4 months ago

Obama appointee strikes down Alabama’s absentee voting fraud safeguards for July 14 runoff

United States District Judge for the Northern District of Alabama Abdul K. Kallon on Monday struck down certain absentee balloting requirements for the state’s upcoming July 14 runoff election, however the ruling was only made to benefit certain demographics of voters.

Kallon, an appointee of former President Barack H. Obama, issued a memorandum opinion providing immediate relief in response to a motion for preliminary injunction filed in People First of Alabama v. Merrill.

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) are involved in the case on behalf of the plaintiffs: People First of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama NAACP. The main defendant in the case is Secretary of State John H. Merrill, in his role as chief elections official for the State of Alabama.

The Monday ruling came prior to any trial proceedings that may take place in the case, and thus might not hold up until the runoff.

However, if it stands until then, the ruling would represent a major change to Alabama’s elections process with just under a month to go until the runoff.

First, Kallon ordered defendants not to enforce the state’s absentee voting requirement of each absentee ballot being notarized or signed by two witnesses for any voters “who determine it is impossible or unreasonable to safely satisfy” this requirement.

Next, the judge decreed that defendants not enforce the absentee voting requirement of each absentee ballot being accompanied by a copy of the respective voter’s valid form of photo ID. This order only applies to voters aged 65 or older, or disabled, “who determine it is impossible or unreasonable to safely satisfy that requirement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Signed statements “under penalty of perjury” are required to be submitted by absentee voters taking advantage of either one of these two portions of the order.

In a release, the SPLC advised that the same portions of the order are applicable “in at least Jefferson, Mobile, and Lee Counties.” The respective election officials for these counties were also named as defendants in the case.

Finally, the ruling would allow for statewide “curbside voting” at in-person polling locations.

Here’s what the ruling concluded, verbatim:

Thus, for the foregoing reasons and after careful consideration of the record, the court will grant in part the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and will order defendants: (1) not to enforce the witness requirement for the July 14 runoff election for absentee voters who determine it is impossible or unreasonable to safely satisfy that requirement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and who provide a written statement signed by the voter under penalty of perjury that he or she suffers from an underlying medical condition that the Centers for Disease Control has determined places individuals at a substantially higher risk of developing severe cases or dying of COVID-19; (2) not to enforce the photo ID requirement for the July 14 runoff election for absentee voters who are over the age of 65 or disabled who determine it is impossible or unreasonable to safely satisfy that requirement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and who provide a written statement signed by the voter under penalty of perjury that he or she is 65 or older or has a disability; and (3) not to enforce the state’s de facto prohibition on curbside voting. A separate order will be issued.

Merrill has consistently stated — for over three months — that the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting state of emergency allow all eligible Alabama voters to vote absentee for the July 14 runoff should they not feel safe with in-person voting.

For the runoff, the deadline to register to vote is June 29. Meanwhile, the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is July 9. The deadline to return an absentee ballot to their absentee election manager is the close of business on July 13, and the last day to postmark an absentee ballot is also July 13. Voters who are eligible to vote pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act will have until July 14 to postmark an absentee ballot.

“We have worked to provide safe, secure, and free elections for the people of Alabama through offering an extended absentee voting period for the upcoming Primary Runoff Election, and we will continue to see that Alabamians have the opportunity to participate in the electoral process in a way that does not affect their health or well-being,” Merrill stated in March.

The secretary of state has previously explained that the state’s absentee balloting requirements are designed to mitigate against fraud.

He has added that most recent cases of voter fraud in Alabama came through absentee balloting rather than in-person voting. Merrill even had to publicly rebut a claim by the SPLC that “voter fraud” has “consistently proven to be non-existent.”

Merrill thus identified the absentee process as something he wanted the state legislature to revamp in order to further guard against fraud.

However, Monday’s ruling could work in the opposite direction if his warnings are correct, enabling increased fraud as the state continues to conduct an important president election cycle.

On the other hand, NAACP LDF senior counsel Deuel Ross in a statement called the absentee balloting safeguards “needless barriers.”

“This ruling is not only a victory for our clients, whose pre-existing conditions make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19, but it is also a victory for at-risk Alabamians who should not have to jump over unnecessary hurdles to vote, especially in the middle of a global pandemic,” concluded Caren Short, senior SPLC staff attorney.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Lt. Gov. Ainsworth back to work and channeling Trump on the coronavirus — ‘Don’t live in fear’

The last few weeks have been very interesting for Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth.

During a church gathering, he contracted the coronavirus and then passed it to his wife. Although he was not entirely asymptomatic, he did not require any medical treatment. He is now headed back to work and ready to do the people’s business.

This mirrors the recovery of President Donald Trump, who was back to work long before many expected he would be.

Wednesday morning, Ainsworth appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” to speak about his experiences with this illness and how Alabama Democrats attempted to use the diagnosis to raise money for their party, a move Ainsworth said was “typical” of the behavior of their members. Ainsworth even noted that some in the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party contacted him to check up on him before the fundraising email went out.

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For Ainsworth, the bigger issue was how they misrepresented his positions by claiming that he opposed masks and science. Neither position is true, he said.

Ainsworth advised that while he opposes the mandate, he doesn’t oppose mitigation efforts like masks and social distancing

“I’ve been wearing masks when I go to events. I practice social distancing, I use proper sanitation. I still got it,” he outlined.

His issue, as it is with many people, is the top down mandate.

“I do not think it’s the government’s role to mandate whether or not we should wear masks. I just don’t believe that,” he advised. “I believe in personal responsibility.”

Ainsworth believes that the fundraising email got sent because Alabama Democrats are in trouble, and they know U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) is going to lose. Ainsworth believes the message Democrats are selling just doesn’t work.

He stated, “They’re desperate, they’re grasping at straws, and I think Dems know in Alabama that their policies and positions don’t resonate with people so what do they do, they try spin stuff and lie.”

While Ainsworth mostly shrugged off the Democrats’ tactics, he also warned that people should take the coronavirus seriously and not weaponize for political gain as some in Alabama and on the national level are doing.

Like President Donald Trump, Ainsworth thinks America has to get back to work but it has to do it safely. He noted that “New York has ruined their economy” with shutdowns and restrictions yet they continue to have issues with the coronavirus.

His advice to Alabamians is simple: “[D]on’t live in fear. Continue to live your life but do it safely.”

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

14 hours ago

Alabama AG Steve Marshall slams ‘Big Tech’ as greatest threat to free, fair elections in America

Attorney General Steve Marshall (R-AL) is continuing his leadership in calling on Congress to regulate tech monopolies’ control over the flow of information and political discourse in America.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Marshall commented on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s testimony that day to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. This comes after Twitter blocked the distribution of bombshell reports, beginning with the New York Post, regarding the Biden family’s foreign business dealings. The New York Post’s Twitter account has been locked for two weeks and counting.

In calling for change to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Marshall remarked, “Twitter is not the Ministry of Truth. It should concern us all when a platform that holds such tremendous power over information uses that power in contradiction of the principles of free speech and freedom of the press.”

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In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Wednesday afternoon, Marshall expounded on the topic in strong terms.

“In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that there is a need to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996,” Alabama’s Republican attorney general advised. “The egregious actions taken two weeks ago by Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook to suppress a news report of significant public interest—along with speech about it—published in one of our country’s oldest and most-widely-read newspapers in the run-up to a presidential election, has only made the need for reform more evident than ever.”

“Big Tech holds tremendous power over information and brazenly wields that power according to its social and political biases,” he continued. “Indeed, social-media platforms oftentimes appear less guided by the principles of American democracy—such as free speech and press—than by the principles of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth: amplify favored voices and viewpoints, censor disfavored voices and viewpoints.”

Marshall noted, “I agree with Justice Thomas’s recent assessment that courts have expanded Section 230 ‘beyond the natural reading of the [statutory] text,’ and support the recent announcement by Chairman Pai that the Federal Communications Commissions will undertake rulemaking to clarify the meaning of Section 230. But there are issues inherent in Section 230 that can only be fully cured by legislative action.”

“At today’s hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Ted Cruz opined that Facebook, Google, and Twitter ‘collectively pose … the single greatest threat to free speech in America, and the greatest threat we have to free and fair elections.’ I concur and urge Congress to take action,” he concluded.

Marshall also published a must-read op-ed in Real Clear Policy on this same issue, calling Twitter’s and Facebook’s censorship of the New York Post’s reporting “un-American.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Ivey administration’s allocation of CARES Act funds underscores importance of, support for first responders

Wednesday is National First Responders Day, and the importance of America’s tremendous first responders is even more magnified this year as the nation continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey’s administration recently established the Health Care and Emergency Response Providers grant program. This enabled first responders, including private ambulance and other emergency response service (EMS) providers, to receive federal funds through the state’s share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The grant program received a total allocation of $35 million, building on the Ivey administration’s total allocation of up to $250 million in CARES Act funds for healthcare-related purposes in Alabama.

This support for first responders and health care providers in general has drawn praise for Ivey and her administration. This includes the Alabama Association of Ambulance Services (AAAS).

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“We applaud Governor Ivey and her administration for recognizing the critical role that EMS and ambulance providers are playing in the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Jason Trammell, president of AAAS. “This funding will support providers across the state, who are working around the clock to serve their communities in a safe and efficient manner while their workers are on the frontlines of the fight against this virus.”

The Health Care & Emergency Response Providers grant program includes cash grants in an amount of up to $15,000 for providers that meet certainly eligibility requirements.

“Our company serves some of Alabama’s largest cities as well as its more rural areas. No matter where our providers are operating, health and safety is paramount to our underlying mission,” advised Brett Jovanovich of Lifeguard Ambulance Service. “With the cold and flu season around the corner, and with the increased potential of another wave of COVID-19, we intend to utilize these funds to fully ensure that our paramedics have the PPE and supplies needed for their safety and for the protection of patients in the communities we serve.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Wednesday, Ivey spokesperson Gina Maiola said, “Governor Ivey has the highest respect for the many first responders across our state, especially as they have faced unusual obstacles over the last several months.”

“As the governor remains committed to getting this money in the hands of those who need it, she was proud to award $35 million of the CARES Act money to establish the Health Care and Emergency Response Providers grant program. These providers play a critical role in our state’s response to COVID-19, as well as in our day to day lives, and especially as we celebrate National First Responders Day, Governor Ivey applauds them for their invaluable, tough service,” she concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Air superiority then, space superiority now — The Battle of Britain 80 years hence

Eighty years ago this week, hurricane season ended when the Royal Air Force won the Battle of Britain by stopping the Nazi war machine at the edge of the English Channel. Before the summer of 1940, Hitler had derided Great Britain as a nation of shopkeepers. Göring’s seemingly superior Luftwaffe pilots were outdone by the young British RAF, aided by friendly forces — not the least of which was a squadron of Polish pilots. They had shown the world that the Nazi juggernaut could be countered through perseverance, aided by the novel design of quick and lethal airplanes: the spitfire and hurricane.

Churchill named this battle when he declared after Dunkirk that with the conclusion of the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain would begin. Unlike past battles, the critical objective was as amorphous as it was strategic: the achievement of air superiority. It was a testament to the fact that warfare had changed forever, tilting the scales in favor of technology over brute strength.

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Even Hitler and his retinue of yes-men knew that subjugating Britain would require a risky and complex invasion. The English Channel, though relatively narrow at some points, served as a giant moat that required amphibious landings on slow-moving vessels, which would be vulnerable to attack from above. Nazi control of the air would be the key to a successful invasion. With proper preparations for a seaborne invasion many months out, Göring pushed for an air campaign, and Hitler approved.

The Luftwaffe’s first objective was to destroy RAF airfields, but Luftwaffe planes were not designed for this mission, and their pilots — though experienced — were no match for the RAF’s pilots in spitfires and hurricanes. These planes had unmatched maneuverability, and home-field advantage played an equally important role. The British had a superior early warning radar system that enabled them to plot the likely flight path of incoming enemies and to scramble their gassed and fully loaded planes efficiently. Over Britain, each downed German represented not only a lost airplane but also a lost pilot. Maintaining air superiority was a fight for survival, and the British pilots knew that the fate of freedom for their island, and perhaps for civilization, rested on their shoulders. They turned the tide of the war in fighting, as Churchill noted, “undaunted by the odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger.”

While the concept of air superiority was initially academic, the Battle of Britain proved it critical to modern military success. Since then, the need for air superiority has remained unquestioned. A country might not win with air superiority, but failure was guaranteed without it. The use of airpower to master the skies has been the first order of business in every major conflict since World War II. Even today, with the development of defensive missile shields and the capability of intercepting incoming aircraft and missiles, air superiority is and will remain a critical objective in any conflict. But air superiority is starting to give way to space superiority.

As we become more and more dependent on satellites, and as human activity in space becomes less of a novelty, controlling space will be critical not only for commercial and economic success, but also for global stability and the defense of our nation. The nation that controls space will control the destiny of the entire world. To be dominant in space is to be dominant period, and the dominating nation will have the final say over many aspects of our lives.

Those who would object to the militarization of space do not understand, or refuse to see, today’s reality. The activities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in space are similar to those of the nations who sought to control the sea in the 19th century and the air in the 20th century. At present, these activities are largely unchecked by other nations and international organizations.

There was a time when the United Nations was capable of limiting space to peaceful means. Similar to the control of nuclear weapons, the United Nations provided a means of achieving an international consensus that limiting weapons in space was beneficial for all nations. But, as with any large organization attempting to achieve consensus among diverse groups, the only real agreement among nations became the lowest common denominator. Thus, UN limits on the militarization of space are limited, weak, and ineffective.

This void of international leadership is being filled by a resurgent communist China, intent on achieving world domination — a long-term national goal. With few international limitations, the CCP is seeking space superiority to impose its ideas on the world and thereby supplant civilization’s shared liberal principles. The UN has been aggressively helpless or simply unable to check China’s dreams of space superiority. While the CCP has yet to obtain the domination it seeks, it is clearly on track with covert military missions, like developing its own GPS system that would aid in obtaining space superiority.

The United States cannot let this happen. Students of history know that many of the great and terrible military conflicts could have been prevented or mitigated with proper foresight and preparation. Unless the United States acts soon to check CCP aggression in space, we may have extremely limited choices in the future.

Our new Space Force must explain the seriousness of this threat and develop strategic plans to protect space from the domination of any one country. This grand effort will require allies who not only understand the threat, but who are financially able to join with the United States to dominate space for peaceful purposes. The free world’s shared cultural and civic traditions could form the basis for ensuring that space can never be dominated by one country.

During World War I and in the following decades, Churchill stressed the importance of developing radar, the tank and the airplane. Without these developments, the Battle of Britain would have ended much differently. As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of victory at the Battle of Britain, and as we understand the strategic necessity of air superiority in protecting the island nation from foreign invasion, we should recognize the strategic necessity of space superiority today.

The United States and her friends cannot allow a country that is utterly opposed to freedom to control space and, in turn, Earth. The free world must develop space first and create enforceable laws to allow space to be an extension of the liberty we currently enjoy. In order to do that, we must overhaul our outdated legal regime concerning the development and deployment of space technologies, support the private development of space properly, and remove the bureaucratic barriers hindering important breakthroughs. We must not surrender space to totalitarians who would use it to subjugate free peoples around the globe. If we heed the call to action and engage in this new endeavor, we can ensure that the limitless possibilities of space are secured for future generations.

Will Sellers is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

17 hours ago

Mental health crisis care centers to be built in Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville

MONTGOMERY — State officials gathered on the steps of the capitol Wednesday morning to announce the details surrounding three new mental health crisis care centers to be built around the state.

AltaPointe Health in Mobile, the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority and WellStone Behavioral Health in Huntsville will be receiving grants from the State of Alabama to build the crisis centers.

Governor Kay Ivey, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and Dept. of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear all spoke at the announcement.

Each center will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are intended to keep people with mental illnesses out of jails and hospital emergency rooms, two places not designed to accommodate such patients.

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“Most importantly,” said the governor at the event, the centers will “improve the quality of life for Alabama families and communities.”

The three centers have been a top priority for Ivey and Ledbetter this year. The governor first mentioned the initiative in her State of the State address in January, and Ledbetter shepherded the funding of the project – $18 million – through the legislative process during the spring session.

Commissioner Beshear referred to the newly announced centers as “pilot grantees” who were selected by an “independent review panel comprised of national experts in crisis care along with subject matter experts in mental illness and substance use.”

Stays in the centers could be as short as a few hours and as long as a few days, according to Beshear, who noted the locations will be staffed by mental and physical health professionals.

Beshear called the type of care that will be provided “recovery-based” and relayed that patients will be given a “warm handoff” after their short stay to services or agencies that can provide longer-term assistance.

Each center will have a “mobile crisis teams” with a law enforcement component that will be able to go into nearby communities and deal with dangerous situations that have mental health issues at their core.

Beshear reiterated multiple times that her department will work closely with the centers to ensure they provide a “continuum of care” to the patients they take in. She said her department has the goal of “opening the gateway to care.”

In terms of size and design, the three centers will vary.

AltaPointe’s center in Mobile will have 21 beds with 15 designated for temporary observation. The center will be open for dropoffs from several nearby counties.

Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority is partnering with two similar organizations to have its center serve 11 counties. The building will be in the capital city, and it will have 21 beds with 10 for temporary observation.

The facility to be built by WellStone Behavioral Health in Huntsville will be the largest of the centers. Local governments in the area are providing an additional $2.1 million. It will have 39 beds, including 15 for temporary observation.

Ivey was asked near the end of the event about the decision not to locate a center in the Birmingham area. She replied that the three centers announced Wednesday were “just the beginning” and “plans for more” are already underway.

“Today is a day of celebration,” said Ledbetter about the approval of the funding for the three sites.

He further remarked he had “never seen a more bipartisan effort” than the legislative push around the project.

“Today’s announcement will not only change Alabamians’ lives. It will help to save lives,” Ledbetter advised.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95