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Opinion | The Supreme Court’s “Breathtakingly Radical” New Approach to Election Law

Politico -

In the end, the blizzard of lawsuits from President Donald Trump’s campaign will amount to nothing beyond a megaphone for disinformation about the integrity of the 2020 election. As destructive as the president’s attempts to undermine democracy are, the most lasting damage to America’s election system is likely to come instead from a series of Supreme Court rulings that appear perfunctory but actually could restrict voters’ rights for years to come.

In the weeks before Election Day, the court weighed in on more than a dozen cases in a way that many portrayed as a mixed bag for voting rights—allowing voting expansions to stand in some cases and sharply curtailing them in others. But that scorecard approach obscures the principal effect of the court’s rulings: In all of the cases, regardless of whether the Trump campaign won or lost, the justices quietly—yet dramatically—rolled back Americans’ voting rights in ways that could do permanent harm—that is, unless Congress steps in.

Let’s start with the visible damage.

In multiple cases, and often without a shred of explanation, the Supreme Court affirmatively stepped in to make it harder to vote. The first case was in Wisconsin in April, right after the pandemic hit. A lower court had extended the deadline for returning mail ballots in the presidential primary by six days. But the night before the election, over a withering dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—her last written opinion—the Supreme Court blocked that extension, leaving voters only hours to obtain and return their ballots. The result: thousands of citizens were unable to return their ballots on time, and their votes were not counted.

Likewise, in South Carolina in early October, the court reinstated a witness requirement for absentee ballots after voting had already started and weeks after the ballot instructions had been printed. While the court exempted voters whose ballots were delivered within two days of its ruling without a witness signature, at least 2,509 ballots arrived after that date and were disqualified. In Alabama, the court stepped in two weeks before Election Day to reinstate witness identification requirements for absentee ballots and a ban on curbside voting.

Until these rulings, federal courts across the country had generally responded to the pandemic by expanding voting access, applying well-established legal doctrines to evaluate burdens to voting rights under the Constitution. Their decisions mainly allowed more voters to take advantage of mail voting and to have safe ballot drop-off and voting locations. Election officials adapted their systems accordingly, and voters requested and received ballots in keeping with the new procedures.

After the Supreme Court ruled in South Carolina, however, appellate courts followed its lead and blocked more than a dozen voter-friendly rulings and settlements within a span of a few weeks. In one egregious case only four days before Election Day, a federal appeals court halted a settlement allowing Minnesota voters to mail back their ballots up until Election Day. At the time, there were more than half a million ballots—all containing instructions with the previous deadline—still outstanding.

These decisions likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of Americans this year, disproportionately people of color. But their most significant damage is not limited to this election. Although the Supreme Court didn’t provide a rationale for its rulings, individual justices articulated two principles that guided their votes, and the way the court applied those principles this election season sets dangerous precedents for the future.

First, there’s what’s known as the Purcell principle, which maintains that federal courts shouldn’t make changes to voting rules close to an election. The supposed purpose of this judge-made doctrine is to prevent confusion and chaos by requiring last-minute changes to election practices that could disenfranchise voters or cause administrative snafus. But in many cases during the lead-up to this election, the Supreme Court itself caused confusion and administrative problems by reversing voting rights rulings from lower federal courts that had already been implemented by election officials, and the circuit courts followed suit. (This would seem to suggest that while the Supreme Court believes this rule applies to lower courts, it is not a constraint on its own rulings.)

What’s more, the Purcell principle has never before been applied as a blunt instrument to block all voting rights protections close to an election, regardless of their impact, as the Supreme Court seemed to do this year. A broad application of this precedent could make it impossible to challenge barriers to voting that were themselves imposed at the last minute, including obstacles erected purposefully to thwart certain voters. This isn’t theoretical; it’s precisely what happened in Texas when a federal appeals court used the Purcell principle to uphold Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Oct. 1 executive order, which sharply limited the number of ballot drop-off sites in a way that targeted voters in more populous counties, after a federal district court ruled against it.

Second, and even more dangerous, five of the court’s justices have signed onto opinions endorsing a brand new legal theory—that the Constitution gives state legislatures virtually untrammeled authority to set voting rules for federal elections, no matter how arbitrary or unreasonable. This previously discredited theory, which was first articulated by three justices in one of the cases concerning the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, could insulate most anti-voter laws—from arbitrary voting restrictions to burdensome registration requirements—from constitutional review by federal courts. What is more, the Court may be poised to prevent even state courts from reviewing their own state’s laws for compliance with state constitutional protections. Indeed, that was the logic Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas wanted to apply to strike down the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling extending the absentee ballot receipt deadline this year. They were outvoted this time, but this logic could also be applied to prevent state and local election officials from expanding voter access beyond legislative mandates—as many did to ensure voters’ health and safety this year.

These theories are breathtakingly radical, and if they take root, they will seriously undermine Americans’ voting rights going forward. But here is the good news: When it comes to voting rights, the Supreme Court does not necessarily get the last word. Congress can take the lead.

The very same constitutional provision that the Supreme Court is eyeing to strengthen the hand of state legislators to restrict voting rights also gives Congress the power “at any time” to override state laws and establish its own rules for federal elections. As Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Kavanaugh, put it in his concurrence in a recent case: “If state rules need revision, Congress is free to alter them.” Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court’s conservative majority, made a similar point in a redistricting case two years ago.

The House has already set to work to do this, passing two voting rights bills last year. H.R.1 (The For the People Act) would establish a basic federal foundation for voting—from automatic and online voter registration, to accessible early and mail voting. Every voter should have a clear, fair path to the ballot box; as the pandemic has shown, this is not the case for many Americans. H.R. 4 (The Voting Rights Restoration Act) would restore critical protections against racial discrimination in voting that the Supreme Court hobbled in a 2013 case. Had these protections been in place this year, they would have prevented key states from shutting down polling places in a way that disadvantaged voters of color, for example. With a few additions, these two bills have the potential to substantially constrain the ability of partisan actors, including state legislatures, to limit the franchise.

H.R. 1 would strengthen democracy in other ways. It would also curtail partisan gerrymandering, where the Supreme Court has abdicated responsibility and passed the ball to Congress. Without legal constraints, politicians have become increasingly brazen in manipulating district lines to lock in their power and insulate themselves from accountability to voters. Under H.R.1, gerrymandering would be legally barred, and lines would be drawn by independent commissions rather than self-interested partisans. And H.R. 1 also provides the best answer to the Supreme Court’s decades-long assault on campaign finance laws, including in the much-reviled Citizens United v. FEC (which Justice Ginsburg called the worst ruling of her tenure). The court’s rulings have dramatically shifted the balance of power in federal elections in favor of the very largest campaign donors and away from the everyday Americans who make small donations. H.R.1 would shift the balance back through a transformative small donor matching system, among other things.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised that H.R.1 will be the first order of business in the next Congress. Republicans, whether they control the Senate or not, should reconsider their opposition. The vast majority of H.R.1’s provisions enjoy broad bipartisan support, among voters and election officials of both parties.

The pandemic forced millions of Americans to look with new eyes at the way our voting systems work, and to be willing to change past practices to participate in our democracy. They were undaunted and voted in record numbers. But they are also newly aware of obstacles to voting—obstacles the courts should have protected against—and are unlikely to tolerate them going forward.

The best way to remedy the Supreme Court’s betrayal of its responsibility to safeguard American democracy is for Congress to do it instead. Even the Supreme Court agrees.

How thousands of scarce Covid shots could go to waste

Politico -

The Trump administration hopes to start delivering millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines in December.

But the short shelf life of Pfizer’s shots and uncertainty over how to get them to enough health care workers, frail seniors and other priority patients once vials with vaccines are taken out of cold storage and cracked open could mean thousands of doses go to waste.

It's one of many worries hanging over the vaccine rollout in the coming months, which could be complicated by looming decisions about who should be prioritized for shots, funding shortages and public vaccine hesitancy.

Pharmacies set to administer many of the shots are worried about waste, and cash-strapped state and local health departments say they need more money and direction from the federal government. The federal health department says states have what they need and that the government will backstop any shortages that occur.

“We really don’t want to lose a drop of this stuff, so it’s a concern. And I don’t have all the answers for how we’re going to do this yet,” said Paul Cieslak, Oregon’s medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations.

The vaccine, if authorized on an emergency basis, is expected to be given first to health care workers and the elderly, further complicating planning efforts.

Most of the concern stems from the requirements for the Covid-19 vaccine that Pfizer on Friday submitted for FDA review. It must be kept in ultra-cold conditions and will be shipped in specially designed pizza-shaped boxes that hold a minimum of 975 doses in 195 glass vials. Once a vial is thawed and diluted to make five shots, health workers will be in a true “use it or lose it” situation: If there aren’t enough people ready for the shots within six hours, the vaccine spoils, slowing efforts to stamp out hot spots and save lives.

“That won’t be acceptable,” said Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “Especially early on it will be practically liquid gold.”

Some waste is unavoidable in any large-scale immunization program. But this isn’t the seasonal flu: Any Covid-19 vaccines that are cleared for use will land during a devastating global pandemic that has killed nearly 1.4 million people worldwide — including over a quarter million in the United States — with no signs of stopping. With analysts predicting that it could take months to vaccinate all Americans, minimizing waste will be crucial.

The earliest vaccinations will be concentrated in hospitals, federal health officials say. Even they could struggle to minimize the number of spoiled doses as they vaccinate staff. But the waste issue will loom larger as pharmacies are gradually added into the mix — especially those in rural areas where there are fewer people.

Maryland health officials told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that as much as 5 percent of the vaccine the state is allocated could spoil and go unused.

Some rural counties may not be able to use up 975 doses by themselves, said Kurt Seetoo, who manages the state health department’s Center for Immunization. Maryland is exploring creating regional clinics, bringing together high priority groups from different rural counties to vaccinate all at once.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Friday told Sirius XM that Pfizer’s more challenging storage requirements make it a better fit for larger institutions like hospitals and big retail pharmacies. Another Covid-19 vaccine maker, Moderna, will soon apply to FDA for emergency authorization of its shot — which can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 30 days and at room temperature for up to 12 hours.

Earlier this week, Gen. Gustave Perna, who leads Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration initiative charged with bringing a vaccine to market, said CVS and Walgreens know how to do this and that his team has worked with states to “make sure that no vaccine is wasted.”

But Paul Offit, a vaccine researcher at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the expert panel advising the FDA on Covid-19 vaccines, told reporters Friday that he is “very concerned” about the potential for doses of Pfizer’s vaccine going to waste if it is authorized.

“This is going to be very hard, I think there’s going to be a steep learning curve here,” Offit said. “I think there is going to be a lot of waste, and I think we are going to figure this out over time. There is going to be a lot of stumbling. ... You’ve got six hours once reconstituted, that’s unprecedented.”

In Oregon, the state may contract with emergency medical providers to drive around and divvy the vaccine up among remote areas — an attempt to avoid having leftover shots.

And North Dakota wants to repackage the vaccine into boxes with smaller quantities, while encouraging providers to be able to rapidly identify people in the next priority group to come get a shot if there’s any leftover vaccine. The state is also asking facilities to pre-register patients to ensure that no vaccine needs to be tossed. Its vaccine plan acknowledges that this could delay distribution by a day but it is necessary to preserve precious vials. Pfizer says it is working on a smaller pack size, but it won’t be ready until early next year and it is unclear if it will resolve the need to deliver at least five shots within hours.

The varying plans underscore the concerns public health experts have long raised about the hands-off approach the Trump administration has maintained throughout the pandemic. That has held true even for the final leg of the vaccine race, which the president has made the centerpiece of his coronavirus response.

“There’s an enormous leadership vacuum,” said Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration refuses to share its planning with the transition team of President-elect Joe Biden, who said Wednesday the lack of access could hamper vaccine distribution. Instead, Biden’s team has been in contact with Pfizer and other drugmakers; a Pfizer spokesperson declined to share specifics of the communication.

“There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan,” Biden said Thursday during a press conference. “If we don’t have access to all this data, it’s going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more. And that’s lives.”

Azar disputed the assertion Friday on CBS’ "This Morning," saying it is “absolutely incorrect.”

Will the U.S. heed Canada's Thanksgiving lesson?

Politico -

The war on Christmas has come for Thanksgiving, with U.S. health officials warning against holiday travel as Canada serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when families get together in a pandemic.

Six weeks after Canada’s Thanksgiving, the Covid-19 crisis is hitting a break-glass moment in the nation of 37 million after holiday gatherings appeared to catalyze the spread of the coronavirus. Canada has gone from diagnosing more than 2,000 cases per day in mid-October to an average of 4,776 cases daily in the past week, according to Public Health Agency of Canada modeling released Friday.

Few Canadians fly to grandma’s house for a turkey dinner, so the spike there could offer just a taste of the pain Americans could see after next week’s holiday — usually preceded by the biggest travel day of the year in the U.S.

Health experts are desperately warning Americans not to fly, train or drive to see family and say that absent changes to Americans' typical holiday season behavior, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner could lead to thousands more funerals by Christmas.

More than 250,000 Americans have died from the disease since March. Canada had kept the pandemic in check compared with its neighbor to the south, but the new surge has officials there sounding caution as well.

An urgent warning against travel came this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after more than a million new Covid cases were recorded over seven days. Some governors and state officials have been even more blunt: stay home.

"What's at stake is basically the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and being hospitalized and dying," said Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager. "And around these holidays, we tend to get people together from multiple generations."

AAA forecasts Thanksgiving travel to drop at least 10 percent from 2019 — the biggest one-year decline since the 2008 recession — but notes that CDC and state guidance will likely convince even more prospective travelers to stay home. Still, the high end of that forecast is 50 million Americans hopping in cars or onto planes to sit down to tables with all the trimmings.

So while some Americans are planning for Zoomsgiving, Canadians are dealing with a post-Thanksgiving surge. And now, talk about Christmas is dire.

New public health modeling projects that Canada could see up to 60,000 new cases of Covid per day — more than a dozen times current levels — by the end of December if people increase their contacts and celebrate the holidays as normal. Even the status quo for Canadians would translate to more than 20,000 new cases daily, according to the projections, or about five times higher than today. The runaway numbers have been attributed in part to Thanksgiving gatherings.

Trudeau implored Canadians on Friday to stay home and avoid traveling if they can. "In the coming weeks, we need to flatten this curve," he said.

The comments were a significant change in tone for the prime minister who suggested to Canadians throughout the fall that they had "a shot at Christmas," provided they hunker down. "We all want to try and have as normal a Christmas as possible even though a normal Christmas is, quite frankly, right out of the question," Trudeau said Friday.

Provincial premiers have been reluctant to reimpose the stark measures from the spring on their residents for fear of further damaging economies. Still, some have flirted with greater restrictions as cases continue to mount — Ontario just announced new lockdowns in hot spots, and Quebec has a plan to allow gatherings of up to 10 people for four days around Christmas while imploring residents to self-quarantine for a week before and after the events.

Throughout the U.S., governors are increasingly instituting limits on public and private gatherings and testing and quarantine requirements for those who choose to travel out of state.

A bipartisan group of Midwestern governors urged their residents on Tuesday to adhere to public health guidelines when celebrating this week. New Jersey tightened its limit for indoor gatherings to 10 people, akin to New York's requirements for indoor and outdoor get-togethers. California, the nation’s most populous state, is now imposing a 10 p.m. curfew.

Several states, including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont, have instituted quarantine or testing requirements for out-of-state visitors. But the thresholds are hardly uniform, and the requirements themselves are difficult to enforce.

In both countries, the holidays coincide with growing Covid fatigue and colder weather that is moving social gatherings indoors, factors that are surely fueling case spikes. Add to that conflicting messages from government officials about how to approach the holiday season and Canada and the U.S. each have recipes for potential disaster.

The Trump administration's top health officials implored Americans on Wednesday to adhere to CDC guidelines and to state and local directives. The same day, the White House press secretary described state-level travel warnings as “Orwellian" — even though the president has delegated the pandemic response to lower levels of government. Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro on Friday called Democratic governors' lockdowns "a regressive tax on the poor."

Even Trudeau’s rhetoric on the holidays and the government's response to the virus has shifted over time.

Most of Canada shut down in the spring as government and health officials scrambled to learn more about the virus. Now in the country's second wave, Trudeau has let provinces, which are responsible for providing health care in Canada, take the lead in deciding what restrictions are necessary in their jurisdictions. He's stopped well short of invoking a law that would give the federal government greater control in locking down the entire country, insisting it's unnecessary, though he's begun prodding certain provinces to do more to protect their citizens.

And now, the efforts by Trudeau and Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, to save Christmas are colored by the latest modeling.

Trudeau warned earlier this week that the holiday season “will be different this year” depending on certain factors — “what region of the country you’re in, what people are able to do between now and the holidays in order to flatten the curve, to reduce the number of cases.”

Tam suggested Canadians have "the talk" with family members about expectations they must meet in order to spend Christmas together, such as limiting contact with those outside their households for 14 days before a visit or wearing masks inside the whole time.

"We have every chance to bend the curve," she said Friday.

With Americans eager to see friends and family, the travel industry this week had to walk a tightrope between promoting air travel as safe and acknowledging the health risks of holiday travel spelled out by the nation's top doctors.

"The CDC advised that people should reconsider their travel plans. This further underscores the need to be really smart and highly vigilant on health and safety protocols if you’re going to choose to travel," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

"I’d rather have a little less travel now to come back more quickly down the road."

Sam Mintz contributed to this report.

On Parler, MAGA’s post-election world view blossoms with no pushback

Politico -

Since the election, President Donald Trump and his allies have faced fact-checks, condemnation and restrictions when trying to spread inconclusive evidence of voter fraud and leftist violence on social media.

But over on Parler, there’s a new, millions-strong MAGA universe where conservatives are freely spreading these claims and reinforcing their belief that Democrats have stolen the election from Trump.

Hashtags on Parler denoting Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories — #Dominion, #Sharpiegate, #QAnon — trend freely, without the restrictions Twitter and Facebook have instituted to suppress them. Stories from fringe sites pushing baseless allegations of voter fraud are not flagged as disinformation, as they often are elsewhere. Videos from the Million MAGA March depicting heated confrontations between MAGA supporters, counter-protesters and D.C. police are shared as evidence of rampant antifa violence, omitting necessary context that would show otherwise.

The set-up gives MAGA conservatives an easy way to simply dismiss the post-election beliefs of the public at large, the widely accepted reports in mainstream news outlets and the word of experts and even some government officials. There is now a robust, consequence-free echo chamber for them that confirms a worldview in which a rigged election system falsely gave Biden a victory, and leftist thugs are taking to the streets to ensure the outcome isn’t overturned. And with over 4 million new downloads since Election Day — nearly doubling the site’s user base — that echo chamber is expanding rapidly.

“It’s fitting that it offers disaffected Trump supporters the allure of the safest of safe spaces,” said Angelo Carusone, the president of the progressive-leaning group Media Matters, which monitors far-right media across platforms. “It’s perfect because Parler provides a place free from constraint and heavily stocked up on like-minded [MAGA] heads.”

Ever since its launch in 2018, Parler has existed in a boom-bust cycle — constantly promising to be the “free speech” alternative to places like Twitter and Facebook.

Virtually every time there has been a blowup in the press over social media companies moderating conservative content, big-name populists would publicly proclaim they were leaving the platforms, urging their followers to follow them to Parler. Usually, however, they would return to their regular Twitter schedules and Facebook posts within weeks, engaging with their exponentially larger audiences on those platforms.

The result was that Parler became what Trump-supporting One America News Network correspondent Jack Posobiec called a never-ending “Trump rally” — a completely pro-Trump room.

But it was a relatively small room until the election.

In the aftermath of Trump’s defeat, the app rocketed to the top of the Google and Apple app stores, a reaction, in part, to the heightened fact-checking Twitter was conducting on the untrue voter fraud claims the president and his allies were circulating.

“Parler’s positioning as a receptacle for Trump's MAGA supporters is part of a longstanding trend of conservatives threatening a Twitter exodus over claims of censorship and persecution,” said Karim Zidan, a journalist with the left-leaning watchdog group Right Wing Watch. “Twitter's heavy moderation of posts involving election-fraud conspiracy theories and disinformation has caused MAGA supporters to slowly transition to Parler under the guise of free speech.”

A pro-Trump platform for MAGA people to punish Twitter was not the way that Parler marketed itself when it launched. Indeed, earlier this year, CEO and founder John Matze offered a $20,000 “bounty” to any progressive pundits with a following of 50,000 or more Twitter followers who switched platforms — an attempt to bring some monetizable, partisan internet fights to the platform. But up until the election, the site was largely populated with Republican politicians and top conservatives of MAGA internet squatting on their accounts to prevent impostors.

In recent weeks, however, the site has become a central hub for Trump followers scouring for evidence of the widespread voter-fraud they are alleging.

Some of the far-right journalists covering these claims on Twitter — and frequently overstating the conclusions of their reports — have even directed followers to migrate to their Parler accounts for the unvarnished story.

“In the event I’m censored covering the Georgia recount please follow me on Parler as well,” tweeted Heather Mullins, a reporter for the conservative outlet Real America’s Voice who Trump has retweeted several times since the election.

Over on Parler, dozens of top MAGA influencers are posting debunked claims about Dominion and Smartmatic, two voting technology companies, “deleting” hundreds of thousands of Trump votes.

And people on the site have in recent days started attacking Fox News host Tucker Carlson after he aired a segment pointing out that Sidney Powell, one of the lawyers leading Trump’s court battle to overturn the election, had refused to give him evidence to back up the Dominion claims.

In a sign of the split between Twitter and Parler, Carlson’s takedown went viral on Twitter, while a video of Powell rebutting Carlson on Fox Business Network has spread everywhere on Parler.

Parler also hosted dozens of videos from the Million MAGA March, the pro-Trump demonstration that took place outside the White House last Saturday. The clips were circulated in an attempt to prove the danger of antifa agents and Black Lives Matter activists attacking MAGA acolytes, calling the clashes “terror attacks.” One video in particular went viral, depicting what appeared to be left-wing activists, unprovoked, beating up a Trump supporter.

When the same videos circulated on Twitter, others attempted to point out some missing context.

For instance, the investigative journalist Robert Evans with Bellingcat, an outlet focused on fact-checking and examining open-sourced intelligence, noted the viral video failed to show the apparent Trump supporter first appearing “to shove, strike and threaten a number of people before being brutally assaulted himself.”

According to police records from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the event did not appear to be rife with violence. The department said there were 21 arrests at the event, only a handful of which were for potentially violent incidents. One man was arrested for launching a firework at the protesters, according to police records. Another man from Staten Island was arrested after police said he attacked a would-be thief with a flagpole. Four more people got nabbed for attempting — and failing — to incite violence, records show. And after a Georgia couple who came to “support their president” was arrested for openly carrying semi-automatic weapons.

While the records are not a comprehensive accounting of the day’s skirmishes — other instances likely occurred without police intervention or simply went unnoticed — they do not show any major street brawls, looting or smashed windows, as people on Parler were insinuating.

Parler’s underlying energy also comes from MAGA influencers who have been deplatformed elsewhere and found a new home at Parler.

“Thank you to all my amazing supporters; here, online and in the streets,” posted Hopkins, a British commentator who had been permanently suspended from Twitter after she violated the company’s hate-speech policy in July. Her ban had cost her over a million followers, but she was clawing back: she now had 421,000 followers on Parler.

Parler’s biggest victory post-election, however, was that higher-profile conservatives and lawmakers started engaging frequently with the site. After previously treating their presence on the app as perfunctory, GOP politicians and top conservatives are now bolting to the Parler bunker, as they increasingly see their tweets get labeled — and invalidated — as misinformation on Twitter.

Often, these people present the migration as a matter of making sure their voices are heard, in case, as conservative radio host Mark Levin put it, Facebook and Twitter “continue censoring me.”

Whether Parler can actually scale and present a reliable challenge to Twitter or Facebook is another question, though. It could simply go the way of other right-wing media projects and remain ostensibly on the fringe.

“The self-segmenting of this group to Parler will intensify their extremism. No doubt about that,” said Carusone, of Media Matters. “But it will also weaken the influence of the right-wing by siphoning off a segment of users, many of whom will be the most engaged users.”

And it can’t replace an effective legal strategy to challenge the election. Republican lawsuits thus far have failed to make any progress in reversing the initial vote tally.

It’s a point that even some pro-Trump allies are making. During a Nov. 13 appearance on Fox Business Network, GOP Congressman Devin Nunes was parrying questions from Lou Dobbs, a nominally Trump-friendly anchor, who asked him bluntly if the GOP had a legal plan to save Trump.

“In order to win these battles,” Nunes said, “we have to have a place to communicate. When you ask, what are we doing now, that’s why millions of Americans are flooding over to Parler. They’re flooding over to Rumble.”

“Good lord, congressman,” Dobbs responded. “With all due respect, congressman, and I respect the hell out of you — pushing Parler and Rumble is not an answer to what I’m asking.”

Trump requests recount in Georgia

Politico -

President Donald Trump’s campaign said it filed a petition for recount in Georgia, one day after the state certified Joe Biden’s victory.

While Biden won the state by more than 12,000 votes, under Georgia law Trump was entitled to request a recount because the winning margin was less than 0.5%.

“President Trump and his campaign continue to insist on an honest recount in Georgia, which has to include signature matching and other vital safeguards. Without signature matching, this recount would be a sham and again allow for illegal votes to be counted,” the Trump campaign said in a statement late Saturday. “If there is no signature matching, this would be as phony as the initial vote count and recount. Let’s stop giving the people false results. There must be a time when we stop counting illegal ballots. Hopefully it is coming soon.”

Unlike Wisconsin, where the Trump campaign was required to pay $3 million for a partial recount in two heavily Democratic counties, taxpayers must pay the cost of a recount in Georgia.

The requested recount follows a statewide audit of the Georgia results last week that upheld Biden’s victory.

That audit, which checked the accuracy of the machine count, found Biden ahead by just under 12,300 votes in the state. During the audit process, four counties — Floyd, Fayette, Douglas and Walton — found ballots that were not initially reported, either because they were never initially counted or not uploaded correctly. Those counties all re-uploaded their results, which shrank Biden’s margin by around 1,400 votes, not enough to jeopardize his lead.

The recount requested Saturday would be unlikely to change the outcome because it would involve a machine re-tally of the results — and the audit confirmed the accuracy of the machine counters.

In a statement, Jaclyn Rothenberg, Georgia communications director for the Biden campaign, said: "Last week's recount reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president. ... Any further recount will simply reaffirm Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia a third time."

Loeffler self-isolates after positive Covid test

Politico -

Sen. Kelly Loeffler is self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus, her campaign announced on Saturday, though a second test was inconclusive and a rapid test came back negative.

The Georgia Republican, who has been actively campaigning for the state’s Jan. 5 runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock, took two Covid-19 tests on Friday morning before appearing with Vice President Mike Pence at a campaign rally. The rapid test came back negative, but Loeffler, 49, learned on Friday evening that her PCR test — a more accurate sampling — came back positive, according to Loeffler’s spokesman, Stephen Lawson.

Loeffler’s third test on Saturday morning came back “inconclusive,” the campaign said late Saturday.

“Senator Loeffler followed CDC guidelines by notifying those with whom she had sustained direct contact while she awaits further test results,” Lawson added. “She has no symptoms and she will continue to follow CDC guidelines by quarantining until retesting is conclusive and an update will be provided at that time.”

Loeffler’s campaign events have come under scrutiny for not adhering to CDC guidelines. Specifically, the senator has held indoor, largely mask-less events, including one last week with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat earlier this year after Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) retired, joins seven other senators who have contracted the virus this year and two others who tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. Just this week, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) revealed positive diagnoses.

Georgia’s twin runoffs are set to determine which party controls the Senate come January, so Loeffler and her counterpart Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) have been maintaining busy schedules criss-crossing the Peach State. Perdue is facing off against Democrat Jon Ossoff as he seeks a second six-year term in the Senate.

Trump calls on GOP state legislatures to overturn election results

Politico -

President Donald Trump made explicit Saturday the strategy his legal team has been hinting at for days: He wants Republican-led legislatures to overturn election results in states that Joe Biden won.

"Why is Joe Biden so quickly forming a Cabinet when my investigators have found hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes, enough to “flip” at least four States, which in turn is more than enough to win the Election?" Trump said, despite refusing to produce any such evidence either publicly or in court cases filed by his attorneys.

"Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections, and the United States of America itself," Trump said.

Trump's comment came after a string of legal defeats, including a rejection by a federal judge in Pennsylvania Saturday who said the Trump team presented no evidence of election fraud or misconduct, despite seeking to invalidate millions of votes. Trump's lead lawyer in the case, Rudy Giuliani, said he intends to appeal the case to the Third Circuit and, if necessary, the Supreme Court.

But with few cases pending in courts, Trump's options have narrowed and he is becoming increasingly reliant on longshot scenarios where election results are not certified and Republican-controlled statehouses in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and Georgia intervene to declare him the winner.

GOP legislative leaders in those states have not endorsed this approach. Trump summoned Michigan legislative leaders to the White House on Friday, but they later issued a statement indicating they had not seen any reason to intervene on Trump's behalf.

To succeed, Trump's plan would require several unprecedented legal steps. First, Republican-led legislatures in states Biden won would need to move to overturn their state's popular vote and appoint a slate of Trump electors when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14. In Pennsylvania and Michigan, such maneuvers would be certain to meet vetoes from Democratic governors, so the lawmakers would also need to secure a legal determination that they hold the sole power to appoint electors — a disputed legal premise that has never been tested.

Trump's call for lawmakers to hand him the election is the most overt call he's made yet for state lawmakers to overturn the election results. But it also underscores his dwindling options: Michigan is due to certify its vote totals on Monday, as are Pennsylvania counties, which would hand the statewide certification duty to Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat. On Friday, Georgia certified Biden’s victory.

As of Friday evening, Pennsylvania's GOP leaders said they had not received an invitation to meet Trump at the White House, but last month, they said they would not step in to alter the election results.


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