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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| April 2, 2021 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Last week Georgia Republicans enacted restrictive voting laws that Democrats immediately promised to take to court, calling the measures “flagrantly racist.” Politico reported that the new law includes: a ban on “line warming,” (a practice of distributing food and water for voters forced to wait in long lines); new identification requirements; shortening run-off elections from nine weeks to four weeks; shortening the time to return mail-in ballots; a reduced time-frame for receiving absentee ballots; cuts to early in-person voting; less time for requesting an absentee ballot; restricting access to ballot drop boxes; and the removal of Georgia’s secretary of state as the chair of the state election board. (The Georgia Secretary of State, a Republican, drew heat from other Republicans for not supporting the former president’s claims of election fraud).

The bill’s supporters said the intent is to prevent voter fraud; Politico said there was no evidence of such during the last election. The new Georgia law turns the election board over to the legislature and provides them with the authority to suspend county election officials.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and fellow Republican lawmakers in Congress are fighting the For the People Act, which would protect voting, make it easier to vote, end gerrymandering and cut dark money out of politics. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), talking to CNBC.com, said he’d like to ask Republican colleagues, “Why are you so afraid of democracy? Why, instead of trying to win voters over that you lost in the last election, are you trying to prevent them from voting?”

Making it easier to vote does not guarantee wins for Democrats at the polls, Washington Monthly magazine recently suggested. They pointed to 2020 and the predicted “Blue Wave” that did not materialize. Meanwhile, Republicans flipped 15 seats in the House of Representatives and did well in state elections.

The nation is approaching 550,000 COVID-19 deaths. While there’s a surge in vaccinations, there is also a surge in cases owing to variants. A year ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned the count could go as high as 100,000. At that time, 2,500 had died. On CNN, Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the last administrations COVID-19 response team, recently stated that the deaths above 100,000 were avoidable, but she witnessed that most of the people in the White House a year ago “did not take this seriously.” The Hill reported that polls put President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic at 71 percent.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, faces multiple allegations of wrongdoing: sexual harassment, under-reporting of nursing home COVID-19 deaths and ethical concerns over vaccine distribution. The WEEK reports that 60 of the state’s Democratic lawmakers want Cuomo to step down.

Abolishing the Electoral College will rid the country of the hypocrisy of violating the principle of “one person one vote,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece. He pointed out that so far this century two men became president without the majority vote. He argued that the Electoral College is the remnant of a plan to preserve the power of slaveholding states.

As an alternative to passing a Constitutional Amendment to toss the Electoral College, Merkley pointed to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Compact, which has legislative support from 15 states and the District of Columbia, commits members to giving their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Every vote is counted equally under this system, Merkley wrote, and presidential candidates would focus on all states, not just swing states, providing access to voices from outside “our normal echo-chamber bubble.”

The Biden Administration has opened a special health insurance enrollment period (info at healthcare.gov). The special period comes in conjunction with the American Rescue Plan, which includes increasing subsidies so no more than 8.5 percent of income is used for comprehensive health coverage.

Blast from the past: the nation’s first public health care legislation was signed in 1798 by President John Adams. It called for payment for medical care and hospitalization for the Navy and for civilian sailors.

Both Adams and George Washington participated in quarantine events during the pandemic summers of 1793 and 1798, and both promoted inoculation against smallpox. In a lockdown in Philadelphia (the nation’s capitol from 1790 to 1800), due to the yellow fever epidemic, churches could not meet and some quarantine areas were closed for most of the year.