1/27 Addressing Our National Crisis

Today marks three weeks since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and our nation continues to grapple with the deep-rooted problem of extremism it exposed. Threats of future violence continue, and the rampant misinformation fueling those threats persists. We need leaders across the country and on both sides of the aisle to demand accountability and truth.

The fight over who gets to vote and how also continues. Despite efforts to roll back voting rights in certain states, Congressional leaders are ready to make democracy reform a priority, as evidenced by the introduction of the For the People Act. The Biden Administration also indicated that protecting voting rights is one of its top priorities, voicing support for expanded ballot access. Minnesota AG Keith Ellison reminded us that “‘Stop the Steal’ was about creating a political atmosphere to support the ‘real steal’: voter suppression against communities of color, low-income, seniors, overseas service members & students. Let’s Increase voter access; stop voter suppression.”

National Update

Impeachment in Peril?: Almost all Republican Senators — 45 in total — have signaled their opposition to an impeachment trial, all but confirming that the Senate will not have enough votes to convict former President Trump. On Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a motion to suspend the impeachment trial, claiming that impeaching a former President goes against the Constitution. However, VPP outside counsel Norm Eisen reminds us “that trials can have mind-bending evidence.” The trial is slated to begin February 8th, 2021.

Emboldened Extremists: Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a threat bulletin, due to the potential for violence from extremists motivated by “false narratives.” This rare national terrorism warning confirms that January 6th may not be an isolated incident; there is credible evidence that domestic terrorists may feel emboldened by the January 6th breach and may act again in 2021. President Biden has responded in kind, asking the Director of National Intelligence for a threat assessment of domestic violent extremism.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s past comments encouraging violence surfaced this week, highlighting the troubling notion that extremist sentiments have made their way into the government itself. An analysis of Greene’s social media accounts revealed that she repeatedly liked Facebook comments encouraging violence against Democratic lawmakers and federal government employees.

Deflecting Responsibility: Lawmakers who objected to election results continue to deflect responsibility for their role in fueling baseless claims of voter fraud that spurred the January 6th attack. Even after the January 6th attack, a full third of Americans believe the false claims that election fraud led to President Biden’s win. This latest poll highlights that misinformation is still running rampant throughout the nation and that lawmakers must do more to combat it.

Voting Laws Roundup 2021: After historic turnout and increased mail-in voting in 2020, state lawmakers are divided about what happens next. New legislation across the states includes bills to limit voter access, with a particular focus on mail voting and voter ID laws, as well as bills to cement pro-voter policies implemented temporarily last year in the wake of the pandemic. This week, the Brennan Center for Justice released a roundup of 2021 voting laws.

State Updates

Arizona: Today, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow an audit of tabulation equipment used in the 2020 election. The decision was a response to the Arizona State Senate issuing subpoenas for an independent audit last week, despite numerous officials confirming that the election was secure. The Board voted to allow an independent forensic audit, hoping it would definitively dispel fears of fraud and avoid any subsequent hearings based on these unsubstantiated claims.

Georgia: On Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan announced his support for requiring ID verification for absentee ballots. Duncan is the latest state official to signal approval of the legislative measure, which was endorsed by Governor Brian Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston earlier this month. Thus far, none of the three have supported the rash of more restrictive legislation sponsored by some state legislators. Without their support, these measures — including an effort to ban no-excuse absentee voting — will likely stall out this year.

Michigan: This week, Democrats in the Michigan State House of Representatives introduced House Bill 4023, which would ban guns in and around the State Capitol. The legislation is the latest in recent efforts to ramp up State Capitol security measures, following multiple armed protests and the violence of January 6th. Michigan AG Dana Nessel — who has repeatedly called for enhanced security measures — strongly endorsed the bill saying, “Working in or visiting our Capitol shouldn’t mean risking your life.”

Meanwhile, one of Rudy Giuliani’s election witnesses, Melissa Carone, whose oddly belligerent statements before the Michigan State House in December earned her some viral notoriety, announced yesterday that she plans to run for a local state House seat. In her December remarks, Carone echoed the baseless claims of voter fraud that precipitated the mob attack on January 6th, falsely asserting that the election was “stolen.”

New Hampshire: State Senate Democrats in New Hampshire are facing another hurdle to make no-excuse absentee ballots permanent. On Monday, the Secretary of State’s office opposed the measure, citing conflicts with the state Constitution. State legislators introduced the bill early this year, hoping to extend the temporary no-excuse absentee ballot provision that lawmakers introduced to accommodate pandemic-era voting.

Ohio: Roughly 10,000 Ohioans who voted in the 2020 election were nearly removed from the state’s voter registration rolls this summer. This news follows Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s effort to purge over 115,000 Ohioans from the state’s rolls if they were deemed inactive. Ohio’s definition of an “inactive” voter is among the strictest in the nation, allowing removal of voters if they don’t vote or participate in political activity for six consecutive years. Voters can even be removed after two years of “inactivity” if they don’t respond to a mailer asking to confirm their address. Voting rights groups criticized the purge for disproportionately affecting minority and poor voters. LaRose defended the effort, completing yet another cancellation of over 97,000 voters last week.

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