Georgia officials reduce early voting availability ahead of monumental state runoff elections.
With the balance of the U.S. Senate — and much of what President-elect Joe Biden might be able to accomplish during his first two years in office — hanging on the results of the two Georgia runoff elections taking place in the state on Jan. 5, interest in Georgia state politics has never been higher. Yet even with voter turnout for these special elections expected to be at an all-time high (or perhaps because of those predictions) NBC News has reported that Georgia officials have begun cutting staffing at certain polling locations and/or limiting the number of early polling locations that will be open for the state’s residents to vote ahead of the state’s runoff election day. Not surprisingly, the biggest reductions in early voting availability are also taking place in the largest urban areas, where Black and Latinx voters typically vote in the highest numbers for the Democratic party. For example, according to NBC, “in Cobb County, the state’s third most populous county with more than 760,000 residents, election officials have announced five early voting locations, fewer than half of the 11 used for early voting ahead of last month’s general election.”
Fearing that the move will disenfranchise voters and make it harder for people to access the polls, a group of advocates, including Georgia branches of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote a letter to local officials on Monday, Dec. 7, urging them to maintain all 11 existing early voting sites used in the November general election for the runoff. Of the 396,551 ballots cast by Cobb county residents for the presidential election, only 71,117 were cast in-person on Election Day. Early voting accounted for 174,979 votes cast, while mail-in ballots accounted for an additional 149,911 votes. Biden beat Trump in Cobb county by 14 percentage points. Early voting in Georgia is currently set to begin on Monday, Dec. 14.
Supreme Court affirms transgender student rights in surprise decision.
In a major win for transgender rights advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case dealing with transgender students using bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, Politico has reported. The decision affirms a federal appeals court ruling that upheld school district policy permitting trans students to use facilities that align with their gender identity.
“A policy that allows transgender students to use school bathroom and locker facilities that match their self-identified gender in the same manner that cisgender students utilize those facilities does not infringe Fourteenth Amendment privacy or parental rights or First Amendment free exercise rights, nor does it create actionable sex harassment under Title IX,” wrote Judge A. Wallace Tashima of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in his existing verdict that will now stand.
The case behind the suit began in the small agricultural town of Dallas, Oregon, located 15 miles west of Salem. In 2017, the families of a group of high schoolers sued the Dallas School District for allowing a transgender male student access to the boy’s locker room and bathroom. The parents were said to be worried that their cisgender sons would be uncomfortable showering and changing clothes in the same room as someone who was assigned female at birth.
In 2018, a lower court refused to block the district’s policy, and the 9th Circuit affirmed that ruling earlier this year, Politico reported.
LGBTQ advocates have praised the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the appeal.
“Today’s decision is excellent news for transgender students,” Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “Trans students deserve an educational environment that is safe, supportive and free from discrimination. The school district’s actions to create that environment have been vindicated.”
D.I. Fast Facts
Number of restaurants The National Restaurant Association predicts will permanently close in the next three weeks if Congress doesn’t enact some type of stimulus to help keep them from going under. The group estimates that 110,000 have already shuttered this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Number of additional doses of Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine that the Trump administration could have reserved earlier this year for United States’ vaccination efforts. The White House turned down the company’s offer multiple times, sticking with its initial order of 100 million doses — enough to vaccinate 50 million people. The current U.S. population is approximately 328 million.
— NBC News