Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, concerns about voter disenfranchisement heading into the 2020 Presidential election are high, a domestic terrorist group attempted to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, President Trump has refused to participate in the next Presidential debate, and the Senate holds hearings for Amy Comey Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination amid news of her anti-choice involvement.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett began Monday, intensifying concerns about the safety of Roe v. Wade. Lindsey Graham, Senate Judiciary Chairman, and Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, are planning to hold the floor vote before the November election. The confirmation hearings will take place despite recent news that Judge Comey Barrett has been associated with various anti-abortion groups and has given talks and signed letters criticizing Roe v. Wade. Judge Comey Barrett’s nomination, and her failure to disclose the extent of her anti-choice involvements, increases doubts about the security of women’s right to bodily autonomy. (NPR, CNN).
Donald Trump has refused to participate in the next Presidential debate against Joe Biden, a move that brings new attention to the issue of just how informed the electorate will be about the Presidential candidates. Because President Trump recently contracted COVID-19, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the October 15 debate would be virtual. Despite Biden’s willingness to debate virtually, Trump has stated that he is “not going to waste [his] time” with a virtual debate. Instead, Trump will hold a rally, which marks his return to the campaign trail dangerously soon after his positive Coronavirus diagnosis. (Forbes, ABC).
The FBI arrested several domestic terrorists who were plotting to kidnap the Governor of Michigan in a shocking example of the rising threat of right-wing extremist groups. The men were part of a group of anti-government domestic extremists who were enraged by the Covid-19 safety restrictions enacted by the Governor. The attempted terrorist acts came shortly after an encouraging tweet from President Trump to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” (Reuters).
Federal judges in Pennsylvania and Texas have blocked plans that would limit the availability of ballot drop sites for the 2020 presidential election. In Pennsylvania, a federal judge dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit that sought to limit drop box availability based on purported concerns about voter fraud, which studies show is extremely rare. Similarly, a Texas federal judge blocked the state’s plan to only create one absentee ballot drop site per county, which would have created an undue burden on certain vulnerable groups of voters. (NPR, NPR).
Concerns are growing about the disenfranchising effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on marginalized communities. Public health experts have agreed that mail-in voting is safest during a global pandemic, but mail-in ballots cast by traditionally disenfranchised groups––namely, Black and Hispanic voters––are frequently not counted. And these same marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, making it less likely that they will vote in person. (ABC).
Nearly 50 people have been arrested for peacefully protesting the lack of criminal charges against the police officer who fatally shot Alvin Cole, a Black teenager from Wisconsin. Among those arrested were Cole’s mother and three sisters. Cole, age 17, was shot and killed at a mall on February 2nd by Officer Joseph Mensah. Demonstrations began last week after notice that Mensah will not face criminal charges. (CNN).
The Trump administration is attempting to end census operations early, despite a court order, a decision that would have a detrimental affect on several minority groups. The census already disproportionately undercounts racial minorities and immigrants. If the 2020 census were to be ended early, minority groups, most notably several Native American tribes, would likely face an even more egregious undercount. The census determines everything from allocation of federal spending to allocation of electoral votes, so undercounts leave these communities under-resourced and underrepresented. (CNN).