Georgia Republicans advance sweeping new restrictions on voting – live
Wyoming will end mask mandate on 16 March and allow ‘normal’ operations of bars and gyms
Following Texas’ widely condemned move last week, the state of Wyoming will also end its mask mandate and allow bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms to reopen as normal on 16 March, Bloomberg reports.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, approved significant new restrictions on voting on Monday, the latest move in a series of measures across the country to curtail access to the ballot.
The Iowa measure shortens the early voting period in the state from 29 days to 20 and requires polls to close at 8pm instead of 9, according to the Des Moines Register. It also prohibits local election officials from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot request forms and sets new limits on how they can set up early voting sites and drop boxes. Voters also can no longer designate anyone else to return their ballot for them – only an immediate family member, household member, or caregiver may do so, the Register reported.
The bill also makes it a felony offense for local election officials to fail to follow election laws and directives from the secretary of state.
Several provisions of the bill appear to be a reaction to the 2020 race, when the local auditor in Linn county, home of Cedar Rapids, sent out pre-filled absentee ballot requests to voters and was sued by Republicans. Iowa’s secretary of state in August also issued guidance limiting the use of ballot drop boxes.
Iowa set record turnout in 2020, and the vast majority of people voted by mail. Of the nearly 1.7 million people who voted in the state, more than 1 million did so using a mail-in ballot. Donald Trump handily won the state over Joe Biden by more than 138,000 votes.
Biden administration offers relief to Venezuelan immigrants in the US
The Biden administration said Monday it is offering temporary legal residency to several hundred thousand Venezuelans who fled their country’s economic collapse and will review US sanctions intended to isolate the South American nation, the Associated Press reports.
Both measures mark a shift from US policy toward Venezuela under President Donald Trump.
In the last few years, the Venezuelan economy has been in freefall, with widespread shortages of food and medicine and frequent power outages. An estimated 5 million people have fled, mostly to neighboring countries such as Colombia, but many have settled in south Florida.
President Joe Biden’s administration announced it would grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans already in the United States, allowing an estimated 320,000 people to apply to legally live and work in the country for 18 months. The granting of temporary protected status for Venezuelans has bipartisan support.
Man who reportedly served as Roger Stone’s bodyguard arrested in Capitol riot case
Two men wanted in the deadly riot at the US Capitol were arrested over the weekend, including one who reportedly served as a bodyguard to Donald Trump’s longtime political confidant Roger Stone, federal authorities said Monday, according to the Associated Press.
Roberto Minuta breached the Capitol grounds and “aggressively berated and taunted US Capitol police officers” during the 6 January insurrection, the FBI said in court papers.
Minuta, 36, of Hackettstown, New Jersey, had been “equipped with military-style attire and gear, including apparel emblazoned with a crest related to the Oath Keepers,” the FBI said, referring to the far-right antigovernment militia.
The New York Times identified Minuta as one of six people who provided security to Stone in the hours before the assault on the Capitol. Stone, who was pardoned after his sentence for several felony charges was initially commuted by Trump, was in Washington the day of the assault but has denied any involvement.
Minuta owns a tattoo shop in Newburgh, New York. It was not immediately known whether he had a defense attorney.
More details on Minuta’s affiliations from Vice:
Gab, social network popular with extremists and conspiracy theorists, is down
Gab, the far-right social network best known as the platform where alleged mass shooter Robert Bowers announced his intentions before murdering 11 people at a synagogue, is currently down.
On Twitter, the company’s account said that it had taken the site down “to investigate a security breach.”
Wired reported last week that the site had been hacked, and that a large trove of user data, including private user information and direct messages, was being provided to researchers and journalists to analyze.
A disinformation reporter for Mother Jones noted this afternoon that it appeared the platform might have been hacked again:
GOP will pay Trump’s club to bring major donors to Mar-a-Lago for dinner
Donald Trump will address major Republican donors at a retreat in Florida next month, and the Republican party is paying for the privilege of bringing the donors to Mar-a-Lago, the Washington Post reports.
Stacey Abrams: ‘Every single metric of voter access that has been a good in Georgia is now under attack.’
Mother Jones has reaction from voting rights activist Stacey Abrams to the state senate’s passage of a bill that would make it more difficult for Georgia residents to vote:
“In the last two election cycles, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of voters of color who voted by mail, the number of young people who used early voting, the number of African Americans who voted on Saturday and Sunday. We saw unprecedented levels of turnout across the board. And so every single metric of voter access that has been a good in Georgia is now under attack.”
Read more reaction from Abrams here, including calling the measures “Jim Crow in a suit and tie.”
More context on Georgia Republican’s attempts to limit absentee voting
As my colleague Sam Levine notes, the successful vote in Georgia today to advance a Republican measure to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting in the state is only a step towards making that policy into law, and it’s far from clear what the final legislation will look like.
But there are lots of reasons why this attempt to roll back absentee voting after Democrats won an election is prompting so much condemnation, including its likely impact on Black voters, wait times to vote, and the fact that Republicans are repealing a policy that they passed in the first place.
Democrats won an election. Georgia Republicans are pushing for new limits on voting.
The Georgia state senate approved its own version of a bill that would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting in the state, among other restrictions. The bill passed 29-20, a one vote majority.
In addition to requiring an excuse, the senate bill would require voters to show identification information when they vote by mail. The bill will now advance to the Georgia house of representatives, which approved a bill with similar restrictions, but that left no-excuse absentee voting in place. That bill included new limits on ballot drop boxes.
Top Republicans in the state have advocated keeping no excuse absentee voting in place and it’s unclear what a final version of the bill will actually look like.
Democratic state lawmakers in Georgia spent hours this morning denouncing a new bill that would institute a range of new voting restrictions, with one noting “This bill smells like voter suppression. This smells like Jim Crow laws, and it stinks like the smell of a deer carcass on I-16.”
Republican lawmakers succeeded in advancing the bill anyway, approving the bill on a 29-20 vote. My colleague Sam Levine will have more shortly.
Biden announces nomination of two female officers to 4-star command positions
This is Lois Beckett taking over our live politics coverage from our west coast bureau in California.
The president just finished speaking now about what the US can do to make sure that all women are supported in their careers within the US military, from promoting women to prestigious command positions, to making sure women’s careers do not suffer when they have children, to ensuring that the military supplies “body armor that fits women properly”and “updating requirements for their hairstyles”.
“This is going to be an all-hands on deck effort to end the scourge of sexual assault in the military,” the president pledged.
That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague Lois Beckett will take over the blog for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
Joe Biden will deliver a primetime address on Thursday to mark one year since the start of coronavirus lockdowns, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced. The speech will be Biden’s first primetime address since becoming president.
Biden said he would sign the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill “as soon as I can get it”. The relief bill passed the Senate on Saturday, and the House is now expected to take up the legislation on Wednesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its long-awaited guidance for fully vaccinated Americans. According to the CDC guidance, those who have been fully vaccinated can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without wearing masks, as long as everyone in the household is healthy and low risk.
Georgia Democrats sharply criticized Republicans for proposing restrictions on voting rights, which activists have said will disproportionately impact Black voters. The state Senate is considering the Republican bill today. “This is weaponization of Trump’s lies,” Democratic state senator Elena Parent said of the bill.
The trial for the former police officer who killed George Floyd has been delayed. The trial of Derek Chauvin was scheduled to begin today with jury selection, but the judge overseeing the trial postponed for at least a day due to an ongoing dispute over an additional charge against the former police officer.
Lois will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
More from the Guardian’s Sam Levine on the voting restrictions under consideration in Georgia:
The state senator Harold Jones, another Democrat, said that Republicans should pay special attention to Black lawmakers who spoke out against the bill. He predicted that many senators who spoke out against the bill would become emotional.
“It’s because that most basic right was denied to us. It’s not 1800, it’s not 1850s, it’s right here in this room. Many of the senators that sit here lived through that process,” he said. “Let me tell you, it is not theater. It is not a performance. It is real because we live with it every single day.”
The state senator Jen Jordan, also a Democrat, criticized the haphazard process Republicans used to advance legislation, noting that hearings were held at 7am and lawmakers were often scrambling to see the text of legislation they were voting on – if they got to see it at all.
“That’s sloppy y’all,” she said. “Especially when you’re talking about a bill that’s going to impact people’s lives. That’s going to impact people’s fundamental right to vote. Actually, it’s pretty shameful.”
The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:
Georgia Democrats were unsparing in their attacks on a sweeping bill to restrict voting in Georgia on Monday, saying the measure was based on lies about the election and a slap in the face to Black Georgians who fought hard for the right to vote in the state.
One of the state’s top Republicans, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, also refused to preside over the senate as the chamber considered legislation that would do away with no-excuse absentee voting and require voters to show identification when they vote by mail.
Duncan, who supports some restrictions, does not back doing away with no-excuse absentee voting. Three other Republicans who do not support ending no-excuse absentee voting also recused themselves from the vote, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
‘This is weaponization of Trump’s lies. And it is a willingness and embrace of damage to American democracy,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat.
“The numbers to stop this bill may not be here in this chamber today. But I assure you there are many thousands of Georgians right now whose political spirit is awakened by disgust at modern day voter suppression,” she added.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said the bill would also limit early voting and drop boxes, which it does not.
After spending the past four months lying about massive fraud among mailed ballots in the presidential election, Donald Trump is set to vote by mail — again.
Former President Donald Trump is set to fulfill his civic duty as a private citizen and vote in the town of Palm Beach’s municipal election.
Despite his false claims about mail voting during the 2020 election cycle, Trump requested a mail ballot on Friday for the third time in his Palm Beach County voter history.
The request was made nearly a week after the deadline to have a ballot to be sent by mail. Mail ballots can be requested through Tuesday but must be picked up in person by the voter or a designee.
It is likely that Trump had an associate pick up the ballot in person on his behalf, as he did in the presidential primary last March and in the August primary.
Amudalat Ajasa reports for the Guardian from Minneapolis:
The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd delayed the start of jury selection on Monday for at least a day while an appeal proceeds over the possible reinstatement of an additional charge.
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the courthouse demanding racial justice and the conviction of Derek Chauvin, who is white and was fired and charged with murder after he knelt on Floyd’s neck when the Black man had been forced to the ground during an attempted arrest last May.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter but the Minnesota court of appeals ruled last Friday that a previous, lesser charge of third-degree murder should be reinstated in the trial by the judge, Peter Cahill.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lead lawyer, told the court on Monday morning that Chauvin would soon ask the Minnesota supreme court to overturn Friday’s order, a process that could take weeks.
Prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office urged the court to delay jury selection until that issue was resolved, fearing that picking a jury when the number of charges was still unresolved could make an appeal easier.
Cahill declined. Prosecutors then said they would ask the appeals court to intervene to delay the trial. Cahill suspended the proceedings until Tuesday morning.
At least two prominent Missouri Democrats have already said they do not plan to run for Roy Blunt’s Senate seat, after the Republican lawmaker announced he would not seek reelection next year.
Former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who lost her 2018 reelection race to Republican Josh Hawley, said she did not plan to run for office ever again.
And Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state who lost to Blunt by 3 points in 2016, said he would continue focusing on his work to end veteran homelessness.
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