voter fraud” gave credibility to the Republican’s nationwide efforts to make it harder to vote, particularly for people living in cities. (The real red/blue divide in America is geographic: rural areas are overwhelmingly Republican, cities mostly Democratic.)
The next low-hanging fruit for the Republican voters suppression effort was attacking mail-in voting.
In most states when you vote by mail you sign your ballot or the envelope that contains it and an election monitor or judge can decide if your signature matches that of your voter registration card or drivers’ license.
Signatures change over time, and people also tend to write their signatures differently when they’re in a hurry, like at the DMV. So the GOP launched a campaign to get Republican election monitors out to “check signatures for fraud” in precincts were large percentages of Democrats vote.
Which makes it easy for these election monitors to “challenge” your vote, meaning it won’t be counted unless or until you show up in person to verify that you are actually you. That happens maybe, I’m guessing (there are no reliable statistics), around 1 percent of the time.
Mail-in ballots are also vulnerable to late delivery, particularly since Lewis DeJoy slowed down our mail months before the 2020 election by destroying over a hundred high-speed multi-million-dollar mail sorting machines.
People prefer, therefore, to drop their ballots in a drop box to make sure they’ll get promptly counted.
But in Georgia, Governor Kemp signed a law, SB 202, that has measurably changed how Georgians must vote. As investigative reporter Greg Palast documented:
—“From the 2020/2021 elections to November 2022, mail-in ballots in Georgia plummeted by over 1 million, a breathtaking 81% loss of ballots — concentrated in Black-majority urban counties.
—“A principal cause of this drop-off: SB202, signed into law last year, limits dropboxes to no more than one per one-hundred thousand active voters. This limit affects ONLY the four large Greater Atlanta counties which are 59.7% non-white. The law shuttered 77% of Atlanta-area dropboxes, declining from 107 to 25.
—“At the same time, small rural counties were required to ADD at least one dropbox. The result: a radical reduction in dropboxes in urban non-white counties to 55,862 voters per dropbox. In the remainder of Georgia, 65% white, only 18,000 voters must share a dropbox, a 314% difference.
—“Absentee balloting in the four Atlanta-area counties plummeted by 83%, not only because of the limits on number of dropboxes, but because SB202 slashed their availability: Dropboxes could only be placed INSIDE county offices and early voting stations. This sabotages the purpose of dropboxes — providing access to those with jobs or obligations that require voting outside business hours.”
Kemp was ready for those people who decided to vote in person this time, too. As Palast notes:
“The reduction in Election Run-off time from two months to just 28 days has slashed early voting to only between 5 and 7 days.”
This brought out the GOP’s second favorite voter suppression method: long lines in Democratic strongholds.
Working class people can’t afford to spend half a day waiting in line to vote, and Republicans know it.
Long lines to vote in majority-Republican precincts are largely non-existent nationwide, but every election we’re treated to pictures of them in majority-Democratic precincts.
And let’s not forget the current favorite method of voter suppression used by Republican governors and secretaries of state: voter purges.
The first time Brian Kemp faced Stacey Abrams for governor of Georgia, for example, he purged 107,000 people off the voting rolls just prior to the election, all of them registered voters who failed to return a caging card.
He “won” by 50,000 votes, and then repeated his efforts again this year through his Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger (whose name, ironically, is correctly pronounced “Raff–ens–purger”).
Raffensperger recently sent caging letters to 185,666 Georgians while Stacey Abrams was frantically trying to get 100,000 voters registered to make up for the purges.
When Democrats sued Ohio’s Secretary of State John Husted (for his voter purges in that state’s largest cities) in the 2018 case Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, Supreme Court Associate Justice Sam Alito opened his decision approving of the new GOP voter purge strategy, codifying the GOP “voter fraud” scam by quoting meaningless statistics:
“It has been estimated that 24 million voter registrations in the United States—about one in eight—are either invalid or significantly inaccurate. And about 2.75 million people are said to be registered to vote in more than one State.”
It’s a completely empty argument because those numbers, while accurate, don’t mean that any of those inaccurate, invalid, or duplicate voter registrations are ever used.
It’s rare that people who move from state to state bother to notify the Secretary of State of the state they left that they no longer live there, so of course there are many Americans registered to vote in multiple states or at wrong addresses.
In the past 45 years, I’ve moved from Michigan to New Hampshire to Germany to Georgia to Vermont to Oregon to Washington DC and back to Oregon. I’ve never notified anybody that I’d left the state I moved from. And there’s nothing wrong with that: it’s normal.
Most people do the same as me, and that doesn’t mean any of them are fraudulently voting: this, like the “voter fraud” scam, is a “problem” that does not need a solution. States generally remove people from voting rolls when drivers’ licenses expire and are not renewed, or when people stop paying state income taxes. It’s slightly slower, but works just fine.
Nonetheless, Alito thought it was a fine excuse to give the legal endorsement to Republican voter purging on an industrial scale.
In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote:
“It is unsurprising in light of the history of such purge programs that numerous amici report that the Supplemental Process has disproportionately affected minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters.
“As one example, amici point to an investigation that revealed that in Hamilton County, ‘African-American-majority neighborhoods in downtown Cincinnati had 10% of their voters removed due to inactivity’ since 2012, as compared to only 4% of voters in a suburban, majority-white neighborhood.”
But the five Republicans on the Court prevailed, and Ohio’s purger-in-chief John Husted hailed his victory and this new way of purging Democratic-leaning voters as a “model for other [Republican] states” to follow.
Purging Democratic voters from the rolls has now gone nationwide, at least in states where voting is controlled by Republicans.
Greg Palast estimates there were at least 4 million fully legal and appropriately registered voters purged just this election year, although the history Pew documented from 2016-1018 suggests the number may be over ten million.
Which brings us back to where I started this rant.
Our national media is all over “Nazi talk from the GOP,” but where’s their concern about these blatant efforts to suppress the Democratic vote in Georgia?
The failure of the media to cover this abomination — perhaps because it’s not a “both sides do it” story — is a journalistic crime.
And not just because it lets Kemp and his buddies get away with something that puts an ice-pick into the heart of our democracy, but also because it encourages his colleagues in other states to do the same.
And do the same they are: variations on the draconian limits on voting imposed this year in Georgia, Florida, and Texas are being cloned in every Republican-controlled state in the nation as you read these words.
“Voter fraud” today is every bit as phony an issue as it was when Nixon rolled it out in the years just before his “War On Drugs.” But massaging the voting rolls works for authoritarian regimes around the world, and the GOP sees it as the only way to seize and hold power.
The Democratic Party and America’s media need to get clear about this, before the GOP succeeds in turning at least half of our states — and eventually our entire nation — into pseudo-democracies like Hungary and Russia.
To see a truly shocking documentary about what’s happening in Georgia right now with this Warnock/Walker runoff, a preview of what’s coming to every Red state, check out Greg Palast’s new movie Vigilante (disclosure: I helped with the film). You can watch it for free here and the official trailer is below:
Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman [Trailer II] www.youtube.com
Measure 114, which was narrowly approved by voters last month, will tighten Oregon’s gun regulations. Due to go into effect on Dec. 8, it will ban magazines that hold more than 10 bullets and require gun owners to acquire a permit and undergo training before purchasing a firearm.
Since the measure passed, gun shops have faced a surge in demand. Under current law, purchasers are required to pass a background check before buying a gun. But Oregon State Police, which process those, is overwhelmed with a backlog of requests that could take months to process. Under a federal loophole, if a background check is not processed in three days, dealers can legally sell a gun, rifle or semi-automatic weapon.
The owner of a gun store in Tigard, who spoke to the Capital Chronicle on the condition of anonymity, said he’s no longer waiting for background check to clear.
He said he and some other gun shop owners he knows are completing all sales, no matter the weapons sold, unless Oregon State Police determine a customer has failed a background check within three business days. He said he’s sold about 500 firearms this way.
“All the people releasing these (firearms) — we’re not happy about this. But we don’t have a choice,” the dealer said.
Other gun shops are openly advertising the loophole to encourage sales. J&B Firearms in Beaverton announced on Nov. 20 in a popular gun blog that it would invoke what it called a “nuclear option” to speed up the process.
In the post on the Northwest Firearms message board, the store encouraged customers to buy a weapon, submit information for the background check and return three days later – but before Thursday, Dec. 7 – to pick up their purchases.
“We also invite and encourage all other Oregon (federal firearms licensees) to join us in adopting this policy,” the store said in its announcement. “If this state wants to take us down, we believe we should go out with a bang, not a whimper.”
The policy is controversial within Oregon’s gun industry, according to interviews with five gun dealers across Oregon and sometimes-fierce debate in gun advocates’ Facebook groups. But the push for sales underscores the concern among many sellers and buyers who fear the new law will curtail firearm sales until officials implement Measure 114’s permit system. It could take months for the Oregon State Police to set up this new system.
It’s unclear how many firearm dealers are selling weapons to customers after three days while the background check is pending. Lars Dalseide, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, would not say whether he thinks store owners should do so. Neither would Kevin Starrett of the Oregon Firearms Federation, a plaintiff in a legal challenge to Measure 114.
It’s also unclear what would happen if a customer bought a gun and later failed a background check. In those cases, the agency currently notifies local law enforcement and the dealer that sold the firearm, according to Kyle Kennedy, a spokesperson for OSP.
But law enforcement agencies have limited resources and might not be able to recover firearms sold to people who fail background checks, said Daniel Webster, a professor and researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions in Maryland. He said agencies would probably have to prioritize disarming dangerous people, such as those convicted of violent crimes.
A spokesperson for the Beaverton Police Department did not respond when asked twice whether Oregon State Police had sent any such notifications.
Some Oregon sheriffs have said they won’t prioritize enforcing Oregon’s new gun regulations. Linn County Sheriff Michelle Duncan said in a statement on Facebook that her office will not enforce Measure 114’s magazine capacity limits, calling it a “terrible law for gun owners, crime victims and public safety.”
‘The Charleston loophole’
Some researchers and gun control advocates say the three-day rule gives dealers the power to skirt background checks that are required across the country. Oregon and federal law bar customers with criminal histories, arrest warrants, mental health commitments or those who have other issues from purchasing a gun. The background checks also apply to private transfers of firearms except between close family members, according to a spokesperson for the Oregon Firearms Federation.
Gun control advocates call the three-day rule the Charleston loophole, named after a horrific 2015 mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, when 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof illegally obtained a firearm before the background check was complete and killed nine worshippers at a church.
Measure 114 will close the loophole by requiring a permit system. Gun proponents in Oregon say that in the meantime the loophole is legal.
“If the gun grabbers don’t like it, it’s their own fault for creating the emergency. It(’ s) VERY, VERY legal,” John Price, an administrator of the gun-advocacy group Good Guys with Guns Oregon, said on Facebook.
An employee at J&B Firearms who declined to be named said “plenty” of stores were selling firearms after three days.
Not all gun dealers are doing so, however.
Carlos Ortegon, who manages the gun shop Umpqua Survival in Roseburg, said he’s turning down customers asking him to honor the rule because he won’t risk arming people who might fail their background check. He thinks shop owners shouldn’t engage in the practice.
“They’re risking putting guns in people’s hands who should not have them,” he said.
Ray Gunter, owner of Emerald Valley Armory in Creswell, said he’s not selling firearms until someone passes a background check because doing otherwise might be illegal. He echoed concerns from several other gun store proprietors that the policy might open them up to legal liability and license seizure.
But like the four other gun dealers interviewed for this story, he expressed a deep frustration with the background check backlog at Oregon State Police.
Its Firearms Instant Check System unit received more than 48,000 requests for a background check between Nov. 9 and 22, according to the agency’s data. The surge has slashed its rate of ruling on a background check within three days from 84% between 2018 and Nov. 8 — Election Day — to 61% between Election Day and Thanksgiving, Kennedy said.
Oregon State Police are now delaying all new requests for background checks.
Starrett, of the Oregon Firearms Federation, said he’s not sure when the three-day period technically begins — when the gun dealer submits the background check, or when state police notify the dealer that they’ve started looking at it. The latter case would narrow the rule’s application to a smaller group of customers.
That confuses some gun shop owners and managers, including Gunter in Creswell. He said he’s not taking advantage of the three day rule, but might consider changing his policy if he had more clarity, he said.
The store owner in Tigard said smaller dealers needed to adopt the three-day sales policy to survive.
Several gun stores have already announced they will close in the coming months, including Gunrunner Arms in Junction City. On its website, the store blamed uncertainty around Measure 114 and the current backlog for its expected closure.
“With the source of our income being outlawed, we will not be able to stay open past the first of the year,” its website reads.
At The Outdoorsman in Ontario, owner Julie Clark is turning away all customers seeking a new gun, despite the financial risk of getting stuck with her inventory. Clark is considering transferring her stock across the border to Idaho and setting up shop there at a big expense, she said.
Webster, the Johns Hopkins researcher, said Measure 114’s intent to make firearm sales safer in Oregon could be blunted if enough Oregon gun shops bypass background checks.
“To me, it underscores why you need a licensing system,” he said.
Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.
State law calls for counties to perform a partial hand count of ballots after each election. Representatives of each recognized political party in the county randomly select which precincts or vote centers are subjected to the hand counts, as well as which races shall be included.
Those county parties must inform election officials of who will participate in the hand count no later than the Tuesday before Election Day. And because no more than 75% of the participants can be from the same party, at least two political parties must participate.
That didn’t happen this year in the three counties that didn’t conduct the post-election audits following the November election: Apache, Graham and La Paz.
In La Paz County, the Republicans failed to designate a representative, Elections Director Bob Bartelsmeyer wrote in a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office. In Graham County, Elections Director Hannah Duderstadt wrote that neither political party participated.
It’s less clear what happened in Apache. Elections Director Angela Romero wrote that one of the political parties did not supply a representative, but didn’t identify which party. Emails and a phone message left for Romero seeking clarification went unanswered.
All three of those counties also failed to do the audits for the August primary election. In Apache and Graham counties, neither political party supplied a representative, while Democrats didn’t participate in La Paz County.
After the primary election, Greenlee and Santa Cruz counties also didn’t have the required participation to conduct the audits. In Greenlee, neither party submitted representatives. The parties in Santa Cruz submitted names, but at least one of the party representatives failed to show up for the audit, so it was canceled.
The post-election audits are designed to ensure that ballot tabulators are accurately counting ballots that were cast during the election. The members of the political parties serve as independent witnesses to the results.
In addition to the audits, political party representatives also participate in pre- and post-election logic and accuracy tests in which sample ballots are tabulated and the results are checked for accuracy.
Hand-counts of elections have become a rallying cry for some on the right, particularly among those who believe the conspiracy theory that electronic ballot tabulators used in every Arizona county are part of a scheme to ensure Republicans lose.
In Cochise County this year, far-right activists persuaded county leaders to pursue a full hand-count of the November election. But a judge ruled that the state law allowing for the post-election audits, which Republican county officials said justified their move, doesn’t allow counties to hand-count every ballot.
State law mandates that counties hand-count at least 2% of ballots cast in-person at polling places, and of 1% of all early ballots.
Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: email@example.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.