Here’s the link to the full video from WSMV we talked about on the show this morning (sorry, no embed available). A must watch, here’s how it starts:

“I voted every election since 1962,” said Benton County resident Charles Hubbs, 69.

Hubbs registered to vote when John F. Kennedy was president. He said he was shocked when he received a letter in the mail from the Benton County Election Commission letting him know his voter registration was invalid.

He was even more shocked when he found out why.

Unanswered follow up question to the report: just which law is Benton County election admin Mark Ward following? We have a request in to the State Election Commission for clarification and specifics and will update when we get a reply. So far we are unable to find reference to his inorthodox approach in the Tennessee Code, the Help America Vote Act, or the National Voter Registration Act 0f 1993.

“According to state law, this is the only way to do it,” Ward said. “I don’t know any other way to do it.”

But some said Ward went too far by throwing out voter registrations from decades ago.

They said it’s especially difficult for those where the birthplace is on the registration but the citizenship box isn’t checked.

Ward said even if their birth date is on the form, he had to throw out registrations if they didn’t check the box for being over 18.

“It’s not good enough to me because the question isn’t answered on the form,” said Ward.

“Yeah, he followed the law,” said Mark Goins, Tennessee election administrator. “He did exactly what the law said.”

The state acknowledged there’s a mess in Benton County, and while it said Ward followed the law, the state doubts a judge would have invalidated the voter registrations of these longtime voters if there had ever been a challenge.

If this is happening in Benton County, it’s happening in other Tennessee counties as well. Protect your vote – confirm your registration.

UPDATE: Additional reporting from Kumari:

“It appears to me that they are going far beyond the legal, the proper reasons for purging a voter record,” said Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville.

Odom said he’s upset that these people are in danger of being thrown off the rolls. He said the way he reads state law, once a person is declared a registered voter, he or she can be purged only for specific reasons, such as committing a felony or dying.

He’s proposing a change to state law that says registered voters can’t be purged if their form is found to be deficient years later, and it would take effect immediately.

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Guber Candidate Ron Ramsey takes aim at fair elections.

Guber Candidate Ron Ramsey takes aim at fair elections.

Last week, Lt. Governor and gubernatorial candidate Ron Ramsey appeared with Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett and at an event in Kingsport and told business leaders that not only wouldn’t they follow the law and implement the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (TVCA), but delaying it would be a legislative priority during the next session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Clearly, GOP leadership does not want the voters in Tennessee to have confidence in their elections.

They also clearly want to suppress voter turnout.

I wrote earlier of all the ways in which the Tennessee GOP can suppress the vote (voter roll purging, creating partisan election administrations, baseless accusations of voter fraud, etc.) and why they feel it necessary to do so (“…our leverage in elections…goes up as the voting populace goes down…,” Moral Majority founder Paul Weyrich).

Keeping the 100% unverifiable touch-screen electronic voting machines in Tennessee is simply another tool in their arsenal of voter suppression tactics.

Using electronic voting machines as a tool of voter suppression can be accomplished in two ways:

1) It takes much longer to vote on a touch-screen electronic voting machine than on paper ballot, thereby creating long lines that discourage participation. Only one voter can vote on a machines at one time, but 10, 20, 30, etc. voters can all vote on paper ballots at the same time.

2) The allocation of voting machines, which is controlled by county election commissions (all 95 county election commissions are now controlled by a Republican majority), can be manipulated so that voting precincts in certain areas are allocated too few voting machines, thereby creating long lines which, you got it, discourages voter participation.

Don’t let Tre Hargett and Ron Ramsey tell you that “it’s about the money.” The state has over 35 million dollars in reserve from the federal government that can only be spent on the purchase of new voting equipment.

And don’t let them tell you that there are no machines available to purchase that could count the paper ballots required by the new law. 49 states and two Tennessee counties have already used these types of machines in election after election without incident.

Delaying the TVCA and keeping the touch-screen electronic voting machines we use now is undoubtedly another voter suppression tactic to add to their arsenal

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Below is a list of voter suppression tactics used by those in power to suppress voter turnout. There are two reasons why it is important to pay attention to voter suppression tactics now even though we do not have a statewide election until next year:

1) Some of these tactics are being used in Tennessee right now in anticipation of the statewide election next November.

2) Traditionally, Democrats do better when turnout is high. Republicans know it. Huckabee even called it “the Lord’s work.”

Frankly, the reality is that the Tennessee GOP is systematically looking for ways to prevent certain voters from casting a ballot next year. They started during last session with a plan to delay auditable and recountable paper ballots (Tennessee Voter Confidence Act or TVCA) and introduce photo ID laws. And last week Secretary of State Tre Hargett and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Ramsey tipped their hand for what’s next, in addition to continuing to push for the delay of the TVCA, on their voter suppression agenda.

Voter Suppression Tactics

Want more? Google “voter suppression,” “caging,” and “voter roll purging.” It’s ugly out there and it’s about to get ugly in Tennessee.

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The day after Karl Rove testified before lawyers for the House Judiciary committee about his role in the United States partisan Attorney firings, and three months after Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said that politically motivated firings could be found unconstitutional, comes the news that several more lawsuits have been filed by Tennessee county election administrators who say they were fired from their jobs purely for partisan reasons.

The federal lawsuits, according to attorney Gary Blackburn, are based on the 1st & 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and Article 1 Section 4, of the Tennessee State Constitution, which states that “no political or religious test, other than an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this State.”

Named defendants are Republican Party appointees to the county election commissions in Cannon, DeKalb, Henry, Loudon, Putnam, Rhea, Rutherford, and Weakley counties.

Click to download the full complaint and the press release [pdf].

The planning of election processes and the administration of elections should not be partisan yet as soon as Tennessee Republicans win control of the General Assembly they attempt to do way more than what the law allows.

By law, the party which controls the General Assembly can install a majority to the state and county election commissions. Republicans quickly moved to do just that and it is lawfully within their right to do so.

But, apparently, they’ve moved just as quickly to violate the law by firing county employees in non-policy-making positions for partisan reason.

And it would be bad enough if this attempt to circumvent the law was simple blatant patronage, but it’s so much more than that. It’s part of a “it’s-not-the-votin’-that’s-democracy-it’s-the-countin’” full court press on free and fair elections in Tennessee that includes:

1) An attempt to delay implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (Paper Ballot Bill)
2) An attempt to require proof of citizenship to register to vote, a well-worn voter suppression tactic.
3) An attempt to require picture IDs to vote, another well-worn voter suppression tactic.
4) Forcing through legislation using some pretty suspect horse-trading which added two new Republican members to the State Election Commission thereby giving the GOP a majority two years earlier than they would have had otherwise.
5) Violating the state’s Sunshine Laws by banning the press from a county election commission meetings.
6) An attempt to intimidate an election integrity activist with a suspicious visit from the TBI.

Stay tuned for caging, voter-roll purging, election day voter challenges, the demonization of voter registration drives,voter intimidation, and other known voter-suppression tactics coming to a county election precinct near you!

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Long accepted but controversial conventional wisdom has been that a high voter turnout benefits Democratic candidates. The losers say it’s because Democrats cheat. “Democrats will let anyone vote,” they say, “Even if they’re not legally eligible.” “Prove it,” says think tanks, educational institutions, and Congressional committees. “We got nothin’” is the common answer. Voter fraud simply does not exist in any measurable form anywhere in the United States.

The real reason Democrats win when there’s a high turnout, as we can see from the ongoing post-November 2008 collapse of the Republican Party, is because when it comes to having real ideas and any observable ability to govern, Republicans also “got nothin’.” And since the “nothin’” they got is because they hate government, the real shock is why anyone would think they could actually, you know, govern.

Yet, despite the way they feel about it, Republicans – and more specifically Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly – still want absolute control of the affairs of the State. Which is why they’ve embraced the extremely distasteful Paul Weyrich model of democracy which, through control of the election process and suppression of the vote, hopes to decrease the people’s participation in their democracy until it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub – and then can be leveraged into a win.

More simply, the Weyrich model is based on that ol’ “the ends (absolute power) justify the means (cheating)” adage. We’ve seen it in action by the U.S. Attorney General and the Justice Department during the Bush administration. It’s what brought down Alberto Gonzales. And it’s apparently what they teach at televangelist Pat Robertson’s Regent University Law School, the Alma mater of disgraced U.S. Justice Department employee, Monica Goodling, as well as ex-State Election Commission member and current State Election Coordinator, Mark Goins.

Not supposed to inject partisanship into the employment practices for civil service jobs at the U.S. Justice Department? No matter – breaking the law is a small price to pay when you’re doing God’s work. Can’t find the instances of voter fraud you need to prove that voter suppression laws (photo ID, proof of citizenship) are necessary? Try harder – even if it means your agenda tramples on the very foundation of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Thankfully, the two bills introduced by Tennessee Republicans which were meant to further the Weyrich model by suppressing the vote of the least among us – the elderly, the indigent, and the disabled – gasped their dying breaths yesterday.

Yet the fight continues as they trot out additional weapons in the Tennessee GOP “ends justify the means” arsenal:

1) The delay of implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (HB0614 / SB0872). This bill was passed unanimously in the Senate and almost unanimously in the House in 2008 and would give voters the confidence that comes with voting on paper ballots. State Election Coordinator Goins is leading the fight to keep the paperless touch-screen voting machines we use now in 93 out of 95 counties because they a) can be easily manipulated to change vote totals and flip votes from one candidate to another, b) provide no mechanism for a meaningful recount in the case of close elections, and c) increase the length of time it takes for each voter to cast a ballot thereby suppressing the vote by allocating too few machines in certain areas and creating long lines and long waits.

2) The replacement of all county Election Administrators with partisan Republicans. As reported this morning by Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville News Sentinel, “Twenty-eight county election administrators have been already replaced since Republicans gained control of Tennessee’s 95 county election commissions and more Democrats are likely to be dismissed in the months ahead.” And although there has been some push back in some counties by Republicans who can see past partisanship, and there’s also been a recent attorney general’s opinion that says “that an administrator fired solely because of his or her political party affiliation might successfully challenge the dismissal in court,” State Coordinator Goins insists that “administrators serve at the will of the county commissions and may be re-replaced at any time.”

3) An attempt to forcefully take control of the State Election Commission (which monitors the activities and performance of the county election commissioners). And then declare war if you don’t get your way. As Colby Sledge reported in the Tennessean this morning, “Republicans are giving House Democrats one week before they plan to kill the state election commission if a bill to expand the commission by adding two members — in effect, giving the GOP the majority — doesn’t pass.” But let’s allow Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) tell you in their own words why they’re making this supposed “non-partisan” issue a partisan issue.

Senator Thelma Harper: Let me ask you a question, has your bill, 547, has it passed the Senate floor?

Senator Mark Norris: Oh yes, m’am, it passed 24-8 on March 12th.

Senator Harper: So, who’s handling it in the House?

Senator Norris: In the House it’s Rep. Mumpower and, um, but I understand that Rep. Maddox and, uh, perhaps Turner were outspoken in their opposition to it.

Senator Harper: So it has not moved in the House?

Senator Norris: Correct. It’s moved out of committee. I think it’s on the desk of the floor of the House. And that’s where it met it’s potential demise and I just think everybody should realize if it meets its demise there then the State Election Commission will meet its demise here [Senate Government Operations Committee].

Senator Harper: Let me ask Senator Johnson. Have you entertained the idea of someone else signing on and carrying the bill if there’s that kind of conversation or if there’s no conversation going on…?

Senator Jack Johnson (Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman): Madame Chair, it is my understanding in watching the video as well and discussing it with some members of the House who were present for the debate that it did literally turn into a very partisan kind of issue which really it shouldn’t be what we’re trying to do is to make the Election Commission comply with the statute and I’ll add one thing to what Senator Norris said, it’s an interesting predicament that we’re in, in that the majority control of the General Assembly happened to change mid-term for these State Election Commissioners. Interestingly they serve four years terms. County Election Commissioners serve two year terms. And as you know the composition of all 95 county Election Commissions changed – uh, 3 Republicans, 2 Democrats – that was easily accomplished because they were at the end of their their term. Well, uh, I think it should be known – it’s my understanding – that one of the Democrat [sic] members of the State Election Commission offered to resign but the statute states that the interim vacancy on the State Election Commission must be filled by someone of the same party. So there is no statutorily authorized way to change the composition of the State Election Commission other than what Senator Norris came up with which is a perfectly reasonable solution which is to add two members and make it 4-3, 7 member body for the remaining two years. Now, as to who the House sponsor is, if there are personal issues regarding the House sponsor, it shouldn’t get in the way of passing a reasonable bill. Uh, to answer your question, Madame Chairman, I have not had any conversations and don’t know if it would be my place or Senator Norris’ place to suggest a different sponsor of the bill.

Senator Harper
: I didn’t say suggest it. What I was looking at would be to move it to another level that’s amenable to the leadership of the House.

Senator Johnson: Well, it made it all the way through the committee system, which as we know is somewhat arduous. And made it to the floor and I believe the voter was 48-48. 48 ayes and 48 no’s. And therefore it sits on the desk, it can be brought back to the floor for further consideration, and I think our hope, and I think Senator Norris’ hope, is that in light of perhaps there wasn’t an adequate understanding of the need to make it lawful, or otherwise it cannot continue to exist. And so what I wanted Senator Norris to address in this committee is, uh, we will roll this for one more week – we hope that next week will be our last committee meeting for Senate Government Operations, so they essentially have 7 days to either deal with this issue or we will be more or less forced to allow the State Election Commission to sunset. And none of us want that to happen it will create some issues – I’m sure we can handle those issues in the Secretary of State’s office but the simpler thing to do would be to pass this bill, add two members to the State Election Commission for the next two years and then we can reconstitute the five-member body in two years assuming that control of the General Assembly changes back to Democratic control then it will be 3-2 Democrat.

Interestingly, neither sponsor – Senator Norris nor Rep. Mumpower – bothered to get an Attorney General opinion on this issue, Which, as Senator Tim Barnes (D-Adams) seems to understand, would have been the responsible and reasonable thing to do if this were what they say it is – a non-partisan issue.

Senator Tim Barnes: I guess my question is, why do we assume that although the commission was constituted properly when it was, at the time there was a Democratic majority, that because of the change of the makeup of the General Assembly that renders the commission improperly constituted. It seems to me that if it’s Constituted properly under the statute that existed and we kind of had a timing issue between two statutes…uh, is there an attorney general’s opinion or a legal opinion as to the statement that you made about that commission being improperly Constituted?

Senator Norris: Not that I’m aware of, Senator, the statement I made is just based on Tennessee Code annotated 2-11-103 which says that three members of the commission shall be members of the majority party and two members shall be members of the minority party. Now, I know that there is, as you do, that there is authority for the proposition that actions that are taken when they are in a holdover capacity may not be suspect because they are holdovers, but that’s slightly different than the composition issue – particularly the clash of what’s happening here. If this were not in sunset – if they had not already gone into wind down perhaps, and they were not in sunset – you might be able to say, “well, we’ll just rely on the holdover status. But you’re presented with a very unique challenge here because they are in wind down and the are on the clock to sunset. And given that, you’re question whether the actions they have taken are appropriate as holdover appointees. Your situation is given that the House seems unwilling to comply with 2-11-103, can you lawfully renew something that is no longer in compliance with the law. A slightly different question but I’ve given it some thought.

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The full court press to manipulate the vote by making it more difficult for some to vote (proof of citizenship to register and requiring photo IDs to vote) and dangerously easy for others (allowing vote by fax for overseas military) is dead (no, really this time) at least for this year.

The attempt by a visibly frustrated Rep. Gerald McCormick to invoke Rule 80 and revive these bills in the State & Local Government Committee after all three failed in the Elections subcommittee, also failed.

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On Tuesday, May 12, Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), will ruin our nice (but a little wet) spring and make a motion in the House State and Local Government Committee, to recall two Voter suppression ID bills – HB 0639 by Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) and HB 1838 by Rep. Curry Todd (R-Collierville).

So why the renewed push to pass legislation that is a solution in search of problem? Especially since both bills were assigned to, and failed to get out of, the now-closed Elections Subcommittee?

Apparently, it’s because these three Tennessee legislators believe in voter suppression, also known as the Paul Weyrich model of democracy:

WEYRICH: “Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome – good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

“Voter fraud,” which is what McCormick, Maggart, and Todd say these bills will prevent, is when a voter attempts to vote more than once or by impersonating someone else.

There are no documented instances of “voter fraud” in Tennessee – and barely any in the rest of the country, as reported by the American Prospect:

“Since 2002, the Justice Department’s Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative has, as [disgraced U.S. Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales put it, ‘made enforcement of election fraud and corruption offenses a top priority.’ And yet between October 2002 and September 2005, just 38 cases were brought nationally, and of those, 14 ended in dismissals or acquittals, 11 in guilty pleas, and 13 in convictions.”

The Ophelia Ford case, which Republican legislators are so quick to cite as “voter fraud,” was in fact “election fraud,” a systematic effort by those with power to steal an election through vote manipulation and/or voter suppression. And even though Mark Goins doesn’t know the specifics of the Ford case, we do – three election workers were caught manipulating the vote. Voters had nothing to do with it.

“Voter suppression,” however, does exist and it will be the (intended) consequence if either the photo ID to vote or the citizenship to register bills become law.

I hope the Democrats on the State and Local Government Committee continue to push for examples from Rep. Maggart and Rep. Todd of instances of “voter fraud,” because waving papers around in a committee meeting and saying you have proof is not actually, you know, proof.

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Liberadio(!) Podcast: October 27, 2008 Halloween Spooktacular

Summary: Guests include Juan Villaseñor.

  • Part 1 Get Your Boo On – It’s our annual Halloween Spooktacular and Mary and Freddie dress up as each others worst nightmare. (21:43 34.8MB)
  • Part 2 – Interview with Juan Villaseñor – The president of the Nashville chapter of the American Constitution Society tell us a little bit about the American Constitution Society, including who would win in a rugby match against the Federalist Society, and an event they’re having on Wednesday. (28:03 44.9MB)
  • Part 3 Early Voting A Go We love to talk about what to do to protect your right to vote and, it turns out, our listeners do too! And there’s nothing scarier than that guy on that other station who, we hear, would rather tear down our precious democracy with divisiveness than celebrate it. Way to go, other guy. (32:56 52.8MB)
  • Part 4 Protect Your Vote – Our voting love fest continues – with instructions on what you can do to protect your vote. (20:39 33.1MB)

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In their recent piece in Rolling Stone Magazine, Block the Vote, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Greg Palast underscore Uncounted’s message about the duplicity of provisional ballots:

In 2004, an estimated 3 million voters who showed up at the polls were refused regular ballots because their registration was challenged on a technicality. Instead, these voters were handed “provisional” ballots, a fail-safe measure mandated by HAVA [Help America Vote Act] to enable officials to review disputed votes. But for many officials, resolving disputes means tossing ballots in the trash. In 2004, a third of all provisional ballots — as many as 1 million votes — were simply thrown away at the discretion of election officials.

With their status in limbo, the voters were forced to cast “provisional” ballots, which can be reviewed and discarded by election officials without explanation.

And Step 4 in their guide to Stealing Back Your Vote urges,

DO NOT FILL OUT A PROVISIONAL BALLOT if your vote is challenged!! In 2004 the Republicans challenged a ridiculous number of voters. The voters were then told by a sweet little lady at a table that their “provisional ballot” would be counted, BUT IT WON’T. Don’t listen to the little old lady!! DEMAND that poll judges make the judgment ON THE SPOT. Demand a call to the supervisor of elections. If you have to, go home and come back with a better form of ID. If you need help, call ELECTION PROTECTION at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. And help those around you when you’re at the polling place. Look for people having trouble. Call the number for them. Tell them not to fill out a provisional ballot!

In this clip from Uncounted, Ohio citizen Bobby Jackson, who was forced to vote provisionally in 2004, sends out a heartfelt plea for participatory democracy – despite his vote not counting. “I guess I’ll vote next time too,” he says, “’cause people fought and died for my right to vote…and I know that…”

Please help spread this clip and its message, along with with Mr. Kennedy’s and Mr. Palast’s timely and specific instructions, and help, in the words of Mr. Jackson, “make it right…”

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Steal Back Your Vote

As an addendum to this morning’s post about the Robert Kennedy, Jr. / Greg Palast article in Rolling Stone, “Block the Vote (Will the GOP’s campaign to deter new voters and discard Democratic ballots determine the next president?),” I wanted to give you the seven ways Kennedy and Palast suggest you Steal Back Your Vote (full color downloadable comic also available):

STEP 1: DON’T DON’T DON’T mail in your ballot!! Absentee ballots are often not counted for the weakest of reasons. Furthermore, there are new rules in many states that you must photocopy your ID and send it with the ballot. However, they often don’t even tell you that. So hundreds of thousands of absentee votes will not be counted for this reason.

STEP 2: VOTE EARLY …VERY EARLY! Many states are already allowing you to vote. Do it NOW. That way if you’re not listed on the voter roles, you have plenty of time to get your complaint heard.

STEP 3: REGISTER AND THEN REGISTER AND THEN REGISTER! There is a TON of purging of voter rolls going on. It’s not enough to think you’re registered. Double check twelve times. You can check online at www.votersunite.org. Once you’re done with that, go register. …Then go register. [For the majority of us, this is probably not possible now since registration deadlines have passes. So if you find out you are no longer on the rolls, you'll have to go down to your election commission and sort it out in person.]

STEP 4: DO NOT FILL OUT A PROVISIONAL BALLOT if your vote is challenged!! In 2004 the Republicans challenged a ridiculous number of voters. The voters were then told by a sweet little lady at a table that their “provisional ballot” would be counted, BUT IT WON’T. Don’t listen to the little old lady!! DEMAND that poll judges make the judgment ON THE SPOT. Demand a call to the supervisor of elections. If you have to, go home and come back with a better form of ID. If you need help, call ELECTION PROTECTION at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. And help those around you when you’re at the polling place. Look for people having trouble. Call the number for them. Tell them not to fill out a provisional ballot!

STEP 5: STEP AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER! Walk out your front door and get active!! Volunteer to help with the campaign. Or ignore the campaign and do something on your own. It’s as simple as printing out these ELECTION PROTECTION steps and leaving them at people’s doors. Hell, you could hand them out outside the polling places. Don’t sit still or this election will be stolen. And go to a swing state if at all possible.

STEP 6: FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS VOTE WITHOUT FRIENDS! Don’t go to vote alone. Bring friends!! Lots of them or only one of them. Make it a date. Arrange to have lunch with everyone after you vote. Whatever it takes. And have your election protection phone number WITH YOU (1-866-OUR-VOTE).

STEP 7: IT AIN’T OVER ‘TILL IT’S OVER! If the election is indeed stolen, don’t throw in the towel! The day after is CRUCIAL! Three words need to be chanted over and over again: COUNT EVERY VOTE. For example, in 2000 Al Gore lost because of a Supreme Court decision that was 5-4 against him. Imagine if he had won that court decision. But if half of America had not chanted COUNT EVERY VOTE after election day, we would never have gotten to the Supreme Court. Half of America could’ve thrown in the towel on election night, but thanks to people in the streets, it was fought to the end.

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