Now we know.
Now we know that Republicans will tell absurd lies to rationalize what they are doing. Thanks to the Journal Times newspaper in Wisconsin’s Racine County, we have video of Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the State Assembly, as he took a break from working the polls. Vos, as the paper noted, was “wearing a mask, gloves and full-length gown.” But that didn’t stop him from declaring that “you are incredibly safe to go out.” Especially if, unlike most voters, you’re wearing all that gear.
And now we know that the right to vote will get no protection from the five right-wing Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court, who issued an election-eve decision refusing to extend the deadline for absentee ballots. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted acidly in her dissent, “The Court’s order requires absentee voters to postmark their ballots by election day, April 7 — i.e., tomorrow — even if they did not receive their ballots by that date. That is a novel requirement.” In case the conservative justices who wrote the voter-suppression ukase missed her irony, she added: “A voter cannot deliver for postmarking a ballot she has not received.”
We know that this fall’s election is in deep jeopardy. We have been warned that Trump, the GOP and the party bosses in robes on the U.S. Supreme Court are perfectly willing to obstruct the right to vote of those most likely to vote Democratic.
Outside Wisconsin, Tuesday’s vote was of interest mostly as a Democratic primary battle between former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
But what mattered to Republicans was a contest for the state Supreme Court that was nonpartisan in name only. Conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly faced a vigorous challenge from Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky. The GOP wants to keep the state court conservative, and the court did its part by blocking Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s last-minute effort Monday to suspend in-person voting on Tuesday and postpone the election to June 9. The vote was 4 to 2 along ideological lines, with Kelly recusing himself. Here again, “justice” was entirely partisan.
There are two lessons here. The first is that Congress must pass legislation as part of the next economic rescue package that will require mail-in ballots in every state and finance the effort with federal money. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) insist that they will fight for nationwide mail voting.
It would be better if it went into what they are calling the "interim bill” being negotiated now. But both Schumer and Pelosi insist they will soon call Trump’s bluff and challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): Are they so invested in voter suppression that they will block all other relief efforts just to keep access to voting out of a rescue bill?
It’s also time to build outside pressure. Biden and Sanders, who need to show signs of coming together now that Sanders is suspending his campaign, should hold a joint video news conference with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on behalf of Warren’s comprehensive bill to provide $4 billion for postage-free mail ballots.
Her proposal also includes a ban on onerous voting requirements, hazard pay for poll workers and an end to voter purges at a moment when it will be hard for voters to defend their rights. Because Warren builds on an earlier Klobuchar proposal, both former presidential candidates should stand together.
As for conservatives on the Supreme Court, this was strike three when it comes to election rigging, after the Citizens United decision opening the floodgates to big money and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Liberals have to abandon their skittishness about remedies (such as expanding the size of the court) to battle both conservative court-packing and right-wing judicial activism.
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