Guest: Slate's legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern; Also: U.S. economy plummeting at staggering rate; One Fox 'News' host pushes back (a bit)...
By Brad Friedman on 4/30/2020, 6:46pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The number of lawsuits being filed by voters and voting rights advocates across the country is increasing with incredible speed as the coronavirus crisis continues and as we race toward the most critical Presidential election in the history of the nation on November 3rd. A new suit filed in federal court in Texas this week raises a very good and important challenge, arguing that the state (and 6 others with similarly restrictive state absentee voting laws) appears to be in strict violation of the U.S. Constitution. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

But first, speaking of Texas, a new poll finds presumptive Democratic Party Presidential nominee Joe Biden now leading Donald Trump in the Lone Star state by 1 point. While that's within the poll's margin of error, that and other recent polls suggest Texas is most definitely in play this year for Democrats and underscores the importance of a number of lawsuits currently working through that state and other battlegrounds in hopes of ensuring that every legal voter who wishes to vote is able to do so (and without risking their lives in the bargain.)

Next, new weekly unemployment claim numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor today are bad. Really bad. All time record bad. Again. For the sixth week in a row. A staggering and unprecedented 30 million Americans have now filed new jobless claims over the past six weeks alone, with researchers finding that as many as 50% more have been unable to file a claim due to overloaded state agencies that are supposed to handle them. Moreover, according to figures released today from the Commerce Department, consumer spending plummeted 7.5% in March, the sharpest drop on record as the real Job Creators (that would be workers whose spending comprises 70% of the American economy!) have simply stopped spending as they were laid off or furloughed amid to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was in a month where only half of it was disrupted. April's numbers when available will likely be far worse.

And, with those numbers --- and still absolutely no plan to contain the virus at the federal level after all of these months and deaths --- Republicans are nonetheless attempting to fling open the doors to business, end stay-at-home requirements and social distancing measures across the country. But while the Republican propaganda hosts at Fox "News" tend to march in lock-step to encourage Americans (other than them) to stand up to restrictive measures meant to slow the spread of the virus, one host of Donald Trump's favorite morning show pushed back a bit today against her dangerously misinformed co-hosts.

Then, we're joined by Slate's ace legal reporter, MARK JOSEPH STERN, who has been focusing, of late, on the many voting rights battles now playing out across the country. He brings us up to date on a fascinating new federal lawsuit filed this week in Texas, charging that the state's law allowing no-excuse absentee voting for those aged 65 and older --- with severe restrictions on Vote-by-Mail balloting for anyone who is younger --- is in strict violation of the U.S. Constitution's 26th Amendment. Ratified in just 100 days in 1971, the Vietnam-era Amendment lowered the federal voting age from 21 while guaranteeing "The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged."

The suit argues that the TX absentee voting law, in fact, does abridge that right. Stern also explains that similar state laws restricting the right to vote by mail based on age in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky do the exact same thing. The issue, which few have noticed following the ratification of the rarely-pondered 26th Amendment, is now more germane than ever given the deadly threat of the coronavirus to those required in such states to cast a ballot in-person at the polling place.

"Texas is one of seven states that grants special privileges to older voters," Stern says. "You are allowed to vote absentee if you qualify. But, to qualify, you have to either have a serious medical illness or be over the age of 65. If you are 64, you have no such luxury. You have to expose yourself to the coronavirus. If you are over a certain age, you get a privilege, and if you are under a certain age, you essentially get a burden. And that is exactly the kind of thing that the 26th Amendment was passed to try to abolish."

Though the Constitutional challenge is "a really cut-and-dry case" based on a very conservative, strict, textualist reading of the text of the "unambiguous" Amendment, defenders of the law in Texas (and elsewhere) may have a difficult time doing so without undermining their own defenses of the 2nd Amendment at the same time, as I discuss Stern.

But, while that federal complaint moves forward --- and faces anticipated procedural roadblocks to run out the clock from the very rightwing 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in Texas (featuring what Stern describes as "some of the worst, most outwardly-partisan, hackish, nihilistic judges that this country has ever seen in its entire history sitting on that bench") and the stolen Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court --- voting rights champions have begun to open up another avenue in hopes of guaranteeing voting rights for all and saving the 2020 election: legal challenges in state courts based on the many state Constitutions which expressly guarantee "free and fair" elections.

If the stolen GOP majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is going to continue their open hostility toward voting rights that they've displayed since the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, challenges at the state Constitutional level could prove to be very fruitful, says Stern. "Voting rights advocates are marching into state courts and saying, 'Look, this election cannot be free and fair if people have to make the choice between risking their lives and exercising their Constitutional rights."

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us with the latest Green News Report with the usual number of disturbing developments, but also a surprise happy ending today courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court! Yes, that U.S. Supreme Court!...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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