Monday, February 6, 2023

SC Republicans Appeals Redistricting Case To Supreme Court

A Federal Appeals Court, has Denied South Carolina Republicans’ Motion for a Stay, in the ongoing Challenge over the State’s Congressional District Map.

Leading GOP Lawmakers will now take their Case to the U.S. Supreme Court, in an attempt to avoid Redrawing the Map, that a Three-Judge Federal Panel last month, deemed Unconstitutional as a Discriminatory Racial Gerrymander.

The Judges Ruled in early January, that the Boundaries passed last year, by the Republican-dominated State Legislature, marked an intentional Splitting of Black Voters in South Carolina’s 1st District, which runs from Charleston to Hilton Head Island.

The Feb. 4th Order postponed the Date by which New Maps may be presented. If the Supreme Court takes the Case and affirms the Federal Panel’s Ruling, the State’s Coastal 1st District will Not be Redrawn, until 30 days after the High Court’s Final Decision. The Panel had previously ordered Lawmakers to submit New Maps by the end of March.

Political Control over the Seat has seesawed in recent Elections. In 2018, Joe Cunningham became the first South Carolina Democrat to Flip a U.S. House Seat in 30 years. But Republican Nancy Mace beat Cunningham by just over 1 Percentage point in the following Cycle, and won Reelection this past November by 14 Percentage points, under the New District Lines.

After the New Congressional Maps were Approved, Civil Rights groups swiftly filed a Lawsuit, charging the State Legislature with choosing “perhaps the worst option of the available maps” for Black Voters.

The Jan. 6th Ruling found that Map drawers Violated federal Law, by using Race to achieve the Partisan Goal, of making the 1st District safer for Republicans. The Judges wrote that GOP Legislative Leaders pulled Black Voters out of the 1st District and packed them into the 6th District, where Rep. Jim Clyburn (D), the only Democrat currently in the State’s Congressional Delegation, has served for 30 years.

In a Jan. 27th Motion for a Stay, Lawyers for the State House, Senate, and State Election Commission, argued that the Decision Failed “to disentangle race from politics.” The Lawyers wrote the Civil Rights groups Failed to prove Race was the “predominant consideration” for the Map Makers. Instead, the Lawyers reiterated, the GOP-led General Assembly Passed Maps, that sought to maintain the State’s 6-1 split of Republicans to Democrats and Protect Incumbents.

“(T)he Enacted Plan limits the ability of all Democrats — African American and white — to form a winning political coalition in District 1,” the Lawyers wrote.

During the Eight-day Trial in late November 2022, Civil Rights’ groups Lawyers, presented Testimony fromEexperts whose data showed the Maps were Racially Discriminatory. In a Feb. 3rd Filing, Opposing the Motion to stay, the Lawyers argued that the Maps still treated Black Voters differently than White Voters, of the same Political Party.

Because the Panel found that African Americans’ fundamental Voting Rights had been Violated, the Judges said they would Not Grant a Stay, which would have lifted their Ban on any New Elections before a New Map had been adopted.

“The Court has every hope and expectation that the appeal process can be completed and a remedial plan adopted before the 2024 primary and general elections,” the Judges wrote. “However, on the outside chance the process is not completed in time for the 2024 primary and general election schedule, the election for Congressional District No. 1 should not be conducted until a remedial plan is in place.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Newly Proposed NY Assembly Maps For 2024

The New York Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), released the First Draft, of the New, New York State Assembly District Maps, for the 2024 Elections.

I have heard Concerns, about the most recent Redistricting Proposal, from across the Districts and New York City.

The Assembly will be weighting heavily the Public's Input on the Proposed Lines, and I encourage you to Voice your Comments and concerns to the NYIRC.

CLICK HERE, to Comment and Take Part at Meetings.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Federal Judge Says Constitutional Right To Abortion May Still Exist

A Federal Judge in Washington, D.C., suggested Monday, that there may be a Constitutional Right to Abortion, baked into the 13th Amendment, an area she said went Unexplored by the Supreme Court, in its Decision last year, Overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a Pending Criminal Case against several Anti-Abortion Activists, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, said the Supreme Court’s Ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concluded only that the 14th Amendment included No Right to Abortion, but stopped short of Definitively ruling out other aspects of the Constitution that might apply.

“[I]t is entirely possible that the Court might have held in Dobbs that some other provision of the Constitution provided a right to access reproductive services had that issue been raised,” the Judge wrote. “However, it was not raised.”

Kollar-Kotelly noted that there is some Legal Scholarship suggesting that the 13th Amendment, which was Ratified at the End of the Civil War, and sought to Ban Slavery and “Involuntary Servitude”, provides just such a Right. She is asking the Parties in the Criminal Case, which involves Charges of Blocking Access to Abortion Clinics, to Present Arguments by mid-March.

In particular, the Judge is asking them to address ”whether the scope of Dobbs is in fact confined to the Fourteenth Amendment” and “whether, if so, any other provision of the Constitution could confer a right to abortion as an original matter, such that Dobbs may or may not be the final pronouncement on the issue, leaving an open question.”

Kollar-Kotelly’s Request, stems from a year-old Case against 10 Defendants, who are Charged with conspiring to Block Access to a Washington, D.C., Abortion Clinic.

One of those Defendants, Lauren Handy, contended that the Conspiracy Charge is No longer Legitimate, because the Dobbs Decision took Congress out of the business of making Laws related to Abortion Access.

“There is no longer a federal constitutional interest to protect, and Congress lacks jurisdiction,” Handy’s Attorneys wrote. “The Dobbs court did not indicate that there is no longer a constitutional right to abortion; the court has made clear there never was.”

Kollar-Kotelly, an Appointee of former President Clinton, indicated that she viewed this Position as overly broad. Dobbs, she noted, confined its Analysis to the 14th Amendment alone, although she Conceded it contains Sweeping Statements that could lead One to conclude the Justices were convinced Nothing in the Constitution protects Abortion Rights.

“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,” Justice Samuel Alito declared in the Dobbs Majority Opinion, which was endorsed by Four other Justices.

However, Kollar-Kotelly said that Statement may merely be a “heuristic” and the Legal effect of the Supreme Court Ruling may be Narrower.

“The ‘issue’ before the Court in Dobbs was not whether any provision of the Constitution provided a right to abortion. Rather, the question before the Court in Dobbs was whether the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution provided such a right,” she wrote. “That is why neither the majority nor the dissent in Dobbs analyzed anything but the Fourteenth Amendment. In fact, on the Court’s initial review, not a single amicus brief mentioned anything but the Fourteenth Amendment and the unratified Equal Rights Amendment.“

Beyond the 13th Amendment Argument that Kollar-Kotelly floated, several Jewish Organizations have filed Lawsuits, arguing that Religious Freedom Protections, in the First Amendment, or State Constitutions, may extend to Abortion Rights.

A Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple, has also filed Lawsuits contending that Abortion Restrictions in other States, Violate the group’s Religious Freedom Rights.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

NC Supreme Court To Rehear Election Cases

A recently flipped State Supreme Court, could have substantial implications on Voter ID Rules and Redistricting in North Carolina.

Republicans earned a 5-2 Majority on the Court in the November, 2022 Election, after Republicans Richard Dietz and Trey Allen, Defeated Democrats Lucy Inman and Sam Ervin IV, respectively. Prior to the New Justices beginning their Term, and when Democrats still had a 4-3 Majority, the Court ruled that Republican Lawmakers Unconstitutionally discriminated against Black Voters by passing a Law that requires Voter ID in 2018.

The Court at that time also ruled, that Republican Lawmakers Gerrymandered its Districts against Democrats, and needed to Redraw its State Senate lines. The Congressional Map, which was drawn by Trial Judges because the Map drawn by Republican Lawmakers was Gerrymandered, was upheld in that Ruling.

Legislators are set to Redraw the Congressional Districts ahead of 2024.

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up Moore v. Harper, which stems from the North Caroline State House Speaker, Timothy Moore (R-111th District), Challenging the State Supreme Court’s Decisio,n to throw out the Legislature’s Congressional Map.

Republican Legislators argued that the State Court, had extremely Limited Authority to Police the Legislature on Federal Election matters, a Theory known as the “Independent State Legislature” Theory. The U.S. Supreme Court seemed poised to Reject, a robust reading of that Theory during its December, 2022, Hearing of the Case, and a Decision is expected by June, 2023.

But those same Republican Leaders, the Ones who said that there’s Little to No room for State Courts to Review Election Laws, turned back to the State Court to Review those Laws.

Republican Legislative Leaders last month, asked the Court to Revisit the Voter ID and Redistricting Cases. Moore at the time said that following the November 2022 Election, Voters “clearly rejected the judicial activism of the outgoing majority.”

On Friday, the State Supreme Court Voted along Party Lines to rehear the Cases on March 14th. The decision to Rehear the Case on such a quick Time frame “raises the question whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Moore v. Harper could become moot.”

Democratic Associate Justice Anita Earls, wrote in her Dissent, that Rehearings are Reserved for “rare occasions when the Court was initially unaware of material evidence already in the record or makes an obvious and indisputable error.” The Facts of the Case are the same, she argued, the only Change has been the Majority composition of the Court. “Not only does today’s display of raw partisanship call into question the impartiality of the courts, but it erodes the notion that the judicial branch has the institutional capacity to be a principled check on legislation that violates constitutional and human rights,” she wrote.

Democrats have been trying to Reform Redistricting in the State, by proposing an Independent Commission, rather than having the Legislature control the Process. The latest push, the Fair Maps Act, would place the Question to Voters as a Constitutional Amendment. But given the Republican Majority, it’s unlikely it will make it on the Ballot.

“It’s just unfortunate, because we’re going to be locked into gerrymandered maps again, and it’s hard to overcome those,” said State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-61st District), One of the sponsors of the Fair Maps Act. “I think this is a signal that no decision that’s been reached by a North Carolina Supreme Court is going to be looked at as precedent if the current makeup of the court disagrees with the decision for whatever reason.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Sunday, February 5, 2023

GA Special Grand Jury Trump Case Update

Geaogia's Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D), called a Special Purpose Grand Jury, to investigation Trump and his allies’ attempts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 Presidential Election Results, has been underway for nearly Two years, and its Indictments are likely to come soon.

Here is a Summary of Charges that the Special Grand Jury, may recommend:

Election Related Crimes: Solicitation to Commit Election Fraud (GA Code Ann. §21-2-604(a)); Intentional Interference with performance of Election Duties (GA Code Ann. §21-2-597); Interference with Primaries and Elections (GA Code Ann. §21-2-566); and Conspiracy to commit Election Fraud (GA Code Ann. §21-2-603).

While the elements of these Charges vary, the crux of each Offense is that through conduct such as Trump’s Call to the Secretary of State’s Chief Investigator Frances Watson, urging her to find Fraud by departing from established Audit procedures, his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) demanding, and at times Threatening, that he “find 11,780 votes,” and the orchestration of the Fake Electors scheme, Trump pressured Georgia Officials to Change the Lawful Outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election in Georgia. The full extent of Trump’s actions before and after the Election provides clear and consistent intent to Solicit and Pressure Government Officials to Reverse the Election results.

Non-Election Related Crimes: Making False Statements (GA Code Ann. § 16-10-20); Improperly influencing Witnesses (GA Code Ann. § 16-10-93); Forgery in the First degree (GA Code Ann. 16-9-1); Criminal Solicitation (GA Code Ann. § 16-4-7); False Swearing (GA Code Ann. § 16-10-71)

Trump is alleged to have repeatedly Lied about the 2020 Election to Georgia Officials and to have used that Misleading conduct, as well as Intimidation and Threats, to push them to Change the Election outcome. Trump may have Committed the Crime of False Statements and improperly influencing Government Officials, when he repeatedly told Raffensperger that he Won the Election, as well as when he listed numerous Inaccuracies and Falsehoods about the Election. Because the Documents signed by the Fake Electors included Falsehoods about their Role and Authority in the 2020 Election, they may have committed False Swearing and Forgery in the First degree. Moreover, Trump and his allies may have Committed Criminal Solicitation, when they Solicited conduct from Georgia State Officials to Change the Election Results in Trump’s favor.

Georgia’s RICO Act (GA Code Ann. § 16-14-1 et seq.): The Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, recognizes that if Violations of Individual Criminal Statutes, by a Single Person are Bad, an Enterprise that repeatedly Violates the Law is Worse, and should be subject to Additional Sanction.

To be Charged, the Law requires a “pattern” of Misconduct as shown by Violations of Two or more specified Crimes, including the False Statements or improper Influence Crimes mentioned above. Experts believe that RICO Charges are a very real possibility for Trump, based upon his repeated Calls to Election Officials, False Statements, and alleged Coordinated attempts to provide Fraudulent Electoral Certificates.

Upcoming Legal Issues: Empanelling a New Grand Jury: A Special Purpose Grand Jury, serves an Investigative function and only focuses on One Case or Issue, unlike a Regular Grand Jury, which might hear Evidence in Hundreds of Cases. Although Special Purpose Grand Juries in Georgia typically investigate Public Corruption, they are a useful vehicle to Investigate Complex Issues of Inquiry, and allow a Jury to develop a deeper understanding of the Issues. Special Purpose Grand Juries are Not subject to the typical Two-month fixed term of Regular Grand Juries in Georgia, but rather are empaneled for any time period required to complete their Investigation.

Unlike a typical Grand Jury, a Special Purpose Grand Jury cannot return a “True Bill” of Indictment. They can however issue Public Reports after review by a Supervising Judge. The Report can recommend Indictments for Criminal acts uncovered during the Investigation, but it Cannot recommend iIdictments against Specific Persons. Willis can then pursue Indictments of any Recommended Crimes through a Regular Grand Jury. So, even if the Special Grand Jury made recommendations in its Report, Willis will need to ask the Regular Grand Jury to Indict. In Fulton County, the Regular Grand Jury is always Empaneled and it meets every Tuesday and Friday.

Right to Speedy Trial: Defendants in Georgia have a Constitutional Right and a State Right, to demand a Speedy Trial. The Right to a Speedy Trial applies when a Person is formally Charged, Accused of a Crime, or Indicted. Under Georgia Law, a Criminal Defendant must be brought to Trial, by the next succeeding Regular Court Term of their Arrest.

In Fulton County, Defendants who are Indicted can request Speedy Trials, that begin by the Close of the Term that follows, the Two-month period in which they are Indicted. Regular Grand Juries, as opposed to a Special Purpose Grand Jury, in Georgia serve for Two-month Terms. Because of this, most Charges are brought at the beginning of a New Grand Jury Term. In this Case, Charges may be brought in early March, when the Next Grand jJry Term begins.

Trump’s Lawyers will likely argue a Variety of Defenses that either Downplay his Conduct or seek to Shield it from Prosecution. This includes the following Defenses:

Immunity: Immunity is the contention that Trump is Protected as a Federal Official from Infringements on Authorities vested in him by the Constitution or Federal Law. It exists to Protect the President’s exercise of Discretion in doing his job, but does Not extend to Actions taken Outside the Scope of his Lawful duties. Neither the Constitution nor Federal Law confers any Authority on the President over the Process of Counting or Tabulating Ballots or Certifying an Election. This is Constitutionally committed to the States.

First Amendment: The First Amendment protects Speech, including Political Speech. However, Speech integral to Criminal Conduct, such as Fighting Words, Threats, and Solicitations, are categorically Outside of First Amendment Protection. Free Speech is No longer Free when the Speech is False or Harmful, it is then just Speech

Intent: The Factual Defense Trump is likely to Claim, is that he was pressing his good-faith conviction that he had actually Won, that he was trying to Secure the Correct Outcome of the Election. But a Candidate who believes he has won the Election, does Not enjoy any Legal Protection to commit Crimes in furtherance of that Belief. Moreover, the January 6th Select Committee’s Final Report is replete with Evidence that Trump was repeatedly told he Lost the Election and yet engaged in Criminal Conduct anyway.

Selective/Retaliatory Prosecution: A claim of Selective/Retaliatory Protection requires showing you were treated Differently than similarly situated Persons; there is No Evidence of that in this Case.

All of these Defenses should Fail. In the coming weeks, Trump is very likely to be Charged with multiple Crimes in Georgia. No one is above the Law.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

FL Changes To 2024 Voting Laws

Florida eyes more Changes to Voting Laws ahead of 2024. The office of Florida’s Top Election Official, Secretary of State Cord Byrd (R), has come up with a List of possible Changes, included in a recent Report that the Republican-Controlled Legislature could enact this Spring.

Some Changes outlined by the Department, in a 60-page Report, handed over to State Lawmakers include: requiring that Election Supervisors Verify the Signature of a Voter who Signs a Request for a Mail-in Ballot, even though some Local Election Officials already do that, and Blocking Voters from being able to Request a Mail-in-Ballot by Telephone.

“The Department recommends building on the election integrity measures adopted recently to enhance the security of the vote-by-mail process,” states the Report. Some of the Recommendations could trigger another Partisan Firestorm from Democrats, suspicious of Proposals taking aim at Mail-in-Voting.

Republicans in Florida for many years, had dominated Mail-in-Voting in the State, but that shifted over the past few cycles, especially during the Covid-19 Pandemic. During the 2022 Elections, about 2.7 million Floridians Voted-by-Mail, with 43% of the Ballots cast by Democrats compared with 36% from Republicans.

Brad Ashwell, Florida Director of All Voting Is Local, a Voting Advocacy group, called the Proposals outlined by the Department as largely “unnecessary”, though he did praise a Recommendation for Legislators to Authorize the Creation of a Uniform Vote-by-Mail Ballot Request form. “The voters are already being harmed by the last changes they made,” said Ashwell, noting recent Changes such as One that forces Voters to Request a Mail-in-Ballot after every General Election and that increased Identification Requirements to Request a Ballot.

He added that it would also be “asinine” to Order-Up additional Revisions to Mail-in-Voting, ahead of the 2024 Election, when turnout could be much Higher than it was during the Midterms. He also suggested that prohibiting Ballot Requests by Phone could be an Obstacle to Elderly Voters and those with Disabilities. Another problem, when Citizens get Older, Signatire Verification gets Harder. How does Florida Update a Voters Signature on File?

Since the 2020 Election, where Mail-in-Voting was repeatedly criticized by Trump, GOP Legislators in Florida, have pushed through several Changes to Mail-in-Voting, many of them at the Insistence of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Democrats and Voting Rights groups, widely criticized a 2021 Law that place a Two Ballot Limit, on how many Mail-in-Ballots someone could gather for Elderly or Sick Voters.

DeSantis and Florida Republicans have Refused to go along with suggestions, to eliminate No-Excuse Mail Voting, allowing People to Vote-by-Mail without providing a Reason. But they have made Key Changes such as Banning the Collection of more than Two Mail-in-Ballots from Non-Family Members, a practice derided by DeSantis as “ballot harvesting.” Lawmakers also put Restrictions on Drop Boxes, and required Voters to Renew their Ballot Requests after every General Election.

Parts of this Law is still being Challenged in federal Court.

Last year, Legislators contemplated requiring Voters to add Personal Information, like a Driver’s License Number, or the Last Four Digits of their Social Security number, to what they Mail Back to Supervisors, a move that would have likely required Voters to use an extra Envelope. Currently, Supervisors compare the Signatures on the Ballot Envelope and what the Voter has on File, again as you get Older it could Change.

One Republican Election Supervisor, called the initial Proposal from GOP Legislators a “recipe for disaster.” Legislators backed off the Change and instead directed the Department of State, to come up with Recommendations on how to increase ID Requirements.

In January, 2023, Election Supervisors across the State, officially chimed in with their own Report, warning about making Widespread Changes. A working group of Democratic and Republican Supervisors, submitted the Report to the Department of State, that said requiring Voters to put their Personal Information on Ballots would be a “seismic” Change that would increase Costs, Confuse Voters, and potentially lead to Identity Theft, as well as Delays in Counting Ballots.

The Final Report from the Department, did Not include any Recommendations that Voters be Required to put Identifying Information on their Ballot Envelopes, opting instead to focus on the “ballot request process.”

Mark Earley, Supervisor of Elections for Leon County, and Head of the Supervisors’ Statewide Association, told Department of State Officials, that Local Supervisors appreciated the “credence” given their Concerns about Potential Identification Changes. Earley, however, added that some of the Recommendations could “pose challenges.”

Earley said Eliminating the ability to request Ballots by Phone “is going to hinder a lot of voters” though he said he understood the desire to Create a Paper Trail for Requests.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Santos Accused Of Sexual Harassment In His Capitol Office

A Congressional Aide has accused Representative George Santos (R-NY, 3rd District), of Ethics Violations and Sexual Harassment, according to a Letter the man sent to the House Committee on Ethics, and posted to Twitter. The man, Derek Myers, briefly worked in Mr. Santos’s Office before his Job offer was Rescinded earlier this week, according to the Letter.

Mr. Myers said in the Letter, that he was alone with Mr. Santos in his Office on Jan. 25th, when the Congressman asked him whether he had a Profile on Grindr, a popular Gay Dating app. Then, he said, Mr. Santos invited him to Karaoke and touched his groin, assuring him that his husband was out of town.

A Spokeswoman for Representative Susan Wild (R-PA, 15th District), Ranking Member of the House Ethics Committee, acknowledged that his Letter had been received by her Office.

Mr. Myers said in an interview that he also filed a Report with the Capitol Police, speaking to an Officer over the Phone. On Twitter, he said that he was making his Complaint Public for the sake of Transparency. “They are serious offenses and the evidence and facts will speak for themselves if the committee takes up the matter,” he wrote.

A day before making his Complaint Public, Mr. Myers received attention following the Release of recordings he had secretly made of Mr. Santos and his Chief of Staff, Charley Lovett.

Mr. Myers was Charged last year with Wiretapping in Ohio, after a small newspaper he ran, published Audio of Courtroom Testimony that someone else Recorded and sent to him. Journalism organizations rallied around him, calling for the Charges to be Dropped in the name of Press Freedom.

Mr. Santos told the News start-up Semafor on Thursday, that his Office had been in the process of hiring Mr. Myers, but had decided against it, because of concerns over the Wiretapping Charges.

Mr. Myers claimed that the alleged Harassment occurred Five days before he secretly recorded Mr. Santos. In that Conversation, Audio of which was published by Talking Points Memo, Mr. Myers declared his Fealty to Mr. Santos, telling him, “We’re all George, this is how we got here. We’re just masters of the game.” At another point, Mr. Myers says on the Recording, “I will never lie to you guys. I have no reason to. But I will lie for you.” “You shouldn’t,” Mr. Santos replies.

In his Letter to the Ethics Committee, Mr. Myers said that he was told he would work in Mr. Santos’s Office as a Volunteer before his Employment Paperwork was processed.

He said in the Letter that he now believed that such an Arrangement Violated the House’s Ethics Rules, and he asked the Committee to Investigate Mr. Santos, for his use of Volunteer Labor as well as for Sexual Harassment.

It is unclear how the Ethics Committee will proceed. Tom Rust, the Committee’s Chief Counsel and Staff Director, Declined to comment, and the Spokeswoman for Ms. Wild said that the Congresswoman would Not “make comments regarding potential or pending matters before the committee.”

The Capitol Police did Not respond to Messages requesting Confirmation that Mr. Myers had filed a Report.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker