Georgia Hugs Jim Crow, Gives Democracy the Finger

Here comes voter suppression + vaccines for all + a thought exercise on North Carolina’s constitutional amendments + how to invent an immigration crisis

Fri., March 26, 2021

Happy Friday, everyone. Let’s get right to it.

  • Weather: Hot today—high in the mid-80s—with a chance of storms. A bit cooler this weekend. (WRAL)


Today’s Number: 12

Days until everyone in North Carolina age 16 and up is eligible for a COVID vaccine. (That’s April 7.)

  • Yeah, but: Eligible is the key word. The state won’t have enough supply to meet demand.

  • 12 is also the number of local healthy children participating in a Pfizer vaccine trial at Duke in a total study of 48 kids. Twin 9-year-old girls there were the first children in the country to receive a Pfizer vaccine. (N&O)


+TODAY’S TOP 3

1. Georgia Hugs Jim Crow, Gives Democracy the Finger

Look at that photo.

Think about the optics.

A white man in a suit and tie, surrounded by white men in suits and ties, signing a bill to prevent Black people from voting while a Black woman legislator was arrested just outside the doors of this office trying to get in to watch the signing.

The white man signing the bill narrowly won his election in 2018 against a Black woman only after—as secretary of state—he engaged in egregious voter suppression. This legislation reverses rules his Republican colleagues put in place because Black people had used those rules to defeat his allies.

You’ll see this image a lot. It won’t be in Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign materials.

Georgia Republicans say they are ensuring “election integrity” (there was no evidence of fraud beyond Sidney Powell’s now-admitted bullshit and Trump’s fever dream) and expanding access to voting (a lie). They are also patting themselves on the back for not eliminating no-excuse absentee voting and Souls to the Polls days, which they wanted to do before catching hell about it.

Here is what the law does:

  • Adds voter ID requirements for absentee voting.

  • Limits the use of drop boxes for absentee voting.

  • Blocks the use of mobile voting vans, like Fulton County used, because, you know, something something fraud.

  • Allows poll watchers to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and forces counties to hold hearings on these challenges within 10 days. (No way this one gets abused.)

  • Makes it a crime for voting-rights groups to hand out food and water and people standing in line to vote—long lines, of course, being common in Black and Brown precincts.

  • Best of all, it allows the legislature to take over local elections boards—in other words, it gives state Republicans a way to overrule Democrats in metro areas and block certifications if an election doesn’t go the way they planned.

At a press conference yesterday, President Joe Biden said the law “makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.” (I have no idea what that means.)

  • It will ramp up pressure on Senate Democrats to pass some version of the For the People Act. That, in turn, will ramp up pressure to nuke or defang the filibuster.

  • Biden keeps moving closer to supporting big-time filibuster reform. He agreed that the filibuster was a Jim Crow relic and said it was being “abused in a gigantic way.”

  • The question is whether his change of heart will move Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Given Sinema’s recent poll numbers, she should probably toe the line. In any event, getting Manchin on board won’t be easy.

  • Time is of the essence. Republicans are trying to do this same thing in dozens of more states.

▶️ OTHER ANTI-DEMOCRACY NEWS

  • In November, Missouri voters backed a constitutional amendment to expand the state’s Medicaid program. The state’s Republican legislature is refusing to fund the expansion.


2. The Amendments You Can’t Vote On

Yesterday, the North Carolina House passed a bill to place a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot that would further restrict the government’s right to condemn property using eminent domain. Eminent domain amendments are something of a ritual in the state House; I have no idea whether this one will fare better in the Senate than previous attempts.

  • The proposed amendment ever so slightly tweaks the law’s language in a way that would tremendously limit governmental authority. Right now, local and state governments can condemn property for “public use or benefit.” Under this proposal, the words “and benefit” go away.

  • A highway is a public use. A public “benefit” is much broader; it could include, say, local governments taking private property for an economic development project.

  • Condemning someone’s land to turn over to, for instance, a developer sounds pretty awful—which is why it very rarely happens. The optics are terrible.

  • The amendment also gives the person whose property has been taken the right to go to court if they believe the government hasn’t sufficiently compensated them.

I’ll put aside the eminent domain discussion until Phil Berger shows an interest—though if it makes the ballot, I suspect it will pass easily. This bill made me think about a few things that would also pass easily but will never see the ballot because the General Assembly doesn’t think you deserve a say.

Here are five, off the top of my head:

  • Legalizing marijuana.

  • Expanding Medicaid.

  • Raising the minimum wage.

  • Establishing an independent redistricting commission.

  • Allowing citizens to put referendums on the ballot.

  • What did I miss?

▶️ OTHER NCGA NEWS

Earlier this month, the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to enact congressional term limits—a dumb proposal that isn’t going to happen—forgetting, it seems, to place term limits on themselves. Anyway, a couple of pretty good ideas came out of Jones Street this week. Here’s a quick recap:

  • SB 349 would require municipalities to allow missing middle housing—duplexes, triplexes, quads—in residential-zoned areas, including those dedicated to single-family housing. It also requires municipalities to allow at least one accessory dwelling unit per single-family house. (Historic neighborhoods are exempted.)

  • SB 355, meanwhile, would make state and local employees’ disciplinary records public—a long, long-overdue change. Currently, you can find out that an employee was demoted, suspended, or terminated. Under this bill, you’ll be able to find out why. The State Employees Association of North Carolina is upset, but, well, too bad. If taxpayers are paying your salary, taxpayers should have the right to view your disciplinary files. (They should have the right to see your entire personnel file, but one battle at a time.)


3. That Migrant Surge We’re Freaking Out About? It’s Not Real.

After weeks of demanding that Biden give a press conference, the media generally beclowned itself—forgetting about the global pandemic, and instead asking, for example, whether Biden planned to run again. They also took the GOP’s bait on immigration, asking the president whether his policies were contributing to a surge of new migrants.

About that:

The increase in border crossings at the U.S. border with Mexico has generated a lot of attention—and a lot of theories about where this increase is coming from and whether it might be linked to Biden administration policies.

Underappreciated in the developing narrative is just how predictable the rise in border crossings is. We analyzed monthly U.S. Customs and Border Protection data from 2012 through February and found no clear evidence that the overall increase in border crossings in 2021 can be attributed to Biden administration policies. Rather, the current increase fits a pattern of seasonal changes in undocumented immigration combined with a backlog of demand because of 2020’s coronavirus border closure.

According to immigration experts writing in the Washington Post, this is all pretty simple: The numbers dipped in 2020 because, with the pandemic, every country closed its borders. They are now about what they were in 2019, plus the pent-up demand.

  • All Trump’s border closure did, they write, was delay the migrants, not turn them away.

  • “That would be consistent with nearly three decades of research in political science. … Scholars consistently find that border security policies do not necessarily deter migration; rather, they delay migrants’ decisions to travel and change the routes they take.”

That being said, Biden did struggle yesterday on questions of transparency—namely, when he’ll let journalists see the overcrowded Customs and Border Patrol stations. He said he’d do some after his plan was in place, but he didn’t give a timeline.

▶️ OTHER IMMIGRATION NEWS

  • Fox News host Jeanine Pirro thinks the migrants seeking asylum are “a lower level of human being” who are all under the control of cartels. (Media Matters)

▶️ OTHER INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Earlier this week, the Biden administration joined other nations in placing sanctions on China over the genocide being carried out against the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority group. (NYT)

Sanctions China