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Kobach to Kansas

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The President’s “voter fraud commission,” formed to find evidence of his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election, has been officially dissolved. The Pence-Kobach commission, named after Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was tasked with proving that Donald Trump would have won the popular vote in 2016, had it not been for the “millions of people who voted illegally.” This, of course, was a wildly false accusation used as a cover for a commission that was run by a man—Kobach—who has a long history of suppressing minorities’ right to vote. The dissolution of the commission comes in the wake of 44 states refusing to provide voter information to the commission, with Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes notably remarking, “There’s not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible.”

While this represents a huge success for progressives and those fighting for access to the ballot box, voter suppression tactics continue. Trump’s nominee to run the 2020 Census, Thomas Brunell, has been found to have a “misunderstanding” of the Voting Rights Act as a whole. In fact, congressional districts that Brunell provided support for drawing were eliminated after federal courts found they were “among the largest racial gerrymanders ever encountered by a federal court.” The Census is at further risk, as the Department of Justice wants to include a question on the Census survey about citizenship. Additionally, the Senate continues to confirm Trump appointees to the federal courts that have a history of promoting voter suppression laws. And, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments over whether states can purge voter rolls of individuals who did not vote in the previous election.

States are also advancing and enforcing their own voter suppression efforts. Evidence suggests that Wisconsin’s voter ID laws had an effect on the presidential election results in that state particularly affecting communities of color. An effort to strike down Missouri’s new voter ID law has been dismissed from the court, as the Republican Secretary of State claimed that voter fraud “changed elections.” But, studies have shown that voter ID laws actually do prevent some people from voting—disproportionately impacting “low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities.”

ACTION OF THE DAY

#DreamActNow. Since the Trump Administration ended DACA in September 2017, over 14,000 young people have lost crucial protections. Since then, 122 Dreamers have lost their legal protection every day. Watch and share this new video series called “American DREAMing.” Then, call key members of Congress today using DreamActToolkit.org and demand a vote on the Dream Act by January 19th. Remember: Another delay by Congress is another vote to fund deportations.

WHAT’S TRENDING

More Oil Spills, Coming to a Coast Near You. Days after the Trump administration launched a rollback of offshore drilling safety measures that had been implemented in the wake of the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil spill, today, the Trump Administration proposed the largest, most radical expansion of offshore drilling in decades. The plan is effectively “drill, baby, drill” on steroids–it would open virtually all of the U.S. Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific Oceans, and inevitably lead to spilled oil washing up on beaches from sea to shining sea. Hundreds of cities, towns, and business groups along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts have passed formal resolutions opposing new drilling, because their coastal economies thrive in the absence of oil spills. Yet Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is moving ahead with a policy agenda that massively rewards Big Oil, at the expense of America’s coasts, fisheries, and ocean wildlife.

No Country For Pot. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced today an end to Obama-era rules that guided the federal government to not interfere with state-level marijuana laws. Although it is unclear exactly what Sessions will replace that guidance with, it is clear that the Department of Justice intends to crack down on marijuana use—both medical and recreational. The majority of U.S. states currently allow individuals to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, and eight states have permitted recreational use. This represents a change of policy from what Trump stated in 2016, when he said that “it’s up to the states.”

Your Public Lands Sold on the Internet. At 9:00 a.m. on February 2, 2018, 2 million acres of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will be immediately available for mining and drilling. Without paying a dime to the federal government, speculators will be able to stake a claim to mine for uranium, potash, and any other mineral that they believe can be extracted from the monuments. The oil and gas resources in the area, meanwhile, will be eligible to be sold off to energy companies through recently established private internet auctions and anonymous bidding systems that are highly susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse. Fight back at MonumentsForAll.org.

Motel Racism. Yesterday, the attorney general of the state of Washington filed a lawsuit against Motel 6, alleging that the chain of motels illegally provided U.S. immigration authorities with the personal information of thousands of its guests. Motel 6 was allegedly aware that the immigration agents used the information to target the motel’s guests based on their national origin. According to the lawsuit, these actions violate the state’s consumer-protection law, as well as the state’s anti-discrimination law. These anti-immigrant actions are in line with the larger discriminatory trend across the nation under the Trump Administration, which includes surveilling the social media accounts of potential migrants.

GOOD NEWS

Historic Election in Charlottesville. Yesterday, Nikuyah Walker was elected mayor of Charlottesville, becoming the first African-American woman to hold that role. Before her election, Walker addressed the city council, saying, “There are people in this community who talk about change and the change that is necessary for us to truly move forward but don’t really understand what that means or really looks like.” Walker’s election comes just months after historic elections across the country took place in November—from the first openly transgender state lawmaker in Virginia, Danica Roem, to Hoboken, New Jersey’s first Sikh mayor, Ravinder Bhalla.