by James C. Sherlock
Before voters go to the polls on Tuesday, I think it a useful exercise to consider the future of the Bill of Rights with a Supreme Court “expanded,” as promised by Democrats if they control the Presidency and the Senate, to provide a leftist majority.
To enable that reflection, it is useful to remember that the current Bill of Rights is composed of 10 amendments offered as constraints on the national government and, by extension of most of them, to state governments.
As a general observation, the left wing of the Democratic party opposes any restraints on federal power.
We will examine the controlling Supreme Court decisions that affect the enforcement of these freedoms and would be put in jeopardy by a court that embraced critical theory.
What follows are the musings of a citizen who is not an attorney, albeit a citizen who can and does read and recounts the common understandings of the Court decisions below.
Governor Northam loving those poll numbers. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch
By Peter Galuszka
He’s been through “coonman,” “blackface,” a muddled interview about late term abortion, and aggressive and controversial steps to stop the pandemic, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has sprinted through a recent statewide poll with flying colors.
According to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll, more than half of Virginia’s registered voters approve of the overall job performance of Gov. Ralph Northam, and an even larger majority support his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Northam’s job approval rating of 56 percent is up from 49 percent about a year ago and from 43 percent in the wake of his blackface scandal in early 2019, “The Post said.
“His disapproval is also up, at 38 percent from 31 percent last year, with far fewer voters now expressing no opinion. But his ratings remain net positive by 18 percentage points.”
The Governor gets a drubbing on this blog, but not with people who really count, given their numbers. Continue reading
Dungeness School House Sequim Washington
by James C. Sherlock
It is no secret that many voters in the past have gone to the polls without any clear idea of who they will vote for in the school board contests.
This year, because of the unprecedented twin black swan events of COVID disruptions and the adoption of critical race theory policies and attacks on Asian students at the state level, the local school board contests are more important than ever.
Each school board candidate is on record somewhere, often in the local newspaper if you have one, as to their positions on key issues. I will suggest what to look for and what to ask if the answer is not apparent.
It starts with teacher retention and recruitment. We don’t pay them enough and ask them to do too much. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
Faulty Absentee Ballot Tracker Still Losing Track
Complaints continue about an absentee ballot tracking system on the Virginia Department of Elections website. Someone with a problem similar to what I encountered in September reached out to Richmond’s WTVR-TV 6 News, which reported that the problem lies with the United States Postal Service. The tracking system is provided by an outside vendor.
Jessenia Eliza, the Director of Government Initiatives at Democracy Works (the outside vendor), told CBS 6 the issue the Duszaks were facing was as a result of their ballot barcodes not being scanned by USPS.
“Ballot Scout relies entirely on USPS data in the state of Virginia. How it works is that as the intelligent mail barcode on ballots are scanned, that information is sent to our tool, and it updates the associated voter record,” explained Eliza. “We’re seeing this here and there with ballots that aren’t moving beyond that ‘in-transit’ status. That typically means just that the USPS didn’t scan it further, not necessarily that the ballot isn’t moving.”
The reporter then spoke with somebody at the state, who said: Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
November’s election is coming during one of the most dangerous and deeply divisive periods in American history. There are some clear warning signs that a contested election could lead to significant unrest and violence and perhaps worse.
Race-related demonstrations, the COVID-19 pandemic and the constantly polarizing rhetoric from Donald Trump have all contributed to a spike in domestic terrorism, white supremacy groups and direct threats against public officials.
This week, some 13 hard-right terrorists were charged in connection with the planned kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. According to the accusations filed by the FBI and state law enforcement, the group intended to take the captured governor to another state, hold a “trial” and perhaps execute her.
(Update: recent news reports say that six were charged in connection with Gov. Whitmer’s planned kidnapping and seven people were charged for planning violent acts, perhaps instigating a civil war).
In Virginia, meanwhile, gun sales have hit new records in the run up to the Nov. 3 election. Data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which has tracked mandatory background checks on buyers since 1990, shows estimated firearm sales have spiked in 2020, a year rocked by the global pandemic and protests across the country, WRIC-TV reported.
Tracking on my ballot as of September 30, eight days since the last update. Click for larger view.
Okay, so where is my absentee ballot? The Virginia Board of Elections tracking system is falling down. This does not inspire confidence and needs to be fixed.
I had the application in well in advance. The ballot was mailed on the first day, a Friday, and our local Postal Service delivery lady worked long hours on Saturday to get them delivered. I assume the absentee ballots were the reason mail was delivered at 8 p.m. that day. Thank you, Ma’am.
I had it back in the mail Monday morning and as you can see above, the tracking service had it on its way to the Henrico Board of Elections by Tuesday, September 22. But the tracking has not been updated since that time. I’ve given it a week.
UPDATE: It turns out there are two trackers, and the other one (here) does show my ballot as received by the county Sept. 23. That is the tracker I remember from before. So now the mystery is, why the second one? And why is it not updated when the other one is? The confusion this might create could be substantial. The person who sent me the link to the correct tracker reported a similar problem on the newer one for his own ballot.
The second process is being run by an outside vendor, Ballot Scout, and I don’t know when that started. Last June I cast a mail absentee (as a poll worker away from my home precinct I had that legitimate reason) and the tracking was prompt. It will need to be prompt this time if you want confidence in Virginia’s results. Another little wrinkle on this that should raise eyebrows — anybody can check the status of anybody else’s mail absentee on the second one, if you have their first and last name and the address. Huh? Anybody can see in real time if I’ve requested and mailed a ballot or not?
MONEY IN POLITICS
By Steve Haner
Welcome to the current state of politics, where an incumbent preens as being free from special interest funding and their sworn enemy, all while the special interests spend millions seeking to tear down the challenger.
House Bill 827, approved by the 2020 General Assembly, did not really provide additional employment protection for Virginia’s pregnant women. It created a new state-level bureaucratic shillelagh to use if they felt aggrieved, backed up by the threat of state lawsuits and punitive damages. Continue reading
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
I need some help sorting out a dilemma I find myself in.
I am strongly in favor of the concept of authorizing an independent commission to draw legislative district lines. On the other hand, I really do not like the proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would create such a commission.
During the debate last session, two objections were the most prominent. The members of the Legislative Black Caucus objected strenuously that the proposed amendment did not guarantee that minorities would be represented on the commission. I am not swayed by that argument. There is ample opportunity to have minorities appointed as citizen members. Furthermore, the voting rights of minorities are protected by the Voting Rights Act. If any redistricting plan produced by the commission unfairly violated the voting rights of minorities, it would be struck down by the federal courts. The Republicans found this out a couple of years ago. Continue reading
by DJ Rippert
Chaos. Violent riots have become a nightly occurrence across America. Portland is now over 100 nights of protests and riots. Meanwhile, Portland’s mayor expresses his solidarity with the protesters while moving from his residence because of the number of violent protests conducted on his doorstep. You can’t make this up. People are dying in big cities and small. Kenosha has been a war zone recently and another inexplicable police shooting in Los Angeles has that city on edge. In Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently had an epiphany … the riots and looting were not protests. Rather they were “planned attacks.” Sharp thinkin’ from the Land of Lincoln. Sadly, the Labor Day weekend saw 51 shooting and 10 killings in Chicago. Closer to home D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is talking about a possible “race war” stirred up by “outside agitators.” Charles Manson is getting his “Helter Skelter” 50 years late. Virginia has been no stranger to street violence as looting and vandalism have come to Richmond and Hampton Roads.
The late Senator Bob Calhoun, R-Alexandria, with the very much still alive and kicking former Governor Douglas Wilder, in the Senate Chamber. Wilder might have been lieutenant governor at the time. Calhoun family photo attached to the obituary linked below.
Former State Senator Bob Calhoun’s death on August 6 at age 83 is apparently only Alexandria local news so far, but he was such a colorful and useful member of the Senate that his passing needs more notice. The family is delaying any formal memorial services.
Calhoun was funny, one very smart lawyer and an experienced government mandarin from the federal realm. His expertise included transportation. He had a strong political base in Alexandria as councilman and then vice mayor, and when former Senator Wiley Mitchell told us he was stepping down, he strongly pointed to Bob as the next candidate. In his usual fashion I think he called me at the GOP Caucus office and said, “Bob or else.” Continue reading
By Steve Haner
If the state and the major political parties do not spend substantial time educating voters about how voting rules have changed, and what has not changed, the lines and delays on November 3 will be incredible. This voter education must start now. The Northam Administration is not known for effective communication, sadly.
The Virginia Public Access Project has posted a useful illustrated “how to” on voting absentee by mail, pointing to some things which have changed. But even it glosses over something key that has not changed: To apply on-line for an absentee ballot by mail, you still need to provide formal identification.
The first request in the on-line application is for your Virginia driver’s license number. Lacking that, it seeks some other numbered state-issued identification. You must also provide your Social Security number. Requesting and actually checking the voter’s data provides some assurance ballots will be mailed to real persons at their actual addresses.
The additional safety procedure of requiring the signature of a witness to that ballot, however, is under assault in the courts again. It was waived in June and the pandemic is still with us. Waiving it again simply feeds the claims that the process cannot be trusted. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
The Virginia Republican Party had a big shock Saturday.
Far-right candidate Bob Good snatched the party’s nomination in the fifth congressional district from incumbent Denver Riggleman, who was backed by President Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr., the head of Liberty University.
The remarkable twist could presage an arch-conservative backlash against Trump’s populism in the run up to elections this November.
University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato tweeted early Sunday morning that “the Virginia GOP has gone so far to the right that a congressman backed by (Trump and Falwell) isn’t conservative enough to renominate.”
The 5th District includes the cities of Lynchburg and Charlottesville and covers broad swaths of highly socially conservative rural areas. Riggleman’s problem was that he had Libertarian tendencies and had officiated at a gay wedding. Continue reading
Posted in Business and Economy, Courts and law, Culture wars, Elections, Electoral process, Immigration, Individual rights, LGBQT rights, Media, Money in politics, Politics
By Peter Galuszka
On June 24, 2015, Nikki Haley, a Republican who was South Carolina’s first non-white governor, called for the removal of a Confederate flag that had been flying over the state’s capitol grounds for years.
“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said. Her action came a few days after an avowed white supremacist walked into an African-American church and opened fire, killing church members attending a service.
I was watching the news on TV when she made her gutsy move. I was deeply impressed.
And now, Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is governor of Virginia, has taken a similarly gutsy move. He has ordered that the state-owned statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee be removed from its stand on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It has been there for about 130 years, erected by white supremacists with deep sentiment for their romantic myths of Southern history.
“I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from our past and we all know that our country needs that example right now,” Northam said. Continue reading
Posted in Bacon and pigs, Blogs and blog administration, Business and Economy, Courts and law, Crime , corrections and law enforcement, Culture wars, Defense, Economic development, Education (higher ed), Education (K-12), Efficiency in government, Elections, General Assembly, Governance, Government Oversight, Government workers and pensions, Gun rights, Individual rights, Media, Politics, Race and race relations, Transparency
The Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia
By Peter Galuszka
Around midnight Monday, reporters in downtown Washington D.C., stood by ready to cover the next round of protests about the slaying of African Americans by police.
They started getting tweets marked #dcblackout suggesting that internet service was being interrupted because of a secret program presumably run by the government that would cut them off.
The curious thing, NBC News reported, is that the reporters’ cell phones worked just fine. Later Twitter was contacted and began to investigate. It was curious that the questionable tweet seemed to be coming from the left-wing ANTIFA group that is said to have helped organize protests around the country.
A tweet labeled as been sourced with ANTIFA proclaimed “Tonight’s the night, comrades. Tonight we say F&*^The city and we move into the residential areas, the white hoods and we take what’s ours.”
Twitter quickly uncovered the problem. The tweets were fakes put out by a far-right white nationalist group called Identity Evropa. Twitter took down the sites because they violated the company’s policy against using social media to incite violence, NBC reported. Continue reading
Posted in Blogs and blog administration, Business and Economy, Correction, Courts and law, Crime , corrections and law enforcement, Culture wars, Defense, Elections, Electoral process, Federal, Government Oversight, Individual rights, Infrastructure, Media, Money in politics, Public safety & health, Race and race relations, Telecommunications, Transparency
by Chris Saxman
Virginia’s most accurate statewide election locality — Staunton — just swept off City Council three Democratic incumbents in favor of three Republicans.
Democrats go from a 6-to-1 majority to a 3-to-4 minority.
This made headlines around the Commonwealth and political news sites. “Virginia is going Red this fall!” “Will Trump win in November?”
There are many reasons why this happened and several lessons to be learned (again).
The main reason — the incumbents lost.
But first, here is just how accurate Staunton has been over the last EIGHT statewide elections in Virginia and why you should pay attention to the Queen City. Continue reading