This Week in Statehouse Action: Permanent Vacation edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Permanent Vacation edition

Happy almost-Memorial Day!

The unofficial start of summer is nigh (technically it doesn’t start until the solstice on June 20), but if you think that means Republicans are hitting pause on their awful statehouse antics, I’ve got some bad news for you.

Soak Up the Sun: Might as well go ahead and get the Arizona “audit” update out of the way, because things in the Grand Canyon State are still distressingly awful (if you’re into having a functional democracy, anyway).

Campaign Action

  • A quick background refresher for any intermittent readers out there:
    • The GOP-majority Arizona Senate is mad that Joe Biden got more votes in Maricopa County (which includes Phoenix) than Donald Trump did, so they demanded that county supervisors turn over millions of ballots and hundreds of voting machines for an “audit.”
    • Maricopa County hired credentialed, reputable firms to conduct two legitimate audits, which found that the election was secure and that votes were correctly and properly counted.
    • Obviously this wasn’t the outcome the Senate wanted, so they cast about and hired a firm that’s seriously called called Cyber Ninjas—which has no experience or expertise in election audits and is run by a guy who posted a bunch of stolen-election conspiracy theories on a Twitter account that he just happened to delete in January.
    • Because this “Cyber Ninjas” firm is actually a bunch of Trump stans practicing spin kicks in body stockings, Maricopa County has to buy new voting machines after their existing apparatuses have spend a LOT of time in the spectacularly incapable hands of these “auditors.”
  • As if there weren’t enough things already happening to undermine the integrity of this so-called “audit,” Cyber Ninjas is executing yet another mid-stream change.
    • A subcontractor called “Wake TSI,” which had been in charge of the hand recount of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots, opted to dip out instead of re-up its contract with Cyber Ninjas after it expired on May 14.
      • By the by, the “audit” is still on that break that started May 14 when a bunch of graduating teenagers invaded the facility the GOP rented for recount purposes. (It restarts on Monday.)
    • Wake TSI had been touted as one of Cyber Ninjas most experienced subcontractors, as it actually performed a 2020 election hand count in the Keystone State … at the request of Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, whose name might ring a bell, since he’s been one of his state’s most prominent “Stop the Steal” agitators.
      • So now a participant in Pennsylvania’s “Stop the Steal” shenanigans has abandoned the Arizona effort and is being replaced by an Arizona company called StratTech, which I’m sure you’ll be just shocked to learn is similar to Cyber Ninjas in that it apparently HAS ZERO EXPERIENCE IN CONDUCTING ELECTION AUDITS.
        • When the former GOP lawmaker who’s acting as the audit’s “liaison” or “spokesperson” or whatever he’s calling himself today confessed that he didn’t know whether StratTech had ever been involved in a recount, he said, “Nobody should be precluded from doing something the first time.”
          • … I mean, this is Republicans’ “first time” actively undermining democracy by attempting to validate baseless claims of fraud by holding a bogus “audit” to attempt to overturn the results of a free, fair, secure, and accurate election, so I guess I see where he’s coming from.

Anyway, Arizona Republicans aren’t just waiting around for a bogus “audit” to overturn the results of the last election.

Nope, they’re trying to rig the next one, too.

  • Republicans have passed a bill out of House and Senate committees that would strip Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of the power to defend the state in election lawsuits and shift that authority to Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
    • And just in case you thought this was anything but a baldly partisan power grab, Republicans are setting the change to expire after 2022—which just happens to be the end of Hobbs’ current term (they’re hoping a Republican is elected to replace her) and/or before any Democrat who may win the attorney general’s race next year takes office.
    • Stripping her of the authority to handle election lawsuits and giving it to Brnovich both
      • Ensures that Republicans will have the legal standing to intervene in future lawsuits and
      • Prevents Hobbs from settling them or declining to appeal court rulings that strike down voting restrictions.

However, not all of the Arizona GOP’s election schemes proceeded as planned this week.

Meanwhile, as I predicted previously in this space, Trump supporters’ calls for more bogus election “audits” are spreading across the country.

  • A Georgia judge last week granted a conservative group the chance to review mail ballots in Fulton County (which includes Atlanta).
  • Based on claims brought by the pro-Trump head of Cyber Ninjas and another conservative “cybersecurity expert,” officials in Michigan’s rural Cheboygan County debated a review of their voting machines this week.
  • A similar debate is inflaming local tensions in a New Hampshire town.

Come Sail Away: In Wisconsin, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is spending taxpayer money on hiring retired police officers to “investigate aspects of the November election.”

  • Vos says he’s giving these cops a broad mandate—and subpoena power—to spend three months looking into things like the nonprofit grants some cities used to help support their underfunded election efforts, claims of double voting, and how some clerks may have resolved absentee ballot credential issues.
  • But Vos has actually already revealed the real point of this exercise:
    • He plans to use these bogus, unnecessary investigations to “identify laws that should be changed,” which is GOP-speak for “fabricate crap evidence to pass new voter suppression laws.”
  • Oh, and earlier this year, GOP lawmakers already directed a state agency to “review aspects of the election,” also at taxpayer expense.
    • And earlier this very week, the Wisconsin Elections Commission released a report identifying just 27 possible fraud cases among the 3.3 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election.

On the Road Again: While we’re talking about undermining elections and innovative voter suppression, let’s take a quick look at some other hot spots across the country:

  • In Alabama, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a GOP bill that will ban curbside voting, a method of casting ballots that just makes voting easier and is especially helpful for people with disabilities that limit their mobility.
  • In Texas, Republican lawmakers are poised to pass a major new voting restriction bill
    • An analysis by the Texas Tribune finds that one provision would significantly reduce the number of polling places in urban communities of color by targeting voters only within the state’s five largest counties—Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis—which are home to a disproportionate share of Texas’ voters of color.
    • Meanwhile, the number of polls sites would just happen to increase in heavily white areas within these same counties.

It’s sneaky, but here’s how it works:

  • Voting locations would be distributed “based on the share of registered voters in each state House district within the county.”
    • Sounds okay, right?
    • It’s not, and here’s why:
  • While these districts are drawn to have equal populations, they don’t necessarily have similar numbers of voters.
    • That’s because many urban areas tend to have a much larger proportion of noncitizen immigrants and children who are ineligible to vote, as well as a much younger Latino citizen population that is less inclined to vote than their older peers.
    • Consequently, these communities end up with far fewer voters per resident than older, whiter areas.
      • In Harris County (home to Houston), this formula would mean fewer polling places in 13 of the county’s 24 House districts, all currently represented by Democrats.
      • I’m sure you’ll be just shocked to learn that every district held by a Republican would either see a gain in polling places or see no change.

School’s Out: One of this year’s hottest new conservative faux outrages is against the nonexistent threat supposedly posed by teaching critical race theory in schools.

  • Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee are just four states that have new laws on their books this year specifically banning teachers from exposing students to the supposedly radical concept that racial disparities are deeply embedded in U.S. history and society.

… they are though

  • Iowa’s governor is likely to sign another such ban on teaching the apparently controversial notion that racism exists and is bad.
  • Another such ban is likely to become law in Texas.
    • Two leaders in this regressive education effort are well-known state policy villains the Heritage Foundation and ALEC, which have apparently ditched their bullshit “local control” rhetoric in favor of having lawmakers dictate what all educators are allowed to teach in their classrooms.
  • The concrete impact of this fight on education policy likely won’t be fully expressed this year, since this conservative crusade didn’t hit full steam until many legislative sessions were winding down.
    • But this white supremacist crusade will be enshrined in several states’ laws by the end of the year, and this isn’t going away.

Roam: And now, a couple of new entries in the This Person Makes Laws log:

  • In Kansas, Republican state Rep. Mark Samsel has a side hustle as a substitute teacher.
    • … or he did.
      • After his actions in a classroom recently, I don’t think he’s going to be allowed anywhere near a school any time soon.
    • According to court documents released this week, Samsel allegedly reacted to a male student’s problematic classroom behavior by ranting about God and the devil and suicide, instead of, say, summoning the principal (“the phone was across the room” lmao you cannot make this stuff up).
      • A male student said that Samsel shoved him against a wall and later kicked him in the testicles.
      • Another student who took a video of the incident said Samsel placed his hands on her shoulders at one point and asked her if she had “mental problems” or was suicidal.
    • Samsel, who’s been charged with three misdemeanor counts of batter over the incident, acknowledged getting physical with the male student but claims that “God” told him to do those things.

v cool and v normal

  • GOP Oklahoma state Rep. Justin Humprhey took to the floor of the legislature this week to announce a $3 million bounty for the safe capture of Bigfoot.
    • Yes, that Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Whatever.
      • The ridiculous sum of money is being put up by an anonymous benefactor, but Humphrey’s announcement follows his (failed) attempt earlier this year to pass legislation creating a Bigfoot hunting season, complete with license and fee requirements, and a $25,000 award for capturing the creature unharmed.

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week.

You should knock off early, maybe get an early start on the holiday.

Find yourself an Island in the Sun, don an Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, hang out Under the Boardwalk, or make your own Margaritaville anywhere you have some tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur.

Whatever you get up to, take a few minutes to Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

You deserve it. 

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