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Ohio Supreme Court strikes down state legislative maps as unconstitutional gerrymander

The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s gerrymandered legislative maps on Wednesday in a victory for advocates of fair elections.

The gerrymandered maps are the product of the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission, which includes five Republicans and two Democrats. The commission produced a map – over the objections of the two Democratic members – that was expected to give Republicans a 62-37 advantage in the state House and a 23-10 advantage in the state Senate.

That’s despite former president Trump only winning Ohio 53-45% during the 2020 presidential election. Such skewed maps were likely to result in a Republican majority in both chambers regardless of the will of voters – even during campaign cycles that strongly favored Democrats.

However, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2015 that curtailed gerrymandering within the state. The amendment requires the commission to create boundaries that result in politically competitive districts.

“The commission is required to attempt to draw a plan in which the statewide proportion of Republican-leaning districts to Democratic-leaning districts closely corresponds to those percentages,” the Ohio Supreme Court majority wrote, rebutting Republican commissioners who contended that the constitutional amendment was merely “aspirational” in nature. “Section 6 speaks not of desire but of direction: the commission shall attempt to achieve the standards of that section.”

“We reject the notion that Ohio voters rallied so strongly behind an anti-gerrymandering amendment to the Ohio Constitution yet believed at the time that the amendment was toothless,” the majority added.

The Ohio Supreme Court has a 4-3 Republican majority. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, cast the deciding vote.

In addition to the state legislative maps, the Ohio Supreme Court is also considering a challenge to Ohio’s Congressional map, which is even more skewed in favor of Republicans. According to an analysis of the approved Congressional map, Republicans are favored in 12 of 15 districts – 80 percent of districts versus the 53 percent that the party received at the top of the ballot.

“This case is about how the General Assembly has thumbed its nose at these reforms and enacted a plan that palpably violates Article 19’s new anti-gerrymandering protections,” attorney Ben Stafford told the Ohio Supreme Court, which is expected to decide on whether to throw out the Congressional map in the coming weeks.

Photo Credit: Sixflashphoto, CC BY-SA 4.0

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FULL TEXT: President Biden speech on voting rights in Atlanta, Georgia

President Joe Biden delivered a speech in defense of democracy and in support of voting rights legislation as the nation undergoes an unprecedented attempt to suppress the vote.

Biden delivered the following remarks at Atlanta University Center Consortium in Atlanta, Georgia on January 11, 2022:

In our lives and the lives of our nation — the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before from everything that followed.  They stop time.  They rip away the trivial from the essential.  And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy.

In the words of Scripture, they remind us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.”

Last week, [Vice] President Harris and I stood in the United States Capitol to observe one of those “before and after” moments in American history: January 6th insurrection on the citadel of our democracy.

Today, we come to Atlanta — the cradle of civil rights — to make clear what must come after that dreadful day when a dagger was literally held at the throat of American democracy.

We stand on the grounds that connect Clark Atlanta — Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and near Spelman College — the home of generations of advocates, activists, educators and preachers; young people, just like the students here, who have done so much to build a better America.  (Applause.)

We visited the sacred Ebenezer Baptist Church and paused to prayed at the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, and spent time with their family.  And here in the district — as was pointed out — represented and reflected the life of beloved friend, John Lewis.

In their lifetimes, time stopped when a bomb blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and murdered four little girls.

They [Time] stopped when John and many others seeking justice were beaten and bloodied while crossing the bridge at Selma named after the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

They stopped — time stopped, and they forced the country to confront the hard truths and to act — to act to keep the promise of America alive: the promise that holds that we’re all created equal but, more importantly, deserve to be treated equally.  And from those moments of darkness and despair came light and hope.

Democrats, Republicans, and independents worked to pass the historic Civil Rights Act and the voting rights legislation.  And each successive generation continued that ongoing work.

But then the violent mob of January 6th, 2021, empowered and encouraged by a defeated former president, sought to win through violence what he had lost at the ballot box, to impose the will of the mob, to overturn a free and fair election, and, for the first time — the first time in American history, they — to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

They failed.  They failed.  (Applause.)  But democracy’s — but democracy’s visi- — victory was not certain, nor is democracy’s future.

That’s why we’re here today to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup — a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people — by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud, and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.

They want chaos to reign.  We want the people to rule.  (Applause.)

But let me be clear: This is not about me or Vice President Harris or our party; it’s about all of us.  It’s about the people.  It’s about America.

Hear me plainly: The battle for the soul of America is not over.  We must stand strong and stand together to make sure January 6th marks not the end of democracy but the beginning of a renaissance of our democracy.  (Applause.)

You know, for the right to vote and to have that vote counted is democracy’s threshold liberty.  Without it, nothing is possible, but with it, anything is possible.

But while the denial of fair and free elections is un-democratic, it is not unprecedented.

Black Americans were denied full citizenship and voting rights until 1965.  Women were denied the right to vote until just 100 years ago.  The United States Supreme Court, in recent years, has weakened the Voting Rights Act.  And now the defeated former president and his supporters use the Big Lie about the 2020 election to fuel torrent and torment and anti-voting laws — new laws designed to suppress your vote, to subvert our elections.

Here in Georgia, for years, you’ve done the hard work of democracy: registering voters, educating voters, getting voters to the polls.  You’ve built a broad coalition of voters: Black, white, Latino, Asian American, urban, suburban, rural, working class, and middle class. 

And it’s worked: You’ve changed the state by bringing more people, legally, to the polls.  (Applause.)  That’s how you won the historic elections of Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff.  (Applause.) 

You did it — you did it the right way, the democratic way.

And what’s been the reaction of Republicans in Georgia?  Choose the wrong way, the undemocratic way.  To them, too many people voting in a democracy is a problem.  So they’re putting up obstacles.

For example, voting by mail is a safe and convenient way to get more people to vote, so they’re making it harder for you to vote by mail. 

The same way, I might add, in the 2020 Election, President Trump voted from behind the desk in the White House — in Florida. 

Dropping your ballots off to secure drop boxes — it’s safe, it’s convenient, and you get more people to vote.  So they’re limiting the number of drop boxes and the hours you can use them. 

Taking away the options has a predictable effect: longer lines at the polls, lines that can last for hours.  You’ve seen it with your own eyes.  People get tired and they get hungry.

When the Bible teaches us to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty, the new Georgia law actually makes it illegal — think of this — I mean, it’s 2020, and now ’22, going into that election — it makes it illegal to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters food or water while they wait in line to vote.  What in the hell — heck are we talking about?  (Laughter and applause.)

I mean, think about it.  (Applause.)  That’s not America.  That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote. 

And here’s how they plan to subvert the election: The Georgia Republican Party, the state legislature has now given itself the power to make it easier for partisan actors — their cronies — to remove local election officials. 

Think about that.  What happened in the last election?  The former president and allies pursued, threatened, and intimidated state and local election officials.

Election workers — ordinary citizens — were subject to death threats, menacing phone calls, people stalking them in their homes.

Remember what the defeated former president said to the highest-ranking election official — a Republican — in this state?  He said, quote, “I just want to find 11,780 votes.” 

Pray God.  (Laughter.)  He didn’t say that part.  (Laughter.)

He didn’t say, “Count the votes.”  He said, “find votes” that he needed to win.

He failed because of the courageous officials — Democrats, Republicans — who did their duty and upheld the law.  (Applause.)

But with this new law in Georgia, his loyal- — his loyalists will be placed in charge of state elections.  (Laughs.)  What is that going to mean?  Well, the chances for chaos and subversion are even greater as partisans seek the result they want — no matter what the voters have said, no matter what the count.  The votes of nearly 5 million Georgians will be up for grabs if that law holds.

It’s not just here in Georgia.  Last year alone, 19 states not proposed but enacted 34 laws attacking voting rights.  There were nearly 400 additional bills Republican members of state legislatures tried to pass.  And now, Republican legislators in several states have already announced plans to escalate the onslaught this year.

Their endgame?  To turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion — something states can respect or ignore.

Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion.  It’s no longer about who gets to vote; it’s about making it harder to vote.  It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.

It’s not hyperbole; this is a fact. 

Look, this matters to all of us.  The goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them.  Simple as that.  The facts won’t matter; your vote won’t matter.  They’ll just decide what they want and then do it.

That’s the kind of power you see in totalitarian states, not in democracies. 

We must be vigilant.

And the world is watching.  I know the majority of the world leaders — the good and the bad ones, adversaries and allies alike.  They’re watching American democracy and seeing whether we can meet this moment.  And that’s not hyperbole.

When I showed up at the G7 with seven other world leaders — there were a total of nine present — Vice President Harris and I have spent our careers doing this work — I said, “America is back.”  And the response was, “For how long?”  “For how long?” 

As someone who’s worked in foreign policy my whole life, I never thought I would ever hear our allies say something like that.

Over the past year, we’ve directed federal agencies to promote access to voting, led by the Vice President.  We’ve appointed top civil rights advocates to help the U.S. Department of Justice, which has doubled its voting rights enforcement staff.

And today, we call on Congress to get done what history will judge: Pass the Freedom to Vote Act.  (Applause.)  Pass it now — (applause) — which would prevent voter suppression so that here in Georgia there’s full access to voting by mail, there are enough drop boxes during enough hours so that you can bring food and water as well to people waiting in line. 

The Freedom to Vote Act takes on election subversion to protect nonpartisan electors [election] officials, who are doing their job, from intimidation and interference.

It would get dark money out of politics, create fairer district maps and ending partisan gerrymandering.  (Applause.)

Look, it’s also time to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.  (Applause.) 

I’ve been having these quiet conversations with the members of Congress for the last two months.  I’m tired of being quiet!  (Applause.)

Folks, it’ll restore the strength of the Voting Rights Act of ’65 — the one President Johnson signed after John Lewis was beaten, nearly killed on Bloody Sunday, only to have the Supreme Court weaken it multiple times over the past decade.

Restoring the Voting Rights Act would mean the Justice Department can stop discriminatory laws before they go into effect — before they go into effect.  (Applause.) 
The Vice President and I have supported voting rights bills since day one of this administration.  But each and every time, Senate Republicans have blocked the way.  Republicans oppose even debating the issue.  You hear me?

I’ve been around the Senate a long time.  I was Vice President for eight years.  I’ve never seen a circumstance where not one single Republican has a voice that’s ready to speak for justice now.

When I was a senator, including when I headed up the Judiciary Committee, I helped reauthorize the Voting [Rights] Act three times.  We held hearings.  We debated.  We voted.  I was able to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years.

In 2006, the Voting Rights Act passed 390 to 33 in
the House of Representatives and 98 to 0 in the Senate with votes from 16 current sitting Republicans in this United States Senate.  Sixteen of them voted to extend it.

The last year I was chairman, as some of my friends sitting down here will tell you, Strom Thurmond voted to extend the Voting Rights Act.  Strom Thurmond.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Wow.

THE PRESIDENT:   You can say that again: “Wow.”  You have no idea how damn ha- — how darn hard I worked on that one.  (Laughter and applause.)

But, folks, then it was signed into law, the last time, by President George W. Bush.

You know, when we got voting rights extended in the 1980s, as I’ve said, even Thurmond supported it.  Think about that.  The man who led the longest filibu- — one of the longest filibusters in history in the United States Senate in 1957 against the Voting Rights Act [Civil Rights Act].  The man who led and sided with the old Southern Bulls in the United States Senate to perpetuate segregation in this nation.  Even Strom Thurmond came to support voting rights.

But Republicans today can’t and won’t.  Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America’s right to vote.  Not one.  Not one.

We have 50-50 in the United States Senate.  That means we have 51 presidents.  (Laughter.)  You all think I’m kidding.  (Laughter.)

I’ve been pretty good at working with senators my whole career.  But, man, when you got 51 presidents, it gets harder.  Any one can change the outcome.

Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self.  It gives me no satisfaction in saying that, as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate.

But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote. 

Let the majority prevail.  (Applause.)  And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.  (Applause.)

You know, last year, if I’m not mistaken, the filibuster was used 154 times.  The filibuster has been used to generate compromise in the past and promote some bipartisanship.  But it’s also been used to obstruct — including and especially obstruct civil rights and voting rights.

And when it was used, senators traditionally used to have to stand and speak at their desks for however long it took, and sometimes it took hours.  And when they sat down, if no one immediately stood up, anyone could call for a vote or the debate ended.

But that doesn’t happen today.  Senators no longer even have to speak one word.  The filibuster is not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart.

The filibuster has been weaponized and abused.

While the state legislatures’ assault on voting rights is simple — all you need in your House and Senate is a pure majority — in the United States Senate, it takes a supermajority: 60 votes, even to get a vote — instead of 50 — to protect the right to vote.

State legislatures can pass anti-voting laws with simple majorities.  If they can do that, then the United States Senate should be able to protect voting rights by a simple majority.  (Applause.)

Today I’m making it clear: To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed — (applause) — to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.  (Applause.)  

When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, the majority should rule in the United States Senate.  

I make this announcement with careful deliberation, recognizing the fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other rights flow.

And I make it with an appeal to my Republican colleagues, to those Republicans who believe in the rule of law: Restore the bipartisan tradition of voting rights. 

The people who restored it, who abided by it in the past were Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush.  They all supported the Voting Rights Act.

Don’t let the Republican Party morph into something else.  Restore the institution of the Senate the way it was designed to be.

Senate rules were just changed to raise the debt ceiling so we wouldn’t renege on our debt for the first time in our history and prevent an economic crisis.  That was done by a simple majority.

As Senator Warnock said a few weeks ago in a powerful speech: If we change the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the United States, we should be able to change the rules to protect the heart and soul of our democracy.  (Applause.)  He was right.

In the days that followed John Lewis’s death, there was an outpouring of praise and support across the political spectrum.

But as we stand here today, it isn’t enough just to praise his memory.  We must translate eulogy into action.  We need to follow John Lewis’s footsteps.  We need to support the bill in his name.

Just a few days ago, we talked about — up in the Congress and in the White House — the event coming up shortly to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday.  And Americans of all stripes will praise him for the content of his character.

But as Dr. King’s family said before, it’s not enough to praise their father.  They even said: On this holiday, don’t celebrate his birthday unless you’re willing to support what he lived for and what he died for.  (Applause.)

The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation’s history.

We will choose — the issue is: Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadows, justice over injustice? 

I know where I stand.  I will not yield.  I will not flinch.  I will defend the right to vote, our democracy against all enemies — foreign and, yes, domestic.  (Applause.)

And the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?  Every senator — Democrat, Republican, and independent — will have to declare where they stand, not just for the moment, but for the ages.

Will you stand against voter suppression?  Yes or no?  That’s the question they’ll answer.  Will you stand against election subversion?  Yes or no?  Will you stand for democracy?  Yes or no?

And here’s one thing every senator and every American should remember: History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights.  And it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion.

So, I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered? 

At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be the si- — on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?  Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?  Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.  (Applause.)

And if you do that, you will not be alone.  That’s because the struggle to protect voting rights has never been borne by one group alone.

We saw Freedom Riders of every race.  Leaders of every faith marching arm in arm.  And, yes, Democrats and Republicans in Congress of the United States and in the presidency.

I did not live the struggle of Douglass, Tubman, King, Lewis, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, and countless others — known and unknown.

I did not walk in the shoes of generations of students who walked these grounds.  But I walked other grounds.  Because I’m so damn old, I was there as well.  (Laughter.)

You think I’m kidding, man.  (Laughter.)  It seems like yesterday the first time I got arrested.  Anyway — (laughter).

But their struggles here — they were the ones that opened my eyes as a high school student in the late — in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  They got me more engaged in the work of my life.

And what we’re talking about today is rooted in the very idea of America — the idea that Annell Ponder, who graduated
from Clark Atlanta, captured in a single word.  She was a teacher and librarian who was also an unyielding champion of voting rights.

In 1963 — when I was just starting college at university — after registering voters in Mississippi, she was pulled off a bus, arrested, and jailed, where she was brutally beaten.

In her cell, next to her, was Fannie Lou Hamer, who described the beating this way, and I quote: “I could hear the sounds of [the] licks and [the] horrible screams…They beat her, I don’t know [for] how long.  And after a while, she began to pray, and asked God to have mercy on those people.”

Annell Ponder’s friends visited her the next day.  Her face was badly swollen.  She could hardly talk.

But she managed to whi- — whisper one word: “Freedom.”  “Freedom” — the only word she whispered.

After nearly 250 years since our founding, that singular idea still echoes.  But it’s up to all of us to make sure it never fades, especially the students here — your generation that just started voting — as there are those who are trying to take away that vi- — vote you just started to be able to exercise. 

But the giants we honor today were your age when they made clear who we must be as a nation.  Not a joke.  Think about it.  In the early ’60s, they were sitting where you’re sitting.  They were you.  And like them, you give me much hope for the future.

Before and after in our lives — and in the life of the nation — democracy is who we are, who we must be — now and forever.  So, let’s stand in this breach together.  Let’s love good, establish justice in the gate. 

And remember, as I said, there is one — this is one of those defining moments in American history: Each of those who vote will be remembered by class after class, in the ’50s and ’60s — the 2050s and ’60s.  Each one of the members of the Senate is going to be judged by history on where they stood before the vote and where they stood after the vote. 

There’s no escape.  So, let’s get back to work. 

As my fath- — my grandfather Finnegan used to say every time I walked out the door in Scranton, he’d say, “Joey, keep the faith.”  Then he’d say, “No, Joey, spread it.” 

Let’s spread the faith and get this done.  (Applause.) 

May God bless you all.  And may God protect the sacred right to vote.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  I mean it.  Let’s go get this done.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

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The US is now considered a backsliding democracy

For the first time, the United States is considered a backsliding democracy.

That finding is according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden. The think tank notes that the US began to backslide “at least since 2019.”

The report specifically cites eroding civil liberties, a decline in freedom of assembly after the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, and former president Donald Trump’s questioning of election results.

“A historic turning point came in 2020-21 when former president Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results in the United States,” the report says. “The visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as seen in the increasing tendency to contest credible election results, the efforts to suppress participation (in elections), and the runaway polarisation … is one of the most concerning developments.”

Unwelcome company

The think tank categorizes countries into three groups: democracies (including backsliding democracies), hybrid (among them Russia and Turkey), and authoritarian (such as China and Saudi Arabia).

The United States joins the ranks of Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia as backsliding democracies. All told, backsliding democracies have doubled in the past decade and now account for a quarter of the world’s population.

Meanwhile, Ukraine was removed from the list of backsliding democracies after improvements in recent years. Serbia and Mali were removed from the list of backsliding democracies because they are no longer considered democracies.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance is not alone in its assessment of the perilous state of democracy in the United States. One hundred and fifty top scholars of American democracy have signed a letter warning that “midnight is approaching.”

“Defenders of democracy in America still have a slim window of opportunity to act. But time is ticking away,” the scholars write, arguing that Congress must act to protect voting rights.

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Trump defends supporters’ ‘hang Mike Pence’ chants on 1/6

In newly released audio, former president Donald Trump defends his supporters chanting “hang Mike Pence!” during the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The audio comes from an interview with the former president conducted by ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl. The interview took place in March 2021 for the upcoming book Betrayal, which is set for publication on November 16.

“Were you ever worried about him during that siege? Were you worried about his safety?” Karl asked Trump during the interview.

Trump predictably said no, adding that he thought that the chant was “common sense,” citing the bogus claim that there was election fraud. Trump had urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to interfere in the counting of the Electoral College votes.

Although reporting has since found that Pence hemmed and hawed, consulting both former Vice President Dan Quayle and the Senate parliamentarian to determine his authority, he ultimately refused, drawing the ire of Trump and his mob of supporters who attacked the Capitol.

Investigating the coup attempt

The 1/6 Committee is stepping up its investigation, subpoenaing Trump administration officials and campaign staffers, even as members of Congress receive death threats. The bipartisan committee is examining Trump’s role in organizing and fomenting an insurrection in a desperate attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

While we have consistently used the words “coup attempt” to describe January 6th – after all, it bears all of the hallmarks of a self-coup – major media outlets have only recently begun to recognize the concerted effort to subvert America’s democracy and install an illegitimate president.

We’re hardly alone in acknowledging this. The Brookings Institute recognized the coup attempt for what it was back on January 9.

Charles T. Call writes:

Trump’s behavior constitutes a self-coup since he has sought to undermine the integrity of the November 3 election and has sought to overturn the results of an election. He urged voters to illegally vote twice; he sought to disenfranchise voters; he sought to coerce officials to alter the vote results. On January 6, Trump explicitly urged the mob to “walk down to the Capitol,” to “demand that Congress do the right thing,” to “show strength,” and to “take back our country.”

Trump’s mob

It should come as no surprise that Trump defended his supporters when they chanted “hang Mike Pence.” When the mob descended on the US Capitol, they did so at Trump’s behest.

While the 1/6 Committee is doing its job – despite the best efforts of Trump to undermine the investigation – Congress needs to step up and defend American democracy with stronger voting rights laws and enforcement against states that engage in voter suppression.

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Republicans who voted for bipartisan infrastructure bill receive death threats

Republican members of Congress who helped pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill are receiving death threats from far-right extremists.

The Washington Post reports:

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has received multiple death threats in the days since he voted for President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, with the overwhelming majority of the calls coming from outside the congressman’s district.

In a CNN interview Monday night, Upton played the audio of one of the calls, which he said came from a man in South Carolina.

“You’re a f—ing piece of s— traitor. I hope you die,” the man can be heard saying. In the expletive-filled call, he goes on to say he hopes Upton’s family and his entire staff die.

An Upton spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Upton told CNN his office has received several such calls after a House colleague tweeted the names and office phone numbers of the Republicans who voted in favor of the bill. The measure passed the House on Friday with a 228-to-206 vote, two months after it was approved by the Senate on an overwhelming 69-to-30 vote.

It’s worth noting that Upton was among those who voted to impeach Donald Trump for the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Trump leads the far-right attack

Donald Trump took direct aim at the thirteen House Republicans who voted with Democrats to pass the bipartisan bill, calling them “RINOs” for supporting the measure. The bill passed 69-30 in the Senate back in June.

Meanwhile, some of the most conservative Republican members of the House lambasted their colleagues, promising recriminations in the form of primary challenges.

“I can’t believe Republicans just gave the Democrats their socialism bill,” Representative Matt Gaetz tweeted.

“Insanity”

Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger, a member of the 1/6 Committee, says that “a party with leaders like Kevin McCarthy, that cannot stand up to the insanity from people like Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, etc, is going to have a hard time standing up to countries like China.”

Needless to say, death threats over a bill that funds roads, bridges, and public transit is not normal. It’s yet another sign of the ugliness in our politics and the fascist impulses of a growing number of Republicans.

The unhinged comments from Gaetz et al and the death threats from their supporters come within days of Representative Paul Gosar tweeting a threatening video at Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As the AP puts it:

In the past week, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted a video showing a character with his face killing a figure with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s face. Several of the 13 House Republicans who backed a bipartisan infrastructure bill said they faced threats after their vote. In one profanity-laced voicemail, a caller labeled Rep. Fred Upton a “traitor” and wished death for the Michigan Republican, his family and staff.

The response from Republican leaders? Silence.

Extremist members of Congress like Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Paul Gosar are no longer outliers in a radicalized Republican Party. Worse yet, they’re giving cover to the most violent elements in the party’s base, which already staged an insurrection as part of an attempted coup.

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News

Republican-backed election review shows that Biden won Arizona

President Biden’s lead in Arizona increased after a Republican-backed election review found no evidence supporting claims of fraud.

The Republican-backed “audit” of the vote in Maricopa County, Arizona was designed to show that Trump actually won the state. The Republican-controlled state senate funded the review, which was conducted by a company whose CEO spread pro-Trump conspiracy theories.

However, as the New York Times reports, it didn’t go exactly to plan:

After months of delays and blistering criticism, a review of the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county, ordered up and financed by Republicans, has failed to show that former President Donald J. Trump was cheated of victory, according to draft versions of the report.

In fact, the draft report from the company Cyber Ninjas found just the opposite: It tallied 99 additional votes for President Biden and 261 fewer votes for Mr. Trump in Maricopa County, the fast-growing region that includes Phoenix.

As the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, David Becker, puts it: “If Trump and his supporters can’t prove it here [in Arizona], with a process they designed, they can’t prove it anywhere.”

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Analysis News

Michael Flynn Endorses Military Coup in the US

The former and brief National Security Advisor for Donald Trump in early 2017 embraced the idea of a Myanmar-style military coup in the United States. Speaking at a QAnon conference in Dallas, Texas, over the weekend, a flustered attendee asked Flynn: “I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?” At this point, the crowd erupts in cheer. Flynn then responds with: “no reason. I mean, it should happen here.”

At this point, the crowd again cheers at the idea of a Myanmar-style military coup in the United States to apparently overthrow the democratically elected government of Joe Biden.

The exchange can be seen in the tweet below:

Flynn is now saying out loud what many radicalized Republicans have been dreaming of in their post-election turn to authoritarianism.

Back in February, Rolling Stone Magazine published an article revealing that members of QAnon see the Myanmar coup as an emboldening development.

Rolling Stone continued:

…it was an emboldening development for many believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits the existence of a deep state child trafficking ring made up of Hollywood actors and left-wing politicians. Some prominent influencers within the QAnon community with thousands of followers have promoted the baseless idea that electronic voting companies Smartmatic and Dominion were involved in perpetuating voter fraud in Myanmar, and some have posited that a similar military coup could happen in the United States.

The totally baseless QAnon theory is contingent on Trump retaining power and arresting and eventually executing his enemies. Therefore, in the months following Biden’s election, QAnon believers have been rumbling about the results of the election being fraudulent. Many have been pushing the claim that Trump will return to office, possibly by force of a military coup. And they have been invigorated by watching this exact scenario taking place in the small southeast Asian country.

“The Burmese military has arrested the country’s leaders after credible evidence of widespread voter fraud became impossible to ignore…sounds like the controlled media and Biden admin are scared this might happen here,” one influencer with more than 45,000 subscribers on the encrypted messaging app Telegram wrote. “We will see this headline here soon,” another QAnon believer with more than 50,000 subscribers on Telegram wrote, linking to a tweet from a far-right news website about the arrest of Myanmar’s leaders.

Myanmar joined a troubling rising tide of authoritarianism in some countries around the world when its military arrested the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and imposed a military dictatorship. Myanmar had previously been under a military dictatorship for more than 25 years until 2011 when the country finally elected a civilian government. Since the February coup, the country has been embroiled in a resistance movement and protests against the ongoing military dictatorship.

The last known official numbers put the civilian death toll in Myanmar over 750. As of late April, 3,331 people had been detained by the military. Both numbers are likely much higher now.

This type of violence is exactly what some on the far-right have been calling for in the US, for years.

A CNN article noted how QAnon-Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called for and endorsed violence against Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019:

In one post, from January 2019, Greene liked a comment that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In other posts, Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who, in her eyes, were part of the “deep state” working against Trump.

In one Facebook post from April 2018, Greene wrote conspiratorially about the Iran Deal, one of former President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements. A commenter asked Greene, “Now do we get to hang them ?? Meaning H & O ???,” referring to Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Greene replied, “Stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off.”

This isn’t the first time Michael Flynn has endorsed military action against US democracy. Shortly after Trump was defeated in the 2020 election, Flynn promoted the idea that Trump should impose martial law and that the military should oversee a new election in swing states.

The Independent reported on Flynn’s comments in December 2020:

There is no way in the world we are going to be able to move forward as a nation,” General Flynn said. “[The president] could immediately, on his order, seize every single one of these machines.

Within the swing states,” he continued, “if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities, and he could place those in states and basically rerun an election in each of those states.

I mean, it’s not unprecedented. These people are out there talking about martial law like it’s something that we’ve never done. Martial law has been instituted 64 times.

Just weeks after Flynn’s comments, far-right terrorist groups such as the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other groups, coordinated to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. So far, a total of 31 members of far-right terrorist groups, including 16 members of the Oath Keepers, have been charged with conspiracy to invade the US Capitol and disrupt the proceedings to certify the results of the 2020 election.

The urgency and danger of the moment American democracy faces cannot be overstated. We are in a democratic emergency and an emergency of this type requires bold and swift action by law enforcement agencies and it requires bold and swift political action to neutralize and crush any and all threats to our democratic republic.

We must do everything we can to protect our democracy. Make no mistake, if the far-right is not neutralized now, it will regroup and attempt another January 6th. The Capitol Insurrection was a trial run for them and it would be a great error for everyone who believes in democracy and peace to dismiss the far-right’s aspirations as implausible.

Image Credit: East Asia Forum

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For Republicans, democracy is the Enemy

It’s not unusual in the current political era to hear the words authoritarianism or fascism or anti-democratic. In previous years, it would have been nearly unheard of for mainstream news network anchors to use these words to describe American politicians and entire political parties. But now, it’s becoming increasingly normalized in an era where Republicans continue to attack democracy at the state and federal levels.

Medhi Hasan, who hosts a show on MSNBC, stated during the summer of 2020:

It’s time in America that we have a proper conversation about the f-word: Fascism… I know, I know. It’s very controversial and people get very uncomfortable when you mention it. But to borrow a line – if not now, when? And if not us, the free press, then who? For far too long, we have shied away from saying the f-word. For a lot of people, calling Donald Trump a fascist was ad hominem, a lazy political insult. It was the liberal who cried wolf. And yet, look what happened the moment he took office.

Dean Obeidallah, a SiriusXM Progress radio show host and MSNBC Opinion Column tributor, noted in an article published one week after the attack on the Capitol:

Experts have documented that the Republican Party in recent years has increasingly rejected democratic norms and embraced autocratic tactics to wield power. An October study by V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden warned that the GOP had already been moving in that direction pre-Trump, but it said that under Trump, with “the disrespect of political opponents” and “the encouragement of violence,” the GOP now more closely resembles authoritarian ruling parties like Hungary’s Fidesz and Turkey’s AKP.

Obeidallah continues:

In fact, a GOP member of Congress told Politico that days after the siege, the message he heard from his constituents was not shock about the attack but more along the lines of “Do you think that Congress got the message?” And some Republicans noted that constituents such as “preachers, school superintendents, churchgoing men and women,” as Politico reported, were actually cheering on the attack rather than condemning it.

If these polls are accurate, that means 1 in 5 Republicans approve of embracing violence to keep political power. That is the textbook definition of fascism. If this extremist wing of the GOP goes unchecked, it is likely to spread as Republicans become angrier with election losses and resort to attempting to acquire power by using force.

Jelani Cobb, writing for the New Yorker further details the anti-democratic slide of the Republican Party:

…the G.O.P.’s steady drift toward the right, from conservative to reactionary politics; its dependence on older, white voters; its reliance on right-wing media; its support for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; and its increasing disdain for democratic institutions and norms all portend increasing division and a diminishing pool of voters. Republicans, Patterson says, have been depending on a “rear-guard strategy” to “resist the ticking clock of a changing America.” Time may be running out for the Party, as its base ages and dwindles. “Its loyal voters are declining in number and yet have locked the party in place,” Patterson writes. “It cannot reinvent itself without risking their support and, in any event, it can’t reinvent itself in a convincing enough way for a quick turnaround. Republicans have traded the party’s future for yesterday’s America.”

Cobb continues with a rather stark warning from a former Republican official:

Jennifer Horn, the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, told me that the G.O.P., in its current incarnation, is “the most open embrace of an anti-democracy movement that we have seen in our country in a very long time.”

We would argue that this is the most open embrace of anti-democracy that we’ve seen at any time in this country’s history.

Horn shows us that not every single Republican has turned against democracy. But Republicans who are desperately trying to salvage a party that crossed the Rubicon into authoritarianism long ago are declining in numbers and influence.

A recent poll commissioned by Reuters-Ipsos poll found that 53% of Republicans believe that Trump remains the “true president.” An additional 8% believe that the election was at least somewhat likely stolen from Trump. It’s not that these numbers for a losing party in a general election are unprecedented, although they are very high. The problem is the context surrounding these numbers where you now have a former president, who incited an insurrection against the US Capitol with members of Congress inside who were certifying the vote of a presidential election, spending months saying that the election was stolen, in addition to the longevity and endurance of Republican election lie intransigence.

Trump’s own officials at the Department of Homeland Security released a statement declaring that the 2020 Election was the most secure in American history. The only reason Republicans are against all of the evidence we have that points to the accuracy and security of last year’s election is that they are turning against democracy itself and embracing authoritarianism.

Republicans won’t necessarily disagree with this. There are some prominent Republicans in Congress who have hinted at democracy becoming a hindrance to their agenda.

Utah Senator Mike Lee stated in a tweet last October:

We’re not a democracy. Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prosperity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.

The word ‘democracy’ appears nowhere in the Constitution, perhaps because our form of government is not a democracy. It’s a constitutional republic. To me, it matters. It should matter to anyone who worries about the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of the few.

The “we’re not a democracy; we’re a republic” line is often parroted by conservatives. This has always been misleading because they use this to create a false dichotomy between republics and democracies to justify their unpopular political positions. The US is a representative democracy, a democratic republic, and a constitutional republic. It’s all synonymous. It is true that we are not a direct (Athenian) democracy, but we’re not arguing for such a thing.

Conservatives have used this line historically to downplay democracy when it runs against their political ambitions. Senator Lee’s statement came at a time when democracy was already under severe attack from Trump before the 2020 election. So in this context, we can only view Senator Lee’s statement as denouncing democracy itself.

Vox published an article in March with 13 charts showing the depth of the anti-democracy movement in the Republican Party.

Vox notes:

At every level, from the elite down to rank-and-file voters, the party is permeated with anti-democratic political attitudes and agendas. And the prospects for rescuing the Republican Party, at least in the short term, look grim indeed.

The first chart is a panel commissioned in late 2020 and early 2021 by the University of Washington. The study found that anti-democratic attitudes run deep throughout the Republican Party.

By 70% to nearly 100%, the Trump voters interviewed embraced highly anti-democratic ideas such as support for Trump’s Big Lie and believing that voting should be made more difficult. Over two-thirds believed that Trump deserved 3 terms in office – not unlike notorious dictators around the world who spend decades in office and claim to have 99% support in elections.

An American Perspectives Survey completed in January 2021 showed that some 39% of Republicans interviewed supported violence if leaders didn’t “act to protect America.” Violence, of course, being the ultimate authoritarian expression. It represents an ominous turn against democracy.

The Global Party Survey in 2019 found that the Republican Party was one of the most anti-democratic political parties in the world.

While Republicans have increased their attacks on democracy on the federal level, for instance, through the abuse of the filibuster, the largest and most enduring attacks remain at the state level where bills are being created, debated, and even passed to roll back voting rights to an unprecedented level not seen since before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Republicans understand that the only way they win going forward is to seriously curtail democracy. Not only is their embrace of Trump a huge turn-off to a strong majority of the US population, but their policies are also trending more unpopular as time goes on amid technological and demographic changes and younger generations who are coming of age under conditions far different than their more conservative parents.

The conservative policies of previous decades have created an increasing imbalance and tension in US society that they’re now having to fight against. The minimum wage is criminally low while the cost of living continues to rise. The so-called American dream remains out of reach for an increasing number of people. Technology continues to have a huge impact on our society in terms of the information available which is causing many to question what they had been taught by their more conservative parents and teachers during their younger years. The youngest generations only know of life with the internet and information at our fingertips. The suppression and oppression of people of color is also becoming more untenable in our changing society. The unprecedented protests following the police murder of George Floyd and the unprecedented support of Black Lives Matter from whites in 2020 create a major problem for conservative and right-wing politics.

Instead of moderating and modifying their politics to match the changing dynamics of our society, a large portion of Republicans have chosen the authoritarian route. They’ve chosen a literal scorched earth strategy. If they can’t hold on to the dying old society, they will burn both this democracy and this country to the ground. For them, democracy is the enemy.

Image Credit: Shay Horse of Getty Images

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Jim Crow in the 21st Century

Instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote. This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country, is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.

The above quote is a statement from President Joe Biden the day after the Georgia Legislature rushed through, and Governor Brian Kemp signed into law, Georgia’s SB 202, the most restrictive voting rights law in the country.

President Biden continued:

This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end.

The president’s statements were no hyperbole. The severity of the restrictions of Georgia’s new voting law hasn’t been seen since the Jim Crow Era where Black Americans were subject to absurd hurdles to vote in the form of literacy tests that literally no one would pass today and other restrictions such as property tests and grandfather clauses. Under the new law, some counties will only have one ballot drop box and in-person early voting hours will be mostly restricted to a 9 am – 5 pm timeframe, when most people work. 

Adding to the absurdity of this new Jim Crow Era for Georgia Republicans is the arrest of Black Georgia state lawmaker Park Cannon. Cannon has served in Georgia’s House of Representatives since 2016 and she was peacefully protesting the signing of the legislation with others. A Facebook Live video posted to Twitter shows Cannon outside of the locked room where Governor Brian Kemp was signing SB 202 into law. Cannon merely knocked on the door and was immediately arrested by Georgia State Patrol officers.

Canon was charged with felony obstruction of law enforcement and a misdemeanor for preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members. 

Many Georgia activists and Democratic lawmakers decried the arrest of Park Cannon, recalling scenes from the Jim Crow Era of the early and mid 20th century. 

The signing of SB 202, the arrest of Park Cannon, and the fact that the charges against her continue to stand to this day, is a reassertion of white supremacy at a time when Black voting power, particularly in some places in the South, is growing. The rise of Black voting and political power is challenging the generations-old white supremacist power establishment and they’re reacting to it the same way they did during the Jim Crow Era. 

SB 202 is one example of the reassertion of white supremacy. Another example can be seen in the not-so-subtle slave era imagery set as the literal backdrop to Governor Brian Kemp’s signing of the bill — the Washington, Georgia Callaway Plantation which held slaves in the 1800s.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs S.B. 202 on Thursday, March 25. Kimberly Wallace says the painting behind him depicts the plantation on which her family members worked, going back to slavery. Image provided by CNN

The legislation that was passed into law in Georgia not only aims to suppress the Black vote, but also allows Republicans to seize control over how elections are run in the state.

The Washington Post reports:

The new law removes the secretary of state from serving as chair of the State Board of Elections, giving the legislature the authority to appoint a majority of the members, and authorizes the state board to suspend local election officials.

If these measures had been in place in 2020, critics say, the state board could have tried to interfere when the secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, certified Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the state and rejected Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen.

Separately, the new power to suspend county election boards could give state officials unprecedented influence over all manner of election decisions, including the acceptance and rejection of mail ballots, early-voting hours, poll-worker hiring and the number of polling locations, critics say.

All told, the measures represent an unprecedented power grab and an attempt to usurp local control, said Lauren Groh-Wargo, executive director of Atlanta-based Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who ran for governor in 2018. They allow legislators to target heavily Democratic counties in the metro Atlanta region, home of the state’s highest concentration of Black and Brown voters, “if they don’t like how elections are being run,” she said.

“It will make what we all lived through in 2020 child’s play,” Groh-Wargo said in a call with reporters earlier this week, before the measure passed. “Donald Trump won’t have to strong-arm our election administrators. The most radical fringes of the Republican Party sitting in the state legislature will be able to wipe out boards of elections.”

What the Washington Post is describing here is a small-scale political coup which is exactly what Trump and the insurrectionists tried for months to accomplish, culminating in the January 6th insurrection. If SB 202 is allowed to remain in place, not only will democracy in the state of Georgia be imperiled, but also the entire country. Republicans across the country will be emboldened to pass similar laws in the states they control, like Florida and Texas. Rising Democratic and Black political power will face massive roadblocks. The only way to reverse our current dangerous trajectory is to pass both H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 which would override draconian voter restrictions across the country and reverse the Republican coup against Georgia’s election system. 

The day after SB 202 was signed into law, Senator Raphael Warnock, who won a January runoff election in Georgia, noted that “our democracy is in a 911 emergency.” 

Senator Warnock continued:

“I’m not about to be stopped or stymied by debates about Senate rules,” Warnock said, referring to the Senate filibuster. “I respect rules … but no Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy. And I was on the phone with my colleagues even last night.”

Our democracy is indeed in an emergency. The survival of a functioning US democracy will depend on Democrats reforming or gutting the filibuster and then passing H.R. 1 and H.R. 4. If we’re successful, this is not to say that US democracy won’t face future threats and attacks. But we must pass these crucial bills so that we can have the tools to fight another day.

Image credit: Stacey Abrams via Twitter

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Republicans launch national attack on voting rights

What is so notable about this moment, and so disconcerting, is that they are not hiding. There is no attempt to pretend that the intention is not to restrict votes.

They are responding by actually doing what the insurrectionists sought.

– Stacey Abrams, responding to questions during an interview with The Guardian

Republicans in Texas, the country’s second-largest state, have begun to roll out election bills aiming to restrict voting rights in a push to curtail the rising political power of Democrats in the state.

“We must pass laws to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday [March 15], urging lawmakers to get election integrity bills “to my desk so I can sign it.”

However, the Houston Chronicle reports that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton found only 16 cases of voters providing false addresses on their registration forms after 22,000 hours were spent investigating “voter fraud.”

NBC News explains the nature of the Texas bills to restrict voting:

Several bills seek to limit early voting to certain hours or to standardize hours across the state, which would expand early voting in smaller counties while limiting it in the largest counties. All would cut early voting hours in urban, Democratic areas.

Other proposed legislation targets mail voting, which lawmakers say needs additional precautions to prevent fraud.

Republicans have proposed a bill that would shrink the period when voters could return mail ballots, while another bill would ask voters to mail back photocopies of their driver’s licenses or other qualifying identification with their mail ballots.

Several bills also seek to ensure that noncitizens stay off the voter rolls and urge election officials to aggressively purge the rolls. And a slew of bills would add or increase penalties for fraud or mistakes made by voters or officials in running elections.

Hughes’ election bill, which he said he expects will be the vehicle for any voting legislation coming out of the Senate, would impose civil fines on local officials who don’t purge their voter rolls quickly enough — $100 for every voter the secretary of state’s office identifies as improperly being on the books.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican from Harris County, has sponsored a bill that would prohibit election officials from waiving signature match requirements on mail ballots, which he said hasn’t happened in Texas.

“We saw it in Atlanta, Pennsylvania — Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee,” he said, pointing to many of the Democratic cities with large populations of Black voters that Trump’s allies baselessly accused of orchestrating a large voter fraud campaign to steal the election.

The Texas GOP understands what we understand – that conservative politics are becoming increasingly unpopular and out of touch with a changing society, and the only way they can win is to abandon democracy. 

The Texas GOP is not alone. Georgia’s Republican attack on voting rights is getting the most attention, and rightly so. The Georgia GOP is scrambling to roll back the rise of Democratic political power. For the first time since the 1992 election, a Democrat won Georgia’s electoral votes. And in what seemed like a nearly impossible feat, Georgia voters sent two Democrats to the Senate during the January 5, 2021 runoff elections. Unfortunately, the GOP is still in control of Georgia’s state government and they are doing everything they can to make it very difficult for Democratic voters, particularly Black voters, in upcoming elections. 

The New Yorker reports:

The Georgia House bill proposes to shorten the period of early voting, prevent ballots from being mailed out more than four weeks before an election, reduce the use of ballot drop boxes, further criminalize giving food or water to those waiting in line to vote, and severely restrict early voting on Sundays, when many Black churches take their congregants to polling places.

The Senate bill would cut mobile voting facilities, end no-excuse absentee voting, and require people who are qualified to vote absentee to provide a witness’s signature on the ballot envelope. Additional proposals would end, among other things, automatic voter registration at the Department of Driver Services. All these measures are meant to diminish turnout and undo the state of affairs that led to Democrats winning the Presidential race in November and both Senate runoff races in January.

Voter advocacy and civil rights groups are coming together to try and thwart these draconian bills by calling on major corporations to come out against this attack on democracy. Organizers say that this is not an issue of partisanship or taking sides for or against a particular party, but that this is an issue about whether certain Georgians are effectively blocked from participating in democracy itself.

The Telegraph reports:

Fenika Miller, the Georgia state coordinator for Black Voters Matter, said the group is running a corporate accountability campaign to garner support to squash House Bill 531, Senate Bill 241 and Senate Bill 202, which she said would restrict Georgian’s access to vote.

In the summer of 2020, many companies, such as Coca-Cola, took a pledge during the protests against the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

“They were going to stand on the side of racial equity and inclusion and help to move the needle to make sure that communities of color and Black communities in particular were protected, and so, all that we’re doing is asking them to make good on that pledge,” she said. “We’re asking them to be bold and to take a stand and to say that we do not believe that restricting access to the ballot will help democracy.”

There is precedent for corporations opposing blatantly oppressive legislation. Arizona is a perfect example where a 2014 anti-LGBT bill was passed by the state’s legislature but was then vetoed by right-wing Governor Jan Brewer after corporations mounted strong pressure for her to veto the legislation. 

CNN Business reported:

After business owners lashed out, Arizona’s governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed retailers to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender customers based on the owners’ religious convictions.

The bill drew controversy since it passed the Arizona legislature last Thursday. While proponents say the legislation was introduced as a way to afford religious freedom to business owners, critics say it opened the door to discrimination.

“When the legislature passes bills like this, it creates a reputation that Arizona is judgmental and unwelcoming,” states a letter that more than 80 businesses sent to Gov. Brewer on Monday. “This will haunt our business community for decades to come.”

After business owners lashed out, Arizona’s governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed retailers to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender customers based on the owners’ religious convictions.

The bill drew controversy since it passed the Arizona legislature last Thursday. While proponents say the legislation was introduced as a way to afford religious freedom to business owners, critics say it opened the door to discrimination.

“When the legislature passes bills like this, it creates a reputation that Arizona is judgmental and unwelcoming,” states a letter that more than 80 businesses sent to Gov. Brewer on Monday. “This will haunt our business community for decades to come.”

National corporations including American Airlines (AAL), AT&T (ATT ), Delta Airlines (DAL), Intel (INTC), Marriott (MAR), PetSmart (PETM), Starwood (HOT), and Yelp (YELP) were among those urging Brewer to veto the bill, saying the law would be bad for the state’s reputation and bad for business — repelling tourists, potential employees and current workers who live in the state.

“I can assure you that this proposed legislation is causing tremendous concerns for our employees, particularly those who live and work in Arizona,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker wrote in a letter to Brewer.

Meanwhile, Intel, which has nearly 12,000 employees in Arizona, said the bill directly conflicted with its own non-discrimination policy, which “values and welcomes diversity in the workplace.”

It is our belief that this type of corporate pressure could be mounted in Georgia with the possibility of thwarting most of the measures proposed by Georgia’s GOP. 

Amid the mounting pressure, corporations such as Coca-Cola, Aflac, Delta, Home Depot, and UPS have issued statements in support of voting rights.

Newsweek reports:

The statements from the corporations came after civil rights and activist groups— including Black Voters Matter, the New Georgia Project Action Fund, and the Georgia NAACP—called on major Georgia-based corporations on Friday to publicly speak out against voting restrictions proposed by the state’s GOP and stop donating money to the Republican legislators sponsoring the bills.

The groups focused on six of the largest companies in Georgia, which include Aflac, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Southern Company and UPS. All six companies belong to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

The Georgia Chamber previously shared in a February 5 statement the importance of voting rights, saying it’s “one of the most sacred rights of a U.S. citizen.” The Georgia Chamber, however, didn’t voice opposition against any specific legislation at the time.

The Georgia Chamber said it has “expressed concern and opposition to provisions found in both HB 531 and SB 241 that restrict or diminish voter access,” and “continues to engage in a bipartisan manner with leaders of the General Assembly on bills that would impact voting rights in our state.”

The statements by the corporations and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce are a start, but they are much weaker, especially the statements by the Chamber of Commerce, than what we saw during the Arizona anti-LGBT legislation battle in 2014.

Voting and civil rights groups in Georgia are keeping up the pressure, but time is running out. If these bills pass, they would be among the most restrictive in the country. If these corporate leaders believe in our democracy, they will do everything they can to mount the pressure needed to stop these disastrous bills. If not, then we have a much bigger problem on our hands than we thought. It would set a precedent and signal to Republicans across the country that corporate America has given them a green light to attack our democracy.

It appears as though Republicans are betting on that. Across the country, more than 253 bills have been introduced in 43 states to date in what can only be described as a coordinated campaign to end US democracy as we know it. The bills introduced in these states by Republicans take similar aim at early voting, mail-in voting, and other practices which make it easier for people to vote – a baseline for any functioning democracy. Some of the measures were put into effect in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic which made in-person voting dangerous.

Republicans have ruled by minority for decades and now that rule is under threat. This is mostly why they cling so hard to Donald Trump – a disgraced former president who attempted a violent overthrow of US democracy after months of delegitimizing and nearly imperiling an election he was widely expected to lose. 

The only tools they have left are to surrender to political civility and moderation or to adopt authoritarian and at times borderline fascist tendencies, aiming to dismantle key pillars of our democracy. They’re opting for the latter and they’re mounting a national campaign to achieve this goal. Such suppression of democracy occurring in any other country would prompt leveling of sanctions on them at this very moment. 

Drastic action must be taken to stop this coordinated campaign on our democracy. We support and urgently call on the Senate to pass the House’s H.R.1 which would amount to a historic overhaul of our voting and election system and protect our democracy against these attacks by Republicans. Even if some of these draconian election bills do pass in some states, passing H.R.1 would override them. But to get this done, we will need to reform the filibuster. So, we urgently call on Senate Democrats to reform the filibuster in a way that allows the passage of this and other extremely important legislation. With Democrats controlling the House, Senate, and the White House, we have to pass this legislation now and save our democracy.

Image Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster