Tag Archives: elections

2021 elections: Norwegians abroad encouraged to vote early due to the corona situation

From July 1, Norwegians abroad are able to vote in parliamentary elections. But fewer postal deliveries could mean that the votes must be sent earlier than before – if they are to count.

Corona restrictions and fewer mail flights can make advance voting from abroad more complicated than before. Several government agencies are now urging people not to wait until the last minute.

“It is an unpredictable situation because the corona restrictions change in step with the infection outbreaks,” Deputy Director Yngve Olsen Hvoslef of the Section for Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told news bureau NTB.

Norwegians abroad can vote at Norwegian embassies and consulates or by post. Then they can ask to receive election material from the embassy in the country they live in or vote via a blank sheet, the Electoral Directorate’s website notes.

“In some extreme cases, it may be that it is not allowed to travel into the capital, or, as earlier in the pandemic, that it is not allowed to move outdoors in some places,” Hvoslef said.

Expecting more votes from abroad than before

Strict entry requirements for Norway can also lead to more votes from abroad, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that they expect more voters than usual in countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Singapore, and Thailand, where many Norwegians live.

In the parliamentary elections in 2017, a total of 11,811 votes were cast abroad, according to the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. Of these, 763 were by mail.

The Norwegian Electoral Directorate points out that it is extra important to vote early in these cases.

“Vote as early as possible if you live in a place with late postage, to be sure that the vote arrives on time,” communications manager Kristina Brekke Jørgensen at the Norwegian Electoral Directorate told NTB.

However, it is the voters’ own responsibility to ensure that they are aware of the rules and deadlines.

“Voters must take into account how the post office works in the country in which they live. The voting period for foreign voting is very long in Norway, just over two months, and if you want to be sure that the vote arrives on time, you should use the opportunity this long voting period provides,” Jørgensen points out.

Fewer mail planes

Although Norway cooperates with other national postal companies abroad, they do not cooperate on advance votes in the election. The Norwegian Post has abdicated all delivery responsibility before the mail crosses Norwegian borders.

“An important reminder in these corona times is that mail from abroad is often sent by plane to Norway. There are fewer flights, and delays must therefore be expected,” press manager Kenneth Tjønndal Pettersen at the Norwegian Post told NTB.  

In general, the Norwegian Post has no influence or responsibility for mail until it arrives in Norway. All advance votes must have arrived at the municipalities by 5 PM the day after election day, September 13, if they are to count.

A different election in Singapore

Singapore is one of the countries where many Norwegians live. For several months, they have lived under strict national corona restrictions, and although several reliefs take effect on July 12, many will have to resort to a different election.

“Due to local restrictions, it is not as easy to vote this year as in previous elections, but we will be able to receive votes until September 3,” Embassy Councilor Daniel Hirsch from the Embassy in Singapore told NTB.

During previous parliamentary elections, around 240 Norwegians voted from Singapore, but few voted by mail since there are such short distances to the embassy.

“Previously, we also had election day at Sjømannskirken in Singapore, but we will not have the opportunity to do so this year, as it is contrary to local rules introduced due to COVID-19,” Hirsch said.

No obstacles

The Norwegian embassy in Paris, on the other hand, is planning a normal election after France eased most corona restrictions on July 9.

“Advance voting for Norwegians in France will take place in the same way as in previous elections. 

“How many there will be is difficult to say, but the corona pandemic today does not create any obstacles,” Embassy Councilor Liv Kari Ridsbråten at the embassy told NTB.

The deadline for voting in advance from abroad is September 3.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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Bulgarian elections: The ‘beginning of the end’ for Borisov?

On Sunday, Bulgarians will head to the polls for a second parliamentary election in three months.

An early vote was called after the April 4 vote resulted in a hung parliament, with the governing GERB party of conservative former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov failing to secure enough support to form a new cabinet.

In May, Borisov, who has served as premier for three terms since 2009, had to step down and hand over power to a caretaker government.

Since then, several political scandals have rocked the country of seven million, as the interim cabinet sought to uncover what it says are corrupt practices by government officials linked to GERB.

Pre-election polls show GERB almost tied with There is Such a People, the party that came second in the April vote and is headed by popular talk show host Slavi Trifonov.

The far-right parties which were GERB’s coalition partners in the previous government may not pass the 4 percent threshold to enter parliament.

The analysts Al Jazeera spoke to said in the July 11 elections, Borisov’s party may again fail to win enough votes to form a coalition, which would effectively end the ex-premier’s nearly 10-year stint in power.

Some say that this may even mark the end of his political career.

‘Trumpisation of the electoral campaign’

Since it took power on May 12, the interim government has regularly released information to the public about corrupt practices, embezzlement and other legal violations it says it has uncovered in government ministries and state institutions.

The administration has launched investigations into deals with state funds, scrutinised infrastructure projects, began inquiries into malpractices at government hospitals, replaced police and customs chiefs across the country, and thoroughly documented citizens’ reports of alleged corrupt practices.

Accusations from the business sector against the previous government have also been publicised, with one businessman claiming in front of a parliamentary commission that Borisov personally threatened him.

In a separate allegation, Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said another businessman confided in him that Borisov had suggested he may be killed and his body fed to his family.

The former prime minister has rejected these accusations as a political campaign against him, predicting he may be arrested soon.

“Don’t be afraid, I’m the one in the crosshairs,” Borisov told a rally of young GERB members in May. “What is going now as a coup is not legal at all.”

He has also cast doubt on the mandatory use of voting machines in Sunday’s election, accusing opposition parties of “tampering” with them.

According to Anna Krasteva, professor of political science at the New Bulgarian University, Borisov’s campaign rhetoric shows he has run out of strategic moves.

“He has only tactical moves left and they are ridiculous. He is going for Trumpisation of the electoral campaign,” she told Al Jazeera. “This is categorically the beginning of the end of Borisov. In the eyes of the Bulgarian people, he stands for corruption.”

Magnitsky Act sanctions

However, according to Petar Cholakov, associate professor of sociology at the Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, it is too early to declare the end of Borisov and his party.

“The situation is quite dynamic … If the so-called protest parties are unable to form a government after the elections, this could work in favour of GERB,” he said, referring to the three parties that backed protests against GERB in the summer of 2020 – There is Such a People, Democratic Bulgaria, and Stand up! Thugs out!.

And despite the alleged corruption scandals, some of Borisov’s allies abroad maintain their support for him.

“I follow what is happening in Bulgaria and, Boyko, you have a lot of work to do. The EPP supports you, we stand firmly behind you. Rely on us,” Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, said in June.

Оn July 3, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Borisov in Istanbul and praised the migration policies of his “true friend and brother”.

Supporters wearing T-shirts with pictures of former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov wait before an election rally in Kardzhali, July 5, 2021 [File: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP]

But American President Joe Biden’s administration seems to be sending a different signal.

Shortly after the interim government took over in May, US Ambassador Hero Mustafa met Prime Minister Stefan Yanev and several of his ministers – and paid an unusual visit to the National Revenue Agency.

Then, оn June 2, the Biden administration announced sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against several Bulgarian political and business figures, including former MP Delyan Peevski from the Movement for Rights and Liberties (MRL).

According to some, Borisov has close links to the sanctioned media mogul.

Cholakov said Peevski’s alleged trade in Bulgarian passports and links to Russian energy projects may have been perceived by Washington as a threat to the US interests.

But the sanctions are also a sign of disapproval.

“The United States is signalling that it is not happy with this model of governance [of GERB-MLR],” he said.

А third election

GERB and There is Such a People are both polling at about 20 percent.

The other two parties that could enter a possible anti-GERB coalition – Democratic Bulgaria and Stand up! Thugs out! – are at about 12 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party is at 15 percent and the MRL at 11 percent.

But according to political consultant Vesislava Tancheva, there may be some surprises due to machine voting, which would limit vote-buying and could discourage some minority communities that do not read Bulgarian.

This may affect MRL’s results, in particular, as the party is traditionally backed by minorities.

Some of GERB’s big business supporters may also withdraw their support, shrinking the so-called “controlled vote”, where large employers instruct employees to vote for a specific party that favours their interests.

These trends might not bring enough votes to an anti-GERB coalition, however.

“It is quite possible that we may go for a third election this year. And that is a possibility that all parties, except GERB, are internally discussing,” Tancheva said.

In her view, a third election might pressure GERB and result in another interim government investigating its dealings and pushing forward with judiciary reform, which may accelerate prosecution in corruption cases.

Author: Mariya Petkova
Read more here >>> Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

Fresh evidence is emerging of the GOP’s strategy of mayhem heading into next year’s midterm elections under the defining influence of Trump

Fresh evidence is emerging of the GOP’s strategy of mayhem heading into next year’s midterm elections under the defining influence of Donald Trump.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, whose demagoguery is tolerated by GOP leaders, is at the center of a new storm over her allusions to Nazism. A leaked video shows Texas’ Rep. Chip Roy prescribing Washington chaos as the GOP seeks to destroy Joe Biden’s presidency and win back the chamber. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is meanwhile working out how to derail the Democratic-led committee that will look into the January 6 insurrection — putting the party’s idol, Trump, above American democracy. And the California Republican is amplifying claims by Fox host Tucker Carlson that he’s being spied on by government eavesdroppers.
All this came on a day when the former President launched a dubious lawsuit claiming infringement of his First Amendment rights by social media companies that banned him for inciting violence and spewing democracy-tarnishing misinformation.
The latest churn in the GOP circus is confirming the party, in the House at least, as almost exclusively a force of grievance and spectacle in Trump’s image, rather than a serious legislating force or even conventional opposition. The impression was already fostered by House Republicans’ efforts to shield the ex-President and rewrite history over the mob assault on Congress by his supporters.
This deepening reality is likely to ensure a brutal period in Washington ahead of next year’s midterms and confirm the truism that in the country’s current estrangement, there is almost no window for serious governing between elections. The partisanship at all costs could be especially perilous in a coming fight later this year over raising the government’s borrowing limit that could put the national credit rating at risk.

A challenge and an opening for Biden

The tumult in the House — which is only exacerbating the boiling rage stirred among Trump voters by his election fraud lies — poses both challenges and openings for Biden’s administration. It also could influence the climate in which moderate Republican senators are trying to work with the White House to pass a bipartisan infrastructure deal.
Against the raging inferno in the conservative half of the country, Biden is conducting a remarkably conventional presidency, trying to restore traditional expectations of the office crushed by Trump.
He forged an infrastructure deal. He’s made several recent visits to swing districts in swing states to push his agenda and the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. And he’s targeting the political center ground in the suburbs that got him elected — even to the frustration of his liberal allies.
So far it’s working for the President. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll put his approval rating at 50%, a decent return given the nation’s polarization. And 60% of Americans approved of his pandemic management.
Worsening signs of extremism by House Republicans could play into the President’s self-styling as a moderate voice for national unity and common ground — underscored again by his appeals for Americans to buckle down together to eradicate Covid-19 during the Independence Day weekend. They could also scare off moderate voters who, along with African Americans, were critical to him winning last November.
But the GOPs radicalism might also embolden progressives who think him naive to try to work with Republicans. And with the GOP favored to win the House next year, given history’s frequent curse of first-term presidents in midterm elections, Biden will face fresh pressure to convince moderate Democrats to abolish the Senate filibuster in order to enable an expansive liberal agenda.

Chaos and obstruction may reign

The Republican Party’s policy of obstruction in the House came into closer focus on Wednesday in a video that depicts Roy relishing the controversy over a multitrillion-dollar spending bill that Democrats want to pass alongside the infrastructure measure in order to coax progressives to vote for the compromise.
“I actually say, thank the Lord. Eighteen more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done. That’s what we want,” Roy is heard saying on the video distributed by a Democratic activist.
The comments dismayed traditionalists — and likely those Americans who believe members of Congress are sent to Washington to do the people’s business. Yet they are hardly surprising, since they mirror other rhetoric by senior Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — about their desire to thwart Biden’s presidency.
Sure, the disclosure is coming at a time of national crisis with 600,000 Americans dead in a pandemic that has yet to be defeated and that might be mitigated with unity. But it can’t come as a surprise to anyone who watched the civic splintering in Washington and the GOP’s full-on embrace of Trump’s politics of grievance and destruction.
Roy’s response to the controversy was instructive. He doubled down in a combative statement, saying he would “fight with every ounce of my being to stop the radical left — and weak Republicans” to help achieve a GOP victory in the midterms. His welcoming of the fight reflected that it may help Roy, who while a staunch conservative has not always pleased Trump and could face a primary challenge from an opponent loyal to the former President.
In itself, the Texas congressman is not doing anything out of bounds. It’s perfectly legitimate for an elected member of Congress to try to block the successes of an opposition majority and president. Fighting liberal legislation on taxes, social policy and in other areas is likely exactly what Roy’s constituents had in mind when they sent him to Washington.
Still, the sole aspiration of thwarting governance does offer a damning commentary of the country’s fractured politics.

McCarthy’s midterm strategy

McCarthy, since walking back his initial criticism of Trump over the Capitol insurrection, has anchored his midterm election strategy on the former President. Viewed in isolation, it’s a probably a smart bet. Blanket opposition by House Republicans puts extreme pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to maintain her very thin majority for significant legislation in a party that is itself split between more moderate Democrats and activist progressives on the left. Still, it’s possible that some Republicans could peel off, even in the House, and back the infrastructure stand-alone package.
Republicans already have an advantage in November 2022 because of redistricting that is likely to give them a handful of safe seats. And the key to winning will be stoking fury among Trump’s base to ensure a strong GOP turnout.
So McCarthy’s tactics might be politically shrewd, though they will dismay old-school conservatives wedded to the party’s previous values. After all, the GOP once claimed to have made the world safe for democracy by winning a Cold War against communism.
McCarthy’s tolerance for Greene, however, is beyond transactional and is a sinister tale of the GOP’s modern character.
The Trump-supporting first-term lawmaker and conspiracy theorist caused new outrage with a tweet that compared the Biden administration’s teams offering vaccinations to Nazi-era “brown shirts” militia who helped pave Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. The fresh outburst of offensive, anti-Semitic rhetoric from Greene underscored the impunity with which the GOP regards political extremism after allowing itself to become a channel for White nationalist sentiment during Trump’s presidency. And it came only weeks after a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington prompted Greene to apologize for comparing mask wearing to the Nazi pogrom against Jews.
CNN reported on Wednesday that McCarthy is working out how to staff Republican spots on the House Select Committee on the insurrection. While he is contemplating placing Trump allies on the panel — who would be able to politicize and disrupt its hearings — some allies believe he should also choose a more pragmatic voice, perhaps including a lawmaker who voted to certify the 2020 presidential election, CNN’s Melanie Zanona reported.
But there is no doubting the House minority leader’s wish to play to a radical crowd. On Wednesday afternoon he issued a statement offering the credibility of his office to Carlson’s claims that he was being spied upon the National Security Agency on the orders of the Biden administration, for which the bombastic TV host has not produced any evidence.
“Our liberties are preserved by the Constitution, the document creating the freest country in the world,” McCarthy said in a statement lent irony by his unwillingness to censure Trump’s continuing assault on US founding values.
It was yet another moment when it was hard to identify the dividing line between the Republican Party and conservative propaganda media.

Author: Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN
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(Video) Free Iran 2021: Another Uprising Looming Following Sham Elections

Tens of thousands of Iranians will echo the message of the nationwide boycott of the regime’s election during the three-day Free Iran World Summit on July 10.

The ongoing strikes and protests are sending this message to the regime and the international community that Iranian people do not want this regime and demand regime change.”

PARIS, FRANCE, July 3, 2021 /EINPresswire.com/ — In May, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (Iran) held a press conference intended to bring international attention to the unique circumstances surrounding the Iranian regime’s presidential election. In the conference, NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mohammad Mohaddessin highlighted a growing electoral boycott movement and predicted that its success would be an especially clear sign of a “looming nationwide uprising waiting in the wings,” the outbreak of which would be “far more intense and widespread” than even the November 2019 uprising that encompassed nearly 200 Iranian cities and towns.On June 18, the first part of the NCRI’s prediction came true when even the regime’s authorities recorded historically low voter turnout. The very next day was marked by new protests which underscored the population’s certainty that a change of presidential administration would do nothing to address any of the crises plaguing the economy, public health, and so on. That sentiment had previously been expressed through numerous protests in the run-up to the election, each featuring slogans that endorsed the electoral boycott movement that was being promoted by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

For two months in advance of the election, “Resistance Units” affiliated with the MEK staged public demonstrations and posted text and images in public spaces promoting the electoral boycott as a means of “voting for regime change.” Meanwhile, blue-collar worker, pensioners, and middle-class investors all staged their own protests and declared their intentions never to engage in the political process again for as long as it is run by the same tyrannical, theocratic system. “We have seen no justice,” many of those protesters explained, adding, “We will not vote anymore.”

For countless protesters, this message was certainly intended to deny political legitimacy to the regime’s next president, Ebrahim Raisi. The current judiciary chief’s election on June 18 was never in doubt, thanks to the tight control over political proceedings wielded by unelected authorities including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Early on, Khamenei made it clear that Raisi was his choice to take over the presidency after the conclusion of Hassan Rouhani’s second term. As a result, the Guardian Council, a 12-member body empowered to vet legislation and candidates to high office, excluded virtually all other high-profile figures from the race for the presidency, thereby making the voting process even more of a mere formality than usual.

The Iranian regime has attempted to preserve a modicum of legitimacy for the latest election and for the regime itself by claiming that nearly fifty percent of eligible voters cast ballots in spite of the push for a mass boycott. But the MEK and the NCRI have rejected that claim, citing the testimony of 1,200 journalists from 400 localities as evidence that the actual rate of voter participation was less than ten percent. Thousands of video clips from June 18 show polling places that were empty or nearly empty and these images have only been contradicted by state media outlets that broadcast staged scenes of crowded activity at a polling place used by many government officials.

The NCRI would echo the message of the nationwide boycott of the regime’s election between July 10 and 12 when it holds its Free Iran World Summit. The event represents a revised approach to the annual gathering of Iranian expatriates and political supporters that was held in person near Paris prior to 2019, and at the MEK’s compound in Albania during the final summer before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Free Iran World Summit will presumably reiterate the message delivered to the international community by Mr. Mohaddessin in May, while also pointing to ongoing developments inside Iran as further evidence that his prediction is on the verge of being fulfilled.

Among the protests that broke out immediately following Raisi’s election, many have continued to grow and expand in the ensuing days, including labor strikes that now comprise thousands of workers in 60 companies representing the nation’s oil and petrochemical industries alone. On Saturday, Mrs. Rajavi issued a statement to the Iranian activist community, making particular reference to the youth and urging them to “support the striking workers” and reassert “the Iranian people’s general will to overthrow the anti-labor clerical regime.”

These strikes are in line with the major Iran protests that spread across Iran in 2018 and 2019. These strikes and protests are sending this message to the regime and the international community that Iranian people do not want this regime.

This was the core message that ultimately set the stage for the follow-up nationwide uprising in November 2019, as well as the mass boycott of the electoral process not just during the 2021 presidential election farce but also during the previous year’s parliamentary election. Each of these developments also served to reinforce the Iranian regime’s anxiety over the continuous challenges it is facing from an organized Resistance movement.

During the initial uprising in 2018, the regime’s Supreme Leader Khamenei acknowledged – begrudgingly and for the first time in decades – that the MEK enjoyed powerful social influence and was capable of organizing mass demonstrations in favor of a change of government in Tehran.

With unrest currently ramping up among Iranian laborers and activists, it is highly likely that circumstances will be downright explosive and that the next nationwide uprising will be “looming” closer, in accordance with the NCRI’s prior prediction. If that is indeed the case, then various Western powers and non-governmental organizations will soon face the opportunity to help a beleaguered population to throw off the clerical dictatorship that has been depriving them of basic freedoms for more than 40 years. Furthermore, with that regime now being represented on the world stage by Raisi, a well-known human rights violator, it should be easy for those same powers to agree on a strategy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation in order to simultaneously hold him accountable for past crimes while signaling to the Iranian people that they have support in their fight against tyranny.


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Call for Supporting Iran’s People and Opposition Against the Religious Fascism

Author: Aalto University
Read more here >>> The European Times News

Democrats confront failure on elections strategy

In today’s 50-50 Senate, Democrats would need every single one of their members to vote in favor of any changes to the rules, and there is no sign that’s close to happening.

It gets worse for Biden’s party: Now that the GOP has rejected debating the legislation that would overhaul federal elections, Democrats are without a new strategy to show party activists some momentum before the 2022 midterms. At the moment, the party doesn’t have a backup plan on elections and Democratic senators acknowledged their internal maneuvering over the filibuster has only begun after months of dominating their time in control of Washington.

“There doesn’t seem to be much of a path to getting any Republican votes on voting reforms. So what does that leave?” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “It leaves a conversation in the caucus about whether you want to give Republicans the authority to continue to strip away from people the right to vote.”

Democratic leaders have told members that Tuesday’s vote is only the beginning of the discussion, not the end. And some Senate Democrats took it as a positive sign that all 50 members of the caucus — including Manchin — were united in Tuesday’s vote.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not detail next steps during Tuesday’s private caucus meeting, according to an attendee. But later on the floor, he said that Democrats will “have several, serious options for how to reconsider this issue” and “are going to explore every last one.”

Many in his caucus are desperate to find a path forward. “A body that won’t defend itself from an internal attack hardly deserves the name of a U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “No consequences for Trump, no impeachment, no censure, no January 6 commission … no agreement on voting rights.”

Potential backup plans after the filibuster include breaking up the elections bill into pieces to force more votes on the GOP or waiting until the fall to push a voting-rights-specific bill. Democrats could also put elections spending in a party-line budget reconciliation bill.

But on Tuesday evening success looked far off, even as Democrats vowed not to give up after Schumer promised that “failure is not an option.” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters that “the fight is not over.”

In the meantime, the Senate is left with a handful of bipartisan gangs negotiating critical legislation on infrastructure and policing — and a lot of angry progressives who want to exercise their party’s power while they still have full control of Congress.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was among those perplexed by Sinema’s latest defense of minority-party rights in the chamber. While Sinema said the “filibuster compels moderation,” Warren argues that “the filibuster as it’s currently used is giving Republicans a veto.”

“We’re talking about voting, which is a fundamental right, and the friction between rights and a rule that’s not even in the Constitution,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). “I would hope we would at least consider a rifle shot here of dealing specifically with voting rights and the fact that those should be inviolate.”

Progressives had long viewed the elections bill as the vehicle for Democrats to scrap the legislative filibuster. But Republicans didn’t block a bill this Congress until May 28, instead working with Democrats on water infrastructure, a new hate crimes law and competitiveness legislation. With that in mind, Democratic moderates on Tuesday suggested that despite the GOP blockade on elections legislation, they still aren’t prepared to kill the filibuster.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) demurred when asked if his mind has changed, while Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) predicted that the conversation surrounding the filibuster “will pick up speed.”

“When you talk about something again and again and again in a hypothetical sense, it’s never the same as when you’re actually talking about it and the reality’s upon you,” Hickenlooper said after the vote.

But with such stern opposition from Manchin and Sinema to touching the filibuster rules, it doesn’t appear there’s much incentive for other members of the Democratic caucus to begin calling for easing or elimination of the 60-vote requirement. Sinema has asked for a Senate debate on the legislative filibuster and members of the caucus say the party is likely to have one, albeit internally.

Some Democrats, Manchin included, aren’t going to give up on trying to round up Republican votes for elections legislation. Thus far, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is endorsing a voting rights bill named for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and said she supports expanding early and absentee voting as well.

Democrats are skeptical that much will come of that.

“Sen. Manchin and several other members of the caucus want to earnestly try to engage Republicans to say: Is there no way that we can work together on voting rights?” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who is close to many Senate Republicans. “I do not see a serious interest or enthusiasm in improving access to the ballot among Republicans.”

Democrats need nine more Republicans to join Murkowski. And GOP leaders say their members are cool to doing so.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has panned a slimmed-down elections bill sought by Manchin. And even more modest reforms are likely to meet the same fate that Democrats’ sweeping bill met on Tuesday.

“I don’t think there’s anything I’ve seen yet that doesn’t fundamentally change the way states conduct elections. It’s sort of a line in the sand for most of our members,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).

Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) announced that her next step will include field hearings on elections laws, starting in Georgia. Schumer also vowed Tuesday that Democrats would bring up the issue for debate again.

“We will not let it go,” he said. “This voter suppression cannot stand. And we are going to work tirelessly to see that it does not stand.”

Author: Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine
This post originally appeared on Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

When It Comes to Big City Elections, Republicans Are in the Wilderness

“It’s not the same Republican Party,” said Representative Donald McEachin of Virginia. “Trump chased off a lot of moderate Republicans, so it’s a much smaller party.”

It is difficult to overstate the extent of the Republican Party’s political decline in big-metro America. While Republicans have long been more aligned with rural, conservative voters than with urban constituencies, the pre-Trump G.O.P. made a point of recruiting serious candidates even in Democratic strongholds like New York City and California. The party pulled off upset victories with some frequency by attacking Democrats on seemingly intractable problems like violent crime, high taxes and wasteful spending.

And Republicans were rewarded with a crop of leaders who helped persuade not just their constituents but the country as a whole that their party was capable of mastering the toughest jobs in government. At the turn of the 21st century, Republican mayors governed cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Diego, and a motorist could drive from Pittsburgh to Provincetown, Mass., without entering a state helmed by a Democratic governor.

Since then, said Joseph J. Lhota, the former M.T.A. chairman who was the Republican nominee for mayor of New York in 2013, the G.O.P. had “completely disappeared” as a force in metro politics.

“It’s not sustainable. It’s just not,” Mr. Lhota said. “There was a time when Republicans had a seat at the table when people talked about laboratories of democracy, and there’s no better place for laboratories of democracy than large cities and large states.”

Lanhee Chen, a former policy adviser to Mitt Romney, said it was obviously “not healthy” for Republicans to write off so many important parts of the country. Mr. Chen, who is based in California, is weighing a campaign for state controller in 2022.

“Competing, and competing to win in the marketplace of ideas, is an important thing for the party to do in Texas and Missouri, of course, but also in California and New York,” Mr. Chen said.

Author: Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections

LaGRANGE, Ga. — Lonnie Hollis has been a member of the Troup County election board in West Georgia since 2013. A Democrat and one of two Black women on the board, she has advocated Sunday voting, helped voters on Election Days and pushed for a new precinct location at a Black church in a nearby town.

But this year, Ms. Hollis will be removed from the board, the result of a local election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. Previously, election board members were selected by both political parties, county commissioners and the three biggest municipalities in Troup County. Now, the G.O.P.-controlled county commission has the sole authority to restructure the board and appoint all the new members.

“I speak out and I know the laws,” Ms. Hollis said in an interview. “The bottom line is they don’t like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they’re doing, because they know they can’t influence them.”

Ms. Hollis is not alone. Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

Ms. Hollis and local officials like her have been some of the earliest casualties as Republican-led legislatures mount an expansive takeover of election administration in a raft of new voting bills this year.

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.

G.O.P. lawmakers in Georgia say the new measures are meant to improve the performance of local boards, and reduce the influence of the political parties. But the laws allow Republicans to remove local officials they don’t like, and because several of them have been Black Democrats, voting rights groups fear that these are further attempts to disenfranchise voters of color.

The maneuvers risk eroding some of the core checks that stood as a bulwark against former President Donald J. Trump as he sought to subvert the 2020 election results. Had these bills been in place during the aftermath of the election, Democrats say, they would have significantly added to the turmoil Mr. Trump and his allies wrought by trying to overturn the outcome. They worry that proponents of Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories will soon have much greater control over the levers of the American elections system.

“It’s a thinly veiled attempt to wrest control from officials who oversaw one of the most secure elections in our history and put it in the hands of bad actors,” said Jena Griswold, the chairwoman of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and the current Colorado secretary of state. “The risk is the destruction of democracy.”

Officials like Ms. Hollis are responsible for decisions like selecting drop box and precinct locations, sending out voter notices, establishing early voting hours and certifying elections. But the new laws are targeting high-level state officials as well, in particular secretaries of state — both Republican and Democratic — who stood up to Mr. Trump and his allies last year.

Republicans in Arizona have introduced a bill that would largely strip Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, of her authority over election lawsuits, and then expire when she leaves office. And they have introduced another bill that would give the Legislature more power over setting the guidelines for election administration, a major task currently carried out by the secretary of state.

Under Georgia’s new voting law, Republicans significantly weakened the secretary of state’s office after Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who is the current secretary, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demands to “find” votes. They removed the secretary of state as the chair of the state election board and relieved the office of its voting authority on the board.

Kansas Republicans in May overrode a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, to enact laws stripping the governor of the power to modify election laws and prohibiting the secretary of state, a Republican who repeatedly vouched for the security of voting by mail, from settling election-related lawsuits without the Legislature’s consent.

And more Republicans who cling to Mr. Trump’s election lies are running for secretary of state, putting a critical office within reach of conspiracy theorists. In Georgia, Representative Jody Hice, a Republican who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory, is running against Mr. Raffensperger. Republican candidates with similar views are running for secretary of state in Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.

“In virtually every state, every election administrator is going to feel like they’re under the magnifying glass,” said Victoria Bassetti, a senior adviser to the States United Democracy Center.

More immediately, it is local election officials at the county and municipal level who are being either removed or stripped of their power.

In Arkansas, Republicans were stung last year when Jim Sorvillo, a three-term state representative from Little Rock, lost re-election by 24 votes to Ashley Hudson, a Democrat and local lawyer. Elections officials in Pulaski County, which includes Little Rock, were later found to have accidentally tabulated 327 absentee ballots during the vote-counting process, 27 of which came from the district.

Mr. Sorvillo filed multiple lawsuits aiming to stop Ms. Hudson from being seated, and all were rejected. The Republican caucus considered refusing to seat Ms. Hudson, then ultimately voted to accept her.

But last month, Arkansas Republicans wrote new legislation that allows a state board of election commissioners — composed of six Republicans and one Democrat — to investigate and “institute corrective action” on a wide variety of issues at every stage of the voting process, from registration to the casting and counting of ballots to the certification of elections. The law applies to all counties, but it is widely believed to be aimed at Pulaski, one of the few in the state that favor Democrats.

The author of the legislation, State Representative Mark Lowery, a Republican from a suburb of Little Rock, said it was necessary to remove election power from the local authorities, who in Pulaski County are Democrats, because otherwise Republicans could not get a fair shake.

“Without this legislation, the only entity you could have referred impropriety to is the prosecuting attorney, who is a Democrat, and possibly not had anything done,” Mr. Lowery said in an interview. “This gives another level of investigative authority to a board that is commissioned by the state to oversee elections.”

Asked about last year’s election, Mr. Lowery said, “I do believe Donald Trump was elected president.”

A separate new Arkansas law allows a state board to “take over and conduct elections” in a county if a committee of the legislature determines that there are questions about the “appearance of an equal, free and impartial election.”

In Georgia, the legislature passed a unique law for some counties. For Troup County, State Representative Randy Nix, a Republican, said he had introduced the bill that restructured the county election board — and will remove Ms. Hollis — only after it was requested by county commissioners. He said he was not worried that the commission, a partisan body with four Republicans and one Democrat, could exert influence over elections.

“The commissioners are all elected officials and will face the voters to answer for their actions,” Mr. Nix said in an email.

Eric Mosley, the county manager for Troup County, which Mr. Trump carried by 22 points, said that the decision to ask Mr. Nix for the bill was meant to make the board more bipartisan. It was unanimously supported by the commission.

“We felt that removing both the Republican and Democratic representation and just truly choose members of the community that invest hard to serve those community members was the true intent of the board,” Mr. Mosley said. “Our goal is to create both political and racial diversity on the board.”

In Morgan County, east of Atlanta, Helen Butler has been one of the state’s most prominent Democratic voices on voting rights and election administration. A member of the county board of elections in a rural, Republican county, she also runs the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a group dedicated to protecting the voting rights of Black Americans and increasing their civic engagement.

But Ms. Butler will be removed from the county board at the end of the month, after Mr. Kemp signed a local bill that ended the ability of political parties to appoint members.

“I think it’s all a part of the ploy for the takeover of local boards of elections that the state legislature has put in place,” Ms. Butler said. “It is them saying that they have the right to say whether an election official is doing it right, when in fact they don’t work in the day to day and don’t understand the process themselves.”

It’s not just Democrats who are being removed. In DeKalb County, the state’s fourth-largest, Republicans chose not to renominate Baoky Vu to the election board after more than 12 years in the position. Mr. Vu, a Republican, had joined with Democrats in a letter opposing an election-related bill that eventually failed to pass.

To replace Mr. Vu, Republicans nominated Paul Maner, a well-known local conservative with a history of false statements, including an insinuation that the son of a Georgia congresswoman was killed in “a drug deal gone bad.”

Back in LaGrange, Ms. Hollis is trying to do as much as she can in the time she has left on the board. The extra precinct in nearby Hogansville, where the population is roughly 50 percent Black, is a top priority. While its population is only about 3,000, the town is bifurcated by a rail line, and Ms. Hollis said that sometimes it can take an exceedingly long time for a line of freight cars to clear, which is problematic on Election Days.

“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” Ms. Hollis said, saying Republicans had thrown up procedural hurdles to block the process. But she was undeterred.

“I’m not going to sit there and wait for you to tell me what it is that I should do for the voters there,” she said. “I’m going to do the right thing.”

Rachel Shorey contributed research.

Author: Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Gov. Abbott vetoes funding for Texas Legislature and its staff as punishment for Democrats’ walkout on elections bill

Texas Politics

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference where he signed two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) — Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday followed through on a threat to veto a section of the state budget that funds the Texas Legislature, its staffers and legislative agencies.

The governor’s move targeting lawmaker pay comes after House Democrats walked out in the final days of the regular legislative session, breaking quorum, to block passage of Senate Bill 7, Abbott’s priority elections bill that would have overhauled voting rights in the state. The move also killed bail legislation that Abbott had earmarked as a priority.

In a statement, Abbott said that “funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.”

“I therefore object to and disapprove of these appropriations,” the governor said.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner of Grand Prairie called the move by Abbott an “abuse of power” and said the caucus “is exploring every option, including immediate legal options, to fight back.”

“Texas has a governor, not a dictator,” Turner said in a statement. “The tyrannical veto of the legislative branch is the latest indication that [Abbott] is simply out of control.”

Since Abbott issued his threat earlier this month, other lawmakers and political leaders have raised concerns over how the move could impact staffers and legislative agencies that are funded by Article X, which is the section of the budget he vetoed, such as the Legislative Reference Library and the Legislative Budget Board.

“I’m just concerned how it impacts them because they weren’t the ones who decided that we were going to break quorum, it wasn’t their decision, right?,” said House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, in an interview earlier this month.

Questions have also been raised about the constitutionality of the move, which according to the Legislative Reference Library is unprecedented.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who heads the Senate, had expressed support for Abbott’s proposed veto, saying the move could force Democrats to come back for a special session.

The biennial budget at hand covers the fiscal year beginning Sept. 1. If lawmakers are back in Austin for a special session before then, they could pass a supplemental budget to restore that funding.

Lawmakers are paid $ 600 a month in addition to a per diem of $ 221 every day the Legislature is in session, during both regular and special sessions.

The Legislature is expected to convene for at least two special sessions, Abbott has said in interviews. One, set for September or October, will focus on the redrawing of the state’s political maps and the doling out of $ 16 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds. Before that, the governor has said he will call lawmakers back to work on the elections and bail bills as well as a number of other issues he has not yet announced.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Author: Cassandra Pollock, Texas Tribune
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

GOP crushes Manchin’s hopes for elections compromise

“It needs to be blocked,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who praised Manchin last week for “saving our country” in encouraging bipartisanship. “I’m not optimistic that they could make enough changes to that to make it a fair bill. It would usurp the rights of the states.”

The apparent blanket Republican opposition to bringing Democrats’ legislation to the floor and potentially amending it — as the Senate’s swingiest vote desires — moves the voting rights debate to a new phase. Schumer told Democrats at a Thursday caucus meeting that the vote on the elections bill will be Tuesday, June 22, according to a source familiar with the meeting. That bill will need 60 votes to proceed over a filibuster.

Manchin had long sought an approach that had input from Republicans and one that he could support, but it’s become apparent there is no road to a bipartisan compromise on election legislation. He said his opposition wasn’t just because there was no GOP support, but also because Democrats’ changes to help publicly finance elections, for example, went too far for him.

“They got confused thinking ‘the only reason you’re against it is because there’s no Republicans.’ That’s not it at all. I think it should be bipartisan. I think it’s a dangerous thing to do something that monumental” on party lines, Manchin said on Wednesday after he rolled out some of his changes. “The other thing is there were some things, being a former secretary of state and governor, that just didn’t make sense.”

Murkowski has joined Manchin on a proposal to re-up the Voting Rights Act, but that legislation will wait until the fall. And that leaves Congress in a deadlock, infuriating progressives.

Manchin is also among a group of Democrats opposed to gutting the filibuster to install elections law changes, leaving no partisan road map either in a 50-50 Senate where Democrats would need every single vote to make changes on party lines. That group of filibuster-repeal skeptics may shrink after next week’s vote on the so-called For the People Act, with several Democrats saying the GOP’s rejection of that bill could change their minds.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who has led the GOP opposition to the elections bill because of its federalized approach to state elections, said “every one of us works for opportunities to work with Sen. Manchin.” But he added that when “Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Manchin’s proposal, it became the Stacey Abram’s substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute.”

“I’m not opposed to Joe. Joe does a great job of trying to figure out: ‘OK, where can I get a middle ground on this.’ I have no issue with Joe,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). “This is just, philosophically we disagree that we should go take over everything in every election.”

The massive wave of Republican opposition does not come as a surprise to most Democrats. Schumer said this week that he was “befuddled” by those that think a bipartisan solution is possible, voicing clear skepticism of Manchin’s hopes.

“I’m not that optimistic about Republican votes,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who pushed Manchin to detail his objections with the election bill. “Only a handful of Republicans voting for the nonpartisan commission to analyze what happened on Jan. 6, I can’t imagine you’re going to get more than that for voting rights.”

Still, more work could happen behind the scenes. Earlier this week, Manchin convened a meeting on elections with his Republican colleagues. And if that ever births a new piece of legislation, some of Manchin’s allies aren’t ruling out action entirely.

“If there is an effort that Joe Manchin leads and he gets a group together on a bipartisan election reform provision I’m happy to work on that or consider it,” Romney said. “But that hasn’t happened yet.”

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

Author: Burgess Everett
This post originally appeared on Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

Beto O’Rourke says he’ll consider ’22 options only after defeating Texas elections bill

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Beto O’Rourke – the former Texas congressman long-rumored to be the Democratic challenger to Gov. Greg Abbott’s reelection in 2022 – said his sole focus is defeating Republican efforts to further restrict elections.

O’Rourke is set to launch a statewide tour in the coming weeks to advocate for voting rights and democracy. In an interview with KXAN Wednesday, O’Rourke said he would only consider running for public office this cycle if a controversial elections proposal by Texas Republicans is defeated or federal elections legislation is passed by Congress.

“If we can get this done… I’ll think about what other role I can play in public service whether that is as a candidate in 2022 or supporting great candidates in 2022,” O’Rourke said. “Our democracy is on the line.”

Democrats in the Texas House were able to kill Senate Bill 7 by walking off the floor near the end of the legislative session this week. But Gov. Greg Abbott has promised to add election integrity to a special session.

Running out of options to stop the bill, O’Rourke has joined other Texas Democrats in calling on President Joe Biden and Congress to pass a federal elections law.

Last week, Biden issued a statement advocating in favor of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but the president has not said if he supports doing away with the U.S. Senate filibuster rule to allow Democrats to pass the proposals with a simple majority vote.  

Beto O’Rourke is set to launch a statewide tour in the coming weeks to advocate for voting rights and democracy

“Although the state can go farther in some cases, the federal government can set the boundaries of action, and that’s really what Texas Democrats are asking for from the Biden administration,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

Texas Republicans have already gotten to work on fixes to SB 7 before an eventual special session. Abbott has not said whether he would attach the agenda item to a special session he already called to redraw the state’s political maps or if the issue will warrant its own session.

State Rep. Travis Clardy, a northeast Texas Republican and member of the House Elections Committee, said certain mistakes were made with the legislation, because time was running out on the legislative session. He said a revised version of the bill will remove the reduction of Sunday voting hours, and enhanced powers for elections judges will be curtailed.

“We were jammed up for time,” Clardy said. “We did it in good faith and with good effort, but I want to make sure that we clarify any misconceptions or wrong perceptions about what SB 7 was intended to do.”

Clardy said he welcomes input from Democrats in the Texas Legislature and wants to ensure every member has ample time to consider the legislation.

SB 7’s final version, before failing in the Texas House, would have:

  • Imposed uniform statewide early voting hours
  • Required all counties to have paper versions of electronic ballots by 2026
  • Banned drive-thru voting and mail-in ballot drop boxes
  • Further empowered poll watchers, but gets rid of the previous section of the bill that would allow poll watchers to photograph suspected fraudulent activity
  • Required mail-in ballot applicants to provide an ID number
  • Required counties with populations over 100,000 to livestream areas containing completed ballots

Author: John Engel
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin