Florida Officially Has the Signatures to Put Abortion on the Ballot

Florida Officially Has the Signatures to Put Abortion on the Ballot

Florida abortion advocates got one step closer on Friday to putting access to the procedure on the state’s ballot in November, even as Republicans continue to try and block them.

Advocates needed to collect at least 891,523 valid signatures before February 1 to get the measure on the ballot. As of Friday, the Florida Division of Elections has verified 911,112 signatures—and more could come. Floridians Protecting Freedom, the group that helped organize the statewide signature collection, says they have gathered 1.4 million signatures.

The amendment would allow abortion access up until viability, or when the fetus can survive outside the uterus. This is generally estimated to happen at around 24 weeks.

Florida currently bans abortion after 15 weeks. That law went before the state Supreme Court in September. If the court upholds the law, then an even more restrictive measure banning abortion at six weeks—before most people know they are pregnant—will go into effect. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the hugely unpopular bill in April.

If the abortion amendment makes it onto the ballot, then it has a strong chance of winning. Florida requires 60 percent of voters to support amending the state constitution. A February study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 64 percent of Floridians believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases—more than enough to defeat the state’s minimum threshold. In fact, a good chunk of the petition signatures came from Republican voters.

That has Republican leaders running scared. State Attorney General Ashley Moody, a DeSantis ally, has asked the Florida Supreme Court to disqualify the amendment. She argues the language is misleading, claiming that the use of the word “viability” could have multiple meanings. The state’s high court will hear arguments on February 7.

In November, state Republican Representative Rick Roth quietly introduced a measure to raise the threshold for ballot initiatives to 66.7 percent of votes—just above the definite level of support for abortion access in Florida. The measure has not left the committee, and it’s unclear how far it will actually go. Roth introduced a similar measure in 2022 that easily passed the state House, but it failed in the Senate.

But even if Roth’s bill fails again, it’s a sign of just how far Republicans are willing to go to block people from voting on abortion access. Ballot initiatives have led to multiple major abortion rights wins, even in otherwise deep-red states. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, multiple Republican-led states have put the question of abortion on the ballot—and every single time, voters choose to dramatically increase protections.

New York Attorney General Letitia James asked the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s bank fraud trial to penalize the former president to the tune of $370 million on Friday—$120 million more than originally requested—arguing that Trump showed on the stand he had gained that much through unlawful conduct.

James is also requesting that the real estate mogul receive what could potentially prove as the most costly penalty of them all: a total ban from participating in New York’s real estate market.

The penalty request came in a post-trial brief filed Friday by the New York attorney general, who sued Trump for $250 million in 2022 for overinflating his net worth to obtain favorable bank loans.

Attorneys will make their closing arguments in the trial next week.

Trump’s bank fraud trial has regularly grabbed headlines since it began in earnest in September 2023, mainly thanks to his inflammatory social media posts about Judge Arthur Engoron and his staff, which resulted in harassment of Engoron’s law clerks and a stunning gag order and several fines against the former president.

Engoron has said he will try to issue a ruling on the case by the end of the month.

Florida is on the precipice of its latest prohibition against the LGBTQ community, this time proposing legislation that would end all legal recognition of trans persons living in the state. The bill would also effectively cease the issuance of driver’s licenses to trans people—unless they comply with signing a “biological sex affidavit” that confirms their sex assigned at birth.

Should the bill pass the state government’s Republican trifecta, it would effectively force all trans Floridians to carry documentation that outs them, even if it contradicts identifying documents from other states or the federal government—like passports or birth certificates—that may recognize a person’s preferred gender.

“The department may not issue an original or replacement driver license or identification card that specifies a person’s sex as different from that specified on the person’s original certificate of live birth,” reads H.B. 1233.

“The department must require an applicant to sign an affidavit certifying that the sex specified on the application submitted for a new or replacement driver license or identification card is identical to that specified on the applicant’s original certificate of live birth,” it continues. “If the applicant determines that the applicant made a false attestation, the department must revoke his or her driver license or identification card.”

Florida has introduced a bill that would invalidate all drivers licenses issued to trans people. It would require trans people to carry drivers licenses that out them regardless if it is inconsistent with identity documents such as passports, birth certificates, etc. pic.twitter.com/7Zr2vJoqiR

— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) January 4, 2024

The bill, introduced by Florida Representative Dean Black, also seeks to change the legal definition of “sex” and “gender” in such a way that excludes trans identities from all state legislation, and requires all vital statistics collected by the state to match a person’s sex assigned at birth, effectively making it impossible to track hate crimes against trans people in the Sunshine State.

Despite the fact that anti-trans legislation does nothing for a populace other than restrict the rights of an already marginalized group of people, Florida’s government has been on a tirade to choke and chip away at every iota of aid and comfort available to the trans community—which, by the way, constitutes just five percent of all young people in America and collectively less than two percent of the U.S. population over the age of 30, according to data by the Pew Research Center.

In November, Florida Representative Ryan Chamberlin proposed a bill that would abolish LGBTQ nonprofits, prohibiting the distribution of state funds to any contractor or organization that considers an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation. It is currently in committee.

And in 2022, the state angered educators across the nation by enacting a restrictive “Don’t Say Gay” law, which made it illegal for elementary school and later high school teachers in Florida public schools to mention sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom.

Donald Trump’s campaign team actively helped organize the scheme to use fake electors to falsely claim he won Michigan during the 2020 election.

Internal campaign emails obtained by The Detroit News reveal just how extensive Trump’s involvement was in the plot. The messages show Trump’s campaign staff helped organize the state Republican Party meeting that resulted in the fake electors. Trump’s team also tried to mail the document falsely certifying he had won Michigan to then-Vice President Mike Pence and the National Archives.

Joe Biden won Michigan in 2020 with 50.6 percent of the vote. When it became clear he would lose, a Trump campaign employee allegedly tried to start a riot at the TCF Center in Detroit, where ballots were being counted, to stop the vote count.

After Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election, Republicans in Michigan and six other highly contested states launched attempts to overturn the results. GOP operatives signed certificates falsely stating they were the state’s Electoral College representatives and tried to claim that Trump had won their state.

Michigan Republican leaders publicly insisted the fake electors were just there to ensure that Trump could be certified as president in a timely manner should the courts overturn the 2020 election. Every single one of Trump’s legal challenges to the election was thrown out.

But the recently revealed campaign emails show that Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who came up with the fake elector plan, told Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn that the actual goal was to boost the conspiracy the election had been rigged. Doing so could eventually “void the results” showing Biden had won.

Trump lawyer John Eastman, who took over the plan from Chesebro, explained separately that “if Biden is simply held to under 270 by virtue of electoral votes not being counted (even though ‘appointed’), or by virtue of a switch to legislature-certified electors, then the election gets thrown to the House.”

“If the Republicans there hold true and vote with their state delegations, Trump should win a bare majority of the states.”

In addition to helping organize the fake elector scheme, Trump’s campaign staff also took it upon themselves to get the fake certificate to Washington. Emails show that campaign staffer Shawn Flynn led the meeting on December 14, 2020, during which the fake electors signed a certificate. Flynn was also in charge of mailing the certificate to Pence, who oversaw the electoral vote count.

When Flynn asked if he should pick a certain mailing class, Trump’s director of Election Day operations Mike Roman replied, “Choose the fastest.”

But it soon became unclear whether the certificate would make it. The fake documents from Michigan and Wisconsin got stuck in the mail, and Trump campaign staffers rushed to fly the certificates to Washington themselves. They even considered chartering a private jet to make it in time to block the legitimate certification.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged 16 people in July with felonies for pretending to be 2020 electors. The accused include state Republican Party Co-chair Meshawn Maddock and state Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden.

Three states have issued charges for fake elector schemes. Nevada charged six Republicans, including the state GOP chair, in early December. In Georgia, the Fulton County district attorney has charged some fake electors as part of her larger indictment against Trump. The former president and his allies have been indicted in the Peach State for trying to overturn the 2020 election results.

There is also an investigation into the fake elector scheme in Arizona. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, 10 Republicans who posed as fake electors settled a lawsuit over their actions in December. Under the agreement, the Republicans acknowledged that Biden had won the state and promised not to serve as electors in 2024 or any other election where Trump is on the ballot.

The other states where Republicans tried to overthrow the results—New York and Pennsylvania—have yet to publicly announce whether they will probe the fake elector plot.

If Congress doesn’t work out for Representative Andy Biggs, he may have a future writing campaign ads … for Democrats. The Arizona Republican admitted his party has accomplished “nothing” while in control of the House.

During a Thursday appearance on Newsmax, Biggs acknowledged the “embarrassing” truth: The GOP hasn’t managed to get anything done since taking control of the House of Representatives in 2022.

“We have nothing, in my opinion, we have nothing to go out there and campaign on, Chris!” Biggs told host Chris Salcedo. “It’s embarrassing!”

Salcedo echoed the sentiment: “The Republican Party in the congressional majority has zero accomplishments.”

Biggs: We have nothing to campaign on. It’s embarrassing

Salcedo: The Republican Majority has zero accomplishments pic.twitter.com/5ay2zKEzZP

— Acyn (@Acyn) January 4, 2024

The 118th Congress has passed just two dozen bills in its two-year session. Previous congresses have typically passed between 300 and 450 laws. Even when Republicans controlled both chambers under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, those sessions still managed to pass more than 70 laws.

Most of the current congressional session has been taken up instead by Republican in-fighting that resulted in two separate tortuous rounds of voting for a speaker. First in January 2022 for Kevin McCarthy and then again in October 2023 after McCarthy was ousted for making too many deals with Democrats.

Biggs is partially to blame for the lack of accomplishments, though. A member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, Biggs ran against McCarthy for speaker, contributing to the dragged-out chamber vote.

Biggs has repeatedly blocked budget bills, claiming he wants to decrease government spending but really helping push the U.S. dangerously close to a shutdown multiple times over the course of 2023. He also voted to oust McCarthy as speaker, plunging the House into chaos as the chamber scrambled to elect a new leader.

This is now at least the second time a Republican has publicly called out the GOP for getting nothing done. Texas Representative Chip Roy excoriated his colleagues in November during a House session.

“One thing. I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing. One. That I can go campaign on and say we did,” Roy said. “One!”

“Anybody sitting in the complex, if you want to come down to the floor and come explain to me one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done besides well, ‘I guess it’s not as bad as the Democrats.’”

Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” brand apparently worked so well for the former president’s prospects that his campaign has decided to use it again, this time copying and pasting the phrase into a GOP primary flier.

But now, Trump has a new target: Ron DeSantis.

The flier, which flooded mailboxes in Iowa, accuses DeSantis of attempting to “rig” the Iowa GOP primary.

“Stop the fraud. Reject DeSantis on January 15,” the flier reads, including a quote from Trump that claims, “When you swamp them with enough votes, there’s a point at which they can only cheat so much.”

The charge stems from an interview in which DeSantis’s wife, Casey DeSantis, urged voters from around the nation to help their cause, claiming that “you do not have to be a resident of Iowa to be able to participate in the caucus,” though “participate” does not necessarily translate to “vote.”

Trump campaign out with a mailer in Iowa accusing DeSantis of trying to rig the caucuses https://t.co/EIJDVziWQ4 by @DashaBurns @jonallendc pic.twitter.com/4EtkazxENw

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) January 5, 2024

The baseless accusation of more voter fraud comes as a sign of weakness, not strength, as Trump prepares to square up against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in the fast-approaching Republican primary. While Trump has led his competitors by a startling margin since the campaign began—and by nearly 50 percentage points at the time of publication—the pair do pose a serious if unconventional threat, particularly as the former president contends with several states removing him from the GOP ballot entirely on the basis of violating the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley tried to explain away her recent failure to mention slavery when describing the cause of the Civil War and instead used one of the oldest “I’m not racist” lines in the book.

Last month, Haley forgot to mention slavery when asked about the cause of the Civil War, but during Thursday night’s town hall, she said it’s only because she grew up in the South, where slavery doesn’t need to be mentioned. Also, she used to have a lot of Black friends growing up.

“Chris Christie, though, said you came out and gave that answer not because you’re in his words ‘dumb or racist,’ but because you’re unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth. What do you say to that?” CNN anchor Erin Burnett asked Haley, referring to her recent Civil War gaffe.

“What I will tell you is that Chris Christie is from New Jersey,” Haley said after commenting that she’s never afraid to offend. “I should have said slavery right off the bat, but if you grow up in South Carolina, literally in second and third grade you learn about slavery. You grow up and you have—you know, I had Black friends growing up. It’s a very talked about thing. We have a big history in South Carolina when it comes to, you know, slavery, when it comes to all the things that happen with the Civil War, all that.”

“I was over—I was thinking past slavery and talking about the lesson that we would learn going forward,” the former U.N. ambassador added. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

Asked about her Civil War/slavery comments debacle, Haley says “I had Black friends going up.” pic.twitter.com/pFGbtoGFEm

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 5, 2024

“I knew half of South Carolinians saw the Confederate flag as heritage and tradition. The other half of South Carolinians saw it as slavery and hate. My job wasn’t to judge either side,” Haley continued, noting that “a leader doesn’t decide who’s right.”

The defense mode train of thought comes after a controversial campaign town hall held in North Conway, New Hampshire, last month, where the typically expedient politico stumbled and fumbled her way through answering what would better be likened to a middle school quiz question than a real stumper.

“What was the cause of the United States Civil War?” asked one audience member.

“Well, don’t come with an easy question,” the former South Carolina governor threw back before embarking on a response that made even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis comment “yikes.”

“I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run, the freedoms, and what people could and couldn’t do,” Haley said at the time.

“I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are,” Haley added. “And I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people. Government doesn’t need to tell you how to live your life. They don’t need to tell you what you can and can’t do. They don’t need to be a part of your life.”

Recent polling numbers have suggested that Haley could prove quite a challenge to the former president’s bid for the White House. A recent survey out of New Hampshire by the American Research Group predicted a Trump GOP primary win by a margin of just four percent—currying 37 percent of the Republican vote against potential runner-up Nikki Haley with 33 percent.

Donald Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba appeared to suggest that certain Supreme Court justices owe her former boss for their jobs and should therefore rule in his favor.

Habba, who seems to have a habit of saying things that are bad for the legitimacy of Trump’s case, appeared on Fox News Thursday night to discuss Trump being disqualified from the Colorado and Maine 2024 primary ballots. Trump has appealed the Maine decision, an indication he intends to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

“I think it should be a slam dunk in the Supreme Court. I have faith in them,” Habba told host Sean Hannity. “People like Kavanaugh, who the president fought for, who the president went through hell to get into place. He’ll step up, those people will step up.”

“Not because they’re pro-Trump, but because they’re pro-law, because they’re pro-fairness. And the law on this is very clear.”

Habba: I think it should be a slam dunk in the supreme court. I have faith in them. You know, people like Kavanaugh, who the president fought for, who the president went through hell to get into place. He’ll step up. pic.twitter.com/gQo1h55t6N

— Acyn (@Acyn) January 5, 2024

Habba was referring specifically to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearing was rocked by multiple sexual assault allegations. After a lengthy process, made especially painful by coming so soon after the #MeToo movement began, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court. Trump did not actually do anything to help Kavanaugh except complain a lot on X, formerly Twitter.

As for Habba’s claim that the “law on this is very clear,” it actually isn’t. That’s why the Supreme Court might need to weigh in on the issue of Trump’s eligibility.

Trump was disqualified from the primary ballots in Colorado and Maine after the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine secretary of state determined in December that he had engaged in insurrection and was therefore constitutionally ineligible to run for president.

Dozens of similar cases are either ongoing or already decided in other states—and some of the outcomes have been the complete opposite. The secretaries of state in Michigan, Minnesota, and California have all determined that Trump will remain on their presidential ballots.

Multiple legal scholars have urged the justices to resolve the issue and provide a single rule for all states, instead of having a messy mix of some state ballots with Trump’s name and some without. It’s unclear how the Supreme Court will rule, though. Many of the justices, including some appointed by Trump, are hardline textualists and could actually rule that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to Trump, disqualifying him.

More on Trump’s legal woes:

Twitter’s algorithm is promoting what may be the most unsavory conspiracy theory yet: that the Perry, Iowa, high school shooting is somehow part of a larger Jeffrey Epstein cover-up.

Since Wednesday evening’s release of 943 pages of court documents related to Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex trafficking ring, the conspiracy theories have run amok. But now, X (formerly known as Twitter) is helping take it to the next level.

One post by a verified QAnon promoter became the center of attention, garnering the most views on the floundering social media platform for claiming that the Perry shooting was a “false flag” to “distract the media” from the release of the documents.

“Not even 24 hours after the Epstein court document was released we have multiple victims who were shot at Perry High School in Perry, Iowa,” posted user @ShadowofEzra, mere moments after 17-year-old student gunman Dylan Butler opened fire on his classmates, killing at least one person and leaving another five injured. It received more than 1.5 million views by the time of publication.

“Make no mistake this is a false flag to distract the media from discussing anything in relation to Jeffrey Epstein and his clients. As more names will be released in the coming days we expect more serious distractions and false flags,” the account added.

It was just one of dozens of QAnon accounts sharing the same sentiment.

The false flag disinformation narrative about the Perry High School shooting is spreading pretty quickly on Twitter/X, probably because the platform is leaving up all of the initial posts, which are among the first posts you see when you search for info about the shooting. pic.twitter.com/kK4O2obnID

— Caroline Orr Bueno, Ph.D (@RVAwonk) January 4, 2024

The wide spreading narrative is an entirely fabricated one, likely influenced by the conspiracy theorists’ own social media algorithms, which have been widely documented as drastically influencing users’ newsfeeds. Since Facebook was hounded for its role in promoting false news articles and memes planted by Russian-connected troll farms meant to influence the 2016 presidential election, social media algorithms have been roundly criticized for isolating users in feeds stacked with what they’d algorithmically prefer to see rather than what is actually happening.

In reality, practically every major news outlet has covered the recently unsealed documents—in just the last 24 hours, Google has recorded more than 3.8 million new items pertaining to the nine-years-in-the-making release, chief among them articles from reputable news outlets around the globe, including The New York Times, Al Jazeera, the BBC, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, and thousands of others.

Meanwhile, there were 134 incidents of gunfire on U.S. school grounds in 2023—translating to an attack less than every three days, according to data from Everytown for School Safety, a statistic that unfortunately makes the occurrence of a school shooting more likely than not, Epstein’s revelatory case files be damned.

But not everyone, including some candidates for the highest offices in government, appear to have performed even that miniscule amount of research before sharing their own conspiratorial opinions on the matter.

“Not even 12 hours after the Epstein documents are released there is a mass shooting at a high school in Perry, Iowa,” posted Florida Republican Lavern Spicer, who is running for the state’s 24th Congressional District.

“I ain’t saying nothing,” she added.

X’s algorithmic choices on Thursday add to growing concern about the direction of the platform under Elon Musk, who has himself shared antisemitic and conspiratorial rhetoric that ultimately drove dozens of the company’s biggest advertisers, including Disney and IBM, off the platform.

Oklahoma, one of the worst states in the country for child hunger, has rejected a federal program that would have provided food for low-income children over the summer.

The summer EBT benefits program launched nationwide in 2023, after being pilot-tested for a few years. Under the program, eligible families would have received $40 per eligible child, per month, in the form of a pre-loaded card that can be used to buy groceries. The benefits work in conjunction with other food aid programs such as SNAP and WIC.

The deadline for states to indicate they intended to opt in to the program was on January 1. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s office said they were concerned that states had to opt in before the exact rules of the program had been finalized. Stitt’s office also said that the program could incur new administrative costs. (All of the benefits are funded by the federal program, and states simply have to pay half the cost to run the actual program.)

But gubernatorial spokeswoman Abegail Cave argued that the summer EBT program was unnecessary. “Oklahoma already has multiple programs to serve food-insecure children across Oklahoma,” she said.

Chris Bernard, the president and CEO of Hunger Free Oklahoma, pointed out that about 20 percent of children in Oklahoma currently experience food insecurity, while about 60 percent rely on free or reduced-price school lunches.

We’re one of the worst in the nation, and that’s been true for a while now,” Bernard said. “Parents are going to skip meals, or you’re going to stretch meals farther. The charitable side will try and fill that gap. But there are going to be some struggles.”

Although Oklahoma has rejected the summer program, the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations, both of which are located in the Sooner State, are opting in. The Cherokee Nation joined the program when it was still in its pilot stage, and leaders reported helping feed 7,000 children in the summer of 2023.

“I wish Oklahoma was participating. It’s frankly mystifying as to why they’re not participating for a relatively small administrative cost, bringing federal tax dollars back home in the form of a benefit for low-income families. That’s, to me, as much of a no brainer as you could get. I’m baffled as to why the state of Oklahoma is not participating,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

It’s not just Oklahoma: A total of just 39 states, territories, and tribal nations have indicated they plan to join the program this summer, according to the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service.

This, unfortunately, follows a larger trend of politicians apparently wanting kids to go hungry. In June, the Republican Study Committee released a proposed budget for 2024. One of the party’s professed priorities is to eliminate the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, from the School Lunch Program, because “CEP allows certain schools to provide free school lunches regardless of the individual eligibility of each student.”

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