Friday, January 28, 2022

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

A five-judge panel on Pennsylvania's state Commonwealth Court has ruled the state's Republican-created vote-by-mail law to be unconstitutional, setting up a state Supreme Court showdown for November.

A Pennsylvania court struck down the state’s expansive mail-in voting law as unconstitutional, delivering a temporary win to state Republicans who challenged the law after former president Donald Trump falsely claimed mail-in voting resulted in election fraud.

While the two-year-old law was struck down by a majority of the five-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and the state’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro (D), promised a swift appeal, criticizing the court’s opinion as being “based on twisted logic and faulty reasoning.”

“The administration will immediately appeal this decision to the state Supreme Court and today’s lower court ruling will have no immediate effect on mail-in voting pending a final decision on the appeal,” Wolf said Friday.

The state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the law establishing no-excuse mail-in voting for all voters in 2019 with bipartisan support. Previously, Pennsylvania voters could cast absentee ballots if they met certain criteria.

Amid the pandemic, more than 2.6 million Pennsylvania voters cast mail-in or absentee ballots out of 6.9 million.

The court said Friday that any changes to the voting law would require a constitutional amendment.

“No-excuse mail-in voting makes the exercise of the franchise more convenient and has been used four times in the history of Pennsylvania. Approximately 1.38 million voters have expressed their interest in voting by mail permanently,” Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote. “If presented to the people, a constitutional amendment to end the Article VII, Section 1 requirement of in-person voting is likely to be adopted. But a constitutional amendment must be presented to the people and adopted into our fundamental law before legislation authorizing no-excuse mail-in voting can ‘be placed upon our statute books.’ ”

In bringing the legal challenge, some Republicans in the state echoed Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and his criticism of mail-in voting, with several seeking to undo the law for which they they once voted.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Wolf pointed out the GOP reversal.

“The Republican-controlled legislature passed Act 77 with strong bipartisan support in 2019 to make voting more safe, secure, and accessible and millions of Pennsylvanians have embraced it,” Wolf said. “The simple fact is that despite near-unanimous Republican legislative support for this historic update to Pennsylvania election law, they now want to strip away mail-in voting in the service of the ‘big lie.’”

Shapiro, in his statement, stressed that the court’s ruling will not have “any immediate impact” on upcoming elections. The state is holding both gubernatorial and a U.S. Senate election this year.

The Pennsylvania Department of State also said in a statement that it disagreed with the ruling and that it is “working to file an immediate appeal” to the state’s Supreme Court, which has a 5-to-2 Democratic majority.
Pennsylvania Republicans overwhelming passed no-excuse by-mail absentee balloting, then declared it fraudulent, then sued to destroy the law because they argued their own law never should have passed.

That's the GOP for you. Whatever they are saying they are doing, it actually begins with voter suppression and disenfranchisement on a massive scale.

States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared last year.

Facts on the ground in Georgia tell a different story. A new data analysis by Mother Jones shows that the number of voters disenfranchised by rejected mail ballot applications skyrocketed after the GOP-controlled legislature passed sweeping new restrictions on mail voting last year. The law enacted in March 2021 shortened the time people have to request and return mail ballots, prohibited election officials from sending such applications to all voters, added new ID requirements, and dramatically curtailed the use of ballot drop boxes, among other changes.

During municipal elections in November, Georgia voters were 45 times more likely to have their mail ballot applications rejected—and ultimately not vote as a result—than in 2020. If that same rejection rate were extrapolated to the 2020 race, more than 38,000 votes would not have been cast in a presidential contest decided by just over 11,000 votes.
Tens of thousands of voters are being disenfranchised by new GOP-created suppression laws. They are there for a reason, to keep the most marginal voters from being counted. In the end, Republicans want fewer voters and fewer votes, to chock off democracy.

It's the only way they can win and they know it.

The Dragon Roars Loudly

China's ambassador to the United States issued a warning Thursday: The U.S. could face "military conflict" with China over the future status of Taiwan.

In his first one-on-one interview since assuming his post in Washington, D.C., last July, Qin Gang accused Taiwan of "walking down the road toward independence," and added, "If the Taiwanese authorities, emboldened by the United States, keep going down the road for independence, it most likely will involve China and the United States, the two big countries, in a military conflict."

It was an unusually direct statement about the U.S. and Taiwan. Observers say China usually speaks in more general terms, such as saying that the U.S. is "playing with fire."

Though American eyes may be focused thousands of miles away toward a threatened war in Ukraine, U.S. officials and analysts have voiced increasing concern about Taiwan's ability to defend itself. This week, 39 Chinese military aircraft flew near Taiwan, the latest of several such demonstrations. It's widely believed that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event of war, though no formal treaty requires it to do so.

Ambassador Qin spoke of Taiwan at his official residence Thursday, where he welcomed NPR's team to discuss U.S. relations with China and the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. He is a veteran diplomat who previously served as the chief of foreign affairs protocol for China's President Xi Jinping.

Qin arrived in Washington last year at a time of bipartisan disappointment with China. It's widely conceded in Washington that a decades-long policy of engagement with China produced great wealth for many companies but failed to spark democratic reform. Qin told us that any ideas of "changing China" were always "an illusion."

He spoke of the upcoming Olympics with pride: "Beijing is ready." These are the second Olympic Games hosted by Beijing, with athletes and others largely living inside a secure "bubble" to protect against coronavirus infection.

A "diplomatic boycott" of the Games by U.S. officials has added tension, though only a few U.S. allies have followed suit, and U.S. athletes will compete. The U.S. announced the boycott in protest of what it terms the "ongoing genocide" of Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim minority in western China. Qin rejected such accusations as "fabrications, lies and disinformation."

He nonetheless asserted that some Uyghurs were terrorists.

"The destination for them is prisons," he said, while asserting that others had inappropriate thoughts that they were being taught to change in "vocational schools."
Beijing's diplomatic circumspection on Taiwan is practically an art form, this is the equivalent of plugging in a stack of amps and playing Through The Fire And Flames at max volume.

Just another ball for Biden to juggle.

The Wind For The Willow

The First Family is getting a cat to go along with the dog, so there's some normalcy back in the White House pet count after the last guy again.
The Biden family finally has a cat.

First lady Jill Biden's office has announced America's first family is excited to welcome a two-year-old, gray-and-white-striped feline named Willow to the White House.

Biden, a community college professor, named the cat after her hometown of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, the first lady's spokesperson Michael LaRosa said.

"A farm cat from Pennsylvania, Willow made quite an impression on Dr. Biden in 2020 when she jumped up on the stage and interrupted her remarks during a campaign stop," LaRosa said. "Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden."

Dr. Biden had said in April that the family had a female cat "waiting in the wings."

The green-eyed, short-haired tabby cat was settling in well at the White House with "her favorite toys, treats, and plenty of room to smell and explore," LaRosa said.

In December the Bidens welcomed a new dog to the family, a German Shepherd named Commander, who was four months old at the time.
Trump didn't have any pets, mainly because 1) he had Rudy already, and 2) animals distrust him because he's, you know, a psychopath.  It's good to see that the Bidens get along with pets.


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