Voters head to the polls today for a midterm election that’s widely seen as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency, with both houses of Congress and 36 governor’s races in the balance. Thirty-six million Americans voted early this year, with participation high among young people and people of color. That’s up from 27 million four years ago, leading many to predict a record turnout for a midterm election. Politico is reporting that glitchy voting machines in Texas and Georgia have caused some votes for Democrats to be switched for the Republican candidate or deleted. Experts have said the error is a technical malfunction. Voters and civil rights groups in Texas and Georgia have filed complaints in what are two of the most closely watched states this midterm election.
In the final stretch of campaigning, President Trump appeared at rallies in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri Monday. He repeated his vicious verbal attacks on Democrats and a Central American migrant caravan heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
President Donald Trump: “You think we’re letting that caravan come into this country? You can forget it. But the Democrats want to abolish ICE. They want America to be a giant sanctuary city for drug dealers, predators and bloodthirsty MS-13 killers. Republicans believe America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans, not criminal aliens.”
At his final campaign stop in Missouri Monday night, Trump was introduced by right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh. Trump then invited Fox News host Sean Hannity to the stage. Hannity then addressed the crowd, after he promised earlier in the day he would only be covering the event as a journalist. Hannity immediately attacked the press.
Sean Hannity: “By the way, all those people in the back are fake news.”
Among those Sean Hannity pointed to were colleagues at his own network, Fox News.
Meanwhile, backlash against a racist campaign ad Trump tweeted last week continued Monday. The ad features a Mexican man who was convicted of killing two California deputies earlier this year. In the ad, he’s seen smiling and saying, “I’m going to kill more cops soon,” as the text on screen reads, “Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay.” The ad also shows crowds of migrants pushing through a gated barrier, equating them with murderers. CNN refused the ad, calling it blatantly “racist.” NBC and Fox News agreed to pull the ad after broadcasting it to millions of people. Facebook blocked the ad from receiving paid distribution after initially allowing it. When asked Monday about the ad he himself tweeted last Wednesday, Trump denied any knowledge of it.
President Donald Trump: “I don’t know about it. I mean, you’re telling me something I don’t know about. We have a lot of ads. And they certainly are effective, based on the numbers that we’re seeing.”
Reporter: “Well, Mr. President, a lot of folks have said that ad was offensive. Why did you like that ad?”
President Donald Trump: “Well, a lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive a lot of times.”
In Georgia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is accusing her Republican opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, of abusing his power with “cooked up” hacking accusations against her party. On Sunday, Kemp charged Democrats with hacking voter registration systems—but provided no evidence. The last-minute probe is widely seen as an attempt to derail the Abrams campaign by twisting a concerned voter’s complaint about alleged voting security issues, that was sent to the Democrats before they then sent it to voter protection. Voter protection is run by Brian Kemp, the Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate challenging Stacey Abrams. This is Stacey Abrams.
Stacey Abrams: “Once again, for the third time, he has put our voters at risk, and he has refused to take responsibility. The first two times he blamed a vendor and an employee, and this time he’s blaming the Democratic Party. Brian Kemp has never once taken responsibility for his actions. And he should not get a promotion to a higher position, because he will constantly abuse that power, as well.”
Meanwhile, Kemp campaign robocalls are repeating false claims that “radical” Abrams is planning on stealing the election by allowing undocumented people to vote.
Kemp campaign robocall: “Radical Stacey Abrams is so extreme that she wants to allow illegal immigrants to vote in this election. We can’t let her steal this election. It’s up to you to stop her!”
The Kemp campaign’s official robocalls went out as a series of unofficial, explicitly racist robocalls targeting Abrams have also been reported. The calls are reported to be the work of white supremacist media group Road to Power. A warning: This recording is extremely racist.
Robocall: “This is the magical negro, Oprah Winfrey, asking you to make my fellow negress, Stacey Abrams, the governor of Georgia.”
Oprah Winfrey campaigned with Abrams last week. Road to Power is also responsible for racist robocalls targeting African-American Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. At a campaign event for Gillum’s opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis, Saturday, Florida Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue reportedly described the Florida gubernatorial election as being “cotton-pickin’ important.”
Students in high schools and colleges across the country are planning to walk out of class this morning at 10 a.m. to march to the polls as part of the “Walkout to Vote” initiative. Organized by the youth-led network Future Coalition, students will go to the polls to cast ballots and, for those too young to vote, cheer on their older peers.
A federal trial is underway in New York City that could overturn the Trump administration’s plans to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Voting rights activists fear the question will deter immigrants from participating in the census, leading to a vast undercount in states with large immigrant communities. This could impact everything from the redrawing of congressional maps to the allocation of federal funding. Federal courts have ordered Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to testify to his motivations in ordering the citizenship question, although the Supreme Court has put that order on a temporary hold. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman said it was plausible that “[Wilbur Ross’s] decision to reinstate the citizenship question was motivated at least in part by discriminatory animus and will result in a discriminatory effect.” We’ll have more on the fight over the citizenship question on the 2020 census after headlines, when we’ll speak with journalist Ari Berman, author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.”
In more election news, Colorado voters will decide on a ballot measure that could restrict where new oil and gas wells can be located. Proposition 112 would bar drilling sites closer than about a half-mile from buildings and “vulnerable areas” like parks and waterways. Another Colorado measure backed by the fossil fuel industry, Amendment 74, would make it easier for property owners to sue for compensation if their property values are diminished by government regulation. Critics say Amendment 74 would force taxpayers to pay companies not to frack for oil and gas.
In Washington state, voters will decide the fate of Initiative 1631, a ballot measure that would make their state the first in the country to enact a fee on carbon dioxide emissions. The measure would force polluters to pay $15 per metric ton of carbon emitted starting in 2020, with annual increases of $2 per ton until Washington meets its target for greenhouse gas reductions. Fossil fuel interests have spent a record amount—at least $32 million—to defeat the measure.
In New York City, local leaders gathered at the African Burial Ground Monument Monday to condemn racist graffiti found on a sign at the historic landmark last week that read ”KILL N*****S.” Last week, anti-Semitic graffiti was found at several sites in Brooklyn, New York, including a synagogue. City Councilmember Jumaane Williams warned yesterday of an “atmosphere that’s been created in this country, unfortunately that’s coming down to the city and this state.” This comes as ABC News identified at least 17 criminal cases where Trump’s name or his rhetoric was directly invoked in connection with acts of violence.
In Cameroon, armed rebels kidnapped at least 79 students and their principal, according to local reports. The kidnapping in northwestern Cameroon was reportedly orchestrated by separatist fighters who have been calling for a secession of Cameroon’s anglophone regions, which they say are politically disadvantaged in the predominantly French-speaking nation.
In Ukraine, 33-year-old anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handziuk died Sunday from complications from wounds caused by an acid attack three months ago. Handziuk was a prominent anti-corruption advocate and political adviser who spoke out against corruption in law enforcement agencies and the police’s inaction in the face of increasing attacks on Ukrainian activists. Protesters gathered in five Ukrainian cities Sunday evening to call for justice and a transparent investigation into Handziuk’s killing. Five men have been detained, but no one has been publicly charged with ordering the attack. Human rights groups say that there have been more than 55 unsolved attacks on activists in Ukraine since the start of 2017.
And in Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is challenging his conviction on corruption charges, after the judge who ruled on his case accepted a top position in the Cabinet of far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. Lula’s lawyers argue that newly appointed Justice Minister Sérgio Moro has “proven his bias” by joining Bolsonaro’s Cabinet and that the charges against Lula were always politically motivated and designed to keep him from running for the presidency again. Lula is currently serving a 12-year term in prison; polls ahead of the election showed he was on track to win easily. In October, the world-renowned linguist, dissident and author Noam Chomsky visited Lula in prison; he recently spoke to Democracy Now! about that encounter.
Noam Chomsky: “Solitary confinement, barred from receiving books, press or journals and, crucially, the courts decided, not permitted to make a public statement, unlike, say, a convicted murderer. So he’s silenced, put away. Then comes the next step, a huge—there has been a major—in fact, I think he should be regarded as probably the most important political prisoner in the world today.”