October, 06 2020, 12:00am EDT
For Immediate Release
Contact: Susan Lehman, (212) 998-6318,Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, (212) 998-6289 or (646) 265-7721
Lawsuit Filed to Stop Texas Governor's Limit on Drop-Off Sites for Absentee Ballots
Anti-Defamation League and Common Cause sue to protect voters’ options during pandemic.
Today, the Anti-Defamation League's Austin, Southwest, and Texoma Regions, Common Cause Texas, and an individual Texas voter filed suit to block the governor of Texas from limiting drop-off sites for absentee ballots to a maximum of one per county during the state's early voting period, regardless of the size of a county's population or the distribution of that population. The plaintiffs argue that this order - which Governor Greg Abbott issued by proclamation on October 1 - exceeds his authority and would make it unreasonably difficult for eligible Texans to use ballot by mail.
"The state of Texas should be working to ensure safe and accessible voting for all Texans," said Cheryl Drazin, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League's Central Division. "The governor's order does the opposite. Limiting the number of drop-off sites available to absentee voters reduces the options Texans have to participate in the 2020 election without risking their health."
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that the limit on drop-off sites exceeds Governor Abbott's authority and places an unconstitutional burden on Texans who are eligible to cast absentee ballots, particularly in geographically large counties. With one drop-off location per county, many voters would have to travel significant distances and spend substantial amounts of time to cast their ballots. The state's early voting period begins on October 13.
"Many of the Texans who qualify to vote absentee have disabilities and are elderly, and they rely on public transportation," said Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas. "With only one drop-off site per county, these voters would face challenges in travel that might make it impossible for them to vote. The drop-off site limit will also make the one site in each country prone to lines and crowds, endangering voters' health."
The governor's order comes at a time of delays in mail delivery through the US Postal Service, making meeting the deadline for absentee ballots to count uncertain.
"Governor Abbott's order takes healthy, reasonable, safe options away from some of this state's most vulnerable voters," said Myrna Perez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. "It should not stand."
In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the Texas Election Code designates the county clerk, not the governor, as the official with the authority to manage and conduct the early voting process.
"The governor doesn't have the legal authority to limit drop-off sites for absentee ballots. It's up to each county's clerk to decide how many drop-off sites the county needs and where they should be placed," said Lindsey Cohan, counsel at Dechert LLP.
In Texas, voters are eligible to vote absentee if they are 65 years or older, have an illness or disability, will be out of the country during early voting or election day, and are in jail but would otherwise qualify for absentee voting.
The Anti-Defamation League's Austin, Southwest, and Texoma Regions, Common Cause Texas, and Robert Knetsch are represented in this case by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and Dechert LLP. The lawsuit, Anti-Defamation League Austin, Southwest, and Texoma Regions v. Abbott, was filed in the district court of Travis County.
Complaint is here.
Case background is here.
One activist warned that "this is going to become the healthcare legacy of the Biden presidency" if his administration doesn't act.
Sep 08, 2023
Texas has removed more people from Medicaid than any other state, disenrolling around 617,000 in just a few months.
States across the U.S. have stripped nearly 6 million people of Medicaid coverage over just the past several months, creating what one healthcare activist and researcher described as "the largest concentration of health insurance loss in American history."
"This is happening in red states like Texas, Utah, or Idaho, where we expect this brutal Medicaid retrenchment," Beatrice Adler-Bolton, co-author of " Health Communism" and co-host of the popular "Death Panel" podcast, said in a statement on Friday.
"But there are huge amounts of procedural disenrollments happening in California. It's happening in Rhode Island and California and New Mexico," noted Adler-Bolton. "This is a year-long process, and it's just getting started. It's moving slowly, and it's more dangerous this way. This process is rolling, so the data is slow. We're not going to have a full picture of how to compare states against each other for months and months."
The latest data compiled by KFF—which includes publicly reported figures from 48 states and Washington, D.C.—shows that at least 5.7 million people have lost Medicaid coverage since April, when states began eligibility checks and disenrollments that were paused during the coronavirus pandemic.
A bipartisan deal reached by Congress and approved by President Joe Biden late last year lifted the pandemic-era continuous coverage requirements that prevented states from kicking people off Medicaid during the public health emergency. The policy led to record Medicaid enrollment, and its termination could cause upwards of 15 million people—including millions of children—to lose coverage under the program.
According to KFF, 73% of the people disenrolled from Medicaid so far have lost coverage for procedural reasons—such as a failure to return paperwork on time or jump through other, often confusing, bureaucratic hoops—not because they were deemed ineligible due to their income or other factors.
"High procedural disenrollment rates are concerning because many people who are disenrolled for these paperwork reasons may still be eligible for Medicaid coverage," KFF explained earlier this week. "Some states, such as Maine, have temporarily paused procedural terminations for some enrollees while the states address problems in the renewal process that lead to increased procedural disenrollments."
"Many of these individuals did not receive any notice of denial, leaving them unaware of their coverage termination."
Texas has removed more people from Medicaid than any other state, disenrolling around 617,000 in just a few months.
Late last month, the state's entire Democratic congressional delegation implored the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to intervene and ensure that Texas' Republican-dominated government complies with federal rules to "prevent the catastrophic loss of coverage."
The Democratic lawmakers, led by Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Greg Casar, cited a July whistleblower letter that issued dire warnings about Texas' Medicaid purge.
The whistleblowers, who identified themselves as employees of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, wrote that roughly two weeks after the mass disenrollments began, "we started receiving numerous emails from agency leadership indicating that thousands of individuals had been erroneously denied coverage."
"As a result of the initial process we ran in April, we were informed that approximately 80,000 individuals lost coverage erroneously, including several thousand pregnant women who required critical services during their pregnancies or essential post-pregnancy care coverage," the whistleblowers wrote. "Additionally, we received subsequent emails from agency leadership indicating that several thousand elderly individuals were slated to lose medical coverage, which previously paid a portion of their Medicare Part B expenses."
"Many of these individuals did not receive any notice of denial," they added, "leaving them unaware of their coverage termination until their social benefits were reduced to cover the premium payments."
Shortly after the whistleblower allegations emerged, CMS sent letters to all 50 states noting that it had "learned of additional systems and operational issues affecting multiple states, which may be resulting in eligible individuals being improperly disenrolled."
One problem identified by CMS could be having a disproportionate impact on kids, the agency said in a statement.
"CMS believes that eligibility systems in a number of states are programmed incorrectly and are conducting automatic renewals at the family level and not the individual level, even though individuals in a family may have different eligibility requirements to qualify for Medicaid and [the Children's Health Insurance Program]," the agency said. "For example, children often have higher eligibility thresholds than their parents, making them more likely to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP coverage even if their parents no longer qualify."
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one Biden administration toldThe Washington Post that the number of children affected by the programming issue "is likely in the millions."
CMS has also warned that long call center times in at least 16 states could be causing people to give up on trying to renew their coverage.
While Republican-led such as Texas and Florida have moved aggressively to gut their Medicaid rolls, drawing outrage and lawsuits from residents, California, New York, and other blue states have also collectively removed hundreds of thousands of people from the program, often for procedural reasons—indicating a nationwide crisis.
Adler-Bolton warned Friday that "this is going to become the healthcare legacy of the Biden presidency" if his administration doesn't act quickly.
"When we look at [Affordable Care Act] enrollment expansion, 13 million people added in 2014. We're going to see a contraction of a similar amount—if not 10 million more—in the course of a calendar year," said Adler-Bolton. "CMS has the authority to halt procedural determinations today. We're only a few months into this and 74% are procedural determinations. CMS should be saying pause... It's their responsibility to do it."
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The new study's lead author said that "it is extremely concerning to see such significant warming in Antarctica, beyond natural variability."
Sep 08, 2023
Antarctica is warming at about double the rate of the rest of the planet and far more quickly than widely cited models projected, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change that swiftly alarmed scientists around the world.
"This is absolutely devastating news," declared climate scientist and University College London professor emeritus Bill McGuire.
"First, one has to wonder if perhaps we have already passed the West Antarctic collapse tipping point," the expert added on social media. "Second, it begs the question, are other climate model projections underestimating the speed of climate breakdown?"
Polar amplification, a phenomenon that causes higher temperatures near the poles, is well established in the Arctic, with a study published last yearshowing that the northern region is warming nearly four times faster than the global average. However, it has been less clearly identified across Antarctica, where scientists must contend with limited available temperature records and natural climate variability.
Due to the lack of Antarctic weather stations covering more than the past six decades, the four researchers behind the new study—who come from various European institutions—analyzed 78 ice cores to determine temperature variability over 1,000 years across seven regions.
The team found "direct evidence of Antarctic polar amplification at regional and continental scales," which major climate models don't show. The study states that "failing to consider the feedback loops causing polar amplification could lead to an underestimation of the magnitude of anthropogenic warming and its consequences in Antarctica."
Lead author Mathieu Casado, of the Laboratoire des Science du Climat et de l'Environnement in France, toldThe Guardian that "it is extremely concerning to see such significant warming in Antarctica, beyond natural variability."
Kyle Clem, a scientist at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand who was not involved with the new research but has studied record high temperatures at one South Pole weather station, told the newspaper that "the implications of this study are of particular importance for considering future changes in Antarctic sea ice, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and potentially even sea-level rise."
"As far as sea-level rise, ocean warming is already melting protective ice shelves in West Antarctica and causing the West Antarctic ice sheet to retreat," Clem said. He also highlighted the potential impact on coastal ice shelves that protect glaciers, explaining that "this has already been seen on the Antarctic peninsula in recent decades, and it could become a more widespread occurrence around Antarctica sooner than anticipated in a more strongly warming Antarctic climate."
The research from Casado's team was published the same day as a study about the West Antarctic ice sheet published in The Cryosphere.
"With more and more ice being lost in Antarctica over the last years, concerns have been raised whether a tipping point has already been crossed and an irreversible, long-term collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet has already been initiated," noted lead author Ronja Reese of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and England's Northumbria University.
"The results of our studies deliver two messages: First, while a number of glaciers in Antarctica are retreating at the moment, we find no indication of irreversible, self-reinforcing retreat yet, which is reassuring," Reese said. "However, our calculations also clearly indicate that an onset of an irreversible retreat of the ice sheet in West Antarctica is possible if the current state of the climate is sustained."
The new studies follow findings throughout this year that have elevated fears about the impact of human-caused global heating on Antarctica—from researchers revealing in February that Antarctic sea ice coverage hit its lowest January level ever recorded, to a May study that showed a 30% slowdown in vital deep water currents around the continent.
Research from last month warned it is "virtually certain that future Antarctic extreme events will be more pronounced than those observed to date" as humanity continues to burn fossil fuels, the key driver of the climate emergency. Another August study found that when Antarctic sea ice melted last year, it likely killed over 9,000 emperor penguin chicks.
Both Reese and Casado's studies also cap off a week of alarming global data about the climate emergency. International researchers confirmed that greenhouse gas concentrations, global sea level, and ocean heat content broke records last year. Scientists also announced that this summer of deadly heat is the hottest on record.
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Between 11 pm Thursday and midnight Friday local time, the Hong Kong Observatory recorded more than 6.2 inches of rain, the most rain in an hour since 1884.
Sep 08, 2023
The heaviest rainfall in 140 years brought deadly flooding to Hong Kong Friday.
The deluge killed two, injured more than 140, flooded streets and tunnels, and shuttered schools and the stock market.
"I've never seen scenes like this before. Even during previous typhoons, it was never this severe," Connie Cheung, a 65-year-old assistant nurse, toldReuters. "It's quite terrifying."
Between 11 pm Thursday and midnight Friday local time, the Hong Kong Observatory recorded more than 6.2 inches of rain, according to CNN. That's the most rain in an hour since 1884, when record-keeping started. The deluge prompted the weather agency to announce a "black" rainstorm warning—the highest possible.
"Hong Kong is experiencing a once-in-a-century torrential rainstorm, and 'extreme conditions' have made the situation serious in many districts," chief executive John Lee wrote on Facebook during the storm.
The rain came from once-typhoon Haikui, which made landfall in Fujian, China, Tuesday, Reuters reported. While it has since weakened to a tropical depression, it continues to dump rain while moving slowly. The climate crisis, caused mostly by the burning of fossil fuels, is making tropical storms more extreme, as Al Jazeera noted. At the same time, a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture—at a rate of 7% per 1.8°F of warming. The Hong Kong deluge comes days after Greece experienced its wettest 24-hours on record, as one official said.
"This is fast becoming the new normal," the activist group Climate Defiance wrote on the site formerly known as Twitter. "How is this normal? How can this go on?"
The storm killed at least two people, whom police found floating in flood waters, as The Associated Press reported. The fire department helped 110 people evacuate.
Rain flooded streets and subway stations, stranding commuters including professor Stuart Hargreaves, who told CNN he had to sleep in his car after the roads became "impassible."
"Water was coming over the hood of the car and I thought it was going to flood the engine," he said.
Hargreaves found a safe place to park for the night, and said when he drove home the streets were full of debris from flooding and landslides. Schools were closed Friday "due to extreme conditions," and authorities also urged workers not to go into the office, as Al Jazeera reported.
"I have instructed all government departments to race against time, concentrate firepower on the aftermath work, and repair the affected roads and community facilities as soon as possible."
The remnants of Haikui also brought extreme rainfall to southern China, where Shenzhen recorded a record 18.4 inches of rain, and more than 11,000 were evacuated from Meizhou in Guangdong province, as AP reported. In Shenzhen, schools were also closed, as well as some offices and subway stations, according to Reuters. Schools were closed or delayed in 10 Guangdong districts. Beijing also warned several of its neighborhoods to prepare for heavy flooding through Saturday, AP said.
In Hong Kong, the government began recovery efforts.
"I have instructed all government departments to race against time, concentrate firepower on the aftermath work, and repair the affected roads and community facilities as soon as possible," Lee wrote on Facebook.
However, some residents of Hong Kong expressed concerns online that the territory had not been prepared for the inundation, and Greenpeace East Asia raised questions about the city's ability to adapt to the climate crisis, noting that the storm overflowed the city's drainage system and that the city did not take advantage of its emergency alert systems.
"Greenpeace Hong Kong urges the government to study the impacts of climate change, identify high-risk areas, create long-term response strategies, improve emergency response capabilities, and propel the development of renewable energy and energy conservation measures," the group wrote on social media.
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