Posted on October 11, 2019 in Countdown

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Trump, Here and There

Donald Trump is, to the surprise of absolutely no one who hasn’t been in a coma for the last three years, stirring the pot at home and abroad. At home, Trump has decided that he is above the law, declaring that his administration will not cooperate with Congress’s impeachment inquiry (checks & balances, anyone?). And have you taken a look at the Middle East lately? Egypt has arrested thousands of anti-corruption protesters. Iraq has killed over 100 anti-corruption protesters. And you know about Palestine and Yemen and tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Or as Tom Friedman put it this week: “the Middle East may look calm right now…” (um, the Countdown team would like whatever he’s smoking ASAP). And then came the big news: Donald Trump (to the surprise of everyone, including his GOP enablers) suddenly moved U.S. troops from a critical buffer zone on the Turkish-Syrian border, clearing the way for a Turkish assault on the Kurds. So why is Trump abandoning the Kurds? Because he’s done with “policing” the Middle East at the cost of TRILLIONS of dollars and millions of lives, he just wants to “end the ENDLESS WARS.” Right, the guy who expanded drone warfare and significantly increased civilian casualties from U.S. bombings is actually a hippie anti-war activist deep inside. Well, from the Countdown team to the Kurds being bombed, the Palestinians being driven off their lands, the Iraqis getting shot, the Egyptians being imprisoned, and the Americans trying to maintain a functioning constitutional democracy in the Trump era: Good luck!

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The Biggest Debate… EVER

The next Democratic presidential primary debate which will be on October 15th at 8pm Eastern in Westerville, Ohio. With 12 candidates, the New York Times declared that it’s the most contenders to appear on a single stage…. EVER. To qualify, candidates had to garner 30,000 unique donors and register at least 2% in four particular polls by October 1st. You can see who will take the stage on Tuesday, and who will not, here. Oddly, there’s no indication of the actual topics that will be covered, but with so many candidates getting speaking time (and, as we’ve grown to learn, totally going over their limit), one can assume very few topics will be covered. But who cares about the issues, we just want to watch a mindless personality contest, right? In which case, what matters is: where will they be standing from each other? Worry not, we got you covered, here are the podium positions of the candidates. Gotta iron-out the important things. The Times is co-hosting the event with CNN, so that’s where to go for coverage. 

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YallaCountMeIn... to a Reddit AMA on Census?

Census rigging, MENA vs. Arab, Hard-To-Count communities, and more! Thank you to everyone who tuned in to AAI’s Reddit AMA thread on the 2020 Census. Throughout the hour, AAI’s resident policy experts Suher Adi and Ryan Suto answered people’s questions on ways to respond to the race-ethnicity question, political implications of the Census, and what everyday people can do to Get Out the Count. If you missed it, you can read the full Q&A in the thread linked above (it includes a comment from someone who was thrown around a bus by one of our policy experts (which one?) . To go along with the AMA, we released new resources related to disinformation and the 2020 Census. Be sure to give them a look here!

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Voter Suppression in Sheep’s Clothing

Like many municipalities across the country, Jonesboro, Georgia has an election on November 5th. But Jonesboro residents will have to contend with a change to their usual voting routine because the city council recently voted to move the polling location from the Firehouse Museum to the police station. While many advocacy organizations and voters recognize there are “outstanding law enforcement officers who…risk their lives [daily to serve communities in a] non-discriminatory manner, there is fear this new location will intimidate voters in a community where a majority of the population is black, and police-community relations suffer from bad-faith actors. City Manager Ricky Clark has pointed out many other public locations are unsuitable to serve as polling locations due to size, and the Firehouse Museum is undergoing renovation. Notably, however, Clark hasn’t addressed why suitable alternatives with more neutral reputations, like schools, weren’t considered. Before the Voting Rights Act was gutted in a 2013 Supreme Court decision, a move like this in a state with a history of voter suppression would have been subject to federal oversight. Communities are now left to fight these kind of subversive voter suppression tactics themselves, especially when the representatives who make these decisions aren’t considering varying perspectives or potential impact, as, seemingly, is the case with the nearly all-white Jonesboro City Council. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, time voter suppression will be dismissed as a byproduct of an innocent decision. What a lot of representatives seem to ignore is, whether or not the suppression is intentional, it’s happening, and they must do something about it (or prepare to be replaced by someone who will).  

 

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A New Florida Hurdle to the Will of the People

Arguments are under way in a federal hearing challenging a bill adopted this year by the Florida Legislature that will limit Amendment 4. Remember Amendment 4, the Voting Restoration Amendment? It restored the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they had completed all sentence terms. And it passed in Florida last year (the people have spoken). Well, now, this new bill is making a mess of everything Amendment 4 set out to do. The bill requires former felons to pay back all fees and court fines before being considered eligible to vote. But determining these payments isn’t that straightforward – for example, no agency in Florida tracks restitution, so lots of people have no idea how much they owe, especially if their cases are older (a number of county clerks’ offices aren’t able to produce records for cases before 1990). And, what do you do if the FL Department of Law Enforcement’s criminal database may show you owe nothing, but the county clerk’s website shows you owe thousands of dollars? Because this is what’s happening to so many folk in Florida. If this sounds like a type of poll tax, it..is. This law seems designed to instill fear and keep eligible voters away from the polls, and it’s doing just that.