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Political Wire logo New Lockdowns Threaten Economy
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Biden Team Begins Raising Money for Transition
Trump Retweet Set Off ‘Five Alarm Fire’
Publisher’s Wife Worked for Melania Trump
Bolton Briefed Trump on Russian Bounties In 2019

COVID-19 Hits Grim Milestones

The coronavirus is continuing to spread like wildfire. The number of cases of COVID-19 worldwide has now passed 10 million and the number of deaths worldwide is 500,000. In the U.S., the number of cases is 2.5 million and the number of deaths is 125,000. American exceptionalism is definitely visible in the data, as it is #1 worldwide in both categories, with twice as many cases and deaths as runner-up Brazil and roughly 30x as many cases and deaths as China, despite China having four times the population of the U.S. Maybe all of Donald Trump's tweets praising Chinese President Xi Jinping's leadership were on target after all.

The biggest hotspots in the U.S. are in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, all of which are likely to be swing states in November. But new cases are up in 36 states and down in only two, Connecticut and Rhode Island. They are stable in the others. The ICU at Texas' largest hospital, the Texas Medical Center in Houston, is full. People calling 911 to report a case of COVID-19 in Houston have to wait an hour to even get an operator. Fifty Houston firefighters have tested positive and 200 are in quarantine. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) is gradually realizing that he has a problem on his hands and has politely asked people to wash their hands and wear masks in public. He also closed the state's bars. But he hasn't ordered any new restrictions.

Florida is also a problem, with 9,500 new cases on Saturday, another new record. Yesterday there were another 8,500 new cases, but it is possible that reporting isn't complete because it was a Sunday. The number of new cases every day is up fivefold from 2 weeks ago. The total number of cases there is now 133,000. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is still in denial. He said: "Really nothing has changed in the past week in terms of, we had a big test dump." Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health at the University of South Florida, didn't exactly agree. Her comment: "Without doing anything differently, we're going to see tens of thousands of new cases every day in short order."

In Arizona, 87% of ICU beds are occupied. There were a record 3,600 cases reported Saturday and 3,900 on Sunday, for a total of over 70,000 so far. As in Florida, the governor, Doug Ducey (R), asked people to stay home if possible and wear masks if not possible, but didn't issue any binding orders. If restaurant staff comes down with COVID-19 in Arizona, the restaurant is legally allowed to stay open, and many have done so. There is not even a requirement to tell diners that a staff member has COVID-19, so contact tracing would be impossible, even if it were done, which it isn't.

For many people, the new rise in infections means that 4 months have been wasted. People have lost their jobs, their businesses, and more, and we are almost back to where we were in the beginning. It is beginning to appear that all those sacrifices were for nothing due to mismanagement at the very top. At some point people are going to be asking why they sacrificed so much for so little, and whose fault is it?

In short, we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic, the U.S. has managed it just about the worst of any country in the world, and large states with Republican governors are the worst in the U.S. Arizona and Florida are especially relevant politically, because both states have an abundance of seniors, many of whom are not happy about how the federal and state governments are handling the crisis, and who may express their discontent at the polls in November (or at a mailbox in October). Currently, we have Joe Biden ahead by 9 points in Florida and 5 in Arizona. Together those states have 40 electoral votes. Arizona has a strong history of absentee voting although Florida does not. If the 2020 results are identical to the 2016 results except for Florida and Arizona turning blue, then Biden gets 272 electoral votes and becomes #46 (assuming there are no faithless electors). We expect to hear from the Supreme Court on that topic this week. Also on abortion and Trump's tax returns. (V)

Trump's Next Problem: Superspreading Superchurches

One of Donald Trump's top priorities is keeping evangelicals in line. If he starts losing them, he's in very deep doo doo (which can spread the virus). One item high on their list is to have (mega)churches reopen. After all, like any business, when they are closed, there is no money coming in. So a month ago, the President ordered the governors to classify churches as essential businesses so they could reopen. Many of the Republican ones did so, churches reopened, and evangelicals were happy. What could go wrong?

A lot. Having hundreds (or thousands) of people gathering indoors and singing loudly in the middle of a pandemic is not what the doctor ordered. Actually, it is precisely what the doctor forbade. Sure enough, churches are now emerging as superspreaders. A superspreading event at one church in Oregon has shut down an entire county. In West Virginia, six new hotspots are due to churches. In Texas, which is among the states with the largest number of new cases, churches are implicated in many outbreaks. Last week, Trump visited a megachurch in Arizona and held a rally for 3,000 maskless teenagers. Check back in a week or two to see how that went.

Now Trump is faced with a problem of his own creation. He can (1) pretend there is no problem, keep the churches open, and let the virus spread out of control in states he needs to win, or (2) anger his base by asking the governors to close the churches again. The former course of action leads to more deaths, which makes him look incompetent. The latter will anger his base, which relies on God, not Anthony Fauci, to save them. It's kind of a lose-lose situation, something Trump is not good at.

Vice President Mike Pence has come up with a solution, though. He has called for people to pray. However, he hasn't specified where they should do it. Smart, no? You don't get to be the veep unless you have a lot on the ball, after all. (V)

Fox News Kept Millions in the Dark about COVID-19

A new survey shows quantitatively what many people had intuitively understood: People who watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh are poorly informed about the dangers of the coronavirus and don't take measures to protect themselves.

Those people who watched mainstream television or read national newspapers got a fairly accurate view of the situation. Accordingly, they protected themselves as best they could. Those people who got their news from Fox thought that the Chinese government created the virus in a lab, that vitamin C cured COVID-19, and that government agencies were exaggerating the seriousness of the pandemic in order to defeat Donald Trump. The consequence is that they didn't take steps to protect themselves. In fact, they helped spread the disease even wider.

As late as March 6, a "medical contributor" was (falsely) telling Sean Hannity's audience that the virus was no worse than the flu. Now, 125,000 deaths later, it is clear that it is not like the flu. Tucker Carlson was slightly more honest and his viewers took protective measures before Hannity's.

Fox, naturally, rejected the survey and claimed that the underlying data was chosen unfairly. The authors said that Fox is wrong because they read every single transcript of the shows aired between late January and late March and knew exactly what Hannity and Carlson and the others said. (V)

Republican State Legislatures Are Trying to Reduce Absentee Voting during a Pandemic

Absentee ballots are a hot topic right now, so state legislatures are taking action on that front—trying to make it harder to vote by mail. Fortunately, they don't always succeed. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) wants to mail an absentee ballot request form (not an actual ballot) to all 7 million Georgia voters. However, many members of the state legislature oppose making voting easier, so last Wednesday a bill to stop Raffensperger, SB 463, was approved by the House Governmental Affairs Committee along a party-line vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. However, the bill never got a vote by the full House, and the Georgia legislature adjourned for the year on Friday, so nothing in Georgia law will now prevent Raffensperger from sending every voter a ballot request form.

In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), like his colleague in Georgia, does not want an election disaster on his watch, so he is also a big fan of voting by mail. He even told both Donald Trump and Joe Biden to shut up about election integrity. Republican state legislators don't care. They wrote a bill, HB 680, which banned LaRose from sending every voter an absentee ballot application form. It also banned early voting in the three days before the election, including the Sunday before, when black churches often arrange for buses to take parishioners to the polls. That particular amendment didn't have enough votes, so the language was struck. However, the final bill shortens the period during which voters can request an absentee ballot and also prohibits LaRose from sending voters post-paid envelopes along with absentee ballots, thus forcing voters to put a stamp on the return envelope. Many voters, especially younger ones, almost never use the postal mail and are unlikely to have a stamp at home, forcing them to go to the post office and buy one. The legislators' not-so-secret hope is that many young voters will not realize that the envelope is not post-paid and will mail it without a stamp, in which case the USPS won't deliver it.

In Iowa, Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) also wanted to send all voters an absentee ballot application, so the Republican-controlled state legislature sprung into action and wrote a bill prohibiting that. The bill failed, so Plan B was to insert language into the state budget toughening the state's voter ID requirements.

What we seem to have, then, is a situation in which Republican secretaries of state are fine with trying to make voting easier, but Republican-controlled state legislatures are trying to thwart them. Part of the difference is that the secretaries of state are personally responsible for the election. If they botch it, at reelection time both their primary and general-election opponents are going to say: "His main job was running elections and he failed miserably. Time for someone new." In contrast, no one is going to run against a state senator saying: "He voted for a bill to reduce early voting by 3 days."

Oddly enough, in the U.S. Senate, several Republican senators have spoken out in favor of absentee ballots. Sen. Deb. Fischer (R-NE) said: "It's worked well in Nebraska. We had tremendous turnout in the primary in May." Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said he is "supportive of states expanding mail-in voting." Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that the process of voting through absentee ballots has worked well in his state. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) said she trusts mail-in voting. In Utah, every voter is automatically sent an absentee ballot and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said the system "works great." U.S. senators are much higher profile than state senators, so maybe they don't want the flak that would come with opposing absentee voting during a pandemic. In any event, although Donald Trump doesn't like absentee voting, not everyone in his party agrees. (V)

GRU Paid Taliban Bounties for Killing American Soldiers

The GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) is at it again. Probably it never stopped, really. In 2016, it interfered with the election to help Donald Trump. Now it is paying Taliban terrorists a bounty for every American soldier they kill in Afghanistan. U.S. Intelligence believes that the GRU has indeed paid out some of bounties. This assessment is partly based on information gotten from captured terrorists. Democrats are demanding that Russia be sanctioned, but neither Donald Trump nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is much interested in doing anything about it.

Not surprisingly, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) lit into Trump for being beholden to Vladimir Putin. She said yesterday: "With him [Trump], all roads lead to Putin. I don't know what the Russians have on the president, politically, personally, or financially. This is as bad as it gets and yet the president will not confront the Russians on this score."

Ever the hawk, former NSA and current author, John Bolton, has advised Trump to take "very severe measures" against Russia in retaliation. He also said Trump has been negligent for not taking action against Russia. In one interview, Bolton said he knows of no kompromat that Putin might have on Trump, but he said that Trump's view of the world and his love of authoritarians is worse.

Trump has denied knowing about the bounties. It is conceivable that this is true because he refuses to read the presidential daily briefings he is given every morning and doesn't want intelligence officers to explain anything to him.

A move such as paying bounties for American deaths would be an escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan. Most American presidents would be incensed by such a move on the part of Russia, but Trump doesn't seem to be bothered by it. Will it hurt him politically? Probably not, because Afghanistan isn't much in the news right now and most voters probably don't even know that there are American troops there now. Even if they do know, they probably don't know why.

Nevertheless, the Lincoln Project has managed to turn Trump's indifference to American soldiers being killed into an ad:

Will it swing a lot of voters? Probably not, but in states with a lot of veterans, like Arizona, if it ends up being close, a few thousand angry veterans could make a difference. (V)

Trump Retweets "White Power" Video

Around 8:00 A.M. yesterday, Donald Trump retweeted a video of a confrontation between pro-Trump and anti-Trump folks at the retirement community The Villages in Florida. He added: "Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe [Biden] is shot. See you soon!!!" It did not take long before anyone and everyone noticed that, within the first 10 seconds of the video, a Trump supporter is shouting "white power!" And so, after just a couple of hours, the President deleted the tweet (probably illegally, as he's required to retain all public communications). In any event, the Internet is forever, so here is the video:

Again, you only have to watch the first 10 seconds to hear the key moment.

John Bolton, appearing on the Sunday news shows, said that the President's attention span is so bad, he might not have noticed the "white power" bit. Nonsense. If it was a minute-and-a-half into the video, or was understated, then maybe. But it was loud and clear, and just seconds into the clip. This was a clear twofer. For the price of one tweet, Trump: (1) created a distraction from more substantive news stories, like the one about the Russians (see above), and (2) sent the racists in his base a message that he's still with them. It's a new kind of dog whistle, actually. Instead of encoding his racially tinged language, Trump puts overtly racist sentiments out there, and then creates plausible deniability by deleting the tweet and claiming it was all a big misunderstanding. Who said you can't teach an old dog whistler some new tricks? (Z)

Can Trump Beat the Florida Convention Jinx?

Four national political conventions have been held in Florida. None of them have gone well. Now with the coronavirus surging in Florida and protests everywhere, will that trend hold?

In 1968, Miami Beach landed the Republican National Convention, in no small part because the nominee, Richard Nixon, had a house on Key Biscayne, close to his friend Bebe Rebozo, founder of the Key Biscayne Bank, which was known as a money pipeline for the Mafia. Although the temperature was 87 degrees Fahrenheit all day, and only slightly lower at night, Miami Beach (which is a separate city from Miami and is located on an island off the Florida coast) had a key advantage over other locations: Access to the island was possible only over three bridges, which the police could easily block to keep demonstrators away.

That worked, but in a black neighborhood of Miami proper, tensions were simmering and the police were everywhere. When a car with a racist George Wallace bumper sticker drove through, people turned it over and set it on fire. Then began a wave of arson and looting of white-owned businesses. Gov. Claude Kirk, the first Republican elected governor in Florida since Reconstruction, came over and calmed the crowd. He promised to return in the morning to listen to their grievances. He was a no show the next day. People were insulted and a riot started. Police showed up with a truck that sprayed tear gas. In the end, three were dead and dozens were injured.

The 1972 Republican National Convention was scheduled for San Diego, but that plan was messed up when a memo from telecommunications mega-firm ITT leaked out. It said the corporation would pay for the convention in return for Nixon making the antitrust case against it go away. Nixon concluded that wasn't great PR, so he decided to go back to Miami Beach, near his winter home. He didn't care that the Democrats were also holding their convention in Miami Beach that year, the last time both parties partied in the same city.

Herding Democrats is like herding cats. Under a rule that nominee George McGovern supported, Democrats nominated 75 challengers to his vice presidential choice, Sen. Thomas Eagleton. The fight over the #2 slot pushed McGovern's acceptance speech to 3 a.m. The only place in America where it was seen in real time was Guam. In the end, McGovern would have been better off with one of the other 75, as Eagleton was forced off the ticket because he had been in mental hospitals on and off at various times during his life.

Meanwhile, large numbers of protesters showed up for the Republican Convention a few weeks later, including hippies, Marxists, gay rights advocates, Vietnam vets, members of the Black Panthers, and much more. The Miami Beach police didn't want trouble, so they created free speech zones where the protesters were free to spout off anything they wanted—far from the convention site. When Yippie leader Jerry Rubin said he would march 10,000 naked people down the main drag, the police chief called Rubin's bluff by saying he would be one of them. The march didn't happen.

But on the day that Nixon was to give his acceptance speech, 3,000 protesters went to the convention site, chanting: "One, two, three, four, we don't want your f**king war." They didn't get into the convention center, but the media had plenty of footage of dirty smelly hippies, who came to be identified with the Democratic Party. Nixon won 49 states. It was hardly worth the trouble. Two years later he resigned.

In 2012, the Republicans came back to Florida, mostly because a wealthy developer, Al Austin, arranged for his rich friends to pay for the convention if it was held in Tampa. The city knew security would be the key, so the chief of police brought in 1,900 officers from outside Tampa. The city was locked down, which was bad news for the only non-sports thing Tampa is known for: its strip clubs. It was probably also bad for the alternate prostitutes, since the delegates were basically locked in their hotels. Some of those hotels were very far from Tampa, which mostly showcased Tampa's serious transportation problem. The Florida delegation, which was halved because Florida broke the rules and had its primary too early, was housed 30 miles from downtown, an area the media referred to as the convention's Siberia.

There were no riots, in part because the police had not only infiltrated the protest groups, they took over the leadership of them. But the other factor was Tropical Storm Isaac, which led 16 busloads of protesters to reverse course and go home. The storm caused the convention to be delayed by a day, but then it miraculously moved on to Louisiana. At the convention, Clint Eastwood stood next to an empty chair on stage pretending that President Barack Obama was sitting in it. It didn't help. Obama beat Mitt Romney in the Sunshine State. One participant in 2012 was Lenny Curry, then chairman of the Florida GOP and now mayor of Jacksonville. Can Curry run a smooth convention in the middle of (1) a pandemic, (2) social unrest, and (3) hurricane season? We'll see in August. (V)

Another Take on 2024

The race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is on. The starting gun was the op-ed written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) advocating using the Army against Americans to restore order in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder. While the 2024 campaign is under the radar, make no mistake, it has already begun.

Of course, handicapping it now is tough, since a lot depends on who wins the 2020 election and by how much. If Donald Trump wins in a landslide, the Trumpiest candidate is going to have a head start. On the other hand, if a blue tsunami washes away most of the Republican Party, it may take a different kind of candidate to try to rebuild it from the debris. This piece in the Washington Post argues that there will be four lanes in 2024, with candidates competing for victory in their own lane before the final round in which the winners of the lanes slug it out. Here are the lanes:

  • The Imperial Successors: These are the cleaned-up Trumpiest candidates. No, Mexicans aren't rapists, but we still don't want them. Miller Lite beer once ran ads touting: "Tastes great, less filling." The candidates in this lane will run under the slogan: "Trump's great, less tweeting." These candidates will argue that while Trump's personality was abrasive, his policies on immigration, tariffs, China, judges, deregulation, and more were great and need to be continued, just with the volume turned down a bit. Leading candidates here are Donald Trump Jr., the Mikes (Pence and Pompeo), and Ron DeSantis. Of course, if Trump is wiped out badly in 2020, these folks are going to have a steep climb.

  • The Restoration Crew: These presidential wannabees are going to pretend Trump never happened and they want to continue the policies of Jeb! after his successful two-term presidency. In other words, they want the 2024 primaries to be a rerun of 2016, but without Trump. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will surely be available to answer their party's call, even if it is audible only to dogs. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) might also hear the siren song.

  • The Young Reformers: These potential candidates are all younger and see that if the Republican Party doesn't change fairly radically, it will go the way of the Whigs. They believe that appealing only to aging Fox News viewers is long-term suicide, since young people are strongly Democratic. The main contenders here are a quartet of young Republican senators from Southern and border states: Marco Rubio (FL), Tim Scott (SC), Josh Hawley (MO), and Cotton. In our view, Rubio demonstrated in 2016 that he has the wrong stuff, but maybe he has learned from that humiliating experience. We also don't see Scott, who is black, leading a party where white supremacists are a significant force. But Hawley and Cotton could be attractive to people who want to see a fresh face on top of the ticket. Both of these senators are very right-wing, and it is too early to tell if that is a feature or a bug.

  • The Moderate Wildcards: It Trump is crushed in November and the Democrats pick up 10 seats in the Senate and 40 in the House, some Republicans may conclude that the old magic isn't working anymore and they really need to change course and become more like the moderate Republican senators from the Northeast in the 1960s—for example, Jacob Javits (NY) or Lowell Weicker (CT). Only then do they have a chance to win back the suburbs and young voters. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is a young woman with middle-of-the-road politics from a blue-collar district who defended Trump during the impeachment hearings. Republican governors Charlie Baker (MA), Phil Scott (VT), and Larry Hogan (MD) also fit this mold.

The numerical ranking the article gives is:

  1. Josh Hawley
  2. Tom Cotton & Nikki Haley (tied)
  4. Mike Pence
  5. Donald Trump Jr.
  6. Marco Rubio
  7. Mike Pompeo
  8. Ted Cruz
  9. Tim Scott
10. Rick Scott & Elise Stefanik (tied)

Hawley/Haley 2024 has a nice ring to it, but if Republicans really want to do something about the gender gap, then maybe Haley/Hawley 2024. If Nikki doesn't like haw that sounds, she could switch back to her maiden name and we'd have Hawley/Randhawa.

The candidates may change over the next few years, with some being eliminated due to blunders but others emerging, possibly due to a lucky break. But the lanes are likely to stay the same. Time will tell which lanes become more relevant, in part due to what happens in November. (V)

The 2020 Census Will Change the Distribution of Electoral Votes for 2024

Once the 2020 census is completed, the distribution of House seats will change and thus also the number of electoral votes each state will have. In this way, population changes also change the distribution of political power. Although we don't have the census results yet, the Bureau of the Census from time to time releases projections of which states will gain House seats and which ones will lose them. Here is a map of the expected changes.

2024 electoral vote map changes

The big winners are Texas (+3) and Florida (+2). Florida will hereby pass New York and become the state with the third largest number of seats, after California and Texas. In 1950, New York had 45 House seats (soon to be 28) and Florida had 6 (soon to be 31). Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon are expected to gain one seat each. Doing some math here and you see that some other states have to lose a total of 10 House seats. Ten states will each lose one seat, namely, Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. The other 33 states and D.C. will see no change.

If in 2024 the parties win the same states they won in 2016, the net change is +3 for the Republicans. Here is the map with the 2016 results applied to the 2024 electoral votes:

2024 map with 2016 election results

In this map, the Republicans go from 306 EVs to 309 EVs, so is the new map an improvement for Republicans? Not necessarily. California, Illinois, New York, and Rhode Island losing an electoral vote each is definitely a hit for the blue team. Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania are probably hits for the blue team as well. However, Alabama and West Virginia each losing a vote each is a hit for the red team.

The biggest gain is the +3 for Texas, but this is not an unmixed blessing for the Republicans. The new people moving in aren't all Republicans and the Latino population is growing. For the Republicans, having Texas get more clout is nice, but not if it suddenly becomes a swing state. If Texas ever turns blue (again), that is the end of the current iteration of the Republican Party. To some extent, the gain in Montana could also be problematical. It is much less of a red state than some people think. The governor and one of the senators are Democrats and if current polling holds, the other senator will be a Democrat in January as well. We can easily see Montana joining the ranks of North Carolina, Florida, and possibly Texas as key swing states in 2024. (V)

Don't Forget What Is Going on Downballot

While most of the media are focused on the races for the White House and Senate, there are also important races going on downballot. Here are some of the more significant ones:

  • Abolishing the police in a Georgia County: Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by a police officer for jogging while black. In November, voters in Glynn County, GA, where it happened, will get to vote on whether they want to abolish the police department and leave law enforcement to the local sheriff instead. Formally abolishing the police department certainly sends a message to police departments elsewhere that killing unarmed black men can have real consequences.

  • A black female D.A. is facing a tough race in L.A.: There are over 2,000 races in November for sheriff or district attorney, but none higher profile than the one in Los Angeles. There, black female tough-on-crime Los Angeles D.A. Jackie Lacey is being challenged from the left by George Gascón, a former D.A. from San Francisco who has moved south. Lacey often refuses to prosecute rogue cops and has sent 22 people—all of them people of color—to death row. Gascón opposes most of Lacey's agenda. He wants to end cash bail and have independent investigations of police officers who use excessive force. Lacey entered the race as the favorite, but the ground is shifting under her feet and now the Los Angeles Times has endorsed Gascón.

  • Joe Arpaio Wants His Job Back: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio built what he called a "concentration camp" for prisoners and made them wear pink underwear and striped suits. He also misused tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and was a big fan of racial profiling. Eventually, the voters had enough and kicked him out in 2016. In 2017, he was found in contempt of court for refusing years of court orders demanding that he stop his racial profiling. Donald Trump didn't think that it was fair that someone who engaged in racial profiling should go to prison, even one where prisoners got white underpants, so he pardoned Arpaio. Now a free man, the 88-year-old Arpaio wants his old job back. Whether an 88-year-old can jump on his horse and ride off fast enough to catch the local outlaws and after he finds them draw his six shooter fast enough is something the voters will get to decide. That said, voters didn't like what Arpaio was selling the last two times he appeared on a ballot (sheriff reelection in 2016 and U.S. Senate primary in 2018), so the odds are he stays retired.

  • Can Democrats Break the Kansas Supermajority?: For a decade, Republicans have run the show in Kansas. In 2018, voters elected a Democrat, Laura Kelly, as governor, but Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature, so they can pass bills, let the governor veto them, then override the vetos. If Democrats can pick up one seat in the state House or three in the state Senate, they will break the supermajorities and force the Republicans to negotiate with the governor. The criminal justice system is one of many areas where the Democrats will force changes if they can eliminate the Republicans' ability to override vetos.

  • Some States May Ban Slavery: The 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865, but news traveled slowly in those days and not everyone has gotten the word yet. The first section reads:
    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    Note that "except as a punishment for crime" stuff. Many states have convict leasing, prison labor, and chain gangs, all based on this exemption, which is also present in the state constitutions of 20 states. Voters in Nebraska, Utah, and maybe Minnesota will get to have their say on slavery in November.

  • Californians will vote on cash bail: The cash bail system in use in most states generally means that wealthy defendants can post bail and go free until their trial whereas poor ones sit in prison for months awaiting their trial. In many cases, that leaves their families with no source of income, possibly impoverishing them, even if the defendant is eventually acquited. In 2018, then-governor Jerry Brown signed a bill abolishing cash bail, but it has never been implemented, in part because the alternative—letting judges decide whether to release a defendant or not—could result in racial profiling. So, which system is better? In November, California voters will get to decide.

  • The evil weed is on the ballot: Since 2012, over 30 states have at least partially decriminalized the use of marijuana. Its sale and use still violates federal law, but the feds rarely enforce the law, so de facto, if it is legal in a state, it is usually allowed. In November, voters in New Jersey, Mississippi, and South Dakota get to have their say.

  • So are magic mushrooms: Mary Jane isn't the only mind-altering substance on the ballot. In Oregon, voters will get their say on naturally occurring psychedelics, such as peyote and ayahuasca. These are currently illegal, but the voters could change that. Peyote, in particular, is used in religious ceremonies by some Native American tribes. Also here, federal law prohibits their possession and sale, but as with marijuana, enforcement is largely left to the states, so if Oregon voters say yes to these very special plants, they will be easily available next year, feds or no feds. Legalization fits in well with "defunding the police," since it means the state and local police will no longer have to use resources to go after mushroom consumers, and those resources can be removed from their budgets. The bill also creates a system for treating addiction, funded by a tax on marijuana and natural hallucinogens.

  • Victims' Rights Are Up in Kentucky: Many states have implemented some kind of laws to give the victims of certain crimes a say in the prosecution of the suspects. These typically include legal protection for the victim from the accused and compensation from people convicted of crimes. Kentucky doesn't have such a law yet, but it could if the voters approve it in November.

  • Incarceration: Until recently, Oklahoma had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. It still is #2 among the states and the sentences are harsher than almost everywhere. A question that might come up for a vote in November would reduce the punishment for some nonviolent crimes for people who do not already have a conviction for a violent felony. However, it is not a sure thing to be on the ballot because the secretary of state and attorney general have to first approve the initiative.

These are only a few of the ballot initiatives. There are many more, of course. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun28 Sunday Mailbag
Jun27 Saturday Q&A
Jun26 Time for a COVID-180?
Jun26 Legal Matters, Part I: Obamacare
Jun26 Legal Matters, Part II: A Win for Trump
Jun26 Legal Matters, Part III: A Loss for Trump
Jun26 A Tale of Two Conventions, Part I: the Republicans
Jun26 A Tale of Two Conventions, Part II: the Democrats
Jun26 Democrats Are Liking Biden's Bunker Strategy
Jun26 Kooky Candidate Watch: Winnie Heartstrong
Jun26 COVID-19 Diaries, Friday Edition
Jun26 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun26 Today's Senate Polls
Jun25 Biden Leads Nationally by 14 Points
Jun25 Poll: Trump's Approval for His Handling of the Coronavirus Is A Record Low
Jun25 Flynn Is In Like Flynn
Jun25 Zelinsky Testifies that the Justice Dept. Is Politicized
Jun25 Obama Raises Over $11 Million for Biden
Jun25 Trump's Hold on Republican Senators is Ebbing
Jun25 Second Presidential Debate Is Moved to Florida
Jun25 Is Trump Too Racist Even for Republicans?
Jun25 Jacksonville Voters Don't Want the Republican National Convention
Jun25 What If Trump Loses But Refuses to Concede?
Jun25 Lincoln Project Supports Bullock
Jun25 Trump's Brother Sues to Block Niece's Book
Jun25 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun25 Today's Senate Polls
Jun24 The Results Are (Partly) In
Jun24 Trump "Rallies" in Arizona
Jun24 What Is Going on with Trump?
Jun24 Avoiding the Mere Appearance of Impropriety...
Jun24 Compared to Outright, Hands-Down Improper Behavior
Jun24 Is Hickenlooper Blowing a Layup?
Jun24 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun23 Berman Firing Isn't Going Away
Jun23 China Trade Deal Is Definitely Off, Unless It's Not
Jun23 Trump Extends Immigration Restrictions
Jun23 Trump Will "Rally" In Phoenix Today
Jun23 Bolton Book Drops Today
Jun23 Trump Sticks His Foot Where the Sun Does Shine
Jun23 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun23 Today's Senate Polls
Jun22 The Economy Is Back--and So Is COVID-19
Jun22 The Butt of the Joke
Jun22 Biden Outraises Trump in May
Jun22 Biden Is Nibbling Away at Trump's Evangelical Base
Jun22 Kentucky Primary May Be Chaotic
Jun22 New York City Area Also Has Competitive House Primaries Tomorrow
Jun22 Green Party Is Set to Nominate Hawkins
Jun22 Democratic Unity Is Fraying Already