Commentary, News

Another conservative state opts for Medicaid expansion

The walls are closing in on the conservative politicians and their apologists in the right-wing think tanks who continue stand in the way of Medicaid expansion under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. That’s the only conclusion one can draw after yesterday’s vote in deeply-red Missouri.

As Politico reports this morning:

“Missouri voters on Tuesday approved Medicaid expansion to many of the state’s poorest adults, making their conservative state the second to join the Obamacare program through the ballot during the pandemic.

The Missouri ballot measure expands Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents at a time when the state’s safety net health care program is already experiencing an enrollment surge tied to the pandemic’s economic upheaval. The measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

…Missouri becomes the sixth Republican-led state where voters have defied GOP leaders to expand Medicaid, just weeks after Oklahoma voters narrowly backed the program. No state has ever voted down such a ballot initiative in recent years, underscoring the popularity of Medicaid expansion even in parts of the country hostile to Obamacare”

Yesterday’s vote leaves North Carolina stuck in a small and shrinking group of holdouts that includes eight states from the old Confederacy, three mostly rural Midwestern states and the nation’s least-populated state (Wyoming). As has been the case in so many other areas of societal progress in recent months, it seems now as if it’s just a matter of time before obstructionist politicians like North Carolina legislative leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore stand aside and get on board with expansion or face the prospect of voters making the decision for them.

News

Federal court ruling will aid mail-in voting in NC; voters will have a chance to “cure” rejected ballots

One of the major concerns raised by voting rights advocates in the run-up to the 2020 election in North Carolina has involved the issue of ballots that are rejected because of an error in the way a voter marks it. Now, thanks to a ruling issued late yesterday by federal District Court Judge William Osteen, North Carolinians who find themselves in that position will have a chance to cure their error.  Osteen, however, rejected plaintiffs’ effort to do away with the state’s witness requirement for absentee voting and declined to order the provision of “no contact” drop boxes for ballots or to strike down the state’s early deadline for voter registration.

The win on curing rejected ballots, however, could have a big impact. The following is from a press release issued late yesterday by the League of Women Voters, which had brought suit challenging North Carolina’s lack of a process whereby voters could be notified of such a rejection and be given a chance to cure any error.

Over 100,000 Voters Will Be Protected in November with New Process 

GREENSBORO—Late today, a federal judge ruled in the League of Women Voters of North Carolina’s case that the North Carolina State Board of Elections must provide a notice and cure process for absentee ballots marked for rejection. As the number of voters choosing to cast ballots by mail is expected to surge due to the threat of COVID-19, the decision provides relief for tens of thousands of voters whose ballots would otherwise be rejected without recourse.

“The establishment of a notice and cure process for absentee ballots is a major victory for North Carolina voters,” said Jo Nicholas, president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. “Now, even amidst all the uncertainty that the pandemic brings, voters can have assurance that their safely cast ballots will be counted in November.”

Over 282,000 absentee ballots were rejected in North Carolina’s March primary election, 41% of which could have been cured if voters had been notified and given a chance to do so, according to data reviewed by Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The absence of a cure process in that election left 115,000 voters without a way to fix mistakes and ensure their ballots would be counted.

“Too many voters—particularly voters of color—are disenfranchised by unfair ballot rejection processes that provide them no opportunity to cure what are often minor errors,” said Celina Stewart, senior director of advocacy and litigation for the League of Women Voters of the United States. “In such an important election year, it is incumbent upon states to ensure voter confidence by establishing uniform and fair processes that empower voters to fix errors and provide assurance that their ballots will count.” Read more

Commentary, COVID-19, Trump Administration

Editorial: Trump and science

In case you missed it, be sure to check out this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com. In “Trump, magnificently incompetent,” the authors do a great job of exposing President Trump’s almost pathological aversion to science and its vital importance to the well-being of modern society.

As the editorial notes, we know what real science is, what it can do and what it can produce, and we witnessed it again in a powerful way this week when engineers launched a new mission to Mars.

“In real America, scientists and engineers used real facts, real math, to launch the Mars rover ‘Perseverance’ atop an Atlas V rocket early last Thursday morning on a 64 million-mile trip to arrive at the Red Planet in February 2021. It was a flawless launch. Watch the video here.

The mission Perseverance is about ambition, innovation and embracing the future. Exploration of the Jezero Crater located in a basin slightly north of the Martian equator will seek REAL evidence of past microbial life and test out conditions for possible human exploration.”

Unfortunately, as the editorial also points out, President Trump has given repeated indications that he just doesn’t get this basic reality. Instead of championing real science, Trump champions nonsense and fantasy. The latest example: his decision to lift up the COVID-19-related comments of a troubled/delusional doctor from Texas:

“Facebook, YouTube and Twitter removed several versions of another video that Trump re-tweeted about dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic because it violated policies on false data and misinformation. But there’s an archive of the video here and a transcript here.

The ‘very impressive’ doctor turns out to be Stella Immanuel of Houston, Texas. She is a doctor, who says that there is demon sperm and the uterine condition “endometriosis” is caused by sex with demons during dreams. She spouts fiction and myth.”

When Trump was asked about the Immanuel’s bizarre claims during a press conference, he simply walked out.

As the editorial noted in conclusion, we must do better as a nation:

“We reject backward thinking that embraces the false premise of the ‘good-old-days’ and where hunches, guesses, myth and phony facts lead to impulsive, dangerous unproductive actions.

We choose an ambitious and innovative America where technology, research, evidence and planning calculates risk to produce bold and decisive success.”

Amen to that.

Commentary, News

Faith leaders join lawmakers and more than 34,000 citizens in calling for release of Ronnie Long

Image: Adobe Stock

Last Friday, an interfaith group of 38 religious leaders called on Gov. Cooper to commute the sentence of Ronnie Wallace Long.

Long’s story is a profoundly disturbing one. An all-white jury convicted Wallace, who is Black, of sexually assaulting a white woman in Concord, N.C., in 1976.

For more than 44 years Long has maintained his innocence, and it is now known that exculpatory evidence was hidden from Long and his attorneys at trial and that law enforcement officers testified falsely under oath. Long is represented by the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

The faith leaders supporting Long include the Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the North Carolina NAACP, and the Rev. William J. Barber II and the Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign. Their letter is the latest of a growing number of calls on Governor Cooper to free Long.

This is from the letter sent by the faith leaders:

“Numerous issues undercut the case on which the State secured Mr. Long’s conviction. Neither Mr. Long’s defense nor the jury knew that forty-three fingerprints were found at the scene, none of which matched Mr. Long’s. Nor did they know that the prosecution possessed an untested rape kit. The victim’s identification of Mr. Long was obtained through leading techniques, and his appearance was inconsistent with her initial description of the attacker. These are only a few questions among the many—including the lack of physical evidence implicating Mr. Long—that continue to cast doubt on his conviction forty-four years later.”

The letter from faith leaders came just days after a group of 16 North Carolina lawmakers wrote the governor urging him to commute Long’s sentence, and more than 34,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding Long’s release. This is from the lawmakers’ letter:

“The 1976 prosecution is emblematic of North Carolina’s all-too-familiar history with criminal cases drawn along racial lines: an all   -white jury, without the benefit of existing evidence that would have cast doubt on Mr. Long’s guilt, convicted a  Black man suspected of raping a white woman.”

Remarkably, Gov. Cooper has not yet exercised his authority to grant clemency since taking office. If this pattern holds, he would be the first North Carolina Governor in more than forty years to complete a term without granting clemency to a single person. Let’s hope he changes course in this important case.

Commentary, COVID-19

Moral Mondays movement goes national and virtual this afternoon to protest Senate’s relief blockade

In case you missed it, the national Poor People’s Campaign will be hosting a one hour, online protest this afternoon at 3:30 to demonstrate against the U.S. Senate’s continued blockade of adequate pandemic relief legislation. This is from the announcement for the event that the group has entitled “Moral Monday to Stop McConnell’s Misery, Meanness and Mayhem”:

On Monday at 3:30pm ET /12:30pm PT the Poor People’s Campaign will launch a Moral Monday to Stop McConnell’s Misery, Meanness and Mayhem. Senate Majority Leader McConnell is too comfortable with the thousands of deaths and untold suffering from the pandemics of COVID-19, systemic racism and poverty. In this urgent crisis of leadership, we must come together to demand a full and just relief package that lifts from the bottom.

RSVP Now to Join PPC Co-chairs and Movement Family on Moral Monday to Stop McConnell’s Misery, Meanness and Mayhem.

As Mother Jones taught us, we will “Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living!”

It has been nearly five months since this government took action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now facing the worst public health crisis in a century and an economic recession that rivals the Great Depression.

Before the pandemic, there were already 140 million people who were poor or one emergency away from being poor. Now, 50 million unemployment claims have been filed since March and 20 million Americans face evictions in the days ahead, while at the same time US billionaires have increased their wealth by over $700 billion.

Yet, under Mitch McConnell’s leadership, the Senate Republicans have proposed a bill that will leave citizens and states with fewer protections and funds. Instead of bolstering unemployment benefits and extending renter protections, the proposed bill actually increases the military budget, maintains tax breaks for the wealthy, undermines public schools’ ability to safely reopen and institutes legal immunity for corporations and companies that are forcing people back to work in unsafe conditions.

Join us for a Moral Monday to Stop McConnell’s Misery, Meanness and Mayhem, this Monday, August 3, 2020 at 3:30pm ET as we honor the dead, flood the phone lines of Majority Leader McConnell and push for a full and just relief package.

Forward together, not one step back!

Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
Co-Chairs, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival