fresh voices from the front lines of change








Steven Rosenfeld

Does New Voting Tech Help Or Hurt Turnout?

On the biggest day of the 2020 presidential season so far, Super Tuesday, America’s biggest new voting system—in Los Angeles County—widely frustrated voters and poll workers in its debut in a jurisdiction that’s more populous than 39 states. Though the county had offered 11 days of early voting for the first time and spent millions to promote its new multilingual, user-friendly, part-paper and part-digital system, voters overwhelmed pinch points on Super Tuesday. Thus, as seen in other presidential contests in 2020, hours-long waits to vote repeatedly surfaced. By noon, county officials were telling national media that 20 percent of the machinery in the next step in the process—the sleek, user-friendly consoles that ran in many languages (using different alphabets) and thousands of local ballot styles—were not operating or were sidelined. As new voting systems have debuted during the past month (in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina, Los Angeles, and other Super Tuesday states such as North Carolina), the newest systems have tended to have some mix of delaying the process, frustrating voters and slowing reported results. That emerging pattern suggests that voters seeking a change in officeholders next fall are facing a new layer of impediments atop older structural barriers—whether gerrymanders, strict voter ID laws, and other GOP-led restrictive voting options, rules and deadlines. The voting systems debuting now will be with counties and states for years to come. But given the stakes of 2020’s elections, there’s little time left to fine-tune them.

Warren Exits Presidential Race

Elizabeth Warren, once a front-runner, will drop out of presidential race. NYT: "Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts plans to drop out of the presidential race on Thursday and will inform her staff of her plans later this morning, according to a person close to her, ending a run defined by an avalanche of policy plans that aimed to pull the Democratic Party to the left and appealed to enough voters to make her briefly a front-runner last fall, but that proved unable to translate excitement from elite progressives into backing from the party’s more working-class and diverse base. Though her support had eroded by Super Tuesday, in her final weeks as a candidate she effectively drove the centrist billionaire, former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, out of the race with debate performances that flashed her evident skills and political potential. She entered the race railing against the corrosive power of big money, and one long-term consequence of her campaign is that Ms. Warren demonstrated that someone other than Senator Bernie Sanders, and his intensely loyal small-dollar donors, could fund a credible presidential campaign without holding fund-raisers. Her potential endorsement is highly sought after in the race and both Mr. Sanders and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. have spoken with Ms. Warren since Super Tuesday, when the end of her campaign appeared imminent."

Coronavirus And America's Broken Health Care

America's Health System Will Likely Make the Coronavirus Outbreak Worse. Time: "As government officials race to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, fundamental elements of the U.S. health care system—deductibles, networks, and a complicated insurance bureaucracy—that already make it tough for many Americans to afford medical care under normal conditions will likely make the outbreak worse. More than 140 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States so far, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. But as the CDC makes the test for the virus more widely available, the structure of the U.S. health care system is complicating the response. For one, people must actually choose to get tested—a potentially expensive prospect for millions of Americans. While the government will cover the cost of testing for Medicaid and Medicare patients, and for tests administered at federal, state and local public health labs, it’s unclear how much patients will be charged for testing at academic or commercial facilities, or whether those facilities must be in patients’ insurance networks. Just recently, a Miami man received a $3,270.75 bill after going to the hospital feeling sick following a work trip to China. (He tested positive for the seasonal flu, so did not have the new coronavirus, and was sent home to recover.) Those who test positive for COVID-19 possibly face an even more financially harrowing path forward. Seeking out appropriate medical care or submitting to quarantines—critical in preventing the virus from spreading further—both come with potentially astronomical price tags in the U.S. Last month, a Pennsylvania man received $3,918 in bills after being released from a mandatory U.S. government quarantine after he and his daughter were evacuated from China. (Both the Miami and Pennsylvania patients saw their bills decrease after journalists reported on them, but they still owe thousands.)"

U.S. Falls Short of Virus Testing Goal

U.S. to miss rollout goal this week on virus tests, senators say. Bloomberg: "The Trump administration won’t be able to meet its promised timeline of having a million coronavirus tests available by the end of the week, senators said after a briefing Thursday from health officials. 'There won’t be a million people to get a test by the end of the week,' Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida said. 'It’s way smaller than that. And still, at this point, it’s still through public health departments.' Scott and other lawmakers said the government is “in the process” of sending test kits out and people still need to be trained on how to use them. The entire process could take days or weeks, they said. 'By the end of the week they’re getting them out to the mail,' Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma said. “It’s going to take time to be able to get them, receive them, re-verify them and then be able to put them into use.” Earlier this week, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn told senators at a hearing that the U.S. would have the 'capacity' to perform up to a million tests by the end of the week, a timetable reinforced by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a White House briefing Wednesday. The Trump administration has come under criticism for the test-kit shortage, which local public health officials have said hampers their ability to survey the U.S. population for the virus."

Medicare For All Would Help, Not Hurt, Jobs

Fundamental health reform like 'Medicare for All' would help the labor market. EPI: "Fundamental health reform like “Medicare for All” would be a hugely ambitious policy undertaking with profound effects on the economy and the economic security of households in America. But despite oft-repeated claims of large-scale job losses, a national program that would guarantee health insurance for every American would not profoundly affect the total number of jobs in the U.S. economy. In fact, such reform could boost wages and jobs and lead to more efficient labor markets that better match jobs and workers. While the overall effect of fundamental health reform on the labor market would be unambiguously positive, this does not mean policymakers should ignore the distress caused by job transitions forced by this reform. Specifically, policy support should be provided to help displaced health insurance and billing administration workers move into new positions. But we should not let critics of Medicare for All inflate the scale of this transition challenge or falsely present the number of jobs displaced in individual sectors as the net effect of reform on labor markets. The number of health insurance and billing administration workers who would need to transition implies an increase in the rate of overall job market churn that is relatively small: Job losses for these workers would be equivalent to one-twelfth the size of economywide layoffs in 2018."

ICC Authorizes Probe Of U.s. War Crimes In Afghanistan

Human rights groups welcome ICC probe of US torture and war crimes in Afghanistan. Common Dreams: "Human rights advocates celebrated Thursday after the International Criminal Court determined that an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by United States forces and others in Afghanistan during the so-called War on Terror can proceed. The ICC's Appeals Chamber unanimously overturned an April 2019 Pre-Trial Chamber decision that denied a November 2017 request from Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to formally investigate crimes committed by members of the U.S. armed forces, the CIA, the Taliban, affiliated armed groups, and Afghan government forces. The approved scope of the probe also includes crimes committed as part of the U.S. torture program at CIA black sites in Poland, Lithuania, and Romania. 'Today, the International Criminal Court breathed new life into the mantra that 'no one is above the law' and restored some hope that justice can be available—and applied—to all,' declared Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Her organization represents two men who were tortured in CIA black sites and other facilities, and currently are being held indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. 'For more than 15 years, like too many other victims of the U.S. torture program, Sharqawi Al-Hajj and Guled Duran have suffered physically and mentally in unlawful U.S. detention, while former senior U.S.officials have enjoyed impunity,' Gallagher said. 'In authorizing this critical and much-delayed investigation into crimes in and related to Afghanistan, the court made clear that political interference in judicial proceedings will not be tolerated.'"

Pin It on Pinterest

Spread The Word!

Share this post with your networks.