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2024 Race

Pennsylvania Republicans Seek To Ban Drop Boxes and Mail-In Voting

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Act 77, a “voter reform act,” was passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in October 2019 and introduced new election procedures like no-excuse mail-in voting and ballot drop boxes. Since then, numerous lawsuits in the state have focused on these practices. One of them is the request for the court to invalidate Act 77 made by 14 Republican members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The 14 lawmakers’ attorney, Pittsburgh attorney Greg Teufe of OGC Law, believes they still have a case and plans to appeal the Commonwealth Court’s ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Commonwealth Court rejected the request in a decision on June 27.

It’s critical to understand how Act 77 was negotiated in the legislature in order to comprehend the argument.

“It was a negotiated law— a bargain between the Democrats and the Republicans—with the key elements that the Democrats cared about, and key elements that Republicans cared about,” Mr. Teufe told The Epoch Times. “They included what’s called a non-severability provision … if any provisions in this act, or its application to any person or circumstances is held invalid, the remaining provisions or application of this Act are void.”

The non-severability clause is essential to the argument because if any portion of the act is declared invalid, the entire act is also declared invalid. The 14 lawmakers think that a crucial clause in Act 77 was removed in another instance involving mail-in voting.

Act 77 mandates that mail-in ballots be enclosed in an envelope that has been signed and dated by the voter. Republicans claimed that some voters had missed this step and that the ballots should not be counted; Democrats countered that the ballots should be counted to prevent voter disenfranchisement.

Courts Had Conflicting Decisions

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in November 2022 that absentee and mail-in ballots for the November 8, 2022 General Election should not be counted if their return envelopes were undated or incorrectly dated.

In its Feb. 8, 2023 opinion, the state Supreme Court provided justification for that relief, stating that Act 77’s requirement for a date was “unambiguous and mandatory” and rendered any absentee and mail-in ballot returned in an undated envelope invalid.

However, courts ruled that undated ballots should be counted in two other cases, Chapman v. Berks County Board of Elections and Ritter v. Migliori. In the Migliori case, the Third Federal Circuit Court ruled that failing to count the votes would be against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case was later deemed moot by the U.S. Supreme Court because the election was over and certified.

“In Berks County, they said, ‘We agree with Migliori, that this dating provision, if it were enforced as mandatory, that would violate the materiality provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Mr. Teufe said. “And therefore, federal law blocks the application of a mandatory dating requirements, because effectively they’re saying it isn’t material enough to justify throwing out a vote, and therefore under federal law, you’re not allowed to do it. And that very clearly invalidated the application of the dating provision to any person or circumstance in Pennsylvania. It reduced what we argued was a mandatory provision.”

That he says, should cause Act 77 to be overturned.

But in the June 27 opinion, the Commonwealth Court said that although prior courts offered their “interpretation” of the law, Act 77 is still the state law.

“It’s true, they didn’t use the words, ‘We are invalidating this provision,’ they didn’t say ‘It is hereby stricken from statute.’ But they declared that it was unlawful to apply it in any circumstance. They reduced it to a suggestion to the voters,” Mr. Teufe said. “The substance of what they did was refuse views to apply—invalidate—the dating provision, thereby triggering the non-severability provision, thereby requiring that they void the rest of Act 77. And if they don’t, it’s a massive bait and switch because this was a package deal. They are slicing out of the package the dating provision, and they’re leaving the rest of the deal intact, and undermining the legislative process. Legislators from this case forward, if this isn’t overturned by the Supreme Court, can’t rely on package deals with each other in legislative proposals.”

The 14 Republican state representatives who brought this case are Timothy Bonner, Michael Jones, David Zimmerman, Barry Jozwiak, Kathy Rapp, David Maloney, Barbara Gleim, Robert Brooks, Aaron Bernstine, Timothy Twardzik, Dawn Keefer, Dan Moul, Francis Ryan, and Donald “Bud” Cook.

“Many other laws have been passed with, with non-severability as well, and if we’re not going to honor it in this case, then it could be challenged in any other law, and that’s a fundamental reason for doing this,” Rep. Zimmerman told The Epoch Times. “If we don’t uphold this one, then that puts other laws jeopardy. There are quite a few pieces of legislation that we passed that have the same thing and right in the law itself.

“This whole idea of these mail-in ballots being dated and signed—our secretary of state ended up throwing all that out and says, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter if they’re signed or dated. We don’t care about that.’ But it’s very clear in the law, that that the whole thing gets thrown out if we violate any of it. And we’re currently violating it by not having a date and signed and accepting it.”

2024 Race

Over 9,000 uncounted mail-in ballots found in Illinois election

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The Chicago Board of Elections revealed on Saturday that more than 10,000 ballots hadn’t been included in previous vote totals by mistake, making unofficial counts lower than expected.

Preliminary Report:

SOURCE: https://cboeresults.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/results/Summary%20Report%20(2%20Column).pdf

In a news release, a spokesperson for the CBOE explained that while adding up vote-by-mail ballots, he accidentally left out additional ballots that had been delivered by the U.S. Postal Service on Monday.

“I traded speed for accuracy in reporting out numbers this week as quickly as I could,” spokesperson Max Bever said in a statement, in part. “I truly regret this error on my part and for the confusion that it has caused the voters of Chicago.”

The 10,659 ballots in question were added to the unofficial vote count on Saturday, increasing the total of ballots cast in Chicago to 368,990. Voter turnout citywide was reported to be 24.44% out of 1,509,554 registered voters.

Recent elections have sparked widespread discussions and debates regarding the integrity of the electoral process. As citizens grapple with various viewpoints and concerns, questions surrounding election integrity have taken center stage in political discourse.

One of the key issues that has emerged is the security and reliability of voting systems. With advancements in technology, concerns have been raised about the susceptibility of electronic voting machines to hacking and manipulation. Critics argue that these vulnerabilities could potentially undermine the integrity of election results and erode public trust in the democratic process.

Furthermore, the handling and counting of ballots have also come under scrutiny. Allegations of irregularities, such as ballot tampering or mishandling, have led to calls for increased transparency and oversight in the electoral process. Some argue that stringent safeguards and protocols are necessary to ensure the accuracy and fairness of vote tabulation.

Another area of contention is voter identification laws. Proponents argue that such laws are essential for preventing voter fraud and maintaining the integrity of elections. They contend that requiring voters to present identification helps verify their eligibility and prevents unauthorized individuals from casting ballots. However, critics argue that these laws disproportionately disenfranchise marginalized communities, such as low-income or minority voters, who may face barriers to obtaining valid identification.

Additionally, concerns have been raised about the role of money in politics and its potential to influence election outcomes. The influx of campaign contributions from special interest groups and wealthy donors has raised questions about the fairness and transparency of the electoral process. Critics argue that the influence of money in politics undermines the principle of equal representation and gives undue advantage to powerful interests.

Amidst these debates, calls for reform and strengthening of election laws and regulations have grown louder. Advocates emphasize the need for comprehensive measures to safeguard the integrity of elections, including increased funding for election security, implementation of robust auditing procedures, and expansion of voter access while ensuring strict enforcement of anti-fraud measures.

Ultimately, the issue of election integrity remains a complex and multifaceted challenge. As citizens and policymakers grapple with these questions, finding common ground and implementing effective solutions will be essential to uphold the integrity and legitimacy of the democratic process.

SOURCE: NBC NEWS

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2024 Race

Michelle Obama’s office says the former first lady ‘will not be running for president’ in 2024

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Former President Barack Obama’s vocal support for President Joe Biden’s re-election bid has sparked speculation about the potential role of his wife, Michelle Obama, in the upcoming election.

Many Democrats are eager to see Michelle Obama take on a more prominent role, with some even pondering the possibility of her replacing a politically weakened Biden on the 2024 ticket. However, supporters of Republican front-runner Donald Trump have seized on this speculation to undermine Biden’s political standing and rally GOP supporters.

In response to these rumors, Michelle Obama’s office has reiterated that she has no plans to run for president in 2024. Crystal Carson, director of communications for her office, has emphasized Michelle Obama’s support for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ re-election campaign, and says Michelle will not be running for president.

While Michelle Obama intends to assist the Biden campaign this fall, her involvement is expected to be limited, reflecting her existing commitments and her reluctance to fully re-enter the political arena. Sources familiar with the discussions suggest that the Biden campaign may capitalize on Michelle Obama’s star power later in the campaign, particularly when swing voters are more engaged.

The Biden campaign has expressed gratitude for the support of both Barack and Michelle Obama in previous elections. Campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz highlighted Michelle Obama’s involvement with When We All Vote, a nonpartisan voter registration group, as an area of alignment with the Biden campaign’s goals.

Despite persistent speculation about her political ambitions, Michelle Obama has consistently downplayed the possibility of seeking public office. In interviews, she has emphasized the challenges of politics and expressed her aversion to questions about running for president.

However, some observers note instances where Michelle Obama has left the door open to the idea of holding public office in the future. Amid speculation about Biden’s potential running mate in 2020, an exchange between CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota and Jill Biden suggested Michelle Obama as a possible candidate. While Jill Biden laughed off the suggestion, Michelle Obama’s allies reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with her response, prompting discussions about crafting a more ambiguous statement regarding her future plans.

Michelle Obama’s partnership with Jill Biden during their time as first and second ladies underscores their close relationship, particularly in initiatives like Joining Forces to support military families. Despite the ongoing speculation, Michelle Obama’s intentions regarding future political involvement remain unclear, leaving room for continued speculation and discussion within political circles.

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2024 Race

Facebook, Instagram and Threads suffer major global outages on Super Tuesday

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Facebook, Instagram, and Threads, the trio of social media platforms under Meta’s umbrella, encountered a significant worldwide outage on Tuesday, disrupting user experiences across the globe.

During the outage, Facebook users found themselves unexpectedly logged out of their accounts and faced difficulties logging back in or changing passwords. Similarly, Instagram users encountered a frustrating “Couldn’t refresh feed” message, while Threads presented itself as a blank page.

The impact of the outage was widespread, with over 560,000 Facebook users initially reporting issues on Downdetector.com, a website that tracks service outages. As the situation progressed, the number of reported outages decreased to approximately 130,000 by shortly after 11 a.m. ET. Likewise, Instagram witnessed a surge in reported problems, with nearly 90,000 users affected at the peak of the outage. However, this figure diminished to around 25,000 users as the situation unfolded.

Meta’s spokesperson, Andy Stone, utilized X, formerly known as Twitter, to acknowledge the ongoing issues, stating, “We’re aware people are having trouble accessing our services. We are working on this now.”

This recent outage isn’t the first time Meta’s platforms have experienced such widespread disruption. In 2021, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, all subsidiaries of Meta, suffered a five-hour outage attributed to a faulty server update, according to statements from the company.

The recurrence of such outages raises concerns about the reliability and robustness of Meta’s infrastructure, particularly given the massive user base relying on its platforms for communication, networking, and content consumption. Users and observers alike are left questioning the adequacy of Meta’s measures to prevent and swiftly address such disruptions in the future.

As Meta works to resolve the current outage and restore normalcy to its platforms, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities inherent in our digital dependencies and the need for continuous vigilance in maintaining online services at scale.

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