This Week in Statehouse Action: Remember the Capitol edition

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Voting Stuff: As we observe the dark anniversary of one of the darkest days in American democracy, it’s worth our time to consider what kind of actual anti-democratic laws we can expect to see this year in the many GOP-controlled legislatures across the country.

Campaign Action

  • Fresh off of the 2020 cycle, many Republican-run states (Georgia and Texas, most notoriously) passed new laws aimed at making voting more difficult for certain demographic groups that tend to not vote for Republicans.

We can actually expect things to be a little quieter on that front this year.

Why?

States that could do it already did.

  • GOP trifectas + election trends that worry Republicans (e.g. Georgia electing two Democratic U.S. senators and going for the Democratic presidential candidate and increasingly blue cities and suburbs in Texas) led to some diabolical new voting restrictions last year.
  • But Republican-controlled legislatures in several key battleground states that wanted to implement similar measures were hamstrung by Democratic governors:
    • Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, most notably.
      • This is not to say that Republicans in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, and beyond won’t get creative this year and concoct fun new ways to curb ballot box access for certain voters.
      • But a lot of damage has already been done in these places, and Republicans in those states with Democratic governors are just as constrained this year as last.
  • Instead, Republicans hope that 2022 elections will produce shiny new GOP governors in Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
    • Less-gerrymandered legislative maps in Pennsylvania and Michigan create an additional hurdle for Rs in those states, but absent any 2022 chamber flips in Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, or Wisconsin, capturing any of those governorships gives the GOP plenty of time to change election rules in their favor ahead of 2024.

Also worth noting: The threat to free and fair elections in GOP-controlled states isn’t only coming from the legislatures.

It’s emerging from Republicans running for the job of top elections official in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and beyond.

  • Arizona has the ignominious distinction of having two sitting state representatives who support Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen running for the state’s open secretary of state seat:

Secretary of state races are always ultra-important, but even folks who don’t pay attention to state-level stuff as obsessively as your author got a crash course in how essential principled election officials of any party are in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential contest (remember when Georgia’s very GOP secretary of state stood up to Trump’s attempts to bully him into statewide election fraud?)

Election results are partisan.

But to ensure faith in those results, the actual administration of elections cannot be partisan.

And many Republican candidates for secretary of state … disagree.

Oh, and before I leave discussion of Arizona and nonsense allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 race behind, I want to share a key piece of news:

  • Cyber Ninjas—the firm hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to “audit” 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County—is no more.

They’ve packed up their black footie pajamas and slithered off into the darkness.

And frankly, it’s no wonder.

  • On Wednesday of this week, Maricopa County election officials released a pretty savage report analyzing and rebutting the work of apparent fiction Cyber Ninjas provided to the Arizona state Senate back in September.
    • In all, the county’s report found no fewer than 73 false, misleading, and inaccurate claims in Cyber Ninjas’ “audit” findings.
      • “[N]early every finding included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions, and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws,” reads the introduction.

oof

But as an erudite consumer of this missive, you probably already suspect that a little “shame” and “abject incompetence” can’t deter the talented grifters at Cyber Ninjas.

A $50k-a-day fine, however, is another matter.

But there’s contempt … and there’s CONTEMPT.

To the tune of $50,000 a day until Cyber Ninjas turns over said public records.

But apparently the company isn’t even paying its own attorney, so compliance already looked like a long shot …

… and that was before the company announced later on Thursday that it was “shutting down.”

whoops

It remains to be seen whether Cyber Ninjas CEO (described as “former” by the company’s beleaguered lawyer in court on Thursday) Doug Logan will continue to sleep on the enormous pile of money his firm was paid to conduct its sham “audit” ($5.7 million, specifically, though the company claimed it somehow lost $2 million conducting its MAGA-tastic dog and pony show) or will actually be forced to pay the contempt fines and/or turn over those suddenly extremely expensive documents to the newspaper.

Reproductive Rights: This is another area where no one should underestimate Republicans’ creativity.

Every GOP-controlled state already has draconian abortion restrictions enshrined in state law, but with the U.S. Supreme Court considering a case that could well spell the end of Roe v. Wade and access to safe, legal abortion across large swaths of the country, these lawmakers might just go HAM on us.

  • This case (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) concerns a 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks “except in a medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality.”
    • … which has reproductive freedom advocates are extremely worried.
      • That “15 weeks” metric means that the Mississippi law applies even before the fetus is “viable” (capable of surviving outside the uterus), which makes this case an appealing vehicle to the 6-3 conservative SCOTUS majority to overturn existing precedent that an abortion patient gets to make the final decision whether to “terminate her pregnancy before viability.”
  • This case potentially provides SCOTUS with a vehicle to overrule Roe v. Wade in its entirety and permit outright bans on abortion.
  • And yes, as an erudite consumer of this missive, you probably already know that, if bans on abortion were to become constitutional, they’d go into effect immediately in the eight states that retain enforceable pre-Roe abortion bans in their code:
    • Alabama
    • Arizona
    • Arkansas
    • Michigan
    • Mississippi
    • Oklahoma
    • West Virginia
    • Wisconsin.
  • Also, 12 states have laws on their books that would trigger automatic bans on abortion if Roe were overturned:
    • Arkansas
    • Idaho
    • Kentucky
    • Louisiana
    • Mississippi
    • Missouri
    • North Dakota
    • Oklahoma
    • South Dakota
    • Tennessee
    • Texas
    • Utah.

And as an erudite consumer of this missive, you also probably don’t need me to point out that the thing that all of these states have in common is a GOP-controlled legislature.

  • That doesn’t leave a ton of space for GOP-trifecta states to get up to no good with reproductive rights, but definitely keep an eye on spots like Ohio, Wyoming, Kansas, Indiana, New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida, and Georgia to get up to some abortion-banning shit this year.
    • … because we’re absolutely living in a world where Democratic-majority state legislatures might soon be our last and only hope for protecting reproductive freedom and women’s right to exercise autonomy over our own bodies.

Books and Teaching About Racism and LGBTQ+ Issues and Anything Else That Makes Straight White People Uncomfortable: “Critical race theory” and supposedly “objectionable” books became a major issue in last fall’s Virginia elections, and we should expect Republicans across the country to continue flogging these racist and homophobic canards in hope of replicating the GOP’s surprise success in the Old Dominion.

I’ll be working on roundups of such bills as legislative sessions convene, but this item from Indiana is a helpful indication of what we can expect from Republicans in the months to come:

  • In a committee hearing this week, Indiana Republican state Sen. Scott Baldwin defended his SB167, a measure that, among other things, creates an onerous vetting process for teaching and reading materials, effectively eliminates any semblance of confidentiality a student may expect when seeking help from a school counselor, and dictates the way in which matters such as race, gender identity, and ideology are discussed at both grade schools and post-secondary institutions.
    • In discussing his legislation, however, Baldwin kinda told on himself.
      • An actual history teacher questioned the senator about aspects of the bill (Baldwin, by the by, is an ex-cop with no discernible background in education), asking if Baldwin intended for abhorrent concepts like fascism and Naziism to be taught in a “neutral” way instead of, say, pointing out that they’re anathema to core American values like “democracy” and “not genocide.”
        • As this teacher pointed out, “it matters” that “we take a stand in the classroom against [Naziism],” which seems … reasonable, to say the least.

Baldwin begged to differ.

  • The lawmaker responded that “we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those isms.”

Yes, Baldwin said that teaching about Naziism and fascism as bad things is going “too far.”

  • The Republican attempted to walk back his remarks in an email to a state newspaper on Thursday, but, well, we fucking know what his bill and the many others like it are really about:
    • Indoctrinating kids with right-wing ideology by eliminating any resources or instruction about differing perspectives from public education.

The same kind of (white) people who screamed that taking down statues of Confederate traitors is “erasing history” are trying to codify the actual erasure of history.

  • It may not seem as urgent as the anti-fair elections measures and anti-choice measures conservatives are also trying to ram through many statehouses with artificially inflated majorities (thanks, gerrymandering!), but it’s far more insidious, and the long-term effects of this right-wing book-banning and curriculum-dictating could be even worse.

Imagine growing up in a world where no one in schools is allowed to tell kids that racism, sexism, homophobia, fascism, and Naziism are bad.

Now imagine what horrors those kids might be capable of when they grow up.

Also, Gerrymandering!

… okay, not actually—it just depressed me too much to end on that note.

Analysis of the current round of redistricting continues, and even though the current hot (garbage) take is that congressional redistricting is a wash for Democrats (fucking impossible when you started with a situation skewed extremely in Republicans’ favor, whether you’ve “seen enough” or not), analysis of state-level redistricting takes a little longer because

A. there are thousands of legislative districts across the country vs. a piddling 435 House districts and

B. more political journalistic resources get pumped in to congressional district analysis on any given day than state district analysis usually gets in a month (my Daily Kos Elections fam notwithstanding, of course).

… which is really just a long-winded way of saying More To Come Soon!

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week.

I really appreciate the time we’ve spent together here.

I super hope you were able to recharge a little over the past few weeks (though I know the holidays can be anything but restful).

You deserve the time and space to do restorative things and take care of yourself.

You’re important.

We need you.





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