On Wednesday, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Michigan denied the Socialist Equality Party’s challenge to the state’s 12,000 physical signature ballot access requirement during the coronavirus pandemic.
The judge, Sean F. Cox, a Republican, sided with the Democratic administration of Governor Gretchen Whitmer in ruling that the coronavirus pandemic did not seriously “burden” our constitutional rights or the rights of those Michiganders who want to vote for our campaign.
Cox issued his ruling as the deadly coronavirus pandemic is spiraling out of control. Yesterday, the official global death toll surpassed 550,000, and the number of infections increased to more than 12.3 million.
The United States is the epicenter of the virus, which is now spreading without restraint. Already, COVID-19 has claimed more than 135,000 lives in the United States. More than 61,000 people tested positive yesterday, a new record, and the daily death toll is approaching 1,000.
Hospitals in Texas, Florida and Arizona are overwhelmed, and nurses are again facing critical shortages of personal protective equipment and ventilators. Cases are increasing in most states, including in Michigan, where they are at levels not seen since the end of May.
The surge in cases and deaths is the direct and predictable outcome of the criminal policies of Trump and the entire political establishment, including the Whitmer administration. Even as the pandemic exacts its horrific toll, the White House is demanding that schools reopen in the fall, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of teachers and students, as part of the overall back-to-work campaign.
It is under these conditions that Judge Cox declared his full support for the argument of the state of Michigan that SEP should have been gathering signatures and that it still should be doing so.
Cox’s decision is not a serious legal ruling grounded in jurisprudence or reasoned analysis. It is a political decision aimed at barring socialists from the ballot, with the legal rationalization serving to justify a conclusion determined in advance.
Cox asserts that it is not the coronavirus pandemic or the governor’s stay-at-home orders that have prevented signature gathering, but the candidates’ own lack of “diligence.”
In fact, it is the “diligence” of the SEP that required that it not attempt to gather signatures. If we did make this attempt, we would have been violating our own political principles and our warnings of the dangerous consequences of the reckless policies of the ruling class—warnings that have now been completely confirmed.
On Wednesday. the Socialist Equality Party’s candidates for United States president and vice-president, Joseph Kishore and Norissa Santa Cruz, filed a set of legal documents responding comprehensively to the arguments made by California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
The SEP’s lawsuit was filed on June 30 in federal court in California against Newsom and Padilla, challenging the state’s continued enforcement of a requirement that candidates gather 200,000 physical signatures between April and August in order to gain access to the November statewide ballot.
The lawsuit argues that this requirement is “effectively impossible” to meet “in light of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s countermeasures to it.”
The SEP candidates, who are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, argue that had their supporters attempted to publicly petition to obtain signatures for ballot access, they would have severely jeopardized not only their own health and lives, but those of the public as well.
The SEP candidates are arguing that since California refuses to provide any practical way for them to participate in the elections, in violation of their democratic and constitutional rights, the judge should order their names placed directly onto the November ballot.
On July 12, the California attorney general’s office, which represents Newsom and Padilla, filed its opposition to the SEP candidates’ request.
In their opposition papers Newsom and Padilla, who are the defendants in the lawsuit, acknowledged these signature requirements and declared their intention to enforce them. They further asserted that if the SEP candidates prevailed in their lawsuit, the result would be “an unmanageable and overcrowded ballot for the November presidential general election” and would cause “frustration of the democratic process,” “voter confusion” and “irreparable harm” to “the public interest.”
Newsom and Padilla argued that the SEP candidates “could have begun signature gathering no later than May 1, 2020;” that the SEP candidates had “14 weeks out of the 15-week period to collect signatures in person;” and that they could have deployed “66 signature gatherers, working five days a week for 15 weeks, to obtain the requisite number of signatures.”
In their July 15 reply brief, the SEP’s candidates refuted the arguments of the state officials point by point.
In response to the state’s argument that their request for ballot access would cause “frustration of the democratic process,” the SEP candidates pointed out that it was California state officials “who are frustrating the democratic process—by insisting on the enforcement of ballot access requirements that are effectively impossible for Plaintiffs to comply with without endangering the safety and lives of their supporters and the public at large.”
Replying to arguments that gathering the signatures is not “impossible,” the candidates explained that under California law, the circulators of the nomination papers are required to swear under oath that they personally physically witnessed the signature of each and every one of the registered voters required to sign the petition, who are called “nominators.”
“This necessarily means the circulators must be in close physical proximity to each and every one of the nominators in order to observe them signing and certify under oath that they have done so.”
“The cold fact,” the SEP candidates stated, is that “circulators would have to physically approach a multiple of 200,000 individuals to obtain the sufficient number of signatures. On top of that, there is a vastly reduced pool of potential signers under present conditions, given that large numbers of people rightly fear contracting COVID-19 from contact with others.”
These conditions do render it “effectively impossible” to comply with the state’s signature requirements, they argued.
“This state of affairs,” they continued, “cannot pass constitutional muster, especially given that a presidential election is at stake.” Citing legal precedents, the SEP candidates explained that federal district judge Dolly M. Gee would be well within her power to order the candidates directly onto the ballot, and that she must do so if “core democratic and constitutional rights are to be given any substantial effect.”
Third-party candidates filing for president Monday with the Illinois State Board of Elections included a Lake County native and a rap star.
Libertarian Jo Jorgensen, who grew up in Grayslake, is running for president along with vice presidential running mate Spike Cohen.
Also seeking election is rapper Kanye West, who has deep Chicago roots. West's staff filed at 4:56 p.m., just before the deadline, and offered 412 pages of petitions. He has no running mate.
"Government's too big, too noisy, too intrusive. It hurts those it tries to help," Jorgensen told the Daily Herald recently when describing why she wants to be president. She lives in South Carolina.
Rapper Kanye West was among those submitting petitions for the fall ballot Illinois on the final day for independent and third party candidates to file.
West said he is running for president. But he has missed the deadline to file in several states. While he was on time in Illinois, filing does not guarantee a spot on the ballot. Pettitions can be challenged for the number of signatures and their vailidity. West did not have a vice presidential candidate file with him.
Another well known name among those filing is imprisoned political activist Leonard Peltier. He is a vice-presidential candidate on a third party ticket. Peltier is serving a life sentence for the killings of two FBI agents on an Indian reservation in 1975.
The Illinois Libertarian Party and other third parties are fielding more candidates in legislative races this year.
A judge eased signature requirements for third parties this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That made it much easier for the Libertarian candidates running for the legislature to get on the ballot. Steve Suess, the party's state chairman, said that should send a message to the two major parties.
“That given a level playing field with Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians will run for office," he said.
"And in November we’ll prove that Libertarians can be competitive in these state wide elections and can win if given those same opportunities that the two parties possess.”
The presidential nominees for the Libertarian and Green Parties both support bolder drug policy proposals, including marijuana legalization, than presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden or President Trump.
Libertarian pick Jo Jorgensen and Green nominee Howie Hawkins recently discussed their views on the issue and backed legalizing cannabis for adult use and more broadly ending the criminalization of other currently illicit substances.
“The biggest problem we have right now is not the drugs, it’s the drug prohibition,” Jorgensen said during an interview with C-SPAN this month. “Now, do drugs and alcohol cause problems? Of course they do. However, they’d be much more manageable if it were legal.”
While the climate justice movement has been winning important victories, stopping and slowing pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, and putting the future of fossil fuels in doubt, the political system, long connected to the fossil fuel industry, is still fighting the urgently needed transition to clean sustainable energy. Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden put forward energy plans that do not challenge fossil fuels. The only candidate with a serious climate plan is Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.
The movement needs to build momentum from these successes for more actions to stop fossil fuel infrastructure. As the reality of the climate crisis hits more people, fossil fuels will become high-risk investments while the cost of solar, wind, thermal, and ocean energy is declining.
The fossil fuel industry is being propped up by massive subsidies without which its extinction would be faster. A 2019 IMF report found that $5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, the equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found “the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education.”
In the era of the climate crisis, COVID-19, and recession, these subsidies are not justifiable. Christine Lagarde of the IMF has called for removing fossil fuel subsidies, noting the investments made into fossil fuels could be better spent elsewhere. She notes: “There would be more public spending available to build hospitals, to build roads, to build schools and to support education and health for the people.”
The era of fossil fuel domination is coming to an end. It is up to people to organize to hasten the transition to a clean, sustainable energy economy. The deeply embedded fossil fuel industry can be defeated. The people have shown they can make it impossible to build fossil fuel infrastructure.
In an attempt to remove Iraq from the conflict between Iran and its regional and international rivals, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has planned and is taking his first trip as a package to three countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States. This way, he wants to send a message to all rival powers that Iraq's sovereignty should be respected and regional and international powers should not bring their conflicts into Iraq.
Iraq has been a center field for conflict since 2003 between different regional and international powers, and it has turned into a direct battleground between the United States and Iran after the assassination of Iran's top Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, earlier this year, followed by Iran's bombing of US forces at Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq's Anbar province.
The selection of Kadhimi was actually a settlement choice between Iraqi political parties to reduce the tension and find a solution to the regional and international conflicts on Iraq's territory.
Kadhimi has already initiated a strategic dialogue with the United States. The first session took place in June, and the second session will be held in Washington during Kadhimi's visit there. He is also planning to settle on arrangements with Iran and Saudi Arabia to end the use of any Iraqi space for conflict; instead, he'll seek to change the role of Iraq from battleground to a place of investment and a bridge to peace and cooperation.
The first station on Kadhimi's series of trips began in Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi ministerial delegation arrived in Riyadh July 19, headed by Finance Minister Ali Allawi.
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