Biden reassures voters in first Texas ad as coronavirus cases surge

Specifically, House Democrats’ campaign arm reserved nearly $1.25 million in ad space, of which about $250,000 went to Spanish-language ads. As recently as May, the DCCC hadn’t included Texas in an initial $18.3 million ad buy, although a Pelosi-aligned Super PAC had dropped $2.2 million in Houston in April. The buys will likely serve the dual purpose of defending freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher’s seat in West Houston (TX-7) as well as boosting an aggressive play by Democrats to flip the seat of freshman GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

But the DCCC has also almost exclusively directed its spending to districts that buttress Democratic ambitions at both the Senate and presidential levels. In recent weeks, Texas has increasingly showed promise as a potential 2020 pick-up opportunity with several recent high-grade polls showing Biden competitive with Trump in the typically ruby-red state.

As Trump downplays the coronavirus surge ravaging the Sunbelt, Biden’s new ad promises Texans that he will stand by their side. “I want every single American to know,” Biden says, “if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day, I will not abandon you.” 

The minute-long spot is also intended to be customized for ads in other states experiencing coronavirus spikes, including Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, according to CNNThough the ad doesn’t explicitly draw a contrast with Trump, it does so implicitly by playing up one of Biden’s greatest strengths—his empathy. 

“I’m thinking of all of you today across Texas. I know the rise in case numbers is causing fear and apprehension. People are frightened. They’re especially worried about their parents, their grandparents, loved ones who are most at risk,” Biden says. “This virus is tough, but Texas is tougher.” The parting image shows a masked Biden as the words “Stay safe, wear a mask” appear on the screen. 

Many Democrats have been pressuring the Biden campaign to expand their sights beyond the original battlegrounds to include more states, with several Texas lawmakers gunning for the Lone Star state specifically. These recent investments by Team Biden and the DCCC suggest they are at least testing the waters there.

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Republicans Are Urging Voters To Forget About The Last 6 Months When They Vote In November

As more polling shows key battleground states – and even some GOP strongholds – tilting toward former Vice President Joe Biden, desperate Republicans have stumbled onto a new strategy: tell voters the last six months never happened.

On MSNBC on Monday, Stephanie Ruhle shared a clip of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) testing out the new strategy.

“The stakes are very high in this election, but do you know why I know we’re gonna win?” Sen. Tillis said. “Because people remember how good their lives were in February.”

As the MSNBC host pointed out, one of the problems with this new strategy is that the duel crises they want the American people to forget about – the coronavirus outbreak and economic collapse – are still raging on with no end in sight.

In fact, Trump’s incompetence has made these problems worse than they should have ever been.


Ruhle said:

A new poll from the Dallas Morning News has former Vice President Joe Biden up five points over Trump in Texas. This is alarming. We know there is a very long way to go, but down five in a state as red as Texas is not good news. Democrats now sensing or hoping I should say for a Democratic tsunami come this November. With Senate GOP candidates not mentioning Trump in ads and not wanting to hug him tightly, concerned about turning off more moderate voters, one GOP senator saying Trump will win because people will just sort of forget the last six months. … These last six months aren’t over. We’ve got five months to go, and Texas for example is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases.

It’s too late for the GOP to untie itself from Trump’s messes

It’s no surprise that Thom Tillis is telling the American people to ignore the last six months when they vote in November. After all, Tillis is up for reelection this year, and he’s falling behind Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in the North Carolina Senate contest.

But it’s too late for Tillis and any other Trump-enabling Republicans to untie themselves from the president and the crises he has spent this year bungling so badly.

That’s especially true when more than 3 million Americans have been infected and nearly 140,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, to say nothing of the millions who are out of work.

Hoping the American people come down with a case of amnesia in time for the election seems to be the only path to victory left for Republicans.

Follow Sean Colarossi on Facebook and Twitter

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Voters in deep-red Oklahoma approve Medicaid expansion

The decision in a Republican-leaning state is rich in political significance. Oklahoma becomes the fifth state in which voters have passed ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid by employing a tool to circumvent the will of GOP governors and legislatures. Another Medicaid-expansion vote is pending in Missouri early next month.

The 50.5 percent vote in favor of Oklahoma’s ballot question, announced late Tuesday night, shows that, even in red states, voters are significantly less hostile to the Affordable Care than President Trump, whose administration is trying to invalidate the law in a case before the Supreme Court. The ACA is the law that gives states the ability to expand Medicaid, a program run jointly by states and the federal government that originated out of the 1960s’ War on Poverty. With Tuesday’s vote, all but 13 states have decided to allow adults without children at home and those with slightly higher incomes into the program.

“It’s important for the country to know what happened in Oklahoma last night,” Amber England, campaign manager for Yes on 802, the grass-roots group leading the effort to pass the measure, said Wednesday. “In the middle of the pandemic, Oklahomans stood up to deliver health care to our friends, families and neighbors.”

Question 802 was the number of the initiative on the state’s primary ballot. She said volunteers collected 313,000 signatures — a state record — to get the question before voters, and hosted Zoom happy hours instead of house parties in this pandemic spring. Both proponents and opponents ran ads.

The vote results do not expand Medicaid in the Sooner State immediately or automatically. Under the wording change to the state constitution, the expansion will start in one year. The state is required within 90 days to submit to federal health officials a request to make the change to its Medicaid program. And the state legislature would need to agree to pay for the state’s portion of funding for the expansion, at least 90 percent of which is covered by federal money under ACA rules.

Approving the change “is huge, but it’s also just the start,” said Carly Putnam, policy director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, which favors the expansion. “We are finally at the point where we can do the hard work to get this implemented.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) immediately made his opposition clear.

“Our Oklahoma legislators now have the difficult job of deciding where we will find an estimated $200 million in funding to support this constitutional mandate,” Stitt said in a statement Wednesday.

With states’ finances eroded from shutting down large parts of their economy to help protect people from the coronavirus, Stitt said, “we are currently looking at a $1 billion deficit for this upcoming year, and the options on the table are raise taxes on hard working Oklahomans or cut finding to core services, such as education, roads and bridges or public safety.”

In Oklahoma, the Medicaid vote occurred against a complicated backdrop. The state is the only one so far that had taken the Trump administration up on an offer to abandon the program’s traditional status as a federal entitlement, in which each state is paid a fixed amount for each person who qualifies. Instead, the administration has said it is willing to free states from a lot of federal rules if they switch to a per-person cap — or a block grant, in which a state’s federal money would be fixed in times of economic crisis, such as a pandemic, when more people would qualify. Oklahoma applied for such a switch this spring, and it is unclear how the expansion vote will affect that.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate for the civilian labor force shot up from 3.2 percent in February to 14.7 percent in April.

Stitt cited the sharp rise in unemployment — and a bigger pool of residents who now qualify for Medicaid — in May when he vetoed a bill that would have provided money for the first phase of the Medicaid transition to a block grant the governor has asked federal officials to approve.

In embracing a more expansive version of Medicaid, residents of Oklahoma — a state in which about two-thirds of voters supported Trump in the 2016 election — fit within a broad political shift. A May poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization, showed that two-thirds of people in states that had not expanded Medicaid thought their state should do so. That preference was even more common (72 percent) among adults in those states who said they or someone in their home had lost pay or a job during the pandemic.

Oklahoma’s Medicaid ballot initiative was different from the four others, because it called for a change to a state constitution rather than state laws. Others have hit snags after the vote. Maine passed a ballot initiative in late 2017, but Medicaid did not expand there until a Republican governor was succeeded by a Democrat in early 2019. Political wrangling ensued in Utah and Idaho before the expansions began there. Like those two states, Nebraska approved an expansion in November 2018, but it is not scheduled to take effect until this fall.

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Breaking New

Nevada’s Latino voters will test Bernie Sanders’ appeal

The 17-year-old son of Mexican immigrants, who was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2018, is voting for the Vermont senator largely because of “Medicare for All.”

Sanders is counting on young Latino voters like Trejo-Ibarra, who can participate in the caucuses because he’ll turn 18 before Election Day, to carry him to victory in Nevada.

Nevada will be the first real test of whether Sanders has been able to expand his appeal in the diverse universe of Democratic voters, particularly within the Latino community, where the Sanders campaign made a huge push to connect with voters more than eight months ago.

“We believe health care is a human right for all people,” Sanders said at a Saturday rally. “We are going to take on the greed of the insurance companies and the drug companies and we are going to pass a Medicare for All single-payer program.”

Sanders will have to contend with the powerful Culinary Union, which fought for and negotiated excellent health benefits, because of its opposition to Medicare for All. The organization says it represents 60,000 hotel and casino workers in Nevada and provides health insurance coverage for more than 130,000 people. It is unclear how much the union’s opposition to Medicare for All will hurt Sanders, as the union decided to not endorse any 2020 candidate before the caucuses.

And Sanders’ presidential rivals are looking to halt the senator’s momentum following his win in New Hampshire and strong showing in Iowa. Businessman Tom Steyer has invested heavily in the state, and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar are also running ads in Spanish as they look to court Latino voters.

But in interviews with more than two dozen Latino voters in Spanish and English over the last few days in predominantly Latino areas of Las Vegas, Sanders’ came up most often, with younger Latino voters describing a particularly passionate desire to elect Sanders. Voters of all ages said they liked Sanders’ plans on health care, education, the environment and tuition-free college.

“As of today, it’s very predictable that Bernie is going to come in first. I would say that it’s unsure who is going to come in second,” Andres Ramirez, a Democratic strategist in Las Vegas, said in an interview with CNN on Friday.

‘99% of the Latino vote hasn’t spoken yet’

At the same time that Sanders was rallying voters and leading a march to an early voting location, former Vice President Joe Biden took the microphone at a middle school gymnasium just a 10-minute drive away. Attendance at his Latino-focused phone-banking event was sparse, filled in part with footsoldiers from California who had come to the state to help canvass for him.

But among them was Rafael Garcia, who made up his mind to vote for Biden that day. “This man has done so much for this country,” Garcia said.

The 59-year-old boxing trainer said he wasn’t worried about Biden’s losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the former vice president placed fourth and fifth respectively.

“It could have been the weather out there, or that new people wanted to be heard,” Garcia said, noting that voters have many choices this cycle. “There were women running. A war hero in Pete (Buttigieg). I love Bernie (Sanders). But I’d like to see everybody come out for Joe (Biden).”

There, Biden reminded the crowd, “99% of the Latino vote hasn’t spoken yet.”

Biden led the Vermont Senator in two January polls from Suffolk University and Fox News, with Sanders coming in second. But polling has been consistently off the mark in Nevada, not only because it’s difficult to predict who will participate in a caucus, but because many casino workers work unusual hours and the state has a constantly changing population with movement in and out of the state.

Age composition of Saturday’s turnout will also be a factor. Sanders has a huge edge among younger voters, while Biden does better among older ones. The Sanders’ team hopes to see a robust turnout among young voters. The fact that 56% of early voters this weekend were first time caucusgoers was a good sign for the Vermont senator.

Sanders had the edge among Latinos nationally in a Pew Research Center poll of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters last month: 30% favored the Vermont Senator, 22% supported Biden, 11% backed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. All of the other candidates were in low single digits.

Months of targeted outreach

The caucuses will be a test of the Sanders’ campaign’s heavy investments in Latino outreach. Gleaning their data from voter files, Sanders’ team estimates more than 101,000 Nevada Latinos have registered to vote since the last caucuses. That number is huge considering only 84,000 Democrats caucused in Nevada in 2016.

More than 26,000 Nevadans participated in the first two days of early voting over the weekend, according to the party, which estimated that 56 percent were first time caucusgoers.

In 2016, the campaign recognized Sanders’ popularity among Latinos, senior Sanders adviser Chuck Rocha said, “but we learned it too late to capitalize on it, because we were building the airplane and flying it at the same time.”

This time, it started investing resources eight months ago, hiring from within the community through what Rocha describes as a multi-layered communications operation.

“If you can think of any way possible for a Latino of any age to consume information to learn about the election, we were talking to them on that platform,” Rocha said in an interview with CNN.

Beyond television, that included mailers, newspapers, Instagram, Facebook, Spanish-language radio, panel trucks, texts, phone and ads on music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify.

“It helped us reconnect with a young group of Latinos who’ve been following Bernie since the last election. It helped us to start building a relationship with an older demographic of Latinos, who always vote, but may not have known or trusted Bernie in the beginning—but their children did,” Rocha said.

“So we had eight months to talk to them about Bernie when nobody else was talking to them,” he said. “It also helped us start reaching out to a new group of Latinos, which is the largest group who are newly registered, who nobody is talking to.”

The Sanders campaign says it now has more than 250 staff members on the ground in Nevada. It opened the first of their 11 Nevada offices in the predominantly Latino area of East Las Vegas last July. In December, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez co-hosted the first Spanish-language town hall for Sanders and the campaign has led caucus trainings in Spanish, as well as in languages such as Tagalog, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

Candidates build up their Nevada operations

Sanders isn’t alone in investing in Nevada. Buttigieg recently doubled his staff on the ground and Steyer ramped up his operation late last year, putting together a team of Latino senior aides to lead his operation.

Steyer, who has spent $14.7 million on ads in Nevada to Sanders’ $1.9 million, also came up frequently in interviews with Latino voters, with a majority of people saying they had seen or heard an ad from the campaign.

Sanders, Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are all running ads in Spanish in Nevada. Buttigieg, who speaks Spanish, narrates his own ad in Spanish. And Steyer was the first to go negative in Nevada, targeting Sanders on his support for Medicare for All.

“There’s a reason people are nervous about Bernie Sanders scrapping Obamacare,” the narrator says in Steyer’s ad. “Unions don’t like it … And Bernie can’t or won’t give us a price tag.”

Armando Arciga, a 51-year-old construction worker in Las Vegas, said outside of a Cardenas supermarket that he is voting for Steyer because the climate crisis is the number one issue Arciga cares about.

Nick Maldonado, 37, is the CEO of the Latino franchise Toro Taxes, and told CNN at an event hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens that his company endorsed Steyer.

“I appreciate the fact that (Steyer’s) a businessman, but still a Democrat, and still focused on local issues,” Maldonado said. He touted Steyer’s Latino-run staff in Nevada, and said Steyer’s campaign reached out and asked for an endorsement.

Buttigieg, who is looking to build on his strong performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, now has more than 100 staff members on the ground in Nevada and more than 40% of them speak Spanish, according to the campaign.

The former mayor was quick to criticize Klobuchar Sunday after both she and Steyer were unable to name the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during interviews with Telemundo in Nevada last week. During a town hall Sunday in Las Vegas, Buttigieg was asked what it says about Washington experience that “a sitting US Senator could not name Mexico’s president?”

“Guess what? It says is that there is more to being prepared than how many years you spent in Washington,” said Buttigieg, who had answered the question correctly in his own interview with Telemundo.

Buttigieg’s operation began pushing out Spanish-language digital ads in December, as well as Spanish-language radio ads, which were also narrated by the former mayor. It opened it’s East Las Vegas office in mid-September, conducting caucus trainings in Spanish, and providing Spanish-language canvassing tools to their volunteers—including their “relational organizing” tool that allows a volunteer to contact their own contacts on behalf of Buttigieg.

Still, several Nevada political strategists noted in interviews that Sanders’ volunteer footprint in Nevada was unmatched, while Biden’s organizing infrastructure has been lighter than expected. Despite Sanders’ apparent edge, it remains unclear whether the friction over his health care plan with the Culinary Union will benefit more moderate candidates like Buttigieg, Biden and Klobuchar.

“Bernie has tremendous volunteer investments in Nevada,” said Kristian Ramos, a political consultant who works with Latino groups like Mi Familia Vota, which is focused on expanding the voting population in Nevada.

But he noted that Latino voters over 45 have tended to dominate the caucuses in the past, so the age of voters who turn out will be a major determining factor.

“The question becomes ‘Can Pete Buttigieg take all this momentum and turn it into something real in Nevada,” Ramos said, “and is that enough to overcome Bernie’s youth volunteer army?”

‘He’s a go-getter’

While Sanders is counting on younger voters, he has appealed to Latino voters of all ages.

William Chavez, 62, said he is voting for Sanders and cited the senator’s support of the Green New Deal, tuition-free colleges, and Medicare for All as reasons why he supports him.

“(Sanders) is at that age, he could have just retired and relaxed and enjoy life, but no, he’s fighting for the people. And he’s trying to unite us, not divide us,” Chavez, a retired casino worker who lives in Las Vegas, told CNN at a Sanders rally.

“He’s a go-getter,” Chavez said. “He had a heart attack, right? I’ve had two. Nothing stops me. Nothing stops him.”

Rosie Beltren, a 65-year-old housekeeper who works on the Las Vegas strip and supports Sanders because she believes he will raise the minimum wage and help the many immigrants working in Nevada who don’t have a pathway to citizenship.

“Most important for me: health care. A lot of people need it,” Beltren said while talking with a friend who was selling tamales in the parking lot of a Cardenas supermarket last week. “Last week I bought one medicine, only one. $248,” said Beltran, who needed three medications to treat her cancer. “I need more than one, but I didn’t have the money.”

“There are a lot of people who need their papers for work — they are good people, they work so hard, but they can’t get papers,” Beltren said.

Sanders has also drawn the support of Keila Eustaquio, a 24-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient who plans to volunteer for his campaign even though she cannot legally vote for him.

“A lot of people I know are rooting for Bernie; we were rooting for him last time … He just has a lot of plans to do a lot of good things for our community—as far as giving everyone citizenship, healthcare,” said Eustaquio, who was born in Mexico and runs her own business in Las Vegas. She cited Biden as her second choice because “I feel safe with him.”

Eustaquio, after a shopping trip at the Cardenas Market with friends last week, acknowledged that some of Sanders’ plans are unlikely to pass through Congress, a fact that she knows will be used against him if he faces a General Election matchup with Trump.

“Trump has realistic goals and Sanders doesn’t,” she said, “but what (Sanders) wants to do is life-changing for all of the people.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct Chuck Rocha’s name.

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Breaking New

Security experts raise concerns about voting app used by military voters

The app is designed by the company Voatz, whose technology has been piloted so far in West Virginia, Colorado and Utah.

“We want to be clear that all nine of our governmental pilot elections conducted to date, involving less than 600 voters, have been conducted safely and securely with no reported issues,” Voatz said in the statement. “The researchers’ true aim is to deliberately disrupt the election process, to sow doubt in the security of our election infrastructure, and to spread fear and confusion.”

The report comes amid rising concern about the use of apps and online voting tools in the 2020 election following the failure of reporting tools in the Iowa caucuses.

Last year, Utah County, Utah, began using Voatz for disabled and military voters based overseas. In an interview, County Clerk Amelia Powers Gardner said Voatz made more sense than the previous system, which required remote voters to submit their ballots by email.

A review of Utah County’s implementation of Voatz — prior to the MIT report’s publication — did not uncover any problems, Gardner told CNN. Gardner said that in phone conversations with the MIT researchers, it became clear they preferred voting to be done the traditional way, by pencil and paper. But Gardner said that isn’t feasible for Utahns living abroad.

“I have a legal obligation to provide our military members overseas an electronic form of a ballot,” she said, “and if it’s not this, it’s email — which they agreed is not as secure.”

The researchers’ conclusions about security risks in the app were based on a reverse-engineered version of Voatz’s Android app, which they ran in a simulated environment. According to the study, a hacker who gains control of a smartphone with the app installed could interfere in the voting process by altering ballots or figuring out which candidate a voter supports.

“Which means they could stop your ballot if they knew you were going to vote for someone they didn’t like,” Mike Specter, one of the authors of the report, told CNN.

Other election security experts who have reviewed the MIT paper say it appears solid.

“This study from MIT appears to have been structured with care in the way that the analysis was conducted,” said Andrea Matwyshyn, an election security expert at Penn State University.

On a conference call with reporters Thursday, however, Voatz criticized the report’s methodology. Company executives said the researchers had used an outdated version of the software and that some of the issues they found had already been patched. Voatz also accused the researchers of making “hypothetical” claims based on their simulation, rather than having the app interact with an actual Voatz server.

“We already have this server available,” said Nimit Sawhney, Voatz’s CEO. “It’s to our public bug bounty program. Anybody who wishes to sign up, test the apps over there, against the real server with full functionality, is able to do that.”

The company declined to comment further.

While participating in the bug bounty program would allow researchers to verify how Voatz’s app interacts with the company’s servers, the law largely prohibits researchers from testing the servers themselves, said Eric Mill, a cybersecurity expert who has administered technology programs for the federal government.

“The fact that the app happens to talk to the server isn’t the same as giving permission to research the real server,” said Mill.

Critics say Voatz should be more transparent about its technology and those it has tapped to perform independent audits. They also say Voatz previously reported a University of Michigan researcher to the FBI for conducting similar tests of the technology, and the report’s authors cited that episode as a reason they did not contact the company directly.

They instead reported their findings to the Department of Homeland Security, which routinely acts as a clearinghouse for election integrity information.

Voatz said Thursday that the MIT researchers should have reached out to them, in spite of their concerns about Voatz’s handling of prior research attempts. It also said it has signed non-disclosure agreements that prevent the company from discussing many of its past audits, though it did acknowledge that DHS has done its own review.

The technology news site Coindesk said it obtained a copy of the DHS review and reported it on Friday, adding that while US officials found few major issues with Voatz, the review focused primarily on the company’s internal network and servers — not the app that was the subject of the MIT report.

The tension between Voatz and independent security experts is not surprising, Mill said. But he added that the trend in the industry in recent years has tended toward greater disclosure and openness, not less — making Voatz’s reaction to the report stand out. It also highlights a common misperception that greater secrecy leads to stronger security, he said.

“That basic feeling of security through obscurity, that you want to release as few details as possible to give your attacker as little information as possible, is a very common gut instinct for a lot of lay folks and in some cases by technologists,” said Mill. “It comes from fear and also maybe not understanding or appreciating the public’s role in ensuring defense.”

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Breaking New

Federal judge denies bid to restore 98,000 voters in U.S. state of Georgia

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday denied an attempt to restore about 98,000 voters in Georgia to the U.S. state’s electoral rolls after they were removed earlier this month upon being classified as “inactive”.

Lead plaintiff Fair Fight Action, a voting rights nonprofit, did not establish that the Georgia secretary of state’s decision to cancel the voter registrations had violated the constitution, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said in the ruling.

The judge, from the Northern District of Georgia, added that the secretary of state must make “diligent and reasonable” efforts to inform residents about registration, especially those that have until Monday to re-register to vote in a January special election for a seat in the House of Representatives.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger welcomed the decision, saying the state was ensuring that every eligible voter could vote.

“Today Judge Jones upheld Georgia’s decision to maintain clean voter rolls,” Raffensperger said after the ruling.

“Despite activists’ efforts and lawsuits that only waste taxpayers’ dollars, Georgia is continuing to ensure every eligible voter can vote and voter lists remain accurate.”

Fair Fight Action, founded by Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 race for governor to present Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, said it was looking at additional legal options.

“The Court today declined to issue an injunction on the purge, but expressed that it has a ‘serious concern that there needs to be an immediate and accurate interpretation by the state court of HB 316’,” Lauren Groh-Wargo, chief executive at Fair Fight Action, said.

“We share this concern and are exploring additional legal options,” she added.

The state’s practices have previously drawn criticism from national voting rights advocates. These include purges of voter rolls and stringent rules requiring signatures on mail-in ballots.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey

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Breaking New

Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg court the same voters in Iowa (literally)

“He’s fantastic!” she exclaimed. Asked whether she was committed to supporting Buttigieg, she paused, saying: “Well, Joe Biden is also in town tonight. I’m going to go see what he has to say.”

Just before Christmas, Democrats are still shopping for presidential candidates here in Iowa, where the caucuses open the 2020 voting in six weeks. Biden and Buttigieg are going after the same voters — literally — which brought both of them to Perry, a town about 45 minutes outside Des Moines, for back-to-back stops on Sunday.

For Democrats searching for a moderate path, the choice is stark: The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who delivers a more upbeat and optimistic message, or a former vice president twice his age, who offers a dark warning about the consequences of President Donald Trump winning a second term.

Biden and Buttigieg stand out for neither tangling on the debate stage nor aiming attacks at one another on the campaign trail.

The Biden campaign believes it is too risky to sharply question Buttigieg’s experience, advisers say, but it is closely watching whether some of the shine begins to fade from Buttigieg’s rising candidacy after Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren confronted him at the final debate of the year.

Here in Perry, two hours after Scheib saw Buttigieg, she was standing in line to see Biden less than a mile away. By then, she had taken off two blue and yellow Buttigieg campaign buttons, preparing to welcome another presidential hopeful to town.

“Thank you for coming to Perry!” Scheib told Biden after his speech, where she and a small group of friends spent several minutes talking, hugging and posing for pictures with Biden. They didn’t mention they had just seen his rival down the street.

Scheib, 63, said she values and admires Biden’s experience and his grasp of the global challenges facing the United States. She described him as calm and collected, saying: “He’s been there. That’s what I appreciate about him. He’s been around.”

Yet the longevity of Biden is both an attribute and a concern — often in the same conversation — raised by more than a dozen voters who attended both campaign events. They acknowledged they are still struggling to decide which candidate to choose.

“I think both of them are fantastic. It’s a hard decision,” Scheib told CNN of Biden and Buttigieg. When pressed for which candidate she is more likely to support, she said: “I would say, I’m still kind of leaning toward Pete, but I have to think about it a little more.”

Many voters said they are weighing the excitement for Buttigieg’s candidacy to the experience of Biden’s long record.

Pat McPherson, a retired nurse who was waving a Buttigieg sign at several points during his town hall meeting, applauded the intellect and vision of the young candidate. She beamed after hearing his speech, saying: “I think he might be the one.”

But after Biden finished speaking, she said she was impressed by his empathy, reminded of his grasp on the world and his ability to dive right in on a myriad of challenges in the White House. She said she was captivated by Buttigieg, but seeing Biden up close will make her think a bit harder about her decision.

“I’m probably going to go with Mayor Pete,” McPherson said. “But boy, there’s just so much to be said for being able to hit the ground running on Day 1 and it’s going to be a huge task.”

One lingering question, she said, was whether Buttigieg would be able to unify the country as much as she believes Biden could.

“Would he be as effective as Joe Biden in healing?” McPherson said. “I really love Mayor Pete’s platform, but Joe Biden could continue to heal and build on things.”

There are many choices facing Democratic voters, including the progressive appeals from Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Inside Cory Booker's underdog campaign to win Iowa

But for those who believe the path to winning back the White House is rooted more in the center, the decision between Buttigieg, Biden — and Klobuchar — is suddenly coming into sharper view.

Pat Murdy, a retired teacher who has seen nearly all of the candidates this year said it was time for Democrats to find a new leader as the party did with Barack Obama in 2008. She believes Buttigieg is that person, which she said she told him during a brief conversation Sunday.

“I thought Buttigieg did a better job on a bigger range of topics than Joe Biden,” Murdy said. She admires Biden, but said she wasn’t “wowed” by his speech, comparing it to “more of a fireside chat” on a string of serious topics rather than an outline for a broader vision.

After seeing Buttigieg, she signed a commitment card to support him at her precinct caucus on February 3. She was content with her decision — until she came face-to-face with Biden near the end of his stop.

Standing a few feet away from a Christmas tree, he spent several minutes talking to Mundy and her friends, with laughs and smiles all around.

She walked away with tears in her eyes after telling him she would pray the Rosary for Biden, a fellow Catholic. She was overcome with emotion after Biden, who had attended Mass earlier that day on the campaign trail, pulled a small Rosary from his pocket and momentarily pressed it into her hands.

“I had an incredible moment,” Mundy explained. “He said, ‘This is the Rosary I pray every day.’ He said, ‘This is the Rosary my son held in his hand when he died.’ He didn’t have to share that with me.”

As she wiped her eyes, Mundy said she wanted to take back something she said earlier in the day: She worried Biden was too old to be president.

“I’m a little old, too, and I’m in pretty good shape,” Mundy said. “He looks like he’s in dynamic shape.”

While she said she still found Buttigieg more charismatic, she wondered for the first time whether Biden was what the country needed at this moment.

“He’s somebody that you can look up to — a fatherly influence,” Mundy said. “I have a terrific decision facing me and it won’t be made lightly.”

As she spoke, Biden was still mingling with Iowans, more than an hour after he finished speaking, making clear his strategy is trying to win over one voter at a time.

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Georgia removes more than 300,000 inactive voters from rolls

The removal comes as part of a new state provision signed into law earlier this year. Under the provision, the state must remove registration records from the voter rolls that have been deemed “inactive” for more than three years. A voter is categorized as “inactive” if they don’t vote in two general elections and have had no contact with board of elections in that time, according to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office.

About 313,000 voters were removed from the list, or about 4% of all registered voters in the state, according to the Secretary of State. The “inactive” voters were marked for removal after failing to respond to a pre-addressed, postage paid confirmation card within 30 days; the card asked voters to confirm or update their information.

State officials mailed out notices to the last known address of voters and posted the list of people online.

Fair Fight Action, a voting rights organization founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, filed an emergency motion in federal court on Monday challenging the removal of a portion of the list — 120,000 voters who were removed due to inactivity since the 2012 presidential election.

The group is in the midst of a federal case against Raffensperger over the so-called “use it or lose it” policy, which allows registrations to be canceled after voters fail to participate in elections for several years.

“In our view, it is a First Amendment right not to vote, and it is unconstitutional to take away a Georgian’s right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections,” Fair Fight Action spokesman Seth Bringman said. “309,000 is the total purge. This also includes people who had returned mail, passed away, or informed the state that they moved. In our view, these are appropriate reasons for a Georgia voter to be removed from the rolls, but ‘use it or lose it’ is not.”

The group went before US District Court Judge Steve C. Jones to fight the move on Monday afternoon. The judge allowed the removal to go forward and will hear arguments from the state and Fair Fight Action on Thursday.

Walter Jones, a spokesman for the Secretary of State, said the removal of the voters is not a “purge” but part of routine maintenance on voting lists that dates back to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Similar updates to voting rolls have happened in states like Illinois and Wisconsin, which most recently removed 234,000 people from its voter rolls.

The policy is meant to keep an accurate and fair count during elections and also help with planning of polling site equipment during election cycles, according to Georgia state officials.

According to Fair Fight Action’s Bringman, the Secretary of State said it did not have the technical capacity to stop the purge from taking place, but that it will reinstate the voters if ordered to do so.

Jones echoed this policy, telling CNN that though the list has been revised, the information of “inactive” voters is still in the state database and could be made “active” through re-registration or an update of address on a state drivers license.

This isn’t the first time the state has faced controversy surrounding voter list updates. In July 2017, more than half a million registered voters, or 8%, were removed from the rolls; of that total, more than 107,000 were removed for inactivity in recent elections, according to a report from APM.
The state also came under fire in October 2018 when then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp — then the Republican nominee for Georgia governor — enforced a policy of “exact match.” Under the policy, the most minor discrepancy, like a typo or missing letter, between a voter’s registration and their drivers license, Social Security or state ID cards was flagged, leading to more than 53,000 voter applications being put on hold. The majority, seven out of 10, belonged to African-Amercans.
Ahead of the recent removal, Georgia had roughly 7.4 million registered voters. Under the new roll count, there are about 7.08 million registered voters. According to Jones, an estimated 460,000 new registered voters were added within the 2018 election cycle, which included the tight race for governor in which Abrams lost to Kemp by a mere 68,000 votes.

Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the number and percentage of voters who were removed from Georgia’s voter rolls.

CNN’s Gregory Krieg contributed to this story.

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Booker’s campaign shifts into all-out sprint to persuade voters to get him in December debate

In the memo, campaign manager Addisu Demissie lays out an all-hands-on-deck moment for Booker — saying the campaign plans to spend six-figures on radio and digital advertising ahead of the DNC’s December 12 deadline, while redirecting staff and volunteers in early states toward targeted persuasion.

“Look, the last debate was unbelievable. We had our best fundraising days online in the entire campaign. The surge since then — even my New Hampshire trip we were kind of blown away,” Booker said Tuesday in an interview on CNN. “So we see the energy, we see the surge. If we can continue raising money online, we’re going to start doing paid advertising, like you’re seeing from a number of campaigns — it’s helping their polling numbers.”

During his closing statement at last week’s debate, Booker made a plea onstage, asking voters to help him qualify for the next debate.

In the memo, Demissie writes that “We know the most important thing we can do for Cory Booker right now is to ensure that every dollar spent, every volunteer shift booked, every waking moment our campaign staff spends in the next two weeks is geared toward persuading voters that Cory should be their first choice in this contest.”

It is likely to be a challenging and defining sprint for the New Jersey senator, whose campaign has rated favorably among Democratic voters but struggled to pick up steam. Although Booker last week surpassed the 200,000 donor threshold for the next debate, he still needs to hit 4% in four qualifying polls to earn a spot on the December debate stage. If he does not, it could be a fatal blow to his presidential hopes.

Booker’s team remains hopeful of a late surge, however. The campaign has brought in more than $1 million since last week’s Democratic debate, Demissie said, fueled by “an outpouring of new support.” Meanwhile, larger than normal crowds greeted Booker during eight stops in New Hampshire over the weekend.

But the challenges are stark for Booker’s campaign, which recently began selling sweatshirts emblazoned with the word “underdog.” In the memo, Demissie acknowledges that his campaign does not “have Michael Bloomberg or even Tom Steyer money” to spend on advertising, and does not have plans to go up on television.

Bloomberg, a former New York mayor and one of the richest men in America, is kicking off his presidential campaign this week with a television ad buy of at least $37 million.

With the airwaves crowded with those ads and, to a lesser extent, Steyer’s, “we would need to be spending a lot more … to make a dent,” one Booker campaign aide explained. “And we know that.”

The money gap in the primary makes the December debate all the more important for Booker, as a vital source of oxygen as he continues to try to break through.

“We know that if Cory’s voice is on that December debate stage,” Demissie said, “he will have another opportunity to shine and keep our momentum growing.”

CNN’s Devan Cole contributed to this report.

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Kansas City voters choose to remove Martin Luther King Jr.’s name from a historic street

In a special election Tuesday, the measure to change Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. back to The Paseo Boulevard received about 65% of the vote, according to figures released by the city’s Board of Election Commissioners.

The vote came after months of debate between groups intent on honoring King’s legacy and some residents who didn’t want to lose their neighborhood’s identity.

The Paseo, as many locals call it, is one of the oldest boulevards in the city and runs north to south through a predominately African American section of the city.

“We don’t mind doing something to honor Dr. King, but we don’t want you to take Paseo away from us to do it,” said former City Councilwoman Alissia Canady, who represented much of the area until her term ended in August. She helped organize the Save The Paseo group, which collected almost 3,000 signatures to get the name change on Tuesday’s ballot.

Canady voted against the MLK name change in January, but it passed by an 8-4 vote.

“That really infuriated the neighborhood because they felt it was a backdoor approach that deviated from the process and took away their voice,” Canady said.

That caused tensions between residents and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, which worked for three years to get the boulevard named after King.

“These boulevards are treasured in Kansas City and rightfully so,” said Vernon Percy Howard Jr., the group’s president.

He said Tuesday’s vote makes Kansas City once again one of the few major cities that does not have a road honoring King.

“For 51 years since Dr. King’s assassination, no one in this town moved forward to advance or develop any kind of plan or program to honor Dr. King in a major way,” Howard said. “There is a park that is embarrassing in the central core of Kansas City that’s not well kept and very small and insignificant with respect to any of its beauty, its architecture, its land space, its footprint and all of that.”

Howard said he was surprised by the resistance to change.

“I am shocked at the vigor and hostility that has been expressed from some African Americans, who view that that generic name has more weight or carries more significance to them than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who shed his blood and died for our right and our ability to own homes, to obtain loans, to have equal employment opportunities, to be protected from racial discrimination in the workplace in housing, in public transportation and so forth,” he said.

He also blamed gentrification of the area and an influx of money from white investors for the opposition.

“It is the epitome of white privilege and systemic and structural racism that a predominately white group would actually have the audacity to determine or dictate in a predominately African American community who, or what they should honor, and where and how,” Howard said.

Canady, who is black, called that a deflection.

“The majority of the property owners on Paseo are black, the residents and property owners are black,” she said. “The majority of the businesses, the majority of the residents are black. So this is black leaders oppressing the voices of black property owners.”

She said they weren’t respectful to the wishes of the community.

“They were trying to do a good thing, but they went about it the wrong way,” she said.

Canady said she favored naming the city’s new airport terminal after King, or an east-west street because it would run through black and white neighborhoods.

University of Tennessee geography professor Derek Alderman and his research team have been building a database of streets named after MLK for more than 20 years.

He says they have identified 955 streets named for King in 41 states as well as Washington and Puerto Rico as of December 2017. That includes streets that use his full name or variations such as MLK or M.L. King, but not streets that are simply named King because they may not reference the civil rights leader.

“I can confidently confirm that among the top 50 most populated cities (as of 2015 estimates), Kansas City is now one of just three cities without a street named for Dr. King. The other two cities are San Jose, California, and Omaha, Nebraska,” he said.

Those cities do have public buildings named for King, he said.

Howard and his supporters said they still think naming a road after King is the best way forward.

Mayor Quinton Lucas was on the city council in January and supported the MLK name change. He told CNN affiliate WDAF on Wednesday that his job now is to bring the community together, so that residents can honor King.

“People want to make sure that we engage with enough different community stakeholders and I think it’s fair to say that this did not happen, and that’s why we’re kind of in the position we are now,” he told the station. “This wasn’t so much a repudiation of the Dr. King name or any ministers involved. It’s instead saying, ‘Let’s make sure we work together and get it done right.'”

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