States: Nazism in Indiana, Covid death in Washington, and voter fraud in Florida


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Voter fraud

Four residents of The Villages, a Florida retirement community known for enthusiastic pro-Trump zeal, have been arrested for voter fraud over the past month. All four allegedly voted in both Florida and in states in which they own separate homes.

  • Charles Barnes, 64, was arrested last week. He is not currently registered with a political party in Florida. His mailing address indicates he likely cast the second vote in Connecticut.
  • Jay Ketcik, 63, was arrested for allegedly casting a mail ballot in Florida while also casting an absentee ballot in his original home state of Michigan. He is a registered Republican.
  • Joan Halstead, 71, voted in-person in Florida but also allegedly cast an absentee ballot in New York. She is a registered Republican.
  • John Rider, 61, allegedly cast an in-person ballot in Florida and an absentee ballot in New York. He did not have a party registered on his Florida records.

Ketcik, Halstead, and Rider reportedly posted pro-Trump messages to Facebook.

Covid battles

Washington state Rep. Jim Walsh, a Republican representing Aberdeen (southwest WA), is looking to take over the anti-vaxx wing of the state’s Republican party after the death of his fellow lawmaker. State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R), of Ferndale (northwest WA), died last month after fighting a Covid-19 infection in El Salvador.

“I took a trip to El Salvador and tested positive for COVID shortly after I arrived,” he wrote. “I cannot get back home, and it’s to the point that I feel it would be beneficial for me to receive an iv of monoclonal antibodies (Regeneron). I have a doctor here who can administer the iv, but the product is not available here.”

“Do any of you have any ideas on how I could get the monoclonal antibodies sent to me here,” Ericksen continued. “Ideally, I would like to get it on a flight tonight so it would be here by tomorrow.”

Ericksen managed to snag a medevac flight from El Salvador to a Florida hospital, though it is unclear if that is where he passed away. The late senator dedicated himself to anti-vaccine and anti-mask politics during his last year of life, introducing bills to ban firing unvaccinated employees and to block employer and school mandates.

Rep. Walsh seized the opening in the Republican party by publicizing the fact that he got locked out of his Olympia office before Christmas due to his refusal to get vaccinated. He immediately filed a bill, co-sponsored by four other Republicans, that would make it unlawful to ban state lawmakers from parts of the Capitol based on their vaccination status. “[S]uch segregation violates the spirit and letter of the United States supreme court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which stated clearly that separate is not equal,” the text of House Bill 1695 reads.

This isn’t Walsh’s first brush with racial insensitivity: Last year he apologized for wearing a yellow Star of David on his shirt during an event protesting Covid-19 mandates.

Reporter ban

Iowa Senate leadership took an unprecedented step for the 2022 session, banning journalists from working on the Senate floor as usual. For the last 140 years, reporters were allowed to sit at the press benches near senators’ desks, providing the opportunity to get real-time answers and clarifications during debates.

This upcoming session, however, journalists will be seated in the upper level of the public gallery.

“Lawmakers who have real-time access to reporters can pass along news that might not otherwise be reported, and also hold journalists accountable for errors or unclear information in stories,” they said in the statement. “Putting reporters in the upstairs galleries puts up new barriers to this process, and makes it more difficult for reporters to serve as the eyes and ears of the public.”

Iowa Senate Republican spokesperson Caleb Hunter claims the rule change is required because lawmakers can’t “define the criteria of a media outlet” anymore. However, both the Iowa House and Governor managed to define the criteria without shutting out all reporters.

Teaching in Indiana

Indiana lawmakers began debate last week on a Republican-backed anti-critical race theory bill (pdf), sparking eight hours of testimony from advocates, parents, and teachers. As written, it prohibits schools from teaching “that any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, responsibility, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.”

Local history teacher Matt Bockenfeld testified against the bill, saying (clip): “My fear is that this bill will have us teach us 250 years of slavery and 90 years of Jim Crow and then tell students that those years say nothing about who we are as a nation…The truth is that history isn’t comfortable. We have to wrestle with it and interrogate it.”

In talking with lawmakers, Bockenfeld then said “we’re not neutral on Nazism, we take a stand in the classroom against it. And it matters that we do.”

The bill’s author, state Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville), responded that teachers aren’t allowed to “take a position on” Nazism and fascism (clip):

I’m not discrediting Nazism, fascism, Marxism, or any of those ‘isms’ out there. I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms.’ I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those ‘isms’… We need to be impartial.

After Bockenfeld tweeted about the interaction, Baldwin walked back his statement. “Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments,” he said.

New York voting

More than 800,000 legal residents and “Dreamers” in New York City will be allowed to vote in 2023’s local elections after a new law took effect on Sunday. Mayor Eric Adams allowed the legislation, passed last month, to automatically become law, saying that he “believe[s] that New Yorkers should have a say in their government.”

Within hours, however, the Republican National Committee and various local GOP figures filed a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional (pdf):

The New York State Constitution expressly provides that local government officers and legislative representatives must be elected by “the People,” which is in turn defined to consist only of citizens… By purporting to allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections on the same basis as United States Citizens, the Non-Citizen Voting Law directly conflicts with the voting qualifications enshrined in the New York State Constitution.

On the other hand, Columbia Law School professor Richard Briffault said the GOP plaintiffs are misinterpreting the state constitution. “Citizens are entitled to vote,” said Briffault, but the state constitution “doesn’t limit the vote to citizens.”

New York City is not unique in enshrining such a measure into law: at least 11 municipalities in Maryland and two municipalities in Vermont allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.