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
Democrats’ commitment to fight voter suppression apparently does not extend to candidate suppression. Backed by the prominent Democratic law firm Perkins Coie, two Suffolk residents have sued to kick black rapper/entrepreneur Kanye West off the presidential ballot in Virginia on the grounds that signature gatherers for West deceived them.
According to the Washington Post, Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, filed a motion for an emergency hearing today and filed a brief highlighting deficiencies in 13 elector oaths.
West’s real offense, of course, is threatening to drain African-American votes from Joe Biden. The Dems purport to support black voting rights…. but only as long as it helps Democrats win elections. Dems sue to create more black-majority districts… as long as it helps elect more Democrats. But when African-Americans think for themselves and run as independents or Republicans they must be suppressed.
Update: A circuit court Judge has ordered state election authorities to remove West from the ballot, saying that some signatures were gathered illegally. Dems were certainly within their rights to take West off the ballot… but the optics still look bad.
Note to readers: I had hoped to do more blogging this week while at the beach, but my laptop crashed, and my blogging capabilities are severely curtailed.
A Virginia voting booth. How quaint!
by James A. Bacon
It’s been twenty years since the Bush-Gore presidential election that brought the term “hanging chads” into common parlance. But that controversy, which plunged the nation into intense partisan acrimony, was mere dress rehearsal for what could be coming. Thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, there likely will be an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots in the 2020 presidential election. And if you thought it was difficult determining votes from punch cards that left dangling bits of paper, just wait until we start sorting out the confusion over mail-in ballots.
The potential for electoral chaos was driven home here in Virginia by the recent mass mailing of mail-in ballot request forms by a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, the Center for Voter Information. A new Virginia law allowing no-excuse early voting for the 45-day period before election day. Asserting that voting by mail “keeps you healthy and safe,” the mailer urged voters to “just sign, date and complete the application.” The application forms had the recipient’s name and address pre-filled out.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook because of the absentee ballot forms,” Susan Saunders, Suffolk’s voter registrar, told the Suffolk News Herald. “It has created vast confusion.” 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 Kerry Dougherty
I’m playing postman, I thought a couple of weeks ago as I delivered mail to four of my neighbors.
That was the day that every single envelope in my mailbox was addressed to someone else. It was a record. Usually there are no more than one or two wayward envelopes.
Our regular mail carrier was on vacation, I learned, as if that excuses such incompetence.
But where’s MY mail, I wondered later when no one brought so much as one of those ubiquitous Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons.
Everyone has at least one postal horror story. Here’s another one of mine:
Several years ago my niece in Greensboro, N.C., had a baby. It was our family’s first grandchild and much excitement ensued. I found a beautiful blanket for that cherub, wrapped it, addressed it and sent it Priority Mail. You know, so it would arrive promptly. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue, a double lane, tree lined thoroughfare, has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign that has focused on the statues of several Confederate figures one the road, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis.
All are up for removal, but the same foot-dragging that has for years protected the statues that some consider racist is at work today. Protestors have torn down Davis and have defaced the rest. On Sunday night, they nearly ripped down the Stuart statue as two city council members urged that it be removed on an emergency basis.
Lee’s statue has been ordered down by Gov. Ralph Northam, but the effort has been tied up in lawsuits by several property owners. One claims either that the original deed that gave the state the site for Lee included language that it could not be removed. Other plaintiffs, most anonymous, claim that removing the statues would hurt their property values and their special tax status.
If anything smacks of white privilege and entitlement, this is it. But for more perspective, this article in The Atlantic neatly sums up the history behind the statues and the Avenue, noting that the issue has everything to do with rewriting Richmond’s history and making a marketing play to sell expensive and exclusive real estate decades after the Confederacy was suppressed. Continue reading
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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
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by Rosanna Bencoach
In a recent piece in Bacon’s Rebellion, “COVID-19 No Justification for Mail-In Voting,” Brian Glass questioned the security of mail-in voting by citing controversies in other states during previous elections.
The underlying issues and outcomes varied but did not cast doubt on the entire system. As Dick Hall-Sizemore commented:
Voting by mail is not inherently subject to greater levels of fraud. The states of Oregon and Washington have had voting by mail for years. In the 2016 election, there were 54 causes of voter fraud in Oregon. Washington experienced 142 cases in the 2018 election. There have to be safeguards built in to voting by mail or absentee voting programs. For example, the idea of one person collecting the votes of many others in order to take them to the polling place (“ballot harvesting”) easily lends itself to fraud and should not be allowed.
In Virginia, absentee voting is conducted by mail and in the Voter Registrar’s office, and must begin by the 45th day before each general election or primary. Absentee voting requires an application from the voter, stating a legally acceptable reason to vote absentee (travel, illness, etc.) Continue reading
by Brian Glass
With the COVID-19 epidemic, adherents of mail-in voting in Virginia and around the country believe they have found the “hook” to pass their favored legislation. That idea needs to be revisited before the primary elections in June and the presidential election in November. Regardless of the epidemic, voting by mail is still a bad idea.
In the 2017 Dallas, Tex., City Council election, there were approximately 700 fraudulent mail-in ballots signed by the same person. The number of fraudulent ballots were larger than the difference in the vote tally in one of he races.
In the 2018 North Carolina gubernatorial election, 61% of mail-in ballots favored the Republican candidate even though registered Republicans accounted for only 19% of those who requested mail-in ballots. The Republican won by a 905-vote margin. The results were thrown out and a new election resulted in the election of a Democratic governor.
In 2016, 83 registered voters in San Pedro, Calif., received ballots at the same address, an apartment complex. Continue reading
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
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By Peter Galuszka
Get ready. The names of all kinds of leftist organizations are going to be kicked around as the masterminds behind violent, cop-beating looters, especially the so-called ANTIFA movement in Virginia and across the country..
But what is reality? I don’t have clear answers but I have some ideas to share since I have been dealing with activist groups since I was in high school in the late 1960s. I hope they help this blog’s discussion.
First, there’s plenty of research available about ANTIFA and there are already plenty of reports about it. It is not a single group but a very loose collection of autonomous activist groups, most of which do not advocate violence. For reference, see yesterday’s Daily Beast piece with the blunt headline, “Trump’s ‘ANTIFA Threat Is Total Bullshit – And Totally Dangerous.”
That article and plenty of others note that ANTIFA, or whatever it is, has no clear chain of command and uses ultra-fast social media to alert other activists about rallies and protests but has no control over them. If you are thinking about the tightly-controlled and secretive Communist cells of the past century, you are not getting it. Continue reading
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By Steve Haner
More often than not, the suspense in an election is over long before the polls open. That is the case with the two primary contests which will require me to sit in a polling place all day on June 23. The expected losers should just drop out now and save us all the risk.
The precinct where I work has both a Republican and a Democratic contest scheduled, which will require my co-workers and me to be at the polling station from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m. Based on what happened in the local elections yesterday, it will mostly be voting from cars – in a location with very little parking. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
A week after the March 3 Democratic presidential primary I was sick, probably with a cold but I had to wonder. No fever developed and patent medicines got me through. But it could have been COVID-19 after checking in hundreds of voters in the Maple Street Firehouse.
There is no way I’m repeating that activity on June 9. Thank you, Governor Ralph Northam, for saving me from having to abandon the other nice folks who work that precinct. Even if we are on the infection down slope, holding a primary that day is a risk we don’t need to impose on those volunteers.
Republican officials exploded when the stay at home directive was advanced to June 10. A statement released by the Republican Party of Virginia whined:
“… the timeline seems all too convenient,” said RPV Chairman Jack Wilson. “We ask that Governor Northam show us the data that led to his decision. It is not our opinion that the Governor is purposefully engaging in voter suppression, but an explanation would help to mitigate any concerns.”
Did my statement mitigate your concerns, Jack? I bet thousands of poll workers feel the same way.
Let’s drop the debate over which elected official or cabinet agency is more hapless and focus on some truly clueless people – this state’s all but dead Republican Party. Yesterday the state party certified three candidates to run June 9 seeking the nomination against Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia. Don’t look at the story yet, can you name one of them? I cannot. And I would love to see somebody give Warner a race. People forget how close Ed Gillespie came to beating Mark-not-John six years ago. Continue reading