Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 5: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

The Erickson Report for October 28 to November 10, Page 5: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

For our outrages, we have two this time, the first of which involves a repeat offender: our major news media.

Okay, on October 19, as USPS carrier named Crystal Nicole Myrie was charged with embezzling mail which she was supposed to deliver.

When questioned on October 16, she admitted to stealing several prepaid debit cards and using them at retail stores. She also admitted she had been stealing mail sporadically for almost two years. She was taken to her car, where investigators found several postal service satchels containing nearly 200 pieces of mail - one of which, it turned out, was a mail-in ballot.

Okay, stealing mail for two years, stealing prepaid debit cards, found with 200 pieces of mail including one mail-in ballot.

Guess which part of that was the lede?  No, don't guess, you already know.

This is how AP opened its story: "A U.S. Postal Service carrier is accused of stealing a Miami-Dade County mail-in ballot, 10 gift cards and four prepaid debit cards earlier this month, federal authorities said."

The headline was "Postal carrier accused of stealing mail-in ballot in Miami."

This is just disgraceful. At a time when the right wing is doing its damnedest to undermine mail-in voting, at a time when they invoke "fraud" like they used to invoke "Benghazi," to deliberately emphasize that one item that clearly was there by coincidence, that one item having nothing to do with any intention on Myrie's part about the election, to emphasize that one item is outright journalistic malpractice.

It is offensive. It is an Outrage.


The other relates to the election but in a different way. It might seem a bit esoteric but it really struck me.

Texas is one of the states that uses signature matching for ballot security. It actually uses a somewhat better method than many: Apparently there are two panels, one of local election officials and one independent one, that make the comparison and if either one of them by simple majority vote accepts the ballot, it is accepted even if the other panel disagrees.

But the system has one major flaw: Voters must be notified that their ballots were rejected within 10 days after the election is already over. Which makes it impossible for voters to have any opportunity to correct what is a technical error.

In September, US District Judge for the Western District of Texas Orlando Garcia required election officials to notify voters whose ballots were rejected due to a signature mismatch issue and if they failed to set up a system to do that, they couldn't reject any ballots based on signature mismatch.

On October 19, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in a decision thoroughly immersed in right wing mythology about mail-in ballot fraud, going on and on about Texas "preserving the integrity of its elections" while ignoring the unknown thousands of legitimate voters disenfanchised by the state's use of an astonishingly error-prone method - remember that 97% figure - of doing so.

Okay, so why is this decision here with the Outrages rather than in my earlier voter suppression discussion?

Because a main part of the court's argument for tossing the earlier ruling is the finding that the plaintiffs in the case don’t have what's called a 14th Amendment liberty interest in the right to vote by mail. A "liberty interest" is defined as a right conferred on an individual by the Due Process clauses of the state and federal constitutions.

And they said the plaintiffs didn't have one.

In fact, the decision spent several pages upbraiding lower courts for having previously endorsed the idea that voting is protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of procedural due process.

And here is the Outrage: If this decision accurately reflects the facts, no federal court has determined that you have a right to vote. At all. Lots of decisions about regulating voting, lots of provisions in the US Constitution about how you can't be discriminated in voting if there is voting, but nothing that says that voting itself is a fundamental right. So if your state constitution does not have such a provision, you - or more correctly we as a people - have no constitutional right to vote.

That may not have a lot of practical impact, for now anyway, but I find it outrageous even if all it does is point up the fragility of our rights and freedoms and liberties and how much they are based on assumptions of things just working as they should and everyone accepting that. We are now or at least should be now, in the face of organized voting chaos and the possibility of a violent response to an election loss, recognizing that we can't take even what should be the most basic, obvious part of what is supposed to be a self-governing society for granted.

It's an Outrage.

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