2/22 SCOTUS Decision Day
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the two most important remaining 2020-election related cases (Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Degraffenreid and Corman v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party). In response, Ambassador Norm Eisen, outside counsel to the Voter Protection Program, issued a statement stressing that the Court’s decision “underscores what we know to be true: that election was safe, secure, and accurate,” and “should remove the unwarranted shadow cast over Pennsylvania’s election administration–and the 2020 election writ large.” As to the three Supreme Court justices who dissented from the decision to deny certiorari to these cases, Eisen calls this “a reminder that our elections remain vulnerable to future interference from many directions.” As Forbes notes, the Court is still considering whether to hear several post-election cases including some of Sidney Powell’s other “Kraken” cases, though none are likely to succeed. These cases were filed in hopes of overturning the will of the American voters and to undermine public trust in the free and fair election administered in 2020. For a comprehensive analysis of all the myths and facts about the election, the Voter Protection Program’s January report, “Countering Lies about the 2020 Presidential Election,” dispels the mistruths. That includes those used to justify the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here is today’s update:
Big Tech Faces the Heat: Social media and tech companies have faced unprecedented public scrutiny for their role in allowing misinformation to spread on their platforms in the months leading up to the 2020 election and January 6th riot. Congress has expressed an interest as well, with the House Energy and Commerce Committee announcing that top executives of Twitter, Facebook, and Google will testify next month. The hearings, scheduled for March 25, will feature testimony from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai about their respective companies’ efforts to curb misinformation related to coronavirus and the presidential election. This testimony may also influence lawmakers’ thinking as to new antitrust legislation, which Congress is slated to consider in coming weeks.
Insurrection Fallout: This weekend, it was reported that six Capitol Police officers were suspended and 29 more were being investigated for their alleged roles in the attack on the U.S. Capitol last month. Specifics on the reasons for suspension are not yet public, but a spokesperson said any behavior “not in keeping with the Department’s Rules of Conduct will face appropriate discipline.” Meanwhile, the New York Times shared new details about how confused and disorganized decision-making among security and military officials burned precious time as the rioting at the Capitol spiraled out of control.
The January 6th Commission: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol has met with a positive response. The proposal received bipartisan support, with many heralding it as a way to unify the country through the impartial pursuit of truth and accountability. Former members of the 9/11 commission voiced similar hopes, declaring that an independent review of the riot is a necessary step in the national healing and reconciliation process. Others view the information-seeking commission as insufficient, calling for an accompanying criminal investigation. To create a 9/11-style commission on the events on January 6th, Congress must pass legislation for President Biden to approve.
Legislative Priorities: Now that the second impeachment trial of former President Trump has concluded, lawmakers in Congress are making plans for their legislative priorities for 2021. Voting rights are the subject of intense debate. A sweeping elections and reform bill, the For The People Act, is scheduled for debate in the House of Representatives in the first week of March, and House Democrats have indicated unanimous support for the legislation. Meanwhile, some lawmakers in the Senate have begun to voice support for removing the filibuster in order to move their legislative priorities– like the For The People Act — forward.
Florida: On Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled a new series of proposed election laws requiring voters to request mail ballots more frequently than they already do, prohibiting ballot collection, and restricting the use of ballot drop boxes. This wave of restrictions comes even after Gov. DeSantis publicly praised the security of Florida’s 2020 election, calling it “the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country.” Voting rights advocates scrutinized the move to impose further restrictions, deeming them unnecessary given that there was no credible evidence of fraud.
Georgia: On Thursday last week, state lawmakers introduced a massive omnibus bill– HB 531– which would impose unprecedented restrictions on voting. Voting rights advocates have sounded the alarm that the bill’s proposals would disproportionately affect Black voters. The bill would eliminate the option to vote early on the two Sundays prior to the election, clashing with events like “Souls to the Polls” that encourage church-going Black voters to get out the vote on the Sunday prior to Election Day. Despite the widely-confirmed evidence that Georgia elections were secure and fraud-free, a recent poll shows that 40% of all Georgia voters (and 75% of Georgia Republicans) believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 president election.
Iowa: Two bills to shorten Iowa’s early voting period and restrict absentee ballots received initial approval in the Iowa House and Senate last week. The bills would shorten Iowa’s early voting period from 29 to 18 days, bar auditors from sending absentee ballots to voters unless the voter specifically requests them, and prevent auditors from setting up satellite early voting sites unless voters expressly petition for one. Under the proposed laws, auditors who fail to comply with the new restrictions would be charged with criminal penalties.
Michigan: The Michigan Republican Party did not re-nominate Aaron Van Langevelde, a state canvassing board member who voted alongside two other members to certify Michigan’s electoral votes for President Biden. Langevelde received criticism from members of his own party, who had intensely pressured him to delay certification of Michigan’s election results. Langevelde was replaced by conservative activist Tony Daunt.
Officials in Michigan are beginning to pursue accountability for lawyers who peddled former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud by presenting and arguing on the basis of false information in court. The city of Detroit has asked a District Judge to institute monetary fees against lawyers like Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and others, and to prevent them from working in Michigan courts in the future. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Attorney General Dana Nessel have requested state bar associations to initiate grievance proceedings against these lawyers, a move applauded by VPP. Leaders across the country are pursuing similar accountability measures.
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