Derek Chauvin is sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for George Floyd’s death!

In this image taken from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin addresses the court as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over Chauvin's sentencing, Friday, June 25, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin faces decades in prison for the May 2020 death of George Floyd.  (Court TV via AP, Pool)

Derek Chauvin

Dear Commons Community,

Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced yesterday to 22 1/2 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, whose dying gasps under Chauvin’s knee led to the biggest outcry against racial injustice in the U.S. in generations.

The punishment — which came after Chauvin broke his yearlong silence to offer condolences to the Floyd family and express hope that they eventually have “some peace of mind” — is one of the longest prison terms ever imposed on a U.S. police officer in the killing of a Black person.

As reported by the Associated Press, Floyd family members and others were disappointed. The sentence fell short of the 30 years prosecutors had requested. And with good behavior, Chauvin, 45, could get out on parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence, or about 15 years.

Judge Peter Cahill went beyond the 12 1/2-year sentence prescribed under state guidelines, citing Chauvin’s “abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty” shown to Floyd.

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said the family had gotten “some measure of accountability” but is hoping Chauvin gets the maximum at his upcoming federal civil rights trial. Crump said this was the longest sentence a police officer has ever received in Minnesota.

But he added: “Real justice in America will be Black men and Black women and people of color who will not have to fear being killed by the police just because the color of their skin. That would be real justice.”

Outside the courthouse, a crowd of about 50 people clasped hands or placed them on each other’s shoulders. The reaction was subdued as people debated whether the sentence was long enough. Some cursed in disgust.

At George Floyd Square, as the intersection where Floyd was pinned to the pavement is now known, members of the crowd broke into applause, and several said, “We’ll take it.”

Chauvin was immediately led back to prison. He showed little emotion when the judge pronounced the sentence. His eyes moved rapidly around the courtroom, his COVID-19 mask obscuring much of his face.

The fired white officer was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for up to 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old man gasped that he couldn’t breathe and went limp on May 25, 2020.

Bystander video of Floyd’s arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store prompted protests around the world and led to scattered violence in Minneapolis and beyond, as well as demands for overhauling police departments.

On Friday, Chauvin, who did not testify at his trial, removed his mask and turned toward the Floyd family, speaking only briefly because of what he called “some additional legal matters at hand” — an apparent reference to the federal civil rights trial, where his words could be used against him.

“I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind,” he said without further explanation.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson had asked that Chauvin be let off on probation, saying the former officer’s “brain is littered with what-ifs” from that day: “What if I just did not agree to go in that day? What if things had gone differently? What if I never responded to that call? What if? What if? What if?”

Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, pleaded for mercy for her son, saying his reputation has been unfairly reduced to that of “an aggressive, heartless and uncaring person” and a racist.

“I want this court to know that none of these things are true and that my son is a good man,” she told the judge, adding: “Derek, I want you to know I have always believed in your innocence, and I will never waver from that.”

“I will be here for you when you come home,” she said.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank, in asking the judge to exceed the sentencing guidelines, said “tortured is the right word” for what the officer did to Floyd.

“This is not a momentary gunshot, punch to the face. This is 9½ minutes of cruelty to a man who was helpless and just begging for his life,” Frank said.

Floyd family members had tearfully asked the judge to impose the maximum, which was 40 years. Several spoke before the sentence, and his 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, was seen in a recorded video.

“I miss you and I love you,” Gianna Floyd said in the video when asked what she would say to her daddy. She had a list of things she would have liked to do with him: “I want to play with him, have fun, go on a plane ride.”

Afterward, Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams said the sentence was insufficient, “when you think about George being murdered, in cold blood with a knee on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds execution-style in broad daylight.” LaTonya Floyd, George Floyd’s sister, said of the punishment: “That’s nothing. That’s nothing. He should have got the max, period.”

The concrete barricades, razor wire and National Guard patrols at the courthouse during Chauvin’s three-week trial in the spring were gone Friday, reflecting an easing of tensions since the verdict.

Before the sentencing, the judge denied Chauvin’s request for a new trial. The defense had argued that the intense publicity tainted the jury pool and that the trial should have been moved out of Minneapolis.

The judge also rejected a defense request for a hearing into possible juror misconduct. Nelson had accused a juror of not being candid during jury selection because he didn’t mention his participation in a march last summer to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Prosecutors countered the juror had been open about his views.

Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, said 11 non-federal law officers, including Chauvin, have been convicted of murder for on-duty deaths since 2005. The penalties for the nine who were sentenced before Chauvin ranged from from six years, nine months, to life behind bars, with the median being 15 years.

With Chauvin’s sentencing, the Floyd family and Black America witnessed something of a rarity: In the small number of instances in which officers accused of brutality or other misconduct against Black people have gone to trial, the list of acquittals and mistrials is longer than the list of sentencings after conviction.

Chauvin has been held since his conviction at the state’s maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights, where he has been kept in a cell by himself for his own protection, his meals brought to him.

The three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are scheduled for trial in March on state charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter. They will also stand trial with Chauvin on the federal charges. No date has been set for that trial.

As indicated above, Judge Cahill’s decision was middle of the road.  It could have been longer and thank God it wasn’t shorter.


Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges in Manhattan D.A. Inquiry!

House Intel Will Call Trump Org Moneyman Allen Weisselberg to Testify

Allen Weisselberg

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times is reporting this morning that the Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that it is considering criminal charges against his family business, the Trump Organization, in connection with fringe benefits the company awarded a top executive, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

The prosecutors had been building a case for months against the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, as part of an effort to pressure him to cooperate with a broader inquiry into Mr. Trump’s business dealings. But it was not previously known that the Trump Organization also might face charges.

If the case moves ahead, the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., could announce charges as soon as next week, the people said. Mr. Vance’s prosecutors have been conducting the investigation along with lawyers from the office of the New York State attorney general, Letitia James.

Any indictment would be the first to emerge from the long-running investigation and would raise the startling prospect of a former president having to defend the company he founded, and has run for decades, against accusations of criminal behavior.

Prosecutors recently have focused much of their investigation into the perks Mr. Trump and the company doled out to Mr. Weisselberg and other executives, including tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren, as well as rents on apartments and car leases.

They are looking into whether those benefits were properly recorded in the company’s ledgers and whether taxes were paid on them, The New York Times has reported.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers met on Thursday with senior prosecutors in the district attorney’s office in hopes of persuading them to abandon any plan to charge the company, according to several people familiar with the meeting. Such meetings are routine in white-collar criminal investigations, and it is unclear whether the prosecutors have made a final decision on whether to charge the Trump Organization, which has long denied wrongdoing.

“In my more than 50 years of practice, never before have I seen a district attorney’s office target a company over employee compensation or fringe benefits,” said Ronald P. Fischetti, a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump. “It’s ridiculous and outrageous.”

Several lawyers who specialize in tax rules have told The New York Times that it would be highly unusual to indict a company just for failing to pay taxes on fringe benefits. None of them could cite any recent example, noting that many companies provide their employees with benefits like company cars.

It is my sense that the charge of failing to pay taxes on fringe benefits is rather minor and may just be the first salvo in a number of other charges that might be coming.  It also appears that the Trump Organization’s CFO, Allen Weisselberg, is not cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney.


Rudy Giuliani’s Law License Suspended in New York!

Dear Commons Community,

Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former top federal prosecutor, New York City mayor and lawyer to a president, had his law license suspended after a New York court ruled yesterday that he made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” while fighting the results of the 2020 election on behalf of Donald J. Trump.

The move was a humbling blow to a man who was once known as a law-and-order crusader and whose political ambitions and creative courtroom tactics against mob bosses turned him into a fixture on national television.  As reported by The New York Times.

The New York State appellate court temporarily suspended Mr. Giuliani’s law license on the recommendation of a disciplinary committee after finding he had sought to mislead judges, lawmakers and the public as he helped shepherd Mr. Trump’s legal challenge to the election results. For months, Mr. Giuliani, who was Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, had argued without merit that the vote had been rife with fraud and that voting machines had been rigged.

In its 33-page decision, the court said that Mr. Giuliani’s actions represented an “immediate threat” to the public and that he had “directly inflamed” the tensions that led to the Capitol riot in January.

“The seriousness of respondent’s uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated. This country is being torn apart by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and of our current president, Joseph R. Biden,” the decision read.

Mr. Giuliani now faces disciplinary proceedings, which are typically closed to the public, and can fight the suspension. But the court said in its decision that he would be likely to face “permanent sanctions” after the proceedings conclude. A final outcome could be months away but could include punishment ranging from a written warning to disbarment.

Another example of someone who does Trump’s bidding – LOSES!


Video: General Mark Milley Schools Matt Gaetz on Why It Is Important to Teach Critical Race Theory!

Dear Commons Community,

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to criticism from Republican lawmakers on Wednesday that members of the military are taught critical race theory, the academic concept that racism is a systemic, social construct.

In recent months, critical race theory has come under fire from conservatives who believe it should not be taught in public schools.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Milley, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, said there was nothing wrong with learning from history.

“I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read,” Milley said. “And it is important that we train and we understand.

“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” he continued in reference to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. “And I want to understand it.

“I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” he added. “What is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, our noncommissioned officers, of being ‘woke.'”

Milley had been given time by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., a former Air Force officer, to respond to comments from Reps. Matt Gaetz and Michael Waltz, both Republicans from Florida, who had raised the issue of critical race theory being taught at military service academies, including West Point, earlier in the hearing.

As Milley spoke, Gaetz shook his head in disapproval.

At the end of his comments, Milley directly addressed Waltz, a combat veteran.

“I respect your service, and you and I are both Green Berets,” Milley said. “But I do want to know [about critical race theory]. And it matters to the discipline and cohesion of this military.”

Open-mindedness and widely read are not valued by Gaetz, Waltz, and many members of the present-day Republican Party.



U.S. Supreme Court Rules for Cheerleader Punished for Vulgar Snapchat Message!

Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania high school student, had expressed her dismay on Snapchat over not making the varsity cheerleading squad.

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a Pennsylvania school district had violated the First Amendment by punishing a student,  Brandi Levy, for a vulgar social media message sent while she was not on school grounds. The decision set new limits on disciplining students for off-campus speech but did not totally bar administrators from doing so. 

The decision, on a vote of 8 to 1, did not establish a categorical ban on regulating student speech outside of school, citing the need of school systems to be able to deal with issues like bullying and threats.  As reported by the New York Times.

Instead, it set out factors that courts should assess in weighing the right of administrators to punish speech in nonschool settings, with one important component being whether parents are better suited to handle the situation.

But it was the first time in more than 50 years that a high school student won a free-speech case in the Supreme Court, and the decision emphasized that courts should be skeptical of efforts to constrain off-campus speech.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, said part of what schools must teach students is the value of free speech.

“America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy,” he wrote. “Our representative democracy only works if we protect the ‘marketplace of ideas.’”

“Schools have a strong interest in ensuring that future generations understand the workings in practice of the well-known aphorism, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,’” he wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

The ruling came at a time when social media has complicated issues of free speech for students, giving wide circulation to opinions, comments, gossip and other utterances that might otherwise attract little notice. In its ruling, the court appeared to acknowledge that it needed to set some boundaries on the power of school systems to decide what was appropriate in the current era.

“The opinion reaffirms that schools’ authority over the lives of students is not boundless,” said Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale and the author of “The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court and the Battle for the American Mind.”

But he added that the nuanced ruling, which raised as many questions as it answered, “offers little in the way of clarity to students, educators or lower-court judges.”

Interesting case that will have many school district administrators reviewing their policies related to student free speech.





Thomas Edsall Asks Is Education No Longer the ‘Great Equalizer’?

Quotes From The Equalizer. QuotesGram

Dear Commons Community,

Thomas B. Edsall has a guest essay in today’s New York Times exploring whether education is no longer the “great equalizer.”  He refers to the ongoing debate over what kind of investments in human capital — roughly the knowledge, skills, habits, abilities, experience, intelligence, training, judgment, creativity and wisdom possessed by an individual — contribute most to productivity and life satisfaction.  He questions the affects of education.  Here is an excerpt.

“Is education no longer “a great equalizer of the conditions of men,” as Horace Mann declared in 1848, but instead a great divider? Can the Biden administration’s efforts to distribute cash benefits to the working class and the poor produce sustained improvements in the lives of those on the bottom tiers of income and wealth — or would a substantial investment in children’s training and enrichment programs at a very early age produce more consistent and permanent results?

Take the case of education. On this score — if the assumption is “the more education, the better” — then the United States looks pretty good.

From 1976 to 2016 the white high school completion rate rose from 86.4 percent to 94.5 percent, the Black completion rate from 73.5 percent to 92.2 percent and the Hispanic completion rate rose from 60.3 percent to 89.1 percent. The graduation rate of whites entering four-year colleges from 1996 to 2012 rose from 33.7 to 43.7 percent, for African Americans it rose from 19.5 to 23.8 percent and for Hispanics it rose from 22.8 to 34.1 percent.

But these very gains appear to have also contributed to the widening disparity in income between those with different levels of academic attainment, in part because of the very different rates of income growth for men and women with high school degrees, college degrees and graduate or professional degrees.

Education lifts all boats, but not by equal amounts.

David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., together with the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, tackled this issue in a paper last year, “Extending the Race Between Education and Technology,” asking: “How much of the overall rise in wage inequality since 1980 can be attributed to the large increase in educational wage differentials?”

Their answer:

Returns to a year of K-12 schooling show little change since 1980. But returns to a year of college rose by 6.5 log points, from 0.076 in 1980 to 0.126 in 2000 to 0.141 in 2017. The returns to a year of post-college (graduate and professional) rose by a whopping 10.9 log points, from 0.067 in 1980 to 0.131 in 2000 and to 0.176 in 2017.

I asked Autor to translate that data into language understandable to the layperson, and he wrote back:

There has been almost no increase in the increment to individual earnings for each year of schooling between K and 12 since 1980. It was roughly 6 percentage points per year in 1980, and it still is. The earnings increment for a B.A. has risen from 30.4 percent in 1980 to 50.4 percent in 2000 to 56.4 percent in 2017. The gain to a four-year graduate degree (a Ph.D., for example, but an M.D., J.D., or perhaps even an M.B.A.) relative to high school was approximately 57 percent in 1980, rising to 127 percent in 2017.

These differences result in large part because ever greater levels of skill — critical thinking, problem-solving, originality, strategizing​ — are needed in a knowledge-based society.

“The idea of a race between education and technology goes back to the Nobel Laureate Jan Tinbergen, who posited that technological change is continually raising skill requirements while education’s job is to supply those rising skill levels,” Autor wrote in explaining the gains for those with higher levels of income. “If technology ‘gets ahead’ of education, the skill premium will tend to rise.”

But something more homely may also be relevant. Several researchers argue that parenting style contributes to where a child ends up in life.

cost of failing to ascend the education ladder rise in tandem, scholars find that adults are adopting differing parental styles — a crucial form of investment in the human capital of their children — and these differing styles appear to be further entrenching inequality.

Such key factors as the level of inequality, the degree to which higher education is rewarded and the strength of the welfare state are shaping parental strategies in raising children.”

The entire essay is well-done and worth a read!



The U.S. is “Two COVID nations”: Delta variant threatens sections of the country where vaccination rates lag – Anthony Fauci!

17 COVID-19 Delta variants in Washoe County; Hunsberger Elementary has a cluster

Dear Commons Community,

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is sweeping through countries across the globe.  It is now here in the United States and threatens the progress against COVID that has been made through the deployment of vaccinations.  However, this deployment is very uneven and while some states have high vaccination rates, others have abysmally low ones.  There is great concern that in states with low vaccination rates the Delta variant will strike with a vengeance especially as we move into the cooler months of late Fall and Winter.  Here is a consolidation of  reporting on this issue provided by Yahoo News.

“No state has been as successful in its vaccination effort as Vermont, with 64 percent of its population fully inoculated against the coronavirus. Other Northeastern states, including Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut, are not far behind, with rates of about 60 percent of residents who have been fully vaccinated.

By contrast, only 28.9 percent of Mississippians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and only 31.9 percent of Alabamians (all figures come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Florida, one of the nation’s oldest and most populous states, has vaccinated only 44 percent of its population, even as the governor there, Ron DeSantis, takes a victory lap over his handling of the pandemic.

“We are all in this together” was a popular slogan during the pandemic’s earliest stage, when people applauded essential workers and bonded via Zoom. In truth, however, that sentiment may never have been accurate, given that the coronavirus hit some communities much harder than others. Today, togetherness has all but vanished, with parts of the country having come close to stopping community spread while other regions remain dangerously exposed to the pathogen, in particular its more transmissible Delta variant.

That variant, which emerged in India sometime this spring and recently became dominant in the U.K., slowing reopening there, is “the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top pandemic adviser to President Biden, said during Tuesday’s meeting of the White House pandemic response team. The strain is believed to be 60 percent more transmissible than the original version of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. Unvaccinated people are susceptible, but so are those who have received only the first of two vaccine doses.

Fully vaccinated people are about as protected from the Delta variant as they are from other versions of the virus.

The emergence of that variant could mean that while communities with high vaccination rates continue to return to normal, states where vaccinations lag could suddenly find themselves thrust into a new wave of infections and deaths.

“We’re emerging into two COVID nations,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, told Yahoo News. Hotez pointed to the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic region and the Pacific Coast as having successfully hit their immunization targets, but he said there are “concerningly low vaccination rates” elsewhere, “especially among young people in Southern states.” Young people infected with the Delta variant were behind the U.K.’s recent rise in cases.

Hotez predicted that those regions might see a resurgence of the coronavirus similar to the one experienced in the summer of 2020 in states like Florida, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina. Eventually, the entire nation became mired in a protracted third pandemic wave that began in the late fall and lasted until the spring of 2021.

Around the time that third wave ended, Joe Biden was president and his vaccination effort was gaining speed, with more than 4 million people vaccinated in a single day in early April. Nationwide, cases fell and kept falling — and then fell even further. Last week saw the fewest average deaths per day since March 27, 2020.

But because each state is responsible for its own vaccination drive, the pace of recovery has not been even. So while Maryland (53.8 percent of residents fully vaccinated) has just enjoyed two straight days without a single reported coronavirus death, Missouri is seeing cases surge, with hospitalizations rising by 11 percent since June 1.

“We never imagined this big of an increase,” a Missouri hospital executive told CNN.

“There will be local-type, regional spikes and outbreaks,” Fauci said on Tuesday. “I don’t foresee what we refer to as a surge.” He added that “there is a danger — a real danger — that if there is a persistence of a recalcitrance to getting vaccinated that you could see localized surges.”

A recent analysis by Surgo Ventures found that states with the lowest vaccination rates also have populations that are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, making for a potentially devastating combination.

One mitigating factor, however, is that some of the states now vulnerable to new surges have already experienced them before. “We must take natural immunity into account in our reporting,” Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco, told Yahoo News. Gandhi has pointed out that “reinfection” is rare, meaning that people who’ve had the coronavirus aren’t likely to get it again, since their immune systems make antibodies against the pathogen. Those antibodies tend to hang around and work against variants, including the dreaded Delta.

States with low vaccination rates, in other words, could have a buffer stemming from previous coronavirus cases. 

Of course, people freely move between states, meaning that an outbreak in, say, Georgia can easily find its way to Virginia. And even high-vaccination states have areas where inoculations have lagged, either because people there are hesitant or because outreach by public health officials has thus far been insufficient.

“We’re still ‘in this together’ in the sense that there’s no partition between states,” Washington, D.C., pediatrician Lucy McBride told Yahoo News. “We’re watching the regional variability of vaccine uptake dictate the final battlegrounds of the pandemic.”

Those battlegrounds could be states, counties, even neighborhoods. In Colorado, for example, rural Mesa County is seeing an outbreak fueled by the Delta variant and abetted by low vaccination rates there.

Fauci pointed out during Tuesday’s briefing that an obvious solution was at hand. “All of that is totally and completely avoidable by getting vaccinated,” he said.

Always listen to Dr. Fauci!




Senate GOP filibuster blocks Democrats’ voting rights bill!

Voting Rights Bill Puts Democrats on a Crash Course With the Filibuster -  The New York Times


Dear Commons Community,

The Democrats’ attempt to rewrite U.S. election and voting law suffered a major setback in the Senate yesterday, blocked by a filibuster wall of Republican opposition to what would be the largest overhaul of the electoral system in a generation.

The vote leaves the Democrats with no clear path forward, though President Joe Biden declared, “This fight is far from over.”

The bill, known as the For the People Act, would touch on virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted, striking down hurdles to voting that advocates view as the Civil Rights fight of the era, while also curbing the influence of money in politics and limiting partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.

But many in the GOP say the measure represents instead a breathtaking federal infringement on states’ authority to conduct their own elections without fraud — and is meant to ultimately benefit Democrats.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“It failed on a 50-50 vote after Republicans, some of whom derided the bill as the “Screw the People Act,” denied Democrats the 60 votes needed to begin debate under Senate rules. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to hold her office, presided over the chamber as the bill failed to break past that filibuster barrier.

Biden praised Senate Democrats for standing together “against the ongoing assault of voter suppression that represents a Jim Crow era in the 21st Century.” In a statement from the White House, he said that in their actions, though unsuccessful on Tuesday, they “took the next step forward in this continuous struggle.”

The rejection forces Democrats to reckon with what comes next for their top legislative priority in a narrowly divided Senate. They’ve touted the measure as a powerful counterweight to scores of proposals advancing in GOP-controlled statehouses making it more difficult to vote.

“Once again, the Senate Republican minority has launched a partisan blockade of a pressing issue,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said from the chamber floor. He vowed that the vote was the “starting gun” and not the last time voting rights would be up for debate.

Whatever Democrats decide, they will likely be confronted with the same challenge they faced Tuesday when minority Republicans used the filibuster — the same tool that Democrats employed during Donald Trump’s presidency — to block consideration of the bill.

Republicans showed no sign of yielding.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the bill a “a solution looking for a problem” and vowed to “put an end to it.” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dismissed it as “partisan legislation, written by elected Democrats, designed to keep elected Democrats in office.”

And, more graphically, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito called the bill “a despicable, disingenuous attempt to strip states of their constitutional right to administer elections” that “should never come close to reaching the president’s desk.”

Pressure has been mounting on Democrats to change Senate rules or watch their priorities languish. A group of moderate Democratic senators, however, including Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have ruled that out, denying the votes needed to make a filibuster change.

Biden has vowed what the White House calls the “fight of his presidency” over ensuring Americans’ access to voting. But without changes to Senate rules, key planks of his agenda, including the voting bill, appear stalled.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Georgia Democrat and senior pastor at the Atlanta church Martin Luther King Jr. once led, called minority Republicans’ willingness to prevent debate on the voting bill a “dereliction” of duty.

“What could be more hypocritical and cynical than invoking minority rights in the Senate as a pretext for preventing debate about how to preserve minority rights in the society,” Warnock said during a floor speech Tuesday.

The changes being enacted in many Republican states are decried by voting rights advocates who argue the restrictions will make it more difficult for people to cast ballots, particularly minority residents who tend to support Democrats. Republicans, cheered on by Trump, talk instead about fighting potential voting fraud and say the Democrats’ concerns are wildly overblown.

As the Senate discussion churns, more changes could be coming to the bill.

Democrats want to protect against intimidation at the polls in the aftermath of the 2020 election. They propose enhancing penalties for those who would threaten or intimidate election workers and creating a “buffer zone” between election workers and poll watchers, among other possible changes.

They also want to limit the ability of state officials to remove local election officials. Georgia Republicans passed a law earlier this year that gives the GOP-dominated Legislature greater influence over a state board that regulates elections and empowers it to remove local election officials deemed to be underperforming.

But Democrats have divisions of their own. Until Tuesday, it wasn’t even clear that they would be united on the vote to bring the bill up for debate. Manchin, a moderate from West Virginia, announced earlier this month that he couldn’t support the bill because it lacked Republican support.

Manchin flipped his vote to a “yes” after Democrats agreed to consider his revised version. His proposal was endorsed by former President Barack Obama and called a “step forward” by Biden’s administration.

Manchin has proposed adding provisions for a national voter ID requirement, which is anathema to many Democrats, and dropping a proposed public financing of campaigns. The ID requirement would be less strict than ones pushed by Republicans in certain states and allow voters to provide non-photo ID such as a utility bill.

Those changes did little, however, to garner the bipartisan support Manchin was hoping for. Senate Republicans said they would likely reject any legislation that expands the federal government’s role in elections. McConnell dismissed Manchin’s version as “equally unacceptable.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Alaska Republican, said some aspects of the Democratic bill were laudable and she supports other voting rights legislation, like a reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

But, ultimately, she said the “sprawling” bill amounted to “a one-size-fits-all mandate coming out of Washington D.C.” that “in many cases doesn’t work.”

Months in the making, Tuesday’s showdown had taken on fresh urgency as Trump continues to challenge the outcome of the 2020 election and new limits move ahead in Republican-led states.

It will be interesting to see how President Biden and the Democrats respond to yesterday’s vote!


Eric Adams Leads New York City Democratic Primary Vote for Mayor – But Rank Choice Still Awaits!

Dear Commons Community,

With 82 percent of the results in, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, was the first choice of 31.7 percent of those who voted in person yesterday or during the early voting period, as New Yorkers chose a leader to steer the city’s reopening and economic recovery.    The winner of the Democratic primary is likely to win the general election in November.

The initial outcome capped an intense campaign defined by debates over public safety and the economy, political experience and personal ethics, as the candidates presented sharply divergent visions for how they would lead New York into its post-pandemic future.  

Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, was in second with 22.3 percent; Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, was in third with 19.5 percent. Either would become the city’s first female mayor.

Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, was a distant fourth, and was the first candidate to concede on Tuesday night, a striking development after he had spent months as the dominant candidate in the race.  As reported by The New York Times.

“We still believe we can help, but not as mayor and first lady,” said Mr. Yang, who had hoped to be the city’s first Asian American mayor, as he stood with his wife, Evelyn.

Mr. Adams led in every borough except Manhattan, where Ms. Garcia held a commanding edge. But because Mr. Adams seemed unlikely to earn more than 50 percent of the vote, the contest will be decided under New York’s new ranked-choice voting system.

New Yorkers could rank up to five candidates in order of preference, and absentee ballots must also be counted. It may take until mid-July before a Democratic primary victor — who would become an overwhelming favorite to win the general election in November — is officially declared.

“Tonight we took a huge step forward,” Mr. Adams said as he called for unity. “As a city we’re going to turn our pain into purpose. We’re going to become a safe, affordable, fair city.”

New Yorkers on Tuesday also rendered judgments on other vital positions in primary races that will test the power of the left in the nation’s largest city. The city comptroller’s race, the Manhattan district attorney’s race and a slew of City Council primaries, among other contests, will offer imperfect but important windows into Democratic attitudes and engagement levels as the nation emerges from the pandemic in the post-Trump era.

But no race was being more carefully watched than the contest to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio, an election that began in a shuttered metropolis in the midst of the pandemic, and ended as the city reopened but confronted a spate of new challenges.

The mayoral hopefuls spent the last hours of the primary making nonstop appearances across the city, casting the stakes of the contest in sweeping terms and promoting sharply divergent visions for how they would lead New York forward.

The race remained fluid and strikingly contentious as polls closed. It was not until the end that the candidates appeared to put serious effort into ranked-choice strategizing, as Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia struck up an alliance during the final weekend of the primary.

According to the city’s Board of Elections, more than 191,000 New Yorkers came to the polls during the early voting period, and the board received about 220,000 requests for absentee ballots. On Tuesday, as an afternoon rain set in, many polling places were relatively quiet, and it was difficult to predict what the composition of a post-pandemic electorate looked like, and whom it would benefit.

The winner of the Democratic nomination will face Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, who handily defeated Fernando Mateo, a restaurateur, in the Republican primary. The Associated Press declared Mr. Sliwa the winner last night.

Shaun Donovan, a former federal housing secretary; Raymond J. McGuire, a former Citi executive; and Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, who all benefited from heavy spending on television on their behalf, had hoped to show unexpected strength through the ranking process, but may be too far behind after the initial count.

Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive, once appeared poised to be a left-wing standard-bearer, but her standing suffered amid internal campaign turmoil, and she also trailed far behind.

No issue dominated the race more than public safety, as poll after poll showed combating crime was the most important issue to New York Democrats.

Sparse public polling suggested that Mr. Adams, a former police captain who challenged misconduct from within the system — part of a complex career — attained credibility on that subject in the eyes of some voters, which will have been a crucial factor if he wins, along with significant support from labor unions and deep ties to core Democratic constituencies, including working- and middle-class voters of color.

“I am going to be your mayor,” Mr. Adams said. “I want you to believe again. Let’s bring our city back.”

The final count of yesterday’s election might not be available for several weeks.


New York City Mayoral Primary Voting Today!

NYC Mayoral Race Heats Up With 6 Weeks to Go Before Primary – NBC New York

Dear Commons Community,

Voters in New York City today will participate in the city’s first mayoral primary election using ranked-choice voting. 

No Democratic candidate is expected to reach the threshold needed to win outright under the ranked-choice voting system, and it may be weeks before a Democratic primary victor — who would become an overwhelming favorite to win the general election in November — is officially declared.

New Yorkers today will also render judgments on other vital positions in primary races that will test the power of the left in the nation’s largest city. The city comptroller’s race, the Manhattan district attorney’s race and a slew of City Council primaries, among other contests, will offer imperfect but important windows into Democratic attitudes and engagement levels as the nation emerges from the pandemic in the post-Trump era.

But no results will be more carefully watched than the race to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio, a contest that has been defined by debates over public safety, the economy, political experience and personal ethics and that in its final weeks became intensely acrimonious.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president; Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner; Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mr. de Blasio; and Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, were considered leading Democratic contenders, though the race remained fluid and strikingly contentious.

If no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote on the first tally, the eventual nominee will be determined by rounds of ranked-choice voting, through which New Yorkers could rank up to five candidates in order of preference.

Please vote!