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Pandemic changed how we vote And Some States Are Making It Permanent

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Pandemic changed how we vote And Some States Are Making It Permanent
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The Covid-19 pandemic is receding in America. But some of the changes it prompted in American elections are here to stay.

A handful of states are locking in voting-rights expansions that they piloted in 2020, extending early voting and absentee balloting programs even as other states add restrictions to voting.

Two states that switched during the pandemic to universal mail voting — mailing ballots to all active registered voters in each election — will now continue that practice permanently, for at least general elections: Nevada and Vermont. Several other states are moving to allow no-excuse mail voting permanently, after allowing it temporarily while Covid-19 raged in 2020.
And while many of the state-level expansions of voting programs are happening in blue states, some red states have made changes as well. Kentucky, where Republicans have legislative supermajorities and former President Donald Trump won the presidential contest by 25 points in 2020, codified in-person early voting for the first time this year.

The move came after voters embraced an emergency version of the program during the pandemic — and it bucks a trend that has seen some red states throw up more voting restrictions in 2021, in the wake of Trump’s defeat.

“We’re the only Republican state, the only conservative state, the only red state — however you want to put it — certainly the only state with a Republican Legislature that has made voting easier this year,” said Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican. “I’m really proud of that.”

Altogether, the changes mean that millions more Americans will receive mail ballots in future elections, and the number could balloon even more if backers in California successfully switch the state to a universal mail voting system. In total, seven states will now have largely mail-based election systems with the two newest additions joining Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

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“The reason we did it is because during the pandemic we made the change — obviously, from the safety and the health viewpoint and whatnot — and it worked,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, said in an interview. The bill, which passed on party lines, will send ballots to voters for general and primary elections, unless they opt out.
The Kentucky law, which the GOP-controlled Legislature passed with bipartisan support before Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed it, adds three days of in-person early voting in the state and allows for counties to establish “voting centers” — where any voters can go to vote, instead of having to vote at a single local precinct — among other changes.

Kentucky voters still need an excuse to vote by mail, which will keep mail absentee voting rates low. Other Republican-controlled states that already offered early in-person voting have also made modest expansions to the practice, too. Soon after Adams’ interview, Louisiana — which like Kentucky has a Republican-controlled Legislature and a Democratic governor — passed a law adding more early voting days for presidential elections. Earlier this year, Oklahoma and Indiana both tacked on an additional day of early voting in some situations, while Georgia’s controversial elections law included a provision that will lead to more early-voting opportunities in smaller counties, matching what larger counties already offered.

“A bipartisan approach to election reform is best, because it gets you — I think — number one, a better product. And number two, it’s a better look,” Adams said. “People are going to be suspicious when the other side is writing the election rules and trying to force them through on a party-line vote,” Adams continued, citing efforts by some state Republicans as well as federal Democrats.

Federal Democrats’ broad elections and ethics bill, the “For the People Act,” is likely to fail a procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

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California could be the next state to make major voting changes, after every active registered voter in the state was mailed a ballot during the 2020 election due to the pandemic. After temporarily expanding mail elections through this year, which would include the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, lawmakers are driving to make the changes permanent. “We’re already moving in this direction and have the processes in place,” said Democratic state Assemblymember Marc Berman, who is leading the push. (California counties can already opt into mailing all voters a ballot.)

Much of the rest of the movement is coming in the Northeast. The biggest shift came in Vermont, which will now send all active, registered voters mail ballots for general elections. Republican Gov. Phil Scott even urged lawmakers to go further and extend the policy to primaries and local elections when he signed the bill.

“I’m signing this bill because I believe making sure voting is easy and accessible, and increasing voter participation, is important,” Scott said in a statement when he signed the bill. “Having said that, we should not limit this expansion of access to general elections alone, which already have the highest voter turnout.”

Outside of Vermont, there is a broader drive in the Northeast to allow voters to cast ballots by mail without needing an excuse, after most states temporarily allowed for as much during the pandemic.

No-excuse absentee voting has been in broad use in the West, Midwest and along the country’s Southeastern coast. But liberal governors and legislators in the Northeast have lagged behind, even as federal Democrats have agitated for changes.
New Yorkers will vote in November on a constitutional amendment that would effectively allow for no-excuse absentee voting in the state, after the state functionally allowed for it during the 2020 elections. A second amendment vote in front of voters will allow for same-day voter registration. The process to get both amendments on the ballot began in 2019, before the pandemic.

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Connecticut also kicked off a process this year for a constitutional amendment on no-excuse mail voting, with both chambers passing a resolution for the first time. But because it failed to get supermajority support in the state House, after most Republicans there voted against it, the Legislature will have to pass the resolution again during their 2023 session to put it on the ballot in 2024.

Massachusetts is also moving ahead toward having mail voting for all its voters after adopting it during the pandemic. The state House tacked an eleventh-hour provision on to a supplemental budget that would permanently extend mail voting in the state, and there is a separate constitutional amendment being considered that would allow for no-excuse absentee voting. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has previously voiced support for allowing any voter to request a mail ballot.

Two other Northeastern states also currently don’t have no-excuse absentee voting: New Hampshire and Delaware. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, vetoed Democratic-led efforts in 2020 to turn the state into a no-excuse state, and Republicans flipped both of the state legislative chambers in 2020. State Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Democrat who often clashes with the rest of his party on voting rights, also opposes no-excuse mail voting.

And Delaware has also hit a significant roadblock. After the Democratic-controlled state Legislature passed a measure in 2019 setting up for a constitutional amendment that would clear the path for it, the effort sputtered this year after Republicans who previously backed it changed their minds. (A two-thirds majority is needed, which Democrats do not have on their own.)

“It already had bipartisan support — overwhelming bipartisan support, really,” said Morgan Keller of the Delaware ACLU. “Now, all of a sudden, it’s changed because of the national narrative.”

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Boris Johnson Warns World Leaders They Have 1000 Hours To Tackle Climate Change

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Boris Johnson Warns World Leaders They Have 1000 Hours To Tackle Climate Change
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Boris Johnson Warns World Leaders They Have 1000 Hours To Tackle Climate Change

He told them they face “the most important period in the history of the planet” as he prepares to get them to thrash out an agreement to save the world.

The PM faces an uphill struggle ahead of his summit as India, the US, China and dozens of our own allies are still failing to do enough to tackle climate change – or cough up enough cash to stop it.

Top experts slammed big beasts for dragging their heels in setting tough emissions targets to stop the planet changing beyond all recognition.

Mr Johnson turned his fire on his own pals in the G20, urging them “show the leadership the world needs” and “do our duty by others less fortunate than ourselves” to make his COP26 summit a roaring success.

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He told the Major Economies Forum yesterday they must come together with “rock solid commitments” to “protect our planet and protect humanity for a thousand years to come”.

And rich nations must “get serious about filling the $100billion pot that the developing world needs to do its bit”, he demanded, after it was revealed it was still $20billion short.

Boris Johnson Warns World Leaders They Have 1000 Hours To Tackle Climate Change

Experts at the UN said that the goals set so far this year will not close the emissions gap – meaning the world is likely to miss targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Under countries’ current pledges, global emissions will be 16 per cent higher in 2030 than they were in 2010 – far off the 45 per cent reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to stave off disastrous and irreversible climate change.

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Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India and China were among a handful of countries rated “critically insufficient” or “highly insufficient” by a recent climate tracker.

Even the EU, Germany and Norway were rapped as not doing enough to meet the Paris agreement goals.

The PM and President Biden will twist arms at the UN General Assembly summit in New York next week, where climate change is expected to be the number one issue on the agenda for the UK, which is hosting the global summit.

The PM and climate tsar Alok Sharma have been rallying countries to raise cash and submit new plans in the run up to the summit, where 100 world leaders have said they will attend, but efforts have been hampered by big nations dragging their feet.

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Mr Sharma said yesterday the frank reports were a “stark reminder of how urgent our work is ahead of COP26”.

He stressed: “This is a clear wake-up call for all of us – we need to act.” Downing Street said the PM was “disappointed there hasn’t been as much progress recently as there should have been”.

The Prime Minister also set out that the UK will be among the first signatories of the Global Methane Pledge, a US-EU initiative to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030 compared to levels during the 2020s.

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Taliban seize $12.4m from former top Afghan officials

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Taliban seize $12.4m from former top Afghan officials
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Taliban seize $12.4m from former top Afghan officials

Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled central bank said it had seized nearly $12.4 million in cash and gold from former top government officials on Wednesday, including former vice president Amrullah Saleh.

In a statement, the central bank said the money and gold had been kept in officials’ houses, although it did not yet know for what purpose.

Saleh’s whereabouts are unknown.

He has vowed to resist the Taliban, who stormed to power a month ago, and last week a family member said the Taliban had executed his brother Rohullah Azizi.

In a separate statement, the bank urged Afghans to use the country’s local Afghani currency. It comes amid growing worries that the country’s banks and firms are running short of money, especially dollars, which are widely used.

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Taliban seize $12.4m from former top Afghan officials

In a sign that the Taliban are looking to recoup assets belonging to former government officials, the central bank issued a circular to local banks last week asking them to freeze the accounts of politically exposed individuals linked to the previous government, two commercial bankers said.

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‘Okonjo-Iweala knows how to get things done,’ Prince Harry, Meghan praise WTO boss

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'Okonjo-Iweala knows how to get things done,' Prince Harry, Meghan praise WTO boss
Okonjo Iweala
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‘Okonjo-Iweala knows how to get things done,’ Prince Harry, Meghan praise WTO boss

The list of influential figures cut across icons, pioneers, titans, artists, leaders, and innovators.

American news magazine, Time, has named Nigeria’s former minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was named alongside world leaders like United States President, Joe Biden, and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, in Time’s September 15 publication.

She tweeted moments after the publication that she was ‘honored and privileged’ to have made the cover of the magazine.

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In an appraisal penned by Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, they applauded her role in campaigning for equitable vaccine access across the world.

The Archewell founders noted that the world’s hope to defeat COVID-19 through vaccines rests on the shoulders of leaders like Okonjo-Iweala.

‘Okonjo-Iweala knows how to get things done,’ Prince Harry, Meghan praise WTO boss

“Our conversations with her have been as informative as they are energising.

“This is partly because, despite the challenges, she knows how to get things done—even between those who don’t always agree—and does so with grace and a smile that warms the coldest of rooms,” the Duke and Duchess wrote.

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Okonjo-Iweala made history in March when she officially started her tenure as the WTO DG, the first woman and first African to do so.

“Vaccine inequity is the most important issue to tackle right now in this pandemic because it determines how we’re going to recover globally, and how many lives we save.

“With the variants that are mutating and the number of people dying, it is unacceptable that when you have the technology to save lives, some people don’t have access,” the 67-year-old told Time.

Wednesday’s list also had names of leaders like U.S. vice president, Kamala Harris, Indian president, Narendra Modi, as well as influential figures like Elon Musk, Tim Cook, Dolly Parton, and the Duke and Duchess themselves.

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The list of influential figures cut across icons, pioneers, titans, artists, leaders, and innovators.

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