Newly released emails obtained by the Student Borrower Protection Center reveal employees at a student loan service provider in Missouri expressed confusion over the state’s attorney general placing the provider at the center of a lawsuit filed to block the Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.The United States supreme court is expected to issue a ruling on a legal challenge to the president’s student debt forgiveness of up to $20,000 in the coming weeks. That challenge – filed by the Missouri attorney general and five other Republican-led states – and another challenge filed by the conservative advocacy organization, Job Creators Network, made it to the supreme court.The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority – or Mohela – is at the center of the challenge by the GOP-led states, claiming the loan service provider would lose revenue and face negative impacts over its financial obligations to Missouri. Consumer advocates, meanwhile, have pointed out that Mohela stands to gain revenue from Biden’s cancellation plan.In court hearings on the challenges earlier this year, US supreme court justices questioned why Mohela did not bring its own legal challenges to Biden’s debt cancellation plan and how the Republican-led states could claim harm on their behalf.Emails released since establish that Mohela employees expressed similar confusion.“The [Missouri] state AG needed to claim that our borrowers were harmed for standing, so they’re making us look bad by filing this not only with [Missouri] on it, but especially bad because they filed it in [Missouri],” wrote a Mohela employee in September 2022.Another Mohela employee asked in an October 2022 email: “just out of curiosity, is MOHELA apart of the lawsuit going on to prevent the loan forgiveness? Are we the bad guys?”A fellow employee responded, “Mohela isn’t technically a part of that lawsuit, the Missouri AG is suing on their behalf. However, it’s all about the [Family Federal Education Loans] stuff, and since they changed the rules, that lawsuit should be ruled as lacking standing.”Ella Azoulay, a Student Borrower Protection Center research and policy analyst, argued the emails confirmed the “partisan hack job” of Missouri’s lawsuit to block student debt relief.The legal challenges have paused Biden’s student debt relief plan announced in August 2022. The relief plan would grant up to $20,000 in student debt relief for Pell grant recipients and up to $10,000 in student debt forgiveness for all other borrowers with annual incomes under $125,000. Nearly 26 million Americans had applied for relief under the plan by November 2022. More
According to a Washington Post-KFF poll, only 43% of cisgender people (a person whose gender identity aligns with their assigned sex at birth) know a transgender person, so allow me to introduce myself.My name is Chelsea Freels and I use she/her pronouns. I’m a transgender junior at Clayton high school in Missouri. I love learning about psychology, computer science, and political and queer theory. After the pandemic relinquished its grip enough to open schools, I joined and have helped lead the business and media side of Clayton high school’s first robotics team. (Go RoboHounds!)Two years ago, I started coming out to my peers as Chelsea. While I started by coming out first to my transgender friends, I eventually came out to my robotics team and the rest of the school shortly after. In the same timeframe, I started seeing an endocrinologist at the Washington University Transgender Center to explore the implications of beginning gender-affirming healthcare. During my time at Washington University’s clinic, I learned about the benefits and risks of medically transitioning in great detail.Since medically transitioning I’ve never been happier. I’ve recovered from my gender dysphoria-fueled depression and made more friends than ever before. Additionally, I’ve been able to do well in difficult classes and starting gender-affirming care felt like replacing an underlying sense of dread with hope for the future. Due to gender-affirming care, I’m able to see a future with me in it.However, those hopes were spoiled earlier this year when Missouri’s state government decided transgender kids had too many rights. In service of that cruel objective, the Missouri state senator Mike Moon introduced senate bill 49, while Missouri’s unelected attorney general, Andrew Bailey, introduced the most extreme gender-affirming healthcare ban in the country via an “emergency rule”.Of the duo’s governmental policies, Moon’s SB 49 appears the most likely to carry the force of law. SB 49, misleadingly titled the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, bars all gender-affirming healthcare for minors who haven’t started treatment by 28 August. While the passage of this bill wouldn’t affect me, it would affect my partner and many of my transgender friends who planned to start hormone replacement therapy (colloquially known as HRT) soon.This bill seems designed to appear moderate, in comparison with its other proposed versions, to secure passage. While SB 49’s long list of siblings has been so extreme as to criminalize supportive parents, it’s worth noting that taking away essential healthcare is never an exercise in moderation.Bailey’s emergency regulation is a two-faced exercise in evil, simultaneously claiming that “individuals of any age experiencing gender dysphoria or related conditions should be able to and are able to obtain care in Missouri” and placing un-passable roadblocks, like requiring over 18 months of therapist visits.For reference, the attorney general’s order only lasts for another 274 days, less than half of the 18 months of therapy required. Even the most “humane” part of this order, the provision that allows people already on gender-affirming healthcare to continue their care, is fatally flawed, given the requirement to “promptly” comply with his order.While both SB 49 and the attorney general’s order are terrifying to be on the wrong end of, the attorney general’s rule evokes a unique sense of horror. Until recently, the light for Missouri’s transgender minors has been the candles on an 18th birthday cake. “I can finally start HRT,” my partner said as they told me about their plans for when they turn 18. However, the order attempts to snuff those candles out by instituting a healthcare ban on every transgender person, regardless of their age.Even though Bailey, Moon and their associated conspirators continue trying to remove transgender people from this world, they are certainly doomed to fail. When I talk to transgender kids at Clayton, I can see the terror and anger radiate from their eyes, but I can also see an overpowering sense of joy. Joy for being accepted by their peers, joy for the community we’ve found. Something deep inside knows that things are going to turn out OK for us.For my part, I can say that Moon has (inadvertently) started a queer relationship. I met my partner (who is nonbinary) inside the Capitol, fighting with them against some of SB 49’s impersonators. My partner is extremely smart, strong and gives the best hugs. When I see their face, I know we’re going to win this fight. We may not win today’s battle for gender-affirming healthcare in Missouri, but the forces of love will encroach on the Missouri state capitol as the days fall into years.If you want to help our cause, please love and respect the trans people in your life. We could all use it.
Chelsea Freels is a transgender activist and a junior at Clayton high school More
On Thursday 13 April, Missouri’s attorney general issued an emergency ruling that restricts access to gender-affirming care for both minors and adults, under the guise that hormone therapy is an “experimental use” rather than an FDA-approved treatment. For the past year, transgender youth have been a football for conservative politicians, with their access to gender-affirming care restricted or outlawed in 14 states. But this move by Missouri’s attorney general is the first attack on gender-affirming care for transgender adults; assuredly, it won’t be the last.The first time I tried to get access to gender-affirming care was in 2003. I was 24 years old and lived in Rhode Island. I’d been out as transgender for eight years by then, eight years spent looking (on a good day) like a 14-year-old boy, until finally the me I saw in the mirror and the me I saw in my head didn’t match any more. Only testosterone would make me feel like myself.I told my doctor, who was kind and sympathetic and said she had no idea about the protocols for administration of testosterone to a transgender person. She did find me a list of all the practitioners in Rhode Island who offered such care. There were three names on the list. True, Rhode Island is not a large state, but still: three names. I called them all. Only one would see me, and only after I had gone to therapy and had a psychologist certify that I was ready to transition.That was the standard back then – and that’s what the Missouri attorney general wants to require of adult transgender individuals now, only more extensive. In 2003 in Rhode Island, I needed to see a therapist for at least three visits. The Missouri AG wants documentation of least three years of “medically documented, long-lasting, persistent and intense pattern of gender dysphoria” before an adult can be approved to get hormones. Three years of therapy is lengthy, time-consuming and expensive; three years is a very long time to suffer before being allowed to get medical attention.Moreover, back in 2003, “gender identity disorder” was in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM) as a mental disorder. Doctors required transgender individuals to visit a psychologist so that there was a “legitimate” diagnosis to accompany the prescription of hormones – even though, back then and still today, the use of hormones for gender reassignment is an “off-label” use. But that diagnosis was removed from the DSM in 2013, replaced with “gender dysphoria”.That’s the term Missouri’s AG uses in his emergency ruling and, in doing so, trying to return to the idea that being transgender is synonymous with being mentally ill, a narrative that the right has used at several historical moments to marginalize LGBTQ+ individuals. The narrative here isn’t really about a diagnosis or medical legitimacy – it certainly isn’t about the health of the transgender person. The subtext clearly is that transgender people are mentally ill and delusional, and they need a medical authority to help them figure out who they are.The therapist that I saw in 2003 was a gay man who had a lot of compassion for the situation I was in. He knew it was a hoop I had to jump through, and he also knew he had to do his job. He asked me questions, took notes, and eventually wrote a letter certifying that I fit the diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” and that hormone therapy would help treat this disorder.I felt uncomfortable with the process; it seemed to me then and it seems to me now that there isn’t anything wrong with my gender identity. I know very well who I am; it’s how I feel about my body that needed to be addressed in a medical way. That’s the shift that was made in the DSM – away from “gender identity” and towards “dysphoria”. That’s the shift that the Missouri AG is trying to undo and rewrite.But that diagnosis and that therapist’s letter got me a prescription for testosterone in Rhode Island, a medical intervention that was absolutely transformative and life-saving for me.And then I moved to south-west Florida. I called endocrinologist after endocrinologist, asking if they would see me, look at the paperwork from my Rhode Island doctor, look at the letter from the therapist. A dozen said no – one receptionist told me curtly that the doctor didn’t see “transgendereds”. Another hung up on me. A third said, “Are you kidding me?” Eventually, I found a doctor in the Miami area, a three-hour drive away, who agreed to see me.This was typical for transgender care back then and, sadly, now. Unless you live in or near a major metropolitan area, getting a doctor who is trained, comfortable and willing to provide gender-affirming care is not easy. I was a person with a lot of privilege: health insurance from my employer, a good income, the language and education and time to persist in finding a therapist and a doctor who would treat me. For many transgender individuals, this would be too much, especially to maintain for three years. Missouri is trying to pile more work on to an already significant burden.But more than the details of this particular attack, I hope people will see the mounting pattern here. The first wave of legislation came for transgender youth. This next wave is coming for transgender adults. Put these restrictions next to the rulings against abortion and you can see a larger picture of bodily control. Who gets to make medical decisions about their bodies? Not pregnant women. Not transgender people.Back in 2003, I was so frustrated by my own experience that I vowed to work for improvements. I’ve fought for transgender civil rights and worked in particular for transgender students. There were years when we were making headway, when a conversation between a transgender individual and their doctor was sufficient basis to prescribe hormones. Now, it seems like we are at an inflection point. It’s time to strip away the rhetoric and recognize what’s at stake: our rights to control our bodies, our rights to control our identities. And I’m not just talking about transgender people.
Alex Myers is a novelist and teacher who lives in Vermont More
The shooting of a Black teenager who rang the wrong doorbell in Kansas City, Missouri, has renewed scrutiny of “stand your ground” and other self-defense laws, which have proliferated in the US and been used to justify the killings of Black Americans.Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old high school junior, was going to pick up his younger twin brothers from a friend’s house on Thursday when he approached an incorrect address. The white homeowner, 84-year-old Andrew Lester, came to the door and shot Yarl in the head, before shooting him a second time, according to authorities. Yarl suffered a traumatic brain injury, but survived and was recovering, his family said.The case sparked intense local protests and widespread outrage across the country after police released Lester from custody, saying investigators were considering whether his actions were protected by self-defense laws. Late Monday, however, prosecutors announced armed assault charges against Lester, who surrendered on Tuesday.It remains to be seen how Lester may defend himself in court. But the shooting, and another over the weekend in which a New York homeowner killed a woman who entered the wrong driveway, appeared to be part of a disturbing pattern in the US where, experts say, the dramatic expansion of self-defense laws has been linked to increased homicides and racist violence.“Black people are still suffering from laws in this country that are not moral and not just – and ‘stand your ground’, as it is applied to Black people, is one of them,” said the Rev Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City.‘Authorizing violence’The first “stand your ground” law was adopted in 2005 in Florida after a homeowner fatally shot a man who had wandered on to his property. The shooter did not face charges, but the National Rifle Association argued he’d been treated unfairly while under investigation and pushed the passage of “stand your ground”, which solidified that people have the right to kill if they believe they’re faced with a grave threat, even if they could have retreated or de-escalated the confrontation.“Castle doctrine” laws in the US have long allowed people to kill intruders threatening their homes, but stand-your-ground policies extended that self-defense concept to the wider public sphere – with deadly consequences.By 2012, the year 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch captain, 24 states had versions of “stand your ground”. Now, 38 states have similar statutes or equivalent legal precedents, according to a 2022 Reveal investigation. That’s despite one poll showing a decline in public support for the laws.“The legacy of ‘stand your ground’ is this wild west mentality that everything can be resolved with guns,” said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, University of Dayton law professor.An analysis last year found “stand your ground” laws were linked to an 8% to 11% increase in homicide rates, or roughly 700 additional deaths each year. Florida’s “stand your ground” law has increased both justifiable and unlawful killings, with one study finding a 32% increase in firearm homicide rates; and another analysis showed that in 79% of cases, the assailant could have retreated to avoid confrontation. And research on “stand your ground” laws has found huge racial disparities, with white Americans much more likely to find success with self-defense claims, particularly when they kill Black people.“We have so much data showing these laws do not make us safer. And in fact, they authorize so much unnecessary violence that disproportionately harms Black and brown people,” said Caroline Light, Harvard senior lecturer and expert on “stand your ground” laws.Robert Spitzer, political science professor emeritus at the State University of New York, Cortland, noted that “stand your ground” laws discourage prosecution and impede investigations into homicides, which is why some law enforcement leaders oppose them: “The laws are written in a way that quite clearly provides for the prospect of legalized murder. And it actually encourages people to make sure their opponents are dead so that they cannot make a counter ‘stand your ground’ claim.”The laws have also contributed to an increasingly violent culture, added Kenneth Nunn, law professor emeritus at the University of Florida: “The presence of a ‘stand your ground’ law in the public’s mind generally means, all you have to say is, ‘I was in fear for my life’, and no charges will be brought, and I think a lot of police officers tend to believe that, too.”Missouri passed a “stand your ground” law in 2016. Decried by critics as “shoot first laws”, the state’s self-defense statutes say people can use deadly force and have no duty to retreat if they “reasonably believe” it was necessary to prevent death, or in any case in which a person enters or “attempts to unlawfully enter” someone’s home.Ari Freilich, state policy director for the Giffords Law Center, said the self-defense laws would not justify the shooting of Yarl: “There’s no state in the country where the existing laws are such that you can lawfully shoot someone for ringing the doorbell at the wrong house.” Still, he said, the case appeared to “fit the pattern we’ve seen over and over again of racist fear intersecting with really widespread unvetted firearm access, combining in our country to make gun violence the leading cause of death by far for young Black men”.‘Traumatized and infuriated’Residents of Kansas City – who protested over the weekend with signs saying “ringing a doorbell is not a crime” and the “shooter should do the time” – said they were relieved charges were filed, but that the shooting had escalated fears of racist violence.“Missouri and the Kansas City metropolitan area is one of the most unsafe places for Black people in America,” said Rev Howard, citing homicide rates, police brutality, mass incarceration and infant mortality rates. “I put this shooting within that context. This is par for the course. There’s a severe lack of protection for Black life and equal justice under the law.”He said he hopes laws like “stand your ground” are repealed, adding of the shooting, “We are not surprised, we are traumatized. We are infuriated. And we are determined to take steps to receive justice that is necessary here.”“This is a city that has deep racial tensions bubbling constantly,” added Theo Davis, a pastor at the Restore Community Church, who attended recent protests, noting recent incidents of racism in local high schools as well as times he’d been racially profiled by police and others.He said he was disappointed prosecutors did not file hate crime charges and was worried that decision would allow people to claim racism was not a factor. The local prosecuting attorney said there was a “racial component” to the shooting, but said hate crime statutes would carry a lesser penalty than the assault charge.Davis said he was also anxious about the suspect’s likely self-defense argument in court: “We’ve seen so many cases of ‘stand your ground’ laws benefiting white people in this country. It’s very scary, and I’m deeply concerned. Even though it seems like a slam-dunk case, we won’t hold our breath until we see a conviction.” More
Republican states pull out of voter rolls program amid false claims of biasThree states announce end of Eric membership citing unfounded concerns over security and political leaning of organizationThree Republican states announced this week that they would be terminating their membership with a prominent, multi-state consortium that shares voter rolls data to keep their lists up to date. The moves come amid unfounded rightwing conspiracies about the security and partisan leaning of the organization.Florida, West Virginia and Missouri said this week that they are leaving the Electronic Registration Information Center (Eric), a group of roughly 30 states on both sides of the aisle that assist one another in voter roll maintenance. The group matches member states’ voter rolls to each other to flag registrations of duplicate voters or people who have moved or died. The more states that are involved, the more accurate Eric’s services can be.Georgia Republicans race to pass laws to restrict and challenge votesRead moreIn a statement announcing its decision on Monday, Florida’s Republican secretary of state, Cord Byrd, said he is withdrawing to protect the data privacy of state residents.“As secretary of state, I have an obligation to protect the personal information of Florida’s citizens, which the Eric agreement requires us to share,” he said. “Florida has tried to back reforms to increase protections, but these protections were refused. Therefore, we have lost confidence in Eric.”Earlier this year, Alabama and Louisiana also pulled out of Eric, citing similar concerns. Alabama’s new secretary of state has denied the results of the 2020 election and supported a lawsuit brought by Texas against four other states for election “irregularities” that allegedly caused Trump’s loss.Eric has been supported by its member states, including many GOP-controlled states, since it launched in 2012 as a way to supplement the insufficient national voter registration database. It was not until last year, when rightwing conspiracy theories began to spread, that the organization began to be viewed as partisan and states began to question their membership.Far-right groups and websites, which were already actively spreading election misinformation and sowing doubt in election administration, began describing Eric as left-leaning and falsely tied the organization to liberal billionaire George Soros. The rightwing website Gateway Pundit published a series of baseless blog posts claiming that Eric was a liberal plot to inflate voter rolls and that it could allow private voter data to become public.Republican states have also begun to take issue with the governance of the organization. In his statement announcing West Virginia’s departure, the secretary of state, Mac Warner, said the Eric board of directors rejected recommended changes during a recent meeting which he claimed would have prevented partisan, non-state actors from having influence over the organization.“It truly is a shame that an organization founded on the principle of nonpartisanship would allow the opportunity for partisanship to stray the organization from the equally important principle of upholding the public’s confidence,” he said.Politico reported that the withdrawing secretaries of state also took issue with Eric’s requirement that state election officials contact eligible but unregistered voters at least every two years to see if they would like to register.Top state officials push to make spread of US election misinformation illegalRead moreIn his letter announcing Missouri’s withdrawal, the secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, wrote that “Eric focuses on adding names to voters rolls by requiring a solicitation to individuals who already had an opportunity to register to vote and made the conscious decision not to be registered.”Trump has called for more Republican states to withdraw, falsely claiming that Eric is inflating the rolls for Democrats.Tammy Patrick, chief executive officer for programs with the Election Center, said that Eric had benefited for more than a decade from state and local officials from both sides of the aisle working together to serve the electorate.“The weaponizing of any election administration function is problematic – particularly when it is not based on factual evidence to appease a particular faction or is done under partisan pressures,” she said. “Voter list maintenance and registering voters in as efficient a manner as possible should not be viewed as partisan when done properly.”TopicsUS politicsThe fight for democracyRepublicansFloridaWest VirginiaMissourinewsReuse this content More
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Five red states have severed ties since last year with the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit that helps maintain accurate voter rolls.First to leave was Louisiana, followed by Alabama.Then, in one fell swoop, Florida, Missouri and West Virginia announced on Monday that they would drop out of a bipartisan network of about 30 states that helps maintain accurate voter rolls, one that has faced intensifying attacks from election deniers and right-wing media.Ohio may not be far behind, according to a letter sent to the group Monday from the state’s chief election official, Frank LaRose. Mr. LaRose and his counterparts in the five states that left the group are all Republicans.For more than a year, the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit organization known as ERIC, has been hit with false claims from allies of former President Donald J. Trump who say it is a voter registration vehicle for Democrats that received money from George Soros, the liberal billionaire and philanthropist, when it was created in 2012.Mr. Trump even chimed in on Monday, urging all Republican governors to sever ties with the group, baselessly claiming in a Truth Social media post that it “pumps the rolls” for Democrats.The Republicans who announced their states were leaving the group cited complaints about governance issues, chiefly that it mails newly eligible voters who have not registered ahead of federal elections. They also accused the group of opening itself up to a partisan influence.In an interview on Tuesday, Jay Ashcroft, a Republican who is Missouri’s secretary of state, said that the group had balked at his state’s calls for reforms, some of which were expected to be weighed by the group’s board of directors at a meeting on March 17. He denied that the decision to pull out was fueled by what the organization and its defenders have described as a right-wing smear campaign.“It’s not like I was antagonistic toward cleaning our voter rolls,” Mr. Ashcroft said.Shane Hamlin, the group’s executive director, did not comment about particular complaints of the states in an email on Tuesday, but referred to an open letter that he wrote on March 2 saying that the organization had been the subject of substantial misinformation regarding the nature of its work and who has access to voter lists.Wes Allen, Alabama’s secretary of state, withdrew the state from the Electronic Registration Information Center in January, a day after he was sworn in.Butch Dill/Associated PressDefenders of the group lamented the departures, saying they would weaken the group’s information-sharing efforts and undermine it financially because of lost dues. And, they said, the defections conflict with the election integrity mantra that has motivated Republicans since Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020.Republicans haven’t always been so sour about the work of the coalition, which Louisiana left in 2022.It was just last year that Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida mentioned the group’s benefit to his state, which he described as useful for checking voter rolls during a news conference announcing the highly contentious arrests of about 20 people on voter fraud charges. He was joined then by Cord Byrd, Florida’s secretary of state, a fellow Republican who, on Monday, was expressing a much different opinion. In an announcement that Florida was leaving the group, Mr. Byrd said that the state’s concerns about data security and “partisan tendencies” had not been addressed.“Therefore, we have lost confidence in ERIC,” Mr. Byrd said.Representatives for Mr. DeSantis, who is considering a Republican run for president, did not respond to a request for comment.Mr. LaRose, in Ohio, also had a stark shift in tone: After recently describing the group to reporters as imperfect but still “one of the best fraud-fighting tools that we have,” by Monday he was also calling for reforms and put the group on notice.“Anything short of the reforms mentioned above will result in action up to and including our withdrawal from membership,” Mr. LaRose wrote. “I implore you to do the right thing.”The complaints about partisanship seem centered on David Becker, a former Justice Department lawyer who helped develop the group and is a nonvoting board member. Mr. Ashcroft said he didn’t think that Mr. Becker, a former director of the elections program at the Pew Charitable Trusts who has vocally debunked election fraud claims, including disputing Mr. Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, should be on the board.Mr. Becker is the founder and director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, another nonpartisan group that has been attacked by election deniers.“There’s truth and there’s lies,” Mr. Becker said on a video call with reporters on Tuesday. “I will continue to stand for the truth.”Mr. Hamlin vowed that the organization would “continue our work on behalf of our remaining member states in improving the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increasing access to voter registration for all eligible citizens.”While some Republican states are ending their relationship with the group, California, the nation’s most populous state, could potentially join its ranks under a bill proposed by a Democratic state lawmaker. But in Texas, a Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill with the opposite intention.Still, Sam Taylor, a spokesman for Texas’s Republican secretary of state, said in an email on Tuesday that “We are not currently aware of any system comparable to ERIC, but are open to learning about other potentially viable, cost-effective alternatives.”New York, another heavily populated state, is also not a member of the group.Seven states started the organization more than a decade ago. It charges new members a one-time fee of $25,000 and annual dues that are partly based on the citizen voting age population in each state. The Pew Charitable Trusts provided seed funding to the group, but that money was separate from donations that it had received from Mr. Soros, according to the website PolitiFact.Shenna Bellows, a Democrat who is Maine’s secretary of state, said in an interview on Tuesday that the group had been particularly helpful in identifying voters who have died or may no longer live in the state, which became a member in 2021.“We have a lot of Mainers who retire to Florida for example,” Ms. Bellows said.Ms. Bellows called the recent defections “tragic” and said that her office had received several inquiries from residents who had read criticism of the group online.“Unfortunately, this move by our colleagues in Florida and elsewhere to leave ERIC in part because of misinformation being spread by election deniers deprives all of us of the ability to effectively clean our voter rolls and fight voter fraud,” she said. More
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Republicans are focused on voter ID rules and making it harder to cast mail ballots, while Democrats are seeking to expand access through automatic voter registration.The tug of war over voting rights and rules is playing out with fresh urgency at the state level, as Republicans and Democrats fight to get new laws on the books before the 2024 presidential election.Republicans have pushed to tighten voting laws with renewed vigor since former President Donald J. Trump made baseless claims of fraud after losing the 2020 election, while Democrats coming off midterm successes are trying to channel their momentum to expand voting access and thwart efforts to undermine elections.States like Florida, Texas and Georgia, where Republicans control the levers of state government, have already passed sweeping voting restrictions that include criminal oversight initiatives, limits on drop boxes, new identification requirements and more.While President Biden and Democrats in Congress were unable to pass federal legislation last year that would protect voting access and restore elements of the landmark Voting Rights Act stripped away by the Supreme Court in 2013, not all reform efforts have floundered.In December, Congress updated the Electoral Count Act, closing a loophole that Mr. Trump’s supporters had sought to exploit to try to get Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election results on the day of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.Now the focus has returned to the state level. Here are some of the key voting measures in play this year:Ohio Republicans approve new restrictions.Ohioans must now present a driver’s license, passport or other official photo ID to vote in person under a G.O.P. measure that was signed into law on Jan. 6 by Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican.The law also set tighter deadlines for voters to return mail-in ballots and provide missing information on them. Absentee ballot requests must be received earlier as well.Republicans, who control the Legislature in Ohio, contend that the new rules will bolster election integrity, yet they have acknowledged that the issue has not presented a problem in the state. Overall, voter fraud is exceedingly rare.Several voting rights groups were quick to file a federal lawsuit challenging the changes, which they said would disenfranchise Black people, younger and older voters, as well as those serving in the military and living abroad.Texas G.O.P. targets election crimes and ballot initiatives.Despite enacting sweeping restrictions on voting in 2021 that were condemned by civil rights groups and the Justice Department in several lawsuits, Republican lawmakers in Texas are seeking to push the envelope further.Politics Across the United StatesFrom the halls of government to the campaign trail, here’s a look at the political landscape in America.2023 Races: Governors’ contests in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi and mayoral elections in Chicago and Philadelphia are among the races to watch this year.Democrats’ New Power: After winning trifectas in four state governments in the midterms, Democrats have a level of control in statehouses not seen since 2009.G.O.P. Debates: The Republican National Committee has asked several major TV networks to consider sponsoring debates, an intriguing show of détente toward the mainstream media and an early sign that the party is making plans for a contested 2024 presidential primary.An Important Election: The winner of a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April will determine who holds a 4-to-3 majority in a critical presidential battleground state.Dozens of bills related to voting rules and election administration were filed for the legislative session that began this month. While many are from Democrats seeking to ease barriers to voting, Republicans control both chambers of the Texas Legislature and the governor’s office. It is not clear which bills will gain the necessary support to become laws.Some G.O.P. proposals focus on election crimes, including one that would authorize the secretary of state to designate an election marshal responsible for investigating potential election violations.“Similar bills have passed in Florida and in Georgia,” said Jasleen Singh, a counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We should be concerned about whether this will happen in Texas as well.”Under another bill, a voter could request that the secretary of state review local election orders and language on ballot propositions and reject any that are found to be “misleading, inaccurate or prejudicial,” part of a push by Republicans in several states to make it harder to pass ballot measures after years of progressive victories.One proposal appears to target heavily populated, Democratic-controlled counties, giving the state attorney general the power to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate voter fraud allegations if local officials decline to do so. Another bill goes further, allowing the attorney general to seek an injunction against local prosecutors who don’t investigate claims of voter fraud and pursue civil penalties against them.A 19-year-old registering to vote in Minnesota, where Democrats introduced a bill that would allow applicants who are at least 16 years old to preregister to vote. Tim Gruber for The New York TimesDemocrats in Minnesota and Michigan go on offense.Democrats are seeking to harness their momentum from the midterm elections to expand voting access in Minnesota and Michigan, where they swept the governors’ races and legislative control.In Minnesota, the party introduced legislation in early January that would create an automatic voter registration system and allow applicants who are at least 16 years old to preregister to vote. The measure would also automatically restore the voting rights of convicted felons upon their release from prison and for those who do not receive prison time as part of a sentence.In Michigan, voters approved a constitutional amendment in November that creates a nine-day early voting period and requires the state to fund absentee ballot drop boxes. Top Democrats in the state are also weighing automatic voter registration and have discussed criminalizing election misinformation.Pennsylvania Republicans want to expand a voter ID law.Because of the veto power of the governor, an office the Democrats held in the November election, Republicans in Pennsylvania have resorted to trying to amend the state constitution in order to pass a voter ID bill.The complex amendment process, which ultimately requires putting the question to voters, is the subject of pending litigation.Both chambers of the Legislature need to pass the bill this session in order to place it on the ballot, but Democrats narrowly flipped control of the House in the midterms — and they will seek to bolster their majority with three special elections next month.“If the chips fall in a certain way, it is unlikely that this will move forward and it might quite possibly be dead,” said Susan Gobreski, a board member of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “But it ain’t dead yet.”Gov. Josh Shapiro has indicated an openness to compromise with Republicans on some voting rules.“I’m certainly willing to have an honest conversation about voter I.D., as long as that is something that is not used as a hindrance to voting,” Mr. Shapiro said in an interview in December.First-time voters and those applying for absentee ballots are currently required to present identification in Pennsylvania, but Republicans want to expand the requirement to all voters in every election and have proposed issuing voter ID cards. Critics say the proposal would make it harder to vote and could compromise privacy.Mr. Shapiro has separately said he hoped that Republicans in the legislature would agree to change the state’s law that forbids the processing of absentee ballots and early votes before Election Day. The ballot procedures, which can drag out the counting, have been a flash point in a series of election lawsuits filed by Republicans.Georgia’s top election official, a Republican, calls to end runoff system.Early voting fell precipitously in Georgia’s nationally watched Senate runoff in December after Republicans, who control of state government, cut in half the number of days for casting ballots before Election Day.Long lines at some early-voting sites, especially in the Atlanta area, during the runoff led to complaints of voter suppression.But the G.O.P. lost the contest, after a set of runoff defeats a year earlier that gave Democrats control of the Senate.Now Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who is Georgia’s secretary of state and its top election official, wants to abandon the runoff system altogether, saying that the condensed timeline had put added strain on poll workers.Critics of ranked-choice voting cited the system as being instrumental to the re-election last year of Senator Lisa Murkowski, a centrist Republican.Ash Adams for The New York TimesRepublicans in Alaska want to undo some voting changes approved in 2020.After a special election last year and the midterms, when Alaska employed a novel election system for the first time, some conservatives reeling from losses at the polls have directed their ire at a common target: ranked-choice voting.At least three Republican lawmakers have introduced bills seeking to repeal some of the electoral changes that were narrowly approved by voters in 2020, which introduced a “top-four” open primary and ranked-choice voting in general elections. In addition to deciding winners based on the candidate who receives the most votes, the bills also seek to return to a closed primary system, in which only registered party members can participate.Supporters of the new system contend that it sets a higher bar to get elected than to simply earn a plurality of votes.But critics have called the format confusing. Some have blamed it for the defeat of Sarah Palin, the Republican former governor and 2008 vice-presidential nominee, in a special House election in August and again in November for the same office.They also cited the system as being instrumental to the re-election last year of Senator Lisa Murkowski, a centrist Republican who angered some members of her party when she voted to convict Mr. Trump at his impeachment trial after the Jan. 6 attack.Still, Republican foes of ranked-choice elections could face hurdles within their own party. According to The Anchorage Daily News, the incoming Senate president, a Republican, favors keeping the system in place.Nebraska Republicans aim to sharply curb mail voting.Nebraska does not require voters to provide a reason to vote early by mail, but two Republican state senators want to make wholesale changes that would mostly require in-person voting on Election Day.Under a bill proposed by Steve Halloran and Steve Erdman, G.O.P. senators in the unicameral legislature, only members of the U.S. military and residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities could vote by mail.The measure would further require all ballots to be counted on Election Day, which would become a state holiday in Nebraska, along with the day of the statewide primary.The League of Women Voters of Nebraska opposes the bill and noted that 11 of the state’s 93 counties vote entirely by mail under a provision that gives officials in counties with under 10,000 people the option to do so.“This is an extreme bill and would be very unpopular,” MaryLee Mouton, the league’s president, said in an email. “When most states are moving to expand voting by mail, a bill to restrict vote by mail would negatively impact both our rural and urban communities.”In the November election, Nebraskans overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative that created a statewide photo ID requirement for voting.A Republican bill in Missouri would hunt for election fraud.In Missouri, where Republicans control the governor’s office and Legislature, one G.O.P. bill would create an Office of Election Crimes and Security. The office would report to the secretary of state and would be responsible for reviewing election fraud complaints and conducting investigations.Its investigators would also be authorized to enter poling places or offices of any election authority on Election Day, during absentee voting or the canvass of votes. More
Interview‘He’s a coward’: Lucas Kunce on his Senate run – and Hawley running away Martin Pengelly in New York Missouri Democrat mounting a second bid for US Senate hammers the Republican incumbent over his actions on January 6Announcing his second bid for US Senate in Missouri, Lucas Kunce needed to hit the ground running. He did so by running an ad targeting the Republican he hopes to defeat, Josh Hawley, for running away from the January 6 rioters he encouraged.Republican Josh Hawley fled January 6 rioters – and Twitter ran with itRead moreThe ad appeared on the second anniversary of the deadly attack on the US Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters. On 6 January 2021, before the mob broke in, Hawley was photographed raising his fist in its direction. The House January 6 committee showed what happened after rioters breached the walls: the senator ran for cover.Hawley has insisted he is “not gonna run” from his political opponents. But Kunce’s ad, showing a fleeing man in a ripped suit, entitled simply Running, attracted national attention.A self-described populist in the midwestern tradition of President Harry S Truman, Kunce told the Guardian the ad “goes back to the reasons why I’ve run the campaign.“What I want to do is change who has power in this country, and take some back for everyday people. Folks in Missouri, they’re tired of career politicians like Josh Hawley just doing things for power for themselves and not caring about Missouri and not caring about the country.“And so that’s why we launched on January 6. It was a seminal moment where Josh Hawley showed he only cares about power for himself. He doesn’t stand for anything. He gets out there when he thinks it’s gonna get him some sort of political power, he’s raising his fist, he’s ‘rah-rah-ing’ the crowd, trying to incite them to do things. And then the second things get real, he’s getting out the back door, running as fast as he can to get away. It shows what a fraud and a coward he is.”Kunce is a military veteran who also worked on international arms control. In his new ad, as in conversation, he takes aim at Hawley’s contention that America has forgotten what it means to be a man, an argument the senator will make at length in May with a book, Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs.Kunce said: “As a marine who ran missions in Iraq, deployed to Afghanistan twice, if any of us had shown that type of cowardice [that Hawley showed on January 6], we would have been court martialed.“Missourians deserve better than someone who’s just going to run. They deserve someone who’s gonna stand for them, fight for them, and that’s what I’m gonna do.”The Hawley campaign responded to the Kunce ad by wielding the most obvious attack line back: Kunce has lost once in Missouri already.An adviser said: “We welcome this desperate woke activist to yet another political race. He just barely finished losing his last one. Maybe he’s running in the wrong state.”Kunce said Hawley’s camp was “obviously worried” because the senator, though thought to be eyeing the Republican presidential nomination, “has never had to run after showing everybody what a fraud and a coward he is. Now he’s got to deal with that.”In Missouri in 2022, the Democratic primary decided who would run for an open Senate seat as the Republican Roy Blunt retired. Kunce lost to Trudy Busch Valentine, a member of the Anheuser-Busch brewing dynasty who was then beaten by Eric Schmitt, the Republican attorney general, in the general election.Asked what he learned, Kunce said he had “shown people that no matter how hard it is, I’m not going to take money from the wrong folks. I’m only going to owe the people that took care of my family, everyday Missourians.“We took no money from corporate Pacs, no federal lobbyists, no big pharma, no big fossil fuel executives. The list is pretty long. And we did that because we want to show that in America everyday people, an everyday person like me, who doesn’t come from connections, doesn’t come from money, can get elected and can do it without corrupting themselves. It’s an uphill battle, but I think it’s worth it.“Josh Hawley does understand that when he got elected, he took millions of dollars from banks who wanted to control him. His dad was the president of the bank, he had all sorts of connections. And we provide a very good contrast to that.”01:08Kunce raised more than $5m in 2022 but Valentine, who would ultimately spend more than $16m of her own money, won comfortably. Kunce said: “What we learned in the primary was that money is critical in this political environment. And so we had to figure out a way to raise money without selling out.”Josh Hawley’s schooldays: ‘He made popcorn to watch the Iraq invasion’Read moreHe says “we did that. By the end, we had a record-breaking grassroots fundraising operation. And the beautiful thing is that all that work we did last time, none of it’s gone. The people are still there behind us. We’re growing it out even more, so we’re going to be very formidable this time. We have an operation that can run us all the way through November .” In most minds, Missouri is a solidly red state. Asked why he thinks a Democrat can win there, Kunce cited recent ballot measures including “expanding Medicaid, increasing the minimum wage $5 over the federal level, passing medical and then recreational legalisation of marijuana, overturning right to work” anti-union laws.These, he said, were all “things that Josh Hawley did not stand for, that I do stand for. And … Missourians are willing in those situations to flip their vote.“In 2016, probably the reddest year of all time in Missouri, Donald Trump won here by 17 points. But the Democratic US Senate candidate, Jason Kander, he came within three points of winning.“I think we’re trending in the right direction. We just need to be able to capture the energy of everyday people trying to take back power for themselves, which clearly is my mission, and which we’ll be able to do.”TopicsUS SenateUS CongressUS elections 2024US politicsDemocratsMissouriinterviewsReuse this content More
‘Coward’ Josh Hawley mocked by Senate rival for fleeing Capitol mob he incitedDemocrat Lucas Kunce says ‘I swear this coward is always running from something’ as he announces bid to challenge key Republican01:08Announcing a run for US Senate in 2024, the populist Missouri Democrat Lucas Kunce released an ad focusing on how his prospective opponent, the Republican senator Josh Hawley, ran from the mob he encouraged on the day the US Capitol came under attack.Republican Josh Hawley fled January 6 rioters – and Twitter ran with itRead more“I’ve done a lot of running in my life,” Kunce said, over footage of a man in a ripped suit running on a country road, dropping a US flag pin.“Running to stay healthy, running to fight for my country, running to defend democracy. And by the way, that guy you’re looking at, that’s not me. That’s our current US senator, Josh Hawley. This guy.”The ad then showed a famous picture from 6 January 2021, of Hawley raising a fist to Trump supporters outside the Capitol, a picture Hawley has used for fundraising purposes.Kunce said: “Or maybe you better recognise him running for his life a few hours later.”Last July, the House January 6 committee released security footage of Hawley running from supporters of Donald Trump after they breached the Capitol, looking for lawmakers to capture and possibly kill in a riot now linked to nine deaths, including law enforcement suicides.The footage of Hawley went viral, in many cases scored to satirical music.Nonetheless, Hawley is widely seen as a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Accordingly, he is due to release a book this year.According to promotional material, Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs, will argue “that the character of men and the male virtue that goes along with it is a necessary ingredient to a functioning society and a healthy, free republic”.Kunce said: “I swear this coward is always running from something and now this is the guy who’s writing a book telling every single one of us how to be a man.”A former US marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kunce, 40, also worked on international arms control. He has already mounted a Senate run, last year, losing the primary to Trudy Busch Valentine, a brewing heiress who went on to lose to Eric Schmitt, a former state attorney general.Lucas Kunce: ‘Populism is about everyday people coming together’Read moreA Hawley spokesman told news outlets: “We welcome this desperate woke activist to yet another political race. He just barely finished losing his last one. Maybe he’s running in the wrong state.”Signing off the ad, Kunce said: “Josh Hawley is a fraud and a coward and by the time I’m done with him, the whole world’s gonna know it. So keep on running, Josh. Keep on running.”Released on the second anniversary of the January 6 attack, the ad was widely noted for its combative tone.Lis Smith, a Democratic consultant who ran Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign in 2020, said Kunce “takes a metaphorical bat to coward Josh Hawley in his first ad”.Hawley, Smith said, “should never able to live down how he helped stoke the crowd on January 6 then sprinted away as they stormed the Capitol”.TopicsUS politicsRepublicansDemocratsMissourinewsReuse this content More