Politics

Medical professionals assess presidential front-runner Joe Biden’s health care plan

Medical professions share their opinions on the future of health care under a Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders presidency.

FEC COULD FINALLY GET A QUORUM, BUT PLANS TO CLEAN HOUSE ARE POTENTIAL ALTERNATIVE

Though an additional FEC Commissioner is set to bring a quorum back to the agency, there has been a desire to clean house one the remaining commissioners, in order to bring in a full six-member body.

Women could lose insurance coverage for birth control if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Trump administration

In April, the Supreme Court will hear Trump v. Pennsylvania and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, a consolidated case that would allow virtually any employer or university to deny women access to birth control based on religious or moral objections.

American citizen detained in Iran is temporarily released due to coronavirus

Iran has temporarily released prisoners in an effort to control the coronavirus outbreak but Americans detainees were excluded from the release.

Wisconsin Republicans aren’t fans of bipartisan paid leave bill

The state’s Republican members of Congress said the paid leave measure would harm small businesses already struggling with the economic downturn caused by the outbreak.

Democrats look for answers to America’s child care crisis

Democrats look for answers to America’s child care crisis

Democrats in early 2019 proposed the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would places a cap on how much parents pay for child care. No family would pay more than 7% of their household income for child care if they earn less than 150 percent of their state’s median income. Supporters say the proposal could bring the child care supply gap down, with the government subsidizing child care centers while keeping costs down for families and the plan would essentially pay for itself.

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States act to count inmates at home — not rural prisons — for census

WASHINGTON — The 2020 U.S. Census is underway with the goal to count every U.S. resident once, and in the right place, which is defined as where they sleep a majority of the time. But critics say this decision grants too much power to rural communities that are home to large prisons.

Every 10 years, the census determines how billions of dollars in federal funding will be allocated to the states and territories. The results are also used to determine the number of seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts

“Everybody does count, whether you’re homeless, whether you’re in prison, whether you’re documented or not,” Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., said recently.

Because most states do not grant prisoners the right to vote, lawmakers disagree about where prisoners should be counted for the census — at their prisons or where they lived prior to imprisonment.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, 34 percent of California’s prisoners come from Los Angeles County, but the county only contains 3 percent of the state’s prison cells. Most inmates from the Los Angeles area are sent to prisons in more rural parts of the state.

This is not unique to California. Many urban areas across the country send their inmates to prisons in rural communities. Research at Arizona State University determined that over 450 prisons have been built in rural areas since 1980.

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said that moving incarcerated people to rural locations, and then counting them as residents there, enhances the political power of the areas near the prisons.

“It’s not fair,” Morial said. “It’s not appropriate to allow those counties that happen to house correctional facilities to get a disproportionate share of resources and political power because they just happen to be the place where incarcerated people are.”

Efforts to address prison gerrymandering at the federal level have gone nowhere in recent years.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., included an amendment to end prison gerrymandering in the For the People Act of 2019. This Democratic measure to overhaul campaign finance, voting and ethics laws passed the House of Representatives, but has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Republicans are against expanding the right to vote, ensuring transparency and reforming our democracy because they know that a corrupt system is the surest way for them to win,” Pocan said.

This was not the first federal attempt to change prison gerrymandering laws. In 2013, 18 members of Congress wrote to the Census Bureau requesting that it count prisoners as residents of their hometowns, but the Census Bureau did not change its policy.

The prison gerrymandering debate comes at the same time the Census Bureau is facing backlash over its handling of other underrepresented communities.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has held multiple hearings this year with industry experts and census officials discussing the effects of undercounting hard-to-count populations. Democratic lawmakers fear that Latinos will not fill out the census because of the possibility of a citizenship question and the repercussions they may face if answering truthfully.

“I am gravely concerned that the Census Bureau may not be prepared to meet this high bar, and that the 2020 Census could leave communities across the country undercounted, underrepresented and underfunded,” Maloney said.

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said it is up to individual states and Congress to take action on prison gerrymandering, and the Census Bureau will follow any changes Congress enacts.

New Jersey recently became the seventh state to count prisoners based on their home addresses. State Rep. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, one of the original sponsors of the New Jersey bill, said in a statement the law puts ends the skewing of districts that has resulted in an imbalance in state representation.

“Camden County has no prison facilities, but in 2018, there were 1,652 individuals from Camden in state prisons,” Cruz-Perez said. “Those 1,652 were counted as citizens of other counties, adding to the representation of those communities, despite hailing from Camden.”

After the 2020 Census is complete, New Jersey will join California, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New York and Washington in counting prisoners at their homes instead of their prisons, boosting representation and federal funding in mostly urban areas.

A bill awaits the signature of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis that also would require prisoners in the state to be counted as living at their home addresses.

Census Bureau spokeswoman Leslie R. Moran said the Bureau provides states with tools to count prisoners in their hometowns, such as a geocoding service that allows states to look up an address and convert it to a specific coordinate.

“This gives interested states the information they need to redraw district boundaries as they prefer, while still following the census’s principle of counting people where they live and sleep most of the time,” Moran said. “It does not change the counts from the census.”


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Facebook will remove Trump campaign ads resembling the census after Pelosi says they are deceptive

WASHINGTON – Facebook removed President Donald Trump’s campaign ads that resemble Census Bureau ads Thursday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Facebook of being more concerned about its profits than getting an accurate 2020 census count.

Pelosi said Thursday morning the Trump administration is fearful of America’s diversity and will go to great lengths to make sure minorities are undercounted, even using his presidential campaign funds to run the deceptive Facebook ads.

“I am particularly annoyed today at the actions of Facebook,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi alleged that Facebook is running ads that violate the company’s misrepresentation policy. She said that the ads claim to be an official document of Trump.

The ads say, “President Trump needs you to take the official 2020 Congressional District Census today.”

One of the deceptive ads from President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign circulating online. (Facebook)

Representatives from the Congressional Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian Pacific American Caucuses, who joined Pelosi at a news conference, said ads like this will make people think they have already filled out the 2020 Census, which will lead to an undercount.

“I hope the people won’t be fooled,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “The official census documents are going to be in the mail very soon.”

According to multiple reports, Facebook said it realized the ads violate its misrepresentation policies and took them down.

This is not the first time House Democrats have expressed concerns over deceptive census ads.

At a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing in February, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., presented a fundraising letter from the Republican National Committee resembling a Census form circulating in her district.

“They did the same thing in 2010 prompting congress to pass a law, sponsored by Chairwoman Maloney, trying to stamp out this conduct, Porter said. “But here we are, 10 years later, and the RNC is at it again.”

The 2010 law made it mandatory for any mailing that resembles the Census to mention that it was not sent by the United States Census.

At Thursday’s news conference, representatives emphasized the importance of minorities filling out the 2020 census for accurate congressional representation and federal funding.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that 800,000 African Americans were missed in the 2010 Census and she is concerned that blacks will continue to be left behind.

“During the period of enslavement in the South, black people weren’t even considered full people, we were counted as three-fifths,” Bass said. “So, the undercount has been something that we have had to deal with historically, but seeing how it’s going to be done this year gives us greater concern.”

American Hostages in Iranian prisons are in danger of contracting coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Hostages are being held in crowded prisons in Iran where coronavirus cases are surging, said a family member of two American hostages in Iran during a briefing on Thursday.

“I’m horrified for my brother and father. They are cooped up in overly crowded places with [people who have contracted] coronavirus. There is a lack of test kits and medicine,” said Babak Namazi, whise father, Baquer, and brother, Siamak, are being detained in Iran.

Namazi’s brother was arrested in 2015 and his father in 2016 when he traveled to Tehran to try to secure his son’s release.

In addition to the Namazis, there are two other American being held in Iran.

Families of American hostages in Iran urge Congress to provide more assistance

WASHINGTON— Families of American hostages in Iran on Thursday called on the House to approve a bill that would increase government assistance to Americans wrongfully detained abroad and impose sanctions on foreign officials responsible for the detainments.

“Any American traveling today, working abroad as a journalist, as an aid worker, as a businessman, as a tourist, as a student— they’re all at risk of being wrongfully taken and our government must have their back,” said Margaux Ewen, executive director of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.

The Levinson Act, approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, would set criteria to determine which Americans are unjustly detained abroad and establish a communication mechanism between members of Congress and the families of those detained.

“The act raises awareness in a structural way in the U.S. Congress,” said Margaux Ewen, executive director of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. “It makes room to create permanent mechanisms in both chambers to support [hostages and their] families.”

The bill is essential to the families of those detained abroad who might not know how to contact members of Congress or find appropriate government resources, said Ewen.

“We’ve been enduring ongoing pain and disappointment that my family members have been held captive for so long,” said Babak Namazi, son of Baquer Namazi and brother of Siamak Namazi, two Americans wrongfully detained in Iran.

Namazi’s brother was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for “collaborating with a hostile state,” although Namazi insists his brother is innocent. His father, Baquer, was arrested in 2016 when he traveled to Tehran to secure Siamak’s release.

There are at least five American hostages held in Iran, including Namazi’s brother and father. Robert Levinson is a former FBI agent detained in Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 and considered to be the longest-held American hostage in history, although little is known of his current conditions. Michael White is a Navy veteran imprisoned in July 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Iran’s supreme leader. White has cancer that is likely to be going untreated under Iran’s dire prison conditions. Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American, was arrested in January 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly conducting espionage.

It is likely that more Americans are detained but their families might choose to keep their cases private due to security concerns, said Ewen.

The State Department does not know how many Americans are unjustly detained abroad.

The bill outlines criteria that can be used to define who is considered wrongfully detained, including evidence of innocence and human rights infringements against them, which would allow the U.S. government to provide resources more efficiently, said Jared Genser, a law professor at Georgetown University.

The bill would require consistent communication between family members of detainees and government officials so families can understand if their case is addressed at the executive or consular level.

“Families are ready to hear difficult answers from the government,” said Ewen. “They just want to be kept informed.”

The measure would impose sanctions against foreign government officials responsible for wrongfully detaining Americans. Families of detained Americans want to work with foreign governments and nonprofits to secure the release of prisoners from countries that have weak diplomatic ties with the U.S., said Ewen.

“It’s really time to put an end to this unfathomable, unexplainable inhumane treatment of human beings,” said Namazi.


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Supreme Court decision in Louisiana abortion case could hinder access to services

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on a highly anticipated case that could restrict access to abortions by requiring doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients at nearby hospitals.

The case, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, centers around a Louisiana law mandating that abortion service providers have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.

Julie Rikelman, a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued before the court on behalf of June Medical Services, said requiring doctors to have admitting privileges would effectively force abortion clinics to close, placing an undue burden on abortion seekers.

If the law is upheld, just one doctor at one clinic would be responsible for the approximately 10,000 Louisiana women seeking abortion services each year, according to Rikelman.

Defending the Louisiana legislation, Elizabeth Murrill said admitting privileges served as a basic health screening critical for the protection of women’s health.

“Louisiana’s decision to require abortion providers to have admitting privileges was justified by abundant evidence of life-threatening health and safety violations,” Murrill said.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor repeatedly challenged the specific requirements around the hospital providing the admitting privileges. Ginsburg said a distance between the hospital and the clinic was unnecessary.

Most patients never have complications, but when they do, they’ve typically left the clinic to go to the hospital closest to their home, Ginsburg said.

“Her home has no necessary relationship to 30 miles from a clinic,” Ginsburg concluded.

Murrill and Principal Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall both argued that the 30-mile provision is consistent with the Louisiana regulatory structure of admitting privileges and would serve to maintain continuity of medical care.

The law was first challenged when doctors sued the state in 2014. Just two years later, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas admitting privileges law on the basis of the undue burden the law placed on abortion seekers. The Louisiana case was brought before the Supreme Court after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law despite the precedent set in Texas.

Rikelman said Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt sets a precedent that should not be undone in this case.

“This case is about respect for the court’s precedent,” Rikelman said. “The Louisiana law at issue here, Act 620, is identical to the Texas law and was expressly modeled on it.” Murrill contended that the case should not be compared to the Texas decision.

“The law was different, the facts are different. The regulatory structure is different. And the record is different,” she said. “And all of those things dictated a different result.”

The Supreme Court case Wednesday also considered whether the June Medical Services has close enough relationship to the issue to be able to bring it before the court. Generally, third-party standing is not allowed unless the party has a close relationship with the affected people.

Rikelman argued that the admitting privileges “directly regulated” the clinic, but Wall said it may have a conflict of interest.

“Their interests are not necessarily aligned,” Wall said. “One is the interest of for-profit providers and not being regulated in particular ways. The other is the interest of women in their own health and safety.”


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WARREN DIDN’T SHOW, OPPONENTS HAD BUILT-IN ADVANTAGE, AND THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE IN SC

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — As Gayle Tucker left her polling place at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Columbia, she asked a question that sums Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s  poor performance in the “First in the South” primary on Saturday and her struggle to gain traction with black voters — a critical voting bloc in multiple contests to come. 

“Has she been here campaigning?” Tucker asked. 

Warren’s poor showing among black voters in the Palmetto State can be summed up both as self-inflicted and simultaneously outside her control. Her main opponents’ spending and her lack of time in the state results in a final tally of only 5% of the black vote, according to exit polls by The Washington Post. 

Few visits, even fewer supporters 

Warren had spent fewer days in the state — 20 — than other major candidates except for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Warren had only done 20 campaign events throughout the state. She trailed fair behind philanthropist Tom Steyer’s 54 events, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 41, and eventual winner former Vice President Joe Biden’s 30 stops. 

Eight candidates that dropped out earlier in the race had even bested Warren in the number of stops in the first state to test the candidates’ support from black voters — a core and loyal demographic of the Democratic Party. 

Despite a string of endorsements from high profile black elected officials and the Root’s first place ranking of her black agenda, support on the ground never materialized for Warren at the ballot box. 

“Elizabeth Warren’s message to me far better resonates with our community, particularly black women my age,” State Rep. Wendy Brawley, who endorsed Warren and attended the GOTV effort. “We know this is going to be a tough hill for her in South Carolina, simply because Biden has a lot of name recognition.”

Inroads never came 

But most black Democrats generally did not seem attracted to Warren’s message. The audiences at her events were largely white. 

At a “Get Out the Vote” event in Columbia, Warren rallied supporters and volunteers around her economic policy early in the morning. She had a slate of women and black speakers to address the crowd of mostly white men and women. 

After the event, McKenzie Watson, the former political assistant for Andrew Yang in South Carolina, said that the two candidates trying to crack Biden’s wide name recognition put extra effort into courting black voters. 

“Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer, they make their presence known in black communities,” Watson said. “They make sure that there’s always representation in the black community.” 

Some money, familiarity and second chances 

Steyer, a wealthy philanthropist, had spent the most money of any candidate in the South Carolina race, and he staked much of his candidacy on a strong showing in South Carolina. Steyer’s wife, Kat Taylor, even moved to the Palmetto State. Beyond the $13.3 million in advertising, Steyer had also made efforts to be seen in the black community in the state. 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also had made additional efforts to court black voters this cycle, after losing states with larger black electorates by wide margins in his race against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Though these two candidates collectively won 30 percent of the electorate, the real oxygen in the race was taken up by Biden, who served as vice president under the first black president in United States’ history. That fact, and familiarity, did not go unnoticed with black voters when they voted. 

And as much as Tucker’s criticism that Warren didn’t spend time in South Carolina summarized her poor showing, William Kennedy, who voted for Warren, summarized Biden’s strong support. Kennedy said that the black community’s connection to former President Barack Obama, and Biden’s direct link as vice president, was a strong draw to black voters in South Carolina. 

“Joe Biden goes directly to Obama and the ‘feel good’ feeling,” Kennedy said. 

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY: BIDEN VICTORIOUS, BERNIE BRUISED, OTHERS BEATEN HEADING INTO SUPER TUESDAY

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — With South Carolinians providing former Vice President Joe Biden a “firewall” to slow Sen. Bernie Sanders’ momentum, candidates are looking to capitalize on the delegate-rich states voting on Super Tuesday – and party officials say the results likely will narrow the field.

“This is the moment to choose the path forward for our party,” Biden said at an election watch party at the University of South Carolina. “This is the moment, and it has arrived… and the decisions Democrats make all across America in the next few days will determine what this party stands for, what we believe, and what we’ll get done.”

Biden, with popular South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn at his side, claimed victory after receiving just under 50 percent of the vote. Sanders trailed a little less than 30 points behind Biden as the second-place candidate.

No other candidate had broken the 15 percent threshold in a primary or caucus to receive delegates statewide.

“We know Joe”

Biden’s campaign had taken a bruising over the first three nominating contests. With poor performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, the Biden campaign kept faith that South Carolina would give the former vice president the bump needed to keep him in the race and provide momentum for Super Tuesday, where a third of Democratic convention delegates will be allocated in a single night.

Though the Biden campaign had placed its bets on South Carolinians, there was concern that voters in the “First in the South” state would not answer back with the same level of affirmation. With the string of poor performances, some polls had shown a tightening race between Biden and Sanders, who had won the popular vote in the first three contests.

But at a minsters’ prayer breakfast in Charleston on Wednesday, Clyburn — the most beloved and popular Democrat in the state as well as a leading in the U.S. House as minority whip — endorsed the former vice president.

“I know Joe,” Clyburn said. “We know Joe. But most importantly, Joe knows us.”

The phrase was used at multiple campaign stops after the endorsement. From the campus of Coastal Carolina University to an AME church in Sumter, “We know Joe” became a rallying cry for the Biden campaign leading up to the vote.

According to a CBS News exit poll, 70 percent of black voters in the primary said that Clyburni’s endorsement was a factor when casting their votes.

Two threats evaporate

Leading up to the election, some polls had shown a tight race. Biden’s lead over Sanders in one poll was within the margin of error, and philanthropist Tom Steyer close behind.

Steyer had, in a lesser sense than Joe Biden, staked his candidacy on the Palmetto state. Throughout the campaign, Steyer had spent more than $13.3 million on both digital and television advertising in the state, and some voters took notice to his seemingly constant presence in the community.

Wilfred Knox, who attended a Steyer event at a HBCU the night before the primary, said that Steyer’s presence within the community, not just in advertisements, drew him to the philanthropist.

“I’ve been stuck with Tom,” Knox said. “I’m glad he’s here at Allen University, and I think that speaks well of him.”

However, money did not have the last word in the election. Steyer dropped out of the race as more results came in that showed he would not break the 15 percent threshold to receive delegates.

Some voters also remained skeptical of Sanders, along with feeling a sense of electability for Biden.

Babette Boston, an employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs, said “something has gotta give” about the animosity among the campaigns and the “blockage of good ideas.” That, she said, motivated her to vote.

“I struggled (who to vote for) up until the time I drove into the parking lot,” Boston said. “I did vote for Mr. Biden because I think he is more even-keeled.” She said she was skeptical of Sanders’ Medicare for all program.

Eyes move to Super Tuesday

For the candidates who did not break into the top three, their focus moved to Super Tuesday states, even before the results were called.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren left for Arkansas and Houston after a rally in Columbia Saturday morning. Even there, with a victory in South Carolina unlikely, the focus was on sending the Massachusetts Democrat into the largest single day of voting with some “South Carolina love” and “South Carolina passion.”

William Kennedy, who voted for Warren early in the morning, had his eyes set even farther forward — the Democratic National Convention in July.

“The bottom line is, if she keeps fighting, if we make it to the convention, we have a great opportunity for Elizabeth to be our candidate,” Kennedy said.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez went to a polling station at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Columbia, where South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson cast his vote. Perez said that after Tuesday’s contest, tough conversations would be had and decisions would be made by candidates on their viability.

“Next Tuesday, you got 14 states voting, and this is the last word before they go to vote,” Perez said. “We started out with 25 (candidates) thereabouts, and we’re done to seven or eight. And we’ll see what happens after Tuesday. “

A tumultuous decade creates confusion and disengagement for different communities in North Carolina

CARRBORO, North Carolina –William Baker is a recent retiree who works on pianos in his downtime and plays in a bluegrass band. He helps run church concerts and hangs out with his adult daughter and her family. But on Sunday, he stood outside the Weaver Street Market in Carrboro trying to convince passersby to vote in Tuesday’s primary elections.

He works with You Can Vote, an organization that works across North Carolina to provide people with information on how to register to vote for the Democratic or Republican primaries and where they should go on Election Day.

As important, You Can Vote provides information to alleviate the “confusion” voters feel because of the state’s recent cycle of constantly redrawing maps for congressional or legislative districts to give one party an advantage.

Baker said Carrboro is an area with a lot of new people moving in who are likely not familiar with North Carolina’s complicated –and changing –voting laws.

“They may not realize that the elections are governed differently state to state and even county to county,” Baker said.

“This changing game”

North Carolina has a tumultuous history when it comes to voting rights. In an iterative cycle, courts have invalidated election laws and rules passed by the legislature, from voter identification to redistricting. In the past decade, the state’s legislative maps, which were only supposed to be redrawn once, have instead been redrawn three times in attempts to create districts –often not geographically logical or contiguous –that ensure a certain party has a majority.

In September, a state court threw out the legislative maps, calling them “a partisan gerrymander.” Those maps helped Republicans fill 10 of North Carolina’s 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, despite the largely even split of voters in the state.

In December, a state court approved new maps, which are expected to position Democrats towards electoral victories in two more congressional districts, according to The New York Times.

The new margin will likely be 8-5 –still gerrymandered.

Allison Riggs, who leads the voting rights program at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the frequency of redistricting creates confusion among the state’s voters, a concern in the Super Tuesday primaries. In general, she said there has been a lot of “all-around confusion” because the legislature keeps making “bad law that either is just completely unworkable or is invalidated by a court.”

“I think voters in North Carolina are becoming all too used to this changing game of what are the rules for voting,” Riggs said. “Our election protection efforts are a really important component of ensuring that voters know what the rules are and that they feel empowered to exercise their right to vote and aren’t scared off by the confusion.”

She said “the constant rigamarole of unconstitutional and unfair laws” perpetuates uncertainty about what the laws are.

“We’ve had so many redraws this decade that it’s really hard for voters to get to know who their elected officials are, candidates are, for there to be a sense of relationship or accountability between the voters and elected officials,” Riggs said.

Voter identification: more confusion

At Weaver Market, Sonna Lowenthal stood beside Baker. She is a former assistant city manager for Chapel Hill who volunteers for Habitats for Humanity and teaches English for nonnative speakers. But Lowenthal said her work with You Can Vote is “one of the more useful things” she does in retirement.

Since 11 a.m., she had been handing out placards. These placards were rewritten several times over the past few months, reflecting changes in voter identification laws in North Carolina. She reminded passersby that they don’t need a voter ID to participate in Tuesday’s election.

Bryan Warner, director of communications at Common Cause North Carolina, said that’s because injunctions in the state and federal courts have temporarily blocked the state legislature’s voter ID law, which was approved by voters in 2018 and set to start in the 2020 election. Warner said his organization is currently focused on reminding prospective voters and poll workers that identification does not have to be provided to vote on Super Tuesday.

“One of the things we’re being watchful of is to ensure that voters are aware that no voter ID is needed,” Warner said. “But also to ensure that when they go to vote that the poll workers are also aware of that so there’s no confusion or people being turned away for lack of voter ID.”

Although the constant redrawing and court rulings may cause confusion among voters, Riggs said injunctions have provided “reassurance” to voters that the courts will step in to combat North Carolina’s unconstitutional laws.

But for the Rev. T Anthony Spearman, this may not be enough. As the President of the North Carolina NAACP, which has also been at the forefront of fighting against laws that suppress the vote, he said the advocates’ recent wins in the courts haven’t done enough to stop the Republican majority currently in the House of Representatives.

“We’re still having to fight the rest of them, their tactics and their antics,” Spearman said.

Voting: “A hard sell”

In Greensboro, an hour train ride from Carrboro, there’s not only confusion, but disillusionment for many of the community’s black residents.

Greensboro, a one-time industrial town that was later an epicenter of the civil rights movement, has a population that is 41% African American, as opposed to the 10.1% black population in Carrboro.

At New Light Missionary Baptist Church, just miles away from the birthplace of the sit-in movement, the Rev. C. Bradley Hunt works with youth firsthand, while also serving as the political action chair of the Greensboro branch of the NAACP for over a decade.

Hunt said young people of color in Greensboro are staying at home this election, while turnout is up for older, white people in the area.

Recently, he has had many conversations with young people who just don’t see the point in voting. They ask him, “What is in it for me? Why should I vote?”

He doesn’t blame them.

“It’s a hard sell,” he said. “When you pack all of the black folks in Greensboro in one district, but then the surrounding rural counties that are made of mostly Republican voters, they have the majority of the district, they get the representation.”

After Hunt and his team organized for Kathy Manning in District 13 last year, 80% of the City of Greensboro turned out, but the rural counties decided the election, he said.

“Our community, there are so many things that have gone wrong that I don’t really know if there’s a way out other than God intervenes,” Hunt said. “Because when you talk to everyday black folks, brown folks, the enthusiasm and the perception is not there. We continue to work, we continue to organize.”

“Divine Intervention”

Hunt hopes for “divine intervention” to rally young people of color to vote.

Hunt hopes for “divine intervention” to rally young people of color to vote.

“We are in a crisis.”

Students like Mackeyla Davis Urbina are helping to mobilize young black voters. The freshman at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh helped organize her university’s March to the Polls on Super Tuesday, where over 100 students fell in line behind the marching band and made a quarter mile walk to their polling place on Tarboro Street.

“We are not the 1%, we are the ones that get affected by everything,” Urbina said. “Getting students involved at an early age and just letting it grow with us is really important.”

Urbina is like many civic leaders who have been looking for ways to increase the rate at which young people of color vote. While turnout among college students was up 3% in the 2016 election, turnout among students at historically black colleges plummeted, down 10% from the 2012 race. African-Americans as a whole voted 5.3% less than they did in 2012, according to a report from Tufts University.

Paul Norman, director of the first-year experience at Saint Augustine’s, said people have made sacrifices for students of color to be in the position to vote.

“We will not sit here and cry spilled milk if our candidate is not elected,” Norman said. “We have to do what we’ve got to make the vote count.”

IN NORTH CAROLINA, DEMOCRATS EMPHASIZE UNITY AHEAD OF DECISIVE SUPER TUESDAY VOTE

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — The last time Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar saw the late Sen. John McCain, who was the Republicans’ 2008 presidential nominee, he gave her some important advice.

Speaking in a ballroom filled with North Carolina Democrats on Saturday, she said McCain showed her a quote: “There is nothing more liberating than fighting for a cause larger than yourself.”

“So remember,” she continued. “Despite all these fights we’re gonna have, what unites us is bigger than what divides us.”

Democratic party leaders– from state officials to the national chairman to presidential candidates — emphasized the need for party unification on Saturday at the North Carolina Democratic Party’s “Blue NC Celebration.”

In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats in the state took back nine seats held by Republicans, breaking the GOP supermajority in the North Carolina House of Representatives. The results also gave them their highest total of representatives in the statehouse since 2008 when Democrats last held the majority. And Gov. Roy Cooper won the state’s 2016 gubernatorial race.

North Carolina is called a “battleground” state in the 2020 presidential race. Democrats believe they can build on their momentum from the past two elections and win the state this year.

But first, the party needs a nominee.

Despite growing concerns among the Democratic establishment that nominating Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would spell doom in the general election, Tom Perez said Saturday that every Democratic candidate can beat President Donald Trump.

Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was one of many featured guests on Saturday who saw party unity as the path to victory in November. Dispelling concerns that the past few debates have been too divisive, Perez compared the cycle to the 2008 Democratic primary. If audience members thought these debates were “raucous,” Perez suggested they watch the 2008 Democratic debate in South Carolina.

“It was spirited,” he said. “At the end of the day we all came together.”

Cooper shared the sentiment, saying when the primaries are done, it will be time for Democrats “to all come together.”

“We need to be positive,” Cooper added.

Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, told the audience that he is running “to start putting the ‘united’ back in the United States of America.”

Democrats, he said, need a nominee who can build a “broad coalition” — “someone that attracts independents and republicans.”

But despite all the talk of unity, the presidential candidates in the room were still running for the nomination and delivered veiled criticisms of their opponents.

The country needs “a commander-in-chief, not college-debater-in-chief,” Bloomberg said, trying to minimize his poor performances at the last two debates, which featured pointed criticisms of his sexist language from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

“If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes in our politics, you’ve got a home in me,” Klobuchar said, contrasting herself with more progressive candidates like Warren and Sanders.

On March 3, the true frontrunner may become clearer, as 14 states—including North Carolina— will hold Democratic primaries, doling out over 1,300 delegates to the national convention. A Feb. 28 Meredith Poll showed a three-way race in North Carolina, with Sanders at 19.5%, former Vice President Joe Biden at 17.9% and Bloomberg at 17% of the vote.

Perez himself acknowledged Saturday that he doesn’t know who the nominee will be. Of the 1,991 delegates needed on the first ballot to win the nomination, he said the party has allocated roughly 150 delegates.

“Folks, I used to run marathons,” Perez said. “We’re at mile three or four of the marathon.”

Violence in India could lead to genocide, say human rights groups

WASHINGTON – India is headed toward active genocide if it cannot stop the violence against Muslims and protesters who oppose the country’s new citizenship law that excludes Muslims, the head of a Muslim rights advocacy group said Wednesday.

Riots have swept New Delhi this week as protesters of India’s new citizenship law clash with supporters. The Citizen Amendment Act provides citizenship to all religious minorities fleeing from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan except Muslims.

Justice for All, along with the International Society of Peace and Justice, the Indian American Muslim Council and the Council on Minority Rights in India called on the State Department to place sanction on India. “There should be no trade deals with India until India agrees to fulfill its international commitments on human rights,” said Dr. Rehan Khan, president of the International Society of Peace and Justice.

Officials put the death toll at 25 on Wednesday, but Justice for All Director Hena Zuberi warned that it may grow due to the difficulties that Muslims face in receiving medical attention at hospitals in New Delhi.

“The last three days of attacks in India’s capital have been horrific. Neighborhoods were set on fire… businesses belonging to religious minorities were burnt to rubble,” Zuberi said at a news conference. “These are the same markers as what’s happening against Muslim Rohingya people.”

Indians practicing Hinduism make up 80 percent of the country’s population compared with 13 percent who are Muslims, according to the census commissioner of India.

“Hindus and Muslims have lived as neighbors for centuries. India is home to more Muslims than in most Muslim majority countries… India has two genocide alerts against it and both relate to its Muslim citizens,” said Zuberi.

The violence is reportedly the worst the capital has seen in recent decades and began during President Donald Trump’s first official visit to India on Monday and Tuesday.

Zuberi called Trump’s silence on the riots “extremely troubling.”

“Since he did not comment on the violence, it gives it a rubber stamp that this is okay,” she said.

Indigenous tribes and experts sound alarm to the border wall’s destruction of sacred tribal land

WASHINGTON— Construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border is destroying sacred indigenous sites while federal agencies fail to properly consult tribes, experts on indigenous rights and tribal members told a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

“For us, [the construction of the border wall] is no different from [the Department of Homeland Security] building a 30-foot wall along Arlington Cemetery or through the grounds of the National Cathedral,” said Ned Norris Jr., chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, which is located in southern Arizona.

DHS has undertaken a series of infrastructure projects in sacred tribal land along the U.S.-Mexican border, including the construction of roads and controlled detonations. Many of these areas once served as indigenous burial grounds, and many still contain ancestral human remains and sacred archeological remains, said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.

According to U.S. law, the Trump administration has the authority to suspend federal laws protecting the environment and indigenous rights in order to construct border protection barriers. This enables the DHS and other federal agencies to start construction projects on indigenous land without consulting tribes.

“We urge Congress to withdraw or at least limit the DHS’ waiver authority that is dangerously broad and has allowed DHS nearly dictatorial authority to run rough-shot over the rights of the Tohono O’odham and other border communities in the United States,” Norris said.

Despite Trump’s waiver of several federal laws protecting indigenous tribes, U.S. Customs and Border Protection still makes an effort to consult tribes informally, said Steve Hodapp, a retired independent contractor and environmental specialist who worked for Customs and Border Protection.

But federal agencies’ informal conversations with tribes are insufficient and agencies have failed to appropriately contact tribes with regard to the border wall, Norris said.

The Government Accountability Office recommends improvements to tribal consultation practices. It urged federal agencies to be more transparent with how tribal input is weighed in approving infrastructure projects. Government agencies also should consult tribes in a timely manner, said Dr. Anna Maria Ortiz, the GAO’s director of natural resources and environment.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R- Ariz., said the border wall is necessary to protect the environment in the sacred tribal areas. He said illegal crossings between the U.S.-Mexico border result in trash, water pollution and illegal foot and vehicle crossings in nature reserves.

“In pursuit of a political open borders agenda, you are happy to ignore and minimize the environmental impact [of illegal border crossings,]” said Gosar to Democrats on the committee.

“You can’t equate [the destruction of] sacred sites and burial grounds with trash [left behind by illegal crossers],” Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., responded.

America’s Working Class needs a boost from Government, Business, experts say

WASHINGTON — Wealth inequality in the United States now resembles the massive wealth gap of the Great Depression, with the top 0.1% of today’s wealthiest Americans holding more than 20% of the nation’s wealth, and the future of working class families is threatened, several mayors and a leading public policy scholar said Wednesday.

Duke University public policy professor William A. Darity, speaking at a Washington Post event, expressed concern that the working class may be permanently damaged if more resources are not allocated to help the average American’s needs.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that one of the issues central to helping the working class is making sure neighborhoods can be less stratified by income.

Bottoms said that the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is in the heart of a community facing gentrification so the city designated the area a displacement-free zone and for the next 20 years the City of Atlanta will cover the anticipated increase in property taxes for residents who would not otherwise be able to afford to live in this neighborhood.

“We see that we are bringing people together who otherwise wouldn’t live in the same neighborhoods,” Bottoms said. “When the communities look better, it’s for everyone, not just a segment of the population.”

Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer said that it is important to give money to communities that have historically been disadvantaged, whether by raising the minimum wage or by enacting something like the Freedom Dividend, Andrew Yang’s plan to give every American $1,000 a month.

“When people have an adequate amount of money, they can take care of issues that prevent them from earning money,” Fischer said.

Philadelphia Councilwoman Kendra Brooks and other panelists agreed that those in the working class should have a voice in the decisions that directly affect them.

“I have experienced a lot of these issues firsthand,” Brooks said. “We need people in politics that are able to speak to the people, not the numbers, not the statistics, but the people that are primarily affected by these issues.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said the House of Representatives is working to ensure that Americans have the health care they need to survive.

“Democrats are 95% united, I mean the media focuses on the 5% where we have differences,” Khanna said. “Every Democrat that I know believes that health care is a human right.”

Khanna added that it is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow the Senate to act on legislation that the House has passed that directly assists working class Americans.

 


 

Medill Today // March 19, 2020