Summer is here, but strange political happenings never take a vacation in America. Here's a not-at-all representative smattering of what's happening in state politics, both the important and merely amusing. Come for the Vaseline and glitter; stay for the city commissioner in a chicken suit.
Stolen election (signs)
It's the electoral off-season, but special elections have kept those hungry for horse-race drama sated — even if nothing surprising ended up happening. The candidates who won belonged to the same party as the new Trump cabinet members they replaced, money and excitement behind electing the resistance be damned. And, as often happens in elections where emotions boil over ... campaign signs were stolen.
One lawn in the Georgia district that just hosted the most expensive House race of all time had a homemade sign that read, “Seriously asking: Why did you steal our Jon Ossoff signs?” A sign next to it was left blank, in case anyone stupid enough to steal campaign signs was also dumb enough to revisit the scene of the crime to explain why. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some homeowners put invisible dog fences in their yard to protect their signs, while others put GPS trackers on their own stash of corrugated plastic in an attempt to turn the special election into a deleted scene from the The Bourne Identity. The thefts often didn't work; in some yards that had been pilfered, three disappeared signs were quickly replaced with a passive-aggressive flock; one giant sign was nailed to the top of a tree. One woman began “ booby trapping” her signs “by adding petroleum jelly and glitter.”
One thief apparently explained that he “believed he had a legal right to remove the U.S. Congressional 6th District voting signs.” (He didn't.)
These Georgia thieves aren't alone, though — campaign-sign stealing is something of an American tradition at this point, despite the fact that doing so can lead to especially embarrassing jail time. One town in New York, set to vote this month on whether it should exist anymore, is also stuck in a campaign-sign war, and a councilman in Indiana was forced to recently send a letter of apology to an opponent he pilfered signs from last year.
And to end this with some news you can use: If you have stolen or recently purchased campaign signs that are now worthless, consult our previous campaign-sign coverage for ways to recycle them.
Speaking of stolen elections...
Georgia isn't the only place that desperately needs to update their election software to fight off potential cyber attacks — apparently, this is something California public schools should look into as well. A student-body adviser at Vista Murrieta High School recently stepped down after the school learned that the faculty member had helped tamper in not one, not two, but three separate elections. The election stealing was unsurprisingly discovered when a parent started investigating their child’s loss, and noticed that a bunch of votes were being cast late at night in alphabetical order. A local news station later reported that the parent “believes his son, who has been class president two years in a row, would have won in a fair election.”
The true winners will take their rightful places next school year. This is not the first time that student elections have been stolen in Southern California.
Making life worse for DREAMers in Arizona, cont.
It just got a lot harder to pay for college in Arizona if you're undocumented, thanks to a recent ruling from the state Court of Appeals that undocumented students are no longer eligible for in-state tuition — which allows residents to pay less than half of what out-of-state students pay. According to the Arizona Republic, “about 240 current DACA students at the state's universities and a little more than 2,000 DACA students in Maricopa Community Colleges are receiving lower, in-state tuition rates. There are nearly 28,000 DACA recipients in Arizona.” Some state lawmakers have tried to do the same thing in Texas, but lower tuition remains safe there, at least for now — although the state has found plenty of other ways to make life difficult for DREAMers.
Would you like some democracy with your rent bill?
Thanks to the Seattle City Council, landlords in the city now need to make sure their tenants get a voter registration form when they sign a lease. People who’ve just moved are usually pretty lousy at registering before an election; recent census information shows that hardly more than 20 percent of renters who have lived in a place for less than a year end up voting, and a Pew study from 2006 noted that those who don't vote often cite relocating as a reason for not doing so. And since voters in Washington cast ballots by mail, not updating your voter registration on time means not getting that crucial envelope at your new abode.
Other cities have tried this idea; Minneapolis started sending voter registration information to new renters last year, and East Lansing, Michigan, passed a similar ordinance in 2013. Madison, Wisconsin, briefly did the same thing, until lawmakers banned such measures across the state, perhaps partly because landlords seem to hate the legislation with a fury (and also perhaps because Wisconsin is known for passing laws making it harder to vote).
That end-of-the-legislative-session rush
By the time summer rolls around, many state legislatures have already finished voting for the year. And in many states, the rush of policy-making that usually accompanies the end of the legislative semester has led to a bunch of new abortion laws across the country.
Governor of Texas Greg Abbott recently signed a bill that requires the burial or cremation of aborted fetuses, and makes getting a second-trimester abortion nearly impossible. The state's last round of abortion laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, but many of the clinics that shuttered as a result of the law have remained closed. Now it will be much harder for women in rural Texas to get an abortion, since in many cases they won't be able to wait before traveling hours to Houston or San Antonio. The Missouri House also just passed a bill during a special session on abortion called by the governor. Among other things, it preempts a local ordinance preventing discrimination against women who have had an abortion or use birth control. Planned Parenthood just filed a lawsuit against new regulations in Arkansas that would ban dilation and extraction abortions and require providers to contacts a woman's partner or family before an abortion to get consent.
This month in unexpected headlines
This month's entry is inspired by a letter to the editor prompted by the recent special election in Montana (the one where the eventual winner assaulted a reporter, in case you need a reminder): “ Gianforte assault emulated Jesus.”
For a summer-themed addition: “In emergency move, Ocean City, Md., bans bare breasts on beaches.”
And, for extra credit, here is an unexpected quote from a city commissioner in Safety Harbor, Florida: “I’ll make this pledge to you. If we pass this and we ever get more than 95 households in the city with chickens, and I’m still on the City Commission, I’ll come to the next meeting wearing a chicken suit.”