Report: Texas Rapidly Reduced Number Of Polling Sites In Black and Latino Communities

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Data shows Texas officials have quickly closed polling places in some of the most diverse, rapidly growing regions of the state.

Former Vice President Joe Biden visited Dallas on Monday to collect a few major campaign endorsements from some of his former Democratic primary competitors.  

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke all suggested Biden would propel down-ballot Democrats to victory in politically moderate regions of the country. O’Rourke specifically said Biden would help Texas Democrats win the nine seats they need to reclaim the state legislature for the first time in decades. 

“You, Mr. President, as the top of the ticket, can help us do that,” he said.

Because growing Black and Latino communities in Texas mark a demographic shift in the state, many pollsters believe Texas is a toss-up to swing either Republican or Democrat in the 2020 elections and for years to come. For the former candidates, a Biden endorsement is key for a new blue wave.

But recently compiled data and analysis show Texas Democrats face structural obstacles to victory that Biden alone cannot fix, including the closures of hundreds of polling places in counties with large or growing Black and Latino populations. 

A 2019 report from The Leadership Conference Education Fund (LCEF), a civil rights organization, reveals Texas officials began rapidly decreasing the number of polling places in these counties with significant communities of color around the time the Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The provision, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, required certain states with histories of racist voting practices to get clearance from the federal government before closing polling places or changing their voting laws. 

Furthermore, analysis reported by The Guardian found that the 50 Texas counties that gained the most Black and Latino residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites over that span, while the 50 counties that gained the fewest Black and Latino residents during that time only closed 34 sites. 

“This is despite the fact that the population in the former group of counties has risen by 2.5 million people,” The Guardian reports, “whereas in the latter category the total population has fallen by over 13,000.”

Two Texas counties ― Somervell County and Jackson County ― rank in the top 10 in the nation in percentage of polling places closed since the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act ruling. And when looking at the total number of polling places closed nationwide, six of the 10 counties with the most closures are in Texas, according to the LCEF report. The organization found Texas closed 750 polling places statewide following the Supreme Court decision.

Texas is one of several states that allows the use of “vote centers” in place of regular polling sites. One major difference between a vote center and typical polling places is any voter can cast votes at a vote center, regardless where they live, whereas voters are assigned polling places by the county. For that reason, vote centers are sometimes seen as a convenient alternative to typical polling places. But in Texas, counties can close several polling places and erect only few vote centers in their place.

“While generally intended to enhance access to voting locations, this model often leads to massive reductions in polling places,” the report says, adding that contrary to the period when the Voting Rights Act was in full effect, Texas officials are now not required to determine whether the changes impose disparate impacts on Black and brown voters.

A spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party said the raft of polling place closures in diverse communities are attempts by conservative election officials to shrink and restrict the electorate.

“People have died to fight for the sanctity of the vote,” the spokesperson, Abhi Rahman, told HuffPost.  

“Republicans’ only way to retain power is to basically curb the vote, and we’re fighting back against all of those attempts,” he added.

Rahman said the Texas Democratic Party is conducting the “most expansive voter protection program in Texas Democratic Party history” in partnership with the organization Fair Fight, a voting rights group founded by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams. 

“We have an around-the-clock voter protection team working to fight back and make sure voting is more convenient than it ever has been in the past,” Rahman said.



Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday

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The former vice president romped across the country, Bernie Sanders won California and Elizabeth Warren failed to win a single primary, including her home state.

Former Vice President Joe Biden barely campaigned in Super Tuesday states. He was outspent by tens of millions of dollars and had little to no staff on the ground to reach voters with his message about “restoring the soul of America.”

It didn’t matter. Biden romped to victory across the country on Tuesday, a stunning result for a campaign that looked terminal just a few weeks ago after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Buoyed by his blowout victory in South Carolina over the weekend and a slew of Democratic Party endorsements that followed, Biden carried the Southern states of Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Alabama. He won in Massachusetts, the home state of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, where he didn’t campaign at all. And he won in Minnesota, a state carried by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016, where he also made no appearances. 

It’s an incredibly rapid change of fortune that few saw coming last week.

“I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a 48-hour voter swing like this in my 35 years on this earth,” Alex Goldstein, who worked as a spokesman for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, tweeted after Biden scored a surprise win in the state’s primary. 

Biden’s biggest coup of the night may have been co-opting Sanders’s core argument in the race for the Democratic nomination: that he can attract new voters, grow the electorate and build a multiracial coalition that can defeat President Donald Trump. Across the U.S. on Tuesday, Biden performed well in swing district suburban communities, like in Northern Virginia and Minnesota’s Twin Cities area, which helped Democrats capture the House in 2018. He also did well with white working-class voters in the South and college-educated white voters in the North. But if Biden ends up winning the nomination, it’ll be largely thanks to Black voters, who helped resuscitate his struggling campaign.

Increased voter participation also boosted Biden’s case on Tuesday. As in South Carolina, Virginia experienced a large increase in voter turnout. Nearly twice as many Virginians came out to the polls this year compared to the 2016 Democratic primary. Biden pointed to his double-digit victory there as evidence that he ― and not his rivals ― was growing the electorate.

“People are talking about a revolution; we started a movement,” a jubilant Biden said at an event in Los Angeles, noting the increased turnout and taking a subtle jab at Sanders and his promise to overhaul the nation’s political system.

Though he won in his home state of Vermont and in Utah, Colorado and California, the biggest prize of the night, Sanders underperformed relative to expectations. Some polls showed him winning or in a competitive position in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and Oklahoma, but Biden carried all four, and he committed few if any resources in doing so.

As early as last week, before Biden’s South Carolina victory, there was talk of the Vermont senator potentially collecting enough delegates by the middle of March that no one else could catch up with him in the race for the nomination. Now a similar conversation will likely take place about Biden’s campaign. 

“This is one of the greatest comebacks ― one of the greatest political comebacks ― in modern American political history,” Biden senior adviser Kate Bedingfield said in an interview on CNN.

The biggest remaining question of the night is how big Sanders’s delegate lead ends up being in California, which is famous for its slow counting. With 494 delegates up for grabs, the state has the potential to reshape the race once more. Sanders is projected to do very well there, thanks in large part to young voters and Latinos. But Warren and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who failed to win a single state primary despite pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the race, could play spoiler for Sanders in California, allowing Biden to net some delegates there as well.

Learning the final outcome in the California presidential primary could take weeks, however, meaning the fierce battle for delegates between Biden and Sanders will only heat up during the next round of state primaries next week.

“We expect that the shelf-life of conventional wisdom tonight will be very short,” Sanders communications director Mike Casca said Tuesday, pushing back on the notion that Biden’s success on Tuesday will be a game-changer.

But the race only gets harder for Sanders from here. Coming primaries include Michigan, where he is expected to do well, but also states like Mississippi, Missouri, Georgia, and Florida, where he struggled in 2016 and is currently trailing in the polls.



Trump Launches New Attack On Supreme Court, Demands Liberal Justices Recuse

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The president wants associate justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to sit out any “Trump-related” cases.

President Donald Trump launched a new attack on the judicial system on Monday, targeting the highest court in the land by demanding that two liberal Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from any case involving him or his administration. 

Trump claimed associate justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg couldn’t be fair to him: 

Trump has a history of attacking prosecutors and judges. Earlier this month, he slammed U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the judge in the case against longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. She also presided over a case that concluded last year against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. 

Trump tried to insult U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, by describing him as a “Mexican.” He also called U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar a “disgrace” and an “Obama judge” for ruling against his administration in an immigration case.

Trump’s latest attack seems to be in response to a dissent Sotomayor wrote last week in which she accused the Supreme Court’s conservative wing of being biased toward the administration, saying they’ve been “all too quick to grant the Government’s ‘reflexiv[e]’ requests.” She warned that such actions could “erode the fair and balanced decisionmaking process that this Court must strive to protect.” 

Twitter users blasted the president over his demand that the two justices recuse themselves:


Katherine Johnson, mathematician and real-life subject of 'Hidden Figures,' dies at 101

Johnson helped pave the way for NASA achievements.

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who helped pave the way for the first American astronaut to successfully orbit the Earth, died Monday morning at the age of 101, according to NASA.

The pivotal roles of Johnson and other African-American women at NASA were highlighted in the 2016 film "Hidden Figures."

"Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. "Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars. MORE: NASA honors 'hidden figures' who helped John Glenn orbit the Earth

Johnson was hired by NASA in 1953 and calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, before electronic computers were used.

When John Glenn was preparing for his mission on which he'd become the first American to orbit the Earth, he requested that Johnson personally recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers.

According to Johnson, Glenn said, "If she says they're good, then I'm ready to go."MORE: John Glenn, 1st American to orbit Earth, dies

President Barack Obama presented Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

"In her 33 years at NASA," Obama said at the time, Johnson "broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science and reach for the stars."

Bridenstine said in his statement, "We will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her."

Actress Taraji P. Henson, who played Johnson in "Hidden Figures," wrote on Instagram Monday, "Thank you QUEEN #KatherineJohnson for sharing your intelligence, poise, grace and beauty with the world! Because of your hard work little girls EVERYWHERE can dream as big as the MOON!!! Your legacy will live on FORVER AND EVER!!! You ran so we could fly!!!"

"I will forever be honored to have been apart of bringing your story to life," she continued. "You/your story was hidden and thank GOD you are #hiddennomore? God bless your beautiful family. I am so honored to have sat and broke bread with you all. My thoughts and prayers are with you!"

Famed Restaurateur And Lifestyle Guru B. Smith Dies At 70

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Smith was a successful model, restaurateur and the host of a nationally syndicated lifestyle talk show.

Restaurateur and lifestyle guru B. Smith has died at age 70, her husband Dan Gasby announced Sunday. 

“B. died peacefully Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:50 pm, of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in our home in Long Island, New York,” Gasby wrote in a Facebook post.  

“Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.’s dazzling and unforgettable smile,” he added.

Smith, whose full name was Barbara Elaine Smith, began her career as a model in the 1960s. She parlayed her success and later became a restaurateur, opening her first B. Smith restaurant in New York City in 1986. She went on to open more restaurants in New York City and Washington, D.C., and was widely viewed as a lifestyle maven. In 1997, she began airing a nationally syndicated talk show called “B. Smith With Style.”   

In 2014, at age 64, Smith revealed she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. 

“I’m going to do my best to make it work out for me, and for as many people that I can possibly help, too,” she said at the time

Smith wrote numerous books, including the cookbooks “B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends” and “B. Smith’s Rituals and Celebrations.” Some of her experience with Alzheimer’s is documented in a book she co-wrote with her husband called “Before I Forget.” 

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