Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Gov. Greg Abbott

Photo by Jay Godwin via LBJLibraryNow

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Thursday that each county in the state can only have one designated spot for voters to return absentee ballots — a move that will undoubtedly make it harder to vote, as it will require many people in the state to travel further to drop off completed ballots.

Abbott claimed the move was aimed at "enhancing ballot security protocols," and went on to say that he is authorizing "poll watchers to observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk's office location."

"The State of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections," Abbott said in a news release. "As we work to preserve Texans' ability to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take extra care to strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state. These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting."

People in Texas who want to vote may have to travel hundreds of miles to do so.

For example, Harris County — the largest county in Texas that encompasses the city of Houston — is 1,703 square miles, according to data from the Census Bureau. That's larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, which is 1,545 square miles. Currently, Harris County has 12 ballot drop-off sites — 11 satellite offices of the county clerk, as well as one arena located in Houston.

Travis County, which includes the capital city of Austin, currently has four drop-off sites.

Abbott's move comes as Donald Trump has been railing against absentee ballots, falsely claiming they're rife with fraud and even vowing to get absentee ballots tossed out to help him win reelection.

Trump's campaign has filed numerous lawsuits to make it harder to vote by mail, including efforts to reduce the number of ballot drop boxes in states across the country. (Trump has lost many of these lawsuits already, as his campaign has been unable to prove absentee ballots lead to fraud or that ballot drop boxes are not secure.)

Trump also called on his supporters to watch the polls, a move that's leading officials in states across the country to worry about voter intimidation.

Abbott has been a Trump ally, and his false claim that poll watchers and decreased drop-off locations and are needed for "security" reasons seems to be taking Trump's lies and turning them into policy.

Marc Elias, a lawyer who has been helping Democrats fight against Trump and the Republican Party's efforts to make it harder to vote, condemned Abbott's move.

"This is an outrageous act of voter suppression by the Republicans who know they are losing at the ballot box," Elias tweeted. "We will explore ALL legal options to ensure voting rights for all Texans!"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Sen. David Perdue

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) pulled out of his final debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff on Thursday —because he'd rather attend a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The Nov. 1 Senate debate was planned months ago, but Perdue's campaign said he could not participate as promised because he has been too busy doing his job.

"Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia. For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief," his spokesperson John Burke said in a statement, referencing a failed attempt by Senate Republicans to pass Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) "skinny" $500 billion proposal.

"To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts," Burke added.

WSB-TV noted on Thursday that it offered Perdue's campaign other time slots to accommodate the Trump rally, but the overture was rebuffed.

Ossoff's campaign blasted Perdue's "cowardly withdrawal," saying in a statement that the move "says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he'll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The incumbent's decision to break his promise to debate came one day after a video of Jon Ossoff criticizing Perdue's anti-Obamacare record at a Wednesday debate went viral. As of Friday morning, a 72-second clip of Ossoff has been viewed more than 12 million times.

Perdue responded to that attack by making the odd claim that he repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which would take insurance away from hundreds of thousands of his constituents — because he believed doing so would cover more people.

"I voted against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, because it was taking insurance away from millions of Georgians. Today almost 18 percent of Georgians don't have any health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act," he falsely claimed.

This is not the first time Perdue has put Trump ahead of the interests of Georgians. According to FiveThirtyEight, he has voted with Trump about 95 percent of the time, including backing his right-wing Supreme Court nominees, his tax cuts for large corporations and the very wealthy, and his repeated attempts to take money from military families to pay for a massive Southern border wall.

Medical experts and data analyses have suggested Trump's rallies have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus. Trump has refused to adhere to social distancing rules or to require mask usage at the events and the mass gatherings have frequently been immediately followed by case spikes in the communities where he holds them.

One poll this week found that voters across the country said they are less likely to vote for Trump because of his "large, in-person campaign rallies where wearing a mask is not required of attendees."

The race between Ossoff and Perdue is considered a "toss-up" by election experts, and polls show it as virtual tied.

If no candidate gets a majority on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in a January runoff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.