Yes, on today's BradCast, we discuss a new, maddening --- and likely unconstitutional --- voter suppression law signed this week by Arizona's Republican Governor. But, as our guest notes, "Don't worry, we've got this!" We'll see. He's got a plan in response that voters in other swing-states may wish to look at as well. Other than that though, today's show ends your week with nothin' but good news! (Mostly.) [Audio link to full toe-tappin' show is posted below this summary.]
First up, good news on COVID! According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services, hospitalizations are now at their lowest rate since the U.S. began keeping records at the beginning of the pandemic two years ago. Of course, last time hospitalizations where near this low we got slammed by Delta and then Omicron shortly thereafter. So, hey, now's a great time to get a vaccine shot or a booster if you haven't in the past 4 months or so!
Then, more good news on the economy! 431,000 new jobs were added in March, as Americans continue to shake off the pandemic, even amid war in Europe and inflation. Since Joe Biden took office, the economy has added a record 7.9 million jobs. Unemployment is the lowest it's been since before the pandemic and barely higher than the nation has seen in a half-century, as the President did some justifiable crowing about those numbers today. Things would be even better had Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin allowed his Build Back Better bill to pass, given that many more women are needed to fill millions of open jobs, but can't afford the child care (that BBB would have paid for) in order to take them.
But there's still more good news today, for workers and labor unions! Amazon employees in deep red Republican Staten Island, New York voted "yes" to unionize in an historic labor win at the only fulfillment center in New York City! It's the first Amazon facility in the U.S. to do so, but it likely means many others will join them. Another unionization vote at Amazon's fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama remains too close to call for the moment. It's the second such vote held at that plant after the National Labor Relations Board found that Amazon had cheated in the first vote and ordered a re-do.
Speaking of cheating in elections: Republicans. Though it may make your head (and mine) explode, mid-term primaries are beginning to kick off all over the country. The first one, last month in Texas, resulted in tens of thousands of disenfranchised absentee voters whose ballots were rejected thanks to the state GOP's new voter suppression law there.
We had slightly better news this week in Florida. There, a federal judge struck down several provisions of the new voter suppression law adopted last year by the GOP-dominated state legislature and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (who barely won his initial election back in 2018). U.S. District Judge Mark Walker found that the law unlawfully targeted black voters in violation of both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Most notably, he ordered the state back under the VRA's preclearance regime for the next decade, mandating approval in advance from the federal government for any new election-related laws that may effect minority voters.
Republicans in Arizona, however, have been running a bit behind in their voter suppression. But, on Wednesday this week, the state's Governor Doug Ducey, also facing re-election this year, signed HB 2492 [PDF], even though legislative attorneys in both the state House and Senate found the measure to be likely unconstitutional. In short, it requires state voters to prove they are citizens before they may vote for candidates in state and local elections. But it goes farther than previous such laws in the state. This one could disenfranchise anywhere from 31,000 to nearly 200,000 voters in a state where Democrats won the Presidential election in 2020 by just over 10,000 votes. It would prevent voters who fail to prove their citizenship (or can afford to do so) from voting for either state officials or President. They may still be able to vote for members of Congress, but not during either early voting or via absentee ballot.
We're joined today by ERIC KRAMER, former Chair of the Navajo County Democrats, now Director of the Arizona Deserves Better non-profit coalition to discuss HB 2492 and, more importantly, what he and other voting rights advocates in the state are currently doing to both overturn such measures and prevent even worse ones from being adopted at any time in the future with their new Arizonans for Fair Elections ballot initiative.
We first learned of the effort via DailyKos, where Kramer writes as "EricAZ". Two articles of his there caught our eye in particular. The first, in early March, was headlined "Arizona Right-Wing Goes Batshit Crazy in Attack on Voters (Don’t Worry, We’ve Got This)". The second, a few weeks later, is titled, "The Joy of Soon Beating the U.S. Supreme Court on Several Voting Rights Issues".
Kramer explains how the AZ Fair Elections initiative, targeted for inclusion on the ballot this November, would work to prevent the kind of voter suppression we have been seeing from the increasingly extremist Republican radicals who now control the AZ state legislature. It would roll back laws like HB 2492 and prevent similarly disenfranchising laws from being adopted in an election year. It would also repeal a number of other laws recently adopted by state Republicans which target minority voters (Native Americans in particular), while instituting proactive measures to increase voter turnout, rather than block it, as the GOP is now working so hard to do there and elsewhere.
"In addition to these places where we're kind of playing defense against what they've done to voters in the past, there are some where we are playing offense," Kramer explains in detailing the voter referendum. "We have automatic voter registration. We have Election Day registration. We expand the periods for early voting. And we do quite a lot to help Native American voters and especially disabled voters --- we give more opportunities to vote. So it is a very good initiative."
Can his group, which is currently in the signature gathering process, get the measure onto the ballot in November? And, if so, can they get it passed? "We are going to get it done," he tells me confidently. "We need 243,000 signatures [by July 7] to get on the ballot. We're currently collecting at more than twice the rate we need. Fundraising has gone well. People from all over the country are supporting this. We will get it done."
You can get more information on the initiative --- in case you'd like to support it or consider something similar in your own state --- at the website for the Arizonans for Fair Elections initiative (azfe.org).
Finally, we close with even more good news and a song!
Our final good news for the day is about cannabis. U.S. House Democrats, with almost zero help from Republicans, adopted a measure today to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, though it will still have to overcome a likely GOP filibuster in the Senate. That, despite the American public's overwhelming support not just for decriminalizing cannabis, but for fully legalizing it once and for all. Not sure why the GOP would be dumb enough to take a pass on shooting the measure down again, as they did back in 2020 when they held the majority in the upper chamber, but explaining Republican stupidity is not my strong suit.
But to keep you happy and singing well into the weekend, we close with a new ditty from Canadian comedian and "The Internet's Favourite Dad* (*unproven)", according to his Twitter profile, Stewart Reynolds, who sings that "it's nice to be disliked!"...So "annoy a Nazi" today!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)