Saturday, May 21, 2022

Appeals Court Puts Decision On FL Redistricting Plan On Hold

An Appeals Court Friday, Reinstated a Stay against a Circuit Judge's Decision, that Blocked a Congressional Redistricting Plan, pushed through the Legislature by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), pointing to a "high likelihood" that the Judge erred.

The 1st District Court of Appeal, in a Four-paragraph Order, put On-Hold a Temporary Injunction issued last week, by Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith.

The Temporary injunction blocked a Redistricting Plan that the Legislature Passed, during an April Special Session.

The State's Appeal of Smith's Decision, triggered an Automatic Stay of the Temporary Injunction.

But Smith followed up Monday by lifting the Automatic Stay at the request of Voting-Rights Groups and other Plaintiffs, who have Challenged the Constitutionality of the Redistricting Plan.

In Reinstating the Stay, however, the Tallahassee-based Appeals Court signaled that it did Not agree with the Temporary Injunction.

"Based on a preliminary review, the court has determined there is a high likelihood that the temporary injunction is unlawful, because by awarding a preliminary remedy to the appellees (the plaintiffs) on their claim, the order ‘frustrated the status quo, rather than preserved it,'" the Appeals Court said, quoting a Legal Precedent.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

New FCC Rules To Stop Robocalls From Other Countries

Last year, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made putting a Stop to Robocallers, Spoofers, and Scammers a Top priority. Now, the FCC is enacting even Stricter Rules. The FCC Voted to Stop Illegal Robocalls that originate Overseas, from entering American Phone Networks.

The FCC explained that the New Rules institute Compliance Requirements on Gateway providers, which are smaller companies that move Calls from Network to Network. They’re often used by Scammers to disguise Calls from other Countries entering the U.S. The FCC notes that in 2021, more than 65% of Voice Service Providers transmitting Illegal Robocalls were Foreign-based or Gateway Providers.

The New Rules would make sure Gateway Providers follow ID Authentication Protocols and take additional Measures to Validate the Identities of those they’re routing Traffic from. Gateway Providers are considered a critical Choke-Point for Reducing Robocalls.

“In practice, what this means is that we are making gateway providers — the carriers that serve as the domestic entry point for calls from abroad — use Stir/Shaken call authentication technology, register in our Robocall Mitigation Database, and comply with traceback requests from the Federal Communications Commission and law enforcement to help figure out where these junk calls are originating from overseas,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a Statement.

Stir/Shaken is the Technology that confirms that Originating Carriers validate Caller ID information, before the Calls reach Consumers. It prevents Spoofing, when a Caller intentionally Falsifies the Information transmitted to your Caller ID. Many Scammers use Spoofing to make Calls appear to come from a Local number, a familiar Business, or even a Government Agency, to encourage People to answer.

Gateway Providers who are found to be in Noncompliance with these Rules can be Removed from the Robocall Mitigation Database, and will be subject to Mandatory Blocking by other Network participants.

Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Attorneys General recently signed Robocall Enforcement Memorandums of Understanding with the FCC, bringing the total number of signees to 36 States and the District of Columbia.

“With the majority of states now coordinating with our enforcement team, we are better positioned to help protect consumers from scammers than ever before,” said Rosenworcel. “Enforcement is a vital tool in our fight against illegal robocalls. The states also bring with them their own unique powers like filing for injunctions and even criminal prosecutions. Together we are stronger. Together we will continue our work to protect American consumers.”

As part of its Campaign, the FCC has been taking other Steps recently to address the problem, like the adoption of Stir/Shaken, and the creation of a Robocall Response Team, as well as the Robocall Mitigation Database.

In fact, Investigations in recent years have resulted in unprecedented Fines on Robocallers. For example, One FCC investigation involving Eight State Attorneys General Offices, resulted in $225 million in Fines for Health Insurance Telemarketers that made approximately 1 billion Illegally Spoofed calls over Five months.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Russia Cuts Off Gas Exports To Finland

Russia halted Gas Exports to neighboring Finland on Saturday, a highly symbolic move, that came just days after the Nordic Country announced it wanted to join NATO, and marked a likely End to Finland's nearly 50 years of importing Natural Gas from Russia.

The Measure taken by the Russian Energy Giant Gazprom, was in line with an earlier announcement following Helsinki’s Refusal to pay for the Gas in Rubles, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded European Countries do, since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24th.

The Finnish State-owned Gas company Gasum said that “natural gas supplies to Finland under Gasum’s supply contract have been cut off” by Russia on Saturday morning at 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT).

The announcement follows an earlier decision by the Finnish State-controlled Oil company Neste, to Replace Imports of Russian Crude Oil with Crude Oil from elsewhere.

After Decades of Energy Cooperation that was seen Beneficial for both Helsinki, particularly in the case of Inexpensive Russian Crude Oil and Moscow, Finland’s Energy ties with Russia are now all but gone. Such a break was easier for Finland than it will be for other European Union Nations.

Natural Gas accounts for just 5% of Total Energy Consumption in Finland, a Country of 5.5 million. Almost All of that Gas comes from Russia, and is used mainly by Industrial and other companies, with only an estimated 4,000 Households relying on Gas Heating.

Gasum said it would now Supply Natural Gas to its Customers, from other sources through the Undersea Balticconnector Gas Pipeline running between Finland and Estonia, and connecting the Finnish and Baltic Gas grids.

Matti Vanhanen, the former Finnish Prime Minister and current Speaker of Parliament, said the effect of Moscow’s decision to cut off Gas after nearly 50 years since the First deliveries from the Soviet Union began, is above all symbolic.

In an interview Saturday with the Finnish Public Broadcaster YLE, Vanhanen said the decision marks an end of “a hugely important period between Finland, the Soviet Union and Russia, not only in energy terms but symbolically.” “That pipeline is unlikely to ever open again,” Vanhanen told YLE, referring to the two parallel Russia-Finland natural gas pipelines that were launched in 1974.

The First connections from Finland’s Power Grid to the Soviet Transmission system were also constructed in the 1970s, allowing Electricity Imports to Finland in case additional capacity was needed.

Vanhanen didn’t see Moscow’s Gas stoppage as a Retaliatory step from Russia to Finland’s bid to join NATO, but rather a Countermove to Western Sanctions imposed on Moscow following its Invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia did the same thing with Finland it has done earlier with some other countries to maintain its own credibility,” Vanhanen said, referring to the Kremlin’s demands to buy its Gas in Rubles.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) with Russia, the Longest of any of the EU's 27 Members, and has a Conflict-ridden History with its huge Eastern neighbor.

After losing Two Wars to Soviet Union, in World War II, Finland opted for Neutrality with Stable and Pragmatic Political and Economic ties with Moscow.

Large-scale Energy cooperation, also including Nuclear power, between the Two Countries was one of the most visible signs of friendly bilateral ties between former Enemies.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

NY Court Releases Final New State Senate Map

New York Judge Patrick McAllister, Approved the Court-Appointed Special Master’s New State Senate Map, late Friday night.

The Court released Final Maps for New York’s 63 State Senate Districts, setting in motion a flurry of Campaign Activity as Candidates quickly jockeyed for position in Critical Seats.

CLICK HERE for a detail breakdown of the New Senate Map.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

NY Court Releases Final New Congressional Map

New York Judge Patrick McAllister, Approved the Court-Appointed Special Master’s New Congressional Map, late Friday night.

The Map, which makes a few changes to the Special Master’s earlier Draft, would still create 15 U.S. House Districts that favor Democrats, and around Six Competitive Seats. Under the Blocked Map the Legislature drew earlier this year, Democrats had hoped to have an easier path to about 22 House Seats.

The State will now have at least One Incumbent-versus-Incumbent House Primary as longtime Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-10th District) and Carolyn Maloney (D-12th District) will both run for the New 12th Congressional District in Manhattan.

However, some other Member-vs.-Member Primaries seem to have been Avoided, as Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-17th District), who currently represents a Suburban Seat North of New York City, announced he would run in the new 10th District, a Seat that merges parts of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, leaving Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-18th District) without an Incumbent Primary Challenger in the New 17th District.

The Open 10th District has attracted a wave of interest from Local Politicians, including from former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who announced his run on Friday.

McAllister defended the Special Master’s Draft and Final proposals, writing in the Court Order that “unfortunately some people have encouraged the public to believe that now the court gets to create its own gerrymandered maps that favor Republicans.”

He said that with the State’s 2012-drawn Lines, Eight Republicans were Elected to Congress and the initial Democratic-drawn Map for this round of Redistricting “would have only favored four Republicans being elected.”

The Judge said the New Map would create “eight competitive districts” and “three districts in which Republicans will likely win.”

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ (R-11th District), Staten Island-based Seat, which Democrats had tried to Redraw to favor them, will continue to be Republican-leaning and Not include more Liberal parts of Brooklyn.

The Special Master’s Final Map, also included Changes on Long Island from his First Draft. Republicans will likely continue to have a Stronghold in New York’s 2nd District, represented by Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R).

New York will have 26 Congressional Districts after Losing a Seat in Reapportionment following the 2020 Census.

The Democratic drawn Map was Blocked by the State’s Highest Court in April. This Map was created by the Legistlature, after a Redistricting Commission couldn't agree on Dual Maps drawn by its Members.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Changes To IA Law May Reduce Number Of Votes

So far, turnout is tracking normally in Woodbury County, Iowa, but Auditor Pat Gill says Changes from the Legislature may Reduce the total number of Voters in an upcoming Primary on June 7th.

About 1,500 Voters have turned in their Ballots early so far, putting the County on pace for its usual 3,500 Early Votes, in a Primary Election.

The Plymouth County Clerk says the County has seen a slightly reduced Early Voting turnout, with about 180 of the usual 500 Early Voters submitting Ballots.

Gill says Changes to Iowa Election Law, will likely lead to Fewer Voters. Gill says the State now has just 20 Early-Voting days instead of 40, and Election Officials can No longer send out Absentee Ballot Request forms, without a request from a Voter.

Gill says the compressed time frame makes Mail-in-Voting much less viable.

“It will, I mean, we’ve already seen it. A lot of people, they were very angry during the school election when we didn’t mail out the absentee ballots, and they (voters) were very angry that (we) didn’t do it. So it’s kind of an educational process (about new procedures),” said Pat Gill, the Woodbury County Auditor.

Some Voting Precincts have changed after Redistricting, but any Early Voter can submit their Ballot at the Courthouse.

Iowa does allow Same-Day Registration, meaning Iowans can Register at the Polling Place on June 7th, when the Election Officially takes place.

Registered Voters need some form of ID, while Non-Registered Voters need an ID and a Document showing their Address.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Friday, May 20, 2022

Pressure Mounts Over OR Primary Ballot Fiasco

A Democratic State Lawmaker in Oregon, is calling for an Investigation into a Ballot-Printing Fiasco that will Delay results from Tuesday’s Primary by weeks, with a key U.S. House Race hanging in the balance, in a State that prides itself on Voter Access and Election Transparency.

Tens of thousands of Ballots in the State’s Third-largest County, were Printed with blurred Barcodes, making them Unreadable by Vote-Counting machines, a mistake that wasn’t caught until Ballots were already being Returned in the Vote-by-Mail State. Elections Workers must now Hand-Transfer the Votes from those Ballots to New Ones, that can be read in a Painstaking process that also raises the possibility of Duplication errors.

As the scope of the Crisis became apparent, Local, State, and Federal Lawmakers Friday, all escalated their Criticism of Clackamas County Elections Clerk Sherry Hall, who Defended her actions at a News Conference Friday, and said she had learned from the mistakes.

State Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-51st District), who represents Voters in the County, called the situation “unreasonable, and untenable” and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-3rd District) who represents some Clackamas Voters in Congress, called Hall’s Slow reaction “unconscionable.”

Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan (D), demanded a Written Plan from Hall, detailing how she would get the Election Results tabulated by June 13th, the State Deadline to Certify Results.

“Despite having time to prepare for an election day disaster, Ms. Hall has repeatedly failed to adapt and accept enough help to remedy the current crisis,” Bynum said.

The Debacle has angered many in Oregon, where All Ballots have been cast only by Mail for 23 years, and Lawmakers have consistently pushed to Expand Voter Access through Automatic Voter Registration and Expanded Deadlines.

It’s also thrown into question a key U.S. House Race in a District that includes a large portion of Clackamas County, which stretches nearly 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers), from Portland’s Liberal Southern Suburbs to Rural Conservative Communities on the flanks of Mount Hood.

In the Democratic Primary for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, seven-term Rep. Kurt Schrader, a moderate, was trailing in the Vote behind Progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner. The outcome could have an outsized impact in November, with the possibility that Voters could flip the Seat for the GOP.

Hall at a News Conference Friday said she made Mistakes. When pressed on why she didn’t do more to address the Problem when it was discovered in early May, Hall said, “I just didn’t.” “I didn’t respond to this with the urgency that I should have and I realize that, but I still know that we will have the counting done on time,” she said. “This was something we’ve never seen before and so some of it, I guess it’s just the reaction and the learning.”

State Republicans were also paying close attention to the Ballot mess. State Sen. Bill Kennemer (R-20th District), includes much of Clackamas County, called the Ballot issues “alarming and concerning” and said he hoped the Crisis would prompt Fixes to the system. “I would really love to see us after we get through this crisis, take some deep breaths and get some experts in there that we have confidence with, and then start looking where our chinks in our armor are and what do we need to fix it,” he said Friday.

Hall used Moonlight BPO in Bend, a Printer Not used for Ballots by any other County, and said she has used them for 10 years without any problems.

Moonlight, which was founded as a small family business in 1985, had been a Certified Printer for the Election system the County uses, the Hart InterCivic Tabulation system, but Hall said the Company stopped Certifying any Printers for Ballot-Printing in 2020. Clackamas County continued to use Moonlight, but Hall said “I don’t intend to use them ever again.”

Aaron Berg, a Representative of Moonlight, said Moonlight has Not been able to figure what happened to the Ballots. “We follow the exact same protocol and process every year and nothing changed this year,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out what the heck is going on. And we’re not saying it’s anyone’s fault.”

Berg said a Team from Moonlight travelled to Clackamas County in early May, and met with Hall, and another of her Staff to review the process. “That’s the last we’ve heard of it until it hit the news, much to our surprise,” Berg said.

As many as 60,000 Ballots are Unreadable by Vote-Counting Machines because of Blurry Barcodes and up to 200 County Employees were being Redeployed starting Thursday, from their normal Duties to Hand-Transfer the Voter’s Intent to a Fresh Ballot that could be Scanned. By Friday, just 27,342 Ballots of more than 90,000 that were Returned had been tallied.

Hall said the Problem came to light May 3rd, when workers put the First Ballots returned through the Vote-Counting Machine. About 70 or 80 Ballots from each Batch of 125, were spit out as Unreadable because their Barcodes were more Faint and slightly Blurred. It was too late to Print and Mail New Ballots, she said.

Hall and her Staff did Not “proof” the Printed Ballots before they were Mailed Out to check for any Issues, as is considered Best Practice, but had talked about doing so, she said. That still wouldn’t have caught the Problem if the Toner ran Low toward the End of a Printing Batch, affecting the Barcodes, as may have happened in this case, she said.

As Election Day approached and Ballots stacked up, Hall said she allowed Elections Workers to take the weekend off, because just Three People signed up to work Saturday or Sunday. Most Election Workers are “between the ages of 70 and 85” and they need Rest, she said.

Fagan said her Office offered Hall help Twice after the Problem came to light, but Hall said her County had enough Resources.

State Elections Officials say they have little Authority over the Nonpartisan Local County Elections Officials, who operate Independently and are beholden to Voters. Hall is up for Reelection in November after holding the Job since 2003.

It’s not the First time Hall has come under fire in her Elections Role. In 2012, a Temporary Election Worker was sentenced to 90 days in Jail after admitting she tampered with Two Ballots. In 2014, Hall was criticized for using the phrase “Democrat Party”, a Pejorative used by Republicans to demean Democrats, on a Primary Ballot instead of Democratic Party.

A County Audit conducted last year, identified several Problems with Elections Procedures, but Hall only implemented Two of the Four fixes suggested in the Audit, Tootie Smith, the County Chairwoman, said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker