On Why I Am Pro-Choice

This is why, ultimately, I have to be pro-choice. When we look at the anti-abortion hardline position of zero abortions, anywhere, we lose out on those performed to save the life of the mother. We also potentially criminalize miscarriages, which has happened already in jurisdictions with strict anti-abortion laws on the books.

So, no, I’m opposed to strict anti-abortion measures. I’m also more inclined to align with the pro-choice group on issues of better access to prenatal care, better postnatal health care for both mother and children, and better financial assistance programs overall – and those measures remove demand for abortions through improving the lives of both the parents and the children. Pro-choice groups also tend to be pro-teacher and pro-universal child care, which a nation without abortions would need lots more of.

My church’s position is clear: it is opposed to abortion, except in the cases where the life of the mother is endangered, rape, incest, or when postnatal survival is in serious doubt. But not even those exceptions are permitted in a hardline anti-abortion position, so I must align with the pro-choice people. Not allowing those exceptions is tyranny: not advocating for better health care, education, and child care is unchristian cruelty.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/gary-peters-democrat-michigan-senator-abortion-family-b994475.html

D&C 134 – My Thoughts

In my faith, there is a scripture that outlines what we see as the correct relationship balance with human free will, government authority, and church authority. I have linked that scripture, below and following my remarks.

In reading it today, I was impressed upon by the words “equity and justice” in verse 3. Being also constrained to “judge righteous judgment” elsewhere in the scriptures, and being admonished to not blithely say “all is well in Zion”, I take those words as a solemn enjoinder to take seriously and with great weight the cries of those who claim oppression and persecution, remembering in their cries those of my own ancestors.

Even those uttering cries of oppression and persecution condemn those who turn to rioting and violence: therefore, let not my consideration of those cries be tainted with associating them with lawlessness. Millions continue to speak lawfully and peacefully, and their cries are justified.

A necessary first step in equity and justice is in hearing honestly reports of the plight of the oppressed. The necessary second step is to be so moved as to no longer accept things as they are, but to strive for the changes in laws necessary so as to establish equity and justice.

That is what came to my mind this day.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/134?lang=eng

On the Republican-backed PILF and Its Violation of the KKK Act…

I had a discussion in which someone brought up a concern of about 6000-8000 deceased voters having voted in the last 2 elections. These numbers came from a report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation. The PILF is a Republican-backed group that goes around suing states and counties to force them to purge voter databases that result in hundreds of thousands to millions of minority voters losing their votes. Talk about straining at a gnat and swallowing a mule… worse, the PILF has been sued itself multiple times – and lost – for failing to produce substantive evidence for its own suits, as well as for violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and – brace yourselves – the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

That’s right. The Republicans back a group that violates the KKK Act. Go look it up, it’s interesting. You learn something every day, and I bet you didn’t bank on learning about the KKK Act.

The more people try to convince me that the Republicans aren’t shot through with substantial numbers of racists, the more I come across information like this that I wasn’t previously aware of that actually shows that I had previously underestimated the rampant racism in that political organization.

And the more I find gems like the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and the group that goes around violating it, all in the name of law and order and keeping our voter records white and shiny.

A Riot Is the Language of the Unheard

A riot is the language of the unheard. It is as necessary to condemn the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riots as it is to condemn the riots. Riots do not develop out of thin air.

Give the unheard a voice – give them the vote. When we hear of plans to “clean up” voter databases and how they unfairly target minorities, year in, year out, we are hearing plans to set our cities on fire as well as plans to bear down unjustly upon people because of racial discrimination. If you condemn riots, then condemn as well the political practices that lead to those riots.

49 of 50 state Republican Parties, with the blessing and guidance of the national Republican Party, engage in voter suppression measures that target minorities. If you do not want riots, do not support the politicians that sow the seeds of rioting in their white supremacist-derived policies. In Dr. King’s day, it was much less clear on how to determine which politicians would support equality and which ones would support racial discrimination. Party lines and regional lines did not entirely line up with one side or the other. Today, it is much clearer: The Democratic Party moves to end racial discrimination and the Republican Party moves to preserve it. Look at the legislative record, it tells a truth that is stark and plain.

I have been told in no uncertain terms by my faith leaders to be active in working to end racial discrimination. I cannot be true to that charge and cast a vote for a Republican politician at the same time. I must choose, and I choose to end racial discrimination.

My Observations on President Russell M. Nelson’s Remarks 4 October 2020

Twice in two days (and possibly more, as I still need to watch other Saturday sessions of General Conference), a member of the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been unequivocal in stating that if we, the followers of Jesus Christ, are to do the will of God, it is to do so by including all our brothers and sisters and rejecting doctrines and practices of racism and racial discrimination.

He did not call us to support the Second Amendment. He did not call upon us to overturn Roe v Wade. He called us to work to end racism.

My Reflections on Dallin H. Oaks’ Comments – 3 October 2020

To me, it was clear that President Oaks spoke the words of a servant of God – he promoted peace, understanding, and striving towards eliminating the evils in our laws. He did not plaster over the problems of racism, including those in the USA’s history and laws. While he spoke against violence, he absolutely did not speak against protest.

He clearly condemned those who would favor a violent solution. He did not equivocate or wink to one side or another. The man ready to grab a rifle to support one ideology or another is in danger of doing the work of the Destroyer, not of God.

President Oaks also made comments that, at their heart, agreed with the protests against racism and racial discrimination in law enforcement as well as law – and that such racism and racial discrimination requires of us, followers of Jesus Christ, to do more to root out and remove from our nation’s governance. We cannot assume that because we live in the USA and that there was a Civil War and that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that we live in a racially just society and that those who speak of oppression and discrimination are being disingenuous, somehow seeking an unfair advantage. No, the cries of oppression and discrimination that we hear are real, and it is incumbent upon us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to move to end such things.

President Oaks did not underline any other issue in his comments – and I would remark that Mormon’s comments in 4 Nephi underlined the same issue, and no other, as being the undoing of the peace and happiness of the people made as one under Christ.

Voter Suppression – Part 6

Rather than spend my time going over details of suppression efforts, I’ll summarize. The efforts themselves are “rinse and repeat” methods that I’ve already called out in earlier essays and, frankly, the all hearken back to Jim Crow methods. What I’m searching for is any exception to the general rule that I see of Republican Party politicians and organizations pushing for Jim Crow racist legislation. They call it whatever they want to call it, but underneath the window dressing is hardcore Jim Crow legislation.

Iowa: Republicans throw up barriers to voting… Missouri: Republicans look to reinstate a voter restriction law that was shot down by the Missouri Supreme Court… Arkansas: The Republican-majority Supreme Court ruled a voter suppression measure was fine by them… Louisiana: considered one of the four worst states in the USA for voter suppression of minorities… Mississippi: another one of those “four worst states” – the blood of Medgar Evers still cries unto heaven for justice.

Indiana: Gerrymandering, restrictive registration laws, and a purge of 500,000 mostly minority voters… Kentucky: voter suppression so bad, the Black Republicans there complained that there was hardly anyone in their precincts that could vote for them! Yet, the state continued to pull out Black poll workers and put in Whites from outside those neighborhoods and post police at polling places to intimidate voters… Tennessee: just passed a law that would strip protesters of their voting rights, and guess what skin color a LOT of recent protesters happen to have… Michigan: Republican-backed robocallers are spreading lies to discourage absentee voting and the Republicans are fighting hard in the legislature to preserve the suppression measures implemented there when they were in power… West Virginia: large-scale purge, intimidation, and other suppression tactics are in place under that state’s Republican leadership.

New Jersey: this is a state where the Republican National Party was sued twice for violating voting rights laws. It is no surprise that the Republican Party is fighting against Democratic Party efforts there to reinstate the many thousands of minority voters that lost their franchise under Republican rule… Virginia: Democratic Party politicians are dismantling Jim Crow laws over Republican opposition… North Carolina: This state’s Republicans are so bad, they committed massive election fraud in the NC-9 election and never batted an eye… South Carolina: Republicans there maintain and extend Jim Crow laws to keep Blacks from voting… Florida: Republican leaders there *admitted* that voter suppression laws were targeting minority voters.

From an article about the Florida admission: A GOP consultant who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution said Black voters were a concern. “I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the Black churches organize themselves,” he said.

So here I am… out of 50 states, only one state Republican Party organization – Utah – that is not actively seeking to deprive Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans of their votes.

The only way to convince me that the Republican Party is not a racist, white supremacist hate group is for the other 49 state party organizations to not just step away from voter suppression efforts, but to vote for their repeal.

Voter Suppression – Part 5

I’ll do another survey of states in this essay, where I’ll take in the Western states that I haven’t looked at already. Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and my home state of Texas. That’s 14 states and will bring my survey to 34 states, with heavily-Republican Midwest and Deep South states making up most of the remaining 16.

I start with Republican-held Alaska. Going into my check, I thought that there might not be enough minorities in Alaska to suppress, but I thought wrong. Alaska goes hard against Native American voters, with all kinds of additional complications brought into play because of their tribal affiliations. The law of the USA stipulates that tribal members living on reservations *can* vote in federal elections, but the Republicans in Alaska choose instead to pass laws that suppress their votes and then carry the fights into courts, where the state enjoys better access and legal resources than their suppressed plaintiffs.

Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota have similar arrangements as Alaska: Republican-dominated governments that block Native American access to the polls. It doesn’t matter if the laws stipulate forms of ID while blocking others, or if it’s a poll purging posing as an address update, or if it’s closing polls where the people can reach them without a massive drive – all of those and more get used to keep the Native Americans out of the polling places.

The same things that target hyper-rural Native American voters also work against Hispanic voters in Idaho. Idaho counties also do not uniformly offer Spanish-language ballots, even though they are required to by federal law.

Nevada is now mostly in Democratic hands, so the voter suppression stories coming out of that state are about how Republicans are trying to push through voter suppression measures such as restricting mail-in voting. It’s really breaking my heart to see, time and time again, the Republican Party acting to either reduce voting rights or to hold the line on Jim Crow laws that keep voting rights suppressed. Time and time again. I’ve got good friends who fight fires, heal the sick, teach in classrooms, defend our nation, and serve on police forces who are good, honest people… and then they vote Republican and extend the shadow of racial discrimination in our nation. It’s like watching alcoholics destroy their lives and the lives of others through occasional indiscretions.

And that brings me to Arizona, which has been suppressing Black, Hispanic, and Native American votes for over a century. The Republican Party there pushed for voter suppression measures in 1958, well before the national party adopted such strategies in 1964. Eyewitnesses recall how Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist once served as a major part of the Republican Party’s Operation Eagle Eye, challenging Black and Hispanic voters in South Phoenix. Arizona’s history reads like that of Alabama’s, which breaks my heart even more, as I have family history that hearkens back to that state.

I also have family history that reaches back to Utah. That state shows some hope in that the Republican-dominated government has started to roll back restrictions and open up other possibilities for voters. There are still laws that the Republicans put in that need to come out – remember that it was Republicans that took away rights for women to vote in Utah in the late 1800s – but it is good to see that change *is* possible.

But the Republicans revert to form in New Mexico, where out-of-state Republican groups have joined forces with in-state groups to file court cases to suppress minority voters there. Nebraska doesn’t need out-of-state groups to suppress votes, as the Republican Party there is strong enough to do the job themselves.

Kansas has been ruled by Republicans for most of its history, so it was no surprise to me that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach created multiple barriers to voting for the state’s current Black voters and the increasing number of Hispanic voters there.

Oklahoma’s party history pattern lets me know that I’m out of the West and into the Deep South – the Democratic Party white supremacists migrated over to the Republican Party when the national Democratic Party made that group unfriendly to white supremacists… and the national Republican Party made that group a home for them. But Oklahoma is nothing when compared to Texas.

Texas’ Republican leadership is keeping Jim Crow alive and well in the Lone Star State, with aggressive voter ID laws, voter roll purges, closure of polling places in minority neighborhoods, complicated registration practices, voter intimidation, and blocking of an expansion of mail-in voting. It’s sickening, and it’s pervasive.

I’ve looked at 34 states so far. In all but one, Utah, Republican Party politicians and affiliated groups are working to suppress minority voting rights. In Utah, Republicans are starting to roll back some restrictions, but they have a long way to go.

I’ve got 16 states to go: Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Jersey. Looking at those states, I know already of several with particularly egregious examples of Republican-led voter suppression efforts. By the time I’m done with this, I’ll no longer wonder about how closely-aligned the Republican Party is with white supremacist views. I’ll know, and it will be deeply disturbing.

Voter Suppression – Part 4

I’m taking a look at states that have been both Democrat strongholds of late as well as states that have had a history of being at the front of voter rights movements. I’m doing this just to be thorough and to see if any states are expanding their voter rolls by large numbers.

As it turns out, there is good news, especially from Massachusetts. But I’ll start in California. That state does have problems, but it’s in the area of bureaucracy and minor areas that affect tens of thousands, as opposed to the millions I’ve chronicled Republican Parties in Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio disenfranchising. And while I will agree with criticisms that polling places need to be opened, not closed and that election dates should not be moved to accommodate interest groups AND that mail-in ballots need to not be rejected because the signature and the ballot are not in English, those are nowhere near the level of deliberately targeting hundreds of thousands of Blacks and depriving them of their votes.

When I look up voter suppression in California, Oregon, Hawaii, and Illinois, those are the stories I see: basically, “we can and SHOULD do better!” I agree wholeheartedly.

Voter suppression searches for Washington State turned up how their system of mail-in ballots has worked extremely well. A search for “voter suppression Vermont” unearths a host of articles written by Vermonters about how awful voter suppression is in other states. Same for Connecticut. Maine, which has a mixed-party situtation, is similar. Rhode Island has a variation on the above states in that Republicans are trying to sue the state for being too permissive with its mail-in voting. Delaware has a story similar to Rhode Island: while the state is very progressive with voting rights, Republicans are trying to challenge those rights in court.

“Voter suppression Colorado” gives articles about their anger over postal system interference from Trump’s cronies and how upset they are over Trump telling people in North Carolina to vote twice.

“Voter suppression Maryland” does bring up a set of articles protesting Republican governor Hogan’s policy to make it more restrictive on mail-in voting this year. While not a concerted voter purge campaign, I do wonder if this is the thin end of the wedge. If so, it should be beaten back, especially in this year of pandemic.

Back to happier news, “voter suppression Minnesota” shows a state that’s vibrant in its efforts to expand the franchise, with particular barbs for backsliding Wisconsin. SPOILER: Wisconsin is called “The Alabama of the North”, as I’ll discuss in a future article in this series.

“Voter suppression New Hampshire” was a bit of a shock – but then I see that that state is more Republican-dominated than the rest of the Northeast. Ah, I thought, that explains all the articles about unreasonable NH voter registration laws being struck down, along with Republican-led efforts to suppress student and youth voters. Here I am, trying to do a survey of states where I think voter suppression isn’t as horrific as elsewhere in the USA, and this one stands out like a sore thumb – and I see the Republican Party dominance in the legislature. This is a national thing for Republicans, no question about it in my mind. I had a strong suspicion as I started this series, but the data give me a deep pit in my stomach about whether or not I think there’s any salvaging that party from its pro-white supremacist impact.

New York shows a state in conflict with itself, as upstate Republicans push measures to limit the voting strength of urban Democrats – and the targets are pretty much the usual group of young voters, Black voters, and Hispanic voters. The laws get passed when the Republicans are in power and are blocked from repeal when the Republicans are in opposition, with strength enough in at least one legislative house.

When I looked at a mixed-to-Republican chart of Pennsylvania state political control, I thought to myself, “I bet there’s some voter suppression going on there!” Sure enough, I see articles about Republicans pushing to purge 800,000 names from the rolls. That disgusts me, because I know which voters they will be. Reading denials makes my disgust stronger, because everywhere else the Republican Party launches a voter purge, since they started doing those nationally in 1964, has targeted Black, Hispanic, and youth voters. There’s zero reason to think Pennsylvania would be any different.

Whereas, in the Democratic-run stronghold of liberty Massachusetts, the news is about how they’ve got 700,000 MORE voters. That’s just awesome, and shows what can be done when we encourage the spirit of voting rights in the nation. I want to savor that moment before I tally up my findings from today…

… OK, ready for the total. Of the 17 states I surveyed, expecting to see fair-to-good news about voter suppression, 13 of them had either suppression issues in the tens of thousands or less – with Massachusetts standing out with its registration efforts. 4 of the states had bad news. In all of those 4 states, it was the Republican Party that was pushing to strip voters of their rights. The voter suppression issue isn’t one of “everyone is doing it”. It’s a story of the Republican Party taking states that used to have strong voting rights and attacking those very rights, particularly for Blacks and Hispanics.

And if Blacks and Hispanics can’t vote, that leaves the Whites… with supremacy. That is not the nation I want to live in, but that’s the nation the Republican Party is dead-set on delivering.

Voter Suppression – Part 3

For this part of the series, I’m moving north to look at Ohio. Ohio has been a stronghold for Republicans since before the Civil War, with only infrequent periods of Democratic state leadership. So, unlike the states south of the Ohio River, the Jim Crow Laws in Ohio were enacted by Republicans and overturned under a period of Democratic state leadership, followed by further overturns with a Republican state leadership. When Ohio passed laws in 1953 that marked a move towards segregation and racial inequality, it was under a predominantly Republican administration.

To be fair, Civil Rights leaders like B.W. Arnett were members of the Ohio Republican Party and were very vocal in the fight for rights. I don’t want to lose sight of that. But I also don’t want to lose sight of the fight within the party over Civil Rights and how that has shaped over time. Arnett’s day was back when McKinley was president. How have things changed in the 120 intervening years?

If you’re Black in Ohio, generally for the worse. Especially recently, after the Husted v APRI ruling.

Husted came down in 2018. The defendant in the case was one Jon Husted, the Republican Secretary of State for Ohio. He had removed about half a million voters from the rolls in 2016, using methods that went directly against the NVRA of 1993. That is to say, his criteria for removing a voter included failure to vote in an election.

The APRI, plaintiff in the case, is the A. Philip Randolph Institute, named for one of the most effective crusaders for civil rights in the USA. Randolph was the organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who were able to cross the nation and coordinate civil rights efforts. They’re the ones who organized and paid for the 1963 March on Washington.

APRI’s lawsuit was over Husted’s removal of 426,781 voters in 2016, following a larger purge of voters after Obama’s re-election in 2012, totaling over 1,000,000 voters in Ohio. All of these, Husted claimed had moved out of Ohio, in spite of demographic evidence much to the contrary of such a mass exodus. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the APRI because Husted’s move was a clear violation of the NVRA – and that it nakedly targeted Blacks made it all the more egregious.

But, states are allowed to appeal up to the Supreme Court automatically, and the Republican-dominated Court found a way to rule in favor of Husted. This being the same court that gave us Citizens United and the Shelby ruling that dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Republicans returned a verdict that struck to the core of the NVRA.

The dissenting opinions called out that 1 million voters was 13% of Ohio’s voting population and that the way that those voters ere from Black-majority neighborhoods was particularly troubling to them. 10% of Black voters were removed, but only 4% of Whites lost their votes.

Alito’s majority opinion simply argued that the APRI had failed to demonstrate concretely that the removed voters had *not* moved.

With a ruling that defied logic and Civil Rights, the Husted case opened up a legal route for other Republican governors to disenfranchise Black voters. Kemp in Georgia was the first to take advantage, followed by Arizona, Michigan, Florida, and other Republican-dominated states. Millions of Black voters have lost their vote because the Republican Party sees to it that enemies of Civil Rights get put on the federal bench, when they get a chance to make appointments.

Even though methods of address list hygiene used by the mass-mail industry are available and highly accurate, the Republicans continue to use inaccurate methods that disproportionately target Black voters when they are applied.

And when a story ran in The New York Times in 2019 about how 40,000 voters had had their votes restored in Ohio, the article failed to do a demographic summary of those voters whose votes were *not* restored: two of every three of those were Democrats. I’ll add that the story itself was wrong to focus on voters that hadn’t been purged – the story should have been that a purge was going on in the first place!

This is the third of three states I’ve looked at with a Republican-dominated state government that has systematically suppressed African-American voting rights. It may not have as rich and deep a Jim Crow past as the Deep South states, but it has one. Sadly, rather than embrace the ideals of the great B.W. Arnett, the Ohio Republican Party has copied George Wallace, as evidenced in Ohio State Senator Steve Huffman, who tried to put a racist framework around COVID-19 infection rates.

I’ll look to another Northern Republican state for my next article in this series, because Ohio is by no means isolated.