TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas lawmakers, following a trend in Republican-controlled statehouses nationwide, gave initial approval Wednesday to bills that would strip the executive and judicial branches of some authority over elections and make it more difficult to cast a ballot by mail. One of the measures would bar the Governor and courts from altering election laws. The other limits who is permitted to return a mail-in ballot on behalf of another person and makes it a felony for an individual to return more than five mail-in ballots. The changes were approved on a 28-12 vote, despite reports from Se...
GOP governor put on the spot over Republicans stripping away unemployment benefits as pandemic continues
Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday morning, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) was asked about his Republican colleagues who are stripping away a COVID-related $300 supplement to unemployment benefits in an effort to force employees back to work while the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing.
Jumping right into it, Tapper began, "Let's go into the news here. A new jobs report this weekend was disappointing showing only 266,000 jobs added in the U.S., a quarter of the 1 million projected -- unemployment ticked slightly up. Your fellow governors in Arkansas and Montana decided to end the $300 extra unemployment in an effort to get Americans back to work. Unemployment is very low in Utah. Do you see the extra funds as a disincentive to work?"
"Unfortunately I think it is a good idea," Cox responded with a grimace before hastily adding, "The purpose of the funds was absolutely critical during the pandemic, as we struggle now, we're towards the end of the pandemic."
"Here in Utah, unemployment at 2.9%. -- lowest in the nation and the biggest problem we have right now in the state of Utah are finding workers for the jobs that are available," he added. "And as we talk to workers, we found it actually is a disincentive. It is a terrible jobs report, not what we expected at all, but that's what happens when we pay people not to work. There are families struggling, we want to help them out, but at some point have to roll that back."
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'Mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible': Maricopa County sheriff blasts Arizona Senate's audit demand
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone on Friday slammed the "Senate Republican Caucus' audit of the Maricopa County votes" for "[jeopardizing] the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office," the Arizona Republic reports.
"The Senate Republican Caucus' audit of the Maricopa County votes from last November's election has no stopping point," Penzone said in a statement. "Now, its most recent demands jeopardize the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."
Penzone's criticism comes after Maricopa County failed to provide "certain routers that the state Senate sought in its original subpoenas" of 2020 election material. According to the Arizona Republic, "the county has provided all 2.1 million voter general election ballots, voter information and election equipment in response to state Senate subpoenas," but is warning of a "significant security risk to Sheriff's Office law enforcement data" if the routers are released.
Ken Bennett, who is serving "as a liaison between the Senate and the private contractors overseeing the audit," said auditors wants access to the routers because "people that have always suspected something nefarious about elections being connected to the internet."
The Senate is also demanding "passwords to the county's ballot tabulators used on Election Day at voting centers." Bennett said auditors need the passwords so they have have "administrative access to voting machines," according to the Arizona Republic.
But County Attorney Allister Adel, in a letter to Bennett, said no such passwords exist. "The county has provided every password, user name and security key in its custody or control, as commanded by the Senate's subpoenas, and does not have any others," Adel told Bennett.
As for the routers, Sheriff Penzone in his statement said "access to this information would adversely affect the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ability to protect critical evidence, data shared between law enforcement agencies, protected private information and individual passwords, all of which could be used to the detriment of citizens and law enforcement infrastructure."
Such a move "puts sensitive, confidential data belonging to Maricopa County's citizens — including social security numbers and protected health information — at risk as well," Adel wrote in that letter to Bennett.
Republican Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers likewise said releasing the routers would "cripple County operations and cost as much as $6 million."
Penzone also suggested the Senate is misrepresenting tropes of "transparency and accountability" in an effort to secure the routers.
Per the Arizona Republic:
The sheriff said transparency and accountability are democracy's foundation. "But when these words are misrepresented, it defies the fragile balance that exists between freedom and order and all that we believe in."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) turned heads on Thursday, May 6 when he only allowed Fox News to cover his signing of the state's newly-passed voting restrictions bill. Now, experts say he may have violated the U.S. Constitution by doing so.
DeSantis' move blocked all news outlets from covering the bill signing with the exception of Fox News. And it may be a violation of the First Amendment, according to Pamela Marsh, the executive director of the open-government advocacy firm First Amendment Foundation. On Friday, May 6, Marsh offered her assessment of DeSantis' stunt during an interview with The Tampa Bay Times.
"The law leaves no question as to the impropriety of banning certain media while allowing only friendly media," said Marsh. "That is viewpoint and content discrimination."
Prior incidents of similar nature also affirm that elected officials have no authority to prohibit specific news outlets from releasing reports on public events simply for the sake of preference. The Tampa Bay Times highlighted a number of past incidents where First Amendment violations were identified.
When a local mayor in Louisiana attempted to exclude news reporters from certain publications from attending press conferences in the 1980s, he ended up in court. A federal judge ultimately ruled in favor of the publications, deeming the mayor's actions, "the essence of censorship forbidden by the First Amendment and so abhorred by the founding fathers."
Then in 2007, a federal judge in Ohio ruled against a former Toledo mayor who refused to notify certain radio stations prior to his news conferences. In that case, the federal court insisted that the mayor was attempting to "manage the news by manipulating who comes to hear what's to be said and therefore who reports it."
In DeSantis' case, the publication notes that the signing of the bill is considered a "public proceeding." Clay Calvert, a law professor at the University of Florida, weighed in with his take on the ordeal as he agreed that it does appear to fall under First Amendment violations.
"Unless you're watching Fox, you're going to be denied access to information," Calvert said. "That's troubling regardless of the First Amendment issues."
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