Analysis News

House passes Washington DC statehood bill

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Washington D.C. Admission Act. This is the second time that the bill has passed the House, but it is the first time that it has passed with Democratic control of the Senate and White House.

The bill – introduced by DC’s non-voting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton – is symbolically designated H.R. 51 as DC would become the 51st state in the union. It passed in a 216-to-208 party-line vote.

While DC’s 705,749 residents currently lack representation in Congress, statehood would rectify that injustice. The bill refers to the potential new state as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth in honor of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

As previously noted, DC has more residents than the states of Wyoming and Vermont. DC residents pay federal taxes and serve in the military. Despite all of this, they have no representation in the House or Senate.

Under the bill, the federal district remains intact as the nation’s capital, but it would shrink to a two-square-mile tract of land that includes the US Capitol and the White House. The remaining residential and commercial areas would become the nation’s 51st state.

Washington, Douglass Commonwealth would immediately become the nation’s densest state – 11,000 times denser than Alaska, the nation’s least dense state. It would also become the nation’s most educated state and the state with the largest proportion of African Americans.

Ironically – and embarrassingly for critics of statehood – DC would be the second-largest state in terms of population at the time of its admission.

More importantly, though, statehood means that DC residents would no longer be second-class American citizens.

Photo Credit: Mike MaguireFlickrCC BY 2.0

Analysis News

License to kill: Republican bills grant immunity to drivers who kill protesters

A few key rights are at the core of democracy. The first and arguably most important of these is the right to vote in free and fair elections. This establishes the principle that those who are in power can be peacefully replaced once they lose the support of voters.

We call this the consent of the governed. It differs from past justifications for holding political power, such as a monarch’s claim to the divine right to govern. Kings claim that their legitimacy comes from God and birthright; the legitimacy of a democratically-elected government comes from the people.

So when voting rights come under assault – as they have in recent years with everything from extreme gerrymandering to Georgia’s new voter suppression law that makes it illegal to give water to voters waiting in hours-long lines – the very legitimacy of government is at stake.

Other key democratic rights include the right to peacefully assemble and organize, as well as free speech and the free press. All of these rights are now under attack as Republican lawmakers concoct schemes to muscle political power without the consent of the governed.

As the New York Times reports:

Republican legislators in Oklahoma and Iowa have passed bills granting immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters in public streets.

A Republican proposal in Indiana would bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment, including elected office. A Minnesota bill would prohibit those convicted of unlawful protesting from receiving student loans, unemployment benefits or housing assistance.

And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed sweeping legislation this week that toughened existing laws governing public disorder and created a harsh new level of infractions — a bill he’s called “the strongest anti-looting, anti-rioting, pro-law-enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”

The measures are part of a wave of new anti-protest legislation, sponsored and supported by Republicans, in the 11 months since Black Lives Matter protests swept the country following the death of George Floyd.

We’ve previously covered Florida’s HB1, which targets critical First Amendment rights. It’s clearly an unconstitutional power grab that pushes the United States away from democracy and toward authoritarian minority-party rule where the majority of Americans are forcefully silenced.

Why do these bills matter?

Black Lives Matter and other civil rights protesters were the target of violence throughout 2020. There were numerous instances where drivers used their vehicles to ram through protesters. Some of those drivers faced criminal charges, but Oklahoma’s new law would instead provide belligerent drivers with a shield.

This contrasts sharply with how Oklahoma is treating protesters. The state just made it a misdemeanor punishable with up to a year in prison for blocking a public road – a tactic that has been used during peaceful protests dating back at least to the civil rights movement.

To be clear, the law does not provide blanket immunity. It protects drivers who are trying to flee a “riot.” It’s a law in search of a problem that does not exist since no reasonable prosecutor would charge a driver who was in imminent danger.

But as Florida and other states targeting peaceful protesters have shown, the definition of “riot” is loose. What they really mean is “protest.”


Texas Senate approves voter suppression bill

Texas Republicans have advanced a bill that restricts voting in the Lone Star State. The bill passed the state senate on April Fools’ Day. Sadly, it isn’t a joke.

According to the Texas Tribune:

In an overnight vote after more than seven hours of debate, the Texas Senate signed off on Senate Bill 7, which would limit extended early voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and make it illegal for local election officials to proactively send applications to vote by mail to voters, even if they qualify.

The legislation is at the forefront of Texas Republicans’ crusade to further restrict voting in the state after last year’s election. Although Republicans remain in full control of state government, Texas saw the highest turnout in decades in 2020, with Democrats continuing to drive up their vote counts in the state’s urban centers and diversifying suburban communities.

The news in Texas is part of a concerted national effort on the part of Republican lawmakers to restrict voting after record or near-record turnout in a number of states last November.

Last week, we reported how Georgia’s new voter suppression law makes it illegal to give water to voters waiting in line. That law is being compared to Jim Crow. The restrictions come only after President Biden became the first Democrat in a quarter-century to carry the Peach State.

Image Credit: Kyle Bell

Analysis News

Major League Baseball moves All-Star Game out of Atlanta due to Georgia voter suppression law

Major League Baseball appears to be the first major business organization to come down hard against Georgia over its recently-passed voter suppression law.

The new state law – which makes it illegal to give water to voters waiting in line, reduces early voting, and restricts absentee voting, among other things – is being compared to Jim Crow laws.

Georgia was set to host the 2021 All-Star Game along with the 2021 MLB Draft at Truist Park, home to the Atlanta Braves. Both events are being relocated to a yet-to-be-determined location because of the voter suppression law.

According to ESPN:

In a statement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the league is “finalizing a new host city and details about these events will be announced shortly.” A source told ESPN that the All-Star Game is still planned for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 2022 and won’t be moved up to fill the void this summer.

“Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views,” Manfred said in his statement. “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

The Players Alliance – which consists of more than 150 Black professional baseball players – tweeted out their support for MLB’s decision.

Civil rights groups have called for businesses to condemn voter suppression in the Peach State. Major League Baseball’s decision – which comes shortly after Opening Day during the 2021 season – could put pressure on companies like Coca-Cola to respond more forcefully.

Image Credit: SunTrust Park Opening Day 2017, Thechased, Wikipedia