Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week, the Supreme Court ruled on the census, thousands gather to protest Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, states throughout the country see significant decisions regarding voter participation, and President Trump attempts to use recent ICE arrests to fuel his campaign.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Trump administration can end census field operations early. The decision is a critical blow to efforts to ensure every resident is counted. The census already disproportionately undercounts racial minorities and immigrants, particularly Native Americans, and ending early will make it more difficult to ensure an accurate count. The census determines everything from allocation of federal spending to allocation of electoral votes, so undercounts leave these communities under-resourced and underrepresented. (AP).
Efforts to curb disinformation on social media platforms have led to renewed calls of censorship from conservative groups and politicians, including the President. Facebook has banned messages that deny the Holocaust, Youtube have banned posts regarding the QAnon conspiracy theory, and Twitter consistently deletes or labels tweets that include misinformation on COVID-19, voting, and a host of other topics of public interest. Yet many Republican leaders, who often share these messages or have followers that do, are concerned about censorship from social media companies and interference in the election. Senate Republicans have scheduled a hearing with the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, and Google for just days before Election Day. (NPR, Washington Post).
Michigan has banned the open carry of guns at polling locations on election day. Citing concerns regarding confrontations at polling places due to a hyper-partisan election cycle, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced new restrictions on firearms at polling places, clerk’s offices and locations where absentee ballots will be tallied. Benson noted that the presence of guns “may cause disruption, fear or intimidation for voters, election workers and others.” (NPR).
Federal judges throughout the country have ruled on multiple lawsuits regarding complex absentee ballot requirements and ballot drop sites for the 2020 presidential election. In North Carolina, a federal judge ruled that requirements regarding witness signatures on absentee ballots could be corrected through affidavits, instead of forcing voters to start over, which voting rights advocates hailed as a win. In Ohio, a federal judge blocked the state’s plan to allow only one absentee ballot drop site per county, which would have created an undue burden on certain vulnerable groups of voters. (NBC, CBS).
In California, the state Republican Party has vowed to continue collecting ballots from voters in their party-furnished drop boxes, despite a cease-and-desist order from the California Secretary of State. The GOP ballot boxes have been set up by the party in at least three counties, and party officials assert that they turn any dropped off ballots over to county election offices within 72 hours, as the law requires. Concerns have been raised regarding whether the Party’s boxes, some of which were briefly mislabeled as “official”, could mislead voters looking for county election ballot drop sites. (Reuters).
Thousands of people gathered Saturday for the fifth Women’s March, with protesters focused on the upcoming Election and conservative Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. During the largest protest in Washington, D.C., women wore lace collars and black robes to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Though mostly peaceful, marchers did confront antiabortion counter protesters supporting Barrett’s nomination. Over 400 sister protests took place throughout the country. (NPR, Washington Post).
An investigation by Reuters has found that 7,571 prisoners in 523 United States jails have died from 2008 to 2019. Among those identified, at least two-thirds, 4,998 people, were never convicted of the charges on which they were held. Over 300 prisoners had been in jail awaiting trial for over a year before their death. In the last decade, the death rate has been over 35%. (Reuters).
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 172 immigrants in sanctuary cities within a six-day span. ICE announced that it made arrests in Baltimore, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. As the election approaches, the Department of Homeland Security has become increasingly critical of cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The President has also increased his rhetoric and messaging regarding sanctuary cities, particularly on the campaign trail. (CNN, CNN).